Teenage dreams of doing good

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Tove Nordstrom
Tove Nordstrom

Guest contributor Tove Nordstrom describes what motivates her and discusses how she went from being a PR student to a textbook contributor in seven years.

For many communications professionals, good writing skills are key to a successful career. For me, writing has been a passion and a golden thread, it’s what got me into the profession in the first place and, most recently, it’s given me the opportunity to share my expertise and thoughts in a newly published book, Communicating Causes.

In primary school I wrote longer and more detailed stories than anyone else and my dream was to be an author when I grew up. As a teenager I wrote essays on topics such as the media’s sexualised image of women and wanted to become a journalist to highlight issues in society and inspire towards social change. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make the world a better, more equal, and more sustainable place.

After having moved to London from the north of Sweden at the end of my teens I then found myself in the position of applying to university and after some soul and course searching I realised I could study communications to write and tell the stories about those doing good in the world, to help them raise awareness and continue doing good. Ultimately, combining my two passions – the written word and saving the world.

Seven years after graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in public relations from Greenwich University, this is largely what I’m still doing, even though I’ve changed jobs, sectors, ways of working, country, focus areas, and interests. I’ve stayed true to my values, but I’ve been open to change and I stay open to change.

Staying on a path of good

Being very clear about why I was studying communications most definitely helped me prioritise what I spent my time on whilst studying. I made sure the internships I was doing helped me towards working somewhere doing social good; the elective courses I chose had this focus (such as the Third Sector PR course I took in my final year); and my dissertation explored digital communications made by environmental NGOs working for a greener and better world.

Since graduating, I’ve managed to stay on this path. Up until last year I worked at various communications agencies in London, sticking to my principles and only working at agencies focusing on sustainability, social change, and social entrepreneurship. It’s been a true pleasure raising awareness of the national and international organisations supporting community inclusion, vulnerable children, the environment, women in the developing world, health for the elderly and much more.

Changing perspectives but keeping focus

When I was younger, ‘doing good’ was the good work of charities making the world a better place by reducing poverty, violence and inequality. But the last decade has seen a shift, not just in my own perspective on doing good but in the world’s view of whose responsibility it is to make the world a better place.

As business has realised its responsibility to help the planet rather than destroy it, my own career has travelled in parallel to this.

Charities and aid have an important role to play in civil society but a business side of me started growing alongside an interest for more financially sustainable models where an organisation generates its own income rather than having to rely on a decreasing number of donations and grants.

This realisation took me into the sphere of social entrepreneurship and responsible business, where business methods are used as solutions to social and environmental challenges in the community, society or worldwide.

In a world with increasing inequality and an urgent need to stop climate change, I believe we need collective change across sectors and that social entrepreneurship and responsible business can be a solution.

When moving back to my homeland Sweden last year, I decided to continue steering my career in this way and I’m now the Communications Lead at Swedish support organisation for social entrepreneurs, Social Entrepreneurship Forum (SE Forum), where I’m able to continue communications in the name of good, but with a twist.

A twist that forces a brand to consider the balance between engaging its stakeholders in its mission for social change, whilst also coming across as a professional business. It’s an interesting balance that I’m very much enjoying exploring as I see it being the future of both business and communications.

The sell, sell, sell approach has been replaced with more values-based communications as supporters and customers are looking for storytelling that means something, that they can relate to and engage with.

I’ve been able to explore this further as I’ve had the opportunity to write a chapter about communications for social enterprises in the newly published book Communicating Causes – Strategic Public Relations for the Non-Profit Sector, edited by Professor Ian Bruce and Dr Nicky Garsten, my university tutor who encouraged me to submit my dissertation to EUPRERA, which led to me winning an award for best communications BA dissertation in Europe.

Having the opportunity to write two chapters for her book (the other chapter is about digital communications, co-written with Ann Longley) was a fantastic experience and meant that my primary school dream of becoming an author has actually come true.

Extracurricular activities

I consider myself very lucky to have been given such great opportunities, but I’ve also worked hard and have made time to continue learning and developing skills and expertise.

Whatever job I’ve had I’ve always made sure not just to try different things at work, but also to extend my learning outside of the office. Volunteering or offering pro-bono support to small companies or organisations is a great way to do so for communications professionals, but I would also recommend considering what you can do for yourself, especially when it comes to making the most of your own interests. My channel for my creative and potentially more opinionated writing has been a blog I started a while back – The Conscious Edit – where I write about conscious consumption and slow living to inspire towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

The combination of pursuing my own dreams and being open to opportunities that come my way has most definitely helped me develop a career I’m proud of and that I find interesting, especially as it keeps changing as I’m able to add things like ‘Author’ to my CV.

Finding a balance between being clear with what you want to do (so that you can be more specific with the jobs you apply for), but also being open to change, trying new things, and stepping outside of your comfort zone is important. Definitely consider what your dream job is, but also, ask yourself whether you’re open to the dream job changing over time, because being too strict might limit you.

Instead, focus on what you have a passion for and what you are good at, and develop your dream from there. But by all means, keep chasing the dream!