Meet Vickie: Archeologist at Heart, Multicultural Comms Expert, Volunteer Extraordinaire
Meet Vickie Gogo, a D.C. area native working as a Partner at ICF Next. Vickie has worked on award-winning health campaigns focused on helping those who are often misrepresented. When she is not working, you can find her hanging out with her daughter and husband, giving back to her community, traveling the world or watching documentaries about ancient Egypt or volcanoes. Oh, and Vickie is also a year-round sports fan!
Read on to learn about Vickie’s career as a sportswriter, her advice to young communications professionals (especially those at agencies) and more!
Q: What’s your story?
I am a Partner for Multicultural Communications at ICF Next. I lead our team in communicating to different audiences beyond just ethnic and racial disparities – the rural communities, people with disabilities and many others. I’ve been here for more than five years, but I’ve been heavily involved in the multicultural space since 2005 at both smaller and larger agencies. Before that, I did higher education PR and worked at an agency where I focused on social issues, social marketing and some multicultural work. But I started out as a sportswriter right out of college. I did that for several years, and I loved every second of it.
Q: Are you a big sports fan?
I am a huge sports fan and have many teams I support; but, more than anything I like a good game. I primarily watch NFL and college basketball, and I get caught up in all of the other sports in the offseason for those first two. I also watch a little hockey and baseball. Basically, I like to watch everything year-round; the only thing I can’t do is golf – I covered golf tournaments when I was a sportswriter, and I was bored to tears. It was very challenging for me.
Q: Are you from D.C. or did you move here?
I am from this area. I grew up here in the area, and I went to college at Hampton University in Virginia and then stayed down there for my first jobs after graduation. I moved back up here in 2001, but essentially I’ve lived in the area since the age of six.
Q: What are your favorite things to do in D.C.?
One of the things that really brought me back to the area permanently is that there’s just so much to see and do culture-wise. From all the museums, the landmarks, the memorials and the zoo – all of those things are just within 20 minutes of each other. I really love all of that. You can go from the Manassas battlefield to Harpers Ferry, and all of these places are only an hour or so away. When you try to do everything on the Mall, by the time you do everything, you have to do it again because all of the exhibits change. For the most part, a lot of stuff is free, so that makes it even better.
Q: How long have you been involved with PRSA, and why did you join?
I’ve been a member forever. From the time I moved back here, I’ve been a member of this chapter; I was a member of the other chapter at my old location. So over 20 years in PRSA NCC. I joined it for networking and professional development. In the early 2000s, there weren’t a lot of offshoots or very specific organizations, there were a few but not as many as there are now. This was the go-to organization to be a part of. That’s where you learned about various professional development opportunities, big conferences from the national PRSA level, and then, smaller types of events and things like that to network and participate.
Q: What would you say to someone unsure of joining PRSA?
I joined multiple organizations because I think you get different things out of different ones, and I think PRSA has such a wide variety of opportunities and you do get to meet people who are in public affairs, in associations, nonprofits, those who are in agencies or small agencies, so it’s the one place where you can kind of get some of everything. Other groups are very specific to identities or sectors. With PRSA, you have an opportunity to kind of learn and cross network across the various kinds of categories of people.
Q: Going back to your career, what is your proudest professional achievement?
I honestly would say it is being able to do what I’ve been doing for as long as I’ve been doing it. Working for multiple agencies across this town and being able to really tell the stories of people who are ridiculously underserved by and in the health space. I’ve touched so many different health issues. In 2012, we won Thoth Awards in four categories, plus Best-in-Show for some of the work we did, so I would probably say that’s one of the highlights for sure. But the work itself speaks to the type of work that I’ve always enjoyed doing and it really has manifested itself at the highest level as we’re doing campaigns now addressing COVID. You realize how many people are so incredibly underserved. Being able to have an impact on it and being able to do this for this long makes me very proud.
Q: Is there a specific campaign that you’re especially proud of or one that was an issue that you really, really care about?
I care about a lot of them. From some of the earliest CDC landmark cases with campaigns on the business response to AIDS in 2007/2008 to the one that we won the Thoth Awards for, which was focused on kidney disease. So many things about that came together – we had the best clients ever, who were super nice and trusted us, they had no idea what we were going to do; the campaign far exceeded expectations and has been a gold star for us for many years.
I’ve done work on diabetes. The work I am doing on COVID right now is evolving, so it’s hard. Usually we have new ways to treat hypertension or there are the new numbers, new guidelines or things like that, but right now, there’s nothing of this scale of what’s evolving and what’s changing as it relates to this virus and as it relates to communication about it to people whose health literacy is not usually very high. So being able to evolve, shift and pivot the communications is key and is important.
Q: That’s awesome work. What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Follow your gut. I ask people all the time, “What do you want to do? What work do you want to do?” and people are always like, “I don’t know” and they try and focus on something that they think is the future trend or whatever. I always tell them, “No, focus on what you’re interested in. You care about dogs? PR on dogs – focus on it, there’s a group about that and there is somebody somewhere doing what you want.” Look at the Ben & Jerry’s PR guys, I mean they’re doing PR for ice cream. Whatever it is, and whatever you’re passionate about, you can make a career out of it and then follow it, and I think to just kind of not get locked into what you think it should be.
For those who are in agency life in particular, make yourself invaluable. Love doing new business – learn to love it, have a love hate relationship with it. Whatever you do, love it and make yourself indispensable in three ways – by tactic, by audience and by issue. So if you can have those three things, plus a love of doing new business in an agency life, you can do very well. In the agency world, you want to be known as the top person in whatever area it is you’re involved in. You want to be the first person they call and make sure that you’re involved. So whenever there’s any conversation that focuses slightly on that area, you want to make sure that you’re in that role. For me, it’s under health issues – for example if it focuses on diabetes or cardiovascular or anything HIV-, AIDS-related. You know that if there’s any project that focuses on that area, your name should be somewhere in the conversation. Then there’s tactics and the audience. Anytime there’s something about youth, or about teenagers, or moms, or black men — whatever it is — something that targets that group, that category of people then again your name should come up. This is work that you’re interested in and built a portfolio around.
Q: I love that! Now let’s talk about what you like to do outside of work. What do you like doing in your free time? What are some of your hobbies?
I have a three-and-a-half year old, so my hobbies are her hobbies and her hobbies are my hobbies. It’s a little harder right now, just not being able to get out as much, but we love to travel internationally. We love getting out and seeing things around D.C. I don’t have any right now, but I have, in the past, had season tickets to a bunch of different teams, so that’s always something that I like to do.
Q: What’s your favorite place that you have traveled to?
A: My husband would want me to say, Ghana, because that’s where he’s from and that’s where we met. If I was not doing this and I actually really wanted to go to school for all the sciences, I would be a volcanologist or an archaeologist so it’s a tie, between the Pyramids in Egypt because that was just amazing and Kilauea in Hawaii which was also amazing for different reasons. I am fascinated by lava and volcanoes and then equally fascinated by the scale and dynamics of the pyramids. Just the uncovering of the pyramids – it’s a desert and then you just see little holes and tunnels and they’re still in there digging and looking for stuff so between those places, and those are probably my favorite trips. So anytime there’s anything on Discovery — in particular, anything on ancient Egypt — and, like, half of what I’ve seen before, whatever kind of conspiracy theories on Tutankhamun, I am watching it.
I’m incredibly fascinated by Egypt. We went weeks before the Arab Spring. It really hurt because I have just been to some of the places – we just went to places like the Egypt Museum. You can see so much history in that one place. I mean, you think about the Smithsonian Museums and things we have here, but I remember there, in the hallways, they had stacks of mummies because they just have so many that they don’t know what to do with them. I would love to go back.
When we stayed in Hawaii, we were there for a week or ten days and four of them were at the volcano. We stood there during the sunrise and it was amazing. They just had a lava flow a couple of weeks ago.
Q: Can you recommend a movie, a show, or a book that you’re currently excited about?
So, not one in particular, but I can get sucked in all day on a good police drama. I like a lot of police movies, and shows, and, you know, a good Law and Order episode. During the pandemic, when they stopped really showing a lot of new shows, they kept showing these older Datelines and 20/20 so I kept recording them, so I could watch them later on the weekend. I like a good police drama, a good bank heist – those never go out of style.
Q: Do you volunteer anywhere beyond PRSA NCC?
I do a lot, and have done a lot, with organizations that focus on food insecurity. I’ve been on a couple of different boards there and it’s just one of the things where having grown up here, primarily Frederick County, which is always on the list of the top richest counties in the country, but then you have still so many people who are food insecure and being able to help those organizations is important to me. I’ve done a couple of other volunteer things mostly in my community – planning events and things that tie back to a bit of my PR background.
We did a big thing this past Halloween. I said we got to do something big for the kids so we were outside, spread out, we all had masks, but we also had a costume contest and a parade and food trucks.
One organization is Food for Others – love its mission, love their work, love the people. They have a P3 program and it’s focused specifically on kids. When things were normal, kids would get backpacks of food primarily for the weekend because they’re not going to the school. Now, they’ve obviously pivoted and started providing food in different ways since the kids are home. The first elementary school I went to here, from grade 1 to 3, it’s a really underserved community school, so I try to do stuff where it specifically relates to giving back there. I’m sure they always get a lot of donors. I do a lot of donor work, particularly for my old elementary schools – I always write things like: I was in first grade, etc.
The other program that I’ve actually done a lot with is a foster care and adoption program in Fairfax county. You look at supposedly one of the richest counties, right, but there are still a lot of kids in foster care and in need. I haven’t done this in a couple of years, but I would buy Christmas presents for kids that went into foster care, like, the last minute. Think about it – they’re going into foster care, and that’s one thing, but they didn’t count on having five extra kids in the house. That was one of the things that I did for many years, so I was out there shopping, you know, December 22 and hitting up on my colleagues. And a lot of people helped a lot of people did, and we would have fun with it. You’d be surprised. One time, I was in Kohl’s and I was buying a bunch of different stuff for the kids. The kids tell us things like, “I want a winter coat or boots” or whatever and, yeah, Kohl’s really hooked me up a couple of times. I didn’t plan on it, it just happened more than once.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the interviewed members. “Meet the Members” is a PRSA NCC initiative whose goal is to spotlight our members, their thoughts and ambitions by connecting and introducing them to more members of the PRSA NCC community.
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