Here’s the latest installment in our series on the “Day in the Life” of nonprofit communicators, where we ask you to describe your day in your own words.
We’d love to hear from you too! Tell us what you do in a typical day as a nonprofit communications pro. ~Kristina
Em Hall is an award-winning marketer with a knack for digital strategy and social media. Em works by day as the Marketing Director of One Hope United and by night as a consultant for an all-star roster of nonprofits and small businesses, including DC landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Here is her typical day:
Before 8:00 a.m. – Who needs an alarm clock when you have two cats?
I like to keep mornings relaxed so I’ll take some time to pick out my outfit and accessories, play with the cats, maybe fix some coffee at home, then head to the bus stop. I like my apartment’s location because there are a half dozen different buses and two different train lines I can take to get to work.
My commute is spent reading the New York Times (the print version!) or listening to a podcast. I haven’t yet missed an episode of Greg Proops’ The Smartest Man in the World, so if you see me laughing to myself on the bus, that’s probably way.
I generally don’t set rules or make resolutions for myself, but I do adhere to one daily practice and that’s no checking email within an hour of waking up. It seems simple – maybe impossible for some? – but giving myself the time and space to contemplate the day, or just enjoy reading an article in the paper, helps me head into the office with a positive attitude and a desire to jump right into the day’s task list.
8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m – I get to the office and fire up Chrome, Outlook, Messages, and Spotify on my iMac, usually in that order. Good tunes and gchat convos are essentials to every productive work day.
I like having meetings earlier in the day if possible and on Wednesdays marketing coordinator Paige and I have a standing call with our PR agency. This is always a fun call because they’re awesome and they support our organization in a number of ways. We’ll bat around some pitching ideas, chat about upcoming newsworthy events, and get an update on any stories placed. Our PR team is multilingual and they were recently able to place a PSA on several Spanish-language radio stations, a first for OHU.
It’s really important for us to seek ways to reach new and diverse audiences, and this was a huge step toward that goal.
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – During this time I’ll informally check in with my team, which consists of Paige, Troels (digital strategist) and D3 (IT manager). We christened him D3 because we already had two other people in our organization with his first name and two others with his last name. It seems to help keep everybody clear on who we’re talking about.
I try to make space at least once every couple of weeks to attend an event or have a conversation about policy and advocacy related to our mission. It’s so important that my team and I don’t always keep our heads down, focused just on marketing and technology. We need to have a grasp of the bigger issues affecting the populations we serve and a great way to keep in the know is to talk to other service providers or maybe attend the launch of a new report that’s related to our work.
Recently I attended the Mayor’s Commission for a Safer Chicago’s quarterly meeting at a high school on the west side. I ran into a few people that I knew from a previous job and now we’re collaborating on a breakfast series that touches upon some of the issues discussed at that meeting that are relevant to each of our nonprofit organizations. I love it when people and ideas come together that way.
12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Lunch is usually later in the day and – sad to say it – almost always at my desk. Our office is one of those places with a kitchen shared among multiple organizations, so there’s almost always extra food or leftovers to partake of, for better or worse. I’ll scavenge off of that or warm up something I brought from home. Totes excitements.
In the early afternoon I like to plow through a bunch of emails and then walk around the office a bit after lunch to chat with folks.
I like to get as many work-related questions answered in person as possible and our is an office that very much has an open door policy among all employees. Sometimes my chats are just social calls, and connecting with colleagues in that way is so valuable.
One of my biggest goals at OHU is to improve internal communications so that all employees feel heard and valued. That means harnessing technology (e.g. launching a new internal website, rolling out Yammer), but more importantly it’s understanding the culture and work styles of the 800+ employees we have spread across four states.
Even though only a small percentage of them work at my location, lots of employees come through here on a regular basis and nothing beats face-to-face conversations for gauging staff engagement on initiatives large and small.
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – I am consistently guilty of putting off projects until the absolute last minute before they’re due.
Now, this isn’t on every project mind you, but only on those for which I am solely responsible. I’m afraid it’s a bad habit that stretches all the way back to when I decided it would be a good idea to write my entire undergraduate thesis paper over a single weekend. But hey, I graduated, so those work habits are perfectly acceptable, right?
I guess I like to think that I do some of my best work under pressure, so it’s not unusual for me to leave a project until the end of the day and then knock out the entire thing in one sitting.
Afternoons around the office are generally quieter as others head out to meetings or leave for the day, so it’s a good time to crank the tunes and check stuff off my to-do list at a rapid pace.
I may or may not at some point also glance at Animal Planet’s kitten cam. They always decorate the kitten room in imaginative ways. During Shark Week, for example, they had a shark piñata hanging from ceiling. The kittens seemed nonplussed.
After 4:00 p.m. – Wednesdays are one of my favorite days of the week because after I wrap up my day at OHU around 6pm, I head over to The Elbo Room for Second City Karaoke, a team-based, competitive karaoke league that I helped co-found in Chicago. It’s just as fun as it sounds!
I keep my communications hat on there as well, as I manage the social media channels, eblasts, and partnerships for 2CK. I don’t actually sing. But everyone there has such a blast every week, it’s infectious. Yes, I’m guilty of doing some work while there, but those nights allow me to take a little break and enjoy some great people and good music.
It’s not unusual that I’ll go home after karaoke and work for another hour or so on side projects for a roster of clients I have in my personal consulting business. These clients are really different – a restaurant, a lifestyle consultant, other nonprofits – and creating the variety of communications that I do for each of them helps keep my skills sharp for my day job. It’s the best of all possible worlds.
Want to be featured in this series? Tell us what you do in a typical day as a nonprofit communications pro.