Behind the Headlines With Scott Beaudoin
For Scott Beaudoin, corporate social responsibility isn’t just good for society; it’s a necessary business practice. Here, he discusses his new role as chief strategy officer and executive managing director of corporate and brand purpose at RF|Binder and how he hopes to help companies become more purpose-driven and socially responsible.
How did you get your start in PR?
I went to school at Arizona State University and I was majoring in communication and journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. I did a communications internship at Steamboat Springs Colorado and worked in the marketing department.
My role was public relations, so I managed all the media that attended the mountain, came to the mountain to do stories and set them up with interviews and provided them specific data.
It was really early on in my life when I was about 20 years old doing an internship at a ski resort that I really started to become really interested in public relations.
Where did that lead you?
Interestingly enough, when I was doing my internship, I got the bug to be a reporter because I worked with so many of them and I was majoring in journalism and communications. So I did an internship at a TV station in Phoenix, Arizona with the investigative reporter at the time and was assigned as an intern to do a story on government waste, and at a very early age I actually won an Emmy for that story.
I got to the point where I got to Boston as a journalist in television when I wanted to get back into public relations and marketing. So I was working on a story with an executive at Mullen Public Relations in Massachusetts. I went in there for an informational, and they hired me to help them with strategic communications and media relations for their clients.
Then I got into the public relations agency world and went from Mullen to Cone, which is another Boston firm, and then went to MSL and now I’m here at Binder.
What drew you to the area of sustainability and corporate social responsibility?
When I went to Cone in Massachusetts, social responsibility and sustainable business practices were really the key differentiator for them. They worked between business and society developing communication strategies and business strategies around aligning themselves with a relevant social issue or environmental issue to the business.
So early on at Cone, I got exposed to that kind of work. I really fell in love with it from the beginning. I worked on all of our General Mills business accounts, so I oversaw Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives campaign as well as our Box Tops for Education campaign by General Mills. I also worked with a client for a foods company in the Feeding Children Better initiative that they did. Before I left, I had worked with CVS Pharmacy at the time, which is now CVS Health, in developing the largest corporate initiative dedicated solely to children with disabilities, an initiative with the CVS charitable trust called All Kids Can.
So I think I would say I’m a consumer marketer by trade, but a purpose-driven communicator by passion. So I always feel that, and I learned it at Cone, standing for something more than the products and services they provide can really go a long way in providing a point of differentiation to the marketplace with consumers.
So I always really just had a passion there with a really big differentiator in communications, which is something that I’ve done all my life.
What do you hope to accomplish in your new role as chief strategy officer and executive managing director of corporate and brand purpose at RF|Binder?
I was at MSL for almost 8 years, and we started the corporate social responsibility and sustainability practice in 2008. We actually incubated it in the Boston office and we grew pretty rapidly over the years, and we continuously drove really strong thought leadership in the marketplace around businesses’ role in society.
I think the big question is, “why would I leave something that I built and that something we actually had a tremendous amount of success and to grow it not only regionally but globally?”
And the answer is that I was really looking for something that transcended a practice and really provided an opportunity to look at purpose for companies and brands and a way to do all the work that we do. I don’t think it’s a practice on the sidelines anymore. I think it actually is a really true differentiator. And it’s a time when consumers today, the younger generation, put purpose before everything and understanding what a company stands for and how they’re acting responsibly around the way that they treat people to the way that they treat the planet and if they’re ethical in the way that they try to profit.
I wanted to land in a place like RF|Binder that understands that purpose transcends practice areas. It’s a true differentiator for we as an agency to go into a room with clients today and really be able to show them how purpose can help them innovate, help them stand out in the marketplace, help them solve some key business issues.
So really for me I and what I hope to accomplish is taking my 20+ years of experience and leveraging corporate and brand purpose to drive a differentiation as well as profit. To work across RF|Binder’s client base and other companies bringing them on board to really look at purpose not just as a communication strategy, but a business strategy.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
If you talk to any corporate social responsibility or sustainability communication expert in the marketplace, whether it’s as a corporate, brand, agency, nonprofit, the biggest challenge I think over the last 15+ years is really trying to find the way to show the C-suite the business impact of being a more purpose-driven company.
Over the years, we’ve really had to find return on investment and metrics or modeling to be able to show a business leader that there is a profit and business impact to being more socially responsible and mindful of the planet in their operations as well as the product supply chain.
So I think the biggest challenge really has been the journey, and we’re not there yet, but the journey in convincing the C-suite the benefits to the business and not only to society.
Do you have any daily rituals that keep you going?
I am a slave to LinkedIn and Twitter. I am very interested in points of view in corporate social responsibility today and sustainability. I follow as many leading experts and thought leaders around the world and their specific points of view on things like climate change and COP 21 that just finished to socially impactful investing and things like that.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I have a twin brother who has two kids. I don’t have any kids so I live vicariously through him. One’s 12 and one’s 7. I take a lot of joy in the time that I do have free from work to be able to spend some time with my nephew who is my godson, and my niece.
Do you have any advice for those looking to begin a career in PR?
When you do land a job, try to take in as much as you can and do as much as you can and spread your wings because your first job is not going to be your last job. Get into as much as you can with all types of business as well as new business. I think that’s probably the best advice.
Try to do as much as you can and get as much experience as you can because we’ve become not only specialists, but generalists at the same time. The more experience that you have of different parts of the business, the better.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…an airplane pilot.
2. I’m at my best when…I’m under pressure.
3. My greatest inspiration is…my bosses of the past.
4. The most interesting fact about me is…I was a TV weatherman.
5. The characteristic I most dislike in people is…when they think it’s about them.
6. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…there’s so much more we need to do to solve all the world’s problems.
7. My guiltiest pleasure is…pizza.
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