Advice from a Marketing Communications Professional: Ryan Paulson, Director of Marketing & Communications at Blenz Coffee

Advice from a Marketing Communications Professional: Ryan Paulson, Director of Marketing & Communications at Blenz Coffee

By: Kendal Crawford | Special Projects Assistant, Communication and Arts & Social Sciences Co-op
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If you’ve ever come across a piece of digital promotion for Blenz and suddenly had the hankering for a delicious, specially discounted variation of your morning cup of joe, then you’ve probably already come into contact with the work of Ryan Paulson – an SFU alumni and the director of marketing and communications for Blenz The Canadian Coffee Company. A graduate of SFU’s Public Relations Certificate program, Ryan is an active and passionate communication professional in both his work and volunteer roles. Interviewed right here at Communiqué headquarters, Ryan shared invaluable advice about the modern communication industry – including how he got to where he is today, what he looks for in new-hires, and the measures he recommends current SFU students take in order to be professionally competitive after graduation.

Ryan discovered his passion for marketing communications during his first job after getting his undergraduate degree at SFU in 2009. Filling a general projects-based role in the not-for-profit sector, Ryan found himself attracted to the marketing communications element of his work – a field which stood out to him because it was “so dynamic and interesting, with always something new happening.” Inspired, Ryan went back to SFU to complete the Public Relations Certificate program, which enabled him to learn a little bit of everything about the field of communication in a condensed timeframe and intensive learning environment. Having completed his undergraduate degree in Political Science, the specialized PR program augmented Paul’s critical and analytical education, helping him elevate the skills he had that were relevant to a fulltime career in professional communication.

Parallel to his renewed studies, Ryan also started volunteering at the BC chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC-BC) – an organization that houses a wide breadth of different communication professionals. Here, Ryan says he got to witness up-close the kinds of work people did in PR, internal communications, event planning, marketing, and so on. Eager to get involved, Ryan quickly filled several different volunteer positions within his first year, finding a place on three committees and winning the volunteer of the year award for his work. The next year, he joined the board of directors, worked as vice-president of the sponsorship committee, and won the Student Communicator of the Year award. Today, he still remains involved as the vice-president of membership services. By volunteering in a variety of different areas, Ryan says that he was able to take on new projects and challenges that gave him experience he wouldn’t otherwise have had from his day-to-day employment. The networking element of IABC proved to be invaluable as well; Ryan found out about the opening for his current position at Blenz due to a contact he met through his volunteer work within the organization.

When asked what he would say to current aspiring communication professionals, Ryan had two key pieces of advice to offer. The first is that as a student, you should take advantage of opportunities that will allow you to develop a variety of skills and produce tangible quality project deliverables. In regards to job-related skills, Ryan says “The things I really look for [in a new hire] are leadership, the ability to tackle something and work on it independently, the ability to bring one’s own ideas and recommendations forward, and the ability to multitask on a variety of different projects that are always on the go at the same time.” He explains further, “In terms of things that develop those skills, I think that volunteering within an association or within a not-for-profit organization is a great help, because it allows you to bridge the gap from academic course work to real-world scenarios, where you’re dealing with real projects and real budgets, and actual deliverables … I always look to that kind of experience as a key indicator of someone really wanting to showcase their ability to be a young leader.”

For anyone looking for that type of experience to further their career development, expand their network, and take on new challenges, Ryan recommends IABC. “There’s programs and opportunities [at IABC] to expand your knowledge and skill set at any level,” says Ryan. “I think, though, that it’s especially important for student and junior communicators to get involved, because that’s the time when you want to be out there learning the industry and making connections. And by volunteering, you are showing the people working within the field what you’re capable of, what your strengths are, and that you can actually deliver on a real-world project.”

His second piece of advice to students, especially those interested in marketing communications, is that they stay up-to-date on current technologies and how they fit into the day-to-day life of consumers. “The great thing about our field is that it’s so dynamic,” says Ryan enthusiastically, “Things are moving and evolving all the time. The shift to a digital marketplace has had a huge impact on how I think as a marketing communications professional and on where I focus efforts, resources, and energy.  The proliferation of mobile device usage, the expansion of social media, and in general just that shift for people to go online to tap into news, information, and updates to find out what’s going on in the world around them has certainly had an impact on how we approach [developing] our marketing portfolio.” It’s an exciting time to be entering the world of professional communication, he emphasizes. “I think that students just entering the field can look even more to the future for new and interesting ways to engage an audience through digital media, social media, mobile innovations, and more.”

In other words, the world is your oyster, future communication professionals! So finish up your morning coffee, buckle down, and take that next step in attaining the kinds of knowledge, skills and experience that will help you advance in your journey towards post-graduation success.

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Interested in finding out more about Student Communicator of the Year Award? Visit IABC/BC's SCOY page for more information.


IABC/BC LogoWant to connect with the hundreds of industry professionals associated with IABC/BC? For individuals who join before graduation, the cost of student membership is significantly reduced from a regular membership. Just want to test it out? Your student status can get you a reduced ticket for an upcoming event as well.


Beyond the Article:

  • Want to know more about IABC? Read about the experiences of Patricia Zhou, SFU alumna and IABC Director of Student Services.
  • Communication Co-op student, Kassandra Mihaly, attended IABC's Communication Planning 101 Workshop. Read her review here.
Posted on May 28, 2015