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With Additional Resources, Training Transforms

California Alliance for Arts Education

Consumed by her organization’s campaign for a significant state funding block to support arts and music education, Laurie Schell, executive director of California Alliance for Arts Education, was less than eager to leave the office for multiple days of communications training in 2006. But her Hewlett Foundation program officer strongly recommended it.

“At the training,” said Schell, “I was introduced for the very first time to branding. I also learned about crisis communications and about communicating an ask. It was all there. These were new concepts for me, and we have put them to very good use.”

Training also helped Schell launch a strategic communications plan she continues to use today. “The notion of strategy—of creating a strategic plan around communications—was such a new idea for me. It was really an aha for me to think about communications in that way—in a much broader context rather than from a tactical point of view.” Upon returning to the office, “I found myself asking questions about every tactic, asking about the larger strategic goals preceding it,” recalled Schell. She described training as “transformative as very few things are.”

She also cautioned: “Training was not enough to help me do this job myself.” Success in communications, she said, also calls for financial and human resources. “The tipping point came after I identified a funding source and brought in a consultant to do an internal audit and assessment of communications to create the communications plan. Training was an influence—but none of it would be possible without staffing.”

Laurie Schell attended an intensive executives-only training, which extended several days over the course of a year.

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