Tools of the trade: How Lou DuBois builds trust through storytelling at Home Depot

The content maestro relies on his journalistic instinct to shape narratives at the brand and beyond.

Lou DuBois, Senior Director and Head of Content, Creative and HDTV at The Home Depot, has been named one of Ragan’s 2023 Game Changers, sponsored by Omnicom, an honor that recognizes trailblazing leaders in the communications and PR industries.

DuBois, a seasoned content and creative executive, is known for his pioneering approach to brand transformation through inventive storytelling, products and campaigns. In his current role, DuBois leads a dynamic team of over 30 creative professionals. His team’s mission is to convey the narrative of Home Depot, from its strategic objectives and history to its products and people, reaching both internal and external audiences.

Throughout his career, Dubois has built and led similar teams at other global giants such as Hilton and NBCUniversal, amassing accolades for brand films and content initiatives. Prior to his corporate roles, DuBois spearheaded social and digital newsgathering at NBC News, where his work garnered high-level recognition including a Peabody and an Emmy Award. With roots in journalism, DuBois has fused his past life in broadcast media with Home Depot’s content strategy, making a tangible impact on the lives of associates and the brand’s audience through story-forward, human-centric narratives.

To set the stage for his appearance at Ragan’s Future of Communications Conference, Nov. 6–8 in Austin, we asked DuBois to elaborate on his approach to content and communications.

What’s an initiative or accomplishment you’re particularly proud of, either at Home Depot or in the larger industry?

At The Home Depot, we live by an inverted pyramid model (putting customers and store associates at the top of our thinking and strategy, and corporate associates and leadership at the bottom). In the past 18 months, we’ve launched various creative initiatives to tell the stories of the people at the top of that pyramid.

The episodic series “Behind the Apron” focuses on inspirational and symbolic narratives from associates, providing a lens into iconic stories of perseverance, personal growth and community service, and giving viewers a unique look at just a few of the more than 500,000 associates who help them in their local stores across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Secondly, we launched a documentary, the first ever for our company, in early 2023, to tell the story of 30 years of disaster response and recovery, a core tenet of our foundation and presence in the communities in which we operate.

Titled “Hope Builds,” the 17-minute film focused on three communities (Miami, Fla., Paradise, Calif., and Joplin, Mo.) torn apart by devastating natural disasters and the role a corporation like ours plays in response and recovery. We premiered the film in a public screening from the lumber aisle of our store in Joplin, Mo. (rebuilt after it was destroyed in 2012), which was an experience I will remember forever.

How has the role of the communicator evolved over the past decade?

At its core, communications remains about building and retaining trust, inspiring and informing audiences both internal and external. But the role of communications has evolved more in the past 10 years than perhaps the previous 40, and remains in a constant state of evolution.

In today’s fast-paced, technology-leveraged world, the job of a communicator is more wide-ranging and always-on than ever, with factors such as globalization, activism, brand voice, social media and the speed of information flow the biggest impacts. Moreover, various societal events (the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Black Lives Matter movement, ongoing wars and global conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic, to name just a few) have challenged all organizations to rethink the role of the function.

What do you think will be the most important skills for communicators to master in the next five years?

Intuition, objectivity, critical listening and writing/content creation abilities.

What’s your best tip or piece of advice for communicators looking to pursue leadership roles?

Start with the “why” (both your own purpose and the purpose of the team) and follow that with the “what” and “how.”

What is a mistake you’ve made in your career, and what did you learn from it?

Taking constructive criticism too personally and overreacting in response. I’ve since learned that constructive criticism, when delivered and received properly, can build trust and also provide an opportunity for both parties to grow.

Don’t miss your chance to hear from DuBois and more of Ragan’s 2023 Game Changers at our Future of Communications Conference, Nov. 6–8 in Austin, as well as our satellite Comms Week events in cities across the U.S. and U.K.

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