Public Affairs, Advertising & Media Co-ordinator – Spruce Meadows
Sheryl Hull is one busy lady! Born in Sarnia, Ontario, but a longtime resident of Calgary, Alberta, Hull spends her workdays at the mecca of the show jumping world: Spruce Meadows.
As the Public Affairs, Advertising & Media Co-ordinator for this world-class facility, this 39- year old mother of Miranda (6) and Kenley (3), has an enviable position. But just how did she get there, and what does the job entail?
“I was lucky enough to grow up riding at Spruce Meadows.” says Hull. Her first job at Spruce came after high school, and involved starting young horses and light competition. A few years later, she sought post-secondary education at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College. During the summer breaks, Hull worked at the Tournament Office and, one could say, this got the ball rolling. Since her graduation in 1989 with a diploma in Business Administration and a Major in Marketing, Hull has held her current position.
During non-tournament times, Hull acts as Media Liaison, handling everything from television crews wanting to film at Spruce to inquiries on a variety of issues. Community Relations is also rolled into her job description. Requests for donations, facility rentals, the annual Christmas fair, and the sale of videos from Spruce Meadows Television are also dealt with. And don’t forget the annual school tours, “…a favourite of mine, where we have almost 3,500 kids come through in one week in April to be introduced to the horse and the sport of show jumping.”
During tournaments, as the Press Officer, the pace picks up even more. Hull is responsible for coordinating interviews and/or photo shoots between the media and the riders. She handles the electronic and print photographs, distributing images, results and news releases around the world. Hull also organizes the daily press conferences with the winners. Advertising (all done in-house) is managed by Hull, who acts as a “middle man” between the graphics personnel and the various media outlets.
“An average day for me can bring a lot of [different] things and that’s why I enjoy the job so much. There is always a new, interesting project around the corner.”
To be successful at a job such as Hull’s, one must be prepared and ultra-organized. “Media Day”, held prior to the “National” (June) and the “Masters” (September) tournaments, sees Hull coordinating invitations, agendas for sponsors, and food. The detailed press kits, beautifully presented yearbook, and current rider/horse information all need to be prepared ahead of time.
“We definitely have some very knowledgeable media in North America. I always find it amazing though, how quickly most neophyte reporters will embrace our sport. They come in as a hockey or football reporter questioning what they are watching, but leave with a great appreciation of show jumping. It is different with the European media who are specialists in the sport and follow it very closely.”
So, if this is your chosen field, where do you begin? Like the majority of careers, sterling computer skills in word processing, spreadsheets and desktop publishing are a must. Hull recommends taking courses in business writing, advertising, media services or communication. To be successful, you must be able to juggle a variety of tasks, while still remaining flexible. Keeping a cool head, and being businesslike but friendly is essential.
The hours are long, the deadlines must be met, and the job description is full-to-overflowing. So, would Hull change anything? No. “It is really exciting to work at such a world-renowned venue and it is something I am very proud of.”
A few questions for Sheryl on the lighter side:
Do Miranda and Kenley want to compete in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows in the future?
“We have a little Quarter Horse that they do ride and have a lot of fun with. At their young age though, a lot of it is just brushing the pony, feeding treats and playing around the barn.”
How do you keep stress at bay?
“When I have the opportunity, I like to get outside and rollerblade or go for a walk. During the winter it’s off to the gym. It’s also nice to escape to the mountains only an hour away.”
What advice do you offer to teens thinking about their future?
“Pursue a career in an area you really enjoy. It’s great to be able to say you look forward to going to work every morning.”
What is your favourite time of year at Spruce Meadows?
“ For sure the tournament season is my favourite but the variety of projects that come along throughout the year keeps things interesting. First and foremost though, is that I have always had a great passion for horses and to be able to combine that with my career is really ideal.”