Thursday, May 08, 2008

Freeze Frame with Alex Sancton (Loyalist PR 07/08)

Today’s Freeze Frame features Alex Sancton (Loyalist PR 07/08) who recently completed his internship at World Vision Canada’s head office in Toronto. Alex has now been hired on at World Vision Canada as an Emergency Response Communications Officer.

Prior to enrolling in the Post-Grad Public Relations Program at Loyalist College, Alex earned a degree in International Development from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Freeze Frame: Given the recent disasters in Myanmar, you must be busy these days. What are your current duties as an Emergency Response Communications Officer with World Vision Canada?

Alex Sancton: I am currently working with our support offices around the world in the U.K., the U.S. and Australia, along with our national offices in each country that we work. All these offices have communications officers just like me with whom we communicate and share information on a regular basis.

In times of emergencies, like the one we are facing right now in Myanmar, these communication officers are crucial to us. They co-ordinate media interviews with World Vision staff who are on the ground in countries like Myanmar, Uganda, Zimbabwe or Sudan. This way we can tell their story to Canadian media, and complement it with information about specific programs we have in that specific country.

On the home front, I help co-ordinate interviews with our VP's and President Dave Toycen, and have so far accompanied Dave twice on media "tours" through downtown Toronto to places like CTV Newsnet, Business News Net, Global National, City TV, CP24. During these visits I help Dave keep up with the hectic schedule of interviews.

For instance yesterday we did a live hit on CityTV from 12:30-1 p.m., another hit from 1-1:30 p.m., did a pre-interview with Global National on the way to the car, took an interview with National Post at 1:45 p.m., Globe and Mail at 2:10 p.m. (these two were done while navigating downtown Toronto enroute to the DVP for Global's studios), and finally Global National and Local from 2:30-3:00 p.m.

When things aren't so crazy, I do things like create fact sheets and backgrounders on countries so that in the event of emergencies, we have a solid background of how many sponsored children we have, how many programs are in that country, etc. This way we can quickly brief ourselves, and be able to tell the media what World Vision Canada is doing there.

FF: What do you enjoy best about working at World Vision Canada?

AS: Helping children. The best thing about my job is stepping back from the insanity and knowing that we are all, as an organization, helping children, families and others who are in need. Often in times of crisis or emergency, we are so busy that I find it takes a deep breath and removing yourself from the situation to be able to look at the big picture and think of who we are helping. That is where I can find motivation and strength to work even harder so that we can continue helping them.

FF: What's it like being at the heart of a humanitarian disaster like the recent crisis we’ve seen in Myanmar?

AS: Insane. We've had two major events in the last two weeks: the food crisis announcement on April 23rd and Cyclone Nargis on May 5th. Everyone in the office says this isn't normal, and for the sake of the victims of both of these situations, I hope it isn't.

That being said, these are the kinds of things that some of us thrive on. The fast-paced environment of fielding and managing media calls is often high stress as you try and keep everyone happy while raising awareness of World Vision is one that I truly love.

I also work with a phenomenal team who have been such great teachers and mentors. The combination of exposure to the events of the past two weeks, their guidance and encouragement, and the confidence they have in me is giving me an experience I will never be able to get again, and I am extremely thankful for that.

FF: How did Loyalist PR help prepare you for your current position?

AS: I had a mini-panic attack about five weeks before the end of term. Kerry taught us so much and had covered off everything so well, but I was worried that I wouldn't remember it all, or wouldn't have the confidence to apply it. It was clear from day one of my internship though that I was so well-prepared for everything they threw at me, and even the things that were new to me were a breeze.

That's because Loyalist PR teaches you how to deal with new things. If I hadn't been through the Loyalist PR program, I know I wouldn't have been able to have the confidence that I now have on the job, and the courage in my work to be able to jump off a cliff and know there will be a working parachute to guide me to a successful, safe landing.

FF: All the best – you’re doing a wonderful job, Alex and we’re proud of you!

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