Evelyn Shaller-Auslander, 27, (aka @CCPRMaven) is a recent graduate of Centennial College’s corporate communications and public relations graduate certificate program – the very same program that I will be starting in January.
A dedicated writer, singer, and craft beer aficionado, Evelyn has been blogging up a storm this year on her two websites, CCPR Maven and Beer Is God. She is excited to apply her many passions, work ethic, creativity and enthusiasm to a career in the PR world. I met up with Evelyn in downtown Toronto’s Bar Hop and enjoyed a delicious local brew while we chatted about her past, present and exciting future.
R: Tell me about your professional journey
E: I majored in English at the University of Toronto. When I graduated from that program I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I remembered liking marketing in high school and was interested in it as a career path, so I took a continuing education course in branding and loved it. After that course I thought, ok what now? Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do in marketing, I didn’t have a concrete answer. I still didn’t really know what a career path in marketing entailed. On a trip to New York I visited my aunt’s office. She worked in healthcare PR for a company on Wall Street. It seemed like a different language; not really what I wanted to do, but I wanted to know the language. It made me realize that copywriting was a learned skill that I needed more education in. That motivated me to start researching schools. I knew that communications was good for me because I had a lot of the required skills, I just needed to work on them. I needed to learn how to write simply, which university didn’t teach me. So I looked at different postgraduate programs in public relations and started talking to a few people I knew who had done the programs at different schools. Ultimately it was Centennial that swayed me, due to location and their presence in the media. Their students were getting mainstream coverage before they even graduated. So in September of 2013 I started the program and finished this year.
R: How did you like the program?
E: It was great. I tried to get as much as I could out of it. I changed scheduling blocks between first semester and second semester so I could work evenings, and it helped expand my network. I enjoy going out of my comfort zone to work with new people, and it surprised me that most people do not go into school with that attitude. I delved into extracurricular projects and events. I worked on Project Fusion, I joined the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) as a student member and went to all of their networking events. I think making connections is more helpful than anything else. Most business talk doesn’t happen in the office.
I did my internship at Pilot PMR. It focused on research, editorial writing and content creation, which I knew I loved and needed to work on. They gave me a lot of opportunity to do what I wanted, and I had a supportive supervisor who coached me instead of criticizing me (which I was warned happens in agency). I was heavily involved in planning an event for them as well. I never felt like my ideas weren’t welcome.
R: What’s next?
E: I’m on the job hunt now. I’ve been reaching out to a lot of people. Sending out resumes but mostly trying to network over LinkedIn and in person. Most jobs aren’t advertised, and if people know you and like your work, they can vouch for you. I feel like sending out hundreds of resumes online isn’t the best way to go about it. But I’ll still do that too.
R: How did you get into the craft beer world?
E: My dad and I got into craft beer together. We would go to the Distillery District, visit some breweries and some craft beer bars and try different things. I specifically remember the first time I tried St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. I loved it. I’m a bartender and some of my coworkers got me into more unusual beers like sour beer. Then I volunteered for the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies and made connections there, ultimately getting work at craft beer festivals over the summer. Pouring beer at festivals is really fun. I enjoy talking about beer as much as I like drinking it. I got offered work from different breweries just through networking. I went to the Craft Beer Passport launch and found another opportunity there. It was fun. I’m not doing pouring jobs anymore but I know that I’ll find some way to fuse my love of craft beer into what I do for my career. I know brewers and salespeople in the craft beer industry, and I’ve sourced beer for events that I helped plan.
R: What inspired you to start your blogs?
E: At Centennial we were strongly encouraged to have a communications blog. That’s when I started CCPR Maven. The name kind of lampooned the way people see PR girls, but ultimately stood for what I wanted to become: an expert at my job. At first I thought a business blog meant writing generic communications articles. Every once in a while I would report about an assignment that we had. Then, in our second semester social media class, we were encouraged to pick a platform and post weekly, so I began to update it more frequently. I figured out that it didn’t have to be boring; that I could put my own personality into it.
I started my beer blog after people kept asking me for LCBO recommendations. I post on Beer Is God at least once a week. I write about the history behind a specific beer in my Classics Revisited series and then I also have my Music + Beer series. Music is another passion of mine. I can keep blogging about music and beer forever.
R: What was the most valuable takeaway from your time at Centennial?
E: I think for me it was the extracurricular stuff, which was similar to my university experience, in which I had been heavily involved in my college’s newspaper. I had a big role in Project Fusion which was really cool. I ended up producing a video campaign and conducting interviews. I loved being a producer and found that I am really good at it, and I don’t think I ever would have had that kind of opportunity anywhere else. I produced videos for an employment campaign called Ready, Aim, Hire! in collaboration with CivicAction. We were told, “Here’s the campaign, here’s the idea. Make it as big as you want. You have the resources. Go for it.” For me that was amazing because I’m so creative and I love working in different fields with a strong team.
R: What are you most excited about in your future career?
E: I think the unifying factor in PR jobs is working hard, working a lot and always doing something different. To me that’s a really fun prospect. No matter what you do you’ll be able to learn and do more, with more responsibility. There’s so many things you can do in the field. That’s what excites me because I’ll never get bored.
R: Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of doing a postgrad in PR?
E: Start writing. Start speaking in front of people, take an improv class if you need. Have interests, nourish those interests. And know who you are.