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I Am Deirdre Campbell And This Is My Origin Story

Origin Story

You have arrived, Episode 7 of our Origin Story series, each week we will give you a glimpse into the super heroes of the Canadian public relations industry who have gotten into the business, learned the craft and the the ones behind some amazing brands and campaigns.

Deirdre TartanIn our seventh episode we talk with Deirdre Campbell, Managing Director, Beattie Tartan [TCO]

Once upon a timeIn The Beginning….

Think back to your teenage days, what did you think you’d be doing today?

  • I was going to be a best-selling author.

Three career moments that got you here?

    1. Getting accepted to Ryerson’s Journalism School
    2. Working for Ronald’s Printing in communications
    3. Landing a job as a PR assistant for CP (now Fairmont) Hotels in Vancouver, BC.

Three jobs that helped define the person you are today?

  • Working as a waitress in Calgary, Alberta taught me how to think fast on my feet and deliver. At CP hotels I helped open the Waterfront Centre Hotel with Nancie Hall who became my lifetime PR mentor and taught me how to always follow my values.  She also promoted me to the job as PR Director for the Fairmont Empress where I learned the importance of building relationships and leading with kindness.

When did you know you wanted to work in this industry?

  • When my boss at The Empress wanted to move me into sales and I said no.

Chance ChangeNext Chapter…

Tell me about your first campaign:

  • Opening a new hotel is always intense with multiple ‘bosses’ and high expectations.  I learned so much about teamwork and managing expectations.  The hours are crazy and it taught me how important it is to eat, sleep and look after yourself if you want to be functional.  To this day I am early to rise and early to bed to ensure I have the brain power I need for all my clients!   Lows were underestimating how important curating a guest list is and anticipating the right numbers for catering, and the highs were celebrating a truly fantastic team effort.  To this day I never take for granted how critical being a team player and strong decision maker is in PR – and again leading with kindness.

How are you a better leader today vs when you first came in?

  • I was so lucky to have bosses who empowered me to make decisions and make mistakes. I try to coach and mentor but never take over unless I have to – I see myself as the safety net for my team as they learn and grow on the job, and I also recognize when I am getting in my teams way of realizing their own successes.

What would you do differently if you could do it all over again?

  • Learn to be fluent in French and Spanish.

What’s your management style?

  • Steel Magnolia – strong but kind.

What problem do you solve?

  • I find opportunities where others see challenges, ever the optimist.

What is your super power?

  • I am the ultimate connector.  I see opportunities between people and businesses that others miss.  

Who is your nemesis?

  • Over the years I have met a few people who lead by putting others down and I have fallen into the trap of believing their criticisms of me or my team.  Now I don’t allow that to happen.

What have you learned this year so far that will be game changing in the next year?

  • As I build our team, the diversity of skills sets and passions is what will set us apart. I hire people whose strengths are my weakness and never take anything personally.

Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a major obstacle that stood in the way of you accomplishing a goal or commitment. How did you approach the situation?

  • I have always look to mentors for support when I am up against a challenge.  In 2017 I was close to bringing on a partner, but my gut was telling me it wasn’t right. I was feeling like I needed more time but was getting pressured to make a decision.  I reached out to a mentor, Kevin Roberts to have him spend time with me and this potential new partner to guide us through what the next iteration of our company should be but the potential partner pulled out at the last minute – the session and the partnership.  While my first instinct was to continue negotiating, I took a step back and went ahead with the session with Kevin.  It was a game changer and ultimately led me to merge my business with Beattie Group in the UK. 

Do you have a theme song?

  • No theme song but I love my early morning workouts at the gym where music is blaring.  Music gets me going and keeps me sane. 

What's NextWhat’s Next…

What is the most challenging part of your role? What is your favorite part of what you do?

  • Biggest challenge is human resources and ensuring the team is getting what they need to do their best work AND live their best lives.   I love delivering for clients but realize I can’t do it alone and need a strong happy team with me all the way. 

We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more—with less. Tell us about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.

  • A few years ago, a group of businesses in Victoria were concerned about the lack of conversation around the legacy of tourism for Canada. The word overtoursim was not yet being used but we could see the pressure points in other parts of the world and knew it would not be long before areas in Canada could face similar issues. We were also seeing the affects of climate change and its impact on one of our most important industries. Something had to change and we needed to do it together as a industry.  On a shoestring we launched a  national conference IMPACT Sustainability Travel and Tourism – and invited those who we felt were making a difference and leading change.   People predicted we would fail, or this would be a one-year event.  Three years later we sold out and have built a reputation for being one of the most important conferences on tourism in North America, all on a very small budget, excellent word of mouth and bringing the right people into the room to have the important discussions.   Each year we produce a conference proceedings paper to share the important conversations and resources uncover during the three days of discussion. 

What is your finish line?

  • A strong, diverse team in every city across Canada and excellent associates in the US.  My goal is to become the agency within Canada with the widest (not biggest footprint) who can help clients engage successfully with every culture, in every province and across multiple languages.  We will help all businesses ( not just tourism) be more sustainable and communicate their successes in this area as inspiration for others  In 20 years I will still be an advisor to my team but from afar and only when they need me.

If you woke up on a dessert island tomorrow, what are the first 3 things you would do?

  1. Explore
  2. Write messages in the sand
  3. Finally learn how to mediate. 

Deirdre CampbellWhat’s your favourite non-professional activity?

  • Walking my dogs

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