Editor’s Note: While we focus on our work in the community and rarely shine a spotlight on ourselves, this series is designed to put faces and names to the great and challenging work United Way does every day.
Finishing up his first month at United Way of Greater Cleveland, Ralph J. Davila, APR, director of news and community content, found himself thrown into the whirl of planning for the organization’s annual meeting and report, speech writing and campaign building. With a background in freelance, corporate, nonprofit and agency work in marketing and promotional communication, he now will apply his skills to United Way’s marketing department.
Finding a place, creating a department
After graduating from Kent State University, Davila worked for several boutique advertising and creative agencies building their infrastructure to offer holistic public relations services. With experience in communications, marketing, social media and advertising, he says he has always been in directorate positions, often creating departments from scratch.
Shifting between agencies, he eventually moved on to nonprofits, taking a position at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where he helped ease the organization through a brand redesign. The Conservancy connects Northeast Ohio residents to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park through public outreach, events and classes. It is also responsible for the preservation of the park.
“It was exciting to be their first director of PR and marketing,” he says. “They did a rebranding and needed assistance bringing the rebrand to fruition. I was brought on to drive the rebranding effort and then set up the infrastructure for all of their communications.”
He says he enjoyed the excitement at the Conservancy, working directly with the CEO to set up the organization’s social media and communications.
From there, he moved on to EY, a global accounting firm formerly known as Ernst & Young. Switching gears, he helped establish and gave workshops on internal communication tools. For the employees at EY he promoted top-down use of “Yammer,” a tool designed for organizations with more than 10,000 employees.
“My role there was very, very different,” he says. “My role was to help deploy the tool but secondarily to work with executives to overcome any of their fears of using a tool like this.”
Getting back to his roots, he freelanced in PR, social media and marketing for many of clients before eventually moving back into the nonprofit world.
Resonating with a community
“I looked back at my career and it came to me that nonprofits resonated the most in terms of my life experiences,” he says.
While he knew he wanted to work in nonprofits again, he related to United Way’s work on a personal level.
“One of the reasons I especially wanted to be here was because I lived a life very similar to a lot of the folks who use the services the agencies provide through United Way support,” he says. “So I can really understand and relate to the struggles a lot of the people go through in a lot of ways.”
Now, he is picking up speech writing, annual meeting tasks and almost anything else that needs written at United Way of Greater Cleveland. Interested in further integrating and promoting posts on multiple platforms, he says he hopes to create a framework over time to maximize communication efficiency.
Outside work, Davila enjoys riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He says he travels with it often, including rides through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
An avid record collector, he has more than 600 albums, the majority rock ‘n’ roll and funk, he says — thrifting his way to some great finds, such as an original Jimi Hendrix album still in its plastic. A musician himself, he plays drums when he can.