As a fashion statement, hats can celebrate your boldness or camouflage your baldness. In the world of communications, donning a variety of hats and wearing them well says one thing loudly and clearly: “I’m going places.”
Such is the case with Connie Boyce, a longtime member of IABC Edmonton. As Director of Community Relations with the City of Edmonton, Utility Services, Boyce has seen her role expand significantly over the last 16 years.
Her current department resulted from a merger between waste management and drainage services. Prior to the merge, she was focused on the former, and it took her down a wide range of paths.
“Our team of 25 is primarily engaged in social marketing and also works closely with our communications people,” said Boyce. “Our job is to educate Edmontonians and inspire them to live more sustainably by practicing waste reduction through recycling, reusing and composting. The City has an ambitious target of diverting 90% of waste from landfill.”
It’s a tall order, so Boyce and her team employ a number of tools.
“Social marketing is broader than communications. We conduct research on the barriers that keep people from engaging in certain behaviors and develop programs that eliminate the obstacles and provide support.”
Those programs involve everything from door-to-door canvassing to education/outreach, all designed to achieve specific, measurable behavior changes in their target audience.
But it doesn’t end there.
“We also work with our communications advisers on media relations, issue management and formal public consultation. As well, we run volunteer programs where we train people to become experts in waste management and create programs in their own communities to multiply our efforts.”
Given her varied background, it’s no wonder that Boyce took on a multi-faceted position.
“I was always interested in writing, so in the early 1980s I enrolled in the two year Advertising and Public Relations Program at Grant MacEwan Community College [now Grant MacEwan University]. From there, I worked for the Public Affairs Bureau with the Alberta government and then independently for 10 years doing freelance work before coming to the City of Edmonton.”
She also completed her Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies with Athabasca University while working full-time.
“My initial goal was to become a copywriter, but once I gained exposure to the entire field of public relations and saw that it was all-encompassing, I knew it would be perfect for me.”
Change to Spare
What Boyce couldn’t have known at the time was how much communications would change over the years.
“When I started in this field, developing a campaign involved working with an agency and creating TV or radio ads. You could reach most of your audience with traditional media, so it was quite straightforward.”
Fast forward to 2015, and the landscape has altered dramatically, but Boyce said that’s a good thing.
“Communications today is more diverse and interactive; you have a greater number of tools at your disposal. In my role, it means we aren’t just talking to the public. We’re really part of the conversation now, through social media and creating videos for YouTube, for example. It’s more complex, but more interesting at the same time.”
Putting Fundamentals First
According to Boyce, even in the midst of a technology explosion, writing and relationship building still rule the day.
“From a craft and content perspective, strong writing skills are critical. Whether it’s writing a weekly message from a manager to their staff or creating material for social media, communication people offer real value when they provide strong, effective content for a range of vehicles.”
At the same time, relationship building can’t be overlooked.
“How can clients trust you if you don’t take the time to understand their business needs and goals? I’ve been both the advisor and the client in my career and building strong working relationships is still essential.”
Get In & Take Off
On the other hand, Boyce sees a bright future for those who are ethical, adaptable and committed to transparency. She sees the need for transparency and ‘doing the right thing’ becoming increasingly important in a world with rapid and multi-level information sharing.
“Those with strong strategic skills will always be in high demand. My son just graduated from university and is thinking about a career in this field, which is wonderful. It’s an arena where you can challenge yourself, do rewarding work and make a difference. What more can you ask for?”
And if success is about wearing different headgear with equal aplomb, hats off to her.
In addition to his role as communications coordinator for Alberta Pork, Geoff Geddes runs The Word Warrior, handling a variety of business and technical writing/editing including website content, blogs, SEO, newsletters, sales letters and brochures. He especially enjoys conveying technical information in a way that's understandable and engaging, and loves helping clients spread the word about who they are, what they do and why they do it better than anyone else.