Welcome to the Catalyst Member Spotlight series. Catalyst prioritizes sharing members’ stories to showcase the breadth of the IABC community, connect communicators across the globe and elevate personal stories to inspire fellow members. If you’re a chapter leader who would like to spotlight a stand-out member of your chapter, email the Catalyst editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Meet IABC member Susan Ellison-McGee! With more than 15 years of experience in the field, Susan is the social media lead, COVID-19, for the Washington State Department of Health. Based in the IABC Seattle chapter, Susan shares her passion for learning and storytelling. Plus, she notes strategies for finding success when working across teams. Get to know Susan below, and connect with her on LinkedIn.
What is the most exciting aspect of your role as a communicator?
It’s hard to pick just one aspect! I love storytelling, whether it is a story about a healthcare hero in Spokane, Washington, working on the frontlines of the pandemic or teasing out why budget planning for towns in Tunisia is important for local government and constituents. I enjoy sifting through the details of a complex issue and distilling it into a product that is concise and memorable. There’s always something new to learn and a story to tell.
Share a situation or project that made you feel valued as a communicator.
The entire Washington State Department of Health has worked so hard over the past 18 months to keep the public informed about the coronavirus pandemic and roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. We receive lots of comments — positive and negative — and try to provide accurate and timely information. One area that stands out for me is sharing information about coping with COVID. The pandemic has left people stressed and exhausted. Just knowing that it is OK to not feel OK has an impact and is a reassuring message for so many. If you are looking for resources for yourself, a family member or a friend, check out the Department of Health mental and emotional well-being page.
Think back on a time when you, as a communicator, collaborated with another department to bring a project to life. What made this process successful?
Here are a few ways to find success when working across departments:
- The project has support from management/leadership, and they don’t micromanage.
- There is a clear definition of roles and responsibilities and trust among the team members.
- Everyone understands their role in the project. There is mutual respect and willingness to help move the process along if there is a bottleneck.
- Have open communication, where you can discuss what’s working well and what isn’t and find solutions together.
- A sense of humor helps keep everything in perspective.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it?
The best career advice I’ve received came from a savvy office manager I worked with early in my career. She always reminded me to never go into a meeting without having a clear purpose and knowing the expected outcome. Come prepared, make sure that everyone knows the next course of action at the end and follow through.
Share a favorite resource (book, podcast, etc.) that helps you stay connected and informed in the industry.
The Communication Initiative is a knowledge portal for the communication and media development and social and behavioral change community. Plus, if you like podcasts and storytelling, give a listen to The Moth Radio Hour.
Interested in joining the IABC community to collaborate with professionals like Susan? Become a member of our global network today.
IABC Staff, Featuring Susan Ellison-McGee