Edwin (Ed) Bodensiek will be our keynote speaker at the PRSA Maryland Conference on June 12 where he’ll address the future of marketing and communications and the coming convergence between our fields and customer experience (CX). Click here for a sneak peek of Ed’s keynote.
Ed made an early transition into CX while in healthcare, as the head of branding and communications for a Fortune 500 public company. In 2016, Ed became the first Chief Experience Officer in the Am Law 200, for Maryland powerhouse Miles & Stockbridge.
Hometown: West Palm Beach
Education: Florida Atlantic University
Describe what you do professionally: I design immersive brand experiences for competitive advantage.
How did you get into your position? Ignoring silos. They exist of course, but I’ve long pretended they don’t. I’ve found that when you engage people across functions – when you tell them you want to co-design something special with them – you can get almost anything done.
Like many PRSA members, I began in marketing communications and public relations. In time I realized that people like us had the creative firepower to solve all kinds of problems for our organizations. I’ve always had a stubborn mindset of wanting to help leadership and my colleagues achieve their desired results, wherever that took me. I never thought – oh, I’m just the creative person in the room and should stick to my lane, whatever that means. I turned it all around, so the creative people were at the center of solving all kinds of operational issues – using the tools we know – but also learning to use some new ones too. I’ve never had all the answers but found that others usually did – if only we asked the right questions.
The mindset helped me navigate radically new environments. For example, when I moved from Johns Hopkins to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, I was in a very new world. Here I was, appointed by the President of the United States, into a role forcing me to combine my communications background with other disciplines – for example, public policy. At first, it was uncomfortable, but it was also how I grew as a professional. Those of us in the communications tribe think very strategically about things like target audiences and messaging – which means we are always thinking about the larger aims, and usually asking questions. It translated well to such a new environment as the federal government. The same thing happened again at my next stop – a co-op agency of the State Department. I was named head of communications and outreach for the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program, and our goal was to find more highly qualified applicants to represent American scholarship overseas, almost like ambassadors from higher education. It forced me to combine yet again with another discipline – recruiting.
However, when I moved back into healthcare I undertook the biggest –and most uncomfortable change of all. I was named head of communications and brand for Select Medical, a $5B public company. I knew I was going to be busy building an internal, full-service agency. I did not know I would be asked to help solve a new challenge: designing a patient experience. The work soon morphed into employee experience, and then into cultural change and activation. All of these were new areas, but I started to ask questions, think about the big picture, and connect new dots. In a few cases we invented new dots. This was the real game-changer for me: Realizing our audiences formed perceptions from every single interaction with the organization. I suddenly saw how important it was to expand my work beyond the buyer’s journey. Working across a massive scale – across 42,000 associates and across all verticals and functions – we became much more intentional about designing moments that matter. This was the pivotal role that taught me what next-generation branding could look like. After nearly six years, I took those lessons learned into law, becoming the first Chief Experience Officer in the Am Law 200.
Current and past PRSA Maryland member activities: I am a current member of PRSA Maryland, and a former board member-at-large. More than a decade ago, I also co-chaired the Best in Maryland Awards. I’ll also be participating in the upcoming annual conference on June 12 in Towson.
What advice do you have for practitioners looking to do more with the PRSA Maryland Chapter? Beyond paying attention to the great programming, pitch PRSA Maryland on an idea of how you can contribute. Practitioners have so much to offer their peers. It’s how we can all grow together.
What are your passions/interests/hobbies? Spending time with and learning from deeply thoughtful people who are super passionate about something – anything really. It’s inspiring to see that kind of focus and learning. I also have two baseball-crazy young sons, so I ought to add the Baltimore Orioles. I’m originally a soccer guy, so that’s been an education for me, but I am hooked for life.
More recently, my interest has been learning as much as I can from successful entrepreneurs. There are so many great models out there. I’m about to embark on a new journey – opening Cravety, LLC in another month or so. I plan to help others create the brands and cultures people crave. The two areas are powerfully connected, as what you get on the inside you get on the outside.
Best piece of advice received: The CEO of Select Medical and my friend and mentor, David Chernow, taught me this: “Listen, learn, then lead.”
How to connect with Ed: