Member Spotlight

Jo-Anne Baxter, Director of PR & Sponsorships at the Boston Children’s Museum

For this member spotlight, we interviewed Jo-Anne Baxter, Director of PR & Sponsorships at the Boston Children’s Museum.

You have such vast experience in the communications and marketing fields. How did you get started with your career?

When I was a junior at Framingham State, I telephoned WCVB-TV and asked if they had any part-time jobs. I worked 4 years at the station job-sharing with a working mom in the Public Relations/Programming Department staying on after graduation. Then, I was a broadcast media buyer at an agency promoting clients and buying air-time on radio and television stations across the country and Canada. My career also includes NBC-TV Sales and Marketing, Key3Media/COMDEX Media Director, Zoo New England Director of Marketing and Boston Children’s Museum Director of Public Relations and Sponsorships.

You’ve successfully transitioned from the media world to the non-profit industry. What inspired the change?

When I was working at Key3Media on COMDEX, the second largest technology tradeshow in the world, the economy took a severe hit. Technology and traveling budgets were slashed. Key3Media (renamed MediaLive) declared bankruptcy and closed the Needham office. I was searching for the next step in my career when I saw an opening for Zoo New England’s Director of Marketing.

What are the necessary steps you took to shift from one industry to another?

I have always loved animals and was so thrilled to join the team. My role at Zoo New England included partnering with Boston Children’s Museum and the New England Aquarium. This partnership led to my current role at Boston Children’s Museum. However, transitioning from Zoo New England to Boston Children’s Museum was networking. I collaborated with the Director of Marketing at Boston Children’s Museum (my predecessor) and the VP of Communications at the NEAQ. We would meet quarterly and discuss best practices and share resources. When my predecessor decided to be a stay at home mom, she asked if I would be interested in her job….again, timing. I interviewed and was hired….that was 11 years ago.

You currently work as the Director of Public Relations and Sponsorship at the Boston Children’s Museum. What’s a “day in the life of” like for you?

There really aren’t many typical days. As with most non-profit organizations, I have many roles and jump in to assist when and where I can.  My day begins with reading and answering emails and phone calls. I always check on our social media platforms. I write press releases, media advisories and messaging to promote the Museum. I check in with the Education and Visitors Services Departments for information about upcoming programs and initiatives. My days also include forming and strengthening partnerships with community, business, civic leaders. I provide content/input and proofread materials to ensure the polished, consistent look and feel of collateral.

What is the greatest challenge of your role and in your industry?

One of the greatest challenges to many non-profit organizations is resources. I have been fortunate to establish connections and partnerships that alleviate some of the stresses, but we can always do more.

When you look back on your career journey, what’s something you’ve learned along the way that you wish you knew when you began your career?

It is ok not to know everything..it comes with experience. Find a strong mentor and pass on that experience to someone.

What other advice would you give other communications and marketing professionals just starting out?

Get your master’s degree as soon as you can…don’t wait.  You will need it. I also advise junior staff to not burn bridges. The communications industry is small and Boston is even smaller. I interviewed with a woman that I knew from WCVB-TV when applying for my current position at Boston Children’s Museum.

Why did you join IABC?

I was referred by a keynote speaker while in graduate school. He said it was a great organization and thought it would be helpful for my professional development.