NEW FEATURE: The Five Minute Mentor

Today we’re launching a new blog feature called “The Five Minute Mentor.” From time to time, we’ll be dedicating this space to five-minute interviews with some of our favourite mentors in the public relations industry.

Our first Five Minute Mentor features Joel Levesque, Vice President, Public Affairs, Moosehead Breweries Ltd.

Loyalist PR: Joel, what’s the social media tool you can't live without?

Joel Levesque: I've recently subscribed to a new blog-monitoring and measurement tool called Radian6. No self-respecting practitioner can live without this service. Radian6 takes the guess work out of monitoring on-line conversations and postings. For PR professionals working for consumer goods companies (like Moosehead Breweries) managing social media commentary about your products is now mandatory. I have already used Radian6 to flag a potentially embarrassing issue thus allowing me to intervene quickly. I was able to turn a disgruntled consumer into a fan overnight. I am so impressed with Radian6 that I invested in the firm.

Loyalist PR: What's the one word or phrase that is so overused in the industry you'd like to see it banished forever from PR vernacular?

Joel Levesque:
I absolutely detest the term "Spin Doctor". Spin doctors usually work for politicians and spend their miserable lives twisting facts and distorting reality. I've only met one spin doctor in my life. I hope to hell I never meet another. I will leave the last word on this subject to the legendary American PR practitioner, Thomas L. Harris. Writing last year about U.S. politics, Harris said, "I am profoundly disturbed by the high jacking of public relations, which I always thought was about truth-telling, by its bastard stepbrother spin."

Loyalist PR: What’s the title of one book every PR student should read before they graduate?

Joel Levesque: The best PR book I've read is not about PR, it's about advertising. David Ogilvy's 1983 classic, Ogilvy on Advertising, chronicles the author's success in the ad biz. He started as a junior and ended up building the world's largest ad agency. But substitute the word "communications" for "advertising" in the book and the reader will come away with wonderful insights about reaching and influencing consumers (publics in PR parlance). Plus, it's one of the most entertaining books you'll every read.

Loyalist PR: If you hadn't wound up in PR, what would you be doing right now?

Joel Levesque: I left my first year of university because I hated the parochial feel of the small liberal-arts institution I was attending. My objective was to work for the rest of year, then enroll at a larger university. I got a job at the local phone company delivering the inter-departmental mail. The only office in the company where employees seemed to be enjoying their work was the PR department. After 10 months as the mail boy, I applied for a junior post in the PR department and got the job. If the good folks at the phone company hadn't given me a chance at PR, I probably would have retired 25 years later as a senior
clerk in their warehouse.

Loyalist PR: Finally, tell us about a mentor who's made a difference in your career.

Joel Levesque: I've been blessed with the opportunity to work with a number of superb PR people throughout my career. But my favourite was Ron Coulson. Ron was an old-school practitioner and was kind enough to take an active role in the development of his young charges. Ron not only encouraged me to return to school, but also taught me the value of volunteer service to my profession and my community. Thirty years on I still keep in touch with Ron and remind him every so often of his role in the success of my career. He claims his influence was minor; it most certainly was not.

Loyalist PR: Thanks for your time, Joel! All the best at Moosehead.