When I left university with a Bachelor of Education degree, little did I realize that several years later, I would be promoting research on monoclonal antibodies, aerospace, ice formation, aquaculture, and construction. Or that I would be responding to e-mails from Russia, Argentina, and England. Or that I would be trying to tell Canadians about the importance of scientific research and its impact on our economy and our daily lives.
That is my job as a media relations officer at the National Research Council (NRC). With 16 research institutes located across Canada, the Industrial Research Assistance Program, and the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, there is a lot to know. However, my job is made easier by working with the communications officers in the institutes.
As I drive to work, I go through a list of what is planned for the day. But, in media relations, the day you experience doesn't always resemble the day that you had planned.
I think chronologically. Four items come to mind. Top priority will be issuing the news release announcing the dedication of the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. This has to be done by 11 a.m. Just after lunch, there will be a call to Paul, the communications officer at NRC's Institute for Biodiagnostics in Winnipeg, to discuss President Carty's visit and a possible meeting with the local media. Next, at 3 p.m., a three-way call is scheduled with George, the business development officer with NRC's Institute for Information Technology and an Ottawa Citizen reporter, to discuss 3D technology. And in between everything is compiling a media list for an upcoming event at the Institute for Research in Construction.
Arriving at the office, the first thing I do is turn on the computer. While it is going through its opening exercises, I check the phone for voice messages. After logging on the computer, it's straight to the e-mail.
One more approval is needed before the Gemini release can be issued. Where is that response with the final approval? It's not there; I should have had it yesterday. The release is ready to go, but if there are changes, it could mean some last-minute translation. And this could delay sending out the videotape. It was going to be one of those days.
After several phone calls during the morning to check on its status, the final approval for the Gemini release arrives just before lunch without changes. This means that the timing of our release coincides with the timing in Hawaii, and the TV stations can get a videotape of the Gemini site by early in the afternoon.
After a hasty lunch, it is time to have the conference call with Paul. We discuss Dr. Carty's visit to the IBD. Paul confirms that some local journalists are interested in meeting Dr. Carty. They want to focus on NRC' s role in Manitoba and its economy. We identify what materials Dr. Carty will need and determine who will provide them.
The scheduled 2 p.m. conference call with George and the Ottawa Citizen presents a bit of a problem. When I call George, there is no answer. I phone again in a few minutes, but this time the line is busy. Finally, at 2:15, we successfully link with the reporter. It is an interesting conversation, as George explains the various projects and planned applications for 3D technology. Forty-five minutes later, they are still talking. I have to hang up, as there are other matters to look after.
During the day, I have made little progress on the media list. That will have to wait. There have been too many interruptions, and my time has been spent dealing with other issues and responding to a deluge of e-mails.
An NRC-related issue unexpectedly makes the headlines in a national paper. We scurry to alert our colleagues and ensure that the appropriate person has the approved media lines.
For the better part of the day, I play telephone tag with a National Post reporter who wants to know who is responsible for research integrity in Canada. I am finally able to coordinate an interview with him and an NRC employee. He is pleased.
A TV network calls late in the afternoon looking for video footage of a hovercraft. I let them know that I cannot give them an answer right away, but it is unlikely that NRC would have such footage. I suggest that they look elsewhere, just in case. It is just after 5 p.m. I do a final review of my day and see what is planned for Monday. Time to go home, but the job isn't over.
At 11 p.m., I watch the National News. Will there be a mention of Gemini?
Some 8 minutes into the newscast, the anchor announces the dedication of the telescope. The video is playing in the background. I listen carefully, but there is no mention of NRC. Why not? What could I have done?
This is not the time to think about what should or could have been done. I call it a day and turn off the light.