By Shayna Keyles
Corey Connors views communications as a hybrid discipline, which is apparent both in the way he approaches his role as communications director at Fehr & Peers and in his exemplary efforts to make IABC more accessible to all of its Bay Area members.
Though he deviated from the world of communications to briefly pursue sports medicine in college, Corey returned with a bang, taking on roles in PR, graphic design, and organizational communications. In this interview, Corey provided valuable insights on the intersections between different communications fields and reflects on his role as co-director of Networking Nine with SF IABC.
What initially drew you to the field of communications?
I found the path to communications fairly early on and have enjoyed promoting/marketing things and getting people to attend, participate, or contribute. When I was young, people often told me that I would be a speaker or a broadcaster or something. It helped that my dad was an English teacher, so I was force-fed the value of clear communication while I was growing up.
What do you like most about your role as a communicator?
The wide breadth of ways that strategic communications can be integrated for organizational success: internal comms, marketing comms, knowledge management, public relations, and more. In my current role, I work with extremely intelligent transportation planners and engineers who improve the communities we live in. A large part of my job is to help translate the intricate findings of those studies into messages that clients will understand. That requires solid strategic communications and integrated visual communications. I’ve also been fortunate to manage our knowledge management efforts, which I believe is becoming a cornerstone of internal comms.
You helped develop a team of visual communicators at your firm. Tell us more about that.
Visual communication is important for simplifying and amplifying messages; as they say, a picture can be worth 1,000 words. And putting together a company’s visual strategy is extremely important, as well. We found significant business value in empowering a formal group of professionals (graphic designers, technical illustrators, GIS professionals, and marketing coordinators) to collaborate regularly and be accountable for continually raising our visual communications abilities. As the leader of this group, I’m fortunate to have this as another avenue for helping others advance their careers. It’s extremely rewarding.
What is your philosophy on visual communication?
Visual communication and written or spoken communication benefit from each other. I’ve never felt that the two should be separated. And because my dad always made sure I had a Mac around, I was one of the only students in my PR classes to develop designed collateral to support my projects. I’ve also been very lucky that my professional experience in creative marketing and public relations has reinforced the value of keeping them integrated. Humans are visual beings and are most likely to take action when they are presented with compelling visual concepts. I keep this in mind when making a communications strategy, often using infographics, maps, simulations, illustrations, or videos.
Why did you decide to get involved with Networking Nine?
I’ve been a member of IABC for at least a decade. I joined because I really appreciate learning from others and IABC offers opportunities to do so. Initially, I mostly used the excellent content that the organization offers on its website. As someone who lives in the East Bay and has young children, I found it difficult to get to San Francisco for events. I suspected that I wasn’t the only one, so I wanted to take an active role to help East Bay members network closer to home, which led to my involvement in facilitating Net 9 events. In fact, our next Net 9 events will be held simultaneously in Walnut Creek and San Francisco.
What is your favorite thing about Networking Nine?
Without a doubt the value of discovery. While we do have a topic and strategy to make these events successful, it’s the participants who ultimately decide where the discussions go. Any of us can read online resources, but the value of engaging in a dialogue and asking follow-up questions is undeniable. Participants have opportunities to learn from small companies, large companies, independents, and non-profits, and leave the event with a fresh perspective gleaned from diverse viewpoints.
Net 9 might be the best kept secret in SF IABC’s offerings. We’ve begun to discuss ways to add more value for members (i.e., invitees from similar-sized companies, or similar industries, or similar expertise levels), so stay tuned for these possible new opportunities.
What was the most memorable event you attended?
It’s hard to pick which Net 9 event was my favorite, but I remember hearing participants from each one I’ve attended saying that they learned a lot. I think that’s the essence of this event: to help professionals in various roles learn something new.