Master in Communications: Jessica Stermann

Welcome to CIPR Communications ‘Masters in Comms’ blog series. 

Every week we will feature a new professional that has proven to be a true Master of Communications in their respective field. 

Our goal? To learn from one another! There are valuable lessons to learned from fellow communicators – from risks they took to words of advice that motivate them to ensuring life is full of balance. 

In this blog, we hear from Jessica Stermann, Media Relations and Internal Communications Advisor, Norton Rose Fulbright

Jessica Stermann Headshot.png

Q: What is the best piece of professional advice you ever received? Who provided it? 

A: In university, a professor advised me to learn as much as I could in all aspects of communications and public relations before specializing in any area. I took this advice to heart, and throughout my career, explored marketing, public consultation, event planning, government relations, media relations, internal communications, and CSR (to name a few). 

"Starting my career with an open mind allowed me to become a well-rounded communicator today."

Q: What is the biggest challenge and opportunity for communicators today?

A: Today, anyone can brand themselves as an expert, guru, and leader. Undoubtedly, technology has made our lives easier in the marketing and communications world; anyone can post a blog, build a website, create a logo, have a large social media following, or even start a business. 

This creates a challenge as it’s becoming difficult to determine if someone is a legitimate strategic thinker who truly understands communications. On the contrary, this is also a huge opportunity. Technology raises the profile and level of services communicators and marketers can now provide to their clients. 

Q: What do you read to keep your brain sharp? 

A: I read the news every day. I think it’s important to stay relevant and on top of social, environmental, and political issues affecting our legislation and economy. 

"For communicators, I think it’s especially important to stay abreast of corporate finance as it affects all businesses, big or small."

As for books, I’ve just read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.I highly recommend it. (This is one of our favorite books at CIPR too – nice pick Jessica!)

Q: Choose just one for the rest of your life while letting go of the others forever: Beer, wine, cannabis, coffee, chocolate. 

A: Definitely wine. 

Q: What advice would you give someone that is just entering the field of communications? 

"Face time does matter, even if people say it doesn’t."

A: In my career, I’ve come into the office early, stayed late, and often opted to take on work that’s not in my purview. When you become the “jack of all trades” and are always reliable, you become irreplaceable.  

Q: What do you know today, you wish you knew when you started your career?

A: Be open to everything and attached to nothing. In communications, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine where your career could take you. If you are open to working in various industries, you might find yourself in an unconventional role you hadn’t imagined. 

"Those who can adapt quickly and be comfortable with ambiguity will continue to succeed."

Q: What drives you crazy?

A: When people are negative and chronically complain about the same things they are dissatisfied about in their lives, yet don’t make any changes. Get excited and take control of your own life! [Dr. Phil voice.]

Q; Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?

A: It’s better to be “good” and on time. One of my pet peeves is when people are late. When you’re late, it’s essentially saying, “my time is more important and valuable than yours.” It kicks off the meeting on a negative note which can shift the dynamics of the rest of the meeting. 

Q: What do you love and dislike about your job? 

A: Working at a corporate law firm, I love being at the forefront of major transactions from a media and communications perspective. Although it’s a high-pressure environment, it’s a privilege to communicate national transactions that are changing the Canadian business landscape.

In most organizations I’ve worked, not all executives or colleagues realize the potential and value of communications as strategic advisors – this is obviously a dislike for me. 

"I’ve seen missed opportunities where the communications team could have, and should have, been involved to avoid crisis’, maximize efforts, communicate clearly or to manage reputation."

Q: Who is the smartest person you know personally? Why? 

A: That’s a tricky one I don’t think I can answer. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very intelligent people throughout my career. 

"What I can say is, if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."

In any situation, personal or professional, I try to learn what I can from those around me. 

A big thanks to Jessica for sharing her insights into how valuable communications expertise is at Norton Rose Fulbright. Communicators are everywhere – if you’re interested in being a part of our blog series send us a note and we will get in touch.