Communications is less about media and more about representing and being the voice of the organization. PR is more about interacting with the media. I do a bit of both.
I did my undergrad training at U of T in political science and criminology. I knew a couple of people in the Humber PR program who were doing things that interested me, such as being a spokesperson for an organization and doing internal and external relations, so I decided to get that certificate.
At school we learned all the basics of PR: writing a press release, media advisory and fact sheet and using software systems like the Adobe suite. The program helped shift my writing skills from academic to ones that speak directly to audiences, from long-winded and theoretical to summarizing a concept in a short pitch that appeals to the media. I learned to find the hook and make a story appealing to people.
Internal communications is about making sure everyone on a team is up to date with the activities happening within different departments; you're a connector within an organization.
PR is really hard work, particularly at an agency, which is where I started out. Your hours are billable and you're expected to meet certain requirements for getting media coverage. When I went on to work for the Park Hyatt Hotel on the communications team, I lived and breathed every aspect of the hotel.
Now that I'm at Easter Seals, I go home at the end of the day feeling like I've done a better day's work. Easter Seals helps kids with physical disabilities, so I meet a lot of families, hear stories about how their child was diagnosed and how they live and celebrate each day. I feel that direct connection and see the benefit my work is having, whereas at the hotel my role was ultimately helping sell more hotel rooms.
When I worked for a PR agency, we'd have a specific client that wanted to launch a product, and you would learn the background of the product, develop the pitch and send it to the media. It's pretty cut and dried straight-up PR, and that's what I thought I would be doing after school. I never thought I'd become so involved and care so much about the people I work with.