Canva Comms VP Fenot Tekle on Media Trust, AI and Building a Zeitgeist Brand

Canva Comms VP Fenot Tekle

Australia-based Canva is a flourishing online design and publishing platform, and it’s being embraced by large companies and individual creators worldwide as the visual economy grows and influences how we communicate. The easy-to-use platform includes an AI-powered tool called Magic Design, video editing features, countless templates, and a robust image library, attracting 125 million monthly active users and garnering huge media attention. (Note: Canva has been a Mission North client since 2021.)


Fenot Tekle joined the brand a year ago but has already made a sizable impact as VP, head of global comms, utilizing her institutional tech PR knowledge built up through the years with stops at Adobe, Facebook, LinkedIn and Netflix. She leads a global team that is tasked with managing the brand reputation, but also expanding the function into new areas of commerce.


“I truly believe that authenticity goes a long way, regardless of who you're engaging with, and this is especially true with journalists,” Tekle says. “If you’re genuinely interested in what they’re invested in, then this interest will make its way back to you when you have something you want them to learn about. It takes the transactional nature out of it.”


Such insights only come from doing serious work over an extended period of time. So, it was fantastic when we were able to sit down and get Fenot’s thoughts about leading comms for a buzzy global brand. What follows is an edited version of our discussion:

What do you see as the critical success factors for PR? 

Those who really thrive go beyond chasing headlines, and are always anchored in the goals of the larger business. If you are deeply embedded in the business, you can communicate from a place of strength, and be a trusted advisor at the highest level of your organization.

What does being a trusted counselor look like?

It is an opportunity for you not just to be the eyes and ears, but the interpreter of what's happening outside of your walls—so take that role seriously and stay curious. Spend time with your peers outside of the company to constantly have a pulse-check on the important issues of the moment, and then build the necessary context as you feed that back into the business.

<split-lines>"It's an opportunity for you not just to be the eyes and ears, but the interpreter of what's happening outside of your walls."<split-lines>

What is the best way to build trust with a media that appears increasingly skeptical of tech companies?

It is key to never veer from your personal and company values, and always take a human-centric view of things. There will be good days and bad days with your business, but the bad won’t be as challenging if you’ve been consistent in your approach over a long period of time.

<split-lines>"It is key to never veer from your personal and company values, and always take a human-centric view of things."<split-lines>

Are companies doing this well?

I think Airbnb and Salesforce do a great job of this. I think the media community inherently believes that they are mission-oriented companies that strive to be a force for good. So, even when they have flare-ups, it's fleeting. Both companies rarely stray from their values, and they always start with what's best for their users.


Let’s explore AI for a moment. How do you foresee this impacting communications?

Comms has changed in that, there is greater demand to create an astronomical amount of content for many, many channels—constantly. This increase in volume, and the pace of the work in general, can lead to varying levels of quality, and quite frankly, burnout.

Where I’m starting to see AI support our goals is in the way it helps unlock creativity and fight writer’s block. It can inspire ideas for a speech, get you started on a pitch deck, add visual elements to your keynote presentation, etc. The opportunities are endless. While you can never take the human element out of the mix, I believe AI is a game-changer when it comes to greater creativity, efficiency and productivity on a team.

<split-lines>"[AI] can inspire ideas for a speech, get you started on a pitch deck, add visual elements to your keynote presentation, etc."<split-lines>

Back to the business. How can you continue Canva’s momentum?

We have a massive following with teachers, and we invest a great deal as a business in the world of education. I think a lot about how to have a more consistent relationship with teachers and am building towards elevating this work.


Canva is headquartered in Sydney. Any tips for managing comms across so many time zones?

Working smarter, not harder means finding the time zone overlap between where you are and where the center of gravity is—and maximizing that time. With my team spread out across the world, I use this as an opportunity to connect, to collaborate, to produce and drive decisions—and of course, have some fun.

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