For Member of the Month, we asked Heather Johnson, a member of IABC Manitoba and Director Communications with Canadian International Grains Institute, a series of quick questions. Here are her answers:

Johnson, Heather

Q: What are your go-to websites or blogs?

A: brandchannel, Holtz Communication + Technology, MarketingProfs, Brain Pickings


Q: What is your area(s) of expertise?

A: Writing, project management, communication planning


Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in communications?

A: Get experience and exposure in as many different industries and sectors as possible either through work or volunteer opportunities. Big companies, small organizations, not-for-profit, and for-profit environments. Throughout my now 30+ year career I’ve had the opportunity to work in and volunteer with companies and organizations that span a number of sectors and each experience has informed the next one that came along.  I am a better communicator and person as a result and I’ve worked with exceptional people along the way.


Q: What comms or marketing campaign are you the most proud of? Tell us a bit about it

A: In 2008 I had the opportunity to be involved as a volunteer in an event called Spirit of Leadership.  It recognized five extraordinary women in our community whose vision for change and subsequent actions were groundbreaking in terms of community leadership, human rights, equality issues, family law and political engagement.  I had the privilege of writing profiles on each of them and the opportunity to meet these women and be part of a community event that honoured their legacies has had a lasting impact on me.


Q: What quality do you admire the most in other comms people?

A: Attention to detail.


Q: What’s your worst comms nightmare and has it ever come true?

A: Everyone dreads finding a typo in something after it’s been printed (and after it’s been proofed numerous times).  Somewhat early in my career, I signed off on a proof for a beautifully designed invitation to the unveiling of a piece of public art being attended by many senior members in the community, only to discover that it had a typo in it (pointed out to me by the CEO) after it came back from the printer.  Needless to say, I learned the hard way never to approve a proof sent via a fax machine (remember those?) especially when the type was small.


Q: If you could have 1, single-use mulligan (a do-over) for anything in your comms career what would you redo and make it better?

A: I would be more focused on my professional development and create an annual professional development plan with specific goals and objectives. I’ve learned tons on the job through the various positions I’ve had but ongoing professional development is also important. My approach has been more ad hoc and it’s easy to become complacent (at least for me) after you’ve been in your career for a number of years.


Q. What qualities do you think are essential to be a successful communicator?

A: Being a good listener, being interested in all aspects of the organization and/or sector you work in, and having the ability to resist the next ‘shiny new thing’ that comes along in the communications tool box when it’s not a fit.


Q: If you weren’t communications, what would you be doing?

A: I’m sure writing would be at the core of anything I would do but in terms of a career path, something in the field of adult literacy.


Q: What do you value the most while at work as a communicator?

A: The opportunity to learn about the most amazing things and doing my best to share that knowledge and information with others in a meaningful way.