PR’s Top Pros Talk… Women Leaders – Jackie Hartzell
Jackie Hartzell, Public Relations Director, Lowe’s
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: JACKIE HARTZELL
DOUG: So, Jackie, how have you really addressed the challenge of getting creative ideas just flowing across your team in this time of such dramatic change and chaos?
JACKIE: Yeah, when we first started working remotely, we thought we’d be home for just a few weeks, and now we’ve been working virtually for about a year. And so early on in the pandemic, we decided to start hosting a daily stand up, a news meeting where we have many cross-functional partners from across the business, PR, social media, marketing, associate, communications. And we get together, and we talk about what news stories are we seeing, what might be happening in social media that sparks an idea for us. Anything we’re hearing from our associates that might change the news agenda of the day, and we really come together and use those short bursts of inspiration, opportunity every single day. And then we try to make in a virtual environment of brainstorming and ideation sessions a part of our regular strategic cadence. And so even if we can’t quite have the same whiteboard sessions like we did in the office, we love to still bring the team together virtually on a regular cadence to really plan to think creatively, to have sessions that are just for ideation and blue sky moments, and that really helps us stay inspired and then also on top of the latest industry trends that can help us navigate this environment.
DOUG: You were able to bring this cross-functional team together. What were some of the tactics that you use to help make that happen?
JACKIE: I think we were all really craving connection and wanting to be together, even if we couldn’t be physically in the same place. And so, we look to teams that we rely on every day to have coordinated messaging, both internally and externally and across many different stakeholder groups. And as we started hosting these sessions, they started out small, but kind of grew as more people saw benefit from being able to listen in on the conversation to help inform the work that they were doing, to provide an idea, or just have a chance to think differently beyond just the day–to–day grind that we found ourselves in throughout most of this past year.
DOUG: You mentioned, the different stakeholders, and can you give us a little insight into how you manage to navigate messaging across the different stakeholders?
JACKIE: For Lowe’s, we were an essential retailer throughout the pandemic, and that was a responsibility that we took very seriously. And so, safety became the most paramount priority for us. And that started with really helping make sure that our associates, vast majority of which were on the front line, serving their customers, the communities every day felt informed about safety protocols that were changing and how we’re responding to the environment. And we started with an internal first lens of how do we help our associates feel supported, communicated to, consistent messaging across 2,000 stores in North America. And when we aligned on the internal message, we made sure the external messaging was incredibly consistent, whether we were talking to a media audience, a government official, or even into the investment community, that people could really see how we’re supporting communities in this environment that none of us really had a playbook for.
DOUG: And it’s also tricky because the perspective of people who work at a Lowe’s in one state might be very different from other states, and the situation was different. That’s something that’s going to continue, maybe not to the same degree as we saw with COVID, but different perspectives on items, issues and experiences in different marketplaces. How as an organization do you try and address that?
JACKIE: Certainly. And I think no matter the differences that might happen locally or in different geographic areas of the country, I think it starts first and foremost by listening to our stakeholders and understanding what their concerns are. Really, all of our strategic communications is driven by insight. So, whether that’s coming through associate forums, or what we’re hearing in social media, or a variety of other platforms, really making sure that we understand what our different stakeholders need, want and just expect from us and really try to be consistent even though those differences may exist, how does Lowe’s have sort of one voice across our entire enterprise.
DOUG: And so many people during this crisis, and a trend that’s been beneficial for Lowe’s, are spending way more time at home, either the large group that’s working from home and those who just haven’t had the availability to go out and experience different things as they normally would. What do you see as some of the big home trends, and will they be continuing going forward is hopefully the pandemic eases up?
JACKIE: We found that over the past year, people fell in love with their homes in ways that we really could never have imagined. And so, for Lowe’s, we saw where trends really emerge. The first is that home was being reimagined as a residence, and our Zoom backdrops became a replacement for our wardrobe, and the way that we had self-expression. Our home spaces, especially if we moved outdoors, became our entertainment and recreation areas, and a place for us to feel a sense of the outside in. Our homes became classrooms as we became teachers and homeschoolers and offices, as many people became virtually based. So, we saw just the insurgence in DIY and the do it yourself trend that people wanting to invest in their homes in new ways and use that as a vehicle for self-expression, and no matter what happens over the course of the next coming months, I think the meaning of home and what home has done for all of us over the past year has changed tremendously.
DOUG: And finally, I’d be remiss if during Women’s History Month, I didn’t give you a chance to touch on advice for women in leadership positions and those who aspire to get there, including women of different color, ethnicity and backgrounds. What advice do you have for some women who are tuning into this about how to advance their careers, especially in communications?
JACKIE: Yeah, so I have been so fortunate to have so many female mentors in my life that have helped me navigate my career and grow and learn in new ways. And so, my biggest advice is to trust and find those that have been on the path before you that can help you navigate the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, a woman in communications, a working mother, all of those things that make our work experience so unique. Really lean into those mentors, take their advice, and really, I think for those of us that are in leadership positions, I feel really strongly that we should continue to pay it forward and help make the path even easier for those that come after us.
DOUG: Well, that’s great. And thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and being part of our program.
JACKIE: Thank you so much for having me.