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U of O event hosts keynotes from City Hall, H&M, iPolitics, among others

Photos by Mackenzie Gray

If there’s one profession that demands networking more than all the rest, it might just be public relations.

Students from across the city gathered in Tabaret Hall on Tuesday to take part in the University of Ottawa Public Relations Association’s (uOPRA) Let’s Grow Together 2014 conference, which featured keynote speakers representing many corners of the industry.

More than 150 tickets were sold for the five-hour conference. The event was organized by and catered to students not only from the U of O, but also Carleton, Algonquin, and La Cité collégiale, who aspire to work in the field of PR or who are just keen to gain a better understanding of it.

“It’s inspiring to hear the options I have as a student,” said Malusi Mabaleka, a local musician and fifth-year student at the U of O. “This event opened my eyes to a broader picture of what PR really is.”

Let’s Grow Together featured presentations by Ryan Kennery, press secretary for Mayor Jim Watson; Elizabeth Gray-Smith, a social columnist at iPolitics; Carrie Croft, National Communications Manager for FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015; Mark Monahan, Executive Director of Bluesfest and the Ottawa Folk Festival; and Emily Scarlett, PR Manager of H&M Canada.

The speakers touched on topics like communication in politics and corporate PR, but the most common thread of conversation seemed to be the power of a good story.


“Anyone can tell a story — it’s about how well you tell yours,” Scarlett said during her keynote.

The speakers explained how storytelling can make or break a project goal. The way a young professional speaks to a potential client or connection can be the deciding factor in the project’s future development.

“Emotion plays in persuasion,” Kennery said. “Think about what you are trying to accomplish. Your goal is more successful when your target feels something.”

Tommy Nguyen, an academic liaison for Algonquin College and uOPRA member, stressed the importance of staying persistent.

“As PR professionals, you’re always trying to prove what you’re selling,” he said. “What is the message? What sets you apart from others? It’s all about where you want to go.”

Attendees were also given the opportunity to share their thoughts with co-host Kristine D’Arbelles from Young PR Pros, an Ottawa-based weekly podcast, who will air responses and interviews from the conference at a later date.

Amber Gillan, a uOPRA member and second-year PR student, said after all the work and uncertainty that went into planning the event, she and the rest of its 13 organizers were able to share a sigh of relief.

“We had an amazing turnout,” she said. “I think the most rewarding part was seeing how excited the students were to interact with the keynote speakers. It was just a really good feeling knowing that we made the right choice with our lineup.”

—With files from Mackenzie Gray