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How is it November?
The year finally feels like it is wrapping up and before we started Didihood, we set out to hit specific goals for 2018: Launch formally in Toronto (we can say this was a success), host a panel (we learned so much) and introduce ourselves to a market in Vancouver (we still miss those mountains).
But one of our biggest pillars and something we plan on devoting ourselves to next year is shaping, teaching and inspiring the next generation of artists, journalists and creatives in between. Before the year ended, we wanted to do something for students and recent grads who are still trying to figure out exactly what they want from these types of industries.
On Nov. 14, we will be hosting our very first workshop series at Ryerson University (more details below) focused on questions so many of us have on freelancing. How do you write a pitch? How do you know where to send the pitch? What makes a good pitch? Join us for an evening session with co-founders Arti Patel and Nikki Gill, as well as Lisa Yeung, manager of lifestyle and blogs at Huffpost Canada and Toronto-based freelance writer and producer Bee Quammie.
Space is limited. Interested? Check out this application form to apply for a spot.
Meet the Didis:
Now, on to our monthly Didi. This month we spoke with Toronto PR pro Meg Sethi, president and CEO, of Evolution Public Relations based in Toronto. Meg talks about the importance of diversity in her career, as well as some of the barriers she has overcome to get to where she is today.
Where and when did you start in the PR industry?
I started Evolution PR in November 2011. Prior to that I worked as the event manager at the Children’s Aid Foundation where I planned large scale fundraising events to raise much-needed dollars for at-risk youth. In that role, I also had the opportunity to flex my event PR experience by looking at numerous ways to create a narrative around the events we’d host.
When I first entered the industry, it was challenging helping members of the community understand what we actually did. When I’d discuss coverage our agency had secured for example, family and friends would misunderstand that it meant coverage for myself or our agency, not a brand or person we represented. Over time, I’ve honed my message to our community to explain that my team and I create newsworthy content on behalf of our clients and pitch journalists for coverage of this content.
As a South Asian woman, did you see other brown women in the industry?
When I first started in the PR industry, I only encountered a small handful of South Asian faces. What was comforting however were the great South Asian faces in media I met and worked with: Pooja Handa, Sangita Patel, Gurdeep Ahluwalia, Farah Nasser, Devo Brown, Travis Dhanraj and several other incredibly talented media. Luckily, we’re seeing more South Asians in the Canadian PR industry now, but at that time when this group felt significantly small, having South Asian representation in media helped me feel less like an outsider.
Do you think your industry is diverse?
I do think diversity in the PR and communications industry in Canada is on the rise, but there is a significant amount of work needed.
An experience I faced came a few years back when I was out with some of our newer clients, introducing them to different people at industry events, a common practice for newer clients at our agency. The clients at the time were from diverse disciplines with their common thread, besides being represented by our agency, was that they were all South Asian. Suddenly, our agency was categorized as a South Asian PR agency, despite the fact that our media markets of focus for these clients were mainstream Canadian lifestyle and entertainment media. Additionally, the 10 other clients on our roster at the time were not South Asian nor were any other members of our team. I was pigeon-holed into a specific market by virtue of my ethnic background over my work and that was a tough reality to face.
From a standpoint of what we need to do, I think conversations around some of these diversity issues we face in the industry is a start. Sites like Didihood and the Code Black Communicator Network (founded by PR professionals Bunmi Adeoye, Maxine Lorna and Renee Weekes) allow us to share our experiences and brainstorm ways we can improve our communities for all of us.
PR has also changed so much over the last decade, what would you like to see in the future?
Collaboration and leadership are key elements I’d like to see integrated into the future of the PR industry in Canada.
From a collaboration standpoint, I’d like to see opportunities for partnerships between complementing agencies in efforts to benefit the clients of both agencies. This would eliminate some of the competition from a dwindling media landscape and contribute to the greater good of clients at both agencies.
From a leadership standpoint, I’d love to see heads of PR agencies come together bi-annually to discuss key issues in the industry and how we can collectively work to eliminate them.
What’s your advice to young Didis interested in going into PR?
Educate yourself about the industry, read publications, watch talk shows and understand what PR is. I’ve often seen cover letters from aspiring PR professionals that misunderstand that PR is only social media or events. A great way to handle this is doing the research, volunteering with different PR firms and scheduling informational interviews or going for a coffee with someone in the business is a great way to get your foot in the door.
What we’re reading:
To be honest, we are still not over last month’s comment section on this Instagram post on a “Dear Abby” columnist telling a reader not to give his child an Indian name — let’s just say our fellow didis were not too happy with this.
In October, The New York Times did a super fun interactive story asking young women all around the world what life is like at the age of 18. It features two stories from New Delhi, India and Chandpur, Bangladesh.
What we’re watching/listening to:
Didi Shefali Bahal launched and co-hosts a new podcast called Tech-nically Speaking. “We talk about everything from industry news, reviews, pop culture and more!” Find them on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify & Pocket Casts.
And of course, like most brown people on social media, we are also highly addicted to Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act. It’s smart, funny and a whole lot of facts boiled down to 30 glorious minutes.
If you are interested in our upcoming freelance workshop, fill out this form by Nov. 7.
— Arti Patel