Tina Thomas: IABC Edmonton's 2013 Communicator of the Year

| October 21, 2013

Meet Tina Thomas, Director, Marketing, Communications and Fund Development Division at the Edmonton Public Library. In the following interview, Tina shares her thoughts on being selected as the IABC Edmonton's 2013 Capital Communicator of the Year. She also shares highlights of her career and her marketing philosophy.

Interview by Sherrell Steele
Photo by Rob Hislop


How/when did you first learn that you had been appointed IABC Capital Communicator of the Year?
IABC Edmonton former president, Justin Archer called me to let me know I was being considered–which was a total surprise. It doesn’t take a lot of reflection to know and appreciate that it is a great honour and compliment. There is a lot of great marketing and communications work being done in our city so it is nice to be appreciated and recognized as part of it.

How did you get started in your career?
I was hired by Nortel, one of my co-ops, right out of school and started my practical marketing education right away. The good thing about working at such a large multinational, dedicated to offering development opportunities to employees, is that I had the chance to experience the full marketing mix across a wide variety of industries and to deal with multiple international markets. I started working in marketing communications for our data networking group supporting everything from a global customer newsletter, technical writing and product launches to planning an international customer event. I ended my tenure after building the business case for the hospitality vertical segment and executing on the international marketing strategy.

During my almost 14 years there I had the opportunity to work in market analysis, operations, product marketing and solution marketing across multiple international market and industry segments including healthcare, utilities, education and hospitality.

You are now working in the non-profit sector. What differences do you see coming from the private sector?
There is definitely a difference in size and funding–which means non-profits often have to find creative ways to stretch budgets or find low-cost or free ways to execute plans. At the end of the day any good organization is driven to achieve meaningful results–whether that is for shareholders or stakeholders of any kind. We are all are attempting to do the same thing–tell the story of our product, solution, organization, serve in a way that resonates with a group of people and align to our audiences.

This has been a spectacular year at EPL with many celebratory events to commemorate your 100th anniversary. What events have been most successful?
We’ve done so many things it’s hard to say what has been the most successful. I think the free library card campaign and pop-up membership drives have been a great way to engage with current customers as well as bring people back to the library. Since we announced free library cards in March, we’ve been out in the community, at over 30 locations in seven months, signing people up for library cards…from Scotia Place to the Edmonton International Airport, to the Fringe, to City Centre Mall, to Free Admission Day at Fort Edmonton Park.

What are some future plans at EPL?
I am really proud to work for an organization that is dedicated to service innovation solely for the public good. One area we will continue to focus on is evolving our digital services, both in branch and online, to make sure that Edmontonians have open, easy, convenient access to both the digital resources and training needed to fully participate in a digital economy. From a marketing perspective, our services will lead the focus of our projects.

Advice for communicators in the field? Lessons learned? Words of wisdom?
I certainly have learned lots of things along the way–some of which are deeply embedded in my brain.

Marketing and communications professionals will be asked to “promote this.” Our job–the value we can provide–is to challenge the request to simply take orders and instead position the right mix of messages and activities that will lead to the desired results.

Final words?
Communications, marketing, branding have many meanings for many people. Well-executed marketing campaigns have helped EPL set to double library memberships this year over last. Because of effective communications, EPL boasts over 17,000 Twitter followers–the second largest of any library in Canada. Strong branding is the reason library cards saw a 200% increase in demand when our new brand (along with its smart sayings and bright colors) was launched.

All in a day’s work for a Capital Communicator!

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