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Storytelling from Safeco Tower

If you’ve spent time in the Comm Lead community – previously known as the MCDM – you’ve probably heard, spoken, dreamed, or written the word “storytelling” approximately 10,000 times. It’s about dramatic arcs, superb characterization, and elevating voices. It sits at the core of who Comm Leaders are and, often, it’s the magical word that brought us back to grad school in the first place.

One Comm Leader knocks this concept out of the park, and she’s doing it in a place you might least expect. Alexis Holzer, an MCCN student in Cohort 15, works for Safeco – an insurance giant responsible for at least one baseball field, one Seattle skyscraper, and 22,000 independent insurance agents.

In an industry that typically sees financial cushions as an antidote to fear and risk, Holzer is involved in a different solution. As Program and Communications Manager of Agent Giving, she runs agent giving programs nationwide that tell the stories of agents who touch the lives of people around them. These programs award grants to nonprofits on behalf of agents – $500,000 in total this year – in recognition of agents’ volunteering with the nonprofits and organizing community safety events.

Safeco also provides support for agents to tell their own brand stories. When a grant is given away, Safeco commissions a consumer-facing story for Safeco.com about the agent and the nonprofit as well as photos of their work in action in the community. To extend the life of those stories, and develop the reputation of the agent and of Safeco, Holzer helps manage a PR campaign to pitch those stories to local and national media outlets across the U.S. “It is this community awareness that provides the agent an opportunity to do something that’s meaningful to them and hopefully, in the process, create some loyalty around what Safeco’s doing,” Alexis explains.

A Safeco agent presents a larger-than-life check to the 'At the Core' nonprofit. Holzer's work on this PR campaign has helped generate over 2.5 million impressions nationwide in the last four months.

A Safeco agent presents a larger-than-life check to the ‘At the Core’ nonprofit. Holzer’s work on this PR campaign has helped generate over 2.5 million impressions nationwide in the last four months.

Holzer didn’t always work in a communication role, but she has always had a knack for leading people. She began her professional career as a stage manager, coordinating stories of the stage and bringing together director, designers, actors and marketers to create a work of art. Later, in her work as Assistant Director of Economic Development at Washington State University, she took up the role of uniting universities to talk about the irreplaceable value they provide in research: value that leads to new innovations for the economy, new business development, and new job opportunities for the newest generation of people.

To make the leap from economic development to working solely in communications, Holzer relied heavily on the Comm Lead community. “When I started thinking about a career change, Hanson advised me on how to step back and understand what I was really looking for in a communications job. I would have been flying blind without the guidance of the Comm Lead leadership team.”

The person expending so much energy to create communities also needs a robust community of her own. Comm Lead has been that for Holzer. “These are my people,” she says. Class work has enabled her to understand everything from the nuances behind managing crisis communications to the technicalities of producing a podcast. It has given her terminology to describe content channels, content production, and community engagement. It has also provided a peer network, one she can count on for feedback on project ideas, professional encouragement, and networking. Overall, it inspired Holzer to jump into this field of communications work at Safeco, which was completely new to her. “Comm Lead gave me the confidence to take the interview and present myself as a communications professional.”


alexis-wp-feature-imageAlexis is a member of Comm Lead Cohort 15 and works as Program and Communications Manager of Agent Giving at Safeco, a large national insurance agency. She’s a problem-solver with a get-it-done attitude who excels in creativity, strategic insight, and program management. Contact her to chat about professional development, professional organizations in the communication field, and continuing education.

Follow Alexis at @alexisholzer on Twitter or send her an email at holzera@uw.edu.


View other articles from the Comm Lead Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2016:
Vital Signs
Of Course!
The Download
Our Future in a Toothbrush: Making Meaning in IoT
Pushing Boundaries: Burgers, Tweets, and Babies

Jeana RidleyStorytelling from Safeco Tower
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