studio (un)scripted: 5 questions with renee beck.

RENEE BECK, VP and Chief Marketing Officer & Innovation Officer, United Way of Central Maryland (and the ultimate titan of wanderlust)

The Studio is my happy place, where is yours? 

By the water, always. I prefer the beach, but any body of water will do. Nothing is more calming, and I love the pace of life near the water. One day, my husband and I hope to have a place at the beach to experience it more often!

First and foremost, a huge congrats (again) on the very well-deserved “40 Under 40” award and recognition. Tell us about where you were when you found out! How did you feel about it? Who was the first person you told? Tell us everything! 

Thank you! I’ve been nominated before, so I didn’t expect the recognition. I had just woken up and (oops) was on my phone. I woke up my husband to let him know that he was married to a 40 Under 40 recipient and then texted my team member who oversees PR. With my PR background, I knew she’d be just as excited!

As the VP and Chief Marketing & Innovations Officer for a huge nonprofit organization, you have to be smart and savvy — which you clearly are. That said, when you are faced with a challenge in that arena, what is your problem solving process? Walk us through. 

I do a few things when presented with a challenge: 

  • Calm the people involved: Sometimes, the most important part of my job is to be a counselor and listen. Everyone wants to be heard.
  • Collect as much information as possible: I make sure I have all sides and any supporting info, like email chains. (Keep those receipts!) 
  • Don’t look to blame: If we’re going to get somewhere productive, blaming won’t help. Yes, you want to understand where the error occurred, but to assign blame really isn’t productive. 
  • Adopt a “Yes, and … ” mindset: Moving forward, say, “Yes, that can happen, and … ” And – I need more time. And – I need more budget. And – I need you to review by X. And – you have to provide the first draft. People don’t like to be told no, and saying it doesn’t feel good. “Yes” is a positive work, but couching it with “and” (not “but”) allows you to put parameters around it to avoid conflict where possible moving forward. 

We loved listening to the “Mad Girls in Marketing” podcast episode that you were a guest of. I especially love how you discuss the similarities and differences between working in PR vs. working in marketing and how the advent of social media played a big role in that transition. Can you foresee a future where everything that goes into a successful integrated activation looks like?  

We’re seeing a lot of this already! I’ve seen a lot of brands integrate all parts of marketing, including PR. When a marketing team lead hasn’t worked in PR, that can be missed (especially if PR/Comm is separate from marketing in an org), but having that earned media component adds credibility to an activation. The media placement also becomes a piece you can promote via social media, email, etc. When planning a campaign for United Way of Central Maryland, we look at all components of marketing – ads, PR, social media, our podcast, email, etc. — to decide which to use and how to integrate. 

I love that Innovation falls under my scope at United Way of Central Maryland, and that it’s starting to expand beyond Marketing-focused innovation. Innovation doesn’t have to be tech-based; it’s anything that you look at in a new way or change to improve. I like the challenge – and freedom! – that comes with thinking differently and adopting something new. 

If you could ask me anything, what would it be?

If you weren’t working in PR, what would you be doing? I’d love to hear the practical, possible version and then the dream version!

To experience the brilliance in wanderlust, the award-winning talent and endless fun with her husband and cat, follow Renee on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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