Joanie Robichaud, the communicator who makes Gaspésie shine
Joanie Robichaud has been self-employed full-time since September 2022 in communications and territorial marketing. She is one of these women you can listen to for hours.
Interview with this dynamic and inspiring woman
Can you tell us your path to self-employment, your education, the start of your career, and everything that led and pushed you to start your own business?
I always wanted to be a journalist, until I started studying in that field. I did a bachelor’s degree in journalism at UQAM in Montreal, during which we had to do a semester in another area. I chose municipal politics, a field that has always interested me. I was able to discover regional development, which was a huge crush. I am a native of Gaspésie and I have always been very inspired by the development of the regions of Quebec.
After my bachelor’s degree, I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore and I saw that UQAR, in Rimouski, had a graduate degree in regional development, in which I enrolled. After graduation, I was hired as a Project Manager at the Centre Local de Développement de la Mitis à Mont-Joli, where I worked for a year before I was hired by the city of Rimouski. I spent 6 years developing the communications and social networks of the city of Rimouski, which was very formative because, in the municipal environment, we do everything.
During this period, I had my first child and it made me realize it was impossible for me to consider raising my children in a setting other than the one in which I grew up, so we decided to leave Rimouski and move back to Gaspésie in 2019, just before the pandemic.
After my maternity leave, I went back to the municipal sector before having the opportunity to join the beautiful organization of Vivre en Gaspésie which does territorial marketing. It was a great experience, but having two young children and a spouse who often works out of town, it was also very demanding. I questioned myself about self-employment and realized there was a great need for Gaspésie in the communications industry. I decided to go for it this year, and I have no regrets.
At Middle, we also maintain our clients’ social networks. What type of difficulties have you encountered in the development of the notoriety of a municipality?
The biggest challenge was to match the communication actions on social networks with what was already being done. At the time, it was not necessarily automatic to think about social networks. We also had to find a way to work together, because there were already many things in place and I was very young when I arrived with my new ideas.
I had to develop a bond of trust with everyone. When I left the City of Rimouski, we had gathered a community of 10,000 people for a city of 50,000 inhabitants, and thinking about social networks had become an automatic response to get information. Internally as well, the employees were thinking about what we were going to broadcast on social networks. It had slowly become a reflex. Of course, there is still work to be done, but compared to the initial challenge of explaining to people that social networks, if used properly, could be useful and relevant, it is a huge step forward. I’ve also been fortunate to work with people who trusted my work and ideas almost blindly and followed me even if they didn’t always understand the ins and outs. I’ve been lucky to have people like that in my life, it sure makes things easier.
Did coming back to Gaspésie help you in your choice of self-employment?
When I made the choice to come back to Gaspésie, I had thought about it, but I was still a bit unsure. Sometimes, we don’t dare to take the step because of financial security, for example, so it took me two years before I realized self-employment was probably the best thing for me in terms of where I was at in my professional and personal life.
Through these two years of experience, I was able to reconnect with the region I had left for 10 years. All my work experiences in Gaspésie were useful to learn, especially to build contacts I now use daily.
Has being your own boss helped you find a work/life balance? Has it given you opportunities that you might not have had if you hadn’t chosen to be self-employed?
Absolutely. Being self-employed gives me the freedom that I really needed, not because my employers were not understanding — far from it — but because I put pressure on myself and I feel indebted to the people who employ me, even if they were always understanding and accommodating. Now that I’m my own boss, I don’t have that pressure anymore. It’s really nice to be able to choose my contracts, taking into consideration my family life, and choosing contracts that really appeal to me. I’ve always been a communications agent, but it’s such a vast field that being self-employed allows me to choose which aspects I want to focus on.
This freedom allows you to work on a book, but also to develop a Tiktok account which has good visibility. What role does this account play in your activity?
I started my Tiktok account to get to know the platform, as I use it for clients, and I really didn’t expect my content to be so popular. At first, I didn’t even know what to talk about because there are so many people and videos on Tiktok that I didn’t see what would make me stand out. Then I thought that my obsession with my region could be a good starting point and today it has become an integral part of my business, as I am approached to do collaborations.
But the fact I can give myself the freedom to speak in the public space is directly linked to my activity as a self-employed person because when I was an employee, I didn’t allow myself that. Same thing with my book, I love creating and I’ve been lucky enough to do it in various aspects and positions throughout my career, but creating as an individual and freeing up time in my schedule to write is something great and something I would never have been able to do if I wasn’t self-employed.
What are your plans for 2023?
I want to be able to continue to develop what I have built as a freelancer. People have already contacted me and I am grateful to see that people are thinking about me with regards to my content and my projects related to Gaspésie.
For 2023, I hope to have projects that stimulate me and participate in the promotion of Eastern Quebec, but also to continue to develop a balance between my professional and private lives and to develop projects that make me feel good, like my book. To have this freedom and to blossom in all aspects of my life.
Photo: Genevieve Smith
At Middle, we are proud to collaborate and learn from women like Joanie. Be sure to check out her social media channels, and if you’d like to see more inspiring interviews, check out our blog!
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