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Alumni Engagement

CreComm grad crafts messages for Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart program

April 23, 2014

Rennie Bodi resized

“There’s the lovely Golden Boy on Broadway,” says Bodi, the Consumer Communications Co-ordinator for Manitoba Hydro, in reference to the crown corporation’s political oversight. “And there are the stakeholders; people like you and me.”

It’s clear within a few seconds who’s the priority for the Red River College grad.

“I’m tasked with Power Smart, our demand-side management program, to use the user-friendly term for lowering energy consumption… we provide loans for home energy efficiency improvements, we change out furnaces for people who don’t have the financial ability, we have an affordable energy program for lower income families…”

“People can see the difference.”

Growing up in Elmwood, Bodi says she was set on a creative path by teachers who brought the performing arts into the classroom. “The teachers at my school read to us, we bonded. Young kids, before starting classes, would be asked for a demonstration – perhaps a performance with an instrument – to get the creative juices flowing.”

That creative output stayed with her, from publishing a poem at age 10 through her university training, to a “misstep” career that didn’t connect with her passions, even as her coworkers and bosses expressed how “we so enjoy reading your reports.”

“You write well,” Bodi father told her as she contemplated how to get her life back on the right track – a path that led to RRC’s Creative Communications program.

“CreComm gave you a taste of real life,” Bodi says about balancing the full course load in public relations, journalism, advertising and media production classes. “There were solid, solid teachers who instilled the fact they were sharing real life experiences. You could ask a teacher about an obstacle you were having with a project and they would answer with a real life illustration.”

Majoring in journalism, Bodi had to create the equivalent of a thesis project to graduate. Partnering with CTV (then CKY), she set out to create a documentary on family violence.

“Every aspect was a challenge – the sensitivity of the subject material, certainly. I showed up to a women’s shelter with a male shooter, since there were hardly any female shooters in those days, and of course they wouldn’t allow him in. I had to find a female shooter quick. Then there were long hours editing, wondering what to do next, how the visuals would tell the story.”

“In the end, I handed it in to CTV and they aired it many times.”

After graduating with practicum experiences at the Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg Free Press and CBC, Bodi landed work with a number of local health foundations – Heart and Stroke, Misericordia and Children’s Hospital. When a communications position opened up at CBC, it seemed like the perfect combination of her passion for journalism and her experience as a corporate communicator. The work day, revolving around an ever-changing “war board” of stories, gave her plenty of opportunity for creative output.

“It was such high-calibre programming,” says Bodi, who graduated in 1984. “It still is. It was a thrill to be working there.”

But Bodi also saw an opportunity to branch out, working as her own boss for a year as a consultant. Then Manitoba Hydro came calling.

“I’m a strong environmentalist and at first I said I didn’t consider a major utility an environmental endeavor. But Hydro is such a good company to work for; they practice what they preach. We can’t ask our customers to reduce consumption without leading, without building this phenomenal energy efficient structure,” she says, pointing to Manitoba Hydro Place’s shining glass shell.

Crafting messages for a crown corporation is vastly different from a media outlet. Whereas CBC was always lively, the creative element in Hydro’s communication pieces has to be earned.

“The challenge is to be funny talking about generation, lighting, boilers. I have to make our television spots interesting enough for viewers to want to save energy, time and the environment.”

Regularly overcoming that challenge seems to be the fulfillment Bodi was always looking for. As she says, “I came onboard in 1991 and I haven’t gone away” – a common thread with her CreComm peers.

“We haven’t changed fields since we graduated and I think that speaks volumes. My fellow grads have done well… our peers have such respect for CreComm, Graphic Design, all the RRC programs.”

Her advice for people considering CreComm?

“Go for it. I have no qualms at all. What you do there, you will do in the workforce.”

Profile by Matt TenBruggencate (Creative Communications, 2013)