Vera Institute of Justice

Media Strategy Director, Communications & External Affairs (Brooklyn, NY)

Communications & External Affairs - Brooklyn, NY - Full Time

Who we are:

The Vera Institute of Justice, founded in 1961, is a nonprofit criminal justice organization that strives to build just government institutions and safe communities free from the scourge of racism, white supremacy, profit, and inequity that is pervasive in this country’s legal systems. We are an “inside” lane organization that drives change at scale with ambitious public sector leaders who share our commitment to building anti-racist, reparative systems that deliver justice. We leverage our access to government to transform these systems and work collaboratively with stakeholders across many movements—including advocacy, grassroots, and grassroots organizations. Our role is to pilot solutions that are transformative and achievable, harness the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice, and use advocacy and communications to change narratives and norms.

Vera has a staff of almost 300 people and offices in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. We are an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity in the workplace. We expect our staff to embody respect, independence, collaboration, commitment, anti-racism, and equity—both in our outward-facing work and the internal culture of our workplace. We value a range of experiences in people’s educational backgrounds and encourage people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to apply.

At the Vera Institute of Justice, our vision is a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for all. At a propitious moment, we are standing up and driving change on a variety of fronts — ending cash bail, ending mass incarceration, vastly improving life behind bars, ensuring that immigrants get due process, and centering all this work in racial equity. Convincing people to change the way they think and act in order to serve justice is in our DNA. One of the ways we change hearts and minds is through strategic communications campaigns. We have a robust and growing communications team that advocates for our vision with colleagues as well as stakeholder and public audiences. Are you interested in helping lead a super-smart and productive team using best-in-class communications strategies and tactics to drive change?

If so, read on.

Long known for our research and technical assistance, communications and external affairs are  now core pillars of Vera’s work.  We embed communications in our program and project work from the start. Our efforts have paid off with an award-winning website, significant media attention, dramatic growth in social media followers, and new partnerships — elements needed to drive change in the criminal legal and immigration systems.

But more can be done, and the need is urgent. We need to leverage increasing calls for systemic change, using communications to connect our research and program work to external audiences. We are seeking a Media Strategy Director to lead that charge, to join our communications leadership team, grow and supervise a media team, and partner with internal and external stakeholders.

The Media Strategy Director reports to the Managing Director, partners with other communications directors to conceive and implement strategic campaigns, coordinates Vera’s consistent presence in high-profile media and targeted local and regional outlets, shapes the Institute’s messaging, and influences public conversation.

Candidates must be excellent communicators and negotiators, expert at media relations, strategic communications campaign architecture, caring mentors, adept in racial equity, and have a high EQ. The Media Strategy Director joins a growing team with collaborative editorial, digital, media, creative, and external affairs teams within the department. The communications and external affairs team works closely with all units at Vera.

The ideal Media Strategy Director is a seasoned and enthusiastic leader who will work with the VP of Communications and the Managing Director to conceive, develop, and execute strategies to advance our issues, test messages, lead the media strategy of our campaigns, grow audiences, and elevate Vera’s brand. The Media Strategy Director will help raise the profile of the Institute, its President, and other thought leaders.

What We Need in You:

  • Knowledge and interest in social justice. You don’t have to be an expert in the criminal legal system, but you need to be paying attention and to have worked in some area of social justice communications.
  • Expertise and passion.  You see ahead of the curve about the potential for audience engagement and media relations, love to be on the cutting edge, and to evangelize others around it.
  • A strategic and tactical tilt. You’re an expert in targeting and analyzing audiences, building strategic campaigns, message testing, and media relations and engagement. You set goals, measure the efficacy of your work, and adjust accordingly.
  • A proven track record. Your skills range from placing articles, interviews, and profiles in key media outlets to supervising the writing and placement of op-eds to developing backgrounders and supporting materials for campaigns to training and preparing staff for media appearances. You’ll ensure that Vera messengers are prepared for media and public appearances via formal media training and informal prep sessions.
  • A diplomat. You know that creating good product that reflects mission takes negotiation. You are diplomatic yet decisive and have excellent judgment. You are able to be a shoulder and be a champion — and still cross the finish line on time and shine.
  • A deep commitment to racial equity. In a system built on racism and inequity, we are working to ensure equity both in our workplace and in the world. You incorporate this value and share it with others.
  • A collaborator. Collaboration is a Vera value — we thrive when we learn and build on each other’s ideas, and are open to giving and receiving feedback — in our team and across the institution. This role will play a key function in the communications team to ensure that staff are all working toward the same strategies and goals and understand and how they can grow in their roles.
  • An experienced manager. You like leading a team and have demonstrated skills mentoring and managing media staff. You can make tough but fair calls, and look forward to building out, nurturing, and managing a team of communicators using a supportive and collaborative approach.

Additional Qualifications:

  • Preferred Qualifications: 10-15 years of relevant experience. Advanced degree a plus. In lieu of degree requirement, applicable work or life experience may be considered. Experience should include progressive media, journalism, or public relations work, including significant experience supervising and managing media relations personnel as a director.
  • Successful track record of conceiving, developing, and executing innovative and effective strategies for engaging media at the national, regional, and local level
  • Strong experience managing crisis communications
  • Experience developing comprehensive communications campaign strategies beyond earned media
  • Strong experience effectively collaborating on successful communications campaigns leading the media strategy to advance social justice issues
  • Survey the media landscape for upcoming opportunities and challenges
  • Cultivate, maintain, and expand relationships with journalists, bloggers, and other influential media figures who regularly cover criminal justice and immigration issues
  • Ensure staff are prepared for media and public appearances via formal media training and informal prep sessions
  • Oversee the development and distribution of press releases and supplementary materials including fact sheets, background briefings, and talking points memos
  • Provide journalists and staff with concise, compelling messages and summaries
  • Ability to develop and test messages to advance Vera’s strategic objectives
  • Identify and deploy tools and software to track quantitative and qualitative metrics and key milestones that demonstrate the performance and effectiveness of media strategies
  • Ability to ensure tight integration of the Institute’s messaging and media strategies
  • Excellent writer and communicator who can adeptly distill research into public facing messages and take storytelling to the next level
  • Strong instincts for translating trends and research findings into concrete communications opportunities and an ability to move quickly and decisively to take advantage of them
  • Scrupulous project management skills that shape day-to-day tactics that align with bigger goals.
  • Lead special projects as needed
  • Other duties as assigned

Compensation and Benefits

The compensation range for this position is $124,500 – $130,000. Actual salaries will vary depending on factors including but not limited to experience and performance. The salary range listed is just one component of Vera Institute’s total compensation package for employees. As an employer of choice in our field, supporting Vera staff—both personally and professionally—is a priority. To do this, we invest in the well-being of our staff through other rewards including merit pay, generous paid time off, a comprehensive health insurance plan, student loan repayment benefits, professional development training opportunities and up to $2,000 annual for education costs and fees relevant to Vera work, employer-funded retirement plan, and flexible time and remote work schedules. To learn more about Vera’s benefits offerings, click here.

Applications may also be faxed to:

ATTN: People Resources / Media Strategy Director, Communications & External Affairs
Vera Institute of Justice
34 35th St, Suite 4-2A, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Fax: (212) 941-9407
Please use only one method (online, mail or fax) of submission.
No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.

As a federal contractor, and in order to ensure a healthy and safe work environment, Vera Institute of Justice is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccine before their start date. Employees who cannot receive the vaccine because of a disability/medical contraindication or sincerely-held religious belief may request an accommodation (e.g., an exemption) to this requirement.

Vera is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, prior record of arrest or conviction, citizenship status, current employment status, or caregiver status. 

Vera works to advance justice, particularly racial justice, in an increasingly multicultural country and globally connected world. We value diverse experiences, including with regard to educational background and justice system contact, and depend on a diverse staff to carry out our mission. 

For more information about Vera, please visit www.vera.org

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