Leaving Back on My Feet as Media Director: what I’ve done in a year

An emblematic photo of a portion of my work with Back on My Feet, as taken early in the morning of the second day of the third annual Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 race event, having coordinated an intervivew of Philadelphia chapter Executive Director Sera Snyder and Fox 29. For the 20in24, every major outlet in the region covered the event.

I am leaving my role as Media Director for Back on My Feet, the running-based program to combat homelessness.

I tendered my resignation last Thursday, Nov. 11 and our staff was alerted Monday. My last day will be Friday, Dec. 3, so I’ve offered a full three weeks to help the transition process at an organization with a mission that has come to mean a great deal to me since joining in January.

I’ll be sharing in greater detail here what exactly I will be doing, but, in short, I am taking a full-time opportunity with the media company I helped launch by way of starting in February 2009 technology news site Technically Philly.

Yes, things have been going well there since.

While there are lot of reasons why this is the right move for me, most simply:

  1. I have completed a great deal of what I wanted to do at Back on My Feet, and this is a good time for a relatively smooth transition
  2. My heart is with journalism, publishing, covering communities and all the conversations therein.

I will also be sharing here more reflections and takeaways from my year working for Back on My Feet, but, for now, I would like to quickly highlight how proud I am of the work I have accomplished in my short time there.

I want to thank the organization, its staff and founder Anne Mahlum for giving me the opportunity to come on to a startup and create from scratch a direction, mission and purpose for its media outreach.

I served five basic roles that were meant to circle my mission of growing awareness of the organization, all of which were mine, as I was a one-man department:

  1. Traditional Media — relationship building, outreach, followup and organization of coverage by legacy media.
  2. Social Media — Our conversation, push and interaction with social networks and their related communities.
  3. Content and publishing — Our newsletters, email correspondence and managing our blog, which I launched, as noted below.
  4. Website project management and IT — Managing our website, our relationship with our partner development company O3 World and other basic, related IT questions from staff.
  5. Branding — Overseeing, approving and, at times, designing branding, marketing and event materials.

Time: Mon., 11/15/10 10 a.m.

Subject: Chris Wink

From: Kim Sauer, Chief Operating Officer, Back on My Feet

To: BOMF Staff

Hello BOMF Staff,

Effective December 3rd, Chris Wink will be leaving BOMF to return to his journalism roots starting full-time with Technically Philly, a technology news site he helped found in 2009, to lead various investigative research projects.

Chris was hired by BOMF a year ago to help the organization grow its social media presence, enhance our website and assist with other traditional media and marketing responsibilities.

Chris’s role has now evolved and his contributions have prepared us to re-define the role and prepare for further growth as we expand to 10 chapters next year.

Chris will be communicating how his departure will affect staff members and where to direct questions and we have asked Chris to schedule a call with all ED’s and Special Events folks to go over all website and social media questions.

Please join me in wishing Chris the best in his new endeavors with Technically Philly.

At the highest level, I feel as though I have established best practices and direction for my department and will offer easy-to-transition roles that still have direction and growth possibilities, all of which fits neatly into what I first pledged to do during my initial interview for this position.

I am so proud of these accomplishments for less than a year’s worth of work considering they span disciplines, which include, among many others, the following:

  • Finalized an initial draft of a Media Department manual, detailing the responsibilities and goals of the work I’ve done in nearly 5,000 words and on 12 pages. This is the strongest asset I’ve offered to create institutional memory in my work. One of my favorite words: sustainability.
  • Finalized an initial draft of an organization style guide — With the help of a colleague, that serves as the basis for our language, colors, logos and other branding basics. This started a conversation around using specific fonts, precise colors, branding and language.
  • Launched and created staff work flow for a blog platform that, in fewer than six months of public operation, receives more than 10,000 page views and is on pace to surpass in 2011 our established website in daily traffic.
  • Shared at least one member story a week for the near entirety of the blog’s existence and came to know the names and abbreviated stories of dozens of our members. In addition to sharing news around the issue of homelessness, I have set expectations that our blog will be a place for thought-provoking discourse and to find news about our mission, supplemented by organizational updates.
  • Grew and matured our national monthly newsletter presence, in addition to training staff and creating systems for regularity, blasts and chapter independence.
  • Prepared for, launched and created staff work flow for chapter-specific email lists and monthly blasts to grow independence of each individual city. When I first came on, we had one big pot of contacts, but I recognized the need and value of beginning to break out lists by geography.
  • Designed draft national marketing materials that can be expanded upon and serve as the basis of such documents in the future. It’s nearly a dozen pages and, even if it’s a knock off of some pro bono work a designer did for one of our chapters, I am proud of the look. Download a copy here [PDF].
  • Created spreadsheet of media contacts across all of our chapters and other national outlets that can further be developed in a concerted, targeted effort. Again, another step to maturing our media department.
  • Developed a true conversation in our primary social media channels of Twitter and Facebook, the latter of which has also been delegated to newly-trained staff and represents an area that still warrants growth and attention. We started from nearly zero, so we went a long way, but there’s plenty more to do.
  • Conceived of a direction for the utility of our existing website, developed the relationship with web development partner O3 World and helped move forward the possibilities.We’re planning to more than double in size next year, so some real forward-thinking was required.
  • Wrote an organization profile that was anthologized by a major publisher in ‘the Ultimate Runner.’
  • Created an initial version of a press kit to offer to media contacts to create base level knowledge about our organization. Find it here.
  • Worked to manage expectations around traditional media coverage, which was no small feat for an organization that was on CNN, ABC World News and NBC Nightly News within its first two years. I pushed for us to focus on big, interesting stories and succeeded when we pushed, like, as depicted above, all major TV, newspaper and radio outlets in Philadelphia covered the third annual Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 race event in July.
  • Pushed for Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 Race Event branding — While we still call our major fundraising event “the 4th Annual Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 Relay Challenge, Lone Ranger Ultra Marathon, Midnight Madness Run & Pajama Loop,” I helped pushed into our lexicon the remarkably apparent necessity of a shorthand.
  • Created organization shorthand — We were sensitive to being just a ‘homeless running club,’ which is what some newspaper writers had taken to calling us. I noted that we needed to offer a more descriptive nut to offer journalists. It required lots of approval and remains less universally accepted than I liked but, with the great help of a colleague: Back on My Feet is a “running-based program to combat homelessness.”
  • Interfaced regularly with nearly each of our 30 staff members — I tried my best to fight bureaucracy and increase my dialogue with staff so I knew what interested them and what hurt or helped the work they did.