Sputnik Magazine | Spring 2013

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Client Profile Brenda Gheran Executive Director, Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response Northeast CAER has been sharing best practices for emergency response and planning and promoting community safety education since 1981. Its members include a wide variety of industries, chemical transporters and area municipalities. What was your background prior to joining NRCAER? My formal education is advertising and public relations. When I left high school from my hometown of Hines Creek in northern Alberta, I wanted to be a copywriter with a big time ad agency. Anyone remember 30 Something? Well—I was going to be in a highly creative environment, writing advertising copy and living the high life in a big city. I did work for an agency for a while in the early 1990s during a huge economic downturn, and have also worked in the pulp and paper industry, chemical industry and for municipal government. As a consultant, I've had a number of clients in the environment sector, and oil and gas sector, and I've been involved with Northeast Region CAER since 1996. I was in a community relations/communications role on the industry-side between 1996 and 2001 and participated as a member during that time. In 2002, I was communications director with the City of Fort Saskatchewan, and participated as a municipal member. In May of 2003, I decided to venture out on my own as a consultant and interviewed with Northeast Region CAER as their first 'paid' resource. Since 2003, I've been involved with the organization in a variety of capacities, and in September 2012, became Executive Director. What is your role as Executive Director at NRCAER? My role is to steward Northeast Region CAER's vision of building "Safe Communities, Informed Communities, Prepared Communities." Doing this in a multi-stakeholder environment is both challenging and exciting. I love that all the members and partners have public safety as their common goal, and work together as mutual aid emergency response partners, even if they are competitors in the marketplace. My responsibilities also include ensuring organizational effectiveness and sustainability. Northeast Region CAER has been in place over 20 years, and we've had to adapt to the changing needs of our members and our region. How important is communications in your mandate? Honestly, I think you could argue that communicating is our primary mandate. Creating the space for conversation between people and organizations to improve our processes and emergency response plans and to fully understand the role we play individually and collectively in our local area and in society at large is imperative. I get to talk and listen to a lot of really smart and capable people—sometimes in groups, sometimes one on one. I learn more from each conversation and perspective, whether that's in person, or virtually. I take all of this information in, synthesize it and as much as possible, create and implement solutions where everyone wins. That's the sweet spot. What has Hök Nik provided that helps you? Hök Nik has been working with us since 2006, and as a full service shop, has been able to provide us with solid advice, give our communications collateral a consistent and professional look, and introduce new ideas for getting our message through. They have designed our advertising, created our website, and membership marketing materials. They are also highly organized and committed to providing an excellent customer experience. It is truly a pleasure working with the entire team. Why do you hate the cats so much? Well, I don't. I've known great cats over the years. I like the ones in my neighbourhood that hunt and keep the mice population down. I dislike the ones that spray my front door... If the cats are a metaphor, the short answer is still the same: I don't. It does feel sometimes as if I'm juggling cats in my work—whether they are of the issues management breed, the expectations breed, or the getting things done in a multi-stakeholder environment breed. The cats could also be time, resources and shifting priorities. Thankfully, most cats land on their feet.

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