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Josh Su Of The Canadian Olympic Committee Builds Strong Relationships In His Role As Public Relations Specialist

Josh SU | Public Relations Specialist | Canadian Olympic Committee

As someone that specializes in public relations, the most important communication skill would have to be relationship building.

Josh SU

Public Relations Specialist

Canadian Olympic Committee

× The interview with Josh SU was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Public Relations Specialist of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

My typical day-to-day focuses on servicing the Canadian Olympic Committee’s internal and external stakeholders on any public-facing announcement, event, initiative, storytelling opportunity and issues management matter.

However, the tasks at hand will vary depending on whether or not we are in an Olympic Games year. For example, as your readers may know, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed to next summer due to COVID-19.

So much of my 2020 was spent on managing that issue and ensuring that our internal stakeholders were provided appropriate updates as well as ensuring that the right messaging was shared externally to the general public.

At the end of the day though, a successful year for me is when I am able to generate excitement and awareness around the Olympic Movement in Canada and the Team Canada brand.

What does it mean to work in sport communications? I noticed you used that phrase in your Twitter and LinkedIn bios.

Working in the sport industry is an amazing experience, it’s been a dream of mine since I was young, but to be able to be involved on an international level is something I never imagined I would do.

I would imagine there are many similarities for communications professionals across all industries, but sport is unique because it isn’t a 9 to 5 gig. Anything can happen at all times of the day and you have to be prepared to react in a timely and appropriate manner.

It’s certainly rewarding when you are able to publicize a positive sport story that people can relate to. Athletes are often seen on this high pedestal, and rightfully so, but when you’re able to make them relatable and have fans connect to them on a personal level, that is what makes my job special. 

You started off as an intern in Communications with the COC over 6 years ago, moved up to become an Assistant, then Coordinator, and are now a Specialist. How do the roles vary? Talk about the transition.

Believe it or not, I had no interest in working in Communications when I was younger.

All I knew was that I wanted to work in sport, and I was desperate to get an internship in any field. Luckily, the Communications Manager at the time was looking for some help one summer and I fell in love with the role ever since.

I suppose that is my advice. Sport is such a competitive industry, especially in North America, and you should take any chance to get the foot in the door and develop your skills as you gain more experience.

There is no way around internships and assistant positions. It can often be administrative and work that you may not find fulfilling but you have to start somewhere. Only then are you able to find your niche and grow as a professional.

What communication skills are most important to a sport communications professional? How did you acquire these skills?

As someone that specializes in public relations, the most important communication skill would have to be relationship building.

You need to be able to have positive and transparent relationships with various stakeholders including, media, athletes, staff, marketing partners, etc. It is essential to my work day-to-day.

It takes some time to build trust with people and you need to put in the time and do research on what people like, don’t like, areas of expertise, etc. You will make mistakes along the way and sometimes you will need to have challenging conversations with individuals, but it is all part of building that relationship.

Do you recommend any tools, apps, resources, etc. to help other sport communications people work more productively and efficiently? If so, which ones and how have you used them in the past?

I don’t have any specific apps to recommend as everyone might have different objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at their respective organization.

I’m not someone that believes you need to have a prominent voice on social media to be an effective sport communications professional either. In a world where we are constantly on our screens most hours of the day, I would challenge people to pick up the phone, make a call and have a conversation with a journalist for example.

Or, when we are able to do so again, have a face to face meetings. They are often most productive and efficient and goes a long way for building relationships.

Andres Larranaga Andres's Final Thoughts

In a position all about relationships, Public Relations Specialist for the Canadian Olympic Committee Josh Su exemplifies what it takes to build and maintain important relationships in the industry. It’s clear that within this very competitive industry, communication continues to be an important skill that should always be worked on. Although it’s a difficult year to get those face-to-face moments, we can try our best given the technology at our hands and hope that we can communicate in-person again soon.

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