For some in the public relations biz, spin is a fundamental skill, but according to Joe Delaronde – the man behind the press releases – PR should be anything but.
“The truth is everything,” said the outgoing Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) political press attache. “If you don’t tell the truth, you’re going to be found out at a certain point.”
He remembers his days on the Legislative Coordinating Committee, when some tough laws were being put on the books through the Community Decision Making Process (CDMP). He and Gene Diabo did dozens of recaps for the community, explaining what happened and what people were upset about at the sessions.
He takes pride in having never been accused of fudging a tough truth or exaggerating good news stemming from the committee. “It’s one of the things that I hold dearest to my accomplishments,” he said.
To this day, he says, he still values honesty above other traits. “That’s the way I was brought up,” he said.
“I prefer the people who, maybe, are a little less successful in certain things but don’t steer people wrong.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that he worries about Facebook becoming such a prominent source of information – or misinformation.
“People deserve to have independent verification of everything that’s going on,” he said. “The fact we have three (media outlets) is very healthy. We’re very fortunate in Kahnawake.”
A strong sense of values has served him well in a long career spanning local politics, media, and about two decades doing communications for the MCK.
Delaronde held office as an MCK chief from 1988-1990 and was a voice on K1037, not to mention its station manager and program director – he continues to sit on the board of directors. He hopes to return to the radio waves in his retirement. “My first love is still radio,” he said.
In his time at MCK, he has seen the approach to communications evolve from the days of 30-minute KTV spots.
“We used to put a lot more time towards that, but the public relations game has changed,” he said.
“I don’t think today, if I applied to my job, I’d get it. But I’ve been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time in my career.”
Others have been fortunate for that, too. His replacement at MCK, David Lahache, said he owes his career at least in part to Delaronde, who gave Lahache a chance when he was relatively unknown.
“Even though I had no prior experience in radio or communications at that point, or even journalism, he saw something and said, ‘How would you like to work on the radio?’” remembers Lahache.
“I have to say about Joe that he was always there to help you, to lend some experience and give you some pointers,” Lahache said. “And if he didn’t like something, he would tell you, which is something that nobody does these days.”
Delaronde’s diverse experiences have given him an edge in keeping up relationships with Kahnawake’s robust media and a range of different personalities on successive Councils.
“It takes a special type of person, and that’s part of his uniqueness, to make anyone and everyone comfortable, regardless of experience, regardless of background,” said longtime MCK chief Mike Delisle.
“It’s easy to talk to him about whatever,” said Wendy Skye, Delaronde’s wife.
“Joe is the type of guy who doesn’t have his eggs all in one basket, let’s put it that way. He’s got a lot of interests, hobbies, music,” she said, referring to his love for bands like The Beatles and a bass guitar hobby he has maintained since his youth, spent in part playing local venues.
Skye predicts after getting some rest, Delaronde will find things to busy himself with, just as she did when she retired from her own career as a community health nurse.
“I think he’ll sleep for about a month to start with,” said Diabo, MCK’s public relations coordinator and a longtime friend of Delaronde. “Then he’s going to want to maybe put his nose in here and there to see what he can do, because I think he’s still got a lot left in him.”
Delaronde agrees he could use some rest to start out with, an acknowledgment that helped inform his decision to retire.
“If every day I go home and the first thing I do is sit down on the La-Z-Boy and fall asleep for an hour, you know it’s time to slow down,” he said.
He’ll miss the hustle and bustle, however.
“I will say I’ve never had an unpleasant day on the job,” he said. “I’ve never called in sick just because I didn’t feel like coming in, ever, in all my career.”
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Marcus is managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.