Toronto 2015 Pan AM/Parapan AM Games, a first for Ontario, is right around the corner. As expected, most of the attention and buzz is on the athletes who are about to woo us with their showmanship.
But off track, behind the volunteers, festivities and public press, there is a team preparing just as hard as the athletes, to ensure that these events run smoothly. Dayo Kefentse is the manager of media relations for the Games. Prior to starting her own business, Dayo Media & Communications, Kefentse worked as a journalist for some of Canada’s well known media companies. She has been awarded numerous times and has an easily recognizable name in the industry and community. I got a chance to speak with Kefentse about her role in the Games, and her personal background.
I find it interesting that you attended university in the Caribbean (University of the West Indies in Barbados). What was that experience like for you?
I really wanted to try a new culture. I felt it would have been useful for me, not just personally but professionally as well, to live and experience a new culture. Although Barbados wasn’t new, in the sense that my family is from there and I had been there several times prior to that. But living there day to day I felt would have made me a better journalist and communicator because then I would better able to reflect what was going on in a broader context beyond just living in one place.
Going to Cave Hill was definitely a culture shock, because even though I had visited many times, living there was a different reality. Ultimately, it really has helped to shape my career to date, because even with the Games I’m able to have a more thorough understanding of the Caribbean. So I have not just a "head sense" of it, but I also understand some of the cultures behind what will be many of our visitors in the coming months.
What was the transition like for you from Journalism to owning your own media relations company?
It wasn’t a hard transition. It was a continuum in many ways because of the work I had done on CBC primarily. That’s probably the most high profile, but prior to that I had done quite a bit of work in Black Community communications. I was hosting a radio show that dealt with Black community issues. I was writing and reporting on Black youth culture back in the 90s. I had developed a bit of interest--and perhaps some people viewed it as an expertise. People from the community and the city at large were approaching me to get some assistance with how to best tell their story and how to get their stories in the news. I found that I was able to assist with that, and then that lead to building up a small business.
Were there any hurdles in making the transition?
A challenge when you have a business like that is sometimes work can be busy and sometimes it’s not. So you have to be able to manage the ups and down that come with running a consultancy business and that’s the way it is for everybody who does this.
How did you get involved with Toronto 2015 PanAm/Parapan AM Games?
I knew the Games were coming and I applied. I thought it would have been a great opportunity for me. I‘d hoped my experience living in the Caribbean and working in Toronto media and a variety of places would be a fit, and that could be helpful in terms of helping to tell the story and being involved in a community program and working an event that could change the face of the city. So when there was an opportunity to apply I did, and I joined in September 2014.
How has it been going for you? You’re enjoying the experience, I’m guessing?
Although I’ve covered a lot of stories in my day and worked in a lot of sectors, sports is new for me! I am enjoying the experience. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to go for a goal; what it takes to own the podium; and what athletes go through to get there. It’s really expanded my personal knowledge. I’m getting the chance to get a glimpse on a variety of places and venues that will leave a lasting legacy in this province. It truly has been a real privilege to be a part of it.
Your personal brand is to empower, engage, educate and inspire. How do you think the Games are empowering, engaging, educating and inspiring Torontonians?
[On empowering] Toronto has not hosted a game of this size--ever. This is a big confidence booster not just us as a city but for the province and country as well! It means that in [the] future this city can confidently bid for other big events and Games…perhaps even the Olympics. It means that athletes or young people will feel empowered to win. The games have brought world class facilities like the Velodrome in Milton and Aquatic Centre in Scarborough. Now kids can train and really build up their dreams for athleticism and athletic prowess in the country. The games are empowering in that way.
[On educating] People are really going to learn a lot about sports and what it takes to excel to the very end. I have had the privilege to share many of those stories through the athletes [in] various forms of media. Right now we are dealing with a lot of requests from people who want to do athlete profiles. I find that to be really inspiring, and media are feeling very compelled by those stories.
[On engaging & inspiring] These Games are for the people. It’s for everyone to engage and get involved with the City. These Games will do that, not just for sports, but Arts & Culture as well. People will be inspired by what they see on the field of play, as well as on performance stages. You can’t help but be engaged when there are Games like these to be a part of!
Are there any insights you could share about building a strong brand?
You have to really think hard about who you are, what your principal values are and what you represent. And it’s not the kind of thing that comes in a moment. I think it takes some time to really reflect on a lot of those things. Brands are very easy to break if you make the wrong decision. You can’t be frivolous about the kind of choices you’re making around your brand. You have to really ensure that you’ve thought long and hard about what matters to you. Speak to trusted friends. Ask their opinions about who they think you are and what they think you represent. Do a lot of reading. Do a lot of reflecting. Brands aren’t necessarily marketing tools. They are really intended to be just word reflections of who you are. If you can actually live up to those--if you can live that, if those words are the truth--then you’re doing right by yourself.
The words that I’ve chosen as my brand, I really have thought through why I chose those words, and it was really because a lot of what I strive for in my own life, had a lot to do - with keeping people engaged, empowered and inspired.
What would you say is your formula for winning?
I don’t always win. Let me be clear... I do lose sometimes. Everybody doesn’t always get what they want. In listening to athlete’s stories, I really realize that to be true. There are a lot of things that I haven’t been able to always achieve, but like the athletes, I always just keep on attempting and keep on trying – it’s really cliché but it’s true. There is also a sense of faith and belief that what’s for you is for you. Even in the times of quiet, there is reason for that also, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you look back-- and that’s also with the assistance of really good friends and the family you’re connected to giving you that perspective--you realize that perhaps you needed that rest. For me, I’ve typically been a work hard, play hard type of person. I’m looking forward to doing both – if I can fit it in – once the Games begin!
The PanAM Games run from July 10-26 2015 & The Parapan AM Games run from August 7-15 2015.
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