I discovered my interest in tech studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland. I was researching Geographic Information Systems and responses to crimes against humanity and natural disasters. My work led me to the European company Ericsson. The mobile giant saw an opportunity to use its product to help people who needed it most. Mobile phones have reached almost the entire world, including refugees. Ericsson created a system to leverage mobile phones to connect families torn apart by war.
It was an encounter with a refugee that inspired me to earn a graduate degree in international relations. I was working in a camera store in Cincinnati, Ohio, when a chance encounter gave me unexpected insight into his journey. The Khmer Rouge ruined his life (and the lives of many others). Though he still carried the pain with him, he refused to blame his former middle school teacher, Saloth Sar, also known as Pol Pot. I never forgot him.
A few years later, enrolled in marketing classes, my mass communications professor read a passage from Dave Eggers’ What is the What. Eggers described Valentino’s (the protagonist, a Sudanese refugee) reaction to cable TV. Interestingly, Valentino also discovers after his arrival here, that Americans tend to think of refugee camps as temporary. I thought of the short attention span of U.S. viewers and thought, “It’s no wonder we don’t better understand global conflicts.” I enrolled in Webster University’s M.A. program in international relations shortly after.
Every student brings a unique perspective to her coursework. Mine revolved around global perceptions and media issues. Because of my college-level marketing work, I saw the Myanmar-Burma debate (partly) as an issue of branding. It boils down to a government wanting to control how it’s talked about and perceived. In human trafficking, I was thinking not only about international criminal gangs, but in the best way to tell the story about the problem, to inspire people to action.
As I articulate my personal brand, I consider how I differ from other smart writers and strategists. My background is an obvious place to start. The same curiosity that drives me to understand the latest trends in web analytics makes me hungry to understand the whole world. In addition to refugee reunification, mobile phones are helping coffee farmers in Latin America get real-time updates on pricing. International relations and media studies are closely related. I was surprised how often I referenced my marketing coursework in my Latin American Area Studies or War and Diplomacy classes.
Take social media. In addition to creating content calendars and actionable plans (always tied to organizational objectives, of course), I’m paying attention to global trends. This is essential if you want anyone outside the U.S. (or many people within the U.S.) to take your message seriously.
Understanding international current events is about understanding how people think. It should be the precursor to selling products and services. It’s a lens through which we can learn more about eradicating poverty, make sense of armed conflicts, and understand terrorist groups and oppressive governments. All of these organizations have marketing strategies. In Geneva, I was surrounded by the brands of international campaigns, governments and NGOs. It became clear the brand story is a non-profit’s most valuable asset.
In Geneva, I wrote a paper about the effects of new media (social media, websites, YouTube, Google images etc.) on modern journalism, militaries and terrorist organizations. Webster University Geneva recently published my article alongside other professors and thought leaders connected to the school. As a scholarly paper, it has a more formal style and the constant citing of sources.
It shows that I can write in a more official tone of voice, write for different audiences and make a compelling argument based on thorough research. As a writer and a content strategist, I add skills in copywriting, SEO and comprehensive content plans. As an engaged, globally minded individual, I can do even more than that. I can spot how trends and behaviors resonate with people around the world.