Part 5, The CSR Career Path: Hilary Connelly

by Hilary Connelly

This is the final interview in my blog series (read my firstsecondthird and fourth posts) on researching the CSR Career Path and what better way to tell you how I landed my dream job then to “interview” myself and share my career advice and profile. I ended up where I am today via a winding path through NFL media relations, managing a nonprofit and working for a tech startup in Silicon Valley. But despite the varied industries, I knew early on I wanted to use my career and abilities to make a difference in the lives of others. I know this sounds cheesy, but to me the perfect job is to tell the story of organizations making an impact on the world, work with people I’m inspired by, and be a part of building something that I believe in. I waited a year to find the right fit and had several job offers, but it was worth the wait. When I interviewed with the company’s founders, I knew in my gut this was where I was supposed to be.

I’ve landed back in San Francisco to join Shout, a tech startup that launched an app in March 2015 that measures and illustrates a person’s values, character and how good of a person they are – as affirmed by those who know them best. Shout changes the way we judge each other by scoring a person’s positive social impact and the cumulative good they see in others.

I hope by reading this blog and the interviews of other CSR/Social Good professionals, you are encouraged to go after your dream job and never settle for anything less. A special thank you to those who have encouraged and helped me in this research – the Center for Social Impact Communications team, Dean Keyes, Georgetown instructors, classmates and all of the CSR professionals I spoke with along the way.

Connelly-HilaryName: Hilary Connelly

Title: Director of Marketing and Operations, Shout

Graduate Education: Master of Professional Studies in PR and Corporate Communications | Georgetown University

Previous Positions

  • Alumni Instructor, PR/CC Capstone Course | Georgetown University
  • Project Manager & Executive Assistant to CEO | Reply!, Inc.
  • Executive Director | The Quentin Jammer Family Foundation
  • Public Relations & Events Manager | Octagon Football
  • Media Relations Assistant | Baltimore Ravens

Hilary’s Role

I’ve only been at my new job with Shout for a couple months now and I’m thrilled to be a part of a team that is contributing to improving how we interact with others both online and offline. It is not what I originally envisioned when I thought of a CSR role, but I am still part of an corporation that is working to improve society. As the Director of Marketing and Operations, I’m part of a small team building a mobile app that measures the strength of your character with a simple score. In my day-to-day role, I wear many hats and help out wherever I can to get our product launched and in the hands of all of you! Currently, I’m building a communications strategy for our app launch targeting college students and young professionals, writing messaging and positioning statements for our overall brand and managing the operations of the development and design of the app.

It’s exciting to be part of a startup where I get to create a product that others can enjoy.

How I got here

When I graduated from Brigham Young University with a communications degree – I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime… to work in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens. I had no idea what I was getting into, but during that first year of working in media relations for a professional team I definitely got my feet wet in communicating to fans on a national scale. But it was my work with the team giving back to the community that I found most rewarding. Not sure what was the right next step, I ended up working at a sports agency helping athletes promote themselves by coordinating media and promotional appearances as well as helping them with their charitable foundations. I loved helping them volunteer in their community and host special events to raise money for causes they cared about. Despite all of the negativity surrounding some players in the NFL, I got to work with some really caring guys. One of them actually hired me to start and run his nonprofit foundation supporting foster youth in San Diego.

I worked at the Jammer Family Foundation for several years building the brand, coordinating volunteer programs and raising money for the first-in-the-nation residential school for foster youth. Then the economy tanked in 2008 and I was suddenly back to the drawing board. I explored several jobs as a personal assistant to both individuals and CEOs. While I liked a lot of the organizational aspects of that role, ultimately I missed being strategic and being able to use my communication skills to help a company tell its story. That led me to graduate school at Georgetown where I was able to hone my communications skills and learn about the digital media technologies that were new to me as a PR professional. The classes I took helped me better understand my strengths and the direction I wanted to go in my career.

I knew that ultimately I wanted to do something with a social good mission, but I just wasn’t sure what that position would look like. I got some great advice from a friend who told me to visualize the place I wanted to work and what it felt like. I wasn’t that comfortable using my imagination, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I met up with an old boss of mine over the holidays this year and he told me about a company he was starting and asked if I’d be willing to meet with his team the following week. I thought this might be a consulting opportunity, but much to my surprise after meeting with his team and having an informal interview with his cofounder, they offered me an amazing position as director of marketing and operations at Shout, a new tech startup based in sunny San Francisco.

Must Have Skills

  • Be able to tell people who you are and what your unique offering is by being prepared with an elevator pitch as well as a unique fact about yourself that will make you memorable.
  • Being a skilled writer will get you far in your career. People in any industry, but especially communications and CSR appreciate a concise and skillful writer. Of all of the skills I use on a daily basis – this is the one I use that propels my ideas forward the most and allows me to prove my impact.

Career Highlight

I’ve had several career highlights where I’ve been extremely satisfied with the work I’m doing. Most of it revolves around meeting really inspiring people and overcoming the fear of doing something that’s new to me.

One memory that stands out was during my work as the Executive Director of a nonprofit foundation in San Diego that worked with foster youth. As part of my job, I partnered with the San Diego Chargers and hosted ten local youth to a football game each home game as part of a reward program for academic all-stars. Sitting in the sun, watching football with these teenagers who had gone through a lot in their lives was incredibly rewarding. I had taken on this role with hesitation because I had never worked for a foundation let alone run one – but I took the leap of faith and it was one of the greatest learning experiences of my career. I still am involved in foster youth advocacy today because of my introduction to this amazing group of kids.

My Advice

  • Network! I can’t say this enough. We hear this often, but I am proof. Almost every job I’ve ever gotten has been because of someone has referred me or even former colleagues and bosses. Referrals are the best way to find a job. It gets easier the more you do it.
  • Find something you’re passionate about and find a way to get involved in that arena. You can always volunteer or attend conferences for an industry you’re interested in. It’s a great way to meet people in the field and learn whether or not this is a career you might want to pursue.
  • Ask a lot of questions. When interviewing, I know it’s a nerve-wrecking process, but always ask as many questions about the person interviewing you as you can. Let them talk about themselves and learn how you can connect with them in some personal way – like you both love to golf or have a trip to Australia coming up, etc. This really makes you a memorable candidate and people hire people who they LIKE and would want as a coworker.

Potential Challenges

I’m not in a traditional CSR role, but one of the aspects of communicating social impact that is a challenge with any brand is getting through the clutter and getting people to care about the work you’re doing.

Sometimes it can be hard to get buy in from management when its not tied directly to sales or isn’t measurable.

And as consumers are increasingly concerned with supporting brands and organizations that have a positive social impact, it will be essential to be able to really tell an organization’s story in a compelling and visual way.

Practitioner Profile: Sherry Ettleson, Professional Search Consultant

by Kimberley Carlton

sherry1-e1355761593391Sherry Ettleson is the founder and president of Ettleson & Associates, a professional independent headhunting organization for progressive nonprofits and foundations in Washington, DC, New York and San Francisco.  To learn more about current opportunities Sherry is recruiting for or to submit your resume for her consideration, visit the Ettleson & Associates website.

[Editor’s Tip: Sherry is currently recruiting for a Communications Associate at Venture Philanthropy Partners!]

 

Center for Social Impact Communication: Describe your career path and your current position.

Sherry Ettleson: My career started when I was a young lawyer/ lobbyist in Washington working for nonprofit organizations and then as a Senate Hill staffer for many years. While taking time off to raise my family, a good friend and former colleague asked if I could help with a few searches for his firm. As a result, he began referring other nonprofit clients who needed help finding talented new staff. After receiving publicity from the Washington Post in 2009, I acquired some new clients and built up my own firm over the last ten years. I work alone with a little administrative help as needed. My work affords me the opportunity to stay connected to the great organizations that I worked with earlier in my career.

CSIC: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

SE: What I enjoy most about my work is collaborating so many terrific organizations. I enjoy learning about the really important work they are doing and helping them find the right talent to carry out their mission. The other part I enjoy is the talent search. I love hearing about people’s career paths. It is fascinating to see how a person’s career evolves. I like knowing the thought, the focus, and the passion that people put into their careers.

CSIC: What are the top the 5 traits that attracts you to a candidate?

SE: The five traits or characteristics that attract me to a candidate are:

  1. Passion
  2. Drive
  3. Creativity
  4. Problem Solving Ability
  5. Looking at things from a different perspective

The other qualifications I look for are good writing skills. I always look for good writers.

CSIC: What is your best piece of career advice for seeking opportunities in social impact space?

SE: I give all job seekers the same career advice: work for and with great people. Work for people that will give you opportunities to grow and develop. Work for someone that will give you opportunities to take on responsibilities and someone that you can learn from. People in Washington are always looking for jobs down two different paths. One path is looking for a job where they can work on a particular issue they are passionate about. The other path is skill related – what are you good at? Advocacy, communications, raising money, etc. However, often people forget the people side of of a job search. You may find the perfect job, but if your boss does not allow you to grow and learn, it will ruin the experience and the opportunity for you. My best career advice is to work for great people.

CSIC: What is your go to source to stay relevant and up-to-date with industry trends for the organizations you recruit for?

SE: My clients are my go to source for staying relevant and up-to-date with industry trends. I learn a lot through interviews and conversations with my clients and potential clients. I always learn a lot from those conversations.

CSIC: If life had dealt you a different hand and you never spent a semester in Washington while in law school, what do you think you would be doing now?

SE: This is one of my favorite questions. First, if I had grown up in a different era where being a chef held a different connotation; I might have been a chef. I love to cook for my family and friends. More seriously, if I had not come to Washington for my law school internship I probably would be working in state government. I would be in Chicago working in State government. I love government work. It is important to me that government works for everyone.

Student Profile: Karin Bloomquist, CSIC Apprentice

karinKarin Bloomquist is the student Special Projects Apprentice for the Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC) at Georgetown University. She works closely with the team to provide support on CSIC’s priority corporate responsibility and communication projects – ranging from external promotion to impact gathering. Karin is a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, working towards obtaining a master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications and will be graduating in May 2015.
Follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Center for Social Impact Communication: How did you first hear about the Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC)?

Karin Bloomquist: The first time I heard about CSIC was when I was researching graduate schools. At the time I applied to the PR/CC program, I was working for ICF International on their strategic communications and marketing team doing energy communications. Through my energy work, I developed an interest in sustainability and through volunteering, I became interested in understanding nonprofit/corporate partnerships and its impact on business practices. Georgetown PR/CC and CSIC offered opportunities for research in social impact and corporate social responsibility, and it was then that I realized that not only did I want to apply to the program, but also I wanted to take social impact focused classes and find out how to get involved with the center.

CSIC: What has been your favorite part of serving as CSIC Student Apprentice? 

KB: My favorite part of serving as CSIC’s student apprentice is being a go-to resource for other students. I enjoy finding new ways to report social impact both at Georgetown and in the community. It’s nice to be able to talk to other students at the School of Continuing Studies about the work CSIC is doing and play a part in increasing visibility on key projects.

CSIC: What project are you the most proud of? 

KB: I am most proud of all the ads that I created for The Social Strategist Project. I learned a lot of insights on social impact communications while making the ads, but mainly, it makes me happy to know that these ads will continue long after I graduate from Georgetown! I also enjoyed helping the CSIC team brainstorm for the first, social impact career field trip, which was a huge success!

Do you have any advice for students about engaging with CSIC? 

KB: My advice for students looking to engage with CSIC is, first and foremost, take CSIC courses offered by our program! I had some of the most valuable experiences of my entire time at Georgetown with courses like Cause Consulting and Communication for International Development. There are so many CSIC courses that allow you opportunities to build and grow your social impact communications skill set that it would be a shame to miss out on taking at least one of them!

CSIC: We know you’re gearing up for graduation soon—congratulations!—what are your plans for after graduation? 

KB: Thank you! After Georgetown, I hope to transition my previous professional experience into a full time position in the corporate social responsibility/sustainability communications space and would eventually like to relocate to the west coast. As for my immediate plans, I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the weekends again!

The Exciting Evolution of CSR

by Karin Bloomquist

Lesson7_CSR_logo2Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an integral part of modern business practices in the corporate world. It is often seen as the key to success and is known to have significant and lasting effects where the business’ code of ethics is strong. A great CSR program integrates social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with stakeholders on a voluntary basis. This allows for increased transparency and accountability, and it is important that businesses and their publics understand these two-way, responsible partnerships.

That being said, corporate CSR is ideally not a form of philanthropy. According to Forbes, many companies still have yet to move on from the idea that CSR is not just increasing charity work. Real CSR programs have benefits like increased brand reputation and credibility, improved risk and supply chain management, cost savings from efficiency improvements, and revenue. It is essential to consider the groups of individuals that are affected by corporate practices in order to have successful results.

According to Edelman’s 2012 Good Purpose® Study, which explores global consumer attitudes around social purpose, 76% of global consumers believe it is acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time, which is a 33% increase globally from 2008 when the study first started. Additionally, the study states that 72% of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a cause and 71% would help promote a brand they behind had a good cause behind them. Not only are consumers behind the idea of CSR programs, but also the concept improves the thought leadership of the corporate brand.

It is suggested that companies, not governments, will solve the world’s biggest problems. Governments are primarily self-interested and motivated towards the security of their nation and the well being of their citizens. The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) suggestions that it is not at all clear today that the sum of “national interests” equals the “public interest” of the world. Because corporations are global by nature, they have an advantage of being border-free and are willing to help those that are outside of national interests. Additionally, customers are the stakeholders in the corporate world. Getting close to individuals and communities is what they do best.

Storytelling is a great way to position a successful CSR program, but getting close to the issues people care about the most drives people to be more engaged and get involved by taking matters into their own hands. Timothy Devinney at NBS suggests that social and environmental sustainability are among the lower priority issues, especially when they are framed as global rather than local. What corporations should be focused on is how to personalize the issues that they want their employees, communities, and stakeholders to care about. The closer people feel to an issue, the more likely it will hit home and they will want to do something to help.

CSRCorporate firms of the future drive transformation through values-based leadership and stakeholder empowerment. They don’t push change; they inspire a culture around it. It is not just a business strategy for corporate success; it is a sustainable and responsible strategy that helps them better understanding of the community around them.

 

 

Commercial Marketing and Social Change

by Alan R. Andreasen 

Commercial marketing is a set of activities carried out by a commercial enterprise designed to influence others to act in ways that will maximize value for the owners of the enterprise over the long run[1]. Over 100-plus years of growth and development, commercial marketing has evolved practices and concepts that have the potential to make significant contributions to social change. On the practical side, commercial marketers have learned that promoting social change – for example through cause-related marketing (CRM) partnerships – is a tactic that can significantly impact shareholder value. CRM activities today generate over $3 billion in corporate revenues while contributing in important ways to challenges like breast cancer, drinking and driving, and smoking cessation.

However, it is the field’s conceptual developments that stand to make the most profound and enduring contributions to social change. Bill Smith proposes four basic concepts as the essence of these contributions:

  •  A philosophy of exchange
  • Continual marketing research
  • The marketing mix
  • Competitive positioning

I would argue that there are three other major contributions and a number of other minor conceptual frameworks that also deserve close attention. Further, I will also argue that there is more to the idea of competition than Smith has adduced.

Major Contributions

A. The Centrality of a Customer Orientation

Behavior change is ultimately in the hands of the target audience. Laws can be passed, environments altered and communications campaigns put into place. But if individuals choose not to act, social change will not happen. Commercial marketers know this because their success is measured in sales and revenues. They learned many years ago that they must place the individual consumer at the center of all they do not see the customer as a target to be somehow manipulated. They recognize that an understanding of the consumer and what make him or her act is the essential first step in any strategic planning process. It is this understanding that leads successful marketers to craft desirable exchanges, a sound competitive positioning and an effective marketing mix. It is this understanding that also causes them to place heavy reliance on pretesting and monitoring as strategies are implemented.

A customer orientation also leads commercial marketers to the view that, if campaigns are not successful, the fault must lie with the campaign and its planners and not with target customers. Social marketers too often adopt an “organization-centered” mindset in part because of their own strong belief in the behaviors they are promoting.

 

B. Markets Must Be Segmented

Commercial marketers have long since abandoned the notion of mass marketing. Their fanatical attention to customer insight leads them to recognize that customers differ significantly in what they seek in life and how they would respond to change strategies and tactics that the marketer might put in place. An approach of developing the “one best campaign” is viewed as not responsive to the diversity of customer markets and inefficient in its use of limited resources. Many marketers today have gone to the opposite extreme of developing “markets of one” through data-mining research and crafting influence approaches that respond to – and take advantage of – each individual’s uniqueness.

Direct mail, telemarketing and the internet make “markets of one” conceptually feasible. However, marketers also recognize that such a high degree of articulation often is not economically efficient and so they constantly seek segmentation frameworks that group audiences in ways that permit both effective and efficient strategies. In recent years, segmentation efforts have centered less on easily acquired demographic information and more on insights into consumer cognitions, personalities and lifestyles.

Although social marketers today often segment target audiences they typically use demographic bases. There have been attempts to develop more sophisticated approaches such Porter Novelli’s Healthstyles and AED’s Greenstyles frameworks. However, this is still an area that merits much more basic research and refinement.

C. The Need for Risk-Taking

Commercial marketers operate in chaotic environments with imperfect data. They recognize that whatever actions they take today will inevitably not work as planned because consumers and environments will change – and their competitors will not stand still. In the face of this chaos, the typical marketers’ response is not to seek out “perfect” information or await clearer forecasts but to take actions that involve risk, recognizing that effective monitoring systems (as Smith recommends) will allow them to make the changes needed to gradually approximate their desired outcomes. Their mantra is “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Many others seeking social change seem to follow an approach that can be characterized as

“Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim – – Fire(maybe).”

 

Other Potentially Useful Concepts

1. Branding

Marketers from Coca-Cola to the Ritz-Carlton have long known that long term influence programs that involve products or services will be significantly enhanced by careful branding strategies. Branding strategies recognize that target audiences acquire things and patronize services that they like and trust and that have predictable, desirable qualities. Brand “shorthand” tells target audiences what they will be getting if they transact with the business and marketers spend vast sums perfecting their brands and the images associated with it. They are relentless in their stewardship of these brands to ensure that they consistently deliver on the “value proposition” that the brand has taught consumers to expect.

Brands make strategies more efficient because they become “shorthand” for many key properties and they help build repeat behaviors (brand loyalties) that would be essential to many social change programs’ long term success. Branding is common in commodity-based social marketing. However, its use in service-oriented or “pure behavior” programs is still in its infancy.

2. Franchising

Marketers often cannot reach vastly dispersed audiences through their own channels and staff. Thus, they have crafted partnership vehicles called “franchises” that allow them to extend their reach while, at the same time, controlling the content and delivery of their marketing strategies. This approach has proven particularly valuable as they have sought to reach geographically distant markets.

Many charities engaged in social marketing efforts (such as Habitat for Humanity) rely on elements of a franchise model. However, other multisite programs could well gain greater control and impact with this approach.

3. Consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction.

Marketers know that it easier and less costly to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones. Thus, they are slavishly attentive to the quality of customer experiences. They invest significant sums into systems to track consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction and complaining behavior and into mechanisms for redressing wrongs or imperfections in the system. A major insight from this focus has been to recognize the importance of customer expectations in evaluations of product or service encounters. Marketers have learned that unrealistic expectations that have been raised through exaggerated brand promises or overly enthusiastic promotions or sales presentations will not only discourage repeat patronage but also provoke negative word of mouth commentary that can reach 8-10 other target audience members.

Social marketers who must focus on maintaining long-term behavior change would benefit from more elaborate and sophisticated tracking of consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction and complaining behavior.

4. The Distinction Between Product and Services Marketing

Marketers have learned that there are important differences between products and services that make the challenges of marketing the latter more difficult. Services are intangible in that customers cannot inspect or handle them before acquisition. They are perishable in that they cannot be stored – unfilled airline seats on a departing flight cannot be warehoused to meet later demand. They are variable – a restaurant meal one night or a doctor’s visit one afternoon may not be the same as would be encountered the next time. Finally, they are inseparable from the customer who contracts for them – the diner who savors the meal or the patient who is tested or who (accurately or inaccurately) reports symptoms.

Service marketers, therefore, put special effort to: (a) attaching tangible features to their offerings through logos, building “atmospherics”, and the appearances of staff; (b) manage demand to better match perishable supply; (c) invest huge sums and time in training staff to deliver consistent service at the quality level the marketer (or the brand) promises; and (d) pay close attention to personal interactions with customers to make sure that the latter derive the most benefit – and satisfaction – from every encounter with an organization staffer. Many social marketers are, in fact, in the service business and would benefit from addressing these unique dimensions.

5. Product/Service Life Cycle

Many years of experience have taught marketers that product or service innovations go through a predictable life cycle following their launch. They know they will be more effective if they plan ahead and tailor their strategies to these predictable stages. The first stage is the introduction period where emphasis needs to be on building marketing systems, establishing the brand and its promise and seeking out innovators and early adopters as first patrons. Stage two is growth where (one hopes) product or service sales accelerate significantly and where attention must be paid to extending coverage, perhaps developing franchises, and beginning to plan follow-up product and service variations to capitalize on early success. Stage three is maturity where competition is fierce, new organizations have appeared to challenge success and acquisition of further gains becomes harder and more expensive. Stage four is potential decline when the venture has peaked and is replaced by superior alternatives. Here, attention must be paid to either “milking” the existing offering or finding innovative ways to rejuvenate it.

Anticipation of these natural progressions would leave prescient social marketers poised for each new challenge and less likely to waste valuable resources.

 

A Comment About Competition

As the exposition above suggests, commercial marketing offers concepts and tools that are potentially useful in (a) crafting strategies and tactics to influence people to bring about social change and (b) managing the organizations that create these strategeis and tactics. It is in the later regard that I wish to extend Bill Smith’s comments about competition.

Consumer insight makes abundantly clear that every behavior we wish to influence has at least one competitor, even if that competitor is the status quo, and that effective strategies must address that competition. However, organizations also compete in commercial marketing. Commercial marketers live and breathe market share as their measure of corporate self worth. And this means that they constantly think about ways to “beat out the other guy.”

By contrast, most enterprises in the social sector reflect a culture in which inter-organizational competition is considered unseemly. Although such competition is grudgingly recognized in the domains of grant-getting and fund-raising, blatant attempts to be better than direct competitors is thought to be “not nice.” While I do not wish to recommend the adoption of unbridled cut-throat competition, I do believe that healthy inter-organizational competition can offer two major gains to social change programs:

 

  1. It would intensify the focus on providing superior value for target audiences as compared to competitors. In my experience, social change programs do not think enough about how they can be better than competitors. If they did, they would put more resources into building marketing capabilities, strengthening their brand, improving customer research skills and so forth. They would also spend more effort learning what competitors are doing and appropriating approaches that these competitors do better. If competitors did the same thing, this can only mean that the entire cadre of competitors would continually ratchet up their performances. General Motors is better because it watches Toyota and Mercedes. Coca-Cola is a better marketer because it has to beat out Pepsi!
  2. It would provide new goals for people in the organization and a new benchmark against which to measure progress. It should not be a “bad thing” for an organization to try to be better than other organizations like themselves. It is healthy human nature to want to be “better than the other guy” and I would argue that it is more motivating to have a real entity to chase after or outdistance than to try to achieve — and be rewarded by – more abstract organizational goals like growth in staff size or annual operating budget.

[1] Some commercial marketers claim to achieve a “double bottom line” which adds social outcomes to financial performance.