Veronica Holmes Purvis, MSM, CAE
Association Executive and Brand Leader
Associate Executive Director at TREX for the Skin of Color Society
Proud AMA and DC Chapter DEI committee member
How long have you been a member of AMADC?
The last 3 years consistently, but on and off over the last 10 years.
Tell us about your professional background.
In the last 20 years, I have worked cross-functionally, with brilliant people. I have recruited a record number of new association members, spearheaded member recruitment/retention initiatives, and led an award-winning, rebranding campaign. My first permanent, professional job after undergraduate was as a marketing assistant at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in November 2000. I loved the job handling advertising production and billing. I always looked for ways to be more efficient and to provide excellent customer service to the clients (life science associations) and the customers (biotech companies). By 26, I was managing the advertising department and staff, including experienced employees twice my age. In the 11 years I worked there I had four positions, the last culminating in the Manager of FASEB AdNet and Marketing where I oversaw the digital and print advertising program for 10 clients and 30+ publications. I was proud to lead an advertising department and sales team to hit $1,000,000 in ad sales in a down economy in 2008. I developed so much at FASEB and learned a lot from my boss Jennifer Pesanelli. I honed skills including thorough communication, relationship management, and proactive thinking.
At 33, I moved on to be Director of Marketing at the American Physiological Society (APS). It was very different coming from the service provider side and going to the independent society side. At APS, I oversaw a full marketing operation for the whole organization which entailed marketing the society’s membership benefits, the meetings/conferences, the expansive publications program which encompassed 15 print and online publications, awards/educational offerings, fundraising, and advocacy efforts. I oversaw an online store, exhibit marketing, and other ancillary programs. I created their first brand style guide, so that we had formalized guidelines for our marketing and creative work. Within two years (in January 2014), I was promoted to oversee the Communications office as well which had been a separate department. I hired a communications manager and integrated the department as much as possible so that the social media and press program were in sync with the rest of the marketing efforts. Together, we created an award-winning integrated marcom membership recruitment and retention campaign. Under new leadership, I completely rebranded the organization a second time which represented a new strategic direction and garnered awards. I also redecorated the office space where I was able to implement environmental branding/marketing.
In 2020, I had a short stint, also as Director of Marketing, at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). It was a fun place to work, but I ended up taking a leadership role at TREX, an association management company, as Associate Executive Director for the Skin of Color Society (SOCS) in January 2021. The society seeks to educate and treat individuals of color, as well as inform the doctors that diagnose them, about the various diseases and conditions that can present differently in pigmented skin, hair, nails, and mucus membranes. I am excited to be part of the world’s leading organization dedicated to skin of color dermatology. I get to use my versatile marcom background, coupled with my organizational management and executive leadership skills to help extend the reach of SOCS and fulfill the mission.
What attracted you to the marketing profession? What keeps you inspired?
I majored in communication in undergrad and then acquired a master of science in management and marketing. I love the field of marketing communication because you get to wear multiple hats; you need to know what’s happening across the organization and work cross-functionally with many different team members and stakeholders. I was drawn to the communication field because messaging in different forms and across platforms in order to match the right message to the right audience is rewarding, especially when it makes a positive impact. Interpersonal communication has always fascinated me too. Throughout my career, I have seen its profound importance to an organization—internally and externally. In my entrepreneurial endeavors, I also work with CEOs and entrepreneurs who need branding and marketing development. Overall, it’s inspirational to see the positive effect of successful marketing and communication. I love starting with thoughtful branding because it sets the stage. Plus, in the marcom field, there are always new platforms and tactics to try. If you stay on top of the latest tools, you feel smart and savvy, and I like that feeling of being “in the know”.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming marketers in your field?
Marketing is a diverse discipline. If you don’t know what marketing areas you want to specialize in, try different areas so that you can find your niche. Alternatively, you can be a generalist which can broaden your career path eventually beyond marketing. Note that Forbes reported 13% of the F100 company CEOs started their careers in the marketing field. Since marketing entails understanding customer behavior, the marketing position is integral to an organization’s bottom line. As CEO Today reports, CMOs are in the boardroom more and often ascend to the CEO position. So, I would say, keep your options open, and work on both your hard skills and soft skills to be a well-rounded professional. And don’t forget how important networking always is to stay connected to a source of other professionals you can lean on.
How do you see the role of the marketing, communications and advertising industry in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion to build a more inclusive culture?
The industry is in a very strong position to support DEI because it’s the marketing/communication/advertising industry that establishes and communicates an organization’s brand messaging across media. We are in a unique position to help encourage inclusive standards as we guide organizations. We can ensure we use inclusive language and include inclusive imagery in our marketing, communications, and advertising. You don’t have to change the world (or your organization, industry, fill in the blank) overnight. Start small by reviewing the language you’re using in your communique. For example, ensure you refer to the latest DEI related language that AP has published. Source the images you use to include an array of people in color, size, age, physical ability, etc. Avoid using imagery that portrays people in stereotypical roles. Continue to educate yourself and others about DEI issues. There are plenty of free resources for us to use including those provided by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The AMADC has assembled a committed group of individuals in the DEI committee who is working on this exact goal. We invite you to get involved.
If you could have done anything differently, what would it have been? In other words, what would your older self say to your younger self?
I was resistant to reaching out to ask for your help. Fortunately, I had a couple of people who saw something in me and shared their time and insight. Don’t be afraid to initiate it and seek help from others including your peers. Of course, get a mentor if you can. AMADC has a mentoring program that you can explore. I highly encourage that you stay involved and get connected so that you grow an ecosystem of support.
On a personal note...
I am a DC native who resides in Bowie, MD; I met my husband in college at the University of Maryland in College Park and we have three children (2 boys and a girl) Gage, Tate, and Stone. Plus, we just adopted a 2-year old Shepherd and Lab mix named Chona. I enjoy family time with them, running/exercising, and I’m a lifelong learner who’s always looking to self-improve!