Listening to Allison McKinnon one might think that she has been doing radio her whole life and they would be wrong. Before radio, Allison worked as a preschool teacher for close to ten years. Although she loved working with kids, she will be the first to tell you that it wasn’t until she started an internship after college as a ‘Rock Roadie’ that she found her true passion in broadcasting.
Spotlight on Business Magazine sat down with Allison McKinnon, or as she is known to friends and fans alike, Allie, to learn how this energetic and fun-loving media personality’s career has come full circle in Halifax and what is next in this Self-Proclaimed Optimist’s journey.
Spotlight: Tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what you liked to do as a kid, what your hobbies are, what you like to do in your spare time when you are not entertaining people.
AM: I grew up in a suburb outside Ottawa, Ontario called Orleans. I pretty much had a picture-perfect childhood. My parents are truly amazing people, my dad Brian, a retired Mountie, and my mom Gail, a retired Nurse. I also have two sisters, Jennifer and Laura.
As a kid I liked talking everyone’s ear off (big surprise I know) and all the usual kid stuff. Riding bikes, sleepovers, swimming, as long as my friends were there, I didn’t care what we did! It’s funny because in some ways, as an adult I feel exactly the same. I am a social butterfly, extroverted through and through. I just LOVE being around people. As long as my friends are there, I’m happy.
Tell us about your professional background? What got you interested in radio?
AM: I graduated from the Nova Scotia Community Colleges Radio & Television Arts program back in 2014. I was also awarded the Best Major Project for a radio documentary exploring the life of my grandfather (Albro McKinnon) and his life and experiences working for CN Rail as a Morse Code Telegrapher.
My first job in the industry was with rock station 106.7 The Drive and pop station BIG 105 in Red Deer Alberta in March of 2014. It was such a great way to get introduced into the business. I had the opportunity to help plan and attend station and community events and was able to immerse myself completely in this Central Alberta community and get to know the people.
My dream was to move into ‘on air broadcasting’ so I jumped at any opportunity. Producing pieces for the announcers shows, voice tracking overnights, I just had to get behind that mic!
Eventually the hard work all paid off when I was invited to join The Sunrise Show on Sunny 94 in Lacombe in 2016. It was also my first experience with those early morning wake ups!
Sunny 94 was a wonderful and encouraging place to work. A few years later a position became available at Sunny that gave me the opportunity to move into the afternoon drive, and for the first time ever, I was the host of my own show. Talk about a dream come true!
In 2018 a friend mentioned the station I worked part-time as a student in Halifax was looking for a full-time announcer for their morning show. I applied and was chosen to be the newest member of BJ & The Q Morning Crew, a position I held proudly until March of this year.
As on-air talent, we know changes in the industry can come lightening fast, and its our job to roll with whatever comes our way. Like everyone, I have faced challenges and hard times during my career, but I won’t ever stop doing it, because it’s a part of who I am.
Having the ability to connect with people, to truly become a part of their day, to make them laugh and to know they connect just as strongly with you as you do with them, that’s why I love this work.
You have a passion for connecting with people in the community, can you tell us about some of the work you have done?
AM: I am an outspoken and proud ally of the LGBQT+ community. Each year I encouraged my workplaces to support and invest in having a larger presence in Pride events. I have personally marched in Pride Parades, interviewed local members of the community, hosted events and fundraised proudly in every community I’ve lived in.
I have worked with The Bikers Down Organization, which was established by bikers to provide assistance to motorcycle riders who had been injured while on the road. I took part in their calendar campaign and was Miss May in the 2020 Bikers Down Motorcycle Calendar. All the money from this calendar goes to support their family through those trying times. I loved being a part of that!!
When tragedy hit Nova Scotia, I was a part of the special programming at Q104 the day after the Portapique Mass Shooting. The broadcast included interviews with experts, trauma counsellors, members of the Police force and our community. Broadcasting the day after that attack was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
We can see that you have spent some time at stations here in Atlantic Canada (Kentville and Halifax), before heading out West to Calgary, Lacombe and Red Deer. What made you want to come back to Nova Scotia?
AM: Radio is one of those industries that usually involves chasing the perfect job. There are always opportunities for new adventures and new audiences across this country. Moving back to Halifax was the right move at the right time. Now it’s time to explore other options and see what the rest of Canada has to offer as I continue my journey in search of the perfect job.
Who are some of the people in the industry that have inspired you during your journey?
AM: When I think about people I find inspiring in the industry, a lot of time it relates to their endless drive. My Radio teacher David Bannerman always springs to mind. He is funny, kind, talented and hard working. Most importantly he nurtures those who show a real love for the business. He has always been one of my biggest supporters.
I continue to be inspired by everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Trevor Wallworth my former Program Director, along with BJ Wilson and Bobby Mac who are all seasoned pros, Tank Montana was my co-host in Lacombe and has been in the business for decades. Every person I’ve worked along side has passed on their own knowledge to the next generation of jocks, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
Now that you are on a hiatus where can your fans get more of their favorite media personality? Are you on social media?
AM: I sure am!! You can find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @alliefaxradio.
Do you offer any other in person services such as MCing or hosting events? If so, how would someone go about contacting you about these opportunities?
AM: Remember I am an extrovert; I love to MC and host events! It is one of my favourite parts of the job because you get to meet and get to know your listeners. If you were looking to get in touch with me, the best way is through my socials (I am a millennial after all) or shoot an email to email@example.com.
So now that we are all up to speed on the life of Allie, what is next in your journey both professionally and personally for 2021?
AM: I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for 2021!
Life can change on a dime, that’s what this pandemic has taught us. I am an eternal optimist, and I love this industry more than any other I’ve worked in.
Professionally I hope to continue to be able to do the work that I love. Whether it’s radio or television, podcasting, journalism, the sky’s the limit!
What matters to me more than anything, is to love the place I work. New opportunities happen every single day, and I want to be the type of person that continues to jump at those opportunities.
Where do you see yourself professionally in the next five years?
AM: In five years, I hope I’ve cemented myself as an essential member of an amazing team. Now what kind of team is anybody’s guess. And that is where the fun comes in.
Media is ever changing, ever evolving. The ways we connect, how we connect, who we connect with, it’s always shifting. I am excited to be a part of that and hope to be a part of a team that is excited to do the same.
Do you have any interest in exploring other media platforms like maybe television?
AM: Sure! I’m open to any and all opportunities that come my way! We only get so much time; I plan to make the most of it.
I would love to join a television program. The biggest love for me in this business is its ability to connect. As members of the media, we are a part of other people’s lives. Every single day. That is incredibly powerful.
When my time is done, I wanna look back on my career and know that people’s lives were made better through the connection we made. That I helped them through a tough time, made them laugh, made them think and made them know they are not alone.
True Human Connection. That is the power of media, and that is everything.
Sometimes when you meet a person that is in the spotlight, they are completely different than how they come across as a personality on television, radio or any media for that matter, we can tell you that is not the case with Allie, what you see, or in this case, what you hear, is what you get. She is genuine, outspoken and a true professional on and off the air, that enjoys life and having fun living it. We are confident that there are great things in Allie’s future and it we are excited to see where her journey takes her in the pursuit of the perfect job.
by Lee Ann Atwater