Thursday, September 5, 2019

Connecting with a Serial Connector: Susan McPherson

Susan McPherson commands the room. 
If you work in the social impact space you most likely know Susan McPherson. She is a self-described serial connector, angel investor and founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social impact.

I had the chance to connect with Susan recently about her 25 years in the social impact space and her take on current corporate social responsibility and purpose trends. Read on to learn more!

MK: What makes you most proud of McPherson Strategies and what you’ve built over the past six years?
SM: That we are still standing!! Joking. I’m most proud that we have stayed true to our mission of helping organizations better communicate and share their social impact with the audiences they intend to reach.  Also, proud of the work my team has consistently and relentlessly managed and created.
MK: Do you feel that being a woman-owned enterprise gives you a unique perspective into the work you are doing?
SM: Being a woman definitely has its advantages when you are working on reproductive issues where women are facing major hurdles in today’s political environment, but being a woman of diminutive size, speaking in a boardroom and commanding a presence can always be challenging.

MK: What is your take on the Purpose + Profit wave that is catching on among corporations?

SM: I believe business, like everything else, reacts to the times and the nature of what is happening throughout the world at any moment.  We are certainly living in an era that we have never witnessed before, and business is trying to adjust in a way that will 1) make it sustainable in the long run, and 2) continue to be profitable, while also being transparent and inclusive. Not an easy task when you consider how complex and large some companies have grown. With millennials (and those younger) wanting to work for companies they perceive have purpose and wanting to buy products from companies that are putting people, environment and social causes first, the pressure is on companies to react positively.

MK: Is there a risk that Purpose will not permeate beyond a company’s marketing department? How do you mitigate this with your clients?
SM: We won’t work with companies unless it is a REAL program. We believe strongly that “just” a marketing campaign will fall on deaf ears.

MK: How have you been successful in making the business case to the C-suite and board level for prioritizing social and environmental factors as an integral part of corporate strategy?
SM: We have been successful by proving it works and tying results to the bottom line. Nothing speaks like an increase in applicants, improved retention and new revenues to convince the C-suite and the board.  Competitive pressure also helps immensely and by showing data and the competitive landscape, you will be successful in changing mindsets.
MK: You are an angel investor. Can you share what motivated you to get involved in this space, and specifically in women-led technology start-ups such as iFundWomen, Inc., and The Muse.?
SM: Honestly, there is no greater joy than helping an entrepreneur realize her dreams. I have always tried to be charitable and donate to causes, so I extended that to invest in women launching innovative businesses. We all know the statistics around how minimal funding goes to women and especially women of color. I want to do what I can in my little world to help offset that.
MK: You describe yourself as a serial connector. Can you offer advice for those just getting started to build connections and follow in your footsteps?
SM: Lead with asking questions, be curious, listen more than speaking (We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.), ask how you can be helpful, introduce to others.  These are just a few things that come to mind.
MK: I also hear you are writing a book. Can you give us a sneak peek at what it will be about?
SM: The book is all about how meaningful connections -- the ones that stand the true test of time -- are what really boost our careers and supercharge our lives.  Especially important given we are living in a time where there is such pressure to “transact” and gain followers, rather than develop long-term, mutually enriching and beneficial relationships.
You can learn more about Susan and McPherson Strategies at

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