Humans of Communication: Derek Antoine By: Kate Taylor
Derek Antoine is a PhD Candidate and Instructor at Carleton University where he teaches a variety of third and fourth year communication courses. Last semester, I was fortunate enough to take Derek’s Image, Politics and Persuasion class and all I have to say is if you have the chance, take this course! Although the class was at 8:30AM on Fridays, that did not stop over 80-100 students from attending the lecture every week. I know you are probably thinking how is it possible that kids kept coming back that early on a Friday? It is because Derek is just that engaging. He brought the content to life and really got you thinking about the topics at hand. By the end of the course, I genuinely felt that I had learned what it takes to be an effective and persuasive communicator. Taking all of these things into consideration, I decided that I wanted to profile Derek for the Humans of Communication blog series. I was curious to find out what intrigued him about the communications field.
My initial questions were: Why did you decide to enter the communications fields? What do you love about communication?
Derek replied by saying that he has always been very political, therefore he began his communication career working for a member of parliament. He believed this would be a great way to influence and shape the world around him. Although this was a great opportunity, he decided to move on.
“It was when I got to my second big communications job with the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, that was when my career really took off. That was one of those life-changing jobs. Everyone is going to have one, or hopefully many, but this to me was absolutely life changing.”
It was at the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa that Derek was given the opportunity to help struggling young people live better lives. He got to see firsthand that the way you talk impacts things like mental health, homelessness, etc. From his own personal perspective, he saw how important communication was. He saw how it enabled him to tell the stories of these young, struggling individuals in ways that were easily understood and dispelled stereotypes. From a professional perspective, Derek learned that communications jobs sit in the middle of everything. He went on to say that within this big organization, everyone had their own skill set whether it was youth work or mental health. But, with communication, you have your finger on everything. You tell stories across the organization in ways that no one else gets to see.
Derek said a main highlight of working with the Youth Services Bureau was a campaign directed at street involved youth that encouraged them to go to health clinics. The reason behind this campaign was that one, many struggling youths don’t have health cards and two, they tend to have issues with physicians because they would constantly say if “you stopped using drugs then you wouldn’t be having problems.” The doctors were typically very judgmental, driving the kids away from seeking medical help. So his team created a campaign targeted at street kids so they would know where these clinics were and why they were beneficial. They hired an agency that conducted focus groups with the kids that frequented the Youth Services Bureau drop-in center.
“These kids destroyed the discussions in the best way possible. It was a moment where all of the things you think you know were up against the people who actually have to consume that information and how it was all totally disconnected. That was the smartest conversation I have had in a marketing campaign to this day. These kids were completely honest and their arguments were so clear and concise. They went above and beyond the expectations. I’ll never forget that. It really shows that you can’t just do things, you have to talk to people and figure out what they are thinking.”
After this experience, Derek decided he wanted to be part of a different conversation. He applied for his PhD and began teaching at Carleton because he wanted to have these conversations with students and academics. He is currently teaching Media and Activism.
“It is three hours of just me and 25 students talking about different ways to change the world. I absolutely love it.”
Finally, when asking Derek if he had any advice that he can offer young, aspiring communicators he said, “you have to try and figure out the world you want to live in and find a career that helps you move in that direction. Communication is such a huge opportunity to influence the world because life is just one big conversation.”