Degree: Corporate Communications
Year of graduation: 2008
In The Loop
Lauren Tedesco shares her experience with politics and public relations from behind the podium at Sheridan
A key aspect of public relations is the art of making other people look good from behind the scenes — a skill that Lauren Tedesco has wielded with aplomb in her decade in the industry.
From the corridors of power in the political world, to translating the complex legal landscape of the Law Society of Ontario, Tedesco has seen many of the machinations that make society function. Now, she shares the lessons she’s learned with her students as a part-time professor in the Sheridan Public Relations and Corporate Communications department from which she graduated.
Originally hailing from Etobicoke, Tedesco came to Sheridan via a history and political science bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto.
“I felt a bit lost after university, as I didn’t want to be a historian,” she remembers. “The Sheridan program spoke to me because of the hands-on skills and range of courses.”
She says the program taught her to find learning opportunities in her mistakes and how to roll with the punches in any situation.
These lessons came in handy during an internship with public relations company, Weber Shandwick which gave her the freedom to interact with media – and learn to recover from her errors. “I asked a radio station if they wanted visual B-roll,” she laughs. “It was so nice to be in a space that allowed the opportunity to make mistakes and recover from them.”
“I love teaching and being in this space. It’s not just a job — it’s a core part of me and my identity.”
Upon graduation in 2008, Tedesco continued to work in public relations as an account co-ordinator for PR firm Porter Novelli, where she spent three years before moving on to a similar role at Environics Communications. At these jobs, she learned foundational tasks that she credits with making her resourceful and successful: media relations (building media lists, researching media, pitching media but with a personal approach to building a relationship), writing and editing (the art of appealing to the right audience and speaking on their level to pique their interest through all the noise) and strategic planning (being able to see the forest for the trees.
“PR agencies are like boot camps for learning, and the job description does not reflect the role. They were phenomenal experiences, but there wasn’t as much space to grow and I’m not the sort of person to sit and wait around for an opportunity to happen,” says Tedesco.
Politics was a sphere that Tedesco had always had an eye on, and she became an advisor in the Economic Development and Trade (now the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth) in 2010. She then moved to a press secretary position for the Sandra Pupatello Leadership Campaign in 2012, when the politician announced her candidacy for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.
“I loved being so close to the centre of decision making, working for ministers who spend the time to run and win campaigns,” she says. “You basically give blood, sweat and tears, and carry the risk that you don’t get re-elected. Suddenly, you're in the space where you have a specific mandate of changing lives.”
Tedesco continued moving through the ranks at the Ontario Ministry of Education as senior strategic advisor and then director of communications from 2013 to 2016 — a tumultuous time when the new sex education curriculum was being rolled out. “It was a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and the key was considering the best way to get the message out and create education for the public and the students,” she says.
During a year as director of communications to the President of the Treasury Board (Ontario) in 2016, Tedesco reached out to Nathan Mallett, co-ordinator of Sheridan’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications Program, to explore giving back to the school that had taught her so much. “I wanted to be a part of that space to teach a new generation of students to build their relationships and network,” she says. Teaching in the post graduate program was a new challenge for Tedesco, who speaks candidly about her imposter syndrome the first year of teaching students around her own age.
“My first course, I knew the material, but when I showed up, I was hesitant to engage with people that were almost immediate colleagues,” she says. “But after the first couple of months, the students started coming to me and wanting to know about my industry experience and there was a real change in my comfort level.”
Now, much like her own instructors taught her at Sheridan 10 years ago, Tedesco shares her experiences, mistakes and all, to students so that they can learn to trust their own instincts. “Now that I’m three years in, I have so much more confidence,” she says. “I love teaching and being in this space. It’s not just a job — it’s a core part of me and my identity.”