by John Trybus, Managing Director

It seems as though this week’s social strategist, Beth Kuenstler, has done it all.

Brand management at Procter & Gamble. Marketing Director at Kodak. Independent marketing strategy consultant. Director of Strategic Partnerships at CARE. Executive director of Hands on Network. And now Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Kiva.

And all that was after earning an MBA. Talk about an exciting career journey!

“We like to think that [one’s career] has logical steps, but sometimes they have some interesting detours,” Beth says in jest. “Those moments tend to be the things that help us learn the most.”

Beth personifies a ‘do good’ heart with business expertise, which are hallmarks of a successful social strategist.

“I realized that I had always wanted to be within a nonprofit and asked myself how do I bring these worlds together? and how do I do it in a way that satisfies my business intellect and curiosity, but also satisfies my desire to do good in the world?” she says to describe her career progression.

It should come as no surprise then that Beth leads the communications and marketing operations of Kiva, the innovative micro-lending nonprofit that “empowers people around the world with a $25 loan” and has facilitated over $300 million in transactions between lenders and entrepreneurs around the world since 2005, according to Beth. This unique nonprofit model was the perfect fit for Beth’s integrated skills and experiences.

“I brought it full circle I feel in coming to Kiva because the organization is this amazing combination of business, analytics and operations focus with a really big, strong heart attached to doing good,” she explains. “Kiva really brings both of the worlds I have [worked] in together.”

To Beth, listening and sparking conversations are two of the hallmarks of Kiva’s success. Here’s a preview of the lessons-learned from Kiva that Beth and I discuss in our interview:

  • Be a listener. Be a problem solver. To Beth, success starts not with action, but by listening. Kiva has many different audiences – from lenders to borrowers and more – and Beth believes one of the most important roles she plays within the organization is that of an action-oriented listener. “I listen to [our stakeholders’] concerns and figure out how to bring those concerns into the organization,” she explains.
  • Don’t forget to identify and satisfy your biggest evangelists. Related to the idea of listening is helping those supporters with megaphones, if you will, shout from the rooftops. Kiva has some truly passionate supporters who will go above and beyond by sharing information about the organization with their networks, but only if given the right tools. Here’s how Beth puts it: “We know that our current lenders are the ones who are our biggest evangelists – the ones with the megaphones who are telling the world about Kiva – so we are very careful in listening to them, responding to them and keeping them very engaged.”
  • It’s not about promotion. It’s about conversation. Sometimes organizations get caught up in “promoting” the latest campaign or announcement. Relationships are often best built through small, day-to-day and social media driven conversations. Beth explains: “We’re all about inspiring, educating and getting people to engage people in conversation with us. It’s not promotion. It’s really about allowing borrowers to bring their stories to our online community to inspire, educate and spark that conversation, and that’s something that’s been really powerful for Kiva.”
  • Let stories of impact tell themselves. We all know the importance of good stories not only in nonprofit marketing but in all marketing for that matter. Stories get stored. They make people stop, think and when successful, take action. Kiva is a story powerhouse and one of the reasons why is because the organization’s model relies on the individual borrowers to tell their own stories. You need look no further than the organization’s super 2012 Annual Report to see that the organization is dedicated to storytelling.

Listen to my interview with social strategist Beth Kuenstler to learn more about Kiva’s marketing and communication work and the importance of listening and sparking conversations.