Jackie Hopkins, Managing Partner, Communications and Marketing at ICF Next, speaks on her journey and responsibility as a leader to help reshape the industry for positive change.
Can you tell us a bit about your role and your journey to arriving there?
I am honored to lead a team of passionate, creative minds who focus on developing and executing data-driven ideas to deliver cultural relevance, resonance, and a strong return on investment. Leveraging my more than 25 years of experience in the industry, I lead our Communications and Marketing division, and strive to push our clients and teams alike to bring brave, bold thinking to the table. I believe that putting people at the center leads to new engagements that foster meaning, purpose and impact in today’s ever-changing world.
With plenty of twists and turns, my journey has continued to build upon my personal interests and commitment to the industry. I have always been a creative problem solver and have learned to lead my teams with a visionary mindset. Through my work now at ICF Next and at Edelman previously, I have partnered with some of the most iconic global brands including Disney, PepsiCo, Target, Molson Coors, Levi’s, Expedia and more to drive change and progress. I’m both humbled and honored to have received numerous awards for my contributions to lifestyle marketing and purpose-driven branding, but in some ways, I feel like I’m only getting started.
Beyond the work within company walls, my journey has been significantly impacted by serving as a consultant to Advocate for Change (AFC), an organization whose mission is to champion inclusivity in the marketing and communications industry. I was recently named a Chief Member of AFC, acknowledging my commitment to advancing other female leaders in their careers and mentoring them to strike the right balance of being tough-minded and tender-hearted. As a mom, bettering the lives of children is also a passion of mine that I live out in my work on the board of Sheltering Arms.
What barriers do women still face in our industry and how can we challenge them?
The industry has broken down so many barriers these past few years in the form of pay equity and leadership opportunities. Now, it is our time to set the next generation on the right path to not only become the leaders we know they can be, but to be visionaries in the pursuit of reshaping our industry to move all of us forward. As an industry leader, my first and foremost goal is to make sure younger generations have the voice and the platform to drive innovation and ongoing change.
How do you use your position to build equitable teams that are diverse and balanced?
I embrace the philosophy that leadership is both a privilege and a responsibility. I think it’s critical to demonstrate both heart and a backbone, and I always strive to lead with empathy. I’ve also found that sharing in accountability and responsibility earns both respect and loyalty.
As an avid supporter and spokesperson for diversity and inclusion, I was drawn to ICF Next as an organization where this is a key focus. Since joining the organization, I have been instrumental in advancing a new business model within our division that supports this shared value. We recently introduced our new Pod structures comprised of strong, equitable, and diverse teams that allow for a broader range of perspectives — all leading to measurable business outcomes for clients. In both my professional and personal pursuits, I remain committed to advancing diverse female voices throughout the industry.
Who are your female advertising icons/role models and why?
I laugh when I hear the phrase content is king ... when really it should be content is Queen. I have always gravitated to Erma Proetz, the inventor of content marketing. Faced with the task of selling PET Milk to housewives, Proetz channeled her creative and strategic problem solving to create “Mary Lee Taylor” a fictitious homemaker who developed articles, sat for radio interviews, developed living and cooking tips – all with a focus of showcasing PET Milk. Her approach was so successful she even turned Mary Lee Taylor into an hour-long serial to showcase all of PET Milk Company’s products, thus inventing what we know today as content marketing.