—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—
As someone who wanted to be a conduit for change through words, it’s no wonder the communications industry appealed to Analisa Allen, a public relations consultant with 16 years experience in the industry.
“There is power in communication and that responsibility and honour intrigued me,” she says. “Growing up, I was always fascinated by the idea of giving messages, and creatively sharing with family and friends through storytelling. As I started researching careers, I recognized that I could take my fascination and make it my career.”
Soon after leaving grad school, Allen landed a fairly senior PR role in Jamaica, but knew extra effort would be needed to find work when she moved to Canada. “I took steps to update my academics with Canadian-based qualifications, and within three months of completing my postgraduate certification, I landed a job.”
When it comes to BIPOC mentors and role models, Allen takes a position of admiration. “I wouldn’t describe them as mentors or role models (as those labels put pressure on relationships) but individuals whose work, work ethic and dedication I admire.
“From a purely communications and PR perspective,” she names Jenny Shin, president and CEO of Milestones Public Relations, and Tosin Akinwekomi, senior director business effectiveness, CIBC. Though not a communicator by profession, Akinwekomi’s insights and thought-leadership are guiding lights for Allen.
Though Allen is also a role model herself. “I had the opportunity to not only do good work but also to make a difference in people’s lives through communication and engagement when I envisioned and implemented a mobile project to take the services of my former organization—Students’ Loan Bureau, Jamaica—to students in the rural areas of Jamaica,” she says.
The organization provides tuition loans to students who can’t afford the high cost of university and college on their own. Although it provides support to students across the island, it had only one office, in Kingston, Jamaica. “Which was challenging for individuals in rural areas to travel to,” explains Allen.
“SLB on the Road” was intended to take the services of SLB to them. “Over the seven-year period that I facilitated and managed this program, the organization saw tremendous growth and uptick in use,” she says. “With each iteration of the ‘SLB on the Road’ campaign, seeing the numbers increase and hearing the appreciative tones from participants gave me a sense of accomplishment. To contribute to not just your immediate circle or community, but to the wider society, is a blessing.”
Continuing to do the work and be the change she wants to see in the industry, Allen ensures she brings her true self and authentic thoughts to the table and discussions. “I speak my truth and I ask questions more,” she says. “Ensuring that I use the inclusive eye when planning, writing or engaging in discussions that affect what and how we communicate. My focus is on joining groups and teams where the intentions are to work on diversity and inclusion. I am surrounding myself with the change I would like to become and be an active part of.”
As communicators, Allen sees language as one starting point to making the industry more inclusive. “The language that we use should take into account the elimination of words, phrases and concepts that are antiquated and really hurt individuals and/or communities.”
Her advice to young Black talent looking to get into advertising: “Go after your dreams, learn from your predecessors, and forge meaningful relationships with leaders who have walked a mile on the path you would like to walk. Do not forget to take a chance while investing in yourself.”
Allen’s personal motto? “Communicate with head and heart,” she says. “One cannot survive without the other as we/humans are empty when one or the other is absent.”
This POCAM BHM 2023 profile was written by Natalie Bomberry, VP of operations at Pilot PMR and member of the Indigenous Professional Association of Canada. She also serves on the steering committee of POCAM.