Jason Syvixay is one of those effective communicators who has spun the “medium is the message” adage into a whole new meaning.
When it comes to his work for the Downtown BIZ, the man is inseparable from the message.
Known by his 1,900 Twitter followers and 900 Instagram followers as simply “Downtown Jason,” the 27-year-old earned top honours for his innovative work promoting downtown Winnipeg, being named the 2014 Manitoba Communicator of the Year (MCOY) by the local chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS).
The communications specialist was touted for helping raise $400,000 since 2011 with the creation of the CEO Sleepout. Monies raised assist with the BIZ initiative, Change for the Better, which helps combat homelessness by providing people with full-time work.
The youngest recipient ever to win the award, Jason won even more admiration for his communication skills at the MCOY luncheon when his speech earned him a standing ovation.
What stood out for the crowd and the CPRS, besides his success with the BIZ, was Jason’s ability to communicate with integrity.
“Good communication always involves the community, for me,” says Jason.
“When you can start to think about how your role will benefit others, you will start to speak with integrity.”
Jason’s own love affair with downtown Winnipeg preceded his work at the BIZ, and has helped drive him to be a major player in the organization. “I believe so much in downtown Winnipeg – and Winnipeg,” says Jason. “I think there’s some amazingly great things here that should be celebrated, should be promoted.”
Jason’s true introduction to the downtown was attending the University of Winnipeg, and it was love at first sight. “I instantly fell in love with the downtown campus,” says Jason, who went on to serve as the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association president. “Back in 2004, downtown was very different. It wasn’t as revitalized as it is now, but I still fell in love with the interesting grit to it.”
From his beginnings at the BIZ in June 2011, Jason has grown the positive media hits for the BIZ from 86 to 398 in 2013. His efficiency as a public relations advocate led him to a managing director role with the BIZ in less than three years with the organization.
And it’s not just his social media use that has become intertwined with his work at the BIZ. His social life is replete with downtown promotion as well. But, he doesn’t mind.
“Essentially I feel as though I’ve kind of branded myself too as that young person downtown that can affect change, that can bring ideas to the table, and I’m OK with that… it makes you more effective in your role,” says Jason. “As long as it, again, always goes back to the cause.”
He is constantly stopped at parties or out at a coffee shop to be the sounding board for a new idea to attract people downtown or to improve on a BIZ event.
“When I go to the events and I hear people’s ideas, I just think it’s really flattering that people have invested their confidence in me,” says Jason. “My Facebook message box is always so full of new ideas.”
He finds his liaisons with other young people are especially encouraging as their energy brightens the future of downtown.
“People are choosing their cities and where they want to stay… before they choose their job,” says Jason. “The ones that’re actively choosing to stay in Winnipeg are the ones that are wanting to build roots, wanting to make a difference, wanting to get involved in the community.
“It’s really younger people that are going to start owning their downtown.”
Jason tries to reach out to younger people downtown on a personal level – even if he doesn’t know them personally, yet.
“It’s amazing to see other young people work in our downtown. I’m always trying to foster relationships with them.
“Even when I don’t know them, I’ll meet people on Twitter and they look younger or they seem young and I’ll send them a quick message saying, ‘Hey, we should go out for coffee, go for lunch.’ Let’s build up a really good network of young people that can start creating momentum.”
Jason feels fortunate to work alongside executive director, Stefano Grande – someone who believes greatly in young people.
“I think that’s why he’s really entrusted a lot of faith and confidence in me. He sees that younger people are really tuned in to the creative forces in our city,” says Jason.
“I don’t look at people’s ages, I just look at what they’re able to create,” explains Grande.
“He’s (Jason’s) one of those social butterfly people; he’s able to genuinely create relationships because he likes people.
“It’s very contagious, and that’s how you move from 0 to 100 very, very quickly in this line of work.”
Though it’s not unusual for Jason to pull a 12- or 13-hour day at the BIZ, he weaves the perks of working downtown into his day so he doesn’t suffer through the long hours.
Jason stops to thank “Kendra” for topping up our coffees at Rudy’s Eat & Drink, and reflects on seeing the staff evolve since its opening in early 2012.
The hosts have become the servers and bartenders – or management, at the establishment – which is not an unusual climb to make quickly in the hospitality industry, but could only be done by a force in the business community.
“I still face a lot of barriers in the business community because I am younger,” says Jason.
“I guess my tip to a lot of young people is just be persistent and you never know what can happen.
“Sometimes it’s timing and I guess I am a firm believer of fate too.”