It’s good to be back in the BuzzTalk hive this week. Joining us this time around is Vicki Griffiths, owner and principal of Vicbar Marketing Ltd.For the last twenty years, Vicki has been involved in marketing and communications for a huge number of new residential developments in Canada and the US. She’s sharing what she’s learned over the years with us, offering her unique insight into the burgeoning Toronto market and the wild world of PR.
BuzzBuzzHome: What inspired you to choose a career in PR?
Vicki Griffiths: My first jobs as a young adult in tourism in Manitoba and Ontario were communications oriented and then while I lived in Ottawa I was the communications manager for the New Zealand High Commission. At the time, being the only bilingual person in the office in most cases allowed me to engage in a number of non-traditional roles which enhanced my experience and learning.
A few years later, a friend in the development business indicated that his advertising agency was losing their PR person and asked if I was interested in applying for the job. I did, got the job and immediately enrolled in the PR course offered at Ryerson to better understand the nuances and various practices of PR.
BBH: You own VicBar Marketing, how did you start that company?
VG: I had been working at an ad agency specializing in real estate when the market went through a significant slow down and decided to start a company with my husband, Barry, (hence the name) that specialized in the older adult market in 1991. This was when the first Baby Boomers would be turning 50.
We felt it was a good to time to focus on marketing strategies that would target that group and worked with clients in the financial, packaged goods, beverage industries as well as with the provincial government on a variety of projects. We still do work in that area, but the majority of our work currently is concentrated in the development industry.
BBH: What’s a typical work day like for you?
VG: There’s always a crisis of some sort and in this business you are literally “on call” 24/7. My first order of the day, if there are no meetings, is to review my emails and respond to as many as possible. Then work on writing marketing/communications strategies for some clients or co-ordinating the various initiatives we are working on, speak to media re pitches and interviews for clients, check in with my colleagues working with me and then there are usually 2-3 meetings to attend.
I catch up on a lot of emails and correspondence in the evening.
BBH: What’s one interesting new marketing development that’s occurred in the past few years that you really got excited about?
VG: The advent of social marketing and its rapid growth in the marketing mix. I see this as an extremely efficient, cost effective peer to peer communication tool that is growing exponentially in all sectors. The immediacy of updating or changing it is also very appealing.
BBH: Where do you see the Toronto condo market going in the next few years. Will we see the skyline change even more, or will new constructions slow down?
VG: If only I had a crystal ball! The Toronto market is vibrant now and Canada’s economy is one of the most solid in the world. With the annual level of immigration, all indications are that Toronto will continue to be strong and the condo market will follow suit. The skyline is ever-evolving and there are a number of new projects scheduled for downtown that we haven’t even seen mentioned.
For many, the daily commute from the suburbs is becoming more and more of a challenge and I foresee more young families trading that huge house and yard and hours of commuting for a smaller living space, closer to their work downtown yielding more time with family.
BBH: You must be in the know about some awesome new projects coming to the city soon. Can you give us any hints as to what to expect?
VG: There are a number of condo projects planned for downtown Toronto that are still in the preliminary stages so I anticipate we will be seeing several launches in the spring. In addition, the development along the waterfront particularly along the East Bayfront will be a very exciting part of the city to watch over the next several months and years.
BBH: What’s your caffeinated beverage of choice during the work day?
VG: I drink one latte in the morning and drink water the rest of the day.
BBH: How would you advise someone to get their start in PR? What’s something every PR industry hopeful should do to ensure they get their foot in the door?
VG: In today’s job market, it is not easy for young people to find a job. My advice to those looking for a job in PR is to offer to work in a non paying or volunteer capacity with a PR company, government organization, non profit or company to gain experience and regard it as extending your education.
In many cases, they may hire the individual when they see how valuable they can be as an employee. I believe that it is important to gain experience both on the client side as well as the agency side of the business to better understand each side’s perspective and hence become a better practitioner.
Those wanting to ensure a foot in the door need to be persistent with the potential employer without harassing; learn as much as possible about the company and its industry in general so that the employer believes you are serious about being a part of their team and then try to identify something innovative that you could offer the company that brings value.
And…never lose your sense of humour.
Thanks Vicki for taking the time to buzz with us!