Media, Darling: Johanna James

Johanna James is a chase producer at Sun News Network, Canada’s home of hard news and straight talk. She first got her start in the TV industry as an intern at Sun TV and worked her way up to be a segment producer and video assignment editor before the launch of Sun News Network. 
A Torontonian at heart, she loves city life, the diverse selection of cultural foods and entertainment, and the feeling of calling Toronto home. But don’t be fooled, she’s an avid traveller, experiencing the sights and sounds of Paris, London and New York to name a few. But she calls Grenada – the native home of her mother – her second home away from home.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I’ve had a fascination with TV ever since I was a young kid. But I think it started when I was two years old, watching Dave Devall do the weather on CFTO, drawing on the glass board – I was hooked. My interest grew stronger when I completed my media studies class in high school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I wanted to know how everything on TV came together. My college internship sealed the deal and here I am today.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
Would still like to be producing TV; possibly in a lifestyle format. But overall, I want to be happy, sane and enjoying what I do next. You never know. I didn’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing now when I was 20. Throw in some travelling and I’ll be happier than a kid with ice cream cake.
Any advice for people started in your industry?
If there’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door through internship (free or not) or through volunteering – DO IT! But make sure it’s something that you want to do and be prepared to roll with the punches. The TV industry is always changing. Be true to yourself, do your best and have fun.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
For news: 680 News, Newstalk 1010, Sun Media, AP, Reuters and BBC. I enjoy reading few magazines like Essence and O, The Oprah Magazine. And for anything else… when in doubt, Google.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I had a chance to interview Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson, and oh my, is he ever lovely. He was extremely nice, vibrant and my camera loved him – at least I think so. I would have to say I’ve had a lot of enjoyable and interesting conversations with the guests I book for my network and the PR reps to escort them. You learn a lot from just having a causal yet respectable conversation.
Worst?
People who didn’t care to be there for the interview and gave one word answers. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens. Life goes on.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
This happens to pop into my head more often these days: “Remember it’s not rocket science or surgery, it’s just TV.”
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I credit the West Scarborough Boys and Girls club for implementing the following rules when I attended from ages five to 13.
1. Respect yourself.
2. Respect others.
3. Respect others belongings and their beliefs. 
And be observant of your surroundings. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but handy when you do.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Deliver the whole package. In my case, if a PR representative can provide a plan for a suggested segment with guests, useful and concise information, visuals, prop selections (if needed) and accessible web links – we will love working with you! A good segment takes attention to details (and elements). As long as you’re just as willing to make the opportunity work, it will work with flying colours.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I can’t nail down one experience, because I have more than one. I will say that there’s a group of PR pros who I’ve dealt with in the past nine months that have been awesome to work with. I would gladly work with them in the future, no doubt about it.

I hate?
Intolerable people who don’t want to try to be tolerable. 

I love?
Travelling to the Caribbean, especially if I can enjoy a few afternoons on Grand Anse beach in Grenada. 

Reading?
Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill and when I want to escape, the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling has quite the imagination. 

Best place on earth?
Grand Anse beach in Grenada, central Paris and I’m sure there’s some places that I haven’t discovered yet. I still got time.

Dinner guest?
I would say my obvious choice would be Oprah, but I would have to say group of my childhood friends from elementary school. We try to keep in touch as much as we can when we can. Twenty years plus and still going.
Hero?
Do Superman, Batman, Thor, Captain America and Planet count? Just kidding. My mother. It probably sounds cliché but I strongly admire her strength and determination. Plus she delivers results and answers; I have to love her for that. 
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I actually don’t download a lot of apps. BBM is probably the only app I use a lot, and the Scene app. 
Pool or Ocean?
Definitely the ocean. I’m not the greatest swimmer, but I can rock the lounge chair on the beach any day, or at least four out of seven days of the week if I was in the Caribbean.
Voicemail or email?

It can be tricky. I would say personal email because I can always look back at it. Or call until you get me.

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We`re Not Just Pretty: Susan Smythe Bishop

Susan Smythe Bishop’s career in the motion picture industry spans more than 19 years. She joined Alliance Communications in 1992, and worked on (to name a few) The English Patient, Austin Powers and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. She also collaborated with many high-profile Canadian filmmakers, such as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Denise Robert. Later, Bishop was promoted to senior vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, and raised the level of promotional activity from a local market focus to fully integrated national partnerships.

Bishop joined Maple Pictures in 2008 as co-vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, where she oversees the publicity and promotions for half of Maple’s product for the Theatrical and Home Entertainment divisions.

Fun fact! Bishop creates event cakes as a side business and donates all profits to the Canadian Picture Pioneers, as a way of giving back to the industry that she’s grown to love. She’s even earned the prize of “Best Wedding Cake” for two consecutive years at Bonnie Gordon’s annual Cake Competition.

Twitter: @MaplePictures

How long have you been in your current position?
I’ve been working with Maple Pictures for just under two years.
How does your company leverage PR ?
Our primary objectives are to increase awareness of our product and to grow our brand. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including taking part in press junkets, tailoring national opinion-maker screening programs, developing fully integrated national partnerships in all media (with a heavy emphasis on social) that encompasses publicity, sweepstakes/contests and event marketing. We place heavy importance on partnership marketing and working with like-minded companies. With this approach, we can tap into each other’s resources, extend our promotional reach and benefit from each others brand equity. 
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
I’ve almost always hired at entry level positions. Ideally, I think that’s how it should always work as when someone leaves our department – the person immediately below them should be able to take over the reins.
 
An interest in PR and/or a PR background helps, and anyone that has done an internship with a like-minded company would be considered for an interview. In my opinion, the amount of experience required for an entry level position isn’t nearly as important as the personality of the person we are looking for. They have to be a good fit with our team, they have to have a very positive outlook, be a team player, have a good sense of humour and have a natural sense of gratitude. We don’t want to bring someone in who will expect to be promoted within six months, and really shy away from candidates that appear to be star-struck.
Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?  
This is a hard question because there simply isn’t just one. I have learned just as much (if not more) from younger staff as I have from my previous bosses. My early experiences gave me the foundation I needed. Paying close attention to my employees has shown me that it’s so very important to have balance in your life and not allow your job to define you. I’ve learned to look for inspiration in everyone I meet, so anyone I’ve come in contact with may have unwittingly become a mentor to me in one way or another. I’ve even drawn inspiration from people whose behaviour is so atrocious that I secretly thank them for showing me how NEVER to behave or treat people.
What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?   
Well, it actually makes me laugh a little because as far as I’m concerned, I think we have a rather un-sexy career! Don’t get me wrong, I really love what I do (in fact, it took me stepping away from it for a year to really appreciate how much I loved it and this industry). But, it’s not as though we are constantly hanging out with celebrities at parties.  
Our job is to make talent look great to the press, even if/when they treat us badly (and some do). We’re the ones that get soaked in the rain while holding the umbrella for the actors as they are stepping onto the red carpet; we are the ones to make sure talent are comfortably seated at the dinner table and that their order has been taken, before we sneak to the bar to munch on bar mix. And, it’s not just about working with actors. In fact, that is a small part of what we do. 
It’s sometimes our job to work 18 hour days to pull off an event or a huge promotion without a hitch or to get that proposal polished and ready to present. It can be a really fun, creative and fulfilling career for sure, but you will never find me in stilettos on the job – I’ll be the one wearing sensible shoes, and laughing with my co-workers, as they are the ones I want to hang out with!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?   
For junior PR pros, I would say be upfront, honest and earnest with everything you do. For senior PR pros, I think there is so much to be learned from the younger people in our industry. I don’t believe that “I’ve been doing this for years, so I have all of the answers” really holds up anymore (if it ever did), because things have changed on the media landscape so rapidly. The younger PR staff are so savvy and can adapt so easily to change. It’s important that we learn from each other.
What do you love most about your job?  
I absolutely love the people I get to work with each day – I’m so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of smart and fun people. I also really love the challenge of putting together a promotional campaign with next to no budget; it really pushes and challenges me to be more creative. More than anything though, I have to say that watching the younger staff learn and grow has become a huge part of what drives me in this crazy business of ours. That is so rewarding and gratifying.
A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer:  Douglas Coupland.
Store: Anthropologie.
Book: Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
Snack: Riceworks Crisps.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: A great sense of humour.
Inspiration: O, the Oprah Magazine.
Drink: Lychee Martini.
Motto in two words: Be Thankful.
Idea of perfect happiness: Just hanging out with my husband and our dog.
Indulgence: Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing.
Celebrity crush: Colin Firth.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @JonGordon11

We’re Not Just Pretty: Marissa Headley

I like long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and dancing under the moonlight. Oops – wrong profile. Okay, here we go. Just a bit about me…

I am a Torontonian who loves living in Toronto but also thrives on seeing other parts of the world. I like to travel because it opens my eyes to new things, new ways of thinking and provides a source of inspiration.

In the past, I was interested in fashion design and art, but at the same time showed proficiency in science and math. I’ve fought a lifelong battle between left and right brain thinking.

Most people don’t know that I graduated from Ryerson University with a degree in Commerce and IT. After working in the IT field for three years, I realized that I needed to exercise my creative side and was fortunate enough to transition to marketing and PR.

This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. This industry allowed me to create harmony between my creative and analytical sides, which together can be a very powerful force in the workplace. I now work in the beauty category at Marc Anthony Hair Care as the Manager of Marketing and PR and it is an absolute delight.

Twitter: @MarcAnthonyHC

How long have you been in your current position? 
Six years.

How does your company leverage PR? 
Our biggest point of leverage is our reputation as the go-to salon for celebrity styling. Marc Anthony and his team of stylists are great hair experts for lifestyle stories, beauty features and makeovers. Our high-calibre styling talent, product line and Toronto salons give the media an easy one-stop shop for hair advice, celebrity stories, celebrity, trends and products.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
In addition to outstanding social skills, I never underestimate the ability to be organized, to pay attention to detail (almost to the point of being obsessive) and a willingness to learn.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
My boss, the Senior Director of Global Marketing & PR. She is class all the way. She shows the people who work for her the utmost respect, which goes a long way when it’s crunch time.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?
These shows have definitely created more awareness about the industry, and I’m sure a lot of young people are becoming more interested in the field. However, as with most TV shows, they are only able to touch on the “glamorous” part of the profession. I doubt we’d ever see Samantha Jones and her team packing up press kits, updating press databases, sourcing materials or negotiating with agencies.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Love what you do and do it with passion. The best ideas come from those who are emotionally invested in what they do.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that no day is every the same. I also love the fast pace – the days when you think you won’t get everything complete but somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: style.com, rachelzoe.com
Designer: Michael Kors, Tory Birch.
Store: Winners.
Book: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. 
Snack: Tostitos and hummus.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: Big hair.
Inspiration: All of the women in my family.
Drink: Coffee or anything hot.
Motto in two words: Don’t worry.
Idea of perfect happiness: A million-dollar shopping spree on accessories!
Indulgence: Accessories and anything shiny.
Celebrity crush: Leo.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @miss_marilisa