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Erica Pelletreau

Strategic Communications Officer at Ford Foundation

Best career advice you ever got?  

Own the failures and share the wins. Strive to find your own way, and leave a path for those who come next. Your job is to make your boss look good – and make sure they know what you’re doing. Wake up every morning, look in the mirror and appreciate that you’ve been able to fight the good fight for so long. Disregard the detractors.

Favorite thing about your job?  

I get to work on a wide range of issues —  meaning I learn something new literally every day. I love the constant stream of new ideas, challenges and people.

What would you be doing if not this?

 I’d be an apprentice in a floral design studio – or a professional rambler of the streets of New York.

What’s something work related that keeps you up at night?  

The super-high stakes of the census. What if the technology fails and the the first digital census is a disaster? What if it’s hacked? Who would hack the census? Any what would be their nefarious goals? How are we going to be able to spot misinformation? And how do we counter? How do we convince traditionally undercounted communities that their data will be safe? Will their data actually be safe? How can we get the citizenship question off the form? And if we can’t, what’s our next strategic move? If the government showed up at my door and asked me to answer personal questions, would I answer? And that does that say about my faith in government? If I’m a skeptic, how do convince those with more to lose to participate? Pay attention!!!

Most memorable Communications Network Experience?

The quite intense session in Miami with Donna Shalala and Craig Minassian. They gave us a personal and detailed account of managing the Clinton Foundation through treacherous waters. I was captivated!

Your most overused word or phrase?  

Smart (increase our communications smarts; identify smart communications firms; helping Ford get smarter…) used in conjunction with a hand gesture reminiscent of a wrench.

Best thing you’ve read/watched/listened to recently?

Make Trouble by Cecile Richards; it’s the autobiography of an extraordinarily powerful woman, yet told in a way that’s accessible for the rest of us.

Guilty Pleasure?

The weekend Metro section of the NYT with scrambled eggs, bacon and berries.

How do you define success?

Are we moving the needle? Are we building the bench? Have we done something that advances the long-term goal? Who is at the table? What role do they play?

Most important thing you’ve learned in the last five years?

Less is more

What are you most interested in learning from your colleagues in The Network — and what could folks learn from you?  

The Network crew is a font of the latest and greatest thinking about communications. What’s the coolest tool to measure impact across social? How can a slight reframing change how we think about criminal justice reform? What’s the best way to tell a story that drives the audience to action? What I bring to the table is an insatiable curiosity, driving inquiry, and critical thinking. I’m a great thought partner.

How has The Network been helpful to your work/your career? And why?

In a word, comradeship. Knowing that there’s someone, else struggling with the same challenges, willing to share what they’ve learned and together we can get smarter about building the field and driving impact.


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