Kristina Cook is a firm believer in the power of marketing and communications to help solve some of the world’s most persistent challenges. As an expert practitioner of social marketing (also known as behavior-change marketing), she would know.
“My job is to help clients motivate their audiences to learn something new, change their attitudes about something, or modify their behavior,” she says. “These can all be achieved through effective marketing and communication, whether it’s helping someone quit smoking or adopt a new health IT system.”
Kristina’s currently hard at work on that latter front, serving as the communications lead on Booz Allen’s project management support for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Electronic Health Record Modernization initiative. Her previous work in the social marketing realm includes supporting an award-winning effort by the U.S. Navy to encourage sailors to think before they drink.
“One of the most exciting achievements at Booz Allen was when me and my colleagues were recognized with a Silver Anvil Award, one of the most prestigious marketing and communications industry honors from the Public Relations Society of America,” Kristina says. “It was for our work on the Navy’s responsible drinking campaign, ‘Keep What You’ve Earned,’ which included an app that allowed sailors to estimate their blood alcohol content and connect with a safe ride home.”
We recently got to talk to Kristina and learn more about her communications work for Booz Allen. Read on for more of our conversation.
What led you to a career in social marketing?
I always had an interest in communication, but after spending a few years in corporate communication and public relations, I knew I wanted to pursue a different angle. My master’s program included an option to specialize in health communication with coursework in social marketing, and I fell in love with the concept of being able to use commercial marketing practices to motivate individuals’ behavior change for the good of community health.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?
Behavior change is hard stuff—whether you’re trying to get someone to modify a health behavior or embrace a new IT system, there are going to be barriers at the personal, cultural and environmental levels. It’s rewarding when we see our hard work pay off—individuals exhibiting the behaviors we’re trying to motivate them to do and helping them achieve their personal or organizational goals.
What about your job keeps you excited about coming to work?
One of the best parts of my job is the people I work with. Booz Allen has some of the brightest but also kindest colleagues I’ve ever had. When I’m tackling tough client missions and complex problems, it’s my co-workers that keep me motivated to design the best solution.
How has Booz Allen given you the opportunity to take part in interesting work?
Booz Allen has given me the flexibility to work across virtually the entire communication spectrum, from health behavior change to interagency internal communications to general program management. I often tell new hires that they’ll never need to look for another job because they will always be afforded the opportunity for new and interesting work here.
What do you see as next for your career?
I look forward to continuing to explore how the application of marketing and communication can be applied to solve some of our stickiest challenges. I also look forward to seeing how what we define as “communication” continues to evolve in the digital environment and how our tactics adapt to this changing landscape.