Producing an annual industry event provides an opportunity for your organization to gather the audiences and stakeholders who you’ve been engaging with digitally over the past year and cultivate connections that lead to lasting, in-person relationships. Suffice to say, we’ve all been missing those experiences for the past couple of years.
Dustee Jenkins, president of the New York Women in Communications organization, understood this while organizing NYWCI’s 2022 Matrix Awards in full force for the first time in two years. “This year really marks the first time that the event is back sort of in its full capacity,” she said. “And we’re really excited to be able to do that.”
NYWICI, which has been around for since 1970, takes a holistic approach to communications by celebrating women who are making an impact in communications, advertising, marketing, entertainment and more. “We’re not thinking about a narrow sliver of one element of communications,” Jenkins says. “I see communications from my vantage point of doing communications for a corporation, working in the fields of crisis comms, PR and internal comms, IT policy and government affairs. But my colleague on the ad side is communicating as well to convince people to buy a product, while someone else is trying to get people to let their agency represent them. “
Similarly, the honorees of the 2022 Matrix Awards represent a broad brush that reflects how the discipline has been disrupted in very significant ways. This year’s event, hosted by Katie Couric, honors took of lasting legacies and included singer, songwriter, fashion designer, and general multi-hyphenate Gwen Stefani, PBS NewsHour Anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff, CEO and Chief Content Officer of Mansueto Ventures Stephanie Mehta, and more.
“I want everyone to have a seat at the table,” said Stephanie Mehta at the event, which took place in late October. “And I think that’s what defines me as a communicator and as a leader. So I would encourage all the aspiring communicators here in the room, especially the students, to tap into your unique storytelling ability, even as you learn the basics of your craft.”
“These individuals aren’t defined by one area of success,” says Jenkins. “We want our industry to be much more reflective of what communications is today.”
Applying comms skills to producing live events
Given the environment that NYWCI is operating in this year, the global economy and other challenges, putting together a successful event while trying to be mindful of people’s varying comfort levels with COVID was no small feat. Jenkins explained that fundraising was especially difficult for this year’s event, something NYWICI relies on as a volunteer-led, 501-C3 nonprofit—and the 15 scholarships it gives out each year to female students pursuing degrees in communication rely on them, too.
“If we don’t have a succesful event, our organization is not able to sustain itself,” she says, “and we’re not able to do these scholarships that are so near and dear to my heart.”
The skills of a communicator come into play when convincing people to sign up for something even when times are hard. “And this year was a tough sell because of the environment we’re in,” she said. “I’m so grateful to all the companies and friends who came to the table, who quite literally bought a table, and offered their support. People were really ready to help this year.”
The power of physical expression
Seeing the NYWICI Awards reminded Jenkins what she learned from leading an experiential team at Spotify, one that puts on the company’s Cannes event along with many others.
“When I think about experiences, it is the physical expression of what you want to say,” she said. “And Matrix Awards are the physical expression of the women across our industry and the way in which we want to honor their legacy, to continue to pave the path for those women who came behind us. That’s pretty special.”