One of the best ways to gain insight into a particular career industry is to speak and connect with others who have been working in it for several years. Getting to know people and learning a little bit more about their backgrounds, can be useful for young professionals to help steer their own career paths.
Today we will get to know more about Johanna Ward, Communications Specialist at the College of Registered Nurses of BC (CRNBC) and who has recently joined the CPRS Vancouver board, as the Vice President. She’s a great addition to the team, as Johanna has had unique experiences working in the PR/communications field.
What drove you to become involved in the PR/communications field?
I have always loved writing—I was the editor of my high school newspaper, and did freelance work for local papers and magazines for several years before going back to school in 1998 to study journalism.
What are you most proud of in your career? Is there anything you regret?
I’ve just finished my master’s degree, so that’s pretty great—now I have to find ways to put this MA to use! I’m also pretty proud of the work I do for CRNBC, particularly around recent challenging topics like medical assistance in dying and the opioid crisis. There’s a public service element to my job that I really value. If there’s anything that I regret, it would be not trusting my instincts. I’ve learned that it’s always better to do what “feels right” to me, and that when I ignore that voice inside me, I’m less successful.
What’s your top PR tip?
Simplicity and honesty. Writing in clear, plain language is much harder than it looks—if you can convey your message in clear, friendly prose, without lapsing into jargon or tech-speak, you’re doing everyone around you a service. And tell the truth—it always comes out eventually, so it’s better to start there. Whether it’s crisis communications, a press release or just the staff newsletter, be honest.
If you could give any advice to someone beginning their career in PR/Communications, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. One of the toughest things to do as a professional is to invite constructive criticism of your work. You may not agree with it, but I find that often times other people are adept at spotting weaknesses or areas where I can improve. Conversely, be honest when you’re approached for feedback. Constructive, thoughtful feedback is valuable, and real pros always want to hear it.
How has your involvement with CPRS benefited your career?
I’ve only recently joined the CPRS Vancouver board, but already am seeing benefits! Everyone who sits on the board has been incredibly welcoming and eager to share their knowledge—and I’m also learning so much from Emma Shea, our fearless President. It’s a fantastic opportunity to build new skills, and give back to the PR community that I’ve benefited from. CPRS is a well-respected professional organization and I’m #CPRSProud to be a member.
What’s the best part about working in communications in Vancouver?
It’s a very small community—everyone knows someone who knows someone else! I find most PR pros are eager to share their time and knowledge, and “talk shop” if I have a problem or issue, and it makes networking easier, too.
Tell us something that not everyone may know about you?
I spent almost three years living in Tokyo, working as a copy editor at the national news service. Amazing experience, but I’m sorry to say that I still speak virtually no Japanese.
Listen to Johanna's presentation at the 2018 National Conference.