Don Campbell

Vice President of Corporate Communications, Blue Shield of California

Bachelor of Journalism, 1983

We do give up our independence but we don’t lose our integrity.

Don Campbell, BJ’83, has some words of advice for journalism students.

“Think about both sides, ”he says. “It really can be rewarding.”

The “both sides” Don is talking about are journalism and public relations. He knows each of them well. He spent years as a newspaper reporter and editor at the Winnipeg Free Press and the Calgary Herald. Now he is Vice President of Corporate Communications for Blue Shield of California, a health insurance company. In between were stints with Husky Energy, Chevron and Alibaba.

“The corporate side is as interesting and rewarding as the media side. This has been a huge revelation for me over my career.”

Don hadn’t planned on a career in communications. He loved history (he can trace his branch of the Campbell clan back to their arrival in Cape Breton in 1790) and was considering a master’s degree in history after getting his BA from Dalhousie. That’s when he happened to visit King’s and found out about the one-year journalism program. Chronicling history as it unfolded had real appeal. Don enrolled.

While he did course work in TV and Radio, Don loved the newspaper business and when he graduated he landed a job at the Medicine Hat News. That led to his gigs in Winnipeg and Calgary.

The switch to public relations came after almost a decade with the Calgary Herald. A friend pointed him towards media relations with Alberta Health Services, the Calgary Health Region. Health care was under attack at the time.

“We were really getting beaten up in the media. We needed a way to tell our own stories. So I built up a team with news backgrounds so I knew they could write and we started up Apple Magazine to tell our own story. We told our own story about patient care, about research at the university. We interviewed our own staff.”

It was an innovative and successful approach and in fact Apple Magazine still exists— but now as a digital product.

Being at ground zero for the oil industry it wasn’t long before Don moved on to Husky Energy where he learned more about the business of business communications. His work there and his spirit of innovation with Alberta Health Services got him noticed by Chevron in California.

“This was 2004. It was a good time to be at Chevron. Oil prices were climbing. The company had a number of mega projects coming on stream and they needed help telling those stories.”

But the industry was also under attack for high profits.

“So I did a lot of communications support for the CEO and Chairman of Chevron for such things as Congressional testimony in the Senate and the House. It also included media interviews with Larry King, and Meet the Press. It was a high profile and interesting time to be at the company.”

After Chevron it was the Alibaba Group and then on to Blue Shield. Don points with pride to Blue Shield’s news website (news.blueshieldca.com). It had over a quarter million unique visitors last year — people looking for among other things the latest news on COVID-19 in California.

Don has travelled the world helping to tell the stories of some truly giant companies. Corporate communications are a long way from a reporter at the Calgary Herald or Medicine Hat News.

“We do give up our independence, but we don’t lose our integrity. And we don’t lose our joy in writing stories that the audience will get some benefit from. We don’t lose the excitement from the audience feedback … When you tell your own story as a corporation you can shape the narrative. It doesn’t mean making stuff up. You still have to have accurate, compelling content. And that’s where the journalism training comes in. “

And that’s where King’s come in.

Posted: February 2021

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