Q&A with INTEGRATE Speaker Joe Cohen

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Joe Cohen is the Senior vice president of communications for KIND Healthy Snacks. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for the student blog, you can also read more about Joe here.

Q1. Last year #kindawesome set out to engage customers in acts of kindness, tell us how this program came to be?

 

At KIND, we’re always seeking new and creative ways to make kindness a state of mind. It’s been that way since 2004 when our founder Daniel Lubetzky launched KIND and the company immediately became a pioneer in both the healthy snacking and purpose-driven brand categories.

In 2013, we first introduced #kindawesome as a program to empower our team to spot and celebrate acts of kindness happening around them. When a team member witnesses a kind act, big or small, we give the person a #kindawesome card that they can redeem online for KIND Snacks as a “thank you” for being kind along with a #kindawesome card to pay it forward.

Last year, timed to World Kindness Day on November 12, we scaled up the #kindawesome program by creating digital versions of the cards to empower our fans to help in spotting and celebrating kindness. Simultaneously on World Kindness Day, our team brought to life KIND acts all over the country through regional activities like spreading the importance of kindness in preschools and delivering care packages to the elderly.  The campaign became the most expansive grassroots activation in KIND’s history and a great moment in our ongoing effort to recognize and celebrate kindness.  

Q2. Does KIND use influencers, if so please tell us a little bit about that?

KIND has an incredibly passionate base of fans and this includes influencers ranging from actors and athletes to health and wellness experts to social media stars.  When it comes to formal influencer partnerships and programs, we only work with individuals who we know to be fans and supporters of KIND – it’s very important to us that every influencer relationship begins with an authentic passion for our brand.

Q3. Recently the FDA has been looking at the definition of healthy snacks, would you tell us about KIND’s involvement in the conversation surrounding this topic?

To begin, we commend the FDA for its decision to reevaluate the regulatory definition of healthy which was introduced with the best intentions more than twenty years ago but has since become outdated.

The announcement that the FDA will reevaluate healthy generated a great deal of conversation in the media, as well as the health and nutrition communities, as did the agency’s affirmation that KIND can use healthy on our wrappers again – just as we had it before – in connection with our corporate philosophy but not as a nutrient content claim.

KIND’s involvement in this conversation began more than 13 months ago when we received a warning letter from the FDA asking for us to remove the term healthy from the back wrapper of four KIND bars, and that also pointed to a number of items that have since been corrected.   We quickly brought our packaging to compliance while at the same time studying the regulatory definition of healthy.  We learned that the current standard was introduced when the benefits of consuming “good fats,” like those in nuts (a key ingredient in many KIND Snacks), were not fully understood.  Under the regulation, foods like fat-free chocolate pudding and children’s sugary cereal can bear a healthy nutrient claim but foods like nuts and avocados can’t.

None of this made much sense to us, so last December we filed a Citizen Petition with top health and nutrition experts respectfully calling for FDA to update its guidance.  Since KIND filed the Petition, momentum has been building. From leading nutrition experts to Senators and members of the House of Representatives, there is a rising call to update the regulatory definition of healthy.

Our team continues to maintain an open and collaborative dialogue with the FDA and, while we know it will take time, we are optimistic that the regulation will be updated to better align with current science and existing dietary guidance.

Q4. You’ve been at KIND for almost two years, prior to that you spent 15 years at a PR agency. What differences did you see between agency PR and in-house PR? Were there any surprises?

Whether you are in-house or at an agency, the core tenets of communications remains the same.

There are, of course, differences.  One of the aspects that I loved about agency life was the creativity and adrenaline rush that came with managing multiple accounts and teams, and the thrill of the competition when pitching new business.  Additionally a big part of the reason why I stayed in the agency game for so long was the great culture and team in place at MWW.

Working on the in-house side is also very deeply rewarding, particularly at a company like KIND where I am helping to promote an incredible product and advance a social mission that resonates very deeply with me.  Additionally, part of what I like about working on the corporate side is that you’re able to go much deeper and understand the nuances and intricacies of the business at a level that just isn’t possible when working within an agency.

Regarding surprises, I had heard that the pace of working in-house versus at an agency is much slower and more methodical.  This isn’t necessarily the case at KIND which has a fast-paced and highly creative environment.  The day also happens to go by quickly when you love the work and the people, and at KIND I’m fortunate to have both.

 

Q5. Earlier this year you received the Philip Dorf Award, which honors individuals who lead, guide and selflessly counsel and stimulate the careers of PR professionals. Congratulations. What advice do you bestow on young PR practitioners or those just graduating?

I’ve been privileged to have had incredible mentors like MWW CEO Michael Kempner, ConAgra CCO Jon Harris and KIND CEO Daniel Lubetzky, who have had a profound impact on my growth as a person and as a professional.  My advice to young professionals is to actively seek, adopt and embrace mentorship experiences.  Identify individuals who you find to be impressive and admirable and make a proactive effort to get to know and learn from them.  Also, look for ways to extend your network. Get involved in groups like PRSA where you can meet and learn from new people, expand your skill sets and broaden your perspective of your industry.

 

Q6. What changes do you see within the PR practice in the next five years?

The profession itself will become increasingly competitive as more enter the field.  Communications pros will be challenged to continually refresh and enhance their skill sets and knowledge base or risk being left behind as the media and business landscape continues to remain in a near-constant state of evolution.

Additionally, the lines will continue to blur between the disciplines and there will be less traditional PR firms and more integrated marketing shops – this will also extend to the way PR is housed within corporations.  Continuing education will be essential and communications professionals who today are deepening their expertise in brand marketing, integrated marketing and data and analytics, will be better positioned for success.

Q7. Please share a favorite quote or person who inspires you?

 

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” – L.P. Jacks, an English educator, philosopher and Unitarian minister

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