Chris Hershey (RCH): Over the last year and a half, we’ve watched nonprofits, foundations, and the impact-driven sector amplify their efforts amid a barrage of global and local challenges. At Cause Communications, we’ve expanded our team to best meet the evolving challenges in our communities, which is where you come in, Kristen—you’ve recently joined our team as our Vice President of Accounts.
The pandemic has certainly made us all reevaluate our lives and adjust accordingly. Why did you decide now was the time to move to a new job?
Kristen Caloca (KC): I think for a lot of people—myself included—the pandemic forced everyone to stop, reflect, and reevaluate a lot of things in life. And considering the social unrest on top of it, our collective attention was redirected—and rightfully so. That got me thinking more about how I was spending my time and where can I make an impact that matters most. What is my legacy going to be? In that time, you and I connected, and it was serendipitous because our visions—and questions—were so aligned. I am a person who believes that everything happens for a reason.
RCH: I saw this same reenergizing and healing after 9/11 and again in 2008 during the housing market crash, especially for business owners. These massive challenges aid growth, and in the end, we want to be proud of how we spend our days. I wish we had a secret sauce to help us all evolve more quickly, but I’m glad you got here and that your introspection brought you to us.
As a nonprofit that also focuses on field building, Cause is very different than other consulting firms, so what drew you to Cause and using communications for good?
KC: I’m a firm believer that your professional and personal identities aren’t two separate things. Yes, you must have boundaries, but we spend so much of our time working that it does influence who we are. I’ve always had this perspective and aim to do work I enjoy and that has purpose. This connects back to my faith, too, which drives me to do good anywhere I can and everywhere I go.
RCH: When did this perspective influence your professional life?
KC: In high school, I decided I was interested communications and public relations, and I saw that as an opportunity to connect to people. I knew I wanted to focus on issues that I cared about most in my work, too. For example, early in my career I worked at a global PR agency, Edelman, where I got to connect with communications for energy and environmental issues. From there, I progressed and transitioned to an environmental consulting firm focused on improving air quality using very practical solutions and policies to advance the market for technologies that can improve air quality—which was so meaningful to me since I grew up in a community with some of the worst air pollution in the country.
RCH: I’m really happy to hear you say that. You’ve been able to do a lot of important work throughout your career. You mentioned your environmental work. Are there other issue areas you’ve worked on that have been particularly meaningful?
KC: I’ve been fortunate to merge work and passion. I’ve gotten more involved in foster care over the last few years. Of course, I say this, and yet I wish foster care didn’t need to exist at all. There are issues in foster care like disproportionality but sometimes removing a child from a home and placing them in another home is the safest action to take.
Right before I came to Cause, I worked with the LA County Department of Children and Family Services. We managed a brand refresh and new messaging—we had to figure out how to talk directly to the core audience of parents, youth, and caregivers and make important information easily accessible. We also managed digital campaigns to help the Department recruit more foster parents. There’s a high turnover rate with foster parents, and they don’t get a lot of support. Recruiting foster parents through a digital communications campaign was something new to the Department, and it was quite successful. Even though the first campaign ran during the beginning of the pandemic, we had almost a thousand families in LA County say yes to fostering—even in uncertain times families were still interested in supporting vulnerable children and families. It was amazing.
RCH: It’s clear you’ve been able to work across many different issue areas. Cause really values generalists because people who work in communications need to listen to the clients or issues at the center. That requires a broad skillset. In a way, I want everybody to be a little bit of everything.
KC: I have that same philosophy.
RCH: You have to in order to be able to both strategize and execute. What would you say are some of your strongest skills?
KC: I’m proud of the way I’ve been able to develop my implementation abilities. I’ve seen some great plans never actually used. I once worked with a very large company on a climate change communications plan. It was exciting, very ambitious, and bold, but we were never able to implement it because, I think, we were a little bit ahead of our time in terms of courageous leadership tackling difficult issues like that.
It can be a struggle moving plans into action. I’m a practical and results-oriented person, so I can’t imagine creating a plan that’s never executed. Bringing a plan to life, and still staying flexible, is a big part of what I love to do. Flexibility is key for successfully implementing anything. It’s always best to have a plan—and knowing how and when to pivot.
RCH: Not everyone can connect the vision to the strategy, and then actually bring it to fruition. I’ve noticed when something shifts, you automatically incorporate it as an opportunity—and that’s a special quality. I really appreciate that about you.
KC: One of the things that was so appealing about joining Cause is all the good work you’ve done in tandem with the brand reputation you’ve established.
RCH: Cause is building our capacities to meet more of those needs. For example, Jane Murcia has just joined our team as the Senior Media Relations Manager.
KC: Yes, Jane and I started working together in 2015. She’s smart and so hard working, but what I really love about her, is that she’s person of integrity and heart. She brings such compassion to everything she does, and produces high-quality work.
RCH: She’s a force of nature and a big asset to our clients already.
KC: A rock star—she can run a press conference with international media, with hundreds of them in a room, hold a commanding presence, and get the right message out with great media coverage.
RCH: Christopher de Haan is our new Marketing Director. It’s a luxury having somebody who thinks with a marketing-forward lens as well—it balances the team nicely.
KC: I’ve really enjoyed working with Chris. I love that he has a completely different background from me, and I appreciate how collaborative he is. Our team is really set up to bring bold ideas and new solutions on behalf of good social causes. It is exciting to work with diverse, passionate, and talented people here at Cause.
RCH: Well I’m grateful for all of you and looking forward to seeing what good we can contribute to in the years ahead.