Category Archives: Students

Where Are They Now? Kyleigh Benninger


Featuring Kyleigh Benninger, CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee VP External 2016/2017.

  1. What did you enjoy most about being on the SSC? 

I got to meet and work with fantastic people on the Executive team, to share my experiences with students across the GTA, and hear about the experiences of others in many different stages of their careers. All of this helped me to get to where I am today.


  1. Where do you work now and what do you do? 

I am currently Public Communications Coordinator for Stantec Consulting Ltd., supporting the City of Ottawa on a multi-million-dollar construction project funded by the municipal, provincial, and federal governments. My main responsibility is to provide strategic advice and assistance to the stakeholder relations portion of the project. Many of you will learn (as I am still learning) that as a consultant, it’s difficult to pinpoint your sole responsibilities.


Being a communications consultant in an engineer’s world has it challenges. But, that’s where my networking skills, largely learned through SSC, have come in handy. If I don’t know the answer to something, or if I am looking for some professional expertise, I tap into that network and get in touch with someone who does. If I’m stuck and need some advice, I’ll run it by someone in my network who will shut down my idea immediately, offer some new suggestions, or give me their stamp of approval. Moral of the story, NETWORK PEOPLE!


  1. How do you think CPRS Toronto helped advance your career or get you ready for your current position?

Getting the opportunity to network with individuals in the real world of PR, helped me not only to develop my skills, but to also get a sense of what it was that I wanted to do. I was able to get advice from many professionals through CPRS Toronto and SSC events, that I would never have been able to get on my own. It opened a lot of doors for me as someone starting out in the field, helped me to get a better grasp on where I wanted to be in the future, and ultimately, supported my skill development and awareness of life in the professional world.


Connect with Kyleigh on LinkedIn:


Where Are They Now? Sabrina Lavi


Featuring Sabrina Lavi, CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee Representative 2016/2017.

  1. What did you enjoy most about being on the SSC? 

I enjoyed interacting with other students from the various college programs across the GTA and attending Passport to PR, which is a great networking opportunity for all aspiring public relations professionals.


  1. Where do you work now and what do you do? 

I’m currently working at Rouge National Urban Park, Parks Canada as a Public Relations, Communications and Promotions Junior Officer. I work within the external relations team to help deliver promotional campaigns and produce internal and external communications. I’m responsible for executing events, processing media requests, developing speeches, presentations, newsletters and promotional plans for upcoming events in the park.


  1. How do you think CPRS Toronto helped advance your career or get you ready for your current position?

Joining CPRS Toronto at the beginning of my journey as a public relations professional helped me gain a better understanding of the industry. By attending networking events, I interacted with experienced individuals working in the public relations field. I learned about career paths, designations and tools to help me become a better communicator.



CPRS Toronto’s Doris Whiteside Award winners share tips for success in PR school


Education Chair and Board Member Heath Applebaum recently caught up with each of the seven outstanding 2016 recipients of the Doris Whiteside Award. The awards are given to one deserving student at each Toronto public relations program annually, who exemplifies both academic excellence and outstanding leadership qualities. To qualify, students must be members of CPRS Toronto.

Heath asked the seven winners to reflect back on their academic journeys and share their advice for current and future public relations students. Valuable insights and tips to make the most of their academic experience and prepare for the real world after graduation.

Kristen Cockburn
Program: Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate, Loyalist College
Status: Communications Advisor, Public Health Ontario

“Public relations is definitely an exciting field, but it can also be a scary journey to embark on.  Trust me, as someone who made a career change, I know how intimidating the decision to go back to school can be. One thing I did differently this time around, which I think contributed to my success, was that I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone; there’s no better time than school to do that. Whether it is being in front of the camera, selecting a personal story to tell in an assignment, or asking a professional from a networking session for a follow-up coffee, I took this time to push my personal and professional boundaries. My advice to current and future public relations students would be to take every experience in your program as a future opportunity. Put the extra effort into your assignments and build a great portfolio, stay connected with your classmates, and talk to everyone who walks through your classroom. You never know where that door may lead.”

Zena Schmidt
Program: Advanced Diploma Program, Humber College
Status: Completed PR internship and looking for her next big opportunity

“Attending the Public Relations Advanced Diploma program at Humber College was an amazing journey. When I think back to all the professors and fellow students that took part in shaping my learning experience, I will be forever grateful. If I was to give current and future public relations students helpful advice it would be this: collaborate with your teammates; one solid unit working together is always better, and more productive, than one person operating alone. When facing obstacles, don’t simply identify the problem, be an integral part of the solution. Most importantly, compete with yourself. It is not about being better, or brighter, than the person beside you, it is about constantly challenging your personal best. Embrace your internships, be a self-starter and believe in yourself. Confidence is key; people notice it and respond to it. The transition from the academic and internship world to the real work world can be daunting. Be persistent, patient and network, network network.  In closing, a thirst for knowledge is an exceptional gift; wake- up every day with an inquisitive mind and a passionate heart.”

Erika Manassis
Program: Corporate Communications Post-Diploma, Seneca College
Status: Account Coordinator at Cohn & Wolfe Canada

“I say the same thing to all PR students that I’ve met since graduating – volunteer, and get hands-on experience. No matter how strong you are academically, there is only so much that can be learned in the classroom.  So, get out there. If I had to do my public relations program again, I would tell myself to get in the habit of reading more news, from more sources. Being a student can certainly be busy, even stressful at times, but setting aside time to read the news (newspapers, magazines, websites, social media – everything) has so much value. I believe it has made me a better PR practitioner, because I have learned to recognize the names and interests of the writers and editors that I now communicate with regularly, and I am beginning to be able to identify editorial trends. I wish I had started this habit sooner.”

Lori Talling
Program: Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate, Ryerson University
Status: Program Coordinator, Sport Tourism, Regional Municipality of Durham

“From my first Intro to Public Relations class, I knew Ryerson’s post-graduate certificate in Public Relations was the right path for me. I loved the content and I was fueled by a desire to learn all that I could about public relations. I often spent hours researching assigned topics, I took an active role in group work, which included listening and learning from other students, and I considered quality a high priority. In my view, enthusiastic, open-minded, hard-working and engaged students will achieve the most success in the program. I recommend that students treat course assignments as opportunities to apply what they are learning and prepare for future roles in the field – work hard and have fun, collaborate, and be prepared to go the extra mile to make your mark!”

Amy Gingerich
Program: Post-Graduate Certificate Program, Humber College
Status: Account Coordinator, Veritas Communications

“One of the most important things I learned during school was to create positive relationships, with fellow students, professors and connections. This can come from a lot of things: being respectful, going above and beyond, and keeping your word, are three that seem like common sense, but are often forgotten. The public relations world is small, and memories are lasting, so the impression you make now can affect you later. Absorb as much as you can, especially when you’re learning from seasoned pros, and use their knowledge as much as you can.
Once you’re in the working world, be ready to work hard, but know that especially at the beginning, it’s not always the most glamorous work. Do it enthusiastically and you’ll make a great impression, and that’s always important when you want a reference or to move up the ranks.”

Stephanie Murphy
Program:  Public Relations Graduate Certificate Program, Centennial College
Status: Communications and Public Engagement Coordinator, Canadian Red Cross

“The best piece of advice I can think of – for both school and employment – is to take the opportunities that come your way. The best way to learn in this field is by doing, so when your instructor asks you to help with an extracurricular project, or your boss asks you to support in a new way, take it as an opportunity to learn and grow – you never know what may come of it! It will also show your dedication. While you’re in school, your instructors are a great resource. They’re industry professionals after all! Whether you have questions about an assignment or are interested in something they did in their career, chat with them outside of class time. In the workplace, if there’s a particular project you’d like to work on, or skill you’d like to develop, definitely ask. There are so many opportunities to learn in the workplace, but sometimes you have to speak up so your supervisors know you’re interested.”

Ashley Haraburda
Program: Bachelor’s Degree, Public Relations, Humber College
Status: Media Officer, The National Ballet of Canada

“Find ways to get involved in the public relations community. Throughout my time at Humber, I attended CPRS networking events, went on informational interviews and volunteered at agencies and events. You never know where one connection could take you. The more hands-on experience you gain outside the classroom, the better prepared you will feel when you start your career.”


Where Are They Now? CPRS ACE Award Winner Student Public Relations Plan of the Year


Stephanie Murphy was a member of the dedicated student team from Centennial College that won the #CPRSACE Student Public Relations Communications Plan of the Year. At the 2016 CPRS Toronto ACE Awards Gala, her team won for the Civic Action/Project Fusion campaign titled “Know the Signs” which focused on educating and building awareness around mental health in the workplace.


With the upcoming 2017 ACE Awards Gala just around the corner on May, 2nd, PRS interviewed Stephanie one year later to reflect on her CPRS achievements and see what she’s been up to since her big win.


  1. What’s been the most rewarding part of winning the CPRS ACE Student Public Relations Plan of the Year?

Overall, it was very humbling and nice to get recognition. My team and I worked hard all year for the campaign so it felt wonderful to be invited to the gala and to be included within the PR community. The Canadian Red Cross team was proud I got to be a part of it too.


  1. Where are you working now?

I was a Canadian Red Cross intern from April to May 2016 and after that I was hired on as a coordinator. I’ve been working on the communications and public engagement team ever since. I love it!


  1. What’s your day-to-day role?

Part of my time is spent supporting the Ontario communications team on a variety of tasks including media monitoring, design, research and writing, among other things. I also work on a partnership the Canadian Red Cross has with Global Affairs Canada to raise awareness about humanitarian work we do internationally. This involves organizing speaker events, finding opportunities for public engagement, and working on our annual Faces of Humanity campaign.. It’s a great learning environment because no two days are alike.


  1. Has your path in PR changed from what you wanted when you were a student or freshly graduated?

I originally thought an agency would be a good place to start, as I thought it would offer a variety of learning opportunities, but I’ve always been more passionate about non-profit organizations. When I was a student, the Canadian Red Cross internship opportunity came my way and it seemed like a great chance to dive into the non-profit sphere.

  1. What’s your advice to current PR students aspiring to win the award?

I suggest that if you’re interested you should push yourself to apply. It’s a great chance to receive more exposure in the PR community and to network with other PR professionals at the awards ceremony. Ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ You have nothing to lose!


  1. Looking back what is one takeaway from the award you would like current students to know? Is there one piece of advice you would like to give them?

The ACE Awards offered me a great networking opportunity right at the beginning of my career. I valued the experience of submitting for the award as well because it helped me build my professional portfolio.


  1. What skills did you harness when you worked on the campaign that you use everyday at work?

Team work is an essential PR skill that is a part of almost everything I’ve worked on so far in my career. It’s so important to learn how to be a respectful, accountable and helpful team player.




Written by Alessandra Manieri, Ryerson University graduate and public relations postgraduate from Humber College. Currently working as a PR Coordinator at Strategic Objectives.


Passport to PR with Strut Entertainment, Citizen Relations and Liquid Communications


About Passport to PR

Organized by the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee, this event offers students the opportunity to visit PR offices, speak to members of their team and get answers to all the burning questions they have about the industry.

In groups of 15, students visit three public relations offices throughout downtown Toronto. As part of Group G, students visited Strut Entertainment, Citizen Relations and Liquid Communications. Here is attendee Samiha Fariha’s recap of the day.

Location #1: Strut Entertainment

After battling the morning rush on the TTC, I arrived unscathed at the trendy office of Strut Entertainment. Strut was kind enough to provide us with a morning breakfast of water, coffee, muffins and cakes.

The morning session at Strut started off with Samantha, the founder of the agency, telling us about her day-to-day responsibilities and a history of how Strut came to be. Three pieces of Samantha’s advice that really resonated with me were:

1. Pay attention to office culture, it’s more important than you think.

  1. Watch your social footprint.
  2. Never stop learning.

Location #2: Citizen Relations  

After our morning session with Strut, few of us in Group G with our group leader Mary took the streetcar to our second session at Citizen Relations.

The team gave us a brief introduction about the corporate culture and philosophy of Citizen Relations followed by an in-depth look at how the agency approaches public relations and their work. It was interesting to learn that Citizen does not have a core area of focus, they aim to be a full-service agency that serves clients from a wide variety of industries.
Location #3: Liquid Communications

At Liquid Communications the team spoke to us about some of the clients the agency worked with, their experiences in the PR industry, advice on how to get invaluable hands on PR experience as well as some of the key differences between working in boutique agencies vs. large agencies. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to leave.

I really enjoyed my Passport to PR experience. The event provided me with the opportunity to learn about how PR agency life is like in both large and boutique agencies and make new contacts in the industry.

UntitledGroup G having a ball at Strut Entertainment

Written by Samiha Fariha, a student in Humber College’s Post-graduate Public Relations Program.



Passport to PR Winter Edition: A Post-Event Recap


Having recently completed a successful event, Building Media Relations, at the upper deck of the Pilot Tavern, CPRS Toronto Students’ continued its journey across the PR industry.

On Thursday, Mar. 9, 2017, students travelled from schools across the area, including Centennial, Humber, Ryerson, Seneca and Sheridan, to attend the winter edition of Passport to PR.

These students were given the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of PR practice, meeting top communications professionals from a diverse range of industries and organizations.

Students listened to in-depth presentations from these pros, getting to ask questions and learn the inside scoop on the PR world.

Some of the topics covered included transitioning from student to work life, the differences between agency and in-house, and the changing face of PR.

The students got the opportunity to select from one of seven groups. Some locations that opened their doors were Coca-Cola, Craft PR, Cohn & Wolfe, Ripley’s Aquarium, Edelman and Citizen Relations, among many more.

The group I led traversed Front Street, starting our morning at National PR before stopping by Metrolinx and ending our day at MLSE. The students had a blast and gained a great deal of insight from the communication teams at these three organizations.

We re-assembled as a big group, celebrating a great day in true student style, with a trip to Jack Astor’s. Students enjoyed food and drinks, making new friends and swapping stories from the day.

We’d love to hear about your experience at Passport to PR: Winter Edition!

What was one insight you gained from the event that you will take with you towards your future career?


Written by: Maxim Naylor, a 1st year student in Humber College’s Bachelor of Public Relations program and student representative of the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee.

Twitter: @maximnaylor


Building Media Relations: A Post-Event Recap


inBy Maxim Naylor

On Wednesday, February 22nd on the upper deck of Cumberland Street’s iconic Pilot Tavern, the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee hosted one of its annual events, Building Media Relations (BMR).

BMR brings together a panel of local media and PR pros to answer questions on creating and sustaining relationships with the press.

On the PR side of the panel, BMR featured Cole Douglas of APEX Public Relations, Jennifer McCarthy of Cohn & Wolfe, and Stuart Green of the TTC. On the media side were Hilary Hagerman of Yahoo Style, Steven Banks of ET Canada, & Rahul Gupta of Metroland Media, a panel full of character, knowledge, and an exchange of much industry humour.

Laurie Smith, VP Strategic Communications, Media and Audience Relations at CNW moderated the discussion. Although a difficult task keeping communications experts on one topic, Laurie guided the discussion flawlessly and with great wit.

The panel tackled a wide range of topics in the moderated question and answer session including blogger relations, influencer marketing, integrated content and professional communication with press members.

The floor was opened for students in attendance to ask questions, which sparked a great discussion on the changing nature of PR practice, client relationships and the role of press exclusives.

My favourite line of the night: “Know your brand, know who you are and stay true to that” – Steven Banks from ET Canada. Wise words!

The event was well-attended with students across different programs and schools, including Ryerson, Humber, Centennial and Seneca.

After the formal event had wrapped up, there was some time for networking. Students stayed, connecting with each other, as well as the panelists.

The event was a huge success from start to finish. We can’t wait for next year!

For those who attended, what was your favourite moment?

Maxim Naylor is a 1st year student in Humber College’s Bachelor of Public Relations program and student representative of the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee.

Twitter: @maximnaylor

Event Recap: Passport to PR


Three valuable tips I learned from Passport to PR

Passport to PR is one of the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee’s most highly anticipated events of the year. Students are given the opportunity to visit three agencies or organizations in the downtown core and learn from their PR teams. The group I led visited an interesting mix of two agencies and an international organization: Strategic Objectives, Coca-Cola and Pilot PMR.

Here are the top three tips I learned from PR pros during the November 2016 edition of the event.


  1. Internship interviews require a lot of preparation.

The team at Strategic Objectives recommended researching as much as you can about any organization you’re interested in working with in the future. Take the time to read about their current and past work, get familiar with their social media accounts and read up on the key players on their team. They also stressed that confidence is very important. You need to know exactly how you want to present yourself and what key messages you want to communicate.


  1. Keep a “roll up your sleeves” attitude at work.

Next on our agenda was Coca Cola. When asked how students can make themselves stand out during internships or volunteer opportunities, both agreed that it was to make sure you have a “roll up your sleeves” attitude at all times. It’s an asset to have a positive attitude and to always be prepared for any job your boss or co-worker hands to you. They emphasized that this crucial characteristic will allow you to challenge yourself and grow as a person.


  1. Get as much experience as you can.

Last but not least, our group visited the offices of Pilot PMR. There we learned the importance of getting as much experience in the PR industry as you possibly can, in order to find out what you do and don’t want for your career. Although most volunteer opportunities are not compensated, they are a great way to earn on-the-job experience when you’re new to the PR industry.


On the whole, Passport to PR was an immensely rewarding experience. The lessons I learned from the PR pros were invaluable and will help me as I strive to become the best PR professional I can be.


The Student Steering Committee’s next edition of Passport to PR will be taking place on Thursday, March 9, 2017. I hope to see you there!


About the author:

Mary Aloia is in her second year of Humber College’s Bachelor of Public Relations program and currently serves as the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee’s Vice President of Internal.

Twitter: @maryaloia

Where are they now?


Featuring Charzie Abendanio, Account Coordinator at APEX Public Relations Inc. and past President of the CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee 2015-2016

What did you enjoy most about being on the SSC? 

What I looked forward to the most when being part of the SSC team was the opportunity to meet students from across the GTA during the class talks at the beginning of the school year. I was able to visit classrooms in Seneca, Humber, Centennial, Loyalist and Ryerson.

During the class presentations, I shared my knowledge, advice and passion for the public relations industry, which I continue to do today.

Where do you work now and what do you do? 

Today, I am an account coordinator at APEX PR supporting clients from across the corporate and consumer sectors. However, the journey I took to find myself where I am today was a whirlwind but also an experience I am very grateful for.

I initially interned at several Toronto PR agencies, which included energi PR, Weber Shandwick and Edelman. At the end of last summer I was offered an opportunity by APEX PR to work for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo on the Recovery Task Force in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

My main responsibility on the Task Force was to support the Public Information Officer and communications department as the community of Wood Buffalo was going through recovery after facing the largest Wildfire in Canadian history.

How do you think CPRS Toronto helped advance your career or get you ready for your current position?

Every relationship I developed throughout my time with the SSC and at my internships was imperative to the opportunities that came my way.

The PR community is small and the connections we make are as important as interviews. My advice for PR students is: treat every interaction you have with a communications professional as an opportunity to learn about them and a chance to help guide your own career path. The opportunities that come from that will be endless and you can find the best position that aligns with your passion and goals.

Twitter: @charziecastillo




Where are they now?


Featuring Erika Manassis, Seneca College Student Representative, CPRS Toronto Student Steering Committee

What did you enjoy most about being on the SSC?

Being on the SSC gave me the opportunity to not only attend student events throughout the year, but to help plan them. I enjoyed acting as liaison between my peers at Seneca College, and my fellow committee members, because it meant I could help make sure that the interests of my classmates were reflected in our SSC events. This made occasions like Passport to PR, and PR 360 much more relatable and applicable to students. It felt great to have a hand in that experience!

As a member of the SSC I was also introduced to non-student members of CPRS Toronto, many of whom I keep in touch with today. The opportunity to mingle with and learn from professionals in the field was invaluable to me as a student trying to find my place in this industry.

And of course – I’ll always be grateful for having met my fellow SSC members through this committee! Though we came from different personal and professional backgrounds, and now work in various fields, it’s nice to know that I have a support system of 15 amazing individuals close by!

Where do you work now, and what do you do?

In April 2016 I joined the team at Cohn & Wolfe Toronto as an Intern. In mid-July I took on the position of an Account Coordinator.

As an Account Coordinator I have a wide variety of responsibilities. From media monitoring, to developing coverage reports, to communicating with bloggers, to pitching stories to media outlets across the country. Every day is different. Most of the portfolios I work on are consumer products, which allows our team to have a lot of fun with story angles, creative pitch notes and media events.

One aspect of my job that I most enjoy is developing relationships with Canadian journalists.  It can be difficult to get to know journalists over email, so I continue to attend CPRS Toronto events each month, where the focus is often on how to communicate with members of the media. At work, I develop these relationships by making phone calls instead of emails to journalists when possible, and doing my best to know what a journalist typically looks for in a story idea.

How do you think CPRS Toronto helped advance your career or get you ready for your current position?

Volunteering with CPRS gave me “real world” PR experience while I was still a student. Continuing to volunteer now that I work at a PR agency offers many opportunities to continue to learn from industry colleagues, and experts in the field. Since joining CPRS Toronto as a student member in September 2015, it has been nothing but a beneficial personal and professional experience!