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Iris E. Harvey, President, CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio

Marketing skills are invaluable — and Harvey would know. The former CMO, VP of University Relations for Kent State University is applying her strategy and financial-impact focus to her new role as CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. She’s also bringing an impressive résumé. While working in higher education, she launched marketing strategies that produced a 60% increase in unaided brand awareness and contributed to five-year increases in applications (49%) and enrollment (25%).

Marketing strategy: My philosophy is to be a confident business partner and advisor to an organization, to know our marketplace, to know the needs of our customer, [and] to be the person and the voice in the room that is saying how are we meeting these needs of our customers in terms of the service, product delivery, and customer service?

Winning ways: The most recent big win was marketing myself and making this transition [to CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio], which is a pretty big win from a senior member of an organization to the head of the organization [and] moving from the discipline of marketing to the realm of vision and leading a very large and complex organization.

Defining moment: When I left Citibank and moved to Japan…. I was ready to move to an international position and I wanted to go to Asia. Citibank suggested, “You’re doing great; you’re really successful here. Why don’t you take a different type of international position—maybe one that would be more familiar in terms of culture and language and what not?” I thought, “Do I want to take the safe route and follow the path that the organization is offering me, or do I want to do what I really feel, first of all, is going to enhance my career and, second of all, is personally what I want to do at this time in my life?” I wanted to follow my own path, and I took a leave of absence from Citibank and moved to Japan with the goal of only being gone a year. As I suspected, there was much that I could translate into a new culture…and started a business three months after I got there. I ran it from Japan for seven years…. I was willing to take some risk with my career because I had confidence in myself, and I was willing to succeed or fail based on my own terms.

Trend watching: The trends that are most relevant in my career and I’m watching now have to do with the role of social media…. It’s trusting that if you listen carefully, you will learn. And if you’re a smart learner, then you can provide more satisfaction and provide your target audience with more of what they want.

Marketing staff must-have: I look for someone who is, first and foremost, a well-rounded, strategic thinker — someone who can think not just about a narrow slice of an issue, but who also is willing to ask the hard questions and to dig deeper into the why of something. Second, is someone who really enjoys what they do for a living — someone who’s comfortable in working with a wide range of people and in different situations, is flexible, [and] is a team person.

Advice to young marketers: Seek [your] passion and find where you can use it the most; let that be the thing that helps you choose a career. And then…be open to opportunities as they come along.

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