When I left Ottawa and moved to the beautiful Bay of Quinte region to be with my partner, I was skeptical about the opportunities available for communications professionals. I thought small city, small opportunities, right?

On Monday, October 1, 2018, students from the Public Relations and Event Management program from Loyalist College participated in a mico-networking event with one of five groups to meet with local communications professionals in the Quinte West region.

I was a part of group five and visited the Innovation Hub in Belleville. There, I met six talented communication and marketing professionals:

  • Aaron Bell, publisher, The Quinte Network and Partner, Lot48 Film Co.
  • Maddi Barker, marketing coach, Susan K. Bailey Marketing & Design
  • Trevor Norris, business development manager, Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board
  • Alyssa Engelsdorfer, sponsorship coordinator, QuinteVation
  • Jonathan Barbosa, account executive, corporate partnerships, Belleville Senators Hockey
  • Brandi Hodge, director of communications engagement, United Way of Prince Edward-Hastings

Sitting in a spacious room at two large tables, students on one side and professionals on the other, the discussion began with host Aaron telling us all who he is and what he does at Lot48 Film Co.

While asking questions and taking discussion notes about the things I was learning, I noticed three themes emerge: finding ways to be innovative in the communications industry, destination marketing for the Bay of Quinte and networking in a local economy.

Innovation in the communications industry

Regardless of business size, people need communications professionals who understand and know how to be innovative.

With the traditional forms of communication decreasing and our culture relying on soundbite information, finding new ways to communicate and get noticed is an essential skill for any person working in the industry, specifically for the local area.

For example, Aaron told us good storytelling is a strong tactic to be innovative. Whether it’s a Facebook ad or an online video, finding ways to tell a brand’s story is a critical element of capturing the audience attention, communicating a clear message (often evoking emotions) and making an impact with the audience.

I also learned there are limited journalists in the Quinte West region, making it difficult to cover popular genres such as sports. Due to the limited availability of journalists in the area, Jonathan and Aaron highlighted the importance of having the skill to recognize trends and having the ability to pitch a media story that provides value.

Destination marketing for the Bay of Quinte

Situated between Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa, the Quinte West region offers travellers a new way to vacation and avoid populous spots while still enjoying unique activities.  Since tourism is the largest industry in the Bay of Quinte area, rebranding the region and strategizing ways to turn peaks and valleys into a desirable destination was a familiar theme for professionals Aaron, Trevor, Jonathan and Alyssa.

For example, I learned that bringing the new Belleville Senators hockey team to Belleville has had a significant impact on the growth of the community, such as hotel sales, residential attraction, restaurants, the downtown revitalization and the real estate market. The ripple effect of this new sports team is continuing to impact local neighbourhoods and activities positively. The region has a cozy small-town atmosphere yet growing with advanced city amenities.

Bay of Quinte Map, designed and produced by the Bay of Quinte Marketing Board https://bayofquinte.ca/
Bay of Quinte map. Designed and produced by the Bay of Quinte Marketing Board 

Networking in a local economy

During the discussions, I noticed there was a strong alliance of interdependent communities that work together to market and promote the economic development of the Bay of Quinte region.

“There is cross-pollination so knowing your key actors in the industry is crucial,” said Trevor. “Since people have different backgrounds, it’s awesome to work together and bring different perspectives together.”

Alyssa expanded upon this by explaining that although she didn’t have sponsorship experience, she got her current role because she knew how to establish relationships and already had a set of contacts she made throughout her career.

Aaron said his business is mostly run by word of mouth, pointing out that it’s not often what you know, but who you know that makes a difference for your career development.

Although it was an early morning, I had a wonderful time sipping coffee with these excellent professionals who took the time out of their busy day to meet and discuss with PR students and offer grounding advice. I am also confident the Bay of Quinte region has opportunities where I can provide my skills and experience. With new developments and expansions, the Quinte West region will be a hotspot for modern communication, marketing, and public relations jobs.

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