Gillian Smith City Year

Chief Marketing Officer of City Year

About Gillian Smith City Year

Marketing executive Gillian Smith brings more than 15 years of experience to her current position as the chief marketing officer for City Year, a nonprofit organization that places AmeriCorps members in high-need schools to support and mentor at-risk students. Gillian Smith drives all marketing efforts for the organization and has spearheaded a number of innovative initiatives, including leveraging the crowd-sourcing power of Twitter to recruit new City Year corps members and raise the overall profile of the organization within the communities it serves.

Gillian Smith earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from Rollins University, where she majored in political science and German. While at the university, she won a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship, which allowed her to study and teach English in Germany for a year. Prior to her current role with City Year, she worked in marketing in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She served as chief marketing officer for Teach for America and as senior director for media and interactive for the Burger King Corporation.

Outside of her work with City Year, Gillian Smith devotes herself to shaping the nation’s next generation of leaders through her role on the advisory board of New Leaders Council Miami.                            

City Year Receives Comsat NBCUniversal Funding

Gillian Smith, City Year’s chief marketing officer, is a magna cum laude graduate of Rollins College. A marketing, branding, and media expert, Gillian Smith works diligently to support the cause-oriented endeavors sponsored by the company.

City Year focuses on changing the lives of students and increasing graduation rates. The organization achieves this by bridging the divide between the support that students in high poverty communities actually need and the support and resources their schools can provide. To this end, approximately 3,000 young individuals join City Year every year for the purpose of devoting 11 months to helping targeted students. The organization operates in 27 locations in the United States and through two international affiliates.

City Year’s continuing success led to a three-year partnership renewal agreement with Comsat NBCUniversal in January 2016. The agreement is valued at $11.5 million in cash and in-kind support that includes supporting Comsat NBCUniversal’s ongoing City Year team sponsorship, a variety of national and local events, and leadership development and conferences.

City Year’s Recruitment Campaign Won Two Prestigious Awards in 2013

Gillian Smith serves as the chief marketing officer for City Year and is responsible for leading the company’s award-winning marketing strategies. In 2012, Gillian Smith led the organization in launching the new Twitter ad campaign #makebetterhappen, which went on to win two prestigious awards from Forrester Groundswell and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

City Year recruits people between the ages of 17 and 24 to help with initiatives that encourage youths in grades three through nine to stay in school. Its #makebetterhappen campaign served the purpose of heightening awareness of the group’s need for new recruits willing to work for a year. Twitter’s popularity among young people prompted the organization to select the media platform as the focus of the campaign. Developed in collaboration with the independent agency Allen & Gerritsen (a&g), the hashtag went live in November 2012 through Twitter tweets and television ads.

The campaign’s success after its launch caught the attention of Forrester Groundswell and the ANA. In 2013, both organizations presented the campaign with one of its prestigious marketing awards. ANA awarded it the Multicultural Excellence Award in the Print Campaign category, and Forrester granted it a Forrester Groundswell Award for Business-to-Consumer Social Reach.

To learn more about the #makebetterhappen campaign and City Year recruitment, visit its website at

Tips for Managing a Brand

Named a Road Warrior by American Airlines, Gillian Smith travels extensively for her work with City Year, a national nonprofit focused on helping students and schools succeed. As City Year’s chief marketing officer, Gillian Smith oversees brand management. Following are some tips for managing a brand.

Use Comfortable Communication Vehicles
Communication vehicles include public relations events, broadcast media, direct mail, consulting, and trade shows. No matter which is chosen, you are more likely to invest money and energy into a platform that you and your company enjoy promoting through, which results in effective brand development. If possible, try to combine vehicles for increased exposure. For example, if you speak at a conference, share information about the event through your company’s website and email as well as in a press release.

Participate in New Media
Brand promotion is no longer limited to websites and computers. People can now access information on mobile devices and engage with brands through social media. Start conversations with audiences to build a relationship and answer questions, good and bad, to create a trustworthy and positive brand.

Maintain Consistency
An effective brand is cohesive. A consistent image and reputation helps people identify with a brand. While it is important to research other brands in your industry, do not let that completely drive your decision. Use it as a point of reference to discover your company’s own identity. Stick with the same color palette and tagline to build brand awareness. In the same respect, develop a consistent voice that resonates in the community.

Tips for Improving Nonprofit Brand Awareness

Gillian Smith brings nearly two decades of marketing and media experience to City Year. As chief marketing officer, Gillian Smith builds brand awareness for City Year and its mission to improve graduation rates among high school students.

To increase a nonprofit organization’s brand awareness, it is important to have a clear focus of the organization’s purpose. Instead of focusing on a large-scale mission, target a specific demographic your organization would like to help. For example, pairing students with mentors in an effort to help them graduate is a more viable goal than attempting to offer education worldwide. Smaller goals allow you to deploy resources effectively, which creates media opportunities. The development of smaller goals also gives you time to perfect your approach, so you can plan future service-based projects that will grow the brand.

You also can use social media to create a following and enhance loyalty among organization supporters. Social media is an affordable platform for promoting campaigns and sharing timely news. A good rule of thumb is to invite advocates to share your company’s social media page or handle with their own friends and followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, among other platforms. After growing your following, you can employ targeted paid ads to further engage people with your organization’s brand.

Three Ways in Which Social Media Can Benefit Nonprofits

Gillian Smith serves as the chief marketing officer of City Year, a nonprofit that focuses on providing American students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the resources necessary to receive a quality education and obtain a high school diploma. Marketing professionals like Gillian Smith know that social media has become a useful business tool, which benefits charitable organizations like City Year in the following ways:

1. Increased communication with donors: Social media has allowed nonprofits to communicate with donors in a more well-rounded way, creating deeper relationships and motivating people to engage with their causes. It also allows these groups to present a degree of information about their causes that generates discussion, interest, and support.

2. Better organization: Social media presents nonprofit groups with a more functional way to advertise and organize events. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can inform followers about upcoming volunteer opportunities, as well as help organizers anticipate the number of participants they can expect for events.

3. Improved fundraising: Many people seek to contribute to charitable causes, but have no knowledge of how to begin. Social media has made it much simpler to show supporters their options, especially with regard to fundraising initiatives, which can be easily promoted online.

American Airlines’ Road Warrior Competition

Gillian Smith won a Fulbright scholarship and spent a year as a teacher’s assistant in a German high school. She then joined Coca Cola Germany’s marketing operation, which she followed with senior marketing positions at Sunbeam Corp., Burger King, and Teach for America. Since 2011 she’s served as chief marketing officer for City Year, an education-based non-profit organization that helps students, their schools, and their communities to succeed. Gillian Smith’s schedule sends her to different schools nationwide on behalf of City Year every week, and in 2013, she won American Airlines’ Road Warrior contest.

The contest, sponsored by American Airlines’ in-flight magazine American Way, is the company’s effort to recognize those frequent travelers whose schedules and experiences put them head and shoulders above the majority of the traveling public. Winners of the Road Warrior contest aren’t selected solely on the basis of the air miles they’ve logged, although that’s an element of the criteria.

The magazine’s readers are invited to enter the contest and complete a series of tasks that illustrate their travel lives and why they think they should win. Thousands typically enter, and they’re winnowed down to a few finalists, who are then presented to the readership for online voting. For 2013, the year Gillian Smith won the grand prize, there was also a second-prize winner and three third -prize winners.

Although the competition is robust, winning has its rewards. Winners in 2013, for example, received a large cache of AAdvantage miles and several entertainment-oriented prizes, including audio products by Bose, a smartphone, a tablet, and auto-rental rewards. In addition, all prize winners spent a week in San Diego enjoying VIP accommodation and treatment during the magazine’s photo shoot for its Road Warrior edition.

Three Tips for Building a Successful Tweet Engagement Campaign

Creating engagement on Twitter is one of the most valuable ways to promote your brand and help drive the conversation around your content. For example, in 2012, City Year, a nonprofit dedicated to helping students and schools in need, and Gillian Smith, its chief marketing officer, rolled-out a high-profile campaign that raised awareness and spurred national recruitment for its student outreach organization.

With that in mind, here are just a few quick tips to help you get the most out of your Tweet Engagement Campaigns.

Be Visual
The content you offer should be appealing to the eye because high-quality visual elements drive engagement. This is a great opportunity to cross-promote your other areas of social media presence, such as Instagram and Vine, by offering up great visuals through pictures and video.

Be Real Time
Twitter moves fast. Take advantage of its fluid, real-time nature by using your engagement campaign to tweet about seasonal and/or cultural events happening right now. Weaving those experiences into your brand’s narrative sends the message that you are connected to the pulse of what’s happening in the world right now.

Be Casual
Conversation is a two-way street on Twitter, and it’s not typically the kind of talk you would find in the board room. Engage your audience with a conversational tone. Rather than simply bombarding them with your message, invite them to interact in a dialogue with you. Offer them value beyond mere information. Give them the opportunity to casually connect with your unique brand.

Follow Gillian Smith on Twitter using @MiamiGSmith, and find City Year via @CityYear.

City Year Organization Launches Recruitment Project on Twitter

Gillian Smith is the chief marketing officer (CMO) for City Year, a national nonprofit organization that recruits mentors to help third through ninth graders stay in school. City Year consists of young adults who serve a year in a city school to support students who need extra attention and instruction. Mentoring and tutoring make up much of a volunteer's day as they work with students to increase their attendance and academic performance.

As CMO, Gillian Smith oversaw the creation of a website that grew 20 percent in unique visits and boosted public interest in the organization. She also selected ad agency Allen & Gerritson to plan a Twitter campaign to attract new volunteers aged 17 to 24. Because Twitter is popular with that age group, the firm set up a hashtag, #makebetterhappen. Television, radio, and print ads all featured that hashtag, and the organization encouraged its 2,500 members to contribute their own stories of service. Early in the project, some 9,000 tweets went out, making over 5 million impressions.

A Look at the Annual American Road Warrior Contest

A Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Rollins College, Gillian Smith serves as the chief marketing officer for the Boston-based nonprofit City Year. Work in the nonprofit sector has required Gillian Smith to travel frequently, and she earned the 11th annual American Road Warrior Contest’s grand prize in 2012.

Each year, American Airlines sponsors the American Road Warrior Contest, a competition that challenges frequent flyers to complete creative tasks prompting them to reflect on their travel experiences. The creative tasks are centered on writing, and the 2015 contest held required entrants to compose a 500-word essay, write a short poem, and provide an example of what a contestant’s typical two-week travel schedule looks like.

The contest conventionally begins and ends in the fall, and winners are chosen by the editorial staff of inflight magazine American Way. Though previous contests named two runners up and a grand prize winner, the 2015 addition of the American Road Warrior Contest awarded five finalists with 100,000 in American Airlines AAdvantage miles as well as a vacation to Belize.

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