Cristina Jones is an intentional storyteller
with a focus on action, impact and culture. Mrs. Jones and her team use
world-class storytelling to reach new audiences, spotlighting Salesforce.org as
the technology platform built to power purpose. She believes that when people
and communities thrive, business thrives. Her team integrates customer
advocacy, media partnerships and influencer strategies to build lasting
relationships. In 2020, Mrs. Jones was named to the Ebony Power 100 and
was featured in the World Woman Foundation’s #ShesMyHero campaign.
The art of world-class storytelling takes
passion and commitment to consistently execute, particularly in the digital
era. When executed well, content creators have the opportunity to promote a
sense of community and purpose among people.
C-Suite had the opportunity to sit down with Cristina
Jones, Chief Engagement Officer at Salesforce.org. Mrs. Jones discussed the
work she and the Salesforce.org team are doing through storytelling, culture and
technology to empower individuals to solve the world’s biggest problems. She
also shared her career journey and thoughts on critical corporate issues, such
as DEI and the Great Resignation.
Cristina Jones: Before joining Salesforce.org, my
career was in the media and entertainment industry. I’ve had the pleasure of
working at most of the major film and TV studios, with the bulk of my career
being at 20th Century Fox.
While I was there, I led the international marketing team
for Television Distribution. I had the privilege of working on franchises that
really shifted and changed culture and conversation, including “The Simpsons,”
“24” and “Glee.” However, it wasn’t until I launched the franchise development
department for 20th Century Fox Film that I truly realized the power of
technology and how it can accelerate intentional storytelling that connects to
audiences and builds community.
There I focused on our portfolio of franchises and
discovered that every one of them, from “Maze Runner” and “Ice Age” to “Planet
of the Apes,” had one thing in common, in between film releases, the audiences
I wanted to engage with were in digital spaces, and they were telling their own
(amazing) stories about our franchises. I needed to get smart about how to
leverage technology to reach and engage with these fans in a relevant, direct
and scalable manner.
As a marketer, brander, content creator and lover of all
things culture, I have always been passionate about storytelling and how
intentional storytelling can drive community and real connections. I now have
the pleasure of being at Salesforce.org, where I do just that. Our work powers
the purpose of people dedicated to solving our world’s biggest problems. We’re
combining our love of culture, content, creativity and action leadership with
intentional storytelling and technology to help our global community of
nonprofits and educational institutions operate effectively, raise funds and
build more meaningful relationships with those they serve.
Everyone is focused on a ‘seat at the table.’
But what does that mean?
Jones: To be honest, and I know a lot of people say
this, but it’s true and poignant, and that’s stepping outside of my comfort
zone. Not for the sake of doing it, but with the understanding that I have a
responsibility to do so if I am going to inspire the change I want to see. For
me, that means being part of more public speaking opportunities and being more
of a public figure. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to keep a rather low
profile. I’m happy letting my team shine and celebrating others. However, I
understand that I also need to be out there, and represent as a leader in
technology and really carry my own message. Whether it’s health inequity,
climate change, representation or the need for action leadership; I must
confidently step out onto the proverbial stage and as they say, “not only talk
about, but also be about it.” I need to use my platform and success to be seen
so others are inspired to not only feel seen, but to act as well.
Jones: Everyone is focused on a “seat at the
table.” But what does that mean? Is it a wobbly folding chair that doesn’t have
influence and does not provide the space for people to do their best work and
be supported as such?
I think it’s incumbent that we perhaps think of a different
reference point beyond the chair, and if we must discuss chairs, then it’s
imperative that we lead with the notion of abundance and pull up as many chairs
for everyone else as possible.
Historically, the discussion around DEI has been siloed with
the idea that you need a separate “multicultural marketing” team, but everyone
should be responsible for inclusive marketing. It’s no longer “digital
marketing” or “e-commerce”—it’s just “marketing” and “commerce,” and the same
is true for being intentional with our marketing so that it reflects the world
Our audiences know when we get that right and when we don’t.
There are real data and stats around how inclusive teams do the best work, which
makes sense as more points of view are inherently part of the process.
One thing I’ve noticed is that marketers often don’t see
themselves as full stewards of the brand. As content creators, we need to think
about how we drive the conversation forward. We should have ownership over all
things related to brand and inclusivity, diversity, intersectionality and all
the spaces in between should be a part of that.
I like the phrase “empathetic marketing.” To me, the best
marketing is about more than collecting the right skin tones or genders or body
types and so forth; it’s about connecting to the human experiences that we all
share, no matter who we are.
Coming from a Black woman’s point of view, cultural
appreciation, cultural appropriation and cultural exploitation are very
different things. Black people don’t just struggle. We can’t always show up as
needing to be saved. I like to challenge people and ask, “Would you be proud to
be represented in this manner?” We care about sustainability, workforce development,
health equity, fashion, food, motherhood, technology and marketing, and the
teams leading those programs should reflect that.
As marketers, we must engage with our audiences in all their
complexity. Which, honestly, makes the stories we tell more interesting. Net,
it’s the right and smart thing to do.
[Content creators] should have ownership over
all things related to brand and inclusivity, diversity, intersectionality and
all the spaces in between should be a part of that.
Jones: People want to do meaningful work, and it’s
important that organizations create space for their teams to be able to do so;
that is now considered table stakes for teams, and it’s a positive shift.
There is an expectation that in addition to being able to do
your best work while at work, the organization that you work for is
contributing positively to cause areas that you care about. Your company is an
action leader within itself.
At Salesforce.org, we recently launched the award-winning
“Force Multiplier” podcast with iHeartMedia, and it was amazing to see the
team’s passion across the board working on this project. We took intentional
storytelling, action leadership, technology and Salesforce.org resources to
create a provocative podcast, hosted by Baratunde Thurston, that really unpacks
how unprecedented collaboration is required to address unprecedented
challenges. In “Force Multiplier” we discuss key challenges within health
inequity, mental health, education gaps, workforce development, social
injustice, the crisis of the unhoused, sustainability and so forth.
The part of the process that was most interesting, at least
to me, was that we featured executives from Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity,
Patagonia Provisions, University of Maryland, COVAX (Gavi) and The Boys and
Girls Clubs of America in conversations with the likes of Charlamagne tha God
and more. That vast representation of collaboration, and the net asset we
created, was something that we could be proud of as an organization and also a
team. It was a positive work and human experience that also drove the business
forward and highlighted our community of customers.
Our work as the technology partner for The Atlantic’s
Inheritance Project is another great example. The Salesforce.org and Atlantic
Re:think teams were inspired by the net results and celebrated being able to
shine a light on Black voices and how technology can accelerate that shine. The
opportunity to work on a project about American history, Black life and the
resilience of memory energized our teams.
My colleagues at Salesforce.org prefer to call the Great
Resignation the “Great Awakening,” and I agree. It’s a welcoming mindset shift
and creates an opportunity for companies and people leaders to unearth real
meaning in the work their teams do. It falls to us to actively connect what we
ask our teams to do to why we are asking them to do it.
Jones: Meet audiences where they are, not where you
assume they are. If you can find a creative way to do that, most likely through
the use of data and technology, you’ll find the fundamental human truth and be
able to create meaningful cultural moments for your brand. Intentional
storytelling and action leadership are crucial to the process and the mindset;
it is there that you’ll find the most engagement and success drivers for your
business. You are the steward of the brand, you are a culture (and content)