Scott B.’s Project: An interview with Ann Arbor YMCA Communications Director Jan Hack

The second grad student “up” for discussion this week is Scott and his project with Jan Hack at the Ann Arbor YMCA.  Here’s a link to the interview.

There’s reference to the YMCA’s web site in the interview, so I thought I’d also include a link to that:

Like we did before, go take a look at the interview on Scott’s page and then come back here to offer your comments and feedback.

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21 Responses to Scott B.’s Project: An interview with Ann Arbor YMCA Communications Director Jan Hack

  1. Jaclyn Y says:

    Another very interesting interview! I thought that it had a nice flow to it, and I like how detailed Scott was with his writing. I think the most interesting thing about this was her answer to the question about technical vocabulary.

    This could be just me, but the answer, or lack thereof, brought to mind the type of language websites use. I think the average person reads at an eighth-grade level? So websites for things like the YMCA should have language that is easier to read. Too much technical vocabulary can turn people away from a website. It was an interesting thing to think about. Great job!

    • Scott says:

      That is interesting you noticed that about the question. I actually took those questions about technical language straight from Redish’s book on page 24. I was curious to find out how in depth of a role, if any, she had in revamping the website when it came down to the minute detail of anticipating the language the site users would read.

  2. swilso93 says:

    This was a another very good interview! I enjoyed the subject matter very much. This is the type of job I would like to go into so it was very informative and helpful. Being in charge of social media for a company is quite interesting and sounds fun! The questions were relevant and flowed well. I enjoyed that you acknowledged the comments and then continued with the question like the last interview.

  3. rachel says:

    I find Jan Hack’s background fascinating. It’s one thing to end up in a communications position despite not having a formal background in communications. Her being a former specialist in 18th century American furniture and folk art was an intriguing curveball. I can’t say I’ve ever come across such a combo.

    It was nice to hear Hack speak about the judgment calls she has to make when posting about the different events and subject matter each department would like advertised. She makes active decisions about how those pieces will be worded after the initial information is given to her, and also decides when something is pertinent and when it needs to make space for something else. Negotiating these things is something we’ll need to think about if any of our future positions involve social media in this way.

    • Marianne says:

      I agree, Rachel. Being able to cull the information down to what is needed and appropriate is a big part of this type of job.

    • Scott says:

      I was also quite surprised to learn of Jan’s background and how she has used somewhat instinctual efforts and coming to a communications way of thinking through learning on the job.

      • Steve Krause says:

        One of the things I always say to students at the undergraduate level is it’s not like you need to get a license to be a “professional writer” or “communications director” or anything like that– meaning the degree in and of itself is only going to get you part-way. You need to get out there and get experience in the form of internships and freelancing and the like.

        Of course, one of the other things that I see often enough– especially in our graduate programs– are students who come into the MA program in professional writing because they are in a position where they are expected to do different “tech writing” or “communication” things, and while they can sorta “fake it,” they want to get more of the training that our program offers.

  4. totallykyle94 says:

    The questions prepared for this interview seemed well thought-out, and asking follow-up questions was a good idea. Communicating via email for an interview works well because that way there is no chance of missing out on any information from Jan’s answers, and I liked how you chose to interview someone who also works for the YMCA because I am sure you had prior knowledge that helped you to ask good questions. I liked how you included an introduction to give background information about her. It was intriguing to me that someone with Jan’s prior work experience ended up at the YMCA. She seems to know quite a bit about how valuable social media can be for outreach, so that section was interesting. Good job!

    • Scott says:

      I do know quite a bit about the different programs the Y offers, in terms of camps, fundraisers, and exercise programs. So differently mining from my own experiences helped me throughout this interview process.

  5. jmoss9 says:

    I enjoyed this interview and thought the initial questions and follow ups were well planned and formatted. I was very intrigued that the Y’s Communications Director does not have a background in communications and “fell into” the job.

    It was interesting to me that Ms. Hack’s advice for someone looking into a career in communications should be adept at listening. It is refreshing to hear that because it is a great source of frustration for me in that several co-workers of mine have terrible habits of only listening to half the information we are presented with and then acting like it is someone else’s fault when they realize they don’t have all of the information.

    I also like her take on listening so that she can “truly assess what it is that is needed” and that it is sometimes different than what the person said they wanted.

    Despite not having a background in communications she certainly sounds like she is thriving in the field. Probably more so than many of the people who do have a background in communications.

  6. Joan Kwaske says:

    Along with almost everyone who commented, I found it really intriguing that Jan Hack didn’t have a background in communications, despite being the Y’s Communications Director; her story was really interesting.
    Overall, the information was well organized, and I especially liked the link that explains the communications dashboard. The social media overview was interesting to look at, though I wonder what the yearly information is like compared to the monthly. Mostly, I wonder who follows the Y on social media. What age range interacts with the posts? The Y is for all ages, so I thought it was something to consider.
    Additionally, I really enjoyed the advice she gave at the end! This project as a whole was very well done!

  7. Debra says:

    A good, solid interview. The social media questions flowed very well. I would have liked to have heard more about how available analytics affect her strategy for social media, since that is a topic I am interested in right now. I thought her comments about the Haiti trip and the AA YMCA were really interesting, especially her understanding that some members might be interested in the global focus. And despite her lack of training in communications, I thought it was quite astute to emphasize listening and writing as important skills.

  8. aderengo says:

    This was a great interview. It was easy to read with good insights that she has to offer with how the YMCA goes about doing their social media.

    Like others have stated. I thought it was great that even though she had no specific background in communications she allowed her passion to communicate a cause she believes in. It goes to show that anyone can communicate and not just communication majors for a business.

    The advice that she gives for someone looking into communications was interesting. While listening seems like a no-brainer, it’s surprising how many times we can go about not fully listening to those around us. Sometimes we need to be reminded to do better at that. I also liked her statement that sometimes you need to prove that you can help a business, even if they think they don’t need you because sometimes you can see a gap that they aren’t seeing.

  9. Marianne says:

    Kudos, Scott. Job well-done. You asked interesting questions both rounds and the information you obtained was very relevant for a communications professional wanna-be 🙂
    The fact that she “fell into” her job as communications director was very interesting and adds proof to my personal theory that frequently, it isn’t just what you know but also who you know that helps you get a job. She is obviously very good at communication based on her responses to your questions, although I did notice, like Jaclyn, that she didn’t really answer one question. That is something that could have been addressed better in a live interview but other than that, the email format worked really well and you got some great information.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks. I agree. I’ve not done an interview through email before. While the email interview did provide me with an effective way to articulate my questions and give her ample time to reflect and provide feedback, I do think there are certain drawbacks from not having a live interview. One thing I noticed from Ja’La’s interview was that there was an overall conversational tone to her interview because they were talking back and forth. Ja’La could ask a question more in tune with what they were discussing because of some idea that Stewart spurred.

  10. andrew says:

    One that immediately caught my mind was the fact the YMCA is interested in marketing. I suppose it was kind of naive on my part, but since the organization has been around so long, I just neglected to think that “To increase brand awareness and engagement” is something that most organizations are concerned with.

    I also noticed that Jan Hack was not sure about the influence Facebook and other social media has on recruitment. This is interesting because despite being unsure, it is pretty much seen as a necessity to have these social media accounts. We are aware that a social media presence is required to have a voice in the community yet we cannot fully articulate why this is. I wonder if there would be a way to gain more insight into what kind of impact a Facebook page has on the success of a organization. Especially one like the YMCA since they have been around long before social media. It may be as easy as asking people how they learned about the Y’s services. We (people who are concerned with “selling” a brand) do get a sense that without social media we will remain invisible to the public as they come to rely solely on the internet for information.


  11. jjwourman says:


    I thought this was a great and well done interview! I found it interesting how both of our interviewees didn’t necessarily go to school for communications or marketing but do a substantial amount of work in these respective fields. It seems like FB is the go to social media platform for advertising but I’m curious if business owners and organizations are utilizing this tool in the most effective way? Does the Y offer special discounts for memberships if a viewer visits their website or FB site? This might be a great way to grow memberships, by having online discounts that you redeem in person when you sign up!

    — Ja’La

    • Scott says:

      Thanks, Ja’La. I’m pretty sure the Y does not offer any type of discount through the Y website or the Y Facebook page. I agree that would be a great way of advertising and promoting memberships, but there is so much red tape Jan would have to go through with corporate in order to achieve that kind of discount. As a member of the Y people receive discounts on classes. Otherwise, for guests classes can sometimes be double the price for members.

  12. haniam1315 says:

    This was a very well conducted, organized interview. Like everyone else, I was also surprised that Jan Hack didn’t have any formal communications experience, but it also made the interview much more interesting. You picked a good person to interview, and excellent questions as well.

    I was actually rather intrigued when you mentioned that you conducted the interview through email. Usually, interviews that aren’t over the phone of in person have more cons than pros, but I genuinely think you did it in a perfect way. The questions were straightforward and to the point, and you didn’t jump around from one topic to the next. There was good flow, and the answers to the questions helped establish that as well. Overall, it was very well done, interesting subject matter, and well thought out. Good work!

  13. LouiseWrites says:

    The main two parts I have taken from this interview are the necessary points of listening and being persistent. Without listening then the Communications Director wouldn’t be able to take in all the information and cut it down to the core message she would then distribute to social media, and without being persistent the message may not have reached as many people or made as big of an impact. I forgot about the boost feature on Facebook, and I’m curious to know the type of audience reached by the YMCA with and without the boost in the past. Great interview!

  14. ReneeG says:

    Much like everyone has already commented, I found this interview to be very interesting! I felt that it had a very nice flow to it and that you did a really nice job. Also like others have stated, Jan’s background (or lack of) was really interesting to me. I’ve always had the mindset of gain experience by going to school and then land a job, so it was nice to see a totally different perspective.

    I think that you asked really well thought-out questions. Nice job!

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