Senior Practitioners Series: PR Chat with Susan Danard, UBC


Susan Danard 8274

Susan Danard

Want to get insight into the life of a seasoned PR pro or take away some sage advice from their experience? In our new blog series, we’ll be featuring some of CPRS Vancouver’s seasoned PR and communications pros to get some insider tips that could help you further develop your PR career.

To kick off this series, we chatted with Susan Danard, who has been a CPRS member for 13 years. Susan is the Managing Director of Public Affairs at the University of British Columbia

Why did you get into PR/Communications?

I was a newspaper and TV reporter for many years and always enjoyed being in the thick of things. When TransLink offered me a media relations job about 13 years ago, I jumped at the chance to see what goes on behind the scenes of a large, complex organization facing intense media and political scrutiny.

What does your day-to-day look like at UBC?

My days are unpredictable. We receive a significant amount of media coverage –about 60 per cent of it is national or global, so we juggle time-zone differences. Safety incidents can occur without warning, so I have to be nimble and ready to help our senior leaders respond. I try to set aside time each day to plan for future events and announcements and to work on communications strategies that support the university’s long-term goals.

What is the most memorable moment in your career thus far?

That would have to be the three-day power outage in downtown Vancouver a few years ago, when I was working at BC Hydro. A fire involving several circuits knocked out power of our office building and almost all the downtown businesses, including the Vancouver Sun and CBC. We got through it – thanks to great communications teamwork and strong executive leadership.

What PR/Comms lessons have you learned throughout the years?

I can honestly say intuition plays a big role in successfully managing issues that are likely to grow into something damaging to your organization’s reputation. I tell senior leaders to trust your gut – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Maintain a sense of humour and some sense of perspective. Our job is to reassure people during a crisis that we can manage through it, and one way of doing that is by staying calm.

Sincerely listen to and engage your customers, employees, business or government partners, and other key stakeholders. We are in the relationship business and you want to build as much trust and goodwill as you can.

Fill in the blank: My favourite part of working in PR is making a difference by helping my organization to shift a policy decision and resolving customer complaints by being responsive and compassionate.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your career in PR?

I recommend staying open-minded about your career path. I never set out to work in the transportation or energy sector, but when opportunities at TransLink and BC Hydro came up, I took them out of curiosity and ended up really enjoying those industries.

Why did you join CPRS? What do you like most about being a CPRS member?

I enjoy learning from other members. As I grow older, it’s also been rewarding to mentor and support younger members.