Member Spotlight

For this member spotlight, we interviewed Cynthia “Cindy” Wright, Associate Director, Philanthropy Communications at Lahey Health in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Why did you join IABC?

I was previously a member of the NYC chapter and subsequently the Yankee chapter but had been involved with other organizations during the past several years. I rejoined IABC because I greatly appreciate the depth of resources and knowledge that members and the organization share.

What have you learned over the years that you wish you had known in starting out as a communications professional?

I wish that I had known more about messaging and a marketing-based approach to understanding the mindsets of various audiences.

How important is it to ensure both internal and external communications are aligned at a company? How do you ensure alignment?

Aligning internal and external communications is critical in any sector. Your employees – your team – are an invaluable part of your brand. They should be receiving messages that are consistent with external messaging so that they understand the organization’s values, new products or services, etc. in a way that mirrors the messaging the media, customers and stakeholders are receiving as well.

The communications field is constantly changing. How do you stay on top of the changes and how do you decide which new idea is the right one to incorporate in your strategy?

While I agree that you need to stay on top of near-constant changes, I take a bit of a “bleacher seat” approach as new tools emerge. In the nonprofit world, you don’t have budget that allows you to experiment with something that perhaps is not tried and true. I take time to watch and learn and read about colleagues’ experiences, tips and warnings on various forums. Using any tool should be based on where and how your audience gets its information; that could be based on your own market research or industry research. Since it’s actually not possible to do everything well (or to have the time to use every tool), I have learned to be selective! Ultimately, if you select the appropriate tools for your audience as well as your own team’s bandwidth and commit to using those tools strategically, you will be successful.

Much of your career has been in the not for profit sector. Why is communications so important for that sector?

Nonprofits exist, ideally, to improve the world — from basic human needs, to the environment, medical research, social services and beyond. Engaging volunteers, donors, government officials and a range of community and business stakeholders is the crux of a successful nonprofit’s work. Communications must be integrated into every aspect of that work; the consistent goal is to convince all of these audiences of the value of the organization’s work. In various forms, communications messaging delivers answers to audiences’ questions: How does my donation effect change? What public policy issues are you trying to change and why? How many people are helped and how? How does your work affect me, my family, my community? On any given day, a communications professional in a nonprofit organization may be focused on a fundraising appeal, a donor story told through video or print, legislative testimony, a case statement or e-news.

You studied journalism in college. How has that training helped you in the professional world?

The basics I learned as a journalism student remain critical: hone in on the critical aspects of the story (or message to be conveyed), gather and understand the facts and write clearly. I firmly believe these elements to be the foundation of business communications, storytelling, proposal development and much more.

You have extensive communications experience. How did you decide that the communications field was for you and how did you get your start?

I always loved to write and went off to college planning to pursue a career as a sportswriter. After a couple of years, I decided that reporting was not my real love. I remained a journalism major, but followed a concentration in PR. My real “start” was a fantastic internship in DC where I had a great mentor who empowered me to take on full projects. I learned an incredible amount in just a couple of months and was hooked!