by Becky Benoit
From a public relations standpoint, Fort McMurray’s prevailing image presents a real challenge. Whether you’re working for an oilsands giant or a smaller community-based organization, it’s an uphill battle to change the popular view of Fort McMurray as a wild and woolly frontier town, rife with social problems.
Renee Summers is one of the players leading the charge against that common misconception. Summers, who leads the marketing team at Keyano College, has been instrumental in getting the word out about the real Fort McMurray as a place people can be proud to call home.
Summers recently presented at a National Council for Marketing and Public Relations conference in 2012, and was a key member of the team responsible for the Community Image Summit 2.0 in February of this year. Ahighly-respected communications professional, Summers also gives back to her community, sitting as a volunteer member of the organizing committee for TEDx Fort McMurray and leading a marketing and communications group for the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games.
Summers shares her view of the “real” Fort McMurray. “I think everyone who lives in Fort McMurray is confronted with the city’s image. There are a lot of misconceptions out there and there is also a tendency to focus on the negative,” she says. “I think the biggest challenge is to get everyone here to understand the importance of being champions for Fort McMurray and focus on the good stuff, because there are a lot of good things to talk about.” “The ‘real’ Fort McMurray is the land of opportunity,” she adds. “It’s a young family community that is experiencing unbelievable growth.”
With her busy professional and volunteer schedule, Summers works hard to maintain a good home-work balance. Her number one priority is as a mom to her five-year old daughter, she says. “Being a mom is always job number one, but I also think it’s important to set an example for my daughter to see her mom as a strong person with her own success. It will give her something to strive for to be successful in her own life,” Summers explains. “One that that I do that is really important is to set aside time just for her and I. I won’t look at my BlackBerry – it’s mommy time.”
“I have also become good at saying ‘no’ to things,” she continues. “Sometimes women think we have to be supermom all the time and juggle everything. It’s ok to say no. You don’t have to do everything for work and for your children. It doesn’t mean you’re not good at your job, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.”
For Summers, Fort McMurray truly has become the land of opportunity she works so hard to champion. “We are on a world stage here. The oilsands is world-class which means people all over the world are watching us,” she says.
“We work hard, we play hard, we have a lot of people investing in our community and there are big plans for growth. What a great place to be!”