The Road to PR

September 8, 2021

Emily Ellis

One of the most popular questions you’re asked as a child is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Although “PR professional” is not commonly seen on kids’ top ten most popular career choices lists, our talented team still found themselves captivated by the industry in some way, shape or form.

PR encompasses so many different skill sets and benefits from a wide diversity of experiences, so we decided to ask our K&P team about their backgrounds and past career aspirations, to know more about their journey to PR and at our dynamic agency.

Janine Allen, President & Partner

I originally wanted to be a lawyer. There were so many great movies and TV shows about lawyers and I loved the prestige of it. I pursued my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Queens University, because psych was the thing that interested me most and I ended up loving every bit of it. When it came time for the LSATs, I studied for weeks and on the day I wrote, I walked out of the building and at that moment, a bird “let loose” on my head. Instead of a sign of good luck (which I’m told it is), it shook me up and I realized I truly didn’t want to be a lawyer at all!

I knew Anne Lachance and David Kaiser for many years and respected them and the work the firm was doing. I was eager to return to agency life after a few years in the corporate world and wanted a role that would let me build and grow. It’s been a wild and wonderful ride so far and I’m so excited for what’s next for K&P.

Diana Conconi, Senior Vice President & Partner

I wanted to be a ballerina, but I think I really just wanted to wear a tutu. After shelving that dream at age 9, I followed my passion for writing and attended the University of Virginia, where I completed an undergraduate degree in English, with a minor in Philosophy. I knew I loved to write – but had no idea what I would do with it at the time. I just knew I didn’t want the daily deadline grind of a newspaper. Little did I know…

Outside my one-off summer and seasonal jobs in retail and fast food, I had three very different PR internships. One was for a small firm handling the Cattleman’s Association, one was with an event firm (located in the Watergate Hotel!) and the final one was on Capitol Hill supporting the Select Committee on Narcotics and Drug Abuse. K&P was an easy choice from day one – literally (I was here providing freelance support from Day 1). It’s beyond thrilling to see how far we’ve come – and how much stronger we get every year.

Maggie Hall, Director

I always wanted to be a writer. I loved writing and gravitated to storytelling – it felt natural for me. I ventured to McGill University, where I completed my undergraduate degree in English and History.

Before K&P, I worked in a variety of roles at Scotiabank, including stints in the capital and retail sides of the bank. Both experiences brought me in contact with some really fabulous communicators in investor relations, corporate marketing, client service and not-for-profit communications which broadened my horizon. Being able to understand nuance and effectively communicate to different stakeholder groups is an essential skill that takes practice, and my roles at Scotiabank positioned me well for the dynamic environment of a PR agency.

Catherine Snider, Senior Director

When I was little, my “big” dreams were to be a bus driver or cash register (you read that correctly, I didn’t know the term ‘cashier’ yet). I conquered my dreams and became a cashier at 16 and quickly changed my career aspirations to broadcast journalist or lawyer. I attended Ryerson University and specialized in Criminal Justice. I loved my law class in high school and wanted to see if the industry was a good career choice for me. I chose Ryerson as I knew the university had an outstanding radio & television program, if I decided to go the broadcasting route later on.

I’m one of the lucky ones to say that I started as an intern at K&P just over 6 years ago! Following university, I completed the post-graduate PR program at Humber College and volunteered with IABC, where I met a client of K&P’s. He introduced me to the agency and the rest is history.

Jen Farr, Account Manager

I always wanted to be a movie star, so I decided to pursue my passion for theatre and acting as an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. I knew at a very early age that storytelling was always going to be important to me and I’ve always looked for ways to project it in a creative way.

Prior to PR, I worked in the service industry as a server/bartender for 10 years and once I went back to school for PR and communications, I interned at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. I then pursued work at an agency, later moving to a corporate job with a real estate developer. That’s where I found my love for B2B/corporate comms, which is what ultimately led me to K&P!

Angela Pinzon, Senior Account Manager

I wanted to be an architect, but when the time came to decide on a career, I wanted to enroll in a graphic design program. Things changed and an opportunity came up to study journalism at Fundación Universitaria Panamericana, which I don’t regret at all because it has opened so many professional doors for me. After graduating from the journalism program, I pursued a career in communications and then went deeper into social media analytics, when it was just beginning to be a thing back in early 2010’s.

Not knowing much about K&P initially, the first impression I got is that it is probably the smartest PR firm in Canada – and I wanted to be a part of the smartest team in the industry. When you do get to know K&P from the inside, you realize that aside from being the smartest agency with the smartest people, it is indeed an amazing place to work and grow.

Shane Madill, Senior Account Coordinator

I never really knew what I wanted to be when I was younger – and I still don’t in many ways. I had brief fantasies of being an athlete, a musician and a professional StarCraft player at different points. I simply progressed with what I enjoyed and what I was good at before landing on Economics at McMaster University with minors in Business and Psychology—broad enough that I didn’t have to close many doors and make a definitive decision. My time at the university’s newspaper, The Silhouette, working my way up through the ranks to become Editor-in-Chief, helped me figure out that I could keep my aspirations as broad as the topics I wrote and learned about.

Moving from journalism to a different field (and a more stable career) with the help of Centennial’s Post-Graduate Corporate Communications and Public Relations program led me to K&P after the program coordinator, Donna Lindell, stated it would be a good fit and that I should apply. I still agree with this recommendation two and a half years later. The opportunity to work on a wide variety of topics to help clients present their perspectives has been an enjoyable experience and one I have been able to grow as I continue to ignite the themes that have inspired me since I was young.

Emily Ellis, Senior Account Coordinator

In elementary school, I really enjoyed both my writing and art classes. I always had a creative mind, which was noticed by my parents and teachers from a very young age. I would write short stories and journal about my life, followed by a crayoned visual illustration (don’t worry, I gave up the drawing elements pretty quickly). I would tell everyone I wanted to be an author and write my own stories, primarily children’s books. Funny enough, writing my own book one day is still an underlying goal I hope to achieve.

During my last semester at McMaster, I was admitted into the communications internship program, where I applied as a Social Media Intern at the Hamilton Arts Council. My boss was impressed with my interest in my work and writing potential. She told me to take the next step and accept my offer to Humber’s PR program. Humber’s friendly network of alumni opened many opportunities for me to talk to veterans in the Toronto PR landscape, which is how I connected with K&P’s own Catherine Snider. We talked a lot about her experience at Humber and her five-year journey at K&P, from Intern to Director. I applied for the fall internship opening at the agency and I’ve been here ever since!

Nathaniel Glassman, Account Coordinator

When I was younger, I wanted to be a rockstar (lol). I attended Concordia University and completed my undergraduate degree in music composition. My rockstar dream had matured at that point but I studied music composition because it was what I loved to do!

I have quite a laundry list of former jobs. I taught English in Japan, I did room service at a hotel and I was a barista (don’t get your hopes up, my latte art leaves much to be desired), just to name a few. I looked at K&P’s list of clients and thought the scope of work would align with my interests. I also heard nothing but commendations and excellent stories about K&P throughout my time at Centennial College. Word of mouth is the best type of brand awareness!

Mohammad Raza, Account Coordinator

When I was younger, I was inspired by my granddad to be a pro-wrestler. When I was 17, I decided to take a different and more creative career path. As an imaginative storyteller, I had dreams of writing fiction, yet always had an interest in developing a better understanding of the Canadian political landscape. I combined the two aspirations, driving my decision to attend the University of Toronto where I completed my undergraduate degree in English and Political Science.

My past roles included a pizza maker, a grocery boy and a chicken seasoner at Popeyes. Although I enjoyed my time surrounded by food, I am forever grateful to have found my way into PR. After completing an internship as a communications intern in the healthcare space, I was introduced to the amazing team here at K&P through Shane Madill. Shane spoke highly of the work, clients and team at K&P, making me more inclined to pursue the next phase of my career at this agency. Our friendship blossomed into a potential career opportunity, and, in January, I was welcomed into the agency with open arms.

Lauren Bech-Hansen, Account Coordinator

First, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I realized I was useless at all things STEM-related, but I had a real aptitude for writing. I honed this skill throughout my teenage years, even participating in a writing workshop with Margaret Atwood. This led me to then consider a career as a journalist (funny to look back at now, given how much I interact with reporters today).

I wound up pursuing a double major in Political Science and International Development with a minor in law at Dalhousie University, where I polished my writing, presentation and reasoning skills, while learning about a variety of different topics ranging from philosophy to quantitative analysis (despite all my efforts to avoid mathematics). My interest in politics eventually landed me an internship in the public affairs department at Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (now CPP Investments), where I experienced my first taste of public relations. Since then, I pursued other positions in marketing at a small business and financial services at a large corporation, but have always had an itch to return to the field of PR.

Despite the many different roads we took to get here, we’re all extremely grateful to have wound up in the wonderful world of PR. We’ve found that in many ways, PR is the career that keeps on giving – not only do we get the chance to work across endless sectors with client needs spanning the full spectrum, we get to do something different every single day. PR is demanding – it requires stellar writing and organizational skills, quick thinking, inventiveness and superior attention to detail. While it may not always be the most glamourous, the experience afforded by PR is incomparable and super rewarding. We are forever thankful to have found our way to it and can’t wait to see what the rest of our journeys look like.

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