Robin Bronk: “Let your voice be heard”

Let your voice be heard. Use the voice you were given. Don’t be a bystander. Get involved to ensure that arts thrive in your community. Be an active citizen by letting your elected officials know that you care. As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic […]

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Let your voice be heard. Use the voice you were given. Don’t be a bystander. Get involved to ensure that arts thrive in your community. Be an active citizen by letting your elected officials know that you care.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Bronk.

Robin is Chief Executive Officer of The Creative Coalition — the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry. As CEO, Bronk is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating the entertainment industry and arts community on issues of public importance, particularly the First Amendment, arts advocacy, arts in education, and media literacy. Since being appointed to the position in April 2010, she has exponentially grown The Creative Coalition’s operating budget by designing and instituting corporate sponsorship programs and cause-marketing opportunities.

Bronk created the Spotlight Initiative, a division of The Creative Coalition that produces and supports films with messages important to the domestic and global agendas. Through The Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Initiative, Bronk has created partnerships with the leading independent film distributors and producers including HBO, Weinstein Company, Oscilloscope, Focus Features, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Paladin, Participant, Baltimore Films, Abramorama, Incognito, Original Media, Roadside Attractions, and ATO Pictures among others.

Under her leadership, The Creative Coalition signature programs include the New York Business Leader Task Force on Runaway Production, Moviemaker Mentors, Teachers Making a Difference, the Spotlight Awards, Stand Up For Class Mentors, Capitol Hill Leaders Advisory Council, The Creative Coalition’s Inaugural Ball, Reel Life Vs. Real Life Series, Seconding the First Dialogues, Parents Advisory Council for TV Watch, and Voices of Impact.

Bronk joined The Creative Coalition in July 1998 as the organization’s Executive Director and during her tenure has taken the nonprofit from a New York-based entity to a national organization.

She is an author and public speaker and most recently produced the feature film airing on Showtime, Poliwood, directed by Academy Award-winner Barry Levinson. She has also produced several award-winning Public Service Announcement campaigns. Bronk serves as spokesperson for The Creative Coalition and is a frequent speaker and communicator on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns. She has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, People, Boston Globe, The Washington Post; and has been a guest of “The O’Reilly Factor”, “Hardball”, “Scarborough Country”, as well as CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, PBS, New York 1 and other broadcast outlets as well as a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.

She was selected to be a participant in the 2010 and 2011 Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Conferences. She is the recipient of the 2011 Gracie Award for producing Watch What You

Watch, a PSA campaign for girls and body image. Bronk received the 2010 Artivist Award for her leadership in the arts and activism and the Honorary Trailblazer Award at the 2011 Woodstock Film Festival. She has edited two books, “Art & Soul” (Hearst Communications) and “If You Had Five Minutes With the President” (Harper Collins). Bronk also pens a weekly “Five Minutes…” column for The Hill newspaper. During the summer of 2011, Ms. Bronk began hosting a weekly segment on independent film for New York City’s leading radio station, WBAI-FM.

Bronk is a seasoned Capitol Hill strategist and advocate. She has represented The Creative Coalition at numerous Congressional Hearings, and represented the organization and its legislative agenda before Members of Congress and the White House.

Prior to her appointment, Bronk served as Vice President, Corporate Community Strategies, for APCO Worldwide, an independently owned global communication consultancy with offices in major cities throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Her clients included corporations, governments, industry associations and nonprofit organizations. Her areas of client services included corporate and internal communication; crisis management; issue management; government relations; media relations; coalition building; corporate social responsibility and online communication. She also served as the Director of Cause Celeb, an APCO division that matches celebrities and entertainment leaders with national causes and issues of importance.

Bronk played a leading role in APCO’s work with the MCI Foundation. As an on-loan executive, she served as the interim director of the foundation, managing its multi-million dollar philanthropic grant-making program. Besides MCI, Bronk’s clients also included the ASCAP Leiber & Stoller Music Scholarship Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Geographic Society, the Recording Industry Association of America, National Council of Jewish Women and American Forest Foundation.

Prior to joining APCO, Bronk worked for ABC News, served as a program coordinator for a weekly education series that aired on C-SPAN and worked as a program instructor of the Close Up Foundation.

Bronk serves on the New York Cultural Task Force, is a board member of The White House Project, The Close Up Foundation, Carmel Art & Film Festival, Gold Coast International Film Festival and Young Playwrights Inc., and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and Women of Washington. She has won numerous awards and honors for her public affairs work.

Bronk received her Bachelor of Arts from the Pennsylvania State University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in the South — Clemson, South Carolina. A college town, home of Clemson University. My dad (who’s retired now) was a physics professor at Clemson University and my mom (who’s also retired) an interior designer. A very left brain and right brain household.

Growing up in a university town was uncomplicated and quite a lot of fun — the college campus was our playground, we rode our bikes to the town lake in the summer, the prom was in the gym, and the Friday Night Lights of the high school football game kicked off the weekends. My first job was selling hotdogs at the college football games.

The arts have always been a major influence from my first Broadway show at age 7 (Hello Dolly starring the indomitable Ethel Merman, with whom my mom was somehow able to arrange a backstage meet-up) to playing Golda in the high school production of Fiddler on the Roof (and do not forget that this was a southern-fried production in a town where bagels didn’t debut until 20 years later) to making my first income when at age 9 I sold a macrame keychain that I had woven (and the sale wasn’t even to a relative!).

I had a childhood rich in the arts. I was one of the lucky ones.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A favorite book that I often go to for inspiration and aspiration is Dr.Seuss’s, Oh the Places You’ll Go. Its theme is pretty simple, yet timely and truly always uplifting to me — life is a terrific adventure waiting to be had. The themes of the book remind me that success is about taking action, about going places (both metaphorically and literally), and maximizing each moment fully.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I do have a favorite life lesson quote that probably isn’t that deep, but I do find it both comforting and inspirational. Most important to me, it conveys that success is attainable:

“In the end it will all be okay, and if it’s not okay then it’s not the end.”

I often call this quote to mind when I’m in a challenging situation. In the non-profit sector as well as in business, it’s important to understand that there are many moments when you have the power to change outcomes with creative thinking and action.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

By way of background, The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President.

In early March, I was asked by my neighbor Grace to participate in a local drive to support the purchase of personal protective equipment, or “PPE,” for the hospital where her daughter Lissy works. It was a moment of realization for me — even with modest monetary donations — everyone who participated felt a connection to doing something positive for a hospital that serves their community. Based on this personal experience, we came up with a way that we could use the starpower in The Creative Coalition’s ranks — artists, actors, writers, producers, directors, influencers, business and community leaders and more — to support our healthcare workers on the frontlines and get them supplies they so desperately need. We galvanized a new partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy to create “Protect the Heroes,” a campaign that encourages people to donate directly to their local hospital to help in the fight against COVID-19. Since launching, tens of thousands of individuals, businesses and communities have joined to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a difference in their local community through

Most recently, the Major League Baseball Players Association directed MLB players and their fans to donate to

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. We just don’t get up and do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Ummm….going into labor in the Clinton Oval Office 🙂 In my past life, I worked for a leading Washington, DC-based firm, APCO Worldwide, as a public affairs strategist. One of our clients was the prolific songwriting team of Lieber & Stoller (Jailhouse Rock, Stand By Me, Kansas City, among other top hits). Our task was to create the Leiber & Stoller Scholarship program to provide assistance to young aspiring songwriters, musicians and vocalists. As we developed the program, I remember being in awe of these artistic legends who believed so strongly in the power of the arts that they were investing in the next generation of artists. That was profound for me.

One of the highlights of the project was arranging an Oval Office meeting with President Bill Clinton, a huge Lieber & Stoller fan. We were there to talk about the power of music and the arts, and the scholarship program — investing in America’s next generations of musicians.

And, that was quite a defining moment for me to realize that arts have the power to positively impact everyone from children to world leaders.

Of course, the meeting did digress some into the President challenging himself to “guess the flip side” (you may have to explain that reference to some of your millennial readers) of Leiber & Stoller hits. Still the power of arts, bringing folks together cannot be underestimated.

Oh yeah, I may be the only person in history to cut off an Oval Office meeting with the President because I went into labor.

So that happened…and then four years later I’m in the delivery room about to have my third daughter, the cell phone rings and it’s the actor Billy Baldwin who was then president of The Creative Coalition calling to talk me into taking the helm of the organization. And since I was done with birthing babies, the only thing that remained was to really devote my professional career to the arts.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I can’t name the actual individual, but every year when we go door to door in Congress advocating for public funding for the arts — there’s that moment when we’ve changed a vote toward funding the National Endowment for the Arts. And, that happens because somehow we were able to shine a light on something that personally resonated with that member of Congress. And, you see it reflected in their faces, you see not just a glimmer of understanding the resonance of the arts, but full-fledged understanding that voting to fund the arts is opening up the widest doors of opportunity in their communities. It’s always a beautiful moment. And, we know it’s going to impact those who need it the most.

Are there three things that the community can do to help you in your great work?

Let your voice be heard. Use the voice you were given. Don’t be a bystander. Get involved to ensure that arts thrive in your community. Be an active citizen by letting your elected officials know that you care.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  • Compartmentalize — break it down in order to solve.
  • Know when you get your “yes” — so stop selling.
  • Take a breath and think.
  • Know when to walk away.
  • You don’t have to fill the silence.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious during this tumultuous time? Can you explain?

When you’re thinking about someone -send them a text, call them — be generous with your ability to connect

— Plan for the future

— Indulge in some team junk food for the mind — play a game on Zoom, watch a sitcom together, color/create together

— do something physical

— Laugh

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

You have an extraordinary amount of power to make a positive impact. Let your footprint be one that is thoughtful. Let your personal experience guide you in how you can best spend your time and energy in making the world a better place.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Gee, I’ve actually got my hands full in putting the need for arts and public funding for the arts in the forefront of the national agenda. Arts is a bountiful resource and source for all.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Melinda Gates — she’s already done so much for the arts. I’d love to unleash her brilliant mind on developing a campaign that would speak to the citizenry on putting arts on the forefront of investment.

How can our readers follow you online?

Social media handles:

Facebook: Robin Bronk

Facebook:The Creative Coalition

Instagram: robin_bronk

Instagram: @TheCreativeC

Twitter: @TheCreativeC

Twitter: @Rbronk

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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