At our Fall 2013 Annual Conference in New Orleans, Minna Jung, communications director for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, was elected chair of the Communications Network. Jung, who joined the board in 2005, had been serving as the Network’s vice chair since September 2011. In the following post, she shares her thoughts on why it matters to be passionate about doing great communications for good causes.
I’m back in the office after spending most of last week at the Communications Network conference, and the re-entry has been harder than usual, post-conference. I always think the Network conference is a success when I’ve carried away two or three good ideas with me to take to my home practice of strategic communications. But on top of getting those good ideas, this latest conference was one of the best times I can recall EVER having at a conference. The speakers were outstanding, everyone seemed especially energized and eager to connect with each other, and the surrounding atmosphere provided by NOLA was tasty and rich and giddy.
So here’s what I was going to say last Friday morning, when I decided instead to scamper off the stage to give Junot Diaz more time. (Did I make the right decision, or what? He was so amazing.)
I think we all care about the Network, and come to the conference, for fairly obvious reasons: we are passionate about doing great communications for good causes, and we are all eager to share our ideas on how we do this work. But let’s face it: not every day as a communicator is a good one. Some days suck. Some days, the message gets mangled, your audiences seem completely disengaged and uninspired, and you’re like, shoot, I do not have it in me to explain to one more person why a communications strategy could add so much impact to what you’re doing.
But then, some days don’t suck. Some days are absolutely brilliant. Here’s a brilliant day: last year, I traveled to India for the first time for my job at the Packard Foundation, and I was at a breakfast meeting with women leaders who were running very small, grassroots organizations to deliver reproductive health services and information to women in Bihar, India. The Foundation had funded these women to form a network so they could provide peer support to one another and I asked the woman sitting next to me, does your organization have a plan for how to communicate about this work to other audiences, or is that something you haven’t found the resources or time to do?
And the woman smiled and answered: “You know, when we formed this network, we all had this belief—that the work of the organization was all about giving these services, and that it was enough to give the services. But then we started talking to one another—we started telling each other our stories, and then we realized that other people needed to hear our stories, too. It was not enough to just give the services—we have to communicate about who we are, and what we do, so other people will share our work and share our cause. We realized that communicating is part of the impact we want to have.”
This woman in India—she totally got it. She got why strategic communications matters if you are trying to make positive change in the world happen. And I think her understanding of why communications matters is what the mission of the Communications Network is all about. We need to make sure that more people in our fields of work get it. So we can help make people’s lives better, ultimately.
And then at a more micro-level: I’d like folks in this Network to have more days when we’re inspired by what we do, like I was that day in India, and fewer days that suck.
I am so looking forward to being the Board chair for the Communications Network, even though there’s a tiny part of me that believes I had the most fun Board-related duty of all, which was to lead the conference program planning. I hope to still keep my hand in conference planning, while I take on other things like governance, finding a new Executive Director to transition from the awesome, bighearted Bruce Trachtenberg, fundraising, and making sure that the ideas keep on coming into the Network, and keep on going out…to you. Where I come down is, becoming Board chair is just another, different way to serve the Network, which represents all the things I love best about my career.
I hope I get to meet more of you before next year’s conference in Philly, but if that doesn’t happen, let’s try and connect over a cheesesteak while we’re there.