HR and Comms Careers with Megan Thorburn, CMP

Summary

We were lucky enough to have the past president of IABC Edmonton, Megan Thorburn, CMP join us to chat about what it’s like being an IABC Chapter president during COVID-19 and the similarities and differences of having a career in Human Resources and Communications.

Resources

The Peleton Training App

Transcript

Kyla:

Good morning and welcome. I’m Kyla Sims.

Adam:

I’m Adam Brayford. You’re watching the Bananatag Morning Show and we’re so happy to have you here with us today. Joining us with a very special guest from our local neighbourhood.

Kyla:

Yes, but depending on where you’re tuning in from this might not be your morning. It might be your lunch hour might be your happy hour, but regardless, you’ll find us here every Wednesday and Friday at 9:00 A.M. Pacific and 12:00 P.M. Eastern. And we will be here talking to communicators from around the world about what it’s been like communicating during COVID-19. We’re going to talk about tips. We’re going to talk about tricks and we’re definitely going to have some laughs.

Adam:

Absolutely. Now we see you joining us in the comments. Thank you so much. Say hi. Tell us where you’re tuning in from, tell us how you’re doing. And meanwhile, let us introduce to you our guest today, Megan Thorburn CMP. Hello. Megan is a human resources consultant from EPCOR and she also happens to be president of IABC Edmonton. She’s previously worked in comms for Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission, Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta. And more today she joins us from her daughter’s playroom in Edmonton, Alberta. Megan, welcome.

Megan:

Thank you. Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Kyla:

Now your mom is watching today. Is that right?

Megan:

That’s what I’m told, she RSVP’d. So yes.

Kyla:

What’s her name? [Marianne 00:02:48] Kostyuk. Well, good morning, [Marianne 00:00:02:52], welcome to the show.

Megan:

Hi, mom.

Kyla:

Perfect. Before we get started, we got to know what’s in your cup. Well, in my cup appropriately coming from my daughter’s playroom and my world’s okayest mom mug, I have a tasteful blonde roast with a dash of almond milk.

Adam:

Today, I also have blonde roast. Is that Starbucks?

Kyla:

Yeah.

Adam:

There you go.

Kyla:

That’s good.

Megan:

There you go. Perfect.

Adam:

Well, today we’re going to chat about shifting careers and life as an IABC president, but first we’re going to get to know you a little bit better in a segment that we like to call, if I can make the slides work.

Kyla:

“Getting To Know You”. We botched… We’re bad. We got to do vocal training and practicing.

Adam:

One of these days. All right, let’s try it again. Getting to know you.

Kyla:

People are like, “No, please stop”.

Adam:

Make it not happen. So how this works is we got 30 seconds on the clock and we get to ask you as many questions as we can to get to know you a little better. And all you have to do is just say the first thing that comes to mind. Sound good?

Megan:

Sounds frightening. I love it. Let’s do it.

Adam:

All right. First question. Cat or dogs?

Megan:

Dogs.

Kyla:

Best 90’s singer or band?

Megan:

Roxette.

Adam:

Best flavor of wings?

Megan:

Salt and pepper.

Kyla:

What’s the best thing about being an IABC president?

Megan:

Leading an awesome, awesome team.

Adam:

Equally important. What’s the best dinosaur?

Megan:

Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Kyla:

How do you feel about spiders?

Megan:

I will light a house on fire if I find one, unfortunately for my husband, it’s just the facts.

Adam:

I’ve seen you personally react to what you thought was a spider before. It was one of the great joys of my life to see that level of fright.

Megan:

Awesome.

Adam:

Thanks for your candor. All right. Great to get to know you a little bit better now that we’ve done that. Shall we get down to it?

Megan:

Sure.

Adam:

Now there’s any number of studies out there that speak to the number of times that a person typically shifts careers in their lifetime and you know, it’s, it’s no longer the norm for someone to stay with one organization for their entire career. So I don’t know what that looks like for communication pros, but you can certainly see people coming to communication from a number of different paths. For you, Megan, your path in comms recently led you to a new and different kind of opportunity, I hear.

Megan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam:

Tell us about it.

Megan:

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been in communications for over a decade now and I originally got into communications cause I noticed that at my workplace, before I went to school, I was the person who did all the bulletin boards, the newsletters and at first I thought that must, I should be a journalist, and no. So then I thought, well maybe I should go into communications. I hear that’s great. I want to make internal communications great for everybody around me and make sure everybody has the tools and things they need to do their jobs well. And so that’s what kind of led me into this path. And I’ve had a great career, a very diverse career, doing all kinds of communications, media relations and public relations, stakeholder relations, marketing communications. I’ve run the gambit. And I keep coming back to internal communications and starting to think about my next career move.

Megan:

I really started to think about wanting to move into broader leadership roles and kind of diversifying my knowledge and my skillset and in kind of talking to a lot of those around me, human resources just kind of kept cropping up as something that’d be really interesting to kind of get my fingers into. And so I have a great employer who’s incredibly supportive and it really believes in that diversity of talent. And so I was given the opportunity to jump into human resources and as internal communicators sometimes we bellyache a little bit about HR and it works both ways, but there’s so many similarities and so many ties between them, there’s that passion for interpersonal communications and interpersonal relationships. And there’s a vested interest in employees and making sure they have what they need and really kind of making people’s lives just a little bit better through doing a good job.

Megan:

So that’s kind of where I landed, where I am today and I’m loving it. Absolutely. Is it a little strange that I’m the president of a professional association chapter for communications and then I jumped ship halfway through? Likely, but I like to think-

Adam:

Traitor.

Megan:

Right? I’d like to think that’s enriched my leadership skillset in order to lead the chapter a little bit better too.

Kyla:

Well, absolutely. We see a lot of crossover with internal communications in HR. At Bananatag, we see a lot of HR professionals using our tools as well, which sort of surprised us at first, but there’s a lot of overlap and a lot of similar interests. So there’s certainly a lot of overlap there. But as you spend more time in HR, could you tell us about what’s been the same, what’s been different, that sort of stuff?

Megan:

Yeah, absolutely. I’d say in terms of what’s been the same. It was interesting. I was at the outset, very careful that when I was approaching meetings with clients very intentional that I wasn’t going into it with a communications mindset thinking I’m going to solve this, I’m going to create this communications plan. Cause it’s no longer my role. And in fact there are very capable people at my organization filling that role. And so you don’t want to be that person in the room trying to do all the things. So, I kind of mentioned it offhand to my boss that I was going to have to kind of flip my mindset a little bit and think a little bit less strategically in terms of communications. And she said, “No, actually I’d rather you didn’t. I want you to think about how things might be framed or perceived and allow that to guide you and the advice you’re giving and from an HR perspective.” And so that’s been really, really helpful in terms of having that background and knowledge and expertise.

Megan:

And so I’d say that’s a huge similarity is that there is that strategic thought that goes into everything you’re doing. Differences. Implementing programs is different than communicating them. So there’s kind of those and kind of intrinsic differences that go along with it. But again, having that knowledge kind of helps you understand both sides. And so you’re able to implement a program and then think about how somebody might communicate that down the line as well. So I’d say there’s more similarities than differences, but obviously two very fun professions in their own right.

Adam:

Absolutely. Now one of the other reasons it’s fun to catch up with you today, both you and I are going through the same experience, which is for the past 11 months or so, we’ve served as IABC chapter presidents, you of course leading the Edmonton chapter. Tell us what led you to… because a lot of our viewers are from the IABC world. What led you to get involved on a board of directors at that level?

Megan:

It kind of became a natural evolution for me. This is my seventh year on the board. I joined the board when my daughter was eight months old. And so for the entirety of her life, basically I’ve been volunteering and I’ve had the opportunity to be in a number of different roles. And if I may just really quickly plug, if you can and want to volunteer, please do because it’s a great opportunity to gain experience and any number of things you’d never normally get experience in like recruiting students and doing finances, which is something communicators don’t really get a ton of experience doing, sponsorship, and all those things. As I worked through and kind of gained experience in a number of different portfolios in talking to my colleagues, they really became kind of the natural next step in terms of having that knowledge base of the board and of the chapter and of IABC. And I’m taking that next step to kind of lead the board with that knowledge. So that’s kind of how it landed in that way, for sure.

Adam:

It’s a scary step for a lot of people, maybe not jumping onto the board, but going to that vice president, president track. It can be a several year commitment. What kind of sealed the deal at the end of the day? What made you want to go that distance?

Megan:

I think knowing what type of leader I would be and seeing that it could help shape a positive way forward for the board. We’ve been extremely lucky to have amazing and strong leaders in the past, leading up to my time. And I’m really pleased and excited for what’s to come next. And I think knowing where your fit and your approach lies in terms of that. It’s always really encouraging to know. I bring forward a much in the same as my communications approach and HR approach, bring forward a focus on interpersonal relationships and communication, I like to think that that’s really informed my leadership approach in terms of the board. And I think it was the right time for my personality. I think there’s always a different time in terms of different chapters and the different things that they face and the different leaders they need.

Megan:

I felt like what I brought to the table would be helpful right now.

Kyla:

Absolutely. And you’ve been reading through a very interesting and unprecedented time is everyone saying? And so COVID-19 has disrupted businesses for sure, but also not-for-profits like IABC and we know like with IABC World Conference, we’re going virtual, but how has this impacted your chapter specifically and how have you had to adapt?

Megan:

It’s definitely impacted us. Edmonton is one of the largest chapters in the world and any IABC’ers who are likely on the channel are going to start rolling their eyes soon because we are known as people who like to brag. Kind of a big… No I’m just kidding. It has impacted us. So I lay out how it’s impacted us, but with the full recognition that it’s not the only impact some people’s lives, but this is just very specific to IABC.

Megan:

The timing of it couldn’t have been worse in terms of the programming we offer. So we have awards program called our Capital Awards Program and it occurs every spring and that’s where we have communicators in Edmonton submit their best work. It’s judged by people from across the world. And again, a Capital Award recognizing their good work. And we hold a big gala at the end of May with our AGM. And it’s just a really big event for us and something of which we’re extremely proud. And of course, because of today’s situation, we aren’t able to move forward with that. So that has to be one of the biggest impacts obviously alongside with other professional development events, we’re planning on holding and networking events and that sort of thing. So to borrow from all of the kind of cliches have kind of come forward lately, we pivoted in our new normal and quickly came forward to something else.

Megan:

So on June 18th, we’ll be holding our very first virtual AGM and networking event. And we’re going to be announcing some really exciting Capital Awards related pieces there. So it’s really forced us to think outside the box and as with any organization, we’ve been forced to think about things differently and perhaps just not approach things the way we have in the past. And so it’s been really interesting, but definitely stay tuned, June 18th is going to be an exciting night for sure.

Adam:

So cool. So cool in that it is the coolest it can be right now. Not so cool [crosstalk 00:14:54] but what is cool is a lot of people are turning to online AGM socials. Obviously you have a team that’s working on this, it’s not all you, but maybe you can walk us through what are some of the ideas around how to make something like that successful because you’re just under a month out now, I think, right?

Megan:

Yeah, absolutely. So we have a large board, our board is 22 people, so we have senior directors and then director level. So we have groups of teams. And so certainly this has been an effort across the board for everybody, all hands on deck in terms of moving to this new piece. Definitely it’s been working with our team and leveraging all of our resources, both in talent and in actual material resources to get the job done. But doing so in a way that’s respective of the fact that we’re doing this because of pandemic, but also pandemic means everybody’s busy, too. Communicators are busier now more than ever. And so how do you completely reimagine an event on the fly when everybody’s working flat out already, right? So it has really brought us together as a team, bringing together a marketing communications team, our programming team, the executives jumping in and really starting to… It’s just a lot of discussions around the pros and cons of every approach.

Megan:

And what do we have available to us? Who can we talk to? Who can help us out? I know one of our board members for instance, their organization has a subscription to Zoom that we’re probably going to be using for the networking event, and that was brought forward. So I mean just kind of like pulling in everything we can and recognizing the wealth of knowledge and assistance that kind of lives there already. It’s like you said, “It’s not just me.” It can’t be just me. It would be terrible if it was just me. And that’s certainly not the point of leadership as we both know. It’s been a lot of meetings, a lot of discussions, our Slack channels been on fire, and just trying to collaborate to find something that we think will be great for our members to attend and be involved with and doing it in a way that’s not going to exhaust us. So that’s the nice side, you always balanced with these types of volunteer roles, for sure.

Adam:

Well put. We have a question from one of our good friends, Kristin Hancock, anyone attended any formerly in person events, turned virtual conferences that they thought were done particularly well? And Kyla and I, at Bananatag and with our events lead Emily, who’s behind the scenes today, we do a lot of events. So we’ve been basically combing through any kind of examples that we can. And I think we’ve seen some cool ones, right Kyla?

Kyla:

Yeah, there definitely has been. There’s been some hits and some misses, that’s for sure. And I think what’s interesting about communications events especially is… And one thing that I know that we’ve been looking at is that networking piece. There’s the one side of like doing presentations, we’ve all kind of figured out how to do a presentation on Zoom or whatever, but when it comes to the networking piece that we know the communicators find so valuable doing that in a digital space is really hard when, say you have a Zoom room with 150 people in there, how do you really network in a room like that? You can have break out rooms, et cetera. But yeah, that kind of stuff. It’s really interesting to see what people are coming up with. Some people are doing Slack communities or having like separate chat functions.

Kyla:

But the networking piece, I think is key. If somebody could figure that out, we’d be good.

Adam:

Yeah. I will say, I scoffed at the idea initially, but we recently tried with our IABC chapter, the idea of a breakout rooms in a social and it seemed kind of silly. I’m like, “If I’m tuning in I want to talk to the maximum number of people possible”, but it was actually really good. We had a room of 25 people and then they were split into five different rooms. And we all talked about a question and came back and it was just kind of natural because it took you away from that wall of 40 people and “Do I talk”, and broke it up a little bit? So it seems like we’ll be continuing to figure out these fun ways for another stretch of time. I would imagine.

Kyla:

One thing I really love that I’ve seen people do is that because the presentations are not necessarily live, they’ve gone in like done more interactive and sort of engaging presentation. So they’ll film themselves. I was at a content marketing digital conference, which you expect the content to be pretty good there, but the keynote did a film. He basically recorded himself in lots of different locations and that sort of thing, whereas he would have just been on stage going through slides at the time. So it’s really about leveraging what is available to you and how can you really ramp it up. So as much as it is kind of annoying to not be in person, there’s also lots of opportunities there to do things a little bit differently and maybe be a little bit more engaging and you kind of have to, because you’re competing with a lot of other stuff. If you’re doing everything digitally, as well.

Adam:

Yeah. It’s a whole new playing field. Sorry. I tried to make a sports reference and I really fumbled on it. Oh, I just did it.

[crosstalk 00:20:22]

.

Kyla:

Wow.

Megan:

Good save.

Kyla:

-successful sports reference [crosstalk 00:20:26] you’ve done, I feel like.

Adam:

Oh my goodness, Megan, we’re down to the last 10 minutes, saved by the bell and you, and you know what that means. It is time for our Bananatag Tool Tip of the Day. Not that one. Kyla, why don’t we ever touch anything? There we go. Megan, why don’t walk us through your Tool tip?

Megan:

Absolutely. So nowadays we’re all on our phones now more than ever. I’ve been trying to think of it as a tool for good instead of evil in terms of how I’m feeling. Likely along with everybody else, always on here for Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, everything to try and stay connected to what’s happening. But what I found was, looking for some great apps to stay healthy. All within terms of mentally and physically, and I definitely have found that with Peloton. So you don’t need a bike, is how I start this out. Peloton offers a number of programs in terms of running, meditation, yoga, cycling, walking, all sorts of things. So I think they have a 30 day trial free trial. You can download it and take some of their meditation programs. I’ve just completed a 14 day sleep meditation program, still sleeping. So that’s good news for everybody. But it’s important to where we can take care of ourselves and in ways in which we can. And certainly having a bike has been great. I do own one, just being able to connect with Adam and go for our weekly rides as well.

Megan:

So it’s another way to connect with others. You can take classes together too, so you can take a running class together, even if you didn’t have that equipment. So that would be my Tool Tip of the Day.

Adam:

I love it. Yes. And it has been so fun doing something with you, despite the fact that we can’t be in person and having our favorite instructors and all that is great. So a few more things to draw your attention to before we turn it back to you, Megan. One is, that next week on the show we have Patrick… nope, not next week… Friday. We have Patrick Armstrong, SCMP another fantastic IABC chapter leader and Senior Advisor of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement with Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, Australia. So tune in for that. It’s going to be a really good show. Watch for our event invites. And if you liked today’s show, how could you not? Megan is amazing. Give us a share and we would appreciate it.

Kyla:

Absolutely. And if you are not done with this conversation and you have more questions and you want to keep going, you don’t have to stop. We have the power, we have the tools, just join us in Comms-unity and we can just keep on going, we can talk about virtual events. We can talk about the crossover between HR and internal communications. Everybody’s in there. Everyone cool that you know is in there. So you might as well just join, right? There’s a link in the chat. You can join us in Comms-unity. We’re aiming to make it the best and brightest brain trust in the communications industry. There’s lots of interesting people in there and we’re always having really great conversations. So definitely join us in there. And of course, if you’re a communicator or an HR professional, who’s communicating with employees, Bananatag can help. We’ve got the most collaborative email designer in the industry, which means you can create beautiful emails in real time with your team collaborating remotely.

Kyla:

We also offer unlimited users. So that means it doesn’t matter if you’re an HR or internal communications or marketing or whatever, you can give a user permissions to anyone in your organization so that they also can be creating beautiful branded internal emails and getting real analytics and feedback on those emails, as well. So we’ve also just launched our Slack feature, which means you can push messages straight to Slack, which is very exciting. And we’ve got lots of cool new integrations coming out in the next couple of months, as well. So stay tuned. If you’re interested in checking out, Bananatag, there’s going to be a link in the chat, go talk to one of our account executives about how we can help. And before we sign off, Megan, you’ve been wonderful. This has been an absolute treat. It’s been great to meet you, but before we go, do you have any parting words for our audience?

Megan:

Just stay well, stay safe and to borrow from what I keep repeating to my board and my colleagues, just grant yourself some grace. We’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s okay if things aren’t getting done exactly the way you want them to get done, they’re not going to and that’s okay. But just having this whole community here, obviously the community that Bananatag has built here, the community that IABC offers, is just a great wealth of resources. Tap into that and just be patient with the process and with yourself.

Kyla:

Beautiful. Now is the time to be leaning on your community. There’s lots of resources out there. And remember that we’re all in this together. And of course you got this, we’ll see you here on Friday with our guest, Patrick from Australia. Definitely don’t miss it. Otherwise, thank you all for tuning in. It’s always been a treat. We’ll see you next time. Bye.

Adam:

Bye. Awkward wave to fit in this thing.

Kyla:

High five.

Megan:

Are we high fives? There.

Adam:

So talented.