By Ozzi Ramirez
Let’s give a big welcome to Natalie Bailey as she joins the NYWIFT community! Natalie is a communication specialist whose career path includes working as the Director of Communications at the Dysautonomia Foundation, as an Advocacy Strategist at UNICEF, and more recently, as a Communication and Advocacy Coordinator at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Having received a bachelor’s degree in Writing and Mass Communication from Saint Mary’s College and a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University, Natalie has also contributed her freelance writing and editing skills to various publications such as the Forbes Travel Guide, GOOD Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and Boston Globe Sunday.
She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
Find out more about Natalie as we discuss the value of Corporate Social Responsibility, some film and television shows that raise awareness on relevant social issues, and that one time when she came to the rescue at work through faking a British accent!
Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!
I am a former humanitarian reporter and luxury hotel & spa reviewer who now works in advocacy and international development at the United Nations. Currently, I am coordinating communication across the sexual and reproductive health team at the World Health Organization.
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is commonly used within the realm of communications to assess the extent to which companies are honoring relations with its stakeholders. What does CSR mean to you? What are some examples of organizations that you consider are currently exhibiting great CSR practices?
In my experience, great CSR tends to use a company’s talents and value-add for good. Some examples would be a media company that incorporates storylines or disseminates important information in a way that will resonate with their audience or a tech company willing to offer their goods and services to non-profit organizations or to people in resource-poor settings, such as a phone company offering data to support remote learning and help kids access information.
Can you describe some instances when you’ve needed to think outside of the box and apply some less traditional communications tactics to reach a project goal?
When I was based in Bangkok, I covered 12 countries in South and Southeast Asia and would make calls to Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. One day, I called Sri Lanka and spoke English in my American accent, but the receiver who spoke English in a very proper British accent, said they could not understand me. Befuddled, I put on a British accent, and everything went well afterwards, although I did have to explain myself to my officemates once I hung up.
Then there was the time I was tasked with launching a website at a huge venue with a world leader, but did not have a reliable internet connection. The launch simply could not fail, so I had to get really creative. Let’s grab a cocktail if you want to hear the end of that story!
Film and television can be used as mediums to communicate with target audiences thereby educating them on an array of topics/social causes. As a communication specialist, what are some films or TV projects (fictional or non-fictional) that you believe really succeeded in delivering a socially-conscious message to viewers? Why were they successful?
The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, is one of the most mind-blowing films or documentaries I have ever seen. The way this movie told the story of genocide in Indonesia was horrifyingly effective and damning, especially since those implicated and bragging about the killings still sat in power. I watched it about ten years ago and think about it often.
More recently, I found Maid, the limited drama series about a young woman stuck in a cycle of poverty and abuse, incredibly immersive. This series does a great job of showing how various forces and seemingly small decisions can add up to an impossible situation. I also appreciated how the series plays with race and privilege in ways that are not often shown. Maid makes a strong case for uncomplicated government assistance, and safe and anonymous shelters for people who need to escape abuse, but also calls for showing everyday kindness to others who might be going through so much more than we know.
What advice would you offer to newer organizations that aren’t established and may have limited resources, in terms of developing their “brand” and/or a solid foundation?
Be strategic and intentional. These days, there is a pressure and drive to be everywhere doing everything all at once. There are so many potential platforms to take advantage of, but before going too far, it’s best to ask the question, “Why?” Do you really need to be on Twitter? Maybe. How about TikTok? Maybe not. LinkedIn? Probably.
Remember that you are using these platforms to build your brand over time. I think the days of creating the next “Ice Bucket Challenge” are over. Occasionally, organizations will strike gold, but your bread and butter in brand building will be a steady, consistent stream of content tailored to a particular platform and audience.
What brings you to NYWIFT?
Members of NYWIFT encouraged me to join because they know that I am working on a project and looking to find my way into the industry, which is new to me.
What is the best and worst advice that you’ve received?
The best advice comes in the form of open-ended questions that help guide you to your answer.
Often the worst advice comes from someone who has an opinion about the outcome. Maybe this is someone who has gone through something similar but has a different worldview or goals. Taken with that understanding, this kind of advice can still be a valuable litmus test of how I am feeling and what I should do.
How did the pandemic influence your work life?
I started working remotely in 2017 after having a baby and not wanting to commute for hours every day, or spend all my time being pulled into meetings and side conversations. I established an incredibly efficient workflow from home. However, when the pandemic happened, and everything became remote, I became extremely busy because of the subject matter and where I work, but also because everyone was online and boundaries seemed to evaporate. I now marvel at the fewer phone calls I receive since everything is a face-to-face video call.
Pain points aside, I love how the pandemic has opened up remote options for people. I also appreciate how it normalized being a professional and a parent at the same time.
Do you have any projects in the works?
Yes! It’s a drama-thriller series in which an untethered young woman accepts a job in Bangkok to promote a five-star hotel, but by the time she discovers her employer is exploiting people, it might be too late to save herself.
The storyline is drawn from my experience working in the luxury hotel industry and humanitarian space. On a macro-level, it’s about the issue of human trafficking and forced labor, but on a micro level, it’s about what we do every day that reinforces a system of exploitation.
Connect with Natalie Bailey on LinkedIn.
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