By Masoumeh Zafarmand
Shawna Ogston has been an IABC member since 2019; however, she has been a member on and off during her career as having a membership was not always affordable for the many charities she has worked with. She says, “I believe it’s so important to not only connect with like-minded professionals, but it’s affirming to see that your practices are in line with what is happening in the industry as well as the credibility associated with an IABC membership.”
Shawna brings over 30 years of experience to the communications industry. She began her career with Theatre Calgary. Later, she moved on to Volunteer Calgary where she held the position of communications manager for six years. She has also been a partner with The Communicators Events & Awareness Inc. followed by her own communications & media relations consultancy. Currently, she works as the communications & media relations supervisor at the Calgary Food Bank.
While Shawna has many experiences and accomplishments over her well established career, she considers her skill to develop the respect of the media as her greatest professional accomplishment. “Since media relations is my bailiwick, then I would have to say developing the respect of the media over the years is my greatest professional accomplishment, and the most important skill. Because I have developed strong, ethical and professional relationships, the media knows I can be relied upon, will answer the phone call and can provide what they need.”
The biggest professional mistake Shawna has ever made goes back 25 years ago when she wrote and mailed out a news release without proof reading. She says, “It was a draft and riddled with mistakes! I think my cheeks are burning at the thought, and to this day a second pairs of eyes is always reviewing my material.”
The most influential person in Shawna’s career has been Martha Parker, the then executive director of Volunteer Calgary in the 90s, when she worked there. Shawna remembers Martha as professional and fun, demanding but supportive. “Martha introduced me to so many leaders and connectors, many I still am in touch with today. She inspired me and I hope I exude the passion and intelligence for the issues and the sector like she does.”
Responding to the challenges she has faced and how she overcame them, she said, “Being a single parent to two young boys, staying on that high road, paying the bills and maintaining my consulting business was difficult. So many times, I just wanted to throw in the towel. But I am stubborn, and success is the best revenge. Now when my boys recognize and congratulate my achievements, I know it was all worthwhile.”
And Shawna’s best piece of advice to fellow communicators? “Be humble. This may sound like old fashioned advice but there is something to be said of someone who is willing to be part of a team, to listen and learn and grow from others. With all the technology and platforms, building relationships will still be at the core of communications. And you cannot do that if you are not humble, not willing to work hard or collaborate.”
Shawna is currently going through the Dare to Lead program as professional development and enjoys the book by Brene Brown. She highly recommends leaving the buzz of the communications world and escaping into books that can transport you.
Shawna’s last words: “Say thank you. Hold the door open for those behind you. Be kind.”
Did you know?? Shawna is a hippie in summer. “Every year for the last 25 years, I head off the grid to a remote area of BC to read, meditate, drink wine, kayak and swim in freezing mountain water.” She is also horse crazy. She started riding in her 40s and cannot get enough. She is seriously considering barrel racing! She says, “My favorite memory is racing up a mountain path at full tilt to come face to face with a cougar. Always hoot and holler when leading the pack now!” Lastly, Shawna loves talking to the camera live but freezes on stage in a room full of people.