Marissa Driscoll is communications associate at Girl Scouts of the USA, an organization that likely does not need an introduction. Since 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA has worked toward their mission of building “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” I went to college with Marissa and saw her take on leadership roles as sisterhood development chair and fraternity philanthropy chair in our sorority and as a resident advisor. It comes as no surprise that she has joined an organization that is committed to philanthropy and leadership. Read her story and learn about her career at Girl Scouts of the USA.
How did you end up at Girl Scouts of the USA? What was your career path?
After a ton of communications internships during my time at the George Washington University, I moved to New York to start my very first job as an assistant at a financial firm. While I learned so much at that job, ultimately it was not for me. After one year, I came to the toughest professional decision I’ve ever made — I quit my job with nothing to fall back on.
Faced with the terrifying possibility of leaving New York, I applied for job after job and did countless interviews — eventually it was like reciting a script. After weeks of interviews, I went to a temp agency and met a representative named Lauren. After about ten minutes of the same elevator pitch and spiel I’d been through over and over, she stopped me and said she had the perfect job for me. I’ll never forget when she said, “It’s with the Girl Scouts.” I was immediately sold. I left her office feeling like a new woman, and the same afternoon, she called to tell me I got an interview for the next day.
I arrived at Girl Scouts’ headquarters and met my now boss, Stewart (Stew) Goodbody. A meeting that was supposed to last 30 minutes went on for over an hour. It was the best interview I’d ever had. I was offered the job the next morning, and started the following week as the newest member of the communications team. A few months later, I went from a temporary to full-time employee, and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
I’ve always called my career a “series of happy accidents,” and this was by far the happiest accident of all. I never thought about working at the Girl Scouts when I first moved to New York, and now there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
What are your responsibilities as communications associate?
I’m one of the team members responsible for the consumer and external media opportunities for Girl Scouts on a national level. I also monitor our media line, so any time a journalist or outlet emails us with a question, inquiry, or pitch, I’m one of the first lines of defense. I dabble a bit in crisis communications, which brings its own set of challenges, and that has been a great learning experience.
Stew and I tag team our larger Movement-wide initiatives, like recruitment and cookie season. So, for example, when recruitment season comes around, we develop a national press plan to recruit new Girl Scout and volunteer members. Based on that national strategy, we create and distribute press materials for our 112 councils nationwide to use on a local level and to bolster recruitment efforts in their market area. Speaking of which, if you want to join or volunteer, head to www.girlscouts.org/join!
What has been your proudest moment so far?
Announcing Digital Cookie in December 2014 was remarkable. I was woken up at 6 am with a media call from CNBC asking for information. We garnered four billion media impressions. We were mentioned and joked about on “Saturday Night Live” during Weekend Update and on the “Tonight Show.” We were in every major newspaper and online publication imaginable, we trended #1 on Facebook, and the list goes on. It was an organization-wide effort to bring this to life, but it was our job to make sure the world heard about it — and they did. Personally, I worked on a story about Digital Cookie with a journalist from the Chicago Tribune, my hometown paper. It ended up on the front page just below the fold, and I asked my parents to save it to frame later.
This second moment is truly ridiculous. On my very first day as a full-time employee, Girl Scouts was announcing new cookie flavors on “Good Morning America,” and due to most of our department taking Digital Cookie to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I was tasked with staffing the event (alongside our amazing PR agency). Sure, I’d been at Girl Scouts for about six months and wasn’t alone, but I was beyond terrified. I’d never done something this big before. On the very same day in studio, John Legend and Common performed and Chris Soules drummed up excitement about his upcoming season of “The Bachelor.” So here I am, 23 years old, holding a six year old’s hand, and leading four other girls through the studio so they don’t get lost in the “GMA” backstage crowd. It was an exhilarating day, the girls did an incredible job announcing the news, and waking up at 4 am was totally worth it. I’ll never forget it.
What is your favorite thing about working at Girl Scouts? What is the company culture like? I imagine it’s very empowering!
When I tell people where I work, their first question usually involves some exclamation of “Yaasss Girl Scout Cookies!” But even though the cookies are delicious, Girl Scouts is so much more than that. Girl Scouts is an organization that develops girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. And they truly do. I recently got to interact with girls from a local council, and I asked a few of them what their favorite part was about being a Girl Scout. One girl’s hand shot into the air and I’ll never forget what she said: “I used to be so shy, but then I joined Girl Scouts, made a ton of friends, and now I’m more confident in myself and talking to other people.” Her mom was behind her smiling and nodding along with everything she said, and it melted my heart. Seeing the results of what the organization accomplishes first-hand is unbelievable. I spend every day promoting something I believe in that actually works, and I’ll never take that for granted.
Within the organization, the culture is very empowering. It’s a supportive environment of men and women who all work hard for the advancement of girls. And I love my communications team. We’re like a strange family — everyone has each other’s backs in a way I’ve never experienced. They make even the toughest days enjoyable.
I’ve never had a relationship with a boss like the one I do with Stew. She makes sure I’m learning as much as possible every single day. She trusts me to make good decisions, and wants me to have faith in myself and my skills — and my professional confidence has (approximately) tripled since I met her. She’s not just my boss; she’s my mentor and my friend. Everyone should be so lucky to have a Stew in their lives.
What is a typical day like for you? Walk me through a day!
Every morning, I stop at the Starbucks on 40th Street and Park Avenue. The baristas all know me by now (not sure if this is good or bad), and it always starts my day off on the right foot.
Typically, I’ll get settled and see what meetings I have for the day, who I need to touch base with, and pick up right where I left off with any projects I’m working on. Depending on the content, audience, outlet, etc., they can take hours, days, or months. Each opportunity is different and brings its own set of challenges, and can take a village to pull off. For example, an outlet might want photos to go along with a story they’re writing, and those are easy to pull from our library and share. But others require collaboration with local councils, multiple departments within the national organization, and ultimately months of preparation. It’s so fulfilling to see the finished product and know that your fingerprints are all over it — whether the public knows it or not.
Did you always know you wanted to work in communications?
Yes and no. Until it was suggested to me by a family friend during my freshman year of college, I never considered communications as a career, nor did I know exactly what it meant. I’ve always been a good writer, outgoing, and a people-person (or chatty, depending on who you ask). But I never realized those qualities pointed to a career. So I decided to explore this option and got an internship with The Silverman Group in Chicago, a boutique arts and entertainment PR agency.
I remember standing on the train platform after work one day and hearing two women next to me discussing a project the firm was working on, and I was immediately filled with pride. That’s when it all clicked. When those conversations happen, it’s because our team succeeded at what we do. It’s crazy magical.
After that, I started exploring different areas of communications, particularly political (Duh, I was in Washington, DC!). Throughout college, I interned with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s communications director, the United States Peace Corps’ press office, and a summer with the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. I guess you could say after that I was hooked.
What advice do you have for other people who hope to work in communications?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people, network, and reach out to relative strangers. You can start small — if you’re still in college, get coffee with someone in your class who has a job or internship you might want or similar interests as you. Talk to professors and TAs to get their advice.
Story time! When I was 15, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer (all thanks to my queen, Elle Woods). I emailed partners at Chicago law firms asking about internships. I sent over 30 emails, and received just one response from someone at a worldwide law firm. This man told me while they only offered internships to law school students, I could lay the groundwork for a law career by joining the debate team, learning to be persuasive, and thinking on my feet. He took the time out of his day to answer my question, and for no other reason than to be kind. Case in point: You never know who might be willing to help you out — so why not at least try?
What are the most important characteristics for someone to have to be successful at communications?
Be tenacious. Pitches won’t land and stories won’t run, but that doesn’t mean you did poorly or didn’t do your job. It happens, and you move on. Use that opportunity to find ways to improve next time. Could the pitch have been better? Was the timing right? Perhaps a different angle? Maybe the outlet was wrong? You can learn just as much from failure as success.
Take some time to yourself. While the nature of communications is to be ready at essentially any moment, there’s something to be said for taking a break. Mental health is important in any job, so take care of yourself!
Lastly, be able to work with a team. You can’t, and usually won’t, be able to do it alone— embrace your colleagues and work together to achieve something great.
What is on your desk right now?
Tons of stuff! I have issues of magazines Girl Scouts has been featured in, and personal favorites like Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. I love coffee mugs, so I have 8 sitting on my desk, and mason jars filled with condiments and utensils for lunch. Last but not least, I have two framed photos (in addition to the more than 30 adorning the walls of my cube). One is a joke meme I made of me participating in our department’s Ugly Holiday Sweater Fashion Show (I tied for the top spot!). It was then framed and given to me as a belated “Welcome to Girl Scouts” gift — it makes me laugh every time I look at it. The second is a Christmas gift from my dad. He framed his favorite photo of us and signed it, “Love, Dad.” It’s my favorite thing in the world.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My dad always tells me, “You have two ears and one mouth — listen twice as much as you speak.” Anyone that knows me knows I’m quite talkative, but this is something I try to work on every single day. Some are better than others, but it’s just as important to give others the time and attention their words deserve as it is to receive that same courtesy.
What is your best advice for other young professional women?
Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” While I’m sure he meant it as a hockey metaphor, he’s absolutely right. If you don’t make the attempt, you’ll certainly fail. If you try, sure, there’s a chance you might fail. But you could also succeed. Hard work and determination go a long way. Besides, who wants to live life with regrets?
Thank you, Marissa!