Amy DeMaria, Senior Vice President of Communications, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, was named WWPR’s 2017 Woman of the Year. Capitol Communicator interviewed her and asked her questions about herself and the ever-changing communications field. Our Q&A with her follows:
Amy, how has PR changed in the past ten years?
First –and most obviously– is that the way people get their information has changed and continues to change rapidly. Social media, of course, has changed how we work, but social media itself changes all the time and that has implications for our messages and content. Second, there is even more of a focus on metrics. New technologies make it easier to measure, and leaders who use metrics intelligently to measure change or value added – and not just activities – have more tools at their disposal to demonstrate their teams’ contributions. Third, the sheer speed at which communications happens mean we need to be more nimble than ever. Finally, given that social media is two-way, listening to our communities is critical. It’s not enough to just create messages, share, and hope they stick. To resonate, they need to be based on feedback and conversations that are already taking place. All of these changes make it a very exciting time to be in this field.
What skills do you think it’s important to have in coming years?
It’s no longer enough to be a good writer, a good communicator, a good manager. You have to have these skills and also really understand the different channels, which audiences use which channels, and which types of content resonate most with those audiences. And you have to keep your ear to the ground because the channels, the algorithms, and the way they work, change constantly.
There has always been a need for media skills, writing skills, video, and now there is really room for people with very technological skills and project management skills especially on large mar/comms teams in complex organizations. Communications is a point of intersection for so many different program areas and technologies – the web, the intranet, social media platforms, fundraising platforms, CRMs, analytics tools and so on.
There is also room for people who are great at analytics. These are the types of skills that once may have been under the umbrella of IT or another business unit, but now the communications and marketing leaders in any organization absolutely have to understand it, and ideally, it should be housed there.
People sometimes think that writing isn’t as important as it used to be, but I think it’s more important than ever. Good writing is good thinking. Writing briefly is harder than writing longer copy. People’s attention spans are miniscule and shrinking, and you have to capture your idea in as compelling a way as possible as quickly as possible –whether it’s a social post, blog, video, infographic, or even a longer piece like a news release.
Also, I think there’s a real need for creativity and critical thinking. By “creativity,” I don’t mean that everyone has to have a secret art director lurking inside them, but rather than you can bring an open mind and fresh approach to solving problems, because, at the end of the day, that’s 90% of what you’re doing as a leader.
Do you have any advice for other communicators?
I have a sign on my wall that says, “focus on opportunities not obstacles,” and I try to let that guide me. In any given difficult situation, it’s so easy to get mired down in the roadblocks, but there’s really an art to trying to see any situation in its most positive light – and to see the opportunities in any circumstance.
Also, there’s a famous quote, “if you find work you love, you’ll never work another day in your life,” and I think that’s so true. I’m lucky to work with an outstanding team, in a field I’m passionate about, for a cause that’s so worthy and I hope that others would also find “work you love.”
Who are your role models?
I’m fortunate to have had a number of amazing managers and mentors but, in terms of role models, my father is one of the strongest. He’s intellectually curious, thoughtful and open-minded. He’s very solutions-oriented, and can see any situation from multiple perspectives. I strive to embody these qualities and I think it makes me a better leader.
What would you do if you had to choose a different career field?
I’d probably go into leadership training or some type of consulting. I’m fascinated by the qualities that make good leaders and by the ingredients necessary to build strong teams, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
What do you do when not at work?
My fiancé and I live in Georgetown and love to bike and walk on the trails there, especially the Capital Crescent and C&O. We also love to eat out and try new restaurants – which is good, because I’m a terrible cook. And I love to travel. Right now, we’re planning a trip to the Dominican Republic for later this year, which I’m very excited about. I’ve really come to appreciate, especially recently, the importance of taking time away from work to recharge.
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