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Heather Back

A born storyteller finds her hook

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Heather Back has always been a storyteller.

When she was in high school, she told stories through music. She and four friends were in a band called The Pentagons and would entertain her classmates while they gave blood during Blood Bash.

Back would put on talent shows for her family, write creative stories and paint.

Now, as associate vice president of marketing for the San Diego Foundation, Back finds a way to tell the stories of donors.

The most important part in telling a story is “finding the hook – what’s most compelling,” Back said. “Sometimes you just know. You make rational decisions with your brain, but you’re really motivated with the heart.”

Through her stories, she makes sure the story of the organization’s programs and its successes are put out to the community.

“What’s the underlying mission? It’s about finding the end in mind and telling how to get there,” Back said. “When I was young, (storytelling) was about entertainment. It’s still about making someone feel good.”

In her life’s story, Back said she’s in the “first third at best.”

“You can change and adapt in a book. Maybe I’ll get a new book cover. I have a lot of things I want to do and projects to accomplish,” Back said.

Back moved to San Diego from Ohio 16 years ago. She went back to school at San Diego State University for her MBA in integrated marketing and went on to work for San Diego Magazine.

Back’s “heart strings pulled” her to the San Diego Foundation and charitable events. She works with media on strategic partnerships and writes press releases and storyboards for the company.

Back measures the success of her projects by the amount of coverage received and how much it would have cost as an advertisement.

“It’s about getting great stories out and motivating people to care about the community,” Back said, adding that raising awareness is at about 50 percent.

When measuring her personal success, Back said she has a high standard for herself.

“Every step along the way, I’ve just taken the leap and somehow knew it would happen.”

There has always been someone in Back’s life giving her a challenge. She said “clarity, commitment and focus” have helped her to do things that haven’t always come easy.

“If you’re wishy-washy and not certain, you won’t get there. You need clarity,” Back said.

When she was packing up and moving to California, she had friends and family trying to prevent and dissuade her.

“They weren’t putting me down or oppressing me – they were testing to see if I really wanted it,” Back said. “It happens all the time. It’s when you really want something that you notice.”

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