As IABC Manitoba’s 2020 Student Liaison, I had the opportunity to ask some of my classmates and fellow IABC members about their experience communicating – and learning new skills – during a global pandemic.
Before COVID-19 hit, I took for granted the side banter with my classmates in between lectures, my 6:30 a.m. workouts at the gym, and hearing our instructors’ jokes face to face and not through a video call. I wanted to know how other communicators were dealing with these changes.
“Based on everything that we learned about crisis communications, it’s been really interesting to see how it’s applied by different organizations throughout the country and the world,” said IABC Manitoba student member Béla Gyarmati.
Gyarmati worked in politics and theatre before shifting to public relations. Reading case studies and news stories, he’s interested in how organizations handle COVID-19.
“I can see what people are lacking in their crisis communications plan and how they are handling the situation,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for organizations to be leaders in this conversation in a changing world.”
IABC student member Marina Nagornaya moved to Winnipeg from Bali, Indonesia to study communications and marketing. She continues to work remotely as the Marketing Manager of Farsight Villas and Hotel Management, a company based in Bali.
I asked her how studying communications is helping her career growth.
“I am learning to write key messages for crisis management and how to convey a tough issue in a meaningful way,” she said.
She is able to apply these new skills in her current job, almost as fast as she is learning them.
“My CEO is impressed with my new knowledge in communications,” she said. “I now understand what public relations truly is, and it’s not just about being a spokesperson for a company,” she said.
IABC student member Akshita Pathania moved from New Delhi to Winnipeg to study communications. When it comes to logistics and data analysis, she’s the person to go to. She volunteered for IABC where she worked as the marketing assistant for a virtual student event.
“I enjoy volunteering with IABC,” she said. “The reason I decided to study communications and marketing is because my soul was hungry for something creative and this is a perfect avenue for that.”
She is thankful for the guidance and mentorship she’s received from IABC Manitoba board members.
“They genuinely want me to gain something out of volunteering,” she said. “They are always there to help.”
IABC Director of Professional Development Christine Chilton works hard in protecting Manitoba’s natural areas as the Community Relations Manager at Nature Conservancy of Canada. We asked her for some tips and strategies that have worked for her as she continues to communicate remotely.
“Kindness is my number one factor. Maybe halfway through your meeting someone’s kids will interrupt ten times. So be kind and be patient,” she said.
She recalls a recent job interview she was part of, where she started off by telling the applicant, “My kid may run in because she spilled juice and needs a towel to wipe it up, and that doesn’t mean I’m unprofessional. If something similar happens to you, we are not going to think that you’re unprofessional. Anything can happen during a video call and that’s okay.”
Chilton emphasizes the importance of being kind to yourself.
“There’s so much going on and people are trying to balance so many different things, that sometimes it’s hard not to feel like you haven’t done enough,” she said. “Please be kind to yourself. Take advantage of some of the perks of working from home. I remember the number of times I’m having a bad day in the office and I think, ‘I would really like to cuddle with my dog in the couch for the next 10 minutes,’ that’s now something I can do.”
Chilton also offered some professional advice.
“Communicate more not less,” she said. “In the office, you learn a lot from having conversations with different people, and that’s hard to do in a remote workplace. A lot of times people won’t know what you’re working on, or you won’t understand what somebody else is doing because you’ve lost that day to day contact. It’s really important to keep that water cooler talk.”
Knowledge is power
Continuous learning is an essential part of being a communicator. Regardless if you are new or a veteran professional, learning new trends about the industry is key to your success. The Public Relations, Marketing, and Strategic Communications course at The University of Winnipeg’s Professional, Applied, and Continuing Education program provided me and my classmates the first step to reach our goals and dreams in this industry.
Established communicators, like Chilton, use the vast resources IABC offers to their members to keep up with this constantly evolving industry. Members have access to all the tools from the IABC website that ranges from webinars to networking opportunities.
I am beyond grateful for this learning experience with IABC. We may be a long way from meeting face to face with our fellow communicators, but IABC has provided me with resources to network with industry professionals remotely and helped me gain insights about the communications world in Manitoba.
I feel blessed to be a part of the IABC family and to get a chance to #CreateConnection during this unprecedented time. Let’s continue to be kind to one another and support each other in these challenging times.
Connect with our Membership and Networking Committee to learn more about the different benefits you can get as an IABC member.
Written by, Danica Hidalgo, PACE Graduate 2020 in Public Relations, Marketing & Strategic Communications