FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Shauna MacDonald
January 21, 2014
Her boardroom is not busy with racks of awards or promotion posters. One lone item stands out. It is a subtle and tastefully framed page which says: "Our Vision – to be the leading boutique public relations agency in Canada”. Really? As I sat there waiting for my subject, I wondered – how can an 11 person firm in Calgary do that?
I was about to learn . . .
Our paths haven’t crossed often. I met Shauna MacDonald shortly after she started Brookline Public Relations in 2004. She makes an impression you don’t soon forget, but our paths didn’t cross again until last February when I was arranging to interview one of her clients – which led to a follow-up - “When can I interview Shauna”. She was interested and willing – but unavailable. I followed up a few months later but then she was off on her maternity leave to have her 2nd child. Follow-up perseverance paid off. She’s back at her helm (three-day weeks) and found some time in the post-holidays calm – and we sat down recently to explore what Brookline and Shauna are all about.
Boutique feel – seems at odds with her strategy to be interdependent, working with collaborators in related fields – she says they have them in Calgary and all major markets in Canada. She explained that when clients need more than pure P.R., her firm is able to connect with other resources to meet their client’s needs. So, when marketing, government relations or media-buy etc. come into play, Brookline partners with others or puts its clients into trusted hands.
Her path in life began in Edmonton, 3rd child (she has two older brothers) – with moves to Lloydminster and then Calgary. Her family moved as her dad's oilfield service business grew. Mom stayed home. Shauna is a HenryWiseWoodHigh School grad. She went off to get her business degree at Queen's, then to Boston for a Masters in Communications at Boston University. She was poised to either stay in Brookline (suburb of Boston) or take a bite out of the big apple with a big job opportunity.
But when she came home to Calgary for Christmas that year (1997), as she puts it, “I met a man”. Fast forward – married (2000) to Shane Hooker, a mechanical engineer, they have 2 sons (4 ½ years and 6 months) and 1 nanny.
She says her business has a singular focus, and a vision. Ah yes, that vision. I asked if she had accomplished it yet. She replied, “In Calgary, yes. In Canada? Not yet!”
How would you describe your management style?
… I have 10 direct reports – but we are organized in teams on a project/client basis with delegated leader of each team. I lead by example. I give them lots of my time.
I asked Shauna how she sees her business, and her industry, faring over the next 90 days?
… business is fantastic. Our brand is becoming well known, interesting projects. Competitive bidding!
And over the next 5 years?
… our industry is consolidating by integration. Social media needs to be more with/about the customer. We have strategies to do great work – not just a lot of work.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… results, references, integrity, loyalty, passion. Do they deliver what they say? Do they make work fun?
Your firm is all women. Is that by design or by accident?
… not by design, but it appears to have worked out that way. I look for the best resumes. There are a lot of women in the PR industry.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Shauna MacDonald and Brookline … why have you been chosen over other suppliers?
… bottom line results, synergy/community/fit/culture, team, experience.
Do you have a succession plan, a view of the future, of diversification?
… we are considering some different business lines. We have a strong team.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
….kids - doesn't everybody? It’s all about making time for them. Providing best results for clients. Can we do better?
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
... my husband. My father. Terry Clarke (runs Clarke & Co. .. a PR firm in Boston) who took a chance on me when I was in grad school – he told me I should be running my own business.
Do you have a hero?
… my father. High integrity, well respected, always gives you an honest answer. He came from nothing, from a broken home, put himself through school, great family man – got his priorities right. He’s always given me sound advice.
Work life balance?
… the 3 R’s – running, reading, raising kids. Travel, I write (journals, diaries, thoughts), skiing, Christmas in Barbados, skiing at Fernie, couple-getaways. I don’t always find balance. But it sometimes finds me.
What do you read?
… a lot. Right now I’m reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg .. it’s about juggling values, debunks the notion that women can’t have it all. We can’t have it all, all the time.
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