Three Communications Lessons from SHE Summit

Last week I attended the SHE Summit at the 92nd Street Y. SHE Summit is a global women's leadership and lifestyle event, bringing together 60+ remarkable thought leaders, partners igniting change and thousands of influential women to celebrate and discuss female potential and possibility. The conference had an amazing roster of speakers, from activist and actress Marlo Thomas to U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. Amidst all the great conversations going on during this two day period, here are three of the communications lessons I learned at SHE Summit that can be applied to CSR or nonprofit marketing:

1.    Get Real: The Summit kicked off with a panel featuring Norma Kamali, Mariane Pearl and Kelly Rutherford, who talked about the power and importance of telling our own unique stories. They advised telling the more difficult story. If personal, the one that's wearing down your self-esteem. If telling the story of a nonprofit or a corporation, the story that inspired the idea that led to the creation of your company – the stories of failure, the horror stories, the ones that led to where you are today. Take them, harness them, get them out and in doing so you'll ignite a conversation. It's important to be genuine as we craft and create and retell our stories. Our brands and causes know this, but even on a personal note, it's a good reminder that we need to own the narrative because if we don't other people will tell our stories for us.

2.    Embrace the Overshare: Speaking of storytelling, technology allows us access to so many stories and lets us tell our own. How can we use this in a productive way? For one thing, we can't get away with saying inappropriate things anymore (ahem, Lululemon Founder). But that aside, the democratization of storytelling tools does allow us to have more of a voice than ever before. From companies to consumers to NGOs, everyone has access to tools that allow us to tell our unique stories. Lisa Bloom, an NBC legal analyst, pointed out that everyone in media is on Twitter, and they're looking at conversations, and just by being there and engaging we can all influence how the story is told to a larger audience. This means everyone can have a disproportionate impact, and we should all be doing more to take advantage of that.

3.    Redefine Success: There was a lot of talk about how we define success across all panels. Marlo Thomas encouraged the audience to just ask for help. She credited her ability to ask for help to her good fortune. Lauren Maillian Bias, author of The Path Redefined, posed a great question to help us determine whether to take a risk on a new venture: "Is it worth it even if I fail?" She also suggested we shift our idea from "success" to "significance," evaluating whether our work is making an impact on the world. A key factor in defining success no matter how you look at it is to make sure you or your organization can evolve. For example, Girl Scouts have expanded its craft activities to extend beyond macramé necklaces. They're now making rockets. But as much as our organizations must evolve, there are some tried-and-true tactics that remain successful. Girl Scout cookies bring in $800 million a year and it is the largest female entrepreneur program in the world.

So tell your story, share it with the world and think about what you want to get out of it. Do you want to start a conversation? Increase brand awareness? Raise funds for your cause? We'd love to hear from you.

- Amy Schoenberger, Director, Digital Engagement


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