Interview with Kelly White (McHugh), Marketing & Development Director at Pacific Whale Foundation
With 20 years of experience as a nonprofit business administrator, Kelly McHugh specializes in the advancement of conservation, arts and cultural programs that leverage community engagement in order to strengthen visibility, credibility, and investment. A New York native, she joined the Maui community in 2008 to administer the marketing, fundraising and youth arts programs at Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center followed by a 5-year tenure as Public Information Specialist for the State of Hawaiʻi, Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission. She has served in a freelance capacity for the County of Maui-Maui Redevelopment Agency, Spellbound Theatre, Edible Hawaiian Islands, the National Guild for Community Arts Education, Merwin Conservancy and Art Maui. She currently serves as Director of Marketing & Development for Pacific Whale Foundation, President of Adaptations Dance Theater, and Manager of County of Maui’s SMALL TOWN * BIG ART creative placemaking program. Her work in outreach and fund development earned her a fellowship with the Ka Ipu Kukui program and nomination as one of Hawaii’s most influential leaders, awarded a 40 Under 40 designation in 2018.
Your Journey as a Marketing Professional.
My journey began at age 19 during a semester abroad in London where I interned with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. My challenge was to figure out a way to engage the younger generation in classical music, which prompted a 20-year career in community arts advocacy. I’ve worked in marketing for Sesame Workshop, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the National Guild for Community Arts Education and Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center, with a handful of my own clients throughout. 6 years ago, I dove into civil service, acting as Public Information Specialist for the State of Hawaii, Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission – a position that sharpened my marketing perspective through outcomes combining community engagement and environmental justice. Today, I have a thriving career as a community engagement consultant and serve as Director of Marketing and Development for Pacific Whale Foundation, overseeing our Hawaii, Australia, Chile, and Ecuador efforts.
What are the primary marketing channels you have worked on? What will be your advice to young marketers on each of these channels?
Amongst print, digital and face-to-face marketing channels, I would encourage young marketers to focus on the latter. People want to hear from people, and it’s that emotional connection that brings your audience closer.
What are some of the important marketing software that you have used and found to be really useful for your company?
Current tools include MailChimp, Neon CRM, TrendKite (now Cision), Google Analytics, Survey Monkey, amongst others. Of those, I recommend TrendKite for identifying writers that are covering topics related to your mission. Nothing beats organic engagement.
Which companies, according to you, are your competitors. How do you differentiate against these?
There are many businesses selling ecotours & products and many organizations working towards environmental justice. What makes us different is that we are both; through our social enterprise business model, 100% of Eco-Adventures and Ocean Store proceeds support the Foundation’s research, education and conservation programs. This is a unique design.
Your 2 line advice to people entering in the marketing domain.
Marketing is based on building relationships. So, relate.