For Member of the Month, we asked Jill Knaggs, Communications and Membership (Marketing) Champion with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters & Post-graduate Marketing Instructor with Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, a series of quick questions. Here are her answers:


Q: What’s your name?

A: Jill Knaggs


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

A: I’ve got three young kids, so I’ve shifted to podcasts and other multimedia to keep me learning while on the run (usually, literally). Terry O’Reilly’s Under the Influence is a great one! But I’m also partial to Whiteboard Fridays by Moz and of course, the usual go-to sites like Ragan’s PR Daily, Cision, Ad Week, HubSpot and of course, CMA and IABC.


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

A: I’m a bit of a jack (Jill?) of all trades, master of none. I love working at the strategic level though, aligning tactics to objectives like pieces on a chessboard. A colleague of mine uses the analogy of a symphony – success in our field means dozens of different tactics and processes that have to each be tuned just right individually. On their own, they help hit key business targets but when all the chaos comes together, it’s music. I love thinking of strategic marketing and communications like that!


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

A: Choosing your boss is as, if not more important, than choosing a job. A good leader will be your mentor, looking out for your interests and investing in your development. I’ve had the privilege of working for some amazing leaders in my career and I am all the better professionally and personally for it. Part two of that advice is that once you start climbing the ladder yourself; take the time to lend a hand to the person on the rung below you – no matter if you’re at the top or one step above the bottom.


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

A: We ran a campaign to highlight made-in-Manitoba products for Canada 150, which was a ton of fun mostly because it was a very collaborative experience. Also, I’m a passionate believer that Manitoba has the power to be a major driver of the Canadian economy in the next 50 years and I love learning more about the people and companies that help us punch above our weight class. Did you know Pizza Pops were invented in Manitoba?!


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

A: Humility – no one likes to work with someone with an ego. The highest performers know that great ideas and contributions come from everywhere – and ‘outside eyes’ often provide the most valuable insights. That said I do like to work with a team of high performers who are passionate and engaged about their field.


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

A: Sending a personal tweet from a corporate account, accidentally hitting reply all to a company-wide email, critical typos in expensive print runs…I haven’t done it all, but give me time, haha. Try to remember though that almost all of your opportunities for professional and personal growth will come from mistakes and not successes. I don’t know many senior professionals who can list the ‘aha’ moments that helped them to the top from projects or teams that worked seamlessly. It’s the speed bumps that help shape you as a professional and a leader.


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: Kristin Hancock had a really good insight in a past edition of the member spotlight, and I’d echo her comments. In hindsight I wish I’d spent some time in an agency. I think there’s great value of working with a range of clients with different perspectives early on in your career. It can be a valuable experience to draw on you progress through more senior roles.


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

A: The ability to listen, and maybe more importantly the ability to ‘listen to understand’. Closely related would be the ability to lead with influence rather than authority.


Q: Which direction do you see communications heading towards in the near future?

A: Integration. I’m not sure we’ll ever get past the great debate on the overlap between marketing and communications and PR but one thing is for certain – every year the fields become more complex and also more closely intertwined.


Q: If you could pick 3 comms people from around Manitoba to be on your comm dream team, who would they be? Why?

A: Ah Jeez. I could never narrow the list to three, so instead I’ll just say that there’s something special in Manitoba about the way that we collaborate among competitors. I’ve worked with clients and companies across North America I’ve never seen anything like here. I think perhaps more than anywhere else in the country Manitobans are looking to elevate their competition in a way that drives us to be better ourselves. I think that’s a really special.


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

A: Oh, there’s still time. Maybe I’ll drive for Nascar or work for NASA. Stretch goals, you know?


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

A: Collaboration. Honesty and integrity. And the ability to have fun at work.


Q: How do you keep up with the changing trends and technology?

A: Most days I think it’s just a struggle to keep my head above water. I’ve done three maternity leaves in six years and every time I come back it’s a brave new world. Accepting that the only constant is change and that the world of work means a commitment to being a lifelong learner is a good first step. And choosing an organization that is committed to walking the walk when it comes to employee development is a good second.


Q: Which PR/Comms-related book would you recommend?

A: I’ve literally just started three new ones (because I’m very bad at setting realistic New Year’s resolutions): David Meerman Scotts’ The New Rules of Marketing & PR, Scott Stratten’s UnMarketing and finally, the Death of Expertise: the Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters. Connect with me in a few months and I’ll let you know which one wins out 😉