Director, Marketing & Communications, New York Cares
- How did you get started in PR and how did you find yourself where you are now?
I've always been intrigued by Communications. It’s a medium that has the power to evoke emotion and inspire action in a matter of seconds. That intrigue led me to study Mass Communications in school where I began to dabble in broadcast and new media opportunities. As soon as I got a taste of the creative and cause-centric work of the nonprofit sector, I was hooked. I found that I could make a positive impact in the lives of others, all while doing a bit of everything I loved – design, marketing, branding, and interactive media. At New York Cares, New York City’s leading volunteer management organization, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do all of that and more.
- What is your role within the organization?
As the Director of Marketing & Communications at New York Cares, I oversee the team that communicates the pressing needs of our city and inspires New Yorkers to take action in their community by volunteering. From generating awareness around everyday service opportunities that improve education, meet immediate needs and revitalize public spaces, to marketing our iconic Coat Drive that collects and distributes over 100,000 warm winter coats annually, we work to ensure giving back is easy and impactful.
My team is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to bolster our communications to further our mission of mobilizing caring New Yorkers in service. For starters, we use a content calendar to keep the organization on message and equipped with relevant talking points, the programmatic focus of the month, important dates, and calls to action. This calendar aligns with our PR, social, web, and e-marketing strategies as we seek to build awareness, capture interest and increase engagement among our many constituents. We recently discussed our approach to engagement and remarketing in a presentation with Whole Whale, a digital agency that uses data and tech to increase the impact of nonprofits. I encourage you to check it out, if you also encounter challenges re-engaging your audience across your channels.
- What are you currently working on?
We’re in the midst of our National Volunteer Week campaign (April 15-22) and planning a week’s worth of issue education, recognition, and volunteer events highlighting the individuals who make our city a better place to live and work. Our theme, Unlock NYC, comes from the idea that volunteers have the power to unlock our city’s potential. Whether they are spending Saturdays preparing high school juniors for their SAT, waking up early to serve breakfast to hungry New Yorkers, or refusing to sit by and watch our city’s green spaces be forgotten, our volunteers are the keys to success.
- What is a recent success you're particularly proud of?
Last month, we wrapped up our 29th Annual New York Cares Coat Drive with Coat Tales, a report reflecting on the success of this collecting and distributing 104,164 warm coats this past winter. As the title suggests, we used stories to illustrate the city-wide effort of businesses, individuals, and community members who came together to address a vital need in our city.
The act of compiling the Coat Drive Report, in and of itself, is a great exercise in journalism and content curation. The content we gather is used in a variety of places such as social media, website, press pitches, blogs, etc. The report is often most useful in illustrating the impact of the drive and helping increase support for next year’s drive. In 2018, we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary of the Coat Drive and distributing our two millionth coat! The 2017 Coat Drive Report is already being used in preparation for this milestone year and help make it our biggest yet. My team really enjoyed going behind the scenes to capture all of these moving stories, stats and visuals.
- What is most important in your work?
Storytelling! It’s my job to communicate the impact of volunteers in our city, which simply isn’t possible without stories. Over the years, we’ve worked to establish a storytelling culture at New York Cares and now run a monthly Story Drive where the winner receives a prize and shout out at our All Staff meetings. It was established for both internal and external use. It has even led to spin-off know series known as the Team Leader Spotlight, a monthly feature profiling the dedicated volunteer leaders who oversee projects throughout the city. These storytelling platforms have helped us gather content for blogs, social media, reports, and much more.
- How would you say the media landscape in your field has changed since you started in PR?
Media has changed drastically over the last decade. Digital platforms have replaced traditional, which has created a landscape of viral and therefore, fleeting content. As a result, we’ve reevaluated our social strategies, explored more video, and worked to increase SEO. When you find that 80% of journalists are researching their stories on social media, your approach to PR naturally changes.
- Where are your favorite places for business meetings or drinks with writers/clients?
Since the New York Cares office is located in the Financial District, I tend to frequent anywhere on Stone Street or South Street Seaport (alliteration accidental). You can never go wrong seeking one of these outdoor spots for a happy hour deal or historic stroll after work.
- PR/Communications can be fast-paced and stressful, what is your favorite way of relaxing?
That’s an easy one - pet therapy! Prior to moving to New York, I worked with volunteers (both two-legged and four-legged) at PAWS for People, a nonprofit organization that specializes in animal-assisted therapy for emotional, physical, and mental benefits. I know all about the benefits to pet therapy and unwinding by cuddling up with my three-year-old rescue dog, Rex. He’s 90lbs and just as easily doubles as a fitness partner once the weather gets nice!
- What are you reading these days?
I recently attended a course, Developing Leaders for Nonprofit Professionals at Columbia and did a 360-feedback session that I found to be especially helpful. As a result, my coach recommended Marshall Goldsmith’s, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be extra introspective and learn how to create a healthy and positive work environment for my team by tweaking some of my habits.
- What are you listening to these days?
This American Life. I’ve been listening to their podcast for years but it’s still my main go-to for entertaining journalism. Another favorite is The Moth. We had the honor of hosting them for a volunteer workshop a few years back and I’ve been drawn to their approach to live storytelling ever since.
- What is the next event you're the most looking forward to in the next months?
CreativeMornings! CreativeMornings is a free and accessible monthly event for the creative community which offers a breakfast and a brief talk. It’s all about celebrating our city’s creative talent and providing an open space to connect with like-minded peers. Each month brings a new theme and the meet-ups have become so popular, it’s now in nearly 200 cities worldwide.