Doing the Unexpected

Mar 29

I never would have thought that working with Peruvians to build their first-ever sewage system in a small village eight hours south of Lima would be a critical experience for crafting an impactful marketing and communications campaign. Working on projects like this while serving in the Peace Corps developed my skills in international project management, behavior change, partner and stakeholder engagement, community outreach, and cross-cultural communications, as well as cultivated my subject matter expertise for one of Ogilvy Washington’s signature clients: The Peace Corps.

Our work for the Peace Corps has won several awards already: an In2SABRE, a Graphis Merit Award, an American Advertising Award, and an Internet Advertising Competition Award. The insights that led to these awards—and the effectiveness of the campaign—are derived from extensive research, including quantitative data and in-depth interviews with current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers. They are also based on more than that: lived experience.

Understanding the target audience is essential for any communications or marketing campaign, and all the research in the world can’t make up for experiential knowledge. It is one of the reasons that diversity is so critical in marketing and communications. As my colleague Raquel García-Pertusa said when presenting a campaign concept for a Hispanic audience to our leadership: “I know it from the research, but I also know it from my heart.”

I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done for the Peace Corps because I know in my heart that it is authentic, and will resonate with those who are ready to “do the unexpected”—the tagline we developed in collaboration with the Peace Corps for the campaign. I also know firsthand the benefits that the Peace Corps brings to the countries where Volunteers serve, to the United States, and to the Volunteers themselves.

My Peace Corps service fundamentally shaped who I am and how I approach the world. I’m not afraid to venture into the unknown. I know that everyone has an important story to tell and that communication requires understanding the other party’s culture and values. I also recognize that failure is part of the road to success, and that creativity, innovation, and grit can go a long way to resolving problems.

This past year, I had the opportunity to go back to my Peace Corps site in Peru, where I lived and worked from 2011-2013. I saw the impact my service had on the community: women using the improved cookstoves we erected so they could cook without inhaling smoke, the orange trees we planted now bearing fruit, and the bathrooms we built being used instead of the fields. There were intangible impacts as well: my host family eating salad (something I introduced them to), the nursing students I taught sex ed insisting on discussing how they would prevent unwanted pregnancy with their partners, and the friend who told me he would support his daughter in studying anything she chose—so long as she didn’t drop out of school to get married.

Tasha with her host family when she visited Peru and her site of Rio Grande in 2016, three years after completing her Peace Corps service. She still talks to her host family regularly.

By far what I cherish most are the relationships that I built with my host family, my community, and my fellow Volunteers. Peru, and my community of Rio Grande, will always be a part of me. My host family is now real family. I am still in regular touch with them; even more so now while flooding threatens Peru.

I often meet people who say they have always “wanted” to join the Peace Corps. My response is always the same: you still can. I am incredibly grateful to have contributed to Ogilvy’s work for the Peace Corps, and to have helped other Americans discover this life-changing opportunity to serve their country and a local community abroad.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 1:10 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, International Development, Ogilvy Washington. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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