Shel Zolkewich wears two hats: the fancy fedora of a marketing consultant and the battered ball cap of a freelance writer. She helps her marketing clients with all the usual tools of the trade: strategies, Websites, campaigns and media relations. On the writing side, it’s about the outdoors, travel and food. She’s an avid angler and hunter and wishes she had a third arm to hold the ever-present camera. Her heart lies in the North where there are small airplanes, muddy roads and feisty Northern Pike.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I remember flipping through that “What Do You Want to Be” binder in high school and getting excited about the prospect of being an undertaker. I’m not kidding! I’ve always been a little obsessed with medicine and anatomy. But the course was really long and I’m kind of lazy, so I settled on the Creative Communications course at Red River College in Winnipeg instead. And just so you know, I failed journalism.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I like the path I am on right now. The marketing stuff is filled with new technology and interesting projects. I’m a writer at heart, so being able to keep my hand in the game is important. I’ve been doing some teaching lately and loving it. Basically, more of the same in the next five years, with a little more adventure travel, I hope.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Work hard, listen to the old folks, work hard, embrace every little bit of new technology, work hard.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? (i.e.: what do you read/listen/watch?)
Admittedly, I’m a Twitter junkie. I’m an early riser and it’s like having coffee with thousands of my dearest friends. They let me know what’s going on in the world. I visit the Winnipeg Free Press site daily and The Globe & Mail site a couple of times a week.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Very early in my career, I interviewed a gentleman who had lost his daughter to a drunk driver. At the end of our chat, he asked me how old I was. Then he reached out, took my hands in his and said “She would have been exactly your age.” That moment taught me a couple of things: always listen, know that you can make a connection to another human being at any minute and be thankful for what you have in this life right now.
I wouldn’t want to single out anyone in particular, but I get very annoyed with interviewees give off that ‘are we almost done, I’m really bored, you are small potatoes and I don’t really care’ vibe. If you’ve agreed to the interview, give it your best, no matter who is interviewing you. One day they could become Anderson Cooper.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Make hay while the sun shines.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Make hay while the sun shines.
There’s always someone way worse off than you.
Give and you shall receive.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
As that old song goes, give the people what they want. If I ask for images that are about one MB, please don’t send me 32 K snaps from the website. I try to work as efficiently as possible, because as a freelance writer, it’s simply not lucrative to be a pokey Joe. If I have to ask for the same information a couple of times, my bottom line is shot. PS: Samples work.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I’m not weaseling out on this one because I’m being honest when I say the PR folks that I deal with are ALL top-drawer pros; I really can’t single anyone out. They’ve saved my tail more than once when I’ve up against a deadline, sending me last-minute images and info. The travel PR people have taken chances on me as a freelance writer, hoping I’ll eventually find an outlet and earn my keep for that fabulous Caribbean trip. It’s about being partners. I love you guys!
Waiting. Impatience is my Achilles heel. That’s why I hunt; it teaches me patience.
The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven. I’m a sucker for anything about Canadian history, exploration or adventure.
Best place on earth?
Lake St. George in central Manitoba
Elvis Aaron Presley
My mom and dad.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
The Weather Network. I’m a Manitoban and we’re a little nutty about the weather.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean. But a northern Manitoba lake is even better.
Voicemail or email?
Email, oh please, email.