As part of our Trusted Advisors series, our web editor meets with the Firm’s leadership for one-on-one interviews on their experience, expertise and professional journey. We’re happy to present the latest of these interviews with a man whose natural curiosity and thirst for learning have sparked the desire to step out of his comfort zone: family man Chris Froggatt, managing partner of our Ottawa office.
Chris, what types of mandates do you mostly work on?
Our Ottawa office is somewhat different from most of NATIONAL’s offices in Canada. Our clients tend to be ones that are impacted heavily by federal government decisions. Our job is to help them navigate through the political and bureaucratic sides of the government. Most of our clients typically don’t really understand the inner workings of government and how public policy is decided, but at the same time they are often heavily impacted by government decisions. We have consultants here in Ottawa who specialize in public policy-making and can help devise and execute the right strategy for each unique situation. Many of our team members are individuals who have backgrounds working in politics and government themselves, having had first-hand experiences directly in the political process in Canada.
Public relations and strategic communications, the core of what NATIONAL is known for, are also critical components of our services in Ottawa. These skills also help us to work with many of our clients from a broader lens than just direct government relations, in a more strategic and tactical way. With this approach we can also help clients utilise both traditional and social media in order to help inform public opinion and ultimately influence key decision-makers.
What part of your work are you most passionate about?
I think every client’s file is a challenge, so my job consists in building and designing strategies based on my understanding of how government functions. Government can often be quite an unwieldy and complicated entity with many people and factors influencing and impacting the outcome of key decisions and policy. And that’s what I’m passionate about: determining different strategies for clients, drawing on my own personal experiences and putting myself back into that system of government and thinking if I were there now, how would I advise the client? How would I help them devise a strategy that will lead to a successful outcome? And often times we have clients that come to us in a very challenging part of what they’re dealing with and that’s why they hire us. It’s because things have gotten to the point where they need external help. They lean on our expertise.
I’m also passionate about learning about the client’s business and industry, and I enjoy the variety of our many clients. Having a new client is always a great learning experience for me, but it’s also a great opportunity to share my own experience and advice to help them succeed in what they do.
You’ve worked on the other side of things as well, so keeping tabs on the always evolving political agenda must feel like second nature to you.
Absolutely. Ottawa is the capital of our nation and so much of what happens around us is national in scope. Everyone here in the office is drawn to and has a solid understanding of the national political scene because we’re so close to it and it’s what brought so many of them here. We’re literally two blocks from Parliament Hill and so, much of what happens within the federal government is right here around us. It’s part of our day-to-day reality, and there are literally thousands of conversations going on all around us each day on so many important issues.
In such a regulated field as government, how do you continually push the boundaries of your own creativity?
I think it just comes from taking every day as a learning experience and constantly listening and reading, talking with others and following news in so many other areas. For me, pushing my creativity means going to places and reading about things that have nothing to do with politics or government. Whether that’s learning about business or learning about science. I’m always searching for what’s out there beyond the political world so that I can get other perspectives. And this helps me expand my creativity in what I do here at NATIONAL.
And I assume you can then use and adapt it to a GR perspective? Applying an idea that you may not have thought about if you hadn’t looked outside of your political environment.
Exactly. It’s all about stepping out of my comfort zone. It helps me get a broader perspective on the world and how it all relates to so much else. And it gives me a broader context than if I spent my days just watching the political news sites and news sources about what’s happening here in Ottawa. Looking at what’s happening in the worlds of science, technology and business, or reading interesting books, magazines or exploring different websites and articles.
Creativity is about trying new things and not sticking to the same approach. It’s about being willing to try something bold, something different. Because on the GR side, you’re basically the lynchpin between your clients and the government in trying to affect change. There are so many parts in the system that have an impact on public policy that being creative helps find new ways to tap into each of these parts and get the attention of whoever you’re trying to reach.
What advice would you give to young people interested in pursuing a career in PR or GR?
My advice would be to do something different first so that when they eventually make the move to PR or GR, they can draw on those experiences. I think it will give them a better perspective in serving clients because they will be able to think back on those experiences in a more practical way. I also think that working in Ottawa or in a political environment would also train them well in terms of everything from crisis management, communications and policy development. Because there is no other environment like it, where the pace is so fast and the intensity so great, and the potential impact one individual can have is so great.
Fun facts about Chris
I was born in: St-Eustache, Quebec
Favourite food/restaurant: I love Italian food and my favourite restaurant is Tony’s Di Napoli in New York City. Not just for the food, but for the experience – authentic New York City.
Favourite series: Band of Brothers
Favourite book: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer. It’s a tragic story that takes place on Mount Everest. So vivid, you may have trouble breathing when you read it.
If I didn’t work in PR: I’d own a restaurant.
If I could be on a reality TV show, it would be: Mountain Men
If I could be a superhero, I’d be: Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.
If money didn’t matter: I’d be travelling with my family right now.
Number one travel destination: England
Most memorable vacation: Spring Break in Virginia
Favourite past time: Spending time in the outdoors with my children.
First concert I went to: Bruce Springsteen
Favourite music group/musician: Music is such a big part of life for my family. I mostly listen to country music, soft jazz and big band. I don’t have any one favourite. But I what I enjoy most of all is coming home from work to listen to my eldest daughter play the piano or guitar and sing, while I sit back with a nice glass of red wine.
Guilty pleasure: Red wine