1Please give us a brief bio of yourself, your company, job profile, etc.
As Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Morris Animal Foundation, I'm responsible for the overall communications and brand strategy in support of the Foundation's business development plans. I oversee all strategies and tactics for messaging and communications to external and internal audiences, support our cause-marketing program, and spearhead our public and media relations efforts both nationally and locally, as well as coordinate our direct mail program. In my role, I help to raise awareness and support of Morris Animal Foundation's mission to advance animal health.
Previously, I was Director of Advancement Communications for the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. In that position, I managed the private giving communications program including flagship magazines, online alumni magazines, fundraising collateral materials, and website content.
I began my professional career as a news journalist with the Loveland Reporter-Herald in Colorado, then joined Colorado State University as a science writer in public relations, focusing on veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences, and crisis communications. After four years with the University, I established Connect! Communications, a company with services in public and media relations, internal and external communications, brand development, and marketing.
Clients at Connect! Communications ranged from large entities, including Hewlett-Packard and Colorado State University to small start-ups. My company provided specialized communications services to companies and organizations grounded in biomedical sciences, veterinary medicine, comparative medicine, biomedical engineering, and/or high tech.
Throughout my career, I have sought to bring insight, innovation and integrity to communications programs and be a professional in every sense of the word for my employers and my clients.
2Tell us a bit about your business and what you do.
Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded by a veterinarian in 1948, the foundation funds and conducts critical health studies for the benefit of all animals. From dogs and cats to horses and wildlife, the studies we fund help animals everywhere live longer, healthier lives by advancing veterinary medicine and wildlife management.
3Congratulations! As the winner of the 2019 Muse Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
People used to say about Morris Animal Foundation that we were the best foundation no one had ever heard of. The goal for my team is to change that and connect people to their passion for animals so we can fund more research to help more animals around the world – the need is great and growing and we must grow as an organization if we are to continue to fund critical animal health studies.
Creating a memorable brand that people can connect to, relate to and remember means we have to work a little less hard to capture our audience and move them to action. Winning the Muse awards are an affirmation that the work we are doing is excellent and even more importantly, help create and sustain awareness of and engagement with the foundation and help us as we continually pursue and advance our mission.
4Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2019 Muse Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
During the last two years, we’ve been going through a significant update for the Morris Animal Foundation brand and look. Previously, the primary colours for the foundation and its marketing materials were brown and black with a bit of orange – not particularly engaging. We have amazing imagery to work with – animals! – but were not taking advantage of it.
The work we entered included the fruits of those labours, including our updated logo which was familiar to those who knew us but with a surprise addition, our Colorado Ballet program ad series which introduced us to a new audience in a highly engaging way (dogs and cats auditioning for the ballet), as well as press releases that shared the importance of our work, new online magazines to engage our audience and a fabulous, mobile-friendly, brand new website with which we could not be happier.
5What was the biggest challenge with this project?
First was getting our Board of Directors to approve a radical new look with bright colours they weren’t quite used to – it took a bit of diplomacy and persuasion to let us move forward. Second was the sheer quantity of work our team needed to do to transition all our print and online materials to our new brand. For a small team, it was a Herculean task that has taken about 18 months to fully transition to our new brand – from brochures to conference materials, website to social media and everything in between.
6How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
That is something that is still unfolding. As a team, we want to present at more conferences this year and the Muse awards give us a reputation boost. For me personally, it was an affirmation that taking a risk is worth it when looking to develop a brand that breaks the mould of what has been.
7What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
Working with so many talented and creative people, the ability to move into almost any arena and have your skill set valued, and the sense of camaraderie and celebration around great marketing.
8What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?
The United States rapidly embraces new ideas and celebrates creativity. I find no end of delight in discovering what my colleagues are up to creatively and how we all find new and innovative ways to share our stories.
9Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?
As professionals, collaboration is becoming key. You can’t just be a designer operating in isolation. You need to be able to understand and incorporate your organization’s key values and missions into everything you do. Design for design sake doesn’t work – the messaging is just as important.
Another area constantly evolving and challenging us is digital. Platforms emerge, morph and disappear and we have to adjust, engage, embrace and then let go. It’s a bit like whack-a-mole.
10If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Muse Award submitter, what advice would you give them?
More important than pay or industry, is your team. Find a great team with which to work, and a great mentor. Always be learning and growing.
11What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?
Look beyond the world of conferences and seminars. Find your creative sources at museums, attend TEDx talks, live performances, local Ignite groups – you never know where you are going to find career and creative inspiration so peruse the “what’s happening” calendar for your community and try out something new.
12Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
I’m a fairly open book, so this is a tough one. Maybe that I have a secret passion for Circus Peanuts – oddly orange, peanut-shaped candies from another era that are actually just colored, refined corn syrup. Every once in a while, I just have to buy a bag.
13Who has inspired you in your life and why?
So many people, but I am inspired by my adult children, Alex and Anna, who embrace life fully. They love their jobs, but also take time to enjoy their friends and family, eat well, travel frequently, and laugh often. They are my role models for a healthy, balanced life.
14What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
I have come to understand that sometimes, when something bad happens, in hindsight it was actually a good thing (though at the time it didn’t feel like it). Or, if it wasn’t, it eventually disappears in your rearview mirror. Learn your lessons and move on.