Public Policy Communicators of NYC's director Michael Hamill Remaley is working in partnership with the Communications Network to produce an interview series featuring communications professionals from across the nation. The point of the series is to learn from our colleagues and at the same time establish a greater sense of community among professionals working in communications. We plan on cross posting those interview here. And, the first one is with PPC-NYC member Gail Fuller. Here is how it appeared on the Communications Network site:
Earlier this year, the Communications Network published the results of a survey of communications practitioners at foundations across the country. The survey provides a helpful glimpse of the kind of work foundation communicators do, as well as the challenges they face. But there’s more to the story than the work itself, and to help round out the picture, we’ve started a new feature called A Quick Word With… Over the course of the series, we’ll invite people from different foundations — all sizes and types — to tell us about themselves, their work and where they draw their inspiration.
We kick off the series with Gail Fuller, director of communications, Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York City.
A recent communications success you’re proud of?
Redesign of our Web site, which launched in December.
The target audiences for your communications efforts?
Primarily grantees and applicants, with limited media focus. My interest is in highlighting the work of our grantees, and bringing greater awareness to our interests—democratic practice, peacebuilding and sustainable development.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The fanciful side of me thought of being a real-life Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot. The other side of me, which loves to write, thought I’d become a children’s author. Of those, one I hope to still fulfill.
RBF’s site has many slideshows. Do you find them to be particularly effective?
My fascination with slideshows began with The New York Times’ One in 8 Million slidecasts. I find slidecasts effective and cost-efficient; and a simple way to tell the sometimes complex stories of our work.
Is RBF into new media?
With the launch of our new site, we also launched Twitter and Facebook pages. We felt it was important to create an official Facebook page that drives visitors to our Web site. However, Twitter has been our primary social media focus.
Do you do an annual communications plan?
When I joined the RBF in 2005, I conducted a communications audit and created a two-year communications plan; and two years later I repeated that process. Having gone through many program reviews and having a much better sense of the Fund, I no longer create a formal annual communications plan. Instead as the yearly RBF goals are set, I develop communications objectives and strategies that help meet those goals.
Your undergraduate major?
Speech Communications from Wake Forest University.
Your favorite underappreciated journalist?
Amy Goodman comes to mind first. Democracy Now! is a wonderful source for global news.
Does RBF evaluate communications?
We conduct surveys with our trustees, staff, grantees, and applicants; and we also participate in the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s perception surveys. As RBF’s first communications director, my job actually evolved from a 2004 CEP survey.
As a major funder of “Democratic Practice,” how does RBF define “public engagement”?
We shifted from a goal that focused specifically on civic engagement to strengthening our democracy by looking at the democrat deficits—a decline in civic engagement; reduced participation in the formal institutions of democracy, and declining trust in all institutions, especially institutions of government—that impede us.
Last big improvement made to your Website?
Complete Web site redesign in 2010. The additions of moderated comments, a blog, and Twitter link were key steps for the Fund in engaging with our key audiences.
Favorite communications tool more foundation communicators should use?
Follow grantees via Twitter. We are able to track real-time news about and from our grantees.
Last nonfiction book you read?
The Al Jazeera Effect: How the New Global Media Are Reshaping World Politics. As events unfolded in Egypt, it was interesting to follow Al Jazeera and the greater role international media is playing in informing the world of current events.
Most interesting locale RBF has taken you?
South Africa in 2006. It was a wonderful experience, and helped shape the grantee communications work I would later undertake in South Africa and NYC.
Something you learned recently from a communications colleague?
I received wonderful advice from colleagues last year on social media that helped shape my report and presentation to the board; and it was the catalyst for moving us forward into the social media realm
RBF ever talked publicly about failure?
Yes. Following both CEP grantee surveys—in 2004 and 2010—we shared our results on our Web site; and identified key weaknesses to address.
Got a novel deep down inside you?
Yes, and I have several journals with story ideas and characters that have over taken my closet. My next birthday milestone in five years will be 50. Hoping to have made a dent in writing a children’s book—since I missed the milestones at 30 and 40.