building new castles every day

What is a communications professional?

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 at 8:38 AM

Whether I’m at a party, checking out a co-working space, meeting with a potential client or starting a project with a new staff member, I get asked this question all the time.

I particularly appreciate this answer offered by my professional association, the International Association of Business Communicators:

Communication professionals represent the voice of an organization as it interacts with customers, clients, employees, partners, shareholders, competitors and the community.

A communication professional brings the organization to life with a brand voice that aligns its verbal, visual and digital messages and activities with its mission and vision.

By clarifying the brand, communication professionals also help ensure the organization runs efficiently and effectively.

Communication professionals build a strategic communication plan based on thorough research, they communicate with a variety of audiences in a range of styles, they develop and edit content, and they assess where and how to communicate and how to evaluate the results of their work.

They act as the organization’s conscience and strive for its financial, social and environmental sustainability.

This definition is true for my work. Whether I’m a freelance content producer, a retained brand and campaign manager, or an employed coordinator, this is a good summary of how I help organizations.

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Pleasant surprises from an interview

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2015 at 9:39 AM
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Photo credit: Robert Lovett

Earlier this autumn, I was interviewed by my former student union about my university years and my experience as a freelancer.

I didn’t know what to expect from the interview or the interviewer. But it felt like the right time in my life and career to share my experience. Enough time had passed for me to process my dissatisfactions with my degree and get over my frustrations with finding meaningful work in my vocation. (I wasn’t so positive the year after graduating.)

I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the interview. Kasia Cookson, the interviewer and writer, was genuine with her interest in my experience. She asked excellent questions that, if I were a student today, I would find constructive and helpful. And she even let me review the transcript of the interview and clarify some statements before it was published, not a common opportunity when dealing with the media!

On top of that, I got to witness the evolution of the student union where I met some of my current friends and created my first portfolio pieces. When I first joined the Communication Student Union (CMNSU) at Simon Fraser University, I enrolled as a mentor to a first-year communications student. My now good friend, Brianna, was in charge of the mentorship program and paired me with my now good friend, Andrea. I then went on to edit and publish an edition of the union’s magazine, InContext, with my good friend Christi, and acted as treasurer for a while, helping host member engagement events with my pal, Megan.

At that time, our crew was only dabbling in blogging and social media, and our membership was low. But today, the CMNSU has evolved to match the rapid evolution of the Internet and sharing of information. And their roster of leaders is impressive! I’m proud of these eager students, leveraging platforms like WordPress and Facebook to put into practice the theories they’re learning in class.

Then there’s the gift of hindsight and reflection that I gained from participating in this interview. Kasia’s final question in particular made me recognize that I do have a philosophy on life and my career, and it’s one I really buy into. That’s perhaps a funny thing to realize, but when you feel like you’ve been floating randomly for some time, it’s reassuring to see a pattern in the chaos.

Overall, it’s been an honour to share my thoughts with today’s communication students. I can only hope that my lessons might help someone confirm their own path. And many thanks to Kasia Cookson for helping me appreciate my journey so far.

You may read our interview here.

“The Peel” artist expedition highlights shifting Canadian values

In Learnings on October 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM
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Photo: Joel Luet

Calder Cheverie isn’t one to be pigeon-holed. Neither is is his latest project.

The 27-year old Ontario-born Vancouverite with a background in summer camp and outdoor education is also a wilderness guide, photographer and filmmaker. Ask him what he identifies with most, and he’ll give you the 30,000-foot view.

“I just want to inspire reflection and self worth in people. Creating experiences in nature, and capturing stories about their experiences, is the way I know how to empower them.”

Fortunately for six Canadian artists, he’s done just that with the The Peel Project. Calder and producer, Tony Wallace, led a crew of 12 this past September, in canoes full of camping gear and film equipment, from Whitehorse to Northern Yukon and down the Peel River to experience one of the last intact watersheds in Canada. And they did it while 71% of the watershed is potentially threatened by development, should the Yukon Supreme Court rule in favour of the Territorial government later this month.

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Photo: Anthony Wallace

But as Calder makes clear (through all the grant applications, crowd-funding campaigns and personal savings withdrawals), the project is not a direct advocacy campaign for the Peel watershed, just like the development of the watershed itself is not a regional dispute. According to Calder, this is an issue of national values.

“If an incredible amount of our vast wilderness is slated for development, does the story we tell about ourselves as Canadians change?”

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Photo: Joel Luet

Hence the six artists from urban Canada — a musician from Toronto, a writer from Vancouver, a visual performer from Calgary, a glass welder from Toronto, a photographer from Toronto and an illustrator from Calgary — were provided paddle training, water-tight supplies and enough guidance to safely experience “wilderness” to produce their own expression about the impact of political-economic decisions in “the north” on the romantic narrative of “the south”.

Calder is the first to admit that artist expeditions aren’t new. Since before Canada’s birth as a country, artists have reflected on our national worth, often articulating values that the average Canadian takes for granted — our untouched wilderness being just one.

But unlike historical artist expeditions that parachuted in, “captured art” and left without return, The Peel Project will screen the doc and show the art exhibit in the Yukon communities that hosted them and shared their lives so generously.

“The Peel Project invests,” says Calder. “Yes, we will share it with communities across the country. That’s part of our objective. But the other vital part is to maintain lasting connections, and we’ll do that by sharing the project in the communities where we were first accepted, and by giving of ourselves.”

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Photo: Joel Luet

Now with the outcome of the Peel Watershed court case poised to ripple across the country, Calder is back in Vancouver editing the doc and reflecting on the 10 days he and Tony spent after the trip interviewing local First Nations and conservation advocates in the Yukon.

“If only loosely, The Peel Project contributes to a fight that our friends and partners in the North feel very passionately about. The main intention is to engage in a conversation about national collective values with Canadians—through film, art and science. It’s not about tearing apart our identity. It’s about looking at how our values are shifting, and recognizing that decisions made on a provincial, territorial and national scale do impact the character of the nation as a whole.”

So which way does he think the Supreme Court ruling will go?

“I have a feeling the Supreme Court ruling will end in a forced compromise between the government’s proposed Land Use Plan and the 2011 recommended plan that resulted from the territorial inquiry and was agreed upon by First Nations.”

And, when asked if that will be good or bad, his response is again from the top:

“That’s for Canadians, both in the north and in the south, to decide.”

— — —

In addition to The Peel Project, Calder Cheverie is the founder of Our Nature Foundation and co-founder of the Vancouver Outdoor School. Contact Calder at caldercheverie@gmail.com to book a screening of the film and exhibit of the art show or invite Calder to speak at your event. More information:

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Calder with partner and The Peel’s lead scientist, Emma Hodgson.