5 Takeaways from Creating Change at Discovery Communications

create change posterI jumped up and down like a four year old when I received the email. Peyton Rowe, my “friend in reward (not crime)” was inviting me to join her at the CreateAthon -inspired event Creating Change at Discovery Communications. Sure, there were things that needed to be shuffled, but none of the life logistics even entered my mind when I replied with a resounding, “YES!!” Now, here I am. Bouncing around between the 24 creative teams. A mission statement here. A social media plan there. All of this work is helping create professional marketing materials for different non-profits in the DC area. Imagining the positive impact that just this event boggles my mind in a good way.

I snagged a sunny spot in the atrium to share a few tidbits about my experience.

1. Past professional lives matter. Immediately after registering, I was introduced to Jennifer Cortner, VP of Account Services at Discovery Creative. Yeah, she’s a big wig around here. So it was pretty amazing when we played the you-look-familiar game and recalled meeting each other at Success in the City’s Social Media Nouveaux conference in 2007. At the time, I worked as a freelance writer/social media consultant and Jennifer was President of EFX media. It just goes to show that good work and good impressions are always important.

2. Corporations are vital to creating social change. Last week, when I posted a question on a LinkedIn group about non-profit development, I got a comment that struck me to the core.

[At our non-profit] all members work free of charge in our poorest community and not one cent of funding goes towards any administration, office rental or transport. This is our way of giving – selflessly. If you have the compassion to work with the poor, then do it voluntarily, and not turn it into a business.

This us vs. them attitude really affected me. After reflecting, I came to the belief that in order for REAL change to occur, it needs to be part of our social fabric at every level, not just with the seemingly selfless individuals who can afford to be full-time volunteers. The idea of changing our world for the better needs to be the forefront of our minds — all of our minds.

Corporations have the resources (not just money, but talent and infrastructure) to make a huge impact. Businesses are not bad — they are a critical part of the solution.

3. Shorter missions get greater impact. A lot of the work today has been helping non-profits revise their mission statements (I think the longest I saw today was two paragraphs long). One of the amazing tests of whether a mission works is how easy it is to recall. For example, employees at Discovery can state without blinking or thinking that their mission is, “satisfying curiosity through non-fiction media.” Six words. That’s it. It’s easy to recall, repeat and reinforce.

A mission is more than a jumble of words written by committee. It’s a living, breathing statement about why your organization exists. Its goal is simply to get people to stop, think, and ask to learn more.

4. Action trumps ideas. As I look around at the amazing-ness that is Creating Change, I have to think back on how it all got started. On a summer night in 1998, Cathy Monetti and Teresa Coles had an awesome idea — stay up all night and donate the work to charity. A great idea, truly, but it’s their courage and commitment to making it happen that I find most remarkable.

How many of us have had those light bulb moments? “We should……!” “Wouldn’t it be great if……!” “How about…..!” Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Because Cathy and Teresa followed through, they created change. Big change.

5. This is absolutely, positively, what I want to do with my life. When I met my husband, I knew within a very short time that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Now, with CreateAthon, I’ve found the professional equivalent of a match made in heaven. I want to help CreateAthon grow. I want to help corporations and creative agencies implement the marathon model for pro bono services. I feel like all my experience; sales, social media, senior writer at a corporate conglomerate, social advocate, board member, and more, has all occurred to prepare me for this moment. To expand the reach of CreateAthon. To help non-profits get the professional communications they need to thrive. To make the world a better place and create lasting change. I couldn’t be more grateful and I’m thrilled to see what adventures await me as I skip merrily down this new life path.