Name: Deborah Folka, MA, APR
Job title: Owner & Principal
Company you work for: DLF Communications Ltd. (est. 1993); I am an independent consultant with a career specialty in strategic communications planning, issues management and crisis management.
Career background: Though born and raised in Vancouver, I completed a undergraduate degree in communications at the University of Washington in the 70’s and a graduate degree in journalism at the University of Arizona a few years later. Early on, I worked as a journalist, then was attracted to a community relations position at a mental health organization in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Since then, I’ve worked in both the US and Canada in both the private and public sectors including senior communications roles at the Chartered Accountants of BC, WorksafeBC, Wesbild Inc. and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra before launching my own firm in the early 1990s.
Career aspirations: I think ‘aspirations’ can be limiting. It’s best to be open to what’s out there – be flexible and interesting things come your way. Many years ago, I was put on the spot and asked about my firm’s “mission statement.” I hadn’t thought about that (too busy getting and doing work!), so I just blurted out, “Interesting work for nice people.” It got a laugh and I blushed. Twenty years later, I’ve found that’s actually a pretty good standard by which to measure the type of work I want and the type of people for whom I want to work.
Greatest career challenge: Quitting a job when the employer asked me to do something I considered unethical.
Greatest career success: Successfully running an independent pr consultancy for 20 years as a single parent.
Favourite PR/communications campaign: I don’t know that ‘favourite’ would be the best adjective to describe my work as the communications counsel for the 15 women ski jumpers from seven countries who sued VANOC to get into the 2010 Winter Olympics.
I teamed with the law firm who filed the suit and worked ‘pro bono’ for four years on the cause. I had no idea what I was getting into, but as you probably recall, the case drew worldwide attention, capturing the hearts and minds of media and people everywhere…but also attracted the ire of the IOC and many die-hard Olympic supporters. It was an exhausting roller-coaster ride, but I learned a lot. I now do not count myself a fan of the IOC and its processes (and those of most host countries), though I still admire the courage and hard work of the Olympic athletes themselves.
PR role model: Tough question…given how long I’ve been in the profession (e.g. my CPRS member number is ‘50’), it’s been more peer support among so many women pr professionals who grown up along with me – people like Lin Perceval, MBA, APR, Loren Plottel, APR, Julie Marzolf, APR, Linda Bartz, Francine Gaudet, FCPRS and Margot White. I’m also proud to have mentored many young people who’ve come after us and achieved so much on their own.
Best career advice: Always ask yourself ‘is this the right thing to do?’ No job or contract is ever worth compromising your ethics and values.
Best place to ‘do coffee’ in Vancouver: My house on Sunday morning when we indulge in Blue Sky coffee sent directly from the Kona coffee plantation we discovered a few years ago on a trip to Hawaii. Nothing compares to it…though sometimes a nice cup of coffee at Memento on 4th comes close.
Favourite journalist/blogger in the city: Daphne Bramham in The Vancouver Sun is inspiring in her dogged pursuit of justice on issues like the child wives of Bountiful. I admire her tenacity and her writing.
Favourite website: Constantly Googling…does that constitute a website fav?
Favourite social media site: LinkedIn…though I wander around Facebook, checking out the status of family and friends, I rarely participate. LinkedIn seems to work better for professionals.
Fun fact about you: I am an internationally certified yoga teacher and have been teaching since 2005.