CPRS board member John Kageorge has been involved with the organization for over 15 years, including as President of the Vancouver chapter. From non-profit to agency – John currently leads his own consultancy, Vital Communications – his 25+ year career has included managing communications for royalty, the Prime Minister, and the Dalai Lama.
What first drove you to become involved in communications?
I have always been interested in selling ideas. You can train in different techniques to sell items, but to sell a concept requires real finesse. I studied public communication at the American University in DC because I love that challenge and to this day I continually strive to learn more.
What are you most proud of in your career?
One of my most powerful experiences was handling the communications for a fatal aircraft accident in Surrey, BC. It was emotionally draining and is still difficult to think of today. The circumstances left me leading the communications and because the accident had received international attention, that meant having media on my front lawn.
I immediately reached out to put together a group of advisors to guide me, many of which were my CPRS colleagues across the country, and was able to receive good advice and perspective on messaging. Lives changed and were broken, we couldn’t fix that, but information was not hidden. The RCMP and Transport Canada praised our communications as being forthright and open.
Is there anything you regret?
I would have worked earlier at building business acumen. I thought I had to understand all the different disciplines of PR, when really, it’s equally important to understand business operations. That’s how you become important to the C-suite and CEO.
What’s your top PR tip?
Listen. And listen actively. This means asking questions. It took me a long time to learn that. Being able to ask the right questions is how you get deeper.
If you could give any advice to someone beginning their career in PR/Communications, what would it be?
Challenge yourself to write better. Do whatever you can to improve your writing and always focus on compelling storytelling.
Volunteer, but do so strategically to ensure you get good experience for your time.
And find a mentor. This is someone who can provide you with perspective and advice. I’ve participated in formal mentorship programs, but the relationships that seem to be most long lasting have developed informally. I still rely on my mentors.
How has your involvement with CPRS benefited your career?
CPRS has been a part of every major leap in my career. Once, a big step up in my income came because I cited a CPRS study on local practitioner compensation when requesting a raise. My boss said that study was the ammunition he needed. And being involved as a member, especially with a committee, helped me make the transition from non-profit to agency.
What’s the best part about working in Communications in Vancouver?
I love being in an international city, and appreciate having a flexible schedule so I can really enjoy the area. I make sure to have as much kid time as I can during the summer because we have two months that are extraordinarily gorgeous.