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Jacobson Strategic Communications

CEO and Strategic Communications Advisor Sue Jacobson on the Power of Taking Risks

Eleanor Beaton

Jacobson Strategic Communications founder and CEO, Sue Jacobson, is the QUEEN of the stretch assignment.

At 26, she asked to be the Chief of Staff for Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign. The result of this BIG ask? Dukakis asked her to RUN his campaign for president in Washington State (sidenote: Dukakis didn’t become president — but Sue DID win Washington State for him).

Since then Sue has worked with a long list of high profile people, including the legendary General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, New York Times bestselling author, Suzy Welch, and the former mayor of Philadelphia, Ed Rendell.

On today’s episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership, Sue and I discuss;

  • How Sue’s family emigrated from Russia with very little — but used their exceptional communication skills to turn one cow into a Fortune 500 Company.
  • How taking big risks and continually challenging yourself will transform your career.
  • How you can overcome limiting beliefs and self-doubt AND lean in to challenges and obstacles instead.
  • How social media has impacted strategic communications for businesses and organizations AND the importance of including social media in your communications strategy.
  • Why it’s OK to make mistakes.
  • How she built her successful communications firm.
  • And MUCH more.

Listen here:

Full Podcast Transcript:

Eleanor Beaton: Hello there Fierce One. I have a question for you. Do you want to build a bold career boosting personal brand, but perhaps you’re paralyzed by the thought of being labeled an attention hog? Or maybe you’re tired of working hard and accomplishing big things, only to be passed over for the promotions and opportunities that you crave and, quite frankly, that you deserve.

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Here’s the thing: when you think about the women that we highlight on this show, so many of them have built incredible careers, incredible accomplishments, and yes, incredible personal brands. But so much of what I see out there in the market, in terms of education and training and webinars that teach people about personal brands, actually feel to be very far off the mark and really don’t line up with the experience and the knowledge that we have of these incredible powerhouse leaders, many of whom that feature here on the show.

So that’s why we put together this white paper. It’s completely free. And you can get access to it by going to Here’s the thing that I know to be true in the world of work. Success is not just about what you know is it about who you know your success is about who knows what you know. So that is your powerful personal brand. So my team and I have compiled a list of 100 iconic women leaders studied what made them unique memorable and preeminent in their industries and curated a list of seven unconventional strategies that you can use to build a compelling grant. So you can get your hands on this free white paper. So if you’re ready to get the recognition that’s going to catapult you to the next level of success and beyond. Really learn deeply practical strategies that are going to help you to market yourself effectively without coming off as inauthentic or braggy. And also get recommended for exciting opportunities even when you’re not in the room, then you definitely want to download this document again. and that’s going to give you access to our brand new FREE White Paper called Seven unconventional strategies to build your personal brand.

You are listening to Fierce Feminine Leadership, episode number 270 with CEO and strategic communications adviser, Sue Jacobson, on the confidence to take risk.

Voiceover: Welcome to Fierce Feminine Leadership: The Success Podcast for Women in Business. Each week we feature interviews and advice to help you step into your power and lead your way. Now here’s your host, women’s leadership expert Eleanor Beaton.

Eleanor Beaton: Hello there Fierce Ones. Eleanor Beaton here. Welcome back to another episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership: The Success Podcast for Ambitious Women in Business. This is episode number 270 and really looking forward to today’s episode. We are going to be having a far-ranging conversation with a fabulous guest, where we’re going to talk, among other things, about the confidence to continuously challenge yourself and take risks. But before we get there, if you are an ongoing loyal listener to Fierce Feminine Leadership, welcome back. I’m so delighted to have you here. We so appreciate your shares, your comments, your reaching out to us with ideas and topics for future episodes. Keep it up.

And if you’re a new listener to Fierce Feminine Leadership, welcome. We’re so excited to have you here. And this really is the home for a Fierce Feminine Leadership wisdom. So tools, insights and strategies to help you step more powerfully into your place as an influential voice and leader and contributor inside your company, your community, your industry.

So I am excited today because we just opened up registration for our three day Women’s Leadership workshop. It’s called Power Presence Position. It’s happening November 2nd through 4th in Toronto Canada. And really looking forward to this particular event. We’ve run a number of live three day workshops and this one I am so looking forward to because we crafted it to really align with some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that women like you share.

So when you think about you know powerful women leaders who are truly at the forefront of their industry there’s a couple of things that really stand out about them. They lead from a place of authentic power. They galvanize and inspire with compelling presence. And they influence opinion and outcomes from their preeminent industry position. In short, they know how to own the room. Now here’s what I have uncovered through my years of working with powerhouse women leaders, is that there’s always room at the top. When you have power presence and position, it enables you to truly build the bone deep confidence that you need to trust your instincts, to cope with criticism and challenging situations, to lead with conviction, to ultimately unleash your inner CEO. It also allows you to authentically position yourself in a category of one. You being a unique and influential voice destined to make the meaningful impact that you are here to make. And of course it also allows you to really elegantly negotiate top shelf compensation, whether you’re working inside an organization or running your own business, so that you are ultimately maximizing the value of every deal that you make. Which gives you a life of greater ease, greater security and obviously abundance for yourself and your family.

So these are really some of the core things that we’re going to be taking a look at Power Presence Position. We’re going to be bringing together a group of really outstanding women leaders. When I think about the events that we run, we have incredible women CEOs, women consultants, women who are working inside organizations, who are truly coming together to be in an audience, in a retreat or workshop of equals. Where it’s really an opportunity for you to take a step outside your daily life and to learn and grow with really an outstanding cohort of women leaders. And I find that as women, we really crave that. We may not have at our disposal or in our everyday friend circles or work circles, that ability to congregate with women like this and to really take that opportunity to work on your career and business, not necessarily in it.

So tickets are on for a Power Presence Position. Our early bird prices are in effect and we anticipate that we will be selling out this event. So you want to head over to, that’s to  get your hands on an early bird ticket. Check it out. Read it through. If it’s a good fit, we’d love to have you.

Alright so my guest today, speaking of Power Presence Position, my guest today grew up in a family that came over to the United States from Russia in the span of a generation built up a fortune 500 company.

So she grew up in this. She became a very influential woman herself in the political sphere and then she went on to have a very successful career in executive roles inside big influential PR companies. And ultimately brainstormed the launch of her company with none other than the legendary GEC, Jack Welch and the New York Times best selling author, Suzy Welch.

So we have a fascinating conversation which you’re about to hear. That’s a really far-ranging talk about the power of taking risks, about the critical nature of acting in alignment with your values, even when you experience blow back. And the importance of not getting too comfortable where you are.

So Sue Jacobson has provided campaign advice and sound counsel to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns for the last 25 years. She was Ed Rendell’s deputy chief of staff when he was the mayor of Philadelphia, working on legislative and regulatory issues at the federal state and local levels. Later she moved on to build the public affairs division of one of the region’s largest PR firms. Sue has also provided public relations services to dozens of clients including the University of Pennsylvania, education testing services, Pennsylvania Tourism and Economic Development, The Salvation Army, and the Jack Welch Management Institute. She serves on the board of the national PBS Foundation, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Marian Anderson Award, the Settlement Music School business forward, and as a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Commission of Women. She is the founder and CEO of Jacobson Strategic Communications. Without further ado here is Sue Jacobson.

Sue Jacobson, welcome to Fierce Feminine Leadership.

Sue Jacobson: Thank you,  Eleanor great to be here.

So I am so looking forward to diving in and chatting with you about strategic communications, about your career. You know you’ve built an extraordinary career, sort of all about that. The business that you’ve built, success secrets from from your career as an entrepreneur. But I wanted to start off by asking you about your background. Where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how it led to having this great career in strategic communications.

Sue Jacobson: Sure. I’d be happy to. So actually, it started with my great grandfather who came over from Russia with eight siblings and his parents, he was two, and his great grandfather bought a cow and started a butcher store. And my grandfather, when he was 13, went into that business and then my father went into the business. And they ended up taking this butcher shop and turning it into a Fortune 500 company. And I have to tell you, that I’ve been told, family lore is that my great grandfather and I certainly know my father were, and my father’s still, fabulous communicators. They literally convinced A&P grocery store to the first supermarket ever to take their small butcher shop and have their meat in there in their business. And that’s how they built that business.

And then my mom was a psychologist, so the joke in my family was literally as long as I can remember. Every night our folks would go out to, they’re very civic minded, they would go out to these events every night. And now when my sisters and I go home to visit my folks, they’ll usually say to us, ‘Well we’re thrilled you’re coming in tonight but actually we’re going out to an event. We’ll see you tomorrow.’ So they were they were huge communicators and still are. And they love people. And that’s literally as I mentioned how my dad built this the fifth largest beef packing company in the world. And my mother, dealing with people, we all grew up in that environment. So strategic communications is actually a very natural, and my business, is really you know a direct you know relationship from that upbringing.

Eleanor Beaton: Now there’s so much to ask you about that. And I actually didn’t realize that about your history. It’s fascinating. When you think about the business that your family built. Obviously there were a lot of lessons in terms of the importance of strategic communication outside the area of strategic communication, what would you say is the number one business lesson that you learned from your family experience and watching your parents and your grandparents build that business?

Sue Jacobson: Well it’s very interesting, because as I mentioned my grandfather, when he was two, came over with his five brothers and two sisters, the sisters were left out of the business at that time. And I think always had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. So. So that was something I watched my dad did always say, look at that time he told, so I have three younger sisters, and we were all told though that we could do whatever we wanted to do, which is a fabulous message for a dad to give to you. So, it was a mixed message. On one hand I saw the business built without any women, on the other hand we were told that we could do whatever we wanted. So I believe that that lesson said, ‘OK, this is a new world, and we should try things that we should take risks and we should move forward.’

Eleanor Beaton: And what does that look like for you. So you grew up in this family. You get insight into what it takes to build a business like that. You get insight into the importance of being an active participant in your community. What happened next for you? Tell us about sort of your career evolution and what brought you to where you are today?

Well, it really taught me to think big career wise. So at the age of 26, Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts. And I went to Kitty and said, I’d like to be your chief of staff. Kitty Dukakis was the first lady, and so I met a very young age it was really fun. I got to create this mini governor’s office for the first lady and we did a lot of work on financial literacy. And then moved out to Washington state with my husband and there I was what, 27? And Governor Dukakis, who was running for president, said, Susan go out there and run my campaign for president in Washington state. And he said when I win the primary, you will be my state director for the general election. And that’s exactly what happened. And so there again, at a young age I was thrown into this big time role. I was one of two women to run their states at that time for a presidential campaign. And I was definitely the youngest person to run a state. We ended up winning by two points. We were one of 10 states that Dukakis won for president, against Bush at the time if you remember. But the only people who remember that I won my state are actually my mother and my husband. But it was but it was it was an amazing experience and there I learned from a communications perspective a couple of things that have literally stayed with me every bit of the way. And one is, to just do the impossible or nothing, because on campaigns you have to do things that you have to ask for things and and do things on a very tight budget. You have to do it very quickly, you have to be able to pivot and move. And so that that is such a fantastic skill to learn at a young age and I’ve literally taken it with me everywhere I’ve gone since then.

Eleanor Beaton: I’m fascinated. So a couple of things. You said you were thrown in to this invigorating, challenging situation. But I’m thinking you actually threw yourself in there, you know? It’s fascinating, the idea of a 26 year old saying, ‘look I want to be your chief of staff.’ What was it that gave you the courage to ask for that big stretch assignment, knowing that potentially on paper or from an experience point of view you didn’t necessarily tick all the boxes and what was it that gave you the confidence to to do that?

Sue Jacobson: That’s a really good question. It never occurred to me not to want to stretch and think big. And I think maybe the answer to your question is that I’m not afraid to fail. So if I fail, and actually this is how I run my business today. Just the other day I got a phone call from a senior member of my team saying ‘ugh, I just made the most horrible mistake. And I said, that’s OK. Don’t worry about it. You know every single person makes a mistake. I make a mistake. And so when you truly believe that it’s OK to make mistakes and you pick yourself up and you admit it and you move on and you and you don’t and you don’t you aren’t ruined by fear. And you learn to lean into things then that allows you to take those kind of risks and be like OK, here we go.’.

I can tell you though, like so, and we’re jumping around a little bit, but when I became deputy chief of staff to the mayor of Philadelphia, I remember the first day thinking to myself, they were talking about a legislative issue and I was going in to really do the legislative work. And I remember thinking to myself ‘they are speaking a different language. I have no idea what they’re talking about.’ And so I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t nervous or frightened, but it never occurred to me not to try or to try to do my best.

Eleanor Beaton: Tell us about that. How did you how did you step into this deputy chief of staff role for Ed Rendell, the mayor of Philadelphia, and what what was the biggest learning you know that you took away from that experience?

Sue Jacobson: If anybody tells you that every part of their career went well, it’s just not true. Right? It was a rocky time for me. It was a boys club. And actually Ed Rendell and David Cohen, David Cohen was the chief of staff and is a legend in the Philadelphia region, they respect and have really brought along a lot of senior women who helped run government. However I was the only woman on the second floor of the mayor’s office when they came in as deputy chief of staff. And a lot of the guys around there who ran different parts of the government on the second floor were tough. And I have to tell you that, so yes I have confidence, but I was pretty secure. I really thought twice before I brought up ideas because inside my inner voice was ‘are my ideas really good enough? Maybe I’m not smart enough for this, or good enough.’ And that didn’t stop me and I kept going.

But it was really it was a fabulous lesson for me, because it made me really — and this is another thing that I really do now and that’s because of that — is I lean in. If there’s a problem, I lean right in. I do not shy away from problems. I’m like ‘How can I fix it. How can we do better.’ I communicate. I know I’m in that business. But regardless I communicate, and I do speak up. I speak up a lot now. And I speak up in situations with a lot of senior men. And the executive board of the Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia is a great example of all these or all the giants in business of the Philadelphia region and I’m right there at the table with them and I speak up. I make myself speak up, and even if I say something that might not be right — I’m obviously not just speaking up for the sake of talking because that’s dangerous. Speaking up and believing in yourself and being smart about you saying and admitting what you’re wrong I think has been very helpful for me.

Eleanor Beaton: Well, this idea of truly not being afraid to make a mistake. It’s one thing to know that intellectually, it’s another thing to truly believe that. To truly believe that. Because I think a lot of times it’s about the bounce-back factor. You’ve made a mistake. I think that really knowing that that’s OK, picking yourself up and all of that good stuff. It’s how quickly can you bounce back from making a mistake, I think that’s where it really comes into play. That knowing,  the deep knowing, that it really is OK.

I’m fascinated by this idea of leaning into problems. What was it about that challenging experience, challenging and invigorating experience of being deputy chief of staff for the mayor of Philadelphia. You were in numerous situations that made you question yourself at the time, but what was it. Was there a moment where you made that decision, ‘Look, I have to lean in to challenge.’?

Sue Jacobson: I think I’ve felt that, and I still feel that, to me it’s almost common sense. That your natural reaction right is to have almost flight, to go away from it. And what I learned from experience and what I’ve learned with my business now is that is absolutely the wrong instinct. So I think you have to train yourself to do that. Which I did, which I do. And I’m still not perfect at it. You know there are times I’m like ‘Ugh, I just don’t want to deal with it.’ But I do it. And I do it because I know it’s the right thing.

And I also know, swinging back to the communications piece, when you communicate and when you’re authentic and when people feel that about you, I also believe that. So if you lean in and you’re authentic and you’re honest about your feelings, that what happens is people trust you and they’ll want to work with you for a solution. For the most part. It’s not 100 percent. But it definitely, I have found in almost every case, that when you talk something through with someone, when you pick up the phone and you say ‘here’s our issue. Here are some solutions. What do you think?’ And you listen to them that that’s when you get your great result.

Eleanor Beaton: Now, your company that you founded, Jacobson Strategic Communications, very successful strategic communications firm,it was started on the back of an envelope. Can you walk us through what happened?

Sue Jacobson: Sure. So I almost fell into a little bit of a rut, where after I was deputy chief of staff to the mayor, Ed Rendell was leaving office and I didn’t want to stay in the mayor’s office. So I went to a communications firm as a vice president. I had a very comfortable job. I was executive vice president there. Built up a nice governmental relations part of the business and government affairs part of the business, and was there for 10 years. And it was pretty cushy. And I had a great team and we were very successful. But Susie and Jack Welch, Jack Welch the former head of G.E., Suzy Welch is a new York Times best-selling author and my best friend. And they kept saying Sue, you’re about to turn 50, and you’re in this cushy job and you need to do something about it.

Eleanor Beaton: I can so hear them saying that. I’ve heard lots of conferences where they’ve been on stage together or Suzy is interviewing him. I can so see that conversation happening just based on what I’ve heard.

Sue Jacobson: Well, they are remarkable and they’re fearless. I could go on and on about, you know, they are just two amazing people and also fabulous communicators. But, so I went to meet with them and it was Jack who pulled out an envelope, which I still have, and basically what they said was ‘It’s time to start your own communications firm.’ And Jack wrote on the envelope. ‘Here’s what you need.’ It was just some very basic but great advice that I would have never figured out on my own. How do you start a business? It was simple things like, go to Pen. and pay for some interns to help you start, and find a shared office space, and get a website, and just basic things. But I used that, that was kind of my Bible. And went through it and literally that’s how I started my business, it was literally on the back of an envelope.

Eleanor Beaton: That Jack Welch wrote.

Sue Jacobson: That Jack Welch wrote. That’s right.

Eleanor Beaton: You brought up this concept of trust. Obviously it’s so key to what you do. When you start working with an organization or you are in those preliminary conversations with a potential client or potential project, how do you gain trust?

Sue Jacobson: Well, it’s a great question and it’s not just trust with your clients, it’s also trust with your team. I just wrote an article about that, about how trust literally runs my business. So to answer your question, it’s an interesting question because a lot of the times we come in and sometimes the CEO will want us there and our clients communications team will be like, you know, you don’t know them, are they going to do our job, are they going to replace us, are they going to make us look bad? So what we do, and it’s really important, is we break it down. It’s really about people the people and building relationships with each person there and telling them over and over again and giving them credit with their boss, and explaining to them that we are an extension of their team and then showing that. You know, you have to walk the walk. You can’t just say ‘trust us’. That’s not that’s not going to do it. And sometimes it’s difficult because you need to show results to the CEO, but at the same time it’s equally important to build that trust. So to me, it’s very personalized. It’s what makes this person tick. What are they concerned about. How can we add value to them. What  can we take off their plate? How can we make them look good? And to let them know that it’s not about us and our egos, that our priorities are truly about like driving their businesses forward and that that works almost all the time. And sometimes it takes a lot longer than other time. Sometimes it doesn’t even exist, but that’s important.

And the trust issue with my business and the folks who work for me, we’ve got over 42 folks working with us, and the model of my business, which is a unique model, is that we have three to four senior people who work on every single account – for real. We don’t switch out to junior people. We really work with three to four skilled people who have different skill sets together as a team and then we have a junior team backing them up. And no one has to come into any of her offices, ever. And I say to our clients, if you get upset about hearing a baby in the background occasionally or a dog barking we’re really not the firm for you. Because that’s the only way I can get these extraordinary people, mainly women, to work with me with these amazing experiences is because I trust them and give them the complete flexibility to work as a team. And I think that’s why we’ve won the Inc. 5000 award. We were one of the fastest growing companies last year in the country and have one of a bunch of awards and have extraordinary clients and it’s because of this trust. So so trust is everything.

Eleanor Beaton: Yeah. It’s so interesting. It’s so embedded into the business strategy. For instance, I can remember, I started my career in advertising. A sort of cousin in some ways his strategic relations. And one of the biggest challenges I can remember as a junior person in that organization, one of the biggest challenges that clients had was the belief that the real work was happening by junior people. So having, ‘look we’ve got we’ve got a small group of senior people and they have their hands on every single you know they are driving this with back up from a junior team.’ I mean that to me is is how trust is actually embedded into your actual business model. So it makes tonnes of sense.

Sue Jacobson: Yes. And you’re right. It’s a really important point is that, part of the reason we get that trust once we’re there because, as you know, we’re in a what have you done for me lately business? Right? Every week we have to deliver results.

And so part of getting that trust from our client, and it’s a really good point is, that we have to deliver. So, imagine if I had the former regional head of the SBA, I have the former vice president from a major PR firm in D.C., and I have you know someone who was a major executive at Viacom all working together, custom fit perfectly for our client. We’re delivering these amazing results. So, you’re right, that’s that’s a huge part of the trust piece. It’s actually a great point.

Eleanor Beaton: Tell us a little bit about the flexibility that your team enjoys. This is interesting to me because the team is going to be made up of primarily women, people do not have to come into the office. Tell us a little bit about you know the decision to set things up that way and what that looks like.

Sue Jacobson: So, it’s interesting because part of the trouble I had going back to when we were talking about when I was deputy chief of staff, is that, and this is part of the reason I’ve set my business up this way now, is when I was deputy chief of staff., the one thing I asked for was I said “I’ve got to leave at 6 o’clock every night, I’ll keep working, but my kids are tiny and I’ve got to be with them.’ For me this is how I want to be a mom and a professional.

And Ed Rendell was fine with it. The chief of staff was fine with it, but everybody else, they were all guys at that time, gave me a pretty hard time about it. And I had worked where I was a vice president at the large PR firm. I worked there three days a week. And you know, look, everybody has to do it their own way, I truly believe this. But when I left those experiences, I said to myself; ‘there are all these extraordinary women out there, who quite frankly can’t get jobs. And they’re so talented, but they want the flexibility to be with their kids when they’re little, or they want to sit on their sofa while they’re doing exactly the same amount of work as if they’re sitting at a desk. And why wouldn’t I respect that and respect them and build a company based on it.’ And you know, as we’ve discussed it’s it’s a winning formula.

Eleanor Beaton: Clearly.

Sue Jacobson: Yes. Yeah, right. And people love it. And they’re so thrilled, because if someone wants to go for a bike ride to take a break for an hour. I don’t care. There are two other team members. You know why should I have to say that nine to five… You know, look, the the client always has to go first. Right? So that’s our top priority. But, if you’ve got a team of three people and everybody is backing each other up and they’re all trusting each other and working together and having fun together, it’s like, it happens. It’s like no one’s going to shirk the responsibility because they love working for the client and they’re having fun. And so, that’s pretty much, that’s that’s how the business works. And I truly believe that as a result we’re getting a better work product. And that’s not why I did it, I did it because that’s how I believe… and again, I do not believe that sitting in an office and saying: “who’s free? So let’s put them on an account.” VS. “Who are the very best people who are out there and how do I put this together?” is a very different strategy.

Eleanor Beaton: Now you mentioned the INC 5000, a venerable listing of the fastest growing companies in the United States. You have been on that list. It’s interesting to me, you spent the first part of your career working inside organizations. At the end of that, working for other people. You were an executive vice president inside a PR firm. Decide at the age of 50 to launch your own business with tips and strategies that you chatted over with some other great business minds. But when you think about the success of your firm, what were some of the milestones for you as you built up your own company, and of course driving things as an entrepreneur is going to be different than driving things when you’re working inside an organization, but what have been some of the key milestones for you?

Sue Jacobson: So, you’ll love this. Because a key milestone for me was when I started my business, the first person who believed in me was Amy Gutmann, the president of Penn. And I’d done some work for her before and she said “Sue, I will be your first client.”.

And then Gail Harrity, the president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was a small thing but she said, Sue, we’re doing this launch for… we’re opening up this new part of the building, so why did you do that?

So because of those two women believing in me and my future and giving me a chance, I could start my business by saying ‘I had the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum of Art as my two first clients.’

Eleanor Beaton: Not too shabby.

Sue Jacobson: I know. And the really great thing is that I can give you an example of dozens of women who have basically, they’re the ones that have helped me build this business. And some people say that women don’t help other women. It just, it’s so untrue. This business, I owe so many successful women who, still to this day, who you know took a shot on us. Because there are other PR firms out there. And believed in what we were doing and took a chance on us. It’s really women. It was an important milestone and I’m so proud of it and so honored that these amazing women helped us along.

Eleanor Beaton: And I think that that is is far more the norm than not. This idea, this narrative that women don’t help women I think it feels quite archaic at this point.

Sue Jacobson: Yeah I agree. Look it’s still happens. You know, as you know. But I agree with you. I think it’s going away. I truly do. Because the real issue is that, I also think that if people feel like they’re they’re part of your journey and part of your success, that that they want to help. Someone said to me recently, Sue, you helped so many people. Why do you do that? The real reason is that it makes me so happy and it gives me great satisfaction. So why wouldn’t other successful women feel that way?

Eleanor Beaton: I wanted to switch back to see the area of strategic communications. You have had a really extraordinary career. Moving from the political world into the world of PR and through the work of strategic communications with lots of exposure to different types of industries, different types of situations and experiences. What are some of the most important communication lessons you’ve learned over your career? If you could distill them down into what it takes to be a truly great communicator.

Sue Jacobson: So there are several things. I think the first is, to speak your mind. As I mentioned earlier, I learned that from my Ed Rendell days, that you have to speak your mind. In a good way, not being obnoxious about it, but speaking your mind. But also, being open to being wrong. I mean that’s a really important communications lesson to saying, ‘uh, you know you’re right. I didn’t think of it that way.’ And not being afraid to do that.

Eleanor Beaton: It’s my least favorite one, but…

Sue Jacobson: Exactly. But, I think people really respect that. You know when you do it, as you know. Right? And another communications is to just be authentic when you’re talking with your team. So being very honest, but in a good way. The one thing that drives me crazy, well there are two things:

One: when people play games, or when they’re mean, when they’re just not nice or they’re snarky. To me that’s when you lose the fun of what you’re doing. And so to an authentic communicator and to speak your mind, but to be respectful and to respect everybody. It’s not just about respecting those people you need to respect, but respecting those people you don’t need. That to me is the sign of a great communicator.

And also, finally, really being able to read the person you’re with. What makes them tick? It’s interesting because people like Jack and Suzy Welch, or I’m thinking of some other great leaders, John Fry at Drexel University. If you look at them they do something very interesting. They are laser-focused on what you’re saying and to be a great communicator you need to be able to really look at: ‘what is that person saying?’ and ‘what makes them tick?’ and ‘how do you relate to them?’ And to me, that is the essence of communication. To really, really listen to people and then to make your own decisions and to communicate back.

Eleanor Beaton: And how is the world of social media changing things? How has that impacted strategic communications? What changes have you seen, or do the principles hold true?

Sue Jacobson: Well it’s changed dramatically. We now have, obviously, an entire social media division and it’s just a part of communicating. Because, to not use that medium, you actually pull out a whole audience that you would want to communicate with.  and a lot of these audiences are part of our client targeted audiences. So it’s our world. It’s absolutely piece of communications. Anybody who doesn’t include social media in their communications, I think is making is making a mistake.

Eleanor Beaton: I wanted to wrap up by asking you for three success strategies that our listeners can take. So these are strategies that have helped you be successful over the course of your career. Three tips that you would share with our listeners.

Sue Jacobson: So, the first one is definitely trust. And it’s trusting the people around you and letting them take risks and. Believing in them and trusting them and truly, truly believe in them and helping them grow and move forward.

And the second one is. leaning in and to borrow Sheryl Sandberg’s expression, but leaning in where you lean into your mistakes and you admit them, and you move on and you learn from them.

And the third is really empowering others and not just caring about yourself, but really caring about other people and helping them grow and listening to them and their needs, and making sure that you respond to them.

Eleanor Beaton: Sue Jacobson, it’s been such a pleasure to interview her Fierce Feminine Leadership. Thank you so much for joining us.

Sue Jacobson: Thank you. Really enjoyed it.

Voiceover: Fierce Feminine Leadership is executive produced and hosted by Eleanor Beaton. Our technical producer is Kate Astakhan. Content producers are Adrianne Alexander and Marie Hanifen. Special thanks to Kelly Fillman and Amy Bleser. Find Eleanor on LinkedInm Twitter and Instagram @ Eleanor Beaton. Thank you for listening. Stay fierce.

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