Activate America ®

As chief marketing officer of the YMCA of the USA, Susan oversaw the external promotional launch of Activate America, the Y’s flagship multi-year wellness campaign. Leveraging the organization’s strength – 2,600 local YMCAs, 20,000 staff and 500,000 volunteers in 10,000 communities reaching 9 million youth and 12 million adults across the country, Susan led the creation of an integrated marketing communications strategy to garner critical corporate sponsorship at its launch. Additionally, promotional materials were instrumental in launching the campaign nationally and implementing its programs locally. The early success of the program led to First Lady Michelle Obama choosing a YMCA as the venue to launch the pillars of her “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity. Having impacted an estimated 73 million lives, today more than 160 YMCAs are partnering with local leaders to make changes in policies and the physical surroundings in their communities so that healthy living is within reach for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

Walking Works ®

Soon after joining the BlueCross BlueShield Association (BCBSA), Susan re-energized the organization’s Walking Works program, a national effort to improve our country’s heath by encouraging people to spend 30 minutes engaging in a brisk walk or other moderate physical activity at least five days per week. Through her team’s national outreach efforts, enhanced communications materials and more robust vendor reporting, the program attained 100-percent participation of BCBSA’s 39 independent plans in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Susan also oversaw the program’s roll-out with Association employees, getting them to literally “walk the talk”. Today, the program remains the Blues’ flagship wellness initiative, and serves as a strategic anchor for the organization’s umbrella Blue365® public wellness initiative.

The Good Health Club ®

Working with both an internal Blue Cross Blue Shield Association program development team and representatives of the American Diabetes Association, Susan spearheaded marketing communications efforts for the Blues’ childhood obesity awareness and prevention initiative, The Good Health Club. Through an illustrated tool kit of educational materials, the program sought to educate and engage children, their parents and pediatricians about the risk of obesity and how healthy habits can improve and maintain children’s nutrition and health status. Collateral materials including waiting-room brochures, take-home activity sheets and journals for patients and their parents, a physician’s guide and BMI tracking chart for healthcare professionals featured customized graphics for three youth age groups (toddlers, pre-teens and teens) and were produced in English and Spanish. Susan led the program’s creative development, testing and rolling out materials to more than 20,000 doctors’ offices in 17 states.

Consortium Health Plans (CHP)

In her capacity as the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s senior staff liaison to the Consortium Health Plans (a membership-based organization that supports national sales and marketing efforts), Susan worked closely with her CHP colleagues to develop unified sales support materials and programs for the Blues’ large, multi-state accounts that collectively cover 26 million employees and dependents, as well as for the consultant/broker community that is so critical to national account sales success. The program achieved high usage and positive feedback from this highly competitive marketplace audience.

Meritas Family of Schools

Meritas Family of Schools is an international family of elite college preparatory schools whose highly personalized, differentiated instruction at ten campuses across the globe is transforming pre K-12 education.

As interim CMO for 12 months, Susan Kolon was responsible for enterprise brand management and operations, as well as an integrated strategic marketing plan and brand message development for two schools in new markets. During her tenure at Meritas, Susan served as a member of the executive leadership team, built a marketing staff infrastructure, developed the annual strategic communications plan and budget for the parent organization and provided strategic counsel to better align marketing activities with admissions objectives. Key projects included:

  • Serving as a key member on a collaborative work team that refined the organization’s mission, vision and guiding principles
  • Executive speechwriting
  • Leadership for the development and implementation of a customer satisfaction study to 15,000+ families that provided insight into key differentiators that helped realign corporate strategy
  • Enhanced digital media strategy through the use of introduction of compelling video on school websites
  • Crisis communications management
  • Implementation of a first-ever external marketing summit that served as a springboard for a retooled strategy at Meritas’s flagship campus.

Skills for Chicagoland’s Future

A public-private partnership supported by the City of Chicago, Cook County, the State of Illinois and by private and corporate foundations, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (SCF) is a nonprofit jobs program whose mission is to close the workforce skills gap and get unemployed Cook County residents back to work.

SCF was at a crossroads in its brand evolution, having just rebranded itself based on a new and expanded business model and mission. Susan Kolon was brought on board for three months to provide urgent strategic communications planning, working with existing partners to augment brand messaging and marketing identity initiatives. Using an integrated communications approach, Susan coordinated efforts across the organization to ensure sales, recruiting, fundraising and community/business partnership development initiatives were aligned with marketing efforts and opportunities maximized to attract both job seekers and potential employers. Key deliverables included a comprehensive integrated marketing communications plan for the new fiscal year.

Junior Achievement USA

Junior Achievement USA is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship education programs. As Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Susan introduced a scientific, disciplined approach to messaging and positioning architecture as well as national public relations and social media strategies.

Specifically, Susan led the development and implementation of an enterprise-wide message map or Junior Achievement USA staff. Thanks to this map, the staff is now equipped with valuable and customizable talking points to support goals such as volunteer recruitment and fundraising. The map effectively transformed all Junior Achievement USA associates into brand ambassadors.

Susan also established Junior Achievement USA in the social media sphere in a short timeframe. When she came onboard, the organization lacked a disciplined digital strategy. Not only did Susan boost the organization’s social media engagement by thousands of followers, she also led the development of tools and webinars that educated stakeholders on how to become effective social media participants. In approximately one year of Susan’s leadership, Junior Achievement USA experienced a 64% rise in social media participation across their network.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is the largest healthcare member association in the United States. As Executive Director, Marketing Services, Susan was tasked with generating new approaches and solutions to optimize effectiveness of BCBSA’s overall marketing efforts and improve brand awareness. Within her first year, she realigned the entire marketing communications operation under a strategy aimed at innovative program development, which resulted in heightened awareness of key brand attributes. As the nation’s healthcare reform debate took center stage, Susan served as one of BCBSA’s key communication architects for its national positioning strategy. She also developed BCBSA’s first social media strategy for better consumer engagement and competitive differentiation across the Blue brand family.

YMCA of the USA

YMCA of the USA is the nation’s largest nonprofit health and wellness organization in the country. As Chief Marketing Officer, Susan integrated brand marketing, donor communications, publications, events and digital communications programs to define, lead and strategically integrate public relations and marketing programs for 2,600 locations.

When Susan joined YMCA of the USA, the organization stood to benefit by improving market segmentation as its 2,600 chapters promoted their services. Susan led the development and implementation of “Voice of a Member,” a program that put an ear to local communities and created custom tools and specific messaging consistent with the larger YMCA brand. As a result, local YMCA chapters were given a voice that resonates with the communities and people they serve.

Susan also worked closely with YMCA chapters across the country to gain critical buy-in for a revamped brand strategy. Because change comes with challenges, Susan worked closely with local YCMA executives and board leaders to earn their support for the new brand direction. This strategy helped empower YMCA staff and partners across the country as ambassadors for the new strategy.

Contact Susan to discuss how she can deliver similar results for your organization!