PR & Investor Relations Consultant Alyssa Barry, has had an incredible career to-date. She has worked with some of the best companies and top-notch leaders in Vancouver. She tells the Organization of Canadian Women in Public Relations that before she went to school for PR, she wanted to become a journalist! However, as much as she enjoyed writing, she had a very strong awareness for what goes on behind the scenes – she would watch and observe how events were executed, how presentations were created, how messages were delivered, how people reacted, and how information was being shared.
For the past ten years Alyssa worked at Amica Mature Lifestyles Inc. managing the Investor Relations for the company. Up until recently (Amica was acquired in December 2015 by a private company called BayBridge Seniors Housing Inc.), Amica was a publicly traded company that owns, operates and manages luxury retirement residences for seniors.
Although her title at Amica does not officially include “Public Relations”, PR played a critical part in her role: talking to analysts and the media, developing key messages for the company’s shareholders and other key stakeholders, handling (at times) difficult/anxious shareholders, script and speech writing, building and maintaining a first-class IR website, media monitoring, report writing, strategy, creating presentations, designing an annual report, etc.
Name: Alyssa Barry
Title: Public Relations/ Investor Relations Consultant
Education: Diploma in Public Relations from Kwantlen University, Investor Relations Accreditation from the Richard Ivey School of Business
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Describe yourself in 3 words: Determined, passionate, communicator
What was your first job in public relations and what did you take away from the experience? – Early in my career, I met Norman Stowe, Managing Partner at the Pace Group, a highly regarded public relations firm in Vancouver. I worked for the Pace Group for two years while studying public relations at Kwantlen.
I had some very neat experiences at the Pace Group including being a part of Canucks fundraisers, the inaugural Vancouver Rogers Santa Clause Parade, YVR expansion project, Vancouver Convention Centre expansion and the 2006 World Junior Hockey Tournament.
While working at the Pace Group I made every effort to learn, listen, ask the right questions and take note of everything! I was a sponge. I still do this. I am constantly learning and finding ways to become a better communicator and to learn from others.
How do you prioritize and start your work day? – In the world of Investor Relations – like most PR jobs – I never know what I am going to wake-up to! I have always been able to just get up and go. I don’t need a cup of coffee, I don’t need an hour to wake-up. When you’re a public company in Vancouver, the stock market opens at 6:30 am Pacific Time. I am used to being up at all hours to work on news releases, conference calls, quarterly results and presentation materials. I rely on lists, sticky notes and calendar reminders to keep myself organized. I thrive on a busy work-load and have a knack for juggling multiple projects at once.
Have you had any challenges in your PR career? Any specific challenges as a woman in PR? How did you overcome them? – I have found that gaining executive and board buy-in for social media can be challenging, particularly around the apprehension of social media and providing the resources required for executing a solid social media strategy.
At Amica, the topic was approached with extreme caution, to the point where competitors began doing things that we should have been doing. I believe this was a missed opportunity for us. That makes me think that I could have done a better job in presenting my case and making a stronger push. This has taught me to be more persuasive, more thorough and perhaps a bit more passionate about things I truly feel we need to be doing as an organization.
What is one of the greatest misconceptions about the field of public relations? – Being a woman in business has its challenges but generally I have been fortunate to work with very supportive executives who have come to trust me, rely on me and encourage me to always push myself harder. Being a woman in public relations has its challenges at times. I think people, including colleagues within the organization, believe PR is all about glitz and glam and free publicity. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am a great writer and this takes skill and a lot of brain power; I never turn my phone off or email; I always have my finger on the pulse and need to be aware at all times as to what’s going on throughout the organization; and I need to be quick on my feet. I’ve had people say to me before “all you do is write news releases, you can’t be that busy”. I used to let this get to me, but about five years ago I made a decision to let it go and to focus my energy elsewhere. At the end of the day, I feel that PR is about adding value to your organization. As long as I am fulfilling that requirement, I feel that I am doing a good job.
What is your greatest achievement in your PR career? – In September 2015 Amica announced that it would be acquired by BayBridge Seniors Housing Inc. for a premium of 125% to the 20-trading day volume weighted average price of Amica’s shares on the TSX. This was an extremely attractive deal for Amica’s shareholders, unprecedented in the seniors housing industry. I was fortunate to play a key role in the transaction, leading the due diligence process and developing and executing the communications strategy for Amica’s key stakeholder groups including analysts, shareholders, staff, residents and vendors.
The successful roll out of the communications strategy is an achievement I am most proud of. Each stakeholder group had its own unique strategy – all groups appreciated the transparency and the detailed information they received. The deal was accepted by all stakeholder groups with a lot of positivity, which was our goal.
What are your tips for setting yourself apart in the PR workplace? – Be reliable, trustworthy and passionate. Love what you do and let it show. No one should expect you to have all the answers, but you can become a “knowledge broker” by connecting people with the right resources and sources. This can make you invaluable.
What advice would you give to your younger self? – Keep a journal. I would do this in both my personal life and professional life. I have gotten in the habit as I’ve grown older to write things down, but there is still room for improvement (if only there were 27 hours in a day!). I have been exposed to so much information, so much learning over the years. If only I had kept it all organized and consolidated.
How can a new PR graduate set themselves apart in the hiring process?- Two things: 1). Ask your potential employer how you can add value and how they would define “adding value”. And come prepared to discuss how you can add value as a communications professional. I believe doing so can go a long way. 2). Bring your portfolio. All the work you did in your PR program, organize it and bring it on your iPad/tablet for your potential employer to flip through. Never leave your portfolio behind. If they’d like to spend more time perusing your work, offer to walk them through it.
What’s next? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? – Over the next few weeks I am supporting BayBridge and Amica through the transition. A deal of this type and magnitude means there are a lot of relationships to manage and a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to ensure a smooth transfer of information over to the new owners of Amica. After that, I am taking some time to refocus my energy on my family. While doing this, I will be writing and thinking strategically about my next career move. I am very excited about the pursuit and look forward to letting you know where I land.
Connect with Alyssa Barry here.