Adrienne Batra shares four pieces of advice for communicators

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By Danielle D’Ornellas 

Members can view an archived version of this May 29, 2012 presentation (length 45:30) by Adrienne Batra, Comments Editor, Toronto Sun and former Press Secretary to Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford in the members’ only blog.

On Tuesday, May 29 Adrienne Batra spoke to CPRS Toronto members at the Annual General Meeting, an audience that was as hungry for anecdotes about Mayor Rob Ford as they were for appetizers. Being the natural public-speaker that she is, Batra was more than happy to oblige, but with her varied work experience she also provided the audience (which comprised of students, volunteers and board members alike) with tips that were relevant for communicators at any level.

Batra shared advice in four key areas that resonated with me. She also provided examples of how they were reflected in her career.

 1. Always accept a challenge

People don’t enter public relations because they think it’ll be easy, but Batra’s career was particularly challenging from the start. She joined the Canadian Forces and it was during her six years in the army when she rose to the rank of Lieutenant that she cut her teeth in public affairs. One of the most challenging controversies she had to deal with in that position was speaking on behalf of her squadron during the Somalia Inquiry.

 2. Be ready to move quickly

The 24-hour news cycle waits for no one and sometimes you just have to be the one to bite the bullet and press the issue. When Batra was a member of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, she played a role in the resignation of Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray. After a media appearance where Murray declared his intention to run for federal office while still retaining his position as mayor, Batra sent out a press release asking for his resignation. She sent it within 30 minutes of his announcement and completely took over the news cycle. Murray resigned his position the same day.

 3. Get in front of the issue

Before she was approached to work for the Rob Ford campaign Batra had recently moved to Toronto and had a new position — stay-at-home mom. Within a week of starting her work with Ford she was already working at full-speed putting out fires. And just what was her strategy for dealing with a client who speaks his mind quite freely? Getting in front of the issue every time. Whenever a story about Rob Ford emerged Batra would take ownership of the story. Her straightforward manner and no-nonsense approach complimented Ford’s spontaneity, which was reflected in the polls.

 4. Know when to move on

Public relations thrives off of new blood. People are constantly switching sectors, changing agencies or striking out on their own. It’s just part of the industry and Batra experienced that itch first-hand. As amusing as she made her time with the mayor out to be, it clearly wasn’t all fun and games; it was a burnout job. She was working for a man who took pride in having a staff half the size of his predecessor, all the while providing them with more work to do. And despite Batra’s best intentions and strategies, she was fighting a daily battle on all sides to represent her client. At some point after being offered a position at the Toronto Sun Batra made the decision to return to a life of reduced notoriety to spend more time with her family and so far hasn’t looked back.

Ultimately, when it came to her time working for Rob Ford Adrienne Batra’s overall strategy was that success in communications comes down to ownership, whether that ownership is over the issue, your client’s reputation or your own career.

 

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