It is with a heavy heart that we recognize Lauren Braden's final day at Washington Trails Association. After nine years as WTA's Communications and Outreach Director she is leaving to focus on the work that she most loves: communications and digital strategy, along with.
Without a doubt, Lauren has left her mark on WTA. From her arrival in 2003, she has transformed WTA's presence and reach in the hiking community. Her strategic ideas and talent for hiker engagement have contributed largely to WTA's robust growth and impact, keeping hikers connected to WTA's mission in ways that were new, exciting - and that worked.
Lauren has proven the power of storytelling by narrating WTA's story to an ever-growing cadre of hikers. Many of the things you've come to love about Washington Trails Association can be traced to Lauren:
- To deepen hiker engagement, she created Trail News, our monthly e-newsletter in 2004.
- She came up with the idea for Hike-a-Thon, WTA's biggest fundraising event, now in its ninth year.
- She launched the Signpost Blog in 2005 to deliver up-to-date hiker news. Still going strong today, WTA's blog served as an early model for other non-profits.
- From concept to design to content, Lauren led a complete redesign of WTA's website in 2007. She harnessed the power of our user-generated Trip Reports by adding a revised Hiking Guide, a map-based Hike Finder, a new photo gallery and more. Website visits have more than tripled since that time.
- She recognized the power of Twitter and Facebook in 2008 and has since built a highly-engaged fan base on Facebook of more than 16,600 people.
- She supported big changes in Washington Trails magazine, ushering in full-color and, with the latest issue, a great redesign.
There's more, but you get the picture of the depth and extent of Lauren's vision. Each of these tools has enabled WTA to grow, be successful in policy campaigns, and serve as the go-to source for hiking information in the state. Her work in online engagement was recognized last year by Groundwire when it presented WTA its first Connector award.
Lauren will be very much missed by everyone here at WTA, but we will definitely carry on her legacy. I am moving into the role of Communications and Outreach Director after spending the past four years as the website editor. Lauren has been such an excellent mentor that I except the transition will be mostly seamless. As my first order of business, I am looking for a smart and savvy Digital Content Manager (who loves hiking) to round out our communications team. It's a position that has evolved from Lauren's strategic decision to devote energy and resources to new media.
While we are super sad to see Lauren go, we are excited to see what direction she takes as she pursues her passion for travel writing and digital engagement work as a consultant. You can stay in touch with Lauren by visiting her website, Northwest TripFinder, or liking it on Facebook. This site is really becoming one of the go-to sources for travel in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Check it out!
Please join us in wishing Lauren a fond farewell.