Angel Martinez, a student in Northwestern University’s Medill IMC Professional program, is a strategic communication specialist for the Network for College Success. He describes himself as “a proud Chicago South-Sider and heart-centered storyteller.”1 In a recent interview, Martinez related how Medill’s emphasis on supporting art with science in marketing is helping him on his journey as a strategic marketer in the non-profit arena.
Martinez studied film production as an undergraduate at Northwestern University and wanted to bring that storytelling experience to his marketing work. “I still wanted to be able to apply some creative thinking to whatever I was going to do professionally,” he said.
He began working as a digital storyteller at the Surge Institute, a national nonprofit organization that empowers, educates and energizes educational leaders of color to “create transformative change in the communities they serve.”2 About a year into his tenure with Surge, the COVID pandemic erupted.
A Pandemic-Era Professional Pivot
“I feel like everyone has a 2020 story when it comes to, ‘Where were you? What were you doing?’” he recalled. “A lot of folks in my network were learning a new skill, going back to school.
“I know it was also a time when folks were just trying to get by and hang on and do well with their loved ones,” he continued, “and I was inspired by people who were taking an opportunity to do that, plus also invest in themselves.”
Because he had picked up most of his marketing knowledge on the job, Martinez said he started thinking he should also make an educational investment. “And for me, I have the creative thinking. I just really wanted to get better at the technical part of the frameworks.”
He had heard a lot of good things about Medill when he was an undergrad. “It was just a great fit,” he said. “I can not only continue to strengthen my storytelling, the things that I like to do with storytelling in marketing communications, but also dig into the science part.”
What Brought Martinez Back to Northwestern
Martinez also found the options for taking IMC Professional courses in-person or online attractive, so he enrolled in 2021. He was surprised by how much he enjoyed the online courses, which enabled him to continue his full-time work at the Surge Institute.
Getting to know marketers from diverse backgrounds has contributed to his enjoyment of the program. “It has allowed me to connect with people who are not only in Chicago, but across the country, across the world.”
That diversity of experience adds extra value for Martinez, who has the opportunity to work with and learn from classmates who are "doing things that are all across the spectrum when it comes to IMC: branding, data analytics, strategic communications, and in different environments too, different industries.”
Becoming More Strategic
In May 2022, Martinez moved into a strategic communications role with the Network for College Success (NCS), an organization affiliated with the University of Chicago that supports high-school level educational leaders with research-based practices to help students “excel academically and develop the agency, integrated identity, and competencies necessary to have successful lives as adults.”3
NCS was just finalizing a communications strategy when Martinez joined the organization. He was immediately able to contribute, applying a strategic process framework that moves from goals through objectives and tactics to success measurement.
He called out a strategic communications class as being especially useful. “That was a class where I directly applied what I learned because it is a strat comms course related to a strat comms role. I think also just anything that has been in strategy has been very useful,” he said.
He’s also applied some core learnings about customer understanding from the five-day immersive Design Thinking course in his new role. “Part of that process was having empathy interviews with users of this service or product that we were designing,” he said. “I've taken that and applied it to some of the communications that I've been sending out.” He uses surveys and conversations with clients to learn where and how NCS communications add value for them.
“The design thinking process and seeing how empathy, human connection can exist in the business setting … was not only exciting, but it also gave me a sense of hope,” he said. “I would love to see how I can further expand upon that in my own work.”
Using Analytics in Service of Story and Strategy
Learning more about using data analytics and the science of marketing to strengthen his work was one of the things that drew Martinez to the program. The core Marketing Research and Strategic Process courses and the Marketing Metrics elective have given him confidence in his ability to synthesize data into a recommended course of action based on a business case. “Instead of focusing on the numbers,” he said, he’s “focusing on the story and how to tell it using these numbers.” He’s learned to look for “something that's concise and actionable.”
Uniting Marketing Strategy and Mission
His NCS bio asserts, “Angel is most interested in co-creating meaningful brand experiences that establish and nurture relationships rooted in trust and value for all stakeholders.”1 When asked about his favorite courses, he named a few, saying the elective Culture and Inclusion in Marketing resonated with him.
He believes the course is a strong example of Medill’s visionary leadership. “A lot of people are beginning to think about this or a lot of people have already been thinking about this, so how do we amplify that work?”
As a heart-centered storyteller, what Martinez likes about non-profit marketing is that “the mission, the vision, the values stuff is not just fluff.” He is passionate about translating strategic marketing principles to the nonprofit space.
He asked himself, “How do I bring all these things that I'm learning, plus my own thinking to this role? How do I bring it together? And that's pretty exciting.”
Find Your Passion in Marketing
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