Many of you met Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s Stephanie Filer during her March 4 webinar, Taking the CRISIS out of Crisis Communications. You won’t be surprised that since then she’s gained many insights to add to her toolkit. Read on for her expert advice—and to hear the words she wished she could have told herself when she was just starting out. (P.S. We agree with them!)
Name: Stephanie Filer
Member of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement since: 2013
Title: Director of Development & Communications
Organization Name: Animal Rescue League of Iowa
Organization’s Mission: To promote animal welfare, strengthen the human-animal bond, and prevent the overpopulation of pets.
Q&A with Stephanie Filer
The Association: What do you think is the most important part of your job?
Stephanie Filer: In addition to leading our team, storytelling is by far the most important part of my job. Storytelling is how we raise money, get media coverage, recruit volunteers, get animals adopted, and overall how we make people care enough to act. Our brand is made up of the stories people think about us and the stories they tell about us, so it is our job to ensure those stories make them feel the mission, not just know it.
The Association: You’re an expert at crisis communications–what’s one new thing you’ve learned about this topic in the last few weeks? What could you plan for, and what couldn’t you have planned for?
SF: There is so much to say on this topic and I really look forward to these big conversations once we can look back on this all! The biggest thing I have learned during this crisis is to create back-up plans for your back-up plans, be prepared to throw your plans out entirely, and to be flexible (and fast) enough to change your crisis communication approach at a moment’s (or Governor’s press conference) notice. We have also increased our advertising spend to help cut through the noise and get our messages in front of our audience since everyone else has activated their crisis communications strategies, too. We are all competing to be heard.
We had a plan for how to communicate during a crisis that impacts our shelter, our city, our state, and even our country. What we never planned for was how to communicate during a crisis that literally affects every single person and business on the planet – and to complicate things, impacting each at different times and in different ways. And then continuing for months! This is truly an unprecedented crisis and every shelter and community has been impacted so differently that even though we’re in this together, the communication strategies are still not a one-size-fits-all approach.
The Association: What’s keeping you healthy and resilient?
SF: On a professional level, knowing that there are staff and animals who depend on me to make important decisions that impact their lives keeps me motivated and committed, even during the long hours and days that have turned to weeks and soon, months. On a personal level, long runs on the treadmill each morning, walks with my dogs, calls with my family, and Zoom happy hours with friends have all helped keep me connected and grounded!
The Association: How have you benefitted from your involvement with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement?
SF: I appreciate The Association for the outstanding content provided at conferences and webinars and especially for the connections I have been able to make that have continued into valued business contacts and friendships. There are a lot of people involved in animal welfare, but The Association holds us all to the highest standards and I appreciate the professionalism, leadership, and willingness to tackle the tough issues.
The Association: What advice do you have for someone considering membership in The Association?
SF: Sign up and then fully engage in the Facebook groups, surveys, and learning opportunities – it will be worth the investment.
The Association: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to who you were ten years ago?
SF: Ten years ago this month, I actually had my first day at the ARL, so this is very timely–but this is a tough question! I went through about a dozen cheesy/stereotypical things in my head like “enjoy the ride,” “be vulnerable,” “wear moisturizer,” etc., before finally landing on the one I will gladly repeat in another 10 years: “Adopt that dog/cat! What’s one more? You won’t regret it.” And, I haven’t yet…