Last week, Burness Communications marked its 25th anniversary as a company.
We started in 1986, supporting The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Council on Foundations, working out of an accountant’s office in the Landow Building in Bethesda, Maryland. Twenty-five years later, a lot has happened; in fact, to put it more proactively, we have helped make a lot happen.
Over the past quarter-century, we have collaborated with more than 350 non-profit organizations, and we have grown to a 50-person company. We dramatically expanded our public health and health policy work, to the point where our “brand”, for some, has become synonymous with advocacy for reforms that improve both people’s health and the systems that impede progress towards getting there. We added an explicit policy component to our services, because social change happens at the macro level, and effectively navigating the policy worlds at local, state and federal levels is essential for any comprehensive strategy to change the status quo.
We opted for adventure, and offered our services globally. Working in the fields of global health, agricultural research, forestry management, and climate change, we’ve done work in more than 30 countries—advising some of the world’s most respected NGOs—about communications strategies and tactics for improving health, feeding the hungry, and managing our global environment. And, so that we’re “on the ground” with our work, we opened an office in Nairobi, Kenya, becoming the only communications company in Sub-Saharan Africa to focus on social change with non-profit organizations.
In the last few years, we added a Health and Science Advocacy unit in to our mix, training researchers and other experts how to most effectively advocate for what they know and believe – because spokespeople are only spokespeople, and it’s the experts who are the most credible messengers. They need to translate what they know to public audiences in language that ordinary people can understand. And, most recently, we added BurnessDigital, in recognition that the Internet and its derivatives are where millions of people get their information. We want to help our non-profit partners tell their stories, and much of that story telling is and will be happening online.
So, a lot has changed over 25 years. Or more pointedly, the organizations with which we’ve worked over the years, with our help, have made a lot change. But, a few important constants have held true over the years. For one, we’re still in the same building, so no one gets lost on their way to work. We still really enjoy working together as a “work family,” if that can be said. Several times, we have been named as one of Washington’s “best places to work,” and that’s because we respect and appreciate each other within the company, and we take enormous pride in the work we do for the people and groups that grace us with their trust. And, perhaps most important, we have stayed true to our mission – to advance social change for nonprofits worldwide. We were a mission-driven organization 25 years ago, and we retain and live that mantra today.
Also in time for our 25th anniversary, our very own Kay Campbell has taken photos of every staff member, now visible on the Our Team page.