An Insightful exchange with Ms. Connie Tamoto

When I started to look for aPublic Relations (PR) professional, I had a clear goal to reach the professional who had more than ten years of rich experience in the PR field and who was in a key position at a well-known corporate company. I wanted to interview him/her in order to understand the Public Relations field in detail which can help me to make my career decision.

Search for the Best in the Field

Cargill is a well-known corporate giant across Canada and was the clear choice for me. The company is the largest privately held corporation in The United States of America with the major business like trading, purchasing, and distribution. The company is also actively involved in charity and community development work.

I started searching LinkedIn to look for the key PR professional from Cargill and came across Ms. Connie Tamoto, who holds the key position of Communications and Community Relations Manager at Cargill in Winnipeg.

By studying her profile I found out that she holds a BA, English degree from Universtiy of Manitoba, and a diploma in Creative Communications, JournalismPRAdvertising from Red River College. She started her career as a General Assignment Reporter at Winnipeg Sun in 2001 and never looked back. Her breadth of experience ranges from holding key positions in Global television, Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. / Tourism Winnipeg, The North West Company, Manitoba PC Caucus, Winnipeg Free Press.

Ms.Tamoto’s LinkedIn profile summarizes her as an inquisitive person who worked as a journalist and reported for the criminal investigations, covered local entertainment stories, delivered the goods on the latest trends from the runway for weekly fashion column. She hosted live television specials such as 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto, Firefighters Memorial and produced three documentaries – one of which went on to win the RTNDA Prairie Region Dan McArthur Award for Investigative/In-Depth Journalism. She also acted as the company external relations liaison.

Dream come True

I knew that reaching her was going to be a daunting task as the PR professionals are very busy and without any prior connections it is hard to interview anyone of that stature. I messaged her via social media about my interest in interviewing her and to my surprise she readily accepted the invitation and scheduled the telephone interview. I could not have asked for more.

Interview

We started the interview at 4:30 p.m. on November 8, over the phone and I started asking her about her experience and routines. The key insights which she gave in the next 30 minutes of the interview convinced me to pursue my career in the PR field. I was prepared to take the PR journey, which is full of excitement and challenges.

Daily routine

Ms. Connie considers that flexibility: ability to change from one subject to another and time management: juggling many balls at one time are the key drivers for her to work daily. Her everyday work ranges from community outreach, dealing with media and with the issues that have a broad impact on the business or on our country.

The biggest change the way PR professionals work today than a few years back is the dissemination of messaging. Communication used to be personalized earlier where only the messages which a company publishes reaches the public. Now a tweet or a conversation in a public space or in a hallway has the potential to reach the public very easily and quickly. So acting accordingly is another key thing to keep in mind while working.

Staying on the top

She suggests that it is extremely important to be on the top of different kinds of the communication tools that are available today. The PR field is driven by communication which should be clear and should be directed towards a different kind of audience as per the company’s need and business. Thus any one of the tools is  important, but it is the ability to use different tools to reach the audience effectively which is imperative. For example, she used Facebook more than other tools in her previous company but in her current role at Cargill, she uses more community town halls for more direct outreach.

Also, she advised that consensus building and collaboration are vital for any PR role as lots of corporate decisions are based on the committee. PR Professionals rely on the subject matter experts for the key messages and conversations and then frame them before publicizing them.

Connect

Ms. Tamato is an active member of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) which invites members from Canada to attend workshops and sessions in the USA. PRSA is more segmented; they have education stream for the education communicators, government stream for the government communicators, travel and tourism stream for travel and tourism communicators. She is also a part of Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS).

She suggests that PR students become a part of peer networking groups because these groups are at the grassroots level. They provide a great platform for idea sharing and networking. She also suggested subscribing to the bloggers who talk about the industry and current trends.

Proud Moment

She was very excited and proud to talk about the campaign in 2014 known as Zero hunger challenge, where Cargill and CARE joined hands together to improve food security. It was a month long campaign on which she had worked and the campaign ran across 100+locations around Canada at different businesses

It included activities such as having a food drive for the local the food bank, arranging food donations for the bank, volunteering at the local school for the breakfast program. Activities included any other kinds of initiatives or ideas that they may have had for helping the hunger in their communities.

We were entering the last phase of the interview and I was all ears during this amazing interview.  I also made sure to ask about the quick tips for the new PR Professional and keys to getting hired in companies of the stature of Cargill.

Tips for Newbie

Her quick tips for the PR newbie are as follows:

  • Stay on the top of the industry trends through journals and blogs
  • Be adaptable and go with the broadest responsibility which makes you more versatile
  • Have the pulse on the current issues, be on top of the current affairs and look at what companies did right and what they could have done differently

Get hired

According to Ms. Tamato strong and concise writing is extremely vital. She suggested that “you do not have to be the elaborate writer with the biggest vocabulary. As the audience is the external public, being able to write to them in plain clear English is the key. It is the most valuable asset to have.”

She used to do hiring in her previous role and advised that oral and written communication are the key skills to get hired. She gave an example where candidates do not spell the names of the companies correctly in the resume as they rush through things at the last minute. She will not consider those resumes for interview.

Ms. Connie Tamoto’s interview was one of the most rewarding experience for me where she shared her insights and suggestions to succeed in the PR field. There were a lot of takeaways from this interview for the PR students. She provided a basic framework of how to go about working in this field, staying connected with the current events and technology, and finally key skills for finding the job.

You can go visit the LinkedIn profile of Ms. Connie Tamoto to learn more about her professional background.

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