FEED PEOPLE. FIGHT HUNGER.
By Ryan Hartschuh
For week 3 of our Community Leadership Institute, we traveled to the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank where we explored the topic of Communication. The Foodbank runs an impressive operation, distributing nearly 20 million pounds of food through over 450 organizations to feed over 180,000 people every year. Dan Flowers, President and CEO of the Foodbank, embodies its compelling mission: FEED PEOPLE. FIGHT HUNGER. Dan shared with us his top ten tips for managing communication, conflict, and negotiation, in which he stressed the importance of being tenacious but kind, courageous while humble, and prepared. His passion demonstrated the power of authenticity when delivering a message. We all felt Dan is 110% percent committed to the Foodbank’s cause and he loves what he does.
The Foodbank’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Michelle Hinton, articulated the importance of fine-tuning messages for varied audiences. The Foodbank regularly communicates with diverse audiences ranging from individual, corporate, and government donors to food distributing organizations and those they serve. Michelle highlighted 4 key strategies the Foodbank employs in their communications:
Focus on WHY, not what (e.g., use stories to connect to people)
Differentiate OUR cause (e.g., communicate uniqueness and demonstrate excellence when competing for limited attention)
Be smart, fresh, and INNOVATIVE (e.g., use social media to convert a one-to-many communication into a one-to-one communication)
Stop talking and LISTEN
Dan provided a tour of the Foodbank’s 85,000 ft2 facility, where we witnessed firsthand the Foodbank’s impressive operations. We concluded our tour with a volunteer activity that involved repackaging bulk Rice Krispies into bags for distribution to individuals. The activity provided an opportunity to build on our collaboration theme from last week, as well as test our communication skills as bags of Rice Krispies flew from one station to the next.
We were fortunate to hear from several board members of the Foodbank including Robert Bender, Patricia Gibbs, Mark Purtilar, George Sarkis. Each one shared his or her perspective on communication. Perhaps the most impactful moment of the day was Mark Purtilar’s story of how his 20 year old memory of a young boy’s expression continues to inspire him to help others in need. His story reminded us how simple moments can communicate powerful messages.
In addition to the Foodbank team, we heard from Goodyear’s own Ed Markey, VP of Corporate Communications. Ed highlighted his 4 key communications points:
Communication occurs in the mind of the receiver
What’s the purpose? – Provide purpose, context, and meaning
Think. Feel. Do. – What do you want your audience to think, feel, and do as a result of your communication
What’s the story – Stories are how we remember, use them
A summary theme for the day might read: Simplify Messages. Connect with People.