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A Bit of Burgos by Dale Burgos

My path to effective communications

Dale Burgos & Emmie Joaquin at an on-location broadcast in 1998

by Dale Burgos

I’ve often been asked what a Director of Communications does. It’s a great question and I’d like to share it with you now. Here’s my story.

This month marks a significant point in my career. It was 20 years ago that I took a leap of faith and entered into the TV business, which set off a chain of events that led me to where I am today. I struggled with the decision because I was having a lot of fun working at CKJS Radio, where I was first hired on as a weekend on-air announcer working the 12 to 8 a.m. shift. I also had the opportunity to work with Emmie Joaquin – “Ate Emmie” – on Manila Sound, the drive home show. She took me under her wing and taught me about radio broadcasting. (Maraming salamat, Ate Em). You may remember me, I was the one many people didn’t believe was Filipino because I only spoke English. I did throw in a few Tagalog words here and there.

Videon Cable (now Shaw TV in Winnipeg) was my first TV job. I was hired on as a segment host and eventually a regular host during the 1999 Pan Am Games. My exposure at those games led me to a job with A-Channel Manitoba (remember them?) where I held a bunch of roles: director, producer, production assistant, and marketing coordinator. I thought I was set for life, but with little kids at home, I wanted to have a career that would allow me to be at home with the family Monday to Friday.

Once again, I made a difficult decision and left TV to try something different. Many a broadcaster or journalist transitions into work in marketing, communications or public relations – unbeknownst to me at the time. It was a perfect fit since the company hiring was looking for someone with a good grasp of local media. The rest is history as they say. Which leads me to what I am writing about today: effective communications.

The main focus in my career has always been to present the company or organization in a positive way. That is essentially the basis of a public relations (PR) professional’s job. I’ve been fortunate and have had a great career and made a lot of connections. While having the gift of gab is a bonus, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. What does it take to be an effective communicator? I’ve found that you have to get past being shy and meeting new people. I had a method that I still practice to this day. When meeting a complete stranger, I try to sustain a conversation (not just about weather) and try to learn one or two things about them. It doesn’t matter who it was, it could be someone in an elevator or a cashier working in retail.

It’s also just as important to listen. Admittedly, I have trouble with this since I also like to observe. How do I know the person that just walked in the room? This person has spinach in their teeth, should I tell them? Being a good listener is particularly useful when you bump into the person again. Being on the receiving end, how great is it when someone you spoke to long time ago remembers the name of your kids? Feels pretty good right?

I love what I do, but there is a dark side. PR folk are not always friendly and can sometimes be combative. There is a reason why we are sometimes called “spin doctors.” These are people who bend the truth in a way that takes the attention away from the issue at hand. You’ll see a lot of these types working in politics, particularly south of the border. This type of unethical practice is a thorn in my side as it can often damage the good work that many of us do.

Effective communications also has a technical aspect to it. Social media is great example of a tool that, when used correctly, is a must-have for any PR pro. Sharing a message on Twitter and Facebook is easy and can quickly spread to your audience. This practice also works for those not working in PR. Just bought some shoes? Take a pic and post it. Out with friends at dinner? Share it on Instagram. Without knowing it, every user has essentially become their own PR person by sharing their story.

These are but a few of the aspects of my job as a communications and public relations professional. Is this a career you may be interested in one day? Feel free to message me on Twitter (@daleburgos). We could always use more effective communicators.

Dale manages the communications department for a school district in British Columbia.

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