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Shonali Burke on the Link between Effective Communications and Positive Results

By Cynthia Happy Cyuzuzo

"I can change my future if I do the next right thing that I need to do right now."

This is among the wonderful words of advice I gleaned from Shonali Burke, a consultant, PR and social media expert and a communication lecturer at Johns Hopkins University.

We all have our passions. For Shonali, it is excellent communication. Shonali shed light on how any business can be more visible to the people it needs to serve, which is nicely captured in her firm’s description to provide integrated PR for measurable results.

"Ultimately, every product or service that succeeds makes people’s lives better,” she said.

My conversation with her opened my eyes to the power of digital transformation. As Gartner defines it, digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities.

While we live in a digital world, the concept of digitalization is often misunderstood. Shonali explains: “Digital transformation is a cultural change; it has to be something that is embedded at the core of the business philosophy. There has to be a concerted effort to make sure that not only are senior leadership on board, but also there is a very methodical way to make sure it percolates through every part of the organization.”

As an emerging young professional, I want to know how to successfully carry out any activity I come across in my career. Shonali says it is important to focus. As you're working, identify what kind of outcomes you're working towards. She says often in communications, people say we’re doing storytelling. We should define what it means.

For Shonali, a business framework of effective communication is to determine the way to measure what is done, identifying the goals you want to achieve and finding out how it aligns with the business objectives.

“You’re creating a lot of content, but how is that helping the organization to achieve specific outcomes?” Shonali asked. “Are you creating a group of influencers who can help you spread your story, to impact how people think? Because how people think and how they feel is going to impact how they behave.”

Hence, it is important to know whether your activities are in line with the goals of your organization and whether they are moving it towards more success.

Smart Communications and Successful Entrepreneurs

People start businesses for different motivations. One commonality is how effective use of digital communication can help grow your startup.

“First look at your business on an operational level,” said Shonali. “Consider what is being used to conduct your business and assess what you can eliminate and shift it into the streamlining corner. It is also key to optimize resources. We have so much technology at our disposal and it is important to build communities, using technology, that can help you share your story, hence building attention for your business.”

Brand awareness is also very important. As much as it can be tempting to use every single social media platform out there, that's not smart.

“Analyze the actual financial and tangible outcomes you're trying to achieve, that will convert into financial benefit, because businesses are in business to make money,” Shonali shared. “They shouldn't be in business if they're not trying to make money.”

Hence, it is important to integrate technological platforms that align with your goals. Another important related point is that your communication should not be one way.

“You have to follow up on how that message is being received,” said Shonali.

Key Lessons

The conversation with Shonali underscored the following key points related to communication and career success.

1. Narrow your career choices. When choosing your career, consider what you like and what makes you feel good and do it.

2. Growth requires space. The point of anything is growth and growth can not occur without space. Do not get so busy with your present tasks and miss time for growth.

3. Patience is necessary. People who are in the early stage of their careers can fall into the trap of thinking that things will move quickly. Sometimes that happens, but don’t necessarily expect your dream job overnight.

4. Research and have a strategy. It is not enough for a business to use many social media platforms. You need to research to identify who you want to reach and to have a defined strategy of what you are going to share that aligns with the organization's goals


I started the “Interview an Innovator” course to further my skills in communication. I graduated from SNHU in 2020 with a BA in communication and a concentration in business. I thought the program would provide professional tips about how to interview someone, but the experience far exceeded my expectations.

My conversation with Shonali was phenomenal. Her experience in the communication field and the way she would like to continue growing is an inspiration. I learnt how I could be successful in my career in communication by knowing more about digitalization as that is where the world is at. The pace of change due to digitalization will only accelerate. Thanks to Shonali, I also gleaned that "as exciting the digital transformation is, most important is the human element because that is why we are here. So we can’t lose our empathy, compassion and basic human needs which is to connect, be connected and be of service.”

With an overwhelming ambition, Shonali identifies her vision as "whenever I die, I would like to know that I've done whatever I can for every child to have the best possible future.”

This inspires me to never set aside my morals in any professional setting and to always work toward my vision.

Connect with Shonali Burke via LinkedIn and you can learn about her work at this link.

You can also connect with Cynthia Happy Cyuzuzo on LinkedIn. Cynthia wrote this story after going through the Global Innovators Academy Interview an Innovator experience.

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