2013Sep 30

@LU_SPAD Guest Speaker Profile: Phil Legault (SPAD’86) – Canada Post

Staff headshotsSept. 07, 2010PHOTO: Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHCOn September 23rd, the School of Sports Administration welcomed back Mr. Phil Legault (SPAD ’86). Legault, presently Media Relations Manager at Canada Post, spent two days speaking to first and third year students about his various experiences in the communications industry. He was able to share valuable insight from his time working for various organizations, some of his positions include: Director of Communications at the Canadian Soccer Association, Vice President of Communications with the Ottawa Senators, and Communications Director at Speed Skating Canada. Having spent some time working in professional sport, amateur sport, and outside of sport; Legault had some very valuable information to share with students looking to pursue a career in the communications field.

While speaking to the third year Sports Communications class, Legault covered a number of topics from his years in the industry. He spoke at length about how the communications landscape has evolved over the years. He explains that technology has played a huge role in these changes and that the demand for information has significantly increased since the rise of the Internet and social media; “controlling the message” has become a greater challenge. Legault stressed the importance of being able to stay on top of trends in the industry, as things are ever-changing.

Moreover, Legault spoke of the different aspects and challenges involved with working in professional sport as opposed to amateur sport. He explained that both working environments can be very different from one another. In professional sport, there is an abundance of media coverage, where you are constantly providing information and trying to control the message. Whereas in amateur sport, Legault talked about the struggles of  getting your organization the media attention it needs. He commented that in pro sport, you can sometimes “push” the media away, as opposed to amateur sport, where you are trying to “pull” them in. He closed by reminding every student that they should always be prepared for the unexpected, and to always have a contingency planned. Legault ended his lectures by fielding various questions from the audience.

After the lectures, Mr. Legault was gracious enough to answer some of the questions the SPAD Blog had prepared for him. Here are his answers, in full:

1. What is the biggest challenge faced by communications/media relations professionals since the rise of social media?

PL: If we look at the sports industry, I believe there are some challenges but the opportunities to have more dialogue with fans for both teams/organizations and the athletes far outweigh the challenges. There was certainly a time in the very recent past when teams/athletes spoke to their fans on a daily basis mainly through the media. Today’s social media avenues offer more engagement at all levels and that makes fans more connected to their teams and players.

If there are challenges it is more in determining how much of your resources can you, and do you, invest in social media. It can be a 24-hour affair, which is not always an efficient way to spend limited team resources.

Most other challenges, such as players/staff saying the wrong things or outright insulting and damaging messages “can” be limited through reasonable education and training. That’s not to say you approve or censor your social media participation, only that you treat with the respect that it deserves – once it’s out there, there is no bringing it back.

2. How do you prepare for the ever-changing social media landscape?

PL: You have to make sure, as best as possible, that you and your organization keep up to date with any social media trends. I don’t believe you need to be an expert, or even participate in all social media applications, but you should be aware of their reach, target audience and purpose.

3. What do you enjoy the most about coming back and speaking to current SPAD students?

PL: I believe it’s important to stay connected to Laurentian University and the SPAD program. I enjoy seeing where the program has gone since I graduated in 1986 and where it’s headed. I am continually impressed with the quality of graduates, undergraduates, professors, staff and curriculum that comes out of SPAD.

As an alumnus, I also want to keep learning. I keep an eye on the courses offered to undergrads in each year, and see where the program projects the trends in the sports industry.

I also believe it’s something I should do. I have a great career that can be credited to many people, but no more than Bob Wanzel – he picked up my SPAD application off his coffee table – and those who have contributed to making SPAD what it is today.

Finally, I love Sudbury and the Laurentian University campus. I had four fantastic years and I have always wished I could return on a full-time basis.

4. What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to a student aspiring to work in the communications field?

PL: From my point of view, if you’re not already strong in knowledge and contacts in the sport of your choice, say hockey, than media relations and communications is the best way to experience amateur (NSOs) and pro sports. You will be the one travelling with the team to manage the media at games, world championships, Olympic Games, etc. You are in the team “bubble”.

And to be good in media relations and communications, you need the basics. To me that’s writing and editing skills and knowing who your audience is. Remember that The Canadian Press Stylebook needs to be your bible for business and media writing and editing.

I believe you also have to use and take advantage of your connections, known and not known. You may not know all the SPAD alumni since year one, but we enjoy giving a hand when we can. Don’t’ discount all and any other contacts you may have. I connected a friend of mine in Miami with a job opportunity of someone I have linked to on LinkedIn. It didn’t result in a job, but it started a conversation that would not have been there without that first contact.

Finally, don’t worry about hearing the answer “no” when you’re applying jobs, making inquiries and asking for favours. If you don’t ask the questions, you don’t know if it’s a “yes” or “no” that’s coming.

The SPAD Blog would once again like to thank Mr. Legault for coming back to speak with us. Everyone was very appreciative of the knowledge he was able to share. We wish him the best of luck with the Canada Post!

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