In this episode, Matisse chats with PRofessional & Coffees founder Carolina Salinas about her networking initiative for up-and-coming PR professionals and the impact it's having on their professional growth.
About Carolina Salinas
Carolina Salinas is the founder and host of PRofessionals & Coffee. A former international student from Mexico, she studied Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Seneca College from 2019 to 2020. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
A results-oriented Communications professional with 15 years of experience in the non-profit and government sectors, Carol is also the volunteer co-ordinator, administration, and donor services at Haven Toronto, the only drop-in centre in Canada where elder homeless, marginally housed, and socially isolated men can feel safe.
Now that she has settled into her life as a Permanent Resident here in Canada, she wants to advocate for and support students, recent graduates, and newcomers in the field of public relations, marketing and communications across Canada by connecting them with experienced PR, marketing and communications professionals through the platform of PRofessionals & Coffee.
As a mentor to her volunteers, she always promotes networking, professional development, and volunteerism to build a strong portfolio that will help them get a job in Canada and begin their careers in PR, marketing, and communications.
Carolina loves to explore nature, do yoga, and paint outside of work.
Check her out:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of PR & Lattes, where you can fill up your cup on everything PR and communications. I'm your host, Matisse Hamel-Nelis, and I am so happy to have you join me today for a brand-new episode. Before we get started, make sure you subscribe to this podcast wherever you're listening to it right now to get notified each week when a new episode drops. You can also subscribe to our weekly newsletter by visiting our website prandlattes.com.
On the website, you'll find not only our podcasts but also some incredible blogs, with new ones being uploaded every Monday morning. And, of course, make sure you're following us on socials, on Instagram, @PRAndLattes, and LinkedIn, PR & Lattes.
On today's episode, I'm chatting with professionals and coffee founder Carolina Salinas about her networking initiative that helps up-and-coming PR pros get to know the industry while meeting PR and comms leaders. A former international student from Mexico. Carolina studied public relations and corporate communications at Seneca College from 2019 to 2020. She holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Now that she has settled into her life as a permanent resident here in Canada, she wants to advocate for and support students, recent graduates, and newcomers in the field of public relations, marketing and communications across Canada by connecting them with experienced PR, marketing and communications professionals through the platform Professionals in Coffee. As a mentor to her volunteers, she always promotes networking, professional development and volunteerism to build a strong portfolio that will help them get a job in Canada and communications. I am so thrilled to have Carolina on the episode today to talk about this incredible initiative, Professionals in Coffee, and I can't wait to get into it. So grab your latte, sit back and enjoy.
Welcome, Carolina, to the show. I'm so excited to have you. Hi Matisse. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast, PR & Lattes. Oh, this is going to be such a great chat. And I'm really excited to dive into everything that you and your team have been doing.
But before we get started, can you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and your journey into professional communications? Yes, absolutely. Hi, everyone. My name is Carolina Salinas. I'm the founder and host of Professionals and Coffee, and I'm a former international student also from Mexico who began studying for a postgraduate in PR at Seneca College in 2019 and I graduated in 2020.
Currently, I'm also the volunteer coordinator, administration and donor services at Heaven Toronto, which is a drop-in center in Canada that supports elder homeless, marginalized, and socially isolated men. My professional communication journey in Canada has been full of challenges.
Matisse both as a former international student and then as a permanent resident but also full of learning and growing and most importantly of embracing Canada's culture of friendliness and community. And yes, I love it and that's why I caught with the idea of this volunteer collective called Professionals and Coffee.
That is amazing. And like I said, professional, sorry, like you said, professionals and coffee is this collective that has been an absolute great podcast to watch and listen to. Can you tell us a bit more about how the idea came about and what drove you to start it? Yes, absolutely. Matisse. Well, by the time when I graduated from my program in public relations and Seneca, the pandemic was in full swing. So I realized pretty quickly that in spite of my 15 years of experience working for the non-profit organization and governments in both Canada and Mexico, this unprecedented global health crisis was going to present challenges that I have never anticipated. It was a really tough time for me. I had no illusions about the problems. I will have to overcome job hunting and networking as I had made my way along the path to becoming first as a permanent resident, then finally a Canadian citizen. Because with the cancellation of most in person networking events, I remember that I wanted to attend some CPRS events, the PR passport, but all of them were canceled. And the broader lack of professional job opportunities provable by widespread economic instability.
The way forward for me, suddenly look far from certain. So that is why I came up with the concept of Professionals and Coffee, which the idea was born in October, 2021 and during the height of the pandemic. And then as a concrete initiative, I launched it in January, 2022. So Professionals and Coffee basically is volunteer collected that's six to use virtual coffee chats, videos, or podcast to connect experience, PR, communications, and marketing professionals with newcomers, with new practitioners in the field who want to establish their networks, develop skills, and build a portfolio that will help them land the pulling relations, marketing, and communication jobs that will propel them into the next stage of their lives and careers in Canada. So, yeah, the goal is to connect them at no cost, experienced practitioners with new practitioners. It's an absolutely fantastic idea for newcomers in the field, for those who are just dabbling in PR.
It's such a great experience and opportunity for them to really get a sense and network, like you said, with those who have been in the industry or the field for quite some time and really get that initial connection as to somebody who is working in PR communications or marketing, as you said. And I think, like I said, you and the team do a fantastic job. So kudos to you for coming up with this idea and really putting forward that opportunity for students and newcomers who perhaps didn't have that opportunity before to connect to have that opportunity now. Yeah, it's just that it was hard because I remember during my time in the PR postgraduate, I noticed that there was a definite demand for these kinds of services. So because I saw that most of my classmates were international students and none of us have real Canadian connections. So most of us, uh, started a lot of building relationships with, uh, other international students with wearing the same boat that the no connections, not professional connections. And some of us were suffered, you know, budget, because our fee for tuition is more expensive and deal with rent. And we have to deal with everything at the same time. But yeah, but at the same time, it was a learning journey. So I don't regret about anything what I have done. That's why I'm here. Be very proud of what you've accomplished and where you've brought it. And I know there's more coming down the line as well. And we'll get to that shortly.
But to date, has there been a particularly memorable episode or guest that really stands out for you and what makes them stand out? Yes, I remember definitely a coffee chat we did with Smitha Devani-Ban. She's the head of communications at EMD Serono. So I remember that during that episode, we talked about some keys to landing jobs as a newcomer in Canada as a communications professional; that episode and guest were memorable because personally, I developed a great connection with Smita during the pre-production. So you know the coffee chat or like any other a program or podcast, you have pre-production, production and post-production stages. So I developed a great connection with Smita during the pre-production of this coffee chat and during the recording when I introduced her to Ajab Rashad, a volunteer who conducted the interview. Ajab, by that time, was a student from the Diploma of Content Strategy program at Humber College and was working in the non-profit sector. So specifically, it surprised me at the end of the recording when Smitha offered me a part-time job with her because she liked this initiative so much. Unfortunately, I have to decline that amazing opportunity because by that time, I was about to start working for my current job at Heaven. And I thank her, but I offered that job position to Adya, but at the same time, by that time, I was working for another nonprofit organization. So at the end, I invited the volunteers of Professionals at Coffee by Tatum to apply.
And one of our students was the lucky girl. And since then she has been working with her and is an international student as well. And she began gaining Canadian experience. So that was the time when I realized the power of networking and the power of this project. Phenomenal, phenomenal. Again, it just speaks volumes to the need or necessity of these sorts of programs and initiatives out there, particularly for students and newcomers to have those opportunities to really connect and network in a safe space if you will, where they get to ask the questions. There's no real idea. It's not necessarily an informational interview or a proper interview, but it still gets to be an interview in its own right. And they get to learn more about each other. And then an opportunity like this where job opportunities possibility comes up. So I think that's absolutely fantastic. Yeah, kudos. Yeah, thank you. I can't say that enough. I feel like I'll continue saying it after every response because it's such a great initiative. And I can't say that enough. And so with podcasting and these interviews are these coffee chats, as you phrase them, how do you see the intersection of podcasts as a medium and the field of public relations?
And how do you see podcasts potentially changing the entire PR landscape, whether from a newcomer or student perspective or just somebody in the field? Well, I think podcasts are a topic that has become very trendy in terms of not only public relations, but also communications in general. I mean, it feels like everyone has a podcast these days, but if you're thinking about starting one or doing your research, you will see that. So, for instance, I have been doing my own research and I will read this. For instance, according to the podcast host, a very useful information resource, there are over 4 million podcasts currently registered around the world. Nearly 11 million Canadian adults listen to podcasts at least once a month. So this means 34 of which are over 18 years. So besides how common they are, what's interesting about podcasts is the role that they have started to play in Polish relations, for instance, right now, so you and I are doing Polish relations and networking here with me through your podcast of PR & Lattes. So when I record a coffee chat with professionals at coffee, I encourage the volunteers to do networking with me so that they can gain their own connections and you do, and when, and in terms of including podcasts in your PR strategy, I think this makes sense. As I mentioned before, there is a very wide audience out there. Granted, podcasts are a lot of war, and it is important to consider whether getting your client in one or starting one phase into your workflow. So you need a content calendar, intro, outro, editing software, all the the stations of reproductions. So in terms of PR landscape, podcasts can definitely help companies build relationships with listeners. It can also be great for business development. You can connect with a company you would like to work with and share their business story, and bam, right? So you just made a connections and actually is what you are doing with PR & Lattes or what I'm doing with the volunteers, with Professionals & Coffee to develop their own connections and networking. I think that you and I, in terms of PR, we create opportunities to make connections through podcasts or to virtual coffee chats. Yeah. I would agree with that. It's a great networking opportunity. It's a great way to get your foot in the door, if you will, um, in having those conversations.
But like you said, as part of a PR strategy, it opens yourself up to a brand new audience that perhaps the brand wasn't known to, or the organization didn't have as big of a presence with, um, it's a whole new medium that I think, like you said, it, companies should get on board, but also realizing the, the time commitment and human capacity that it is involved in getting everything put together in pre-production, production, and post-production, like you said. Completely agree. From the student perspective, I have to ask, so the professionals in coffee is a collective, and as you mentioned, newcomers and students are involved in really helping on every step of the way. So I'm curious, what have the students' experiences been like with interviewing PR professionals? And were there any common themes or challenges?
That seem to come up repeatedly within the industry when they're interviewing and then they're realizing, hey, that's what somebody else said too. Okay, well, the students' volunteers experience with professionals at Coffee have been very educational and motivational. It has allowed them to see for themselves that networking, volunteering, and building a strong portfolio, not just one of these things.
All of them in combination is the key to getting a job in Canada. So we have provided the students with the ability to build their own networking opportunities by coaching them because I have seen them with them to make some rehearsals or sometimes I have provided them with some writing kits or some manuals or some templates how to network, how to research prospects, how to pitch themselves. Most of them are, as you know, as I have told you, are international students and are not used to this Canadian business approach. Actually, when I arrived here, I was not used to this Canadian business approach. I admit working here in Canada in every business is very common, but I was not used to. And I have to learn. And then now I'm passed that information to them. And it has been an eye-opening journey also in terms of how to both develop life long personal and professional relationships while also keeping an ear open about job openings, gathering insider employment information and developing great references. Yeah. What impact have these opportunities had on the volunteers as they get to experience all facets of creating and maintaining such a popular platform? Well, I think the main impact for our volunteers because also I'm thinking as if they were our clients has been the fact of being able to develop a well-rounded portfolio that includes coffee chats, articles because sometimes I encourage, okay you should write a coffee chat recap or any article that you want to think that it could help you to build your portfolio.
You want to start working for nonprofit organizations, you can write something about that specific industry, some participation with social media channels, because also I developed some templates and I encouraged them to help me with Canva or with some copywriting. And I put on our social media networks the credit so that they can put on their portfolio.
So with networking opportunities where they can put into practice a wide variety of schemes, including research, public speaking, social media management. So these portfolios have helped them tremendously during their internships, job interviews. So also, as I said, professionals and coffee is intended to add as an, as an intermediate step between post-secondary institutions and full-time employees, employers, sorry, by providing like a kind of job-specific training and practical experience. So, so that it's like a pre-step before getting an internship or a job just. So now, for instance, I have two former volunteers that are settling into roles. They were offered because of their participation with professionals and coffee. One of them is currently working for a PICS PR with Linda Andross, and the other is doing an internship. Well, I think Hachelle's fin is doing her internship. So yeah. Wow. I love how it basically has become sort of learning extra things that, you know, when you're in school, there's just maybe not enough time to teach at all, right? So it gives these students this opportunity to expand the skillset that they're already maybe taught the basics of in school and really apply it into a real world scenario. And then like you said, whether it's writing articles, social media content, the interview questions, all of it and really coming together and putting all the skills that they learned into a real world practice and then really showcasing that as part of a networking opportunity.
That's just, that's a win for any student I would say. Yeah, yeah, it's just that sometimes they have, they come to me with so many fears or they don't know how to present themselves. And even for me, when I was studying at Seneca, I experienced that because you come from other country, from other background, other completely culture and you are not used to, and then you need to deal with the language and you feel in a certain way, shame or I don't know. But I have told him, no, you need to lose the fears and here is your opportunity. If you don't do it, oh my God, otherwise we'll take that opportunity. So you need to push yourself. That's it. You need to advocate and show up for yourself, really, right? Yes.
I say kudos to those students who have stepped up and really taken this opportunity that you have built for them and really just ran with it. And yes, of course, there's going to be that self doubt and that sort of thing. But knowing that they're doing amazing work, they should be very proud of themselves and hold their heads up high, if you will, because what they're producing is fantastic. Yeah. Thank you.
So if any of those contributors are listening to this right now, you're doing a fantastic job. I swear. Fantastic job. Yes, exactly. Yeah. When you and the collective are working on content ideas and direction of where the podcast is going to go and who you're going to interview, what role does the listener feedback and engagement play in that, if any?
I think it's very important to listen to your audience for any podcast or YouTube program because those are the benchmarks that will guide you to the pathway to success. If you don't listen to what people have to say, you will end up having to blindly change your content strategy or the format or the duration or whatever until you finally find the combination of elements that works if you find it at all. So in the specific case of professionals and coffee, it is also important to listen to the volunteers. These students who are recent graduates and students newcomers to the fields of PR, marketing, communication, most of them are international students who, as I told you, don't have Canadian connection but are eager to land a job in Canada. And many of them are on the path of becoming permanent resident and they are against the time with the immigration papers and as a result they have very specific needs and objectives and I find I need to pay particular close attention to their feedback if I want to make sure they are getting what they need from professionals asking me, hey, you should create a website. But by that time also, I was full of work and also I was dealing with my immigration issues and I didn't have enough time. And also the idea also with Professionals and Coffee, I wanted to release at the same time YouTube and podcasts, but I didn't have enough time, so I began with YouTube and I said okay let's start with this and then little by little because as you know as an entrepreneur woman you need to do everything and yeah and it's really hard so I thought to myself okay no just little by little and let's see how it goes but also at the same time I say, Okay, I need to secure my place here in Canada, right? So that I can have enough time to help others. So yeah, priorities, priorities. Yes. And that's the thing. I think it's I love that they're coming up with other ideas. So a website and that sort of thing. And I think it helps build a sort of longevity into what you're doing as this project continues, not project, as this initiative continues to expand and grow, and more volunteers are joining your collective. I think it adds new opportunities for them also to dabble in web content development and so on and so forth. So it's not all necessarily on your shoulders, but they're also getting that firsthand experience and creating that content, obviously, with you saying, yes, that's all good. Yes. Exactly.
So thinking about the episode preparation, I know you mentioned that they're the ones who are doing the research, they're writing the questions. How do they prepare for those podcast episodes where maybe they're talking about more complex PR strategies or crisis management scenarios? Is there anything that maybe you provide them advice or tips with or is it just more they run with it and go? Well, all our volunteers are encouraged to do their own research to secure a coffee chat based on their professional interests. So there are some volunteers, for instance, that are interested in working for PR agencies and they can do their research based on that, or others that are interested in nonprofit organizations. So I basically, I sit with them. So I have some meetings with them and I share my screen and I provide it.
Because I developed a manual of professionals at Coffee, how to approach with professionals, either by LinkedIn or by email. I have encouraged them not only trust on LinkedIn, try to go to directories or websites, and don't be disappointed when they don't have any answers. Because sometimes, I have told them that people are busy and that's not because they don't want it. Sometimes they are not up, they don't link it in. So there have been cases in which I directly connect students with PR, and marketing and communication professionals. And in those cases, students, once I have contacted that person, I talked with the student, hey, I have contacted, I asked them, could you, okay, now there is a list, like a book, a list. Okay, this was the first person that I received their papers, their manual policies from Professionals and Coffee as a volunteer, because I asked them that they need to sign up Code of Conduct as any other organization. And once I received their papers, okay, so you are the next one in the list. If I secure a professional, I'm going to start recording this interview with as long as with you. And then I ask them, you should do your research about this person, develop your script, your questions, what you want to get back from this person, what you are interested in their professional journey. And then there are some times in which the professional has enough time to maybe have a meeting before the recording or the networking is before during the recording. So it depends, no? And sometimes it depends on the student also when they need more help.
I sit with them and do some rehearsal before the coffee chat. I also give them, yeah, I talk about the manuals and the networking, so that is the process, yeah. Yeah, wonderful. And I love the fact that it's not only this networking opportunity, I know we've been talking about networking so much, but also what I think you're downplaying is your mentorship with them as well and providing your insights and best practices, if you will, on how to navigate these situations that might be new, or they might feel a little bit uncomfortable if they don't know the person, and providing that insight that I think is so valuable and wanted by those who are just entering the field or who are newcomers and just trying to embrace like you said, the cultural change or shift that comes into play if they're a newcomer to Canada and getting used to that. So I think your mentorship is a huge component to the thriving success that is Professionals in Coffee. Yes, I think that you have made a good point about this mentorship and I forgot to tell you. And yes, that is the word mentorship because some of them are not used to, for instance, and also now I remember I sit with them and I provide some templates and even I share my resumes from my former job applications that I have applied. I have OIC with an A. I have my own portfolio with my, I created my website. You should do that. Your resume here is without a photo for instance. For instance, in my country, it's mandatory to put a photo in your curriculum. We call it Mexico that instead of resume. But here it is not. So, those are the kind of tips and also you mentioned in your question if we talk about PR strategies or crisis management scenarios. We haven't talked much more in detail about this topic because in general the objective of professionals at Gofe is that the volunteers get that first approach with the...
Well, right now at this stage of the project, maybe later on we will talk more about more complaints. But first is be trained how to networking, how to approach. Yeah. No, fair enough. Fair enough. And that's something that I'm always curious about depending on who they're speaking with. Do they sometimes go a little bit too in-depth with their questions and you maybe have to bring them back to say, you know, this is more of an initial coffee chat and perhaps they'll come back for another episode to go more in depth on a specialty or is it more go as in-depth as you want to in your questions based on what they want to get out of the coffee chat? Exactly. Yeah, that's totally. Yeah. I agree. Yeah. Perfect. Are there any emerging trends in PR or communications and marketing that you're really excited to explore in upcoming episodes with the collective? Oh, yes. Definitely. I think now artificial intelligence and this Instagram Threads up that there is something new. And actually volunteers have approached me to ask, hey can I talk about this or can I write about this? Okay, go ahead. So yeah, some questions about these topics that I'm really interested in. What else? So I think you will be listening to future coffee chat about these kind of topics and questions. And also some of our volunteers have asked to create, oh, well, I have told you about the website. I had thought about it. Yeah, and I'm still working on that. But yeah, definitely I think for the future, artificial intelligence, GPT, or IG threads app, yeah. Wonderful, I'm looking forward to those. I'm always looking for new insights into AI because it's just such an unknown and vast concept to me anyways in PR and its potential and what it could be in a good and bad way. So I'm really looking forward to hearing those episodes, that's for sure. What advice would you give or offer to any other PR professional or enthusiast, somebody who's into communications marketing or PR?
Who's considering starting their own podcast or their own type of coffee chat when it comes to content creation and audience engagement? I think the best advice that I can give you is never give up. As I told you before, it's always hard to start a business or a project from scratch. Because you have to play all the roles, right? And sometimes you don't have the time, but when you see the result that is very rewarding and it is just a matter of time, just don't give up. And also, connect with other podcasters and always keep yourself updated about what is happening in the world of podcasts or PR communications. Personally, I think that you are doing an amazing job with PR on Lattice. I think you are in the correct pathway. It's just a matter of practice. It's just that in the market right now, well, there are so much content. But, but just keep up. Don't give up. Be patient with yourself. I know that there are some days that, oh, that sometimes, I don't know how you are. But sometimes, personally, my case of this, I'm really stuck with myself. And I tend to be very perfectionist and then, oh, you know. But no, it's just, just let it go and just keep going. I'm chuckling and silently clapping because I'm the exact same way the perfectionism comes out and you want everything to be just so, but you have to let go, that's exactly it. I perfectly said, because you're not gonna be perfect at everything all the time.
It's something we have to consider and take into account. But our best product will be our best product and people will love it as is. Yeah, yeah. Looking ahead, I know we talked about this website. What other things do you see for the future of professionals and coffee? Oh, yes, well, I see, maybe within the two months having this own website, including links to its YouTube channel, podcasts, and more articles from volunteers so that they can keep building their portfolio and feel more comfortable to go to internship interviews or job interviews to have something to share. I don't know, looking for networking opportunities like events or fundraiser. I also see myself still building positive connections with new volunteers, with new professionals, professors, with people from different sectors. Now you are part of the IABC, PR & Lattes. That means more co-finances and more networking and more volunteers getting job offers.
I love when I hear that, oh, Carol, could you provide me a reference? I have had so far like four or five volunteers since I began asking me for reference letters. And when they secure a job, I love it. I know that I'm the correct way. Yeah. Oh, that must feel so rewarding and knowing that you're really helping them get their foot in the door.
Yeah. And really giving them that opportunity to stand out. That's, I got goosebumps when you said that. But it's just, it's just so beautiful. It really, really is. Yeah. It's, it's, it feels good. And also, yeah, I consider myself as a newcomer advocate and not only here for professionals and coffee, but also at Heaven Toronto, because I think that my role in both places are really similar and I am very thankful to the universe to go what I'm doing because one day I was to the other side, right? And I was very desperate trying to find a place to receive an opportunity to get an opportunity to gain Canadian experience. And then once I passed to the other side and when I have the power or the opportunity to help others so that they can find a place, our pathway to Canada, that is very rewarding. And I feel, okay, now I'm doing, I don't know, I felt like my purpose of life, something like that. It's hard to express it, but I feel it like that. I have the biggest smile on my face. That's just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
Well, it's been a wonderful time chatting with you, Carolina. Before we, I let you go, again, this is PR and lattes. So I have to ask, what is your favourite go-to caffeinated beverage that gets you through the day? Oh, yes. My favourite caffeinated beverage is French vanilla cappuccino with two cream and two sugar. I love it. Take note, everybody. Take note. Thank you so much for being on the show today. If people want to reach out to maybe be one of those folks who networks and is on the podcast to chat about PR communications and marketing or want to learn more about professionals and coffee, where can they reach out and find out more? Sure, you can find us on LinkedIn as professionals and coffee, Instagram, the same Professionals and Coffee, Twitter, PR and Coffee, on LinkedIn, you can find me if you want to go directly myself as Carolina Salinas.
Perfect. Thank you so much, Carolina. This has been wonderful. I really enjoy chatting with you. Okay. Me too. Thank you so much, Matisse. Congratulations for PR & Lattes. Thank you so much. You've been listening to the PR and Lattes podcast. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you can get notified each week when a new episode drops.
You can also subscribe to our weekly newsletter by visiting our website prandlattes.com. On the website you'll find our podcast episodes as well as amazing blogs with new ones being posted every Monday morning. And of course make sure to follow us on social, on Instagram, @PRAndLattes and on LinkedIn. I've been your host Matisse Hamel-Nelis, thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next week with a new latte and guest. Bye for now!