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ConnectVA Spotlight: Gabrielle Jones, Community Idea Stations

Tell us about yourself

I’m Gabrielle Jones, Digital Marketing Manager at the Community Idea Stations. My educational background is in journalism and I worked in marketing and management for a for-profit company in Washington, DC before coming to the Community Idea Stations almost three years ago. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and have lived in Raleigh/Durham, NC, Detroit, MI, and Washington, DC. I’m happy to call Richmond my new home and love having the opportunity to go to work on this city’s Sesame Street each day.

What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?

The Community Idea Stations’ mission is to use the power of media to educate, entertain, and inspire. The way we put that into practice every day is by asking “will this make our community a better place” before we do anything. We try to connect with the community through different avenues including our Science Matters initiative, Ready to Learn early childhood education initiative, our local news coverage, and our TV and radio programs for life-long learners. My job is to try to help build a relationship with our community on our digital platforms and make sure people know about all the ways we’re trying to connect with them.
Public media has such a unique role in our country, telling stories often overlooked by commercial media and proving that educational TV and radio shows can be successful and have impact. Local stations like the Community Idea Stations work directly in the cities and towns we’re based to take this role beyond what you see and hear on TV and radio, creating educational and outreach programs and events in the community. This is made possible through community support for your local station.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

It is extremely rewarding to meet the kids and parents who find value our educational outreach programs. Watching a child meet Curious George, who they’ve only known from books and TV, or meeting the parents who are members of the PBS Parents Club at Woodville and now Chalkley Elementary Schools, helps remind me that real people care about what we do at the station.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

One of the biggest challenges I face is communicating the importance of the local station to PBS and NPR fans. All of the national shows people love are made possible by funding local public broadcasting stations raise in their community then give to PBS and NPR national in Washington. Plus the local stations do so many things in the community from local news and educational outreach, to fun events. I’m working to help people understand that the Community Idea Stations is their station. We are a community licensee which means we are owned by our community. We’re hoping to overcome this by stepping up our efforts to invite people into the station, partnering with other organizations on events, and building a strong relationship with the community in-person and online.

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

I think people would be surprised at the relatively small staff we have at station. For example our Community Engagement department of five produces or participates in nearly 130 events. We don’t believe in silos, we all work together so each department can produce the shows, events, and initiatives we hope the community will love.

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

We just started a new board to help us build engagement we’re calling the Next Gen Board. We’re hoping this accomplished and diverse group of community members will create awesome event and engagement ideas to help us grow the next generation of public media viewers and listeners. We’re also preparing for our spring Mug Stops. During our Mug Stop events we invite people to grab a free cup of coffee with us at a local coffee shop and meet their favorite 88.9 WCVE host. We’re beginning the process of reaching out to local coffee shops to see if they’d like to collaborate this spring, and will soon begin soliciting designs from local artists for our new mug.

Are you and/or your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

We believe partnerships with other organizations in the community are extremely valuable. We partnered with local artist Jasmine Mills on our last mug design and soon we’ll be soliciting designs for our new mug. We just had a premiere event for season 2 of Victoria at VMFA. The mixology staff at Amuse at VMFA helped us create a social video teaching people how to make mulled wine, a drink that was around during the Victorian Era.  Ellen LeCompte of the Richmond Branch of the English Speaking Union has been kind enough to write a weeklyblog for us about the show that chronicles the history behind the drama. We’re also partnering with the Branch Museum of Architecture & Design on an upcoming Family Build Day Event.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

Connect VA and the The Community Foundation are paramount to helping us build partnership with other non-profits in the community. We are a media organization, we believe connecting with organizations in the community who are working actively in arts, education, and fulling other needs in our area is the best way to be an asset to the community.

Anything else you would like to share?

The Community Idea Stations would love to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up our Weekly eNewsletter to keep up with what we’re doing and let us know your thoughts.

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