Derrick Pieters, APR, FCPRS, LM
Pieters began his career in news media and communications in 1964 in what was then British Guyana, South America when he joined the Guyana Graphic, a member of the Thomson Group of newspapers, as a sub-editor and feature writer. During this time he was also a part-time broadcaster with the Guyana Ministry of Information, voicing government programs. The following year, he moved to the Ministry of Information as a Regional Information Officer for the next two years.
His next move took him to private sector broadcasting in Guyana with Radio Demerara and GBS (Guyana Broadcasting Service) of the Rediffusion Group of Great Britain where he remained for the next five years as an announcer, newscaster, and current affairs editor. At that time, the Guyana government invited him back to take charge of Public Relations, Publications, and Advertising in the Ministry of Cooperatives and Community Development.
With the centralization of publicity and information services a year later, he was invited to return to the Ministry of Information to head the broadcasting desk as head of government broadcasting. His duties also included serving as a Press Liaison Officer to the delegations of visiting heads of state including the Prime Ministers of Canada, Sri Lanka; the Presidents of Mexico, Liberia, Tanzania and Zambia; and the Head of the Military Government of Nigeria. The Guyana government invited him to be Chief Press Liaison Officer to the 1975 Commonwealth Finance Ministers Conference in that country, but he declined due to his decision to relocate to Edmonton.
In Canada, Pieters was a part-time documentary producer with CFRN Radio in Edmonton, and a consultant with Williams and Wilson Public Relations Consulting where clients included the Federal Department of Indian Affairs. He also was manager of Media and Communications for the Workers Compensation Board of Alberta, Regional Manager of Communications with the Capital Health Authority of Alberta, a Communications Advisor with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, and is currently Director of Communications, Department of Justice Canada, Prairie Region, based in Edmonton, Alberta, a position he has held since January 2005.
According to Pieters, he is not ready to retire, nor does he envision a retirement filled with leisurely travel (he’s doing that now before he retires), or other benchmarks. In his own words, “I do not have a bucket list, because I am too afraid of making a mistake and kicking that bucket”.
A member of the CPRS since 1976, Pieters received his APR in 1982. His work example that he submitted for his CPRS accreditation was selected for publication in 1983 by P.R. Casebook which wrote to inform him that “…your media relations program was the finest work in this area that we have ever seen.”
He has held several positions of increasing responsibility within the CPRS. He was elected to the National Board of Directors in 2005 and served two three-year terms. During his time on the Board he served two terms as National President from 2007 to 2009. He was most recently the Presiding Officer and Chair of the CPRS College of Fellows 2012 – 2015, and Co-chair of the sub-committee on Accreditation for Educators. He continues to be a member of the Education Council.
Pieters is also a former President of CPRS Edmonton 1983/84 in which capacity he served as an appointed National Board Member. He is the former vice-president of the CPRS National Education Committee, a Past Presiding Officer of the CPRS National Council on Accreditation on which he served for approximately 15 years, a former President of the North American Public Relations Council (2001-2004), and a former CPRS representative to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) 2003 - 2005.
In the classroom, he has been a guest lecturer at the University of Alberta, Grant MacEwan College and Mount Royal College. (Grant MacEwan and Mount Royal have since become universities).
Pieters served as a member of the City of Edmonton Landlord and Tenant Advisory Board from 1981 to 1987, the last two years of which he served as Chair of the Board.
He was President of the Association of Landlord and Tenant Advisory Boards of Alberta from 1985 to 1987 and was made a life member of that Association.
He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Family Literacy Society of Alberta for which he received a commendation from the Federal Minister of Justice.
Awards and Benchmarks
- 2000, Alberta Premier's Award of Excellence for his contribution to Capital Health’s Y2K communications project
- 2002 Inducted into the CPRS College of Fellows
- 2008, he received a Team Achievement Award from the Deputy Minister of Justice Canada
- 2008, CPRS Award of Excellence for the use of Social Media
- 2013, Life Member of CPRS for his service and contributions to the profession
- 2013, Philip A. Novikoff Memorial Award, the highest award granted by CPRS
“Serving as the National CPRS President and my decision while in that role (in 2007) to ask Dr. Terry Flynn APR, FCPRS; Jean Valin APR, FCPRS and Fran Gregory APR to work on researching and putting into place the official CPRS definition of public relations. It’s a definition that stands alone and above. It is the one PR definition that includes paying attention to the public interest, which I think is an essential and integral component of professional public relations and communications management.”
Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest.
(Flynn, Valin, Gregory, 2008)
Most Memorable Moments
Meeting and chatting about the future of Public Relations with Howard Chase, PhD, academic and champion of Issues Management (CPRS conference, Vancouver, 1980) and Edward Bernays (CPRS conference, Toronto, 1987).
Worst PR Moment
Misplacing the autograph of Edward Bernays. “I’m still searching for it,” he says.
Changes in How Public Relations is Practiced
“I have practiced communications and PR for more than half a century, some of it in the days when our current technologies were only the stuff of science fiction. Technology has influenced how we communicate and how we package and deliver messages. But technology is only one part of the process. I have watched PR evolve from being, in many cases, a clerical position which originally was part of the HR function of a company; where it was tactical, not strategic; where it was responsible for creating brochures, writing speeches, doing media relations, event planning, etc. It has moved on to be a more advanced and professional process and is now reaching the stage where it is a blend of the academic and experiential, functioning at the executive and board levels. We need more of that mix of the academic and experiential. A scientific approach to storytelling.”
“Reputation Management is part of the evolution of public relations and communications management. It came with the realization that organizations need to actively manage how they are perceived by their publics through the quality of their performance. And so, reputation management has become an integral part of communications strategies.
No longer is getting positive mentions in the news media through glad-handing journalists the main focus of the Public Relations function. Now, PR/Communications Management is gaining recognition and acceptance as a profession because of its academic, scientific, and experiential mix. It is now fully following the CPRS RACE formula (Research, Analysis, Communication, and Evaluation)”
Advice to Those Entering the Profession
“What does the aspiring PR practitioner need? Essentials now include undergraduate studies in a communications program with a curriculum that includes social science, psychology, research and other subjects pertaining to communications. A graduate degree in public relations, communications management or business administration with a PR focus is recommended.
It is important for the PR practitioner to fully understand the business she or he supports, to speak its language and to put that in plain language for the benefit of the organization’s publics in a way that contributes to that organization’s reputation and bottom line.”
Future of Public Relations
“Now, the new technologies that are evolving are empowering many practitioners to be both strategic and tactical in a way that was difficult before. Overall, there is still a need for trained public relations and communications management practitioners who are equipped with the professional requirements needed to help an organization manage its business and reputation.
McLuhan was a prophet. It would be interesting were he to be alive today. When you look especially at social media, ‘the Medium Is the Message’.
Social media has brought into being a state of global consciousness – an almost simultaneous awareness of events at all levels around the world and almost instantaneous responses. This is where PR and communications management must adjust to take advantage of this new global consciousness. Whatever you do and wherever you are, the world has become your audience.
Beyond that, who knows what new technological environments will allow us to progress further? But we will continue to progress, and to boldly go where no PR practitioner has gone before.”