Meditating so that writing becomes fun and not work

Amazingly, I have stuck to two of my New Year’s resolutions: meditating and writing.

Each day, I have been spending two hours (at least) focused exclusively on editing JPC or working on my book project.

I have found that the time I spend writing and editing has become an inspirational and meditative time that I look forward and crave, because instead of stressing about not having written, instead, I think of writing as a relief from the stress of everyday life. This has made all the difference, taking writing from being work and transforming it into something exciting and relaxing to look forward to.

I got here by meditating in the morning, a little at lunch and in the evening. Each time for about 5-10 minutes. During that time, I try my best to calm my mind and then focus my thoughts (or blank them).

This has led to each meditation session being a source of inspiration for my writing or editing.

I will check in again soon with an update if this still continues to work.


Just published: New issue of the Journal of Professional Communication!

The new issue of the Journal of Professional Communication (volume 3, issue 1) is published. You can read it here.

It is almost had dot believe that we have now been publishing for three years. During that time, we have  showcased Canadian professional communication research in both official languages. We have also had research reported from the United States.

Canada has never had a peer-reviewed publication that documents and features the state of the various professions of professional communication in Canada. We are proud to provide that venue in the Journal of Professional Communication.

Here is the table of contents for the current issue (all links lead to PDF file of article):




Research Articles

Practical Paper

Book Reviews

Editorial Advisory Board


Stay tuned for the next issues, full of research, opinion, interviews, academic research and practical papers that will help all of us better understand the practice of the various disciplines of professional communication!

In fact, be sure to look out for our upcoming special issue on Art/Science Hybrids, to appear on March 1, 2014, edited by guest editors, Steve Gibson (Northumbria University, United Kingdom) and Stéfan Müller Arisona (ETH-Zürich Future Cities Lab, Singapore). We are in the midst of editing the final manuscripts for the issue – it’s going to be great!

Finally, be sure to contact me if you are considering submitting a manuscript to JPC. I would love to hear from you and provide any guidance that I can!

LAUNCHED TODAY: The Journal of Professional Communication (JPC)

The long wait is over. I am pleased to announce the launch of the Journal of Professional Communication (JPC) – the first international journal of its kind.

After announcing the birth of JPC at the Canadian Public Relations Leadership Summit 2010 at the Old Mill in Toronto, we have spent over a year developing the journal. From choosing our hosting software, to soliciting papers and arranging for peer reviewers, to selecting fonts and graphics for the page layout, our JPC team has been working very hard to deliver the best inaugural issue possible.

Working with my friend and colleague, Dr. Terry Flynn, Senior Associate Editor, has been both stimulating and fun. Terry’s vision, optimism and personal drive to succeed are daily motivators to everyone around him. Working with Shelagh Hartford, our tireless assistant editor, has been an absolute pleasure. Shelagh’s keen eye for elegance in layout, grammar, style and APA formatting has made this first issue attractive, accurate and readable. Both Terry and Shelagh have been wonderful collaborators and patient fellow pathfinders for a novice Editor-in-Chief.

We have done our best and we humbly offer it up to the community of public relations and public affairs practitioners, journalists, artists, media/audience/opinion measurement professionals, policy makers and academics who, together, make up the exciting and emerging interdisciplinary field of professional communication. We also welcome any constructive criticism and feedback: we want JPC to be as inclusive and representative as possible.

Finally, we invite you to submit. It is your journal, after all.

Terry Flynn, Shelagh Hartford and Alex Sévigny Photo:@DocSavagePhd

JPC 1:1 | Inaugural Issue |  Table of Contents


  • Alex Sévigny & Terence (Terry) Flynn – A reflection on the evolution of the field of professional communication

Opinion Pages

  • Joey Coleman – Open Data: “There’s an app for that.”
  • David Estok – Paywalls
  • Nik Nanos – Polling in the 2011 Canadian federal election
  • Rikia Saddy – Social media revolutions
  • Dave Scholz – The several premature autopsies of AVE


  • James & Larissa Grunig – Public relations excellence 2010

 Research Articles

  • Jeremy Berry – U.S.-Canada study of PR writing by entry-level practitioners reveals significant supervisor dissatisfaction
  • Denise Brunsdon – The gendered engagement of Canada’s national affairs and legislative elite, online
  • Émile Foster – L’utilisation du marketing politique par les groups d’intérêt: Proposition d’un modèle théorique
  • Andrew Laing – The H1N1 crisis: Roles played by government communicators, the public and the media
  • Philip Savage & Sarah Marinelli – “Sticking to their knitting?” A content analysis of gender in Canadian newspaper op-eds
  • Heather Pullen – Eastern Health: A case study on the need for public trust in health care communications

 Book Reviews

  • Alan Chumley – Not your father’s ruler
  • Rebecca Edgar – Old ideas redux
  • Laurence Mussio – Depth Perceptions
  • Lars Wessman – An old quarrel, revisited
  • Lauren Yaksich – A global brand?

 Policy Document

  • Canadian Public Relations Society – Pathways to the profession: An outcomes based approach towards excellence in Canadian public relations and communications management educations








Inaugural issue of JPC going live very soon!

I am just putting the final edits and final page layout tweaks for the inaugural issue of the Journal of Professional Communication. We have excellent content and many lively debates represented. We also have a serious policy white paper, Pathways to the Profession, which details educations pathways as outlined by the Canadian Public Relations Society. An excellent document that begins to create a system of recognition for academic programs.

Starting a journal is quite an endeavour, but definitely a pleasure. Every experience that opens new horizons of possibility for discussion is. What a satisfying and motivating idea: that our volunteer labour and the work of our paid assistants will produce an arena for debate and discussion among professional communication practitioners, academics, journalists, creatives and policy makers.

Our editorial team has been very fortunate to have the unwavering support of Dean Suzanne Crosta at McMaster University. As well, the authors have been patient as we discovered the various bumps in the road to producing a quality, fully peer-reviewed academic journal.

What a wonderful journey it has been from conception to creation to publication.

You can see the table of contents of the inaugural issue here.

JPC 1 will be going live very soon. I know the authors are excited and so am I.


Big Progress Update on Journal of Professional Communication (JPC)!

Today is a day with some exciting news for the Journal of Professional Communication. We now have a good collection of manuscripts submitted for consideration, and we are sending them out for anonymous double-blind peer review.

A particularly exciting news item is that our Editorial Board is now complete. It is a large board, but an inclusive one. We have a good blend of senior, mid-career and junior practitioners, academics and graduate students. They are all people who privilege evidence, research and measurement in their practice. Evidence, research and measurement, are, I believe, central to the advancement and development of professional communication as both and a field of academic inquiry and industry practice. JPC will promote this perspective. The board is also quite diverse, with representatives from across Canada, the USA, the UK and Portugal. We have an almost equal percentage of women and men on the board.

We’ve also been making progress on the administrative side of the JPC, getting all of the logistical elements in place and making sure that we lay a solid legal and institutional foundation to ensure longevity and sustainability. This is now done.

Our next steps is to secure donors for JPC. These are organizations and individuals who support us with a financial gift and, in turn, receive a receipt for donation to McMaster University. Donations will be very important for the sustained success of JPC as a repository of strictly peer-reviewed knowledge for the field of professional communications in Canada.

All in all, a very good day for JPC. We’re almost ready for launch in June!


My Business Cards

I am going to put a blog logo on my business cards. Here’s what my cards look like now on the front…

AlexSevigny Business Card Front

… and on the back …

An image of my business card.

Here is the blog logo that I am going to put in to the next version of the business cards:

So that’s what my new cards will look like. A little busy, but there is so much contact info to share these days.

CSMM at McMaster has a new “Professional and Organizational Communication” stream and three new PR courses!

For those of you interested in what we’re up to in the communication studies program, at McMaster, a little update.

We used to have three areas of concentration that students could specialise in: (i) Mass Media; (ii) Performance Studies; (iii) Language and Social Life.

We have decided to do away with the linguistics component of the third stream and replace it with a new area of concentration: (iii) Professional and Organizational Communication.

Professional and Organizational Communication will start having new courses, including these three that we are rolling out for the 2011-2012 academic year.

This is all very exciting. It is our way of getting more in tune with the professional practice of communications – something that our students are demanding.

Here are the three new course descriptions:

Introduction to Public Relations in Canada
An introduction to fundamental skills, knowledge, theory and problem-solving techniques currently used in the practice of public relations in Canada, using the case study method.

Building Publics Using Social Media
Survey of social media tools available to communications practitioners. Concept of “building a public” is examined from an interdisciplinary perspective. Emphasis is placed on the techniques of rhetoric and persuasion.

Communications for Campaigns and Elections
Examination of tools, tactics and strategies employed by communications practitioners, strategists and managers during campaigns and elections. Effective use and construction of influence is analysed using case studies and theory.

How I became an academic: from tenure until the present

During the last month, I have been recounting the story of how I became an academic. In this, the final blog entry in this series, I discuss what it was like settling into the reality of becoming a middle-career academic and learning to savour life a little.

During the last two years before tenure, I decided that it was important to move beyond the work I was doing in the communication studies program and see how I could be of use in other departments. At McMaster we have a system where you can become an honourary member of another department: it is called “associate membership.” I quickly became an associate member in two departments: psychology (which has been renamed “psychology, neuroscience and Behaviour”) and modern languages and linguistics (which has been renamed “linguistics and languages”).

In 2006-7, Dr Bob McNutt – one of the most experienced university administrators in Canada and a truly decent human being – took over the Dept of Modern Languages and Linguistics and he asked me if I could co-chair (with Dr Magda Stroinska) an ad hoc decanal committee to recommend changes to the existing curriculum or come up with a new one that was more modern. My background training was in French linguistics and I had a pretty good sense of where the field was going. The department had experienced a few issues – in fact the Dean of Humanities at the time, Dr  Nasrin Rahimieh, actually had to step in and name herself acting chair of the department before Dr McNutt stepped up to be acting chair for a couple of years. During those three years, Dr we undertook a consensus-building process to set up a new cognitive science orientation for the department – which was adopted – and has given fruit to much success in the hands of those to whom I handed it off, after it had been approved.

Dr Rahimieh is another person of whom I think highly. She is a profoundly humanistic person who also has an iron will. Over the three years that she spent as our Dean of Humanities, after Dr Daniel Woolf left, she and I collaborated on several academic endeavours and she became a mentor and friend to me. I respected her drive and her vision. Dr Rahimieh asked if I would co-chair (with Dr Magda Stroinska) a committee to construct a new undergraduate linguistics program which would be supported by the Dept of Psychology. My partner in this project from psychology was Dr Karin Humphreys, who, with her husband, Dr Scott Watter, was to become one of my dearest friends at McMaster. With equal representation from both psychology and linguistics, the committee was a great success: within eight meetings we had a new Bachelor of Arts designed, in Linguistic Cognitive Science. I chaired all the meetings and made a huge effort to make sure each and every person on the committee had input and I made certain that we established a consensus around every aspect of the new program. It was a fun process – one that everyone told me they enjoyed and felt energized by. I personally made coffee and brought cookies for each meeting.

After we had a description and a curriculum ready, I brought the program forward (with the strong support of Dr McNutt) to every university committee: the departmental committee, the faculty of humanities general assembly, the faculty of humanities undergraduate curriculum committee, McMaster undergraduate council, the university planning committee and finally the university senate. It was approved at every stage! But what an enormous amount of work, and thought and consultation and planning. It ate up a goodly part of my year – and I wasn’t even a member of that department! It was, however, worth it – at the end of the process, McMaster had one of the most up-to-date and innovative linguistics programs in Canada. And I felt as though I had given something back to the discipline that had been my foundation.

A very innovative feature that we built into the program was an area of concentration that was basically “pre-speech and language pathology.” This stream was designed to prepare students for entry into professional degrees in SLP. It was a necessity because speech and language pathology is an interdisciplinary field that spans health science, science, humanities and social science, and it can be very tricky for students to assemble all of the pre-requisites given the differing requirements and enrollment limits across different faculties at the university. Karin and I built this part of the curriculum after umpteen meetings with various speech and language pathology practitioner associations. I was so very impressed with the community of speech and language pathologists: they managed to combine being scientists with a profound humanism and respect for those among us who face challenges communicating; whether those challenges be congenital or were acquired because of brain injury. Years later, I am still thrilled when I bump into the worthy people from those associations. They were so very excited by the idea of a program specifically designed to prepare students for entry into professional SLP programs. The community of practitioners was also enthused by the thought of having an outlet for research collaborations outside of the clinic, the school board and the hospital. It was win-win all around. I recall those meetings with pleasure and a little nostalgia. What a dynamic group.

Another large part of building the linguistic cognitive science program was recruiting associate members from across the university who were interested in linguistics, cognitive science or both. This was an absolute delight for me: I visited with, and pitched the program to a very diverse set of colleagues from computing and software, philosophy, psychology, health sciences, gerontology, multimedia, English, French, psychiatry and neuroscience. It was an enriching experience for me. I ended up recruiting 11 associate members for the department, most of whom would form the faculty that would back the proposal for a new M.Sc./PhD in the Cognitive Science of Language which we would develop the next year.

Once the undergraduate program in linguistic cognitive science (it has since been renamed “BA in the cognitive science of language” to align with the new grad program) was rolling, it became very successful. In fact, it began to eclipse the mainstream program in linguistics. In the year following that success, Karin and I proposed to use the successful platform provided by the undergraduate program in linguistic cognitive science to build an innovative graduate Master of Science and PhD program in the Cognitive Science of Language. I actually postponed my sabbatical for one year to bring this new program from dream to approval within McMaster.

Building the grad program proposal was the same exhausting process that we experienced in developing the linguistic cognitive science undergraduate program: umpteen meetings and the writing of an exhaustive proposal, which would be presented to the many committees at every level of administration at McMaster. It was approved at every step of the way.  I have to say that I am very proud of this achievement. It taught me an awful lot about how the university works, as well as how inter-faculty politics can be tricky and sometimes even bitter. In fact I learned how true the maxim is: “Conflict is born of perceived scarcity.” The lack of resources we have been experiencing at the university makes people nervous and tentative about the thought of introducing new ideas. But academics love progress, and when we made a serious business case and passionate intellectual case about how important this new program could be, we succeeded in achieving those approvals.

The final piece of the puzzle in the revamping and renewal of linguistics was the hiring of a new chair for the department. We were very fortunate to recruit Dr John Connolly and his wife Dr Elisabeth Service – they are both superb scholars and have taken the program forward since their arrival at McMaster in 2008-9, the year I finally went on sabbatical. I am proud to say that I was part of the recruitment of Drs Connolly and Service – they even spent a significant amount of time as my house guests, which was a real pleasure. Dr Connolly and I share a love for NFL football – it was great to discover an affinity. Dr Connolly took the proposal that we got approved at the university level, improved and refined it, and then carried it across the finish line by securing its approval by the Ontario Council of Graduate studies (OCGS). Since then, he has taken total ownership of it and really devoted himself to turning it into a success. Hats off to him – he’s done a great job! It feels good to see something into which I put so much effort, passion and sweat-capital not only be successful, but also thrive and grow. I wish Dr Connolly all the success in the world as drives the program forward.

It was a big sacrifice for a junior professor to put so much time into saving a program that I was not officially affiliated to. I didn’t even have tenure, so I exposed myself to great career risk to build the new linguistics programs. But, I am very proud of all the hundreds of hours that I put into co-developing the linguistic cognitive science BA and the cognitive science of language MSc/PhD programs, as well as working tirelessly to secure university approval for them. It felt good to give back to the discipline that I had studied for so many years. For me, it was a sort of swansong, as I already had plans to to leave linguistics behind after the programs were secure, and throw myself more and more deeply into the fields of political communication and professional communication – which were quickly becoming my greatest passions.

During three of those years, before my sabbatical, I also served on the McMaster’s University Planning Committee and the University Budget Committee – two blue ribbon committees that really give you a voice in shaping the future structure, finances and culture of the university. I owe that one to Dr Rahimieh, and did I ever learn a lot. I stood for a university-wide election and won in a pool of candidates many of whom I felt were far more experienced and worthy than me! Wow. But I thank my colleagues in my faculty and across the university for their faith in me. My time on those committees was a true education: I learned how budgeting works and I got to watch every dean, vice-president and staff director come before those committees to justify their plans for their units’ futures and budgets for the upcoming year. On those committee, we approved policy for the entire institution and also wrote the budget that the  university would have to work within. It was both exciting and enlightening.

After  the two new linguistics programs were approved and passed to the capable hands of Dr John Connolly, I decided it was high time that I took my sabbatical. During my sabbatical, I took some time to do some fieldwork by doing a pile of political communication volunteering. I had done a little by helping Ms Judy Marsales in communications during her campaign to become elected in 2003, and in 2005 I had joined Gerard Kennedy’s leadership campaign in its very last stages, upon the instigation and invitation of Jessica Martin who now works as a transit reporter for CP/24 in Toronto. She is a McMaster alumna whom I never taught, but whom I met at her graduation. We quickly became fast friends, through working on Gerard’s leadership campaign and going to the Montréal Liberal leadership convention. She remains one of my favourite people to this day! The little I experienced of Gerard’s leadership campaign made me respect him enormously as a politician and also as a very decent human being. I made a personal commitment to help him get elected, should he ever run for federal office.

In 2008, the occasion presented itself, and I served as communications co-chair of his campaign to become elected in Parkdale-High Park in Toronto. It was an exhilarating 39 long days and often sleepless nights. Jessica and I worked day and night together: designing literature, placing ads and arranging media appearances. What a rush. On October 14th, at our victory party, we found out that Gerard had won. I have to say that making that announcement in front of everyone gathered and the media was one of my best life experiences yet. After that, Gerard invited me to come and help set up his office in Ottawa and serve as his senior advisor. I agreed to do this with pleasure, and while the adjustment to life on Parliament Hill was a little jarring from the cozy varsity life I had enjoyed at McMaster, we accomplished a lot while he was Industry Critic and I think that it was one of the most important experiences of my life. I thank Gerard personally and profusely for it. I can say that my respect for his ethical, caring and evidence-based approach to being a politician grew steadily.

I was on Parliament Hill for the coalition and prorogation scandals – what an experience that was! And I left with the end of that session of the 39th Parliament. I learned an awful lot while practicing political communications during my sabbatical – it was a dose of reality and a return to the world of professional communications practice, a world that I had been away from since my summer jobs as an undergrad and grad student. Above all, I gained a fresh perspective on the state of the art in my field and brought that knowledge back to the classroom and the lab with enthusiasm and pleasure. As well, I returned to McMaster with a clear sense of the direction I wanted my research to take: political communications, media content measurement and analysis, and public relations.

As soon as I came back, I started simplifying my life. One of the first people I spoke with was our new Dean of Humanities, Dr Suzanne Crosta. What an absolutely amazing person. Dr Crosta is a dynamo of activity and energy. She is also a model of fair-play, caring and mentorship. Dr Crosta sat me down and asked me directly where I wanted to go with my career, now that I had had a year’s sabbatical to reflect. We talked for over an hour and I can honestly say that that hour was one of the more reassuring and life-changing I have ever lived. She validated my plans for the future and said that she would endeavour to help support me to realise them, as she does for all of the professors who work in her Faculty of Humanities. I am extremely grateful to her for this.

I had felt that I had drifted away from linguistics and so I didn’t ask to renew my associate membership in the new department of linguistics and languages (as it had been renamed). I also asked that my joint appointment with the department of French be transformed into a single appointment in the department of communication studies and multimedia. I started the COMM-Lab: McMaster Communication Metrics Laboratory with Dr. Philip Savage (I am executive director and he is managing director).

I also started developed a solid teaching and research collaboration with another colleague who has become one of the people whom I respect most, and whom I consider to be a true friend: Dr Terry Flynn of the DeGroote School of Business. Terry and I have started the Journal of Professional Communication, the first Canada-based journal for both communications and multimedia academics and practitioners: very, very exciting. He also invited me to teach communication theory in the Master of Communication Management program – an opportunity that has enriched my life enormously and put me in contact with the executive education students from the world of professional communication, many of whom are some of the most fascinating, alive and aware people I have ever met. It’s a true pleasure to teach in the MCM program. An honour, actually.

Since then, I have been focused on two things: writing books and being the absolute best teacher and mentor that can be to for our students. As I have said several times, they are the center of my life and the highlight of my days. I look forward to seeing them every Autumn and I wake up excited to see them and to speak with them every morning. In terms of research, I see some books in my future: textbooks, a scholarly monograph and a book describing my approach to public relations practice. I am excited and energised by the potential of these projects.

In closing, I have to say that – several years post-tenure – I am still as much of a workaholic as I ever was. I love progress. I love building things. I love, love helping people realise their potential by opening doors for them. Especially doors that were closing.

As I progress into my mid-thirties and feel a little more settled as a man, I am very open to what adventures may lie before me:

  • I would love to meet a beautiful, vibrant, generous woman who will share the joys and simple pleasures of my life, and maybe even have a child or two.
  • I would love to build a PhD program in the dept of communication studies and multimedia.
  • I would love to  deepen the department’s links with the world of professional communication practice.
  • In fact, I would like to get more involved in professional communication practice and public speaking on the topic.
  • I guess I would eventually like to seek promotion to full professor.
  • I might even buy a sports car along the way.

In the meantime, I will continue to savour every day, pay attention to those around me, and generally try to grow into a better teacher, a better researcher, a better communications strategist, and, above all, a better person.

New editorial and research assistant: Natalie St. Clair.

I am very pleased to welcome Ms. Natalie St. Clair to COMM-Lab, where she will work with me as Editorial and Research Assistant this year.

Natalie’s primary role will be to serve as Assistant Editor of the Journal of Professional Communication. Her responsibilities in this role will include assisting me, the Editor-in-Chief, with subscription management, bookkeeping, promotions, copy editing, layout and any other aspects of the journal’s day-to-day life as we prepare our first issue for January 2011. Her secondary role, will be to work with me as Research Assistant, helping me to complete my writing, research and creative projects.

Natalie is a dynamic, creative and diligent Level II student in the Dept of Communication Studies & Multimedia. She came to McMaster on a very prestigious Queen Elisabeth II scholarship, which she has maintained into second year.

Natalie will be a great addition to the COMM-Lab team. I look forward to working with her this year.

Thoughts on CPRS Regina 2010

I just pulled into my driveway after spending four whirlwind days at the Canadian Public Relations Society Annual Meeting 2010 in Regina. As I drove home from Pearson, I gathered my thoughts and began processing what the last few days meant for me.

I was very impressed with the quality and diversity of the keynote presentations. Peter Mansbridge did a great job storytelling and entertaining the crowd on the first day. The other highlight for me was John Iwata from IBM who told us about how IBM’s new PR strategy revolves around building constituency. Sheila Bird then told us about the challenges of being Director of Public Affairs for the RCMP.

The workshops were also excellent – I felt that I left with a snapshot of what is happening in the practice of PR across Canada. Tudor Williams spoke of media measurement in a social media world, Kelly Garrett spoke of how to take control of and build up your personal brand. McMaster’s own Heather Pullen and Sean Kelly from Newfoundland explained how the breast cancer testing crisis in Newfoundland was a perfect example of how the profession needs to develop itself to survive crises and learn from them.

The awards gala was a good evening. I was seated at a great table, with high-level representatives from Argyle Communications, Environics and National Public Relations. We had a very stimulating, pleasant discussion. Environics, Argyle and Avocados from Mexico did amazingly well. You can see the ad celebrating all the winners in today’s (Wed. June 16, 2010), Report on Business in the Globe and Mail.

After the gala, I went to the President’s Hospitality Suite and we stayed up chatting and singing songs (someone brought a guitar) until about 3am!

CPRS left me with a very positive impression of the practice of public relations in Canada. I met many people who care very deeply about the work they do, how its done and where it is going in the future. I learned a lot and made several new friends.

We also launched the Call for Papers for the new Journal of Professional Communication (JPC). It was well received. In fact, we already have several pending submissions. Terry Flynn and I really hope to have JPC become a repository of knowledge, case studies and critical scholarship about public relations practice in Canada.

Continue reading “Thoughts on CPRS Regina 2010”