Editorial and Visual Media Coordinator (Water Mission) - Jennie Reeb

"The story helps to bring it alive, which is my role. I bring people who can’t travel to these places into the story and make them feel like they are able to experience it FOR themselves."

tell us about the organization you work for and the specific role that you have?

I am Jennie Reeb, and I work for Water Mission, a Christian, engineering nonprofit organization. We build sustainable, safe water solutions in order to break through the global water crisis. My role as editorial and visual media coordinator is to cultivate stories. I manage visual and editorial direct-mail content, online appeals, emails, social media, and video production.

Tell us more about Water Mission. WHo all is involved?

We have about 50 employees working in our headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina, and another 200 employees based around the world making up our 9 permanent-country programs. Our water treatment systems are engineered and constructed by many volunteers who dedicate their time to the mission. We have fundraisers, communications team members, engineers, and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) personnel who promote as well as standardize how we go about bringing safe water solutions to those in need and how we engage within the community.

What does your typical day look like? 

I am in the office every day and always on the computer. I specialize in video production, so I am in my own niche within a larger communications team. I usually work on individual assignments, although I do take part in team meetings. For the majority of my workday, I’ve got my headphones on pulling photos, editing a video, or writing a story.

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How often do you travel outside of Charleston for work? TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME IN THE FIELD.

After 6 months on the job, Water Mission sent me to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for 2 months. I worked at our permanent-country program and helped train staff in storytelling and photography. I went to Columbia, South Carolina, for a week following the massive flooding last year to cover photography and storytelling. I also spent 2 weeks in Kenya working on our annual end of year story. We had a big celebration in Kenya, and I pushed for that specific story to be told. We took a video production crew and I had a project manager role. We went to tell the story of a Maasai community in Kenya, how they have been waiting for 6 years to get safe water. We knew that we wanted to capture more than just the story of the one community - we got 7 different stories in 2 weeks. We had to schedule the production crew, endure a project delay, and pull everything together after the trip, so that project took about 10 months to complete. 

Whenever there is a large disaster, or large donation to Water Mission from a partner, there is always a question of whether they will send me to cover the story. It keeps me on my toes, and it helps to bring it alive, which is my role. I bring people who can’t travel to these places into the story and make them feel like they are able to experience it for themselves. {read this article from the field}

You are a fantastic writer and terrific storyteller. Did you ever think you’d have a position like this within a nonprofit?

I imagined that if you did this kind of work than you would have to do freelance. I didn’t like that idea because it meant that I'd have to promote myself. In college, I always wanted to travel and take photos. I also thought that I wanted to be traveling all of the time or live somewhere far away. I got this job with Water Mission, and when I first started, it was solely a writing position. They sent me to Haiti, and I found that I liked the consistency and the community at home. It ended up being a perfect fit, and I realized that it’s nice to be able to build a life living in one location.

I think somewhere along the way it became a dream of mine. I knew that I wanted to help people and I knew I wanted to do storytelling. I took one video class in college, and it was so much fun. I enjoyed bringing these ideas that were in my head and making an actual product so that other people could feel the way that I was feeling, and react the way that I wanted them to. That changed the trajectory for what I was hoping to do. Even then, I didn’t think it was possible because I only had one class and had done low-budget random projects on my own. To land a job where I am sort of the go-to person for video production within a multi-million dollar nonprofit - it seems crazy, but it is lot of fun.

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE IN CONTACT WITH ON A DAILY BASIS? What does the team look like?

I make an intentional effort to communicate with the three other girls on my team who run the communications that goes out from Water Mission. I serve all different people within Water Mission with videos. I could be working for our regional walk coordinator who needs a walk-promo video or our president because he is doing a Hurricane Matthew relief update video in Haiti. I am responsible for pulling all of the content for our direct mail pieces, so I will meet with our head of development. We sit down about 4 times a year and walk through what the stories are going to look like, what she’s expecting from me, and then I make it come to life. I talk to our engineers too. Everyone works in the same office and just a few seconds away and we have friendly relations. I probably interact with 50-70% of staff everyday in some way shape or form.

What was your major in college?

My major was Communication, Public Relations at Appalachian State University. We had to specialize in something, so I made it up myself and called it “storytelling”. I also minored in photography.

IS THIS YOUR FIRST JOB OUT OF COLLEGE?

I worked at a State Park the summer after graduating and then moved to Colorado for 2 months. I returned home after not finding a job and literally applied to every job I possibly could, because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Then, I realized I hated about 90% of them and decided I was going to find 3 or 4 companies that I loved and bang down their door until someone gave me a job. Water Mission was the first to do that and it happened to work out.

Were you looking at other nonprofits in college or considering for-profit companies?

I was always leaning nonprofit because I always liked the idea of an organization being about people rather than money. I also didn’t like the idea of having to be incredibly professional every day. I hate the idea of job titles being a description for who people are, and I think that anyone, no matter their position, is a possible friend, regardless of how high up they are on the corporate ladder. I also wanted my work to be more people-focused and I did not want to be just working for a paycheck. Ironically, that is absolutely critical to a nonprofit, but it’s because we care about the people and who we are serving. I knew I wanted to lean towards nonprofits and I love the relaxed feel at Water Mission.  We are so involved with our volunteers and it is very much a family, rather than just a job that you show up to. You are committed to not only making a good product, but also committed to your co-workers, which is really fun.

Is there anything you wish you had known in college?

The one thing that I would have done differently was to have more internships in different arenas. That is really the only way you find out if you really enjoy something. I didn’t have a ton of experience coming out of college. I knew certain things that I didn’t want to pursue. People are so gracious with interns because there is so much flexibility. You could get an incredible experience and be able to network as well. Also, a lot of people don’t end up working in their field, and at the time, I was very hesitant to even start dreaming of being able to do video production or anything like it. I didn’t feel qualified. I wish I had known that it IS possible to do something totally different from what you studied.

If someone was interested in a position like yours, what would you tell them?

When it comes to video production, you have to be willing to have your head down, with your headphones on, focused on your work for hours at a time. If you are working on your own, you have to be willing to bug people, pull them into your circle for creative advice or for an outside perspective, and be willing to be critiqued.

In the nonprofit sector you definitely need to be a go-getter and willing to tackle projects on your own. There is no one there to manage you, other than your boss, who comes to you on the day that a project is due. There is no one there holding you accountable throughout the process so that can be challenging if you aren’t able to manage your time. Lastly, when you need something you have to be able to step up and ask for it. You can’t wait for someone to ask you if you need anything. 

What dreams and goals do you have for water mission?

I have a lot dreams for the video production department at Water Mission. I’d love to see other talented creatives come to the organization.To be able to manage a team that is skilled and talented in editing, storyboard, audio, etc. would be amazing. I do think we are headed in that direction to form a team of visual storytellers. We ARE a nonprofit and we rely on funding from people who support what we do. Being responsible and sufficient at reporting on the work that we are doing is critical to the success of the mission.

Watch this: The Long-Awaited Hope

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