Member Profile: Holly McPhail

Posted on September 30, 2019


Holly McPhail

Chief strategist and Creator at Windwood Communications, LLC

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If you had to live in a different city, what city would you choose?

I am a North Florida girl, through and through, but if forced to choose, I am definitely thinking somewhere in Colorado. I immediately think of Boulder but also really like Dillon.

Storytelling or innovation? Which is the most overused word in local government?

In local government, I am going with innovation despite self-identifying as a storyteller. Everyone wants to be innovative – proving their operations are efficient and cutting edge in today’s fast-paced environment. Not everyone embraces storytelling, especially in the south where the term can have a negative connotation (i.e., storytellers are liars). Regardless, both terms evoke a sense of hope coupled with vagueness. It’s akin to wanting to be part of the cool kids but not quite sure how you get there. People think they know what it means but there’s not a true sense of consensus.

What year would the most important in your life? Why?

2002. I did a lot of growing up that year: completed my internship in Scotland, volunteered for the summer in Romania, stepped on a sea urchin in the Adriatic sea off the coast of Croatia, discovered I was still in love with a boy despite my best efforts to move on and then convinced him to move to America with me. He’s now my husband and best friend and we have two beautiful boys together. That year set the course for the rest of my life.

(Complete this sentence) The one thing that I think is missing from local government is….

… deep community understanding and support for its existence.

What’s your area of expertise? This is not necessarily just your department, but something about local government work that you love learning about, implementing, and talking through with others:

Communications and marketing – from vision to strategy to mechanics. In general, I do not think that most “cities” do a very good job at communicating their value in a way that matters to resident, in a way that makes residents want to engage in decision-making. Often times we think of cities as these huge urban landscapes correlated with traffic congestion, crime and poverty – the governance of which is far removed from the everyday residents. Power is viewed as elite. But my experience has taught me that most cities are smaller with limited budgets and staff that wear 19 different hats, everyone knows everyone and power (used very loosely here) is held by those willing to step out and up for the greater good. What I am interested in is leveraging one another to help set the record straight. How do we reach the smaller local governments so they can realize the benefits of shared communications and how can we get cities to work collaboratively to elevate the brand of cities as a whole instead of competing against neighboring cities for tourist dollars?

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