LOOKING BACK: 50 Years with CPRS
After graduating from a two year diploma program in Communications, I secured a Public Relations job at a large shopping centre in Winnipeg. A few months later, on a blustery day in January 1972, a man named Bob Drain came calling. Bob worked in PR at a company near the mall and he’d come to invite me to join CPRS and even serve as social director on the Manitoba board of directors.. I instantly agreed, recognizing this as another important step in my career, and joined CPRS after my first meeting.
CPRS was considered the professional organization for senior practitioners in Canada. It had been an “old boys” club up to that point, but two remarkable women had broken the gender barrier the year before and they were looking for more. They also wanted to attract younger members so here I was at age 20 elbow to elbow with the people who did the hiring and had experiences and expertise to share. Through them, I also got to know most of the influential media in the city.
My confidence grew. After nine months at the mall, I was hired for double the money by an ad agency. A year later, I doubled my salary again as an information officer in the provincial government. During this time, I attended nearly every CPRS professional development luncheon and workshop and had a network of colleagues to guide me.
When first one child and then a second came along, I chose to work from home and start a home-based business doing PR and magazine journalism as well as teaching PR and writing to adults. Though I waived my CPRS membership during this time due to high fees, the colleagues I’d made stayed in touch, and sometimes gave me work or a referral.
I returned to full time work 10 years later as PR manager for a hospital and instantly rejoined CPRS. I served on the CPRS Manitoba board for 5-6 years as professional development chair, VP and then president. My overarching goal was education; during my term, we were able to convince a university to start a PR program and established a student scholarship at a college. Before becoming president, I attained accreditation status and was delighted when notice of this achievement was sent to the Executive Director of the hospital who, in turn, read it to his board.
At that time, the CPRS national executive were elected but the board comprised local presidents like myself. Our main meeting was held at the national conference where I met colleagues from across Canada. I have since attended more than a dozen conferences, mainly on my own nickel, where I heard about the latest advances in our field and developed an enviable network. I also served on conference planning committees in both Winnipeg and Edmonton.
In 1999, I moved to Edmonton for a new position as communications director at a college. One of the first things I did was transfer my CPRS membership to Edmonton and attend a PD luncheon. I was warmly greeted and soon asked to join the CPRS board as accreditation chair. Once again, this gave me an instant circle of like-minded colleagues. I also served in volunteer positions for both the local and national societies, including the 2007 conference committee and as a mentor, an accreditation writer and grader, awards judge and more. I was inducted into the CPRS College of Fellows in 2007.
In 2003, while in Edmonton, I once again started my own business and received contracts and referrals from CPRS colleagues. In 2015, I moved to Calgary, arriving one day before the annual CPRS/IABC holiday event where again I met new and already known CPRS colleagues, including one new grad who became my part-time assistant. Imagine my delight when, a few years later, CPRS Edmonton named me a Life Member.
Though semi-retired now, I still attend an occasional PD session or national conference and support PR students and new grads as a mentor. And I get together with CPRS colleagues when I visit Edmonton and Winnipeg. Even 50 years in the field can’t keep a PR person down.
Andrea Collins, APR, FCPRS