100 Women, 100 Stories: Jessica Yurasek

Where do you live? San Francisco, CA

What is your profession? Social Media Strategist + Global Storyteller

Tell us about your career and how you got here. Today I’m working as a social media strategist with an expertise in content curation, and a focus on video. Currently, I manage several social accounts for clients at Praytell Agency (the fastest growing PR agency in the US!), including community management for Twitter’s official @twittervideo handle, curating and creating video content and Tweeting daily for Twitter.

For the past 10 years, I’ve helped many international organizations and brands find their identity and communicate it strategically through written and visual communications. I’ve also worked as an art director and producer on documentary films.

Previously, I collaboratively launched two innovative nonprofits, Counterspill.org and The Tiziano Project, which both promote truth through storytelling using design along with new media. I also worked with the NGO Amazon Watch to support indigenous rights and protect the Amazon rainforest by telling the stories of indigenous communities threatened by industrial development using my expertise in communication and media.

Besides my day job, I also maintain a personal blog and Instagram account where I share stories from around the world. I’ve traveled to over 40 countries on six continents, documenting my journey along the way. By sharing visual stories with insights about the environment and various cultures, I aim to cultivate empathy and inspire change for good. I’m particularly interested in sharing stories in defense of the earth and regularly work on passion projects to do just that.

What did you study in school? As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, I studied both photography and visual communication design. As a Master’s student at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, I studied Communication Management.

How did you know you wanted to study that? I’d always been interested in visual arts, and one of my first jobs, which helped pay my way through undergrad, was as a portrait photographer. It was a natural choice to study visual design and photography in undergrad since I knew I had a strong, creative eye. At the same time, once I graduated and began working as a graphic designer, I realized that I wanted to return to graduate school in order to learn more about the strategic side of communication, beyond just the visual problem solving aspect.

In grad school at USC, I studied social psychology, brand strategy, and corporate communications, with the intention of learning PR and communication techniques in order to apply them for social good causes. I have always been passionate about environmental and social justice issues, and have been fortunate enough to apply my expertise in communication management for underrepresented causes working to make the world a better place.

What’s the hardest thing that you’ve had to deal with in your career so far? One of my biggest struggles has been balancing my desire to use my experience in social media strategy, communication and storytelling for social good with the basic need to also support myself. While working at a nonprofit, it was extremely challenging to support myself with such minimal resources, which is not an uncommon challenge in nonprofit world. I realized that I am better able to contribute to telling the stories that need to be told in defense of the earth if I take care of myself first, and then work on passion projects in addition to my day job.

What has been a really rewarding moment in your career? The most rewarding thing in my career has been creating and producing videos and other visual stories that reveal truths about underrepresented people or regions of the world. It’s amazing to document and share stories that need to be told in order to cultivate empathy and inspire people to take action for good.

What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? “If you love a place, you have a duty to protect it. And to love a place, you must know it first.” I feel a great obligation to use what I know about our current state of environmental devastation combined with my experience of the beauty of this vast world through my travels, to tell stories that inspire others to fall in love with the natural world, just as I have.

I’m working towards shifting our collective definition of progress to reflect more sustainable, community based values so that we can protect and preserve our environment and defend our home from the effects of climate change.

The only way to change people’s perspective is through cultivation of empathy. If we want to build bridges in our country, arrive at real solutions to combat the imminent effects of climate change, and cease human rights violations, we must understand those who are different from ourselves. Stories are the best tools for instigating empathy and thus inspiring real change.

I endeavor to capture and share stories about the earth and underrepresented communities such as indigenous cultures, in order to promote awareness about these issues, and inspire people to change for good.

What’s something you want young women to remember when thinking about their future? The path might not always be clear or straight or obvious or easy, but if you spend time being quiet and listening to that inner voice inside your heart, if you can hear what it is you feel truly driven to do, and if you take steps, even stumbling at times, towards that one thing, you’ll be able eventually get to the place you are meant to be. It will not be easy. You’ll feel demotivated and confused. But, keep moving forward anyways. Also, read the book The Confidence Code. It will help shift perspective and empower you to move forward in our culture in a more aware and meaningful way.

What’s one thing you want to try to make an impact on in your lifetime? I am most committed towards working to preserve our home planet so that future generations have healthy, clean, safe and beautiful wild places left to enjoy, explore and inhabit. We are at a global turning point as a species. The science is in: climate change is the single largest issue of our lifetime, and action is needed now. What are the stakes? Our very home — the very ground we walk on, the water we drink, the forests and trees that regulate and clean our air. We must work together as a global community to shift our definition of progress, to redefine our value system and to prioritize environmental preservation so that we can leave behind a place for our grandchildren to not just live, but to thrive.

Where can people find you online if they want to connect?www.missjessrose.com

Instagram: @missjessrose

Twitter: @missjessrose