A dozen questions with Benoit Laplante
Meet Benoit Laplante: A bilingual business communicator and engaged member of IABC Ottawa. A former Director and VP on the chapter’s Professional Development and Membership portfolios, Benoit is a mentor in the Members Connect Program and one of the few IABC members in Canada to earn the Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP®) certification.
In this member profile, Benoit reveals how he’s found a niche as a “builder”, his favourite writing resources, and the joys of being constantly curious.
- Give us a glimpse into your current position…
I’m Director of Communications and Marketing at CPCS, a global management consulting company in the infrastructure sector. Think railroads, ports, bridges, airports and renewable energy. I’m responsible for building the marketing program and amplifying the brand and expertise internationally. That includes everything from employee comms, change management and employer brand to content strategy, B2B marketing and sales enablement.
- What attracted you to the role?
Over the years I’ve realized I’m more of a builder than a maintainer. I like building or transforming from the ground up, shifting a culture, and challenging how things are done. The role at CPCS appealed to my builder mindset because it’s a new position in a longstanding company. I get to shape the strategic approach to how CPCS communicates inside out and build a growing team. Also, while I’m no expert in infrastructure, it’s part of some important global conversations and issues right now (climate change, rapid urbanization, mobility and transit, etc.). I was excited to help CPCS navigate this territory and seize the opportunities that come with it.
- You have a background in employee communications and change management. What draws you to those areas?
I’ve always been interested in human behaviour and seen how leaders and executives need to surround themselves with skilled business communicators. My specialization happened gradually and grew from there. I did media relations for a few years, then consulting, and later landed in the Program Management Office at the Royal Canadian Mint, at a time of huge business transformation.I enrolled in change management graduate studies and was fortunate to complete the Institute for Strategic Communications and Change leadership certificate to further develop my skill set and critical thinking. Even at CPCS, 60% of my job is change management and being one step ahead to help my leaders tackle issues like diversity and inclusion and corporate social responsibility.
I encourage decision makers, leaders and employees to adopt new communications behaviours, processes, and products. I consolidate and streamline how people communicate within the organization. They see me as a connector and integrator. It’s not the “shiny” instant gratification aspect of communications like media relations or social media, but I find it rewarding because I get to solve business problems through carefully executed communications – pure public relations at its best.
- Looking at your LinkedIn profile, continuous learning seems to be a big theme for you…
I enjoy learning. I have done a few certificates and will continue to pursue my MBA part-time this year. I’ve found that continuing education has helped me be adaptable and marketable. I think of it as customizing my offering and toolkit to stay current; that’s the beauty of the communications profession – it’s so broad with many transferable skills.
- Why did you want to obtain the SCMP® certification, specifically?
According the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC), the SCMP® certification is for highly skilled business communicators who are practiced in providing strategic communication counsel to an organization’s leadership. While I’m no guru and still have much to learn, I wanted to get a professional designation for a long time. It’s a very good conversation starter and a big differentiator. There are about 40 SCMP® certification holders in Canada. Also, the level of education at my workplace is extremely high – most people have MBAs, PhDs and financial designations like CFA and CPA. Our clients value it deeply as well, especially in certain international markets, so having those educational credentials earns our team greater credibility. Having SCMP® next to my name adds clout. And my boss thought it was a great added value!
- What should fellow members expect from the SCMP® experience?
The exam makes you think hard, yet it’s achievable. I did everything recommended by IABC to prepare (information session, study group, read key books, etc.). In general, people can expect a lot of situational, multiple choice questions. The focus is on reasoning, strategy, and outcomes – not tactics and outputs.
- How do you keep up to date with comms trends and best practices?
Many ways. I am a big reader and subscribe to tons of newsletters and blogs. My favourites at the moment are spinsucks.com and withoutbullshit.com. The latter gives tips and challenges me to write clearly. IABC is obviously a great resource. As an example, right now I’m leading the creation of a content strategy for CPCS and am looking at Gold Quill case studies. They’re good refreshers and inspiring. Additionally, working with highly skilled people, it’s important to learn about different aspects of the business beyond communications, such as corporate social responsibility, management, finances, etc. So I try to read up on those topics too.
- What do you enjoy most about being an IABC member?
Being constantly exposed to different skill sets that push me out of my comfort zone, and having local access to a group of very talented people. My membership has proven to be quite useful these days on how best to handle coronavirus communications for a global workforce.
- Best IABC event you ever attended?
If you think PowerPoint is overrated, think twice. It’s probably the corporate medium that is by far the most neglected and poorly executed by almost everyone in organizations. PowerPoints are easy on presenters, but hard on audiences. So I really enjoyed Karl Genest’s 1-hour workshop on effective business presentations. It could have easily been a full-day session. It was very eye opening, practical, and strategic. (Hint to reader: if you missed this event, here’s a recap!)
- What’s your dream job? If you could be anything…
I think I’d be a “culture change doctor”. I’d travel the world helping organizations deal with change.
- If you weren’t in communications, what do you imagine you’d be doing?
I would either go back to my original field, which is 3D animation. The storytelling and design skills I acquired doing that still serve me well today. Or, I might be in sales. I was once a pharmaceutical sales representative and enjoyed the ‘spokesperson’ aspect – again, that fits nicely into communications.
- What’s the best advice you received early on in your career?
Challenging the status quo and learning to observe and listen, which has helped me navigate workplace environments, where some people are driven by fear, insecurities, ego or pride, for example. I guess that’s why I enjoyed studying change management which covers all this. Also, I was raised in a Francophone family, and I was pushed to expand my horizons and learn as many languages as I could. I’m confident it led me to where I am. The ability to deal with subtleties in both official languages has helped my career immensely. Also, it’s okay not to know it all. Be curious!
Do you share anything in common with Benoit? Are you inspired by his journey? Perhaps interested in learning more about the SCMP® certification? Let him know by reaching out on LinkedIn or sending an email.