The Canadian Public Relations Society

In conversation with Daorcey Le Bray, communications advisor to Mayor Naheed Nenshi

In CPRS, public relations on April 19, 2011 at 10:40 am

By: Jill Rutherford

I first met Daorcey Le Bray in December 2008 when I went to work at NATIONAL Public Relations. I was immediately struck by his media relations savvy, strategic thinking skills, and a wonderfully off-beat sense of humour. One afternoon over a post-work veggie melt (him) and greek pasta salad (me), I sat down with Daorcey to discuss his new job in the Mayor’s Office.

Q: What professional path did you take to get to the Mayor’s Office?

A: I earned a Bachelor of Communication degree from the University of Calgary. After completing several co-op work terms, my first permanent full-time job was at Communication Incorporated, where I had the opportunity to learn from three excellent communicators in Larry Clausen, Jock Osler, and Kelly Charlebois.

Q: How did you get hired on at the Mayor’s Office?

A: My wife and I had volunteered on the Nenshi campaign, but we did not know “the candidate” personally. So when I found out I was being considered for the Communications Advisor position, it was quite a surprise. As the story goes, Chief of Staff Chima Nkemdirim was asking an acquaintance for recommendations on who might fill this spot, and my name came up… and then again, from other people associated with the Nenshi campaign and elsewhere. Chima eventually sent me a Facebook message inviting me to “throw my hat in the ring”, and, after a couple of interviews, I was offered the position. It wasn’t until after I was hired that I actually had a chance to sit down with Mayor Nenshi. Fortunately, we get along and work really well together.

Q: What made you want to work for Mayor Nenshi?

A: I, like many people, voted for Mayor Nenshi because he is a thoughtful individual that is driven to make Calgary a better place to live and work. He is quite possibly one of the most interesting politicians in a generation, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with him.

Q: What is your function in the Mayor’s Office?

A: My role at the Mayor’s Office has five parts. Every day is some sort of combination of these five elements:

  • Overall communication strategy and planning
  • Media relations–I am responsible for both proactive and reactive media relations
  • Messaging and speechwriting
  • Online engagement, including the planning and implementation of all online activities (i.e., the mayor’s website, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube).
  • “Staffing” the Mayor at events (this function is shared with my colleagues in the Mayor’s Office)

 Q: What’s an “average” day like?

A: I like to start my day reading the news clippings at breakfast, but the rest of the day is significantly less predictable and spent doing various tasks in the five categories I just mentioned. I think that my PR agency experience prepared me well for working in the Mayor’s Office. Both can be unpredictable, 24/7 gigs that can also be very satisfying for the right person.

Q: How many people are in the communications team at the Mayor’s Office?

A: Originally, just me, but now there are two people in the Mayor’s Office with “communications” in their title: myself and a Communications Assistant. She is responsible for much of the correspondence that comes from the Mayor’s Office; and, in our case, “correspondence” also includes responding to citizens through a variety of media from letters to emails to Facebook comments. Since Mayor Nenshi is such a natural communicator, he could be considered the lead of the “communications team”. As many people know, he controls his own Twitter feed, continues to write his own columns in the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald, and he writes a number of the blog posts. It’s a real honour to be able to work with him in an advisory capacity.

  1. I’m a Nenshi fan so I respect and ‘get’ your take on the guy. I’m fond of his “story” that he is a product of Calgary’s public services, especially the library but also swimming pools and public schools. Refreshing. Lots of people in high places talk about their school ties.

    But there’s one thing, I’m beginning to think that we should quietly just drop that tunnel (underpass) thing. I’ve driven around now on the alternate roads and feel that once the road upgrading work is done, it’s going to be okay. What happens in human nature is that people squawk like crazy when there’s change, but then they just adapt and after, it’s okay. I’m old enough to remember McCall Field.

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