Communications Lessons Learned

Communications Lessons Learned

By Clare McLean


“How can I get the necessary social media skills to help me move from the for-profit sector into the nonprofit world?”

As I began job-hunting in the spring of 2022, this question bubbled up every time I read an attractive job posting. With 25 years of experience in communications, a newly acquired horticulture degree, and a resolute desire to combine these areas of expertise in service of the environment, I knew I had to beef up a core skill set: social media content creation and management. 

Serendipity intervened in June when I discovered the Willamette Partnership Communications Fellowship. I was impressed that the fellowship was intended to build up skills and knowledge in the fellow’s area of choice, rather than saddling them with work that wouldn’t lead to relevant growth. This could be my chance to get a crash course in social media at an environmentally-focused organization!

Fast forward to August, when I became the Partnership’s Communications Fellow. Communications partner Emily Irish was my mentor and we established that my work would have two focuses:

  • leveraging my existing expertise to create web content to strengthen how the Partnership represents itself 
  • developing social media skills

Staff Bios 

Within the first few days of my fellowship, I witnessed how much the staff relish their work and effortlessly imbue their expertise and relationships with pleasure and purpose. I saw an opportunity to infuse the staff’s online bios with this remarkable spirit. As I told Emily, the bios should be as singular as the Partnership itself.

To that end, I interviewed staff to help me craft bios that conveyed their distinct motivations and values. My questions avoided the pro forma (“Where did you go to college? What’s your favorite part of your job?”) in order to elicit more depth and reflection. Each bio will be enhanced with one or two direct quotes from each partner and represents the individual’s character.

(Stay tuned as these get their final update on the WP website!)

Sponsorship Opportunity: The Willamette Partnership Fellows Program 

I also recognized an opportunity to build out web content which would help recruit sponsorship funding for the new Fellows Program. My goal was to create a compelling, comprehensive overview of the program for potential sponsors–and persuade them to act. 

Emily and I collaborated on page design to convey a lot of information in a visually succinct and user-friendly way. Answers to key questions, profiles of past fellows with a focus on their newly gained skills, and information about benefits to both Sponsors and Fellows was made readily visible with bold headlines, bullet points, and collapsible tabs. 

Social Media Management

During my 10 weeks, I learned how to navigate the back end of WordPress, MailChimp, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and how to incorporate search engine optimization techniques into my copy. Gaining the skills, autonomy, and confidence to co-write, format, and launch the Partnership’s Fall newsletter.


Thank you, Willamette Partnership (to Emily in particular)!


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