It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 34, the President of Conscious Public Relations Inc., a transcendental meditation practitioner, yogi, runner, self-development junkie, and film buff. I also like to dance to old-school hip hop, bake, watch HBO + Netflix original TV series, and am an aspiring vegan. I love sweets but I am making the effort to cut refined sugar out of my diet this year. Also am taking up hiking, French, and getting married in July.
What drew you to becoming a PR practitioner?
I graduated from English literature and film studies in 2005, and was interested in film communications at the time. The administrator of the film department at UBC passed me an internship for a PR firm that specialized in events for the film industry, so that really intrigued me. After the internship, I got hired at the company, and pretty much learned everything about PR on the job. I ended up going back to school and taking some courses at BCIT, but felt that what I was learning in school was already becoming outdated. After I left the company in 2007, I didn’t feel like applying to other PR firms, so I opened my own business in 2008.
Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?
I’ve always had a love for language since I was a child, though I didn’t admit it until later in life. I was reading and writing from a very young age and I think that’s what’s carried me through to corporate communications. In 2012, I rebranded to Conscious PR Inc., which specializes in PR for socially and environmentally responsible companies and individuals who are changemakers and disruptors, so people who are actively changing the world for the better are who inspires our work. I also am in awe of marketers who are ahead of the industry and leading the charge, because associations are so slow to see the changes happening in the marketing world. So people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Mitch Joel, and Sunny Lenarduzzi inspire me because they share their knowledge so openly so that the rest of us can follow suit.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start public relations?
Know that you’re a good writer and don’t stop practicing. Blogging is an easy way to do that. Also, internships are the best way in to getting work experience, and most PR programs in the Lower Mainland have practicums as part of their programs. Even if you go the traditional route and get a degree first, you can still supplement your education and volunteer or get summer internships so that you’re ahead of the game when you graduate. Have a thick skin (don’t take your work personally), and be prepared to offer service with a smile, even though you might be gritting your teeth behind it!
What are the biggest challenges for Public Relations? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?
I think the biggest challenges are the new developments, tools, and methodologies that the digital world and social media have hammered down on the PR practice. I don’t want to say that schools are behind, but they’re certainly not ahead, and neither are industry associations. Everything is changing, and you have to look ahead to keep up. At Conscious PR, we have a no news release policy because it’s so old fashioned and media don’t tend to read them.
Trying everything out to see how it might benefit our business or our clients is what we have to do to stay ahead of our practice. This is why I’m on Snapchat now! (Plug: Follow me @sandragarcia604!) For people who aren’t PR practitioners, there are SO many resources out there and we often share a lot of those on our Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?
Before moving to Main Street, I would have said any café on Main Street. But now that I live here, I love my office and getting shit done at home. My office has natural light and if I need to unplug, I can go for a walk in the park. If I do want to post up in a café, I walk to my neighborhood Roots Café on Main at 49th.
Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?
Mentorship programs all the way. Early in my business, the mentor I received from Women’s Enterprise Centre’s Mentorship program, Cathy Kuzel, was hugely instrumental to me. She helped me create my first sales funnel and we overhauled everything from my business plan to email templates and business cards. Two years later when I rebranded, I was a member of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) and had a mentor, Dawn Bowles, through their program, who taught me the ropes of where to network with social ventures, enterprises, and green businesses. She helped me a lot when we started offering social media management as a new service.
What’s in the works for you right now?
I’m finding the competition for public Relations clients is rising, so I’m moving to more of a tiered vs. full service model whereby we can offer a DIY online course and offer a combination of online courses and coaching. I am also excited to bring on our first Director of Good Media who will be solely responsible for managing client projects and other staff. We’re also waiting B Corp Certification and are excited to join the 1600+ companies around the world who are committed to ethical business.
I’m also planning my wedding in July and having a lot of fun with that. It helps when your fiancé also has event planning experience!