40 years…and counting - Focus Communications
Sue Heuman

Sue Heuman

Principal at Focus Communications

40 years…and counting


Electric typewriters perched on every desk. Mail delivery meant pieces of paper distributed by human beings, twice a day, on rolling carts. ‘Mobile phone’ meant putting a landline on hold at one desk, and walking to another to pick it up. Photocopiers only printed in black and white. The word ‘internet’ was used for the first time, although it would a decade before Tim Berners-Lee created the first website.

So much has changed since then.

This year marks 40 years in communications for me. When I started, entry level positions were known largely as ‘glue and scissors’ jobs – making posters and materials by hand only to be taken to the print shop where multiple copies were made. I did my share of real-life cut-and-paste.

Research meant a trip to the nearby library to look things up in an encyclopedia. News releases were sent by courier. Once distributed, we waited until the next day for media coverage to appear in the local papers, holding our collective breath that our story came out as we had hoped.

At news conferences, 15-20 reporters and videographers regularly turned up. (Today, you’re lucky if you get 5-6 because that’s all there is!)

We worked 8:30-4:30, with an hour for lunch, which often meant a trip to a restaurant with co-workers or serious shopping time. With no cell phones, we took our breaks blissfully uninterrupted. Sigh.

So much has remained the same, too.

Relationships matter. Really connecting with people remains a critical part of our lives. This became even more evident over the past year, when isolation wreaked havoc on our mental health. Turns out, we need each other to survive.

Respect and trust matter. We still earn these every day through our words and actions.

Integrity and ethics matter. Now more than ever.

For me, the past 40 years have flown by, with too many wonderful, amazing and generous people to mention. People who have taught me so many things not only about communication, but also about grace, courage and life. I’m ever grateful to you all.


Some random things I have done in my career…

  • Ridden on a bus with the 1980s Edmonton Oilers players on the way to a Stanley Cup victory parade (I see you Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier sitting at the back…)
  • Carried flowers for Princess Diana after she received bouquets from the public on a walkabout (she was so lovely!)
  • Handwritten municipal election results on an overhead projector on election night in City Hall
  • Washed windows on a building about to be demolished (hey, it was for a photo opp!)
  • Turned the Edmonton Convention Centre halls into a cruise ship, with real lifeboats hanging on the walls
  • Helped the Mayor give the key to the City to Santa so he could visit homes without chimneys
  • Organized an airshow (well, four airshows…from scratch)
  • Organized a Santa Claus parade ( well, four parades…from scratch)
  • Volunteered, donated and tried to make a difference

What crazy things have you done?

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