President, Strategic Profile Management
Graeme Harris, School of Journalism '85, is President of Strategic Profile Management.
What is your role at your job?
Editor's Note: At the time of this interview, Graeme Harris was Vice-President of CEO Communications and Media Relations at Manulife Financial. He has since moved on to become President of Strategic Profile Management.
I look after the communication for the president and chief executive officer of Manulife Financial, which is a global company and insurance company based in Canada with operations based around the world. I am also responsible for the media relations functions for Manulife globally.
How did you end up doing corporate communications?
I have been on the corporate communication side for a very long time. I was a freelance journalist and was doing stories (when) I just drew on one of my contacts from journalism and they said, “We can use some help with some writing.” It was a situation where I would not be in conflict, so I was doing a little bit of journalism and a little bit of corporate writing. Eventually, corporate writing became more of what I was doing day to day and then eventually I was offered full-time work on the corporate side.
Did journalism at the university prepare you for corporate writing?
Yes, absolutely. One thing I tell people all the time is that whether you doing it as a journalist or whether you are doing it as a corporate communications person, you’re telling stories. The only thing different is how you are telling the story and who the audience is, but ultimately what [the university] prepared me for was to be able to tell stories and tell them to different audiences.
What did you want to do after originally after graduating?
Yeah, that’s the funny part. When I was at [the university], I was focusing on arts and entertainment writing, being a film critic, music critic play, theater critic. Those are things that I was mostly focusing on and here I am going into finance, which also shows you once again that the skill sets that I was focusing on were still applicable
Any advice for current students?
My advice would be that you know the media world right now is very competitive and its business model is under a lot of pressure, but still pursue your dream of becoming a journalist. Don’t despair if it doesn’t work out. There are lots of opportunities to creatively apply the skills and training that you got from [the university].
Are there any instructors that stood out, or that you still remember from the university?
It’s kinda unfair in that sense because there was one who just passed away. Don Obe was chair of the [School of Journalism] when I started there and it was his first year, too. Don stood out for me quite a bit because not only was he able to write beautifully, he also had a very good news sense and was a mentor for me during a number of difficult stories. Immediately Don jumps out because he was such a larger-than-life figure at [the university], and in the industry as a whole.
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