5 lessons from CEO Caitlin Kealey’s Ask-Me-Anything

IABC Ottawa’s 2018-2019 season opened with a bang on September 13 as MediaStyle CEO Caitlin Kealey fielded questions in a lively Ask-Me-Anything discussion with chapter President Samantha Rae Ayoub.

Caitlin candidly shared her thoughts on climbing the communications ladder, being a woman at the top, balancing work and home life, and how to succeed in today’s changing communications landscape.

Read on for the five biggest takeaways from the conversation – advice you can apply to your career, no matter what level you’re at.

Confidence will come
Caitlin recalled a great anecdote from Alan Doyle, a fellow Newfoundlander and lead singer of Great Big Sea, whom she met at the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference last year. Alan told Caitlin there’s something better than being the smartest person in the room, and that’s being the most prepared person in the room. Caitlin has found that be true in her career, noting that when you prepare and know what you’re talking about, you will naturally feel more confident.

And if you still don’t feel it? “Fake it ‘til you make it,” Caitlin said. She did a lot of that when she stepped into the CEO role, and found that reading management books, talking to business owners, and asking for feedback helped her through the steep learning curve.

Embrace challenge
Caitlin has helped MediaStyle carve out a specialty working with indigenous organizations and associations, but she admitted to making mistakes on her first project. She stressed the importance of asking questions when you don’t know a particular community or issue well – just be open and transparent.

Her “favourite difficult challenge” was working on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, a historic initiative to document the truth of survivors, families, and communities affected by the Indian Residential Schools experience and to educate all Canadians about the widespread trauma that occurred. Through this work, Caitlin discovered the diversity of Canada’s indigenous communities and found her passion in bridging the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous voices.

Be a ‘lazy leader’
One of the AMA questions touched on the concept of the ‘lazy leader’ or laissez-faire leadership. Caitlin agreed she’s very much in that camp and considers delegating one of her finest skills. Knowing when to hand things off and when to check in is essential for people as busy as Caitlin. She even hired a virtual assistant to help her stay organized and handle administrative tasks. “Detail isn’t my strength,” Caitlin declared. “I’m a people person.” Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths – otherwise you’re just wasting time.

Balance when you can
Like most working women with families, Caitlin confessed she struggles with work-life balance. As the daughter of two academics who are “retired but still working,” Caitlin joked she didn’t exactly have the best role models in that department while growing up. Still, she tries to unplug in the summer and enjoy her beloved hobbies – mountain biking and motorcycling – and she looks forward to leaving the office on time when she’s taking care of her three young stepchildren.

Know your power
Caitlin never expected to be a CEO. She initially studied journalism, transitioned to communications, and ended up at MediaStyle almost by accident. She didn’t have a long-term plan, but looking back she knows exactly what she would have done differently in her career: “I wish I had taken myself more seriously.” Caitlin explained she didn’t understand her own ability early on to make change in the world, and she urged audience members to remember the impact each and every one of us is capable of.

Being unilingual in a bilingual city

In a bilingual city like Ottawa, being a unilingual communications professional can be challenging. Dream jobs pop up on job boards, but the bilingual requirement can stop you in your tracks and make you feel like your opportunities in this field are limited.

How do you boost your career when bilingualism is an asset or even a requirement? And what are the benefits of working in such a diverse city?

Adeeba Ahmad, the senior communications and outreach advisor on the G7 Task Team for Environment Canada will lead this special interest group event where we’ll discuss the challenges and advantages of working in a bilingual city. Participants learn and share insight on how to stand out regardless of how many languages you speak. Join the discussion to learn about the experiences of other communications professionals. Whatever you learn, you take with you in your next career move.

This is a free member-only event!

Register here

October 17 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM

Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA)
979 Bank Street #400

About Adeeba
Adeeba Ahmad is an experienced communicator with over 15 years experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. Specializing in events, outreach and strategic communications, Adeeba is driven by finding creative solutions to any unexpected issue. She has worked on many high-profile files such as H1N1, the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Canada 150. Currently, she is the senior communications and outreach advisor on the G7 Task Team for Environment Canada.

About Special Interest Groups
Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are IABC-member only events that provide an informal opportunity to connect, learn and exchange knowledge with peers in an area of particular interest and relevance.SIGs are moderated by a subject matter expert, and are a great space to ask questions, or gain insights into a specific topic. Interested in suggesting a SIG topic or hosting one? Contact membership@ottawa.iabc.com.

Sr. Comms Event – Smoke and Mirrors: Marketing Cannabis with Credibility

by International Association of Business Communicators Ottawa (IABC Ottawa)

$65 – $85
Get your ticket*
*This event is reserved for senior communicators with at least 10 years experience

Date and Time
Fri, 12 October 2018
11:45 AM – 1:30 PM EDT
Add to Calendar

The Rideau Club
99 Bank Street
Sir John A MacDonald Room
Ottawa, On K1P 1H4
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Refund Policy
No Refunds

The upcoming legalization of cannabis has made way for a new industry poised for unprecedented growth — one that will also be heavily regulated. How does corporate social responsibility play into something that, until now, has not only been illegal, but even demonized? What are the challenges of branding a product in search of credibility? How will the marketing and communication of cannabis take shape?

Join us for an IABC Ottawa Senior Communicators Luncheon with our expert facilitator Dr. Terry Lake, Former British Columbia Environment and Health Minister and Vice President of Corporate and Social Responsibility for Gatineau-based Hexo Corporation (formerly Hydropothecary) – the largest supplier of legal cannabis in Quebec on the way to becoming a major employer in the national capital region.


11:45am-12:10pm Arrival/networking
12:10-12:15pm Sit down/Lunch
12:25-12:40pm Terry speaks
12:40-1:15pm Discussion
1:15-1:30pm Wrap up/leave


Dr. Terry Lake brings sixteen years of political experience and a dedication to best practice in public health policy to his role as Vice-President of Corporate and Social Responsibility for Hexo. During his tenure as a member of the British Columbia legislature (2009-2017), Terry served as Minister of the Environment and Minister of Health, where he was responsible for a $18 billion health budget. He also managed the implementation of the province’s public health response to the fentanyl opioid crisis, earning him the Canadian Public Health Association’s National Public Health Hero Award in May 2017, and the Provincial Public Health Officers’ Award of Excellence in Public Health. He is a past mayor of Kamloops, BC, a veterinarian and former animal health instructor at Thompson Rivers University.

As Vice-President of Corporate and Social Responsibility, Terry provides guidance and advice to ensure corporate policies and strategies uphold Hexo’s reputation as a good corporate citizen in all areas, including public health and environmental sustainability.

IABC Ottawa 2017-18 Season Opener

Climb that Comms Ladder! A Special Ask-Me-Anything Discussion with CEO Caitlin Kealey

Early bird ends Sept. 4!

When: September 13, 5:30-8:00 PM
Where: Sidedoor, 18 York Street, Ottawa

Join us at IABC Ottawa as we kick off a new season with a night of networking, food, drinks – and also some important conversation!

Catch up with old friends (or meet new ones!), snap a selfie, and settle in as IABC Ottawa’s President, Samantha Rae Ayoub, hosts an Ask-Me-Anything Discussion with MediaStyle CEO Caitlin Kealey.

Caitlin Kealey has more than a decade of experience in communications, journalism and media relations, and online social networking. As one of Ottawa’s Top 40 Under 40, MediaStyle’s first CEO, and a regular on Live 88.5’s Political Whirlpool, Caitlin will share her thoughts on climbing the ladder, being a woman at the top, balancing work and home life, and what it is like to be a professional communicator in today’s changing world.

Have a burning question for Caitlin? Get your ticket now and submit your question early!

Event Details:

5:30-6:15pm Registration, Networking & Photo Booth
6:15-6:20pm Welcoming Remarks by Samantha Rae Ayoub, President of IABC Ottawa
6:20-6:45pm Ask-Me-Anything Discussion with Caitlin Kealey, CEO Media Style
6:45-8:00pm Networking

Get your ticket!

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) provides a professional network of over 15,500 business communications and marketing professionals in over 80 countries. As a member of IABC Ottawa, you can tap into a wealth of resources and opportunities that will help increase your value as a communicator.

Become a Member!

IABC membership is more than discounts to events, it’s also an opportunity to add value to your career by joining a community of professionals that can help grow your career. We offer exclusive opportunities to our members including access to the latest trends and best practices through a global lens. If you’d like to become a member, visit our website or contact membership@ottawa.iabc.com today!

“Communications is the single most important skill for C-suite leaders”

This message was loud and clear at IABC Ottawa’s revived Senior Communicator Series breakfast event on June 15. And while maybe you’d expect anyone to say that to a room full of communicators, it was obvious when it came from the mouth of guest speaker Amy Yee, Chief Digital Officer at Health Standards Organization, that she genuinely meant it. It was also obvious that she both excelled with and benefited from her own strong communications skills.

The lively discussion of 15 senior communicators revolved around the themes of leadership communication, digital transformation and the issue of how to elevate communicators to have a seat at the leadership table.

Amy spoke about her evolution from electrical engineering, to venture capitalist, to digital strategist and now C-Suite executive who is overseeing digital transformation, as well as IT & infrastructure, digital platforms and marketing & communications groups at Health Standards Organization.   

Successful digital transformation relies heavily on communication, both externally and internally.  Corporate intranets and the importance of communicating the value of your internal digital tools to your team is critical to facilitate and champion change in any size organization. The group agreed that communicators play a critical role in both planning and executing these types of tools as well as communicating the value and ensuring teams adopt them.

The hour and a half event flew by—there was no shortage of questions or comments for the speaker or the group—it’s clear that digital transformation and the communications connection to the C-suite is an important topic for senior communicators today.

Senior communicator events are small intimate gatherings with an expert guest facilitator. If you’re interested in attending a future event or have a topic/facilitator suggestion, please contact Kelly Rusk at krusk@banfield.agency