Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Nicole Harburger. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Nicole, please provide us a short bio.
I’m a co-founder of Mighty Good, a boutique social impact brand agency based in Washington, D.C., for organizations and companies that define their success by the positive impact they make on the world. There’s been such an amazing proliferation of non-profits and for-profits taking on societal problems, from homelessness to educational inequity. But how they get from having a good mission to having a good brand – a brand so good that it electrifies their mission – that’s the problem we exist to solve. And we have the best clients in the world.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I formally and informally mentor early-stage social entrepreneurs. And I love it. It definitely gives me life to sit with someone who is overflowing with vision, who understands every in and out of what they’re building, and who sees no limits for how their ideas can change the world. But all this passion can make it tough for founders to boil their message down to something clear, different and memorable. I get inspired by the challenge of helping them to pare back, while still doing justice to their vision.
What are the things you are most proud of?
My husband. Our sons. Launching Mighty Good. Realizing that you don’t need a power-suit to be powerful. Also some spectacularly satisfying closet and garage cleaning. Marie Kondo has nothing on me!
Who are your personal role models?
My parents are two people who love their jobs, and who modeled what it looks like to know and live your calling. They’re also both therapists. I’ll pause here for the uncomfortable laughter. It’s totally cool. I get it.
Now, I’m sure some kids’ parents taught them how to whack a baseball — but in my house it was empathy and listening skills, all day long. Fortunately, that’s come in pretty handy for branding. In our work, we’re only successful when we find that connection between an organization’s authentic core and what will emotionally resonate with the audiences they need. That requires asking a ton of questions, and doing a ton of listening. In fact, we often joke that branding is pretty much therapy. Except better … less weeping and more snacks.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
The other major role model in my life was my grandmother. She was a progressive community leader in New York City, at a time when few folks who fit that description were women. I keep a framed black-and-white photo of her testifying before New York City’s School Board up on my wall, as a reminder of the power of knowing and living your mission. My grandmother died about ten years ago, in her mid-nineties, but during our last visit, she rallied herself to ask me “what are your plans for your life?” In other words: what good did I plan to do with the one life I had been given.
What professional advice do you have for others?
See if you can really get to know yourself. If today was your birthday and you could do anything, what would you do? Have you ever caught yourself disappearing into a task? What were you doing? What was so awesome about it? Keep asking yourself questions until you uncover what it is that provides you with true joy and a sense of purpose. Then go for it. Do that thing. And not just because it will make you happy, but because it’s the thing you were born to do.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
The old school, lately: Tribe Called Quest, Brand New Heavies, DeLaSoul. Oh, and every track from the Greatest Showman.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Perry’s (the rooftop!), Union Market (Every. Single. Stall.), Rasika, The Pig in New Forest, England.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’m phobic about people in period dress. I’m just going to leave that right here.