Pivoting Without Panicking

by Don Browne

VSI’s New Director of Communications, Lisa Dunn,

Creates New Paths of Opportunity for the Industry

Lisa Dunn portrait

When the Vinyl Siding Institute’s leadership decided to create a director-level position to drive its overall communications, they hit the jackpot when they found Lisa Dunn. An accomplished writer and association management professional, Lisa enjoys playing “detective” as part of her role in crafting quality communications. She allows industry pros to “break it down” and open up when describing what they need from the association.

In the first two months, on the job, Lisa was focused on getting to know the members in order to get her “VSI sea legs,” and was having a great time doing it.

And then COVID-19 hit.

“At first I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me,” she observed.  “But I was beyond impressed with how well the VSI team, the board and the member companies all stepped up together in the face of uncertainty."

"The transition was so seamless – I have never witnessed a greater level of cooperation from one industry than the one the vinyl siding ‘community’ has demonstrated these past six months. They pivoted without panicking. It was both inspiring and motivating. It’s also established real momentum that we continue to build upon every day."

Lisa played a leading role in pivoting without panicking, helping to transition VSI’s events and conferences to online virtual formats. Her efforts in driving this major shift also appeared seamless.

“One month into the pandemic, we trained 1,200 new installers. It was our best month ever,” she said, adding: “Coach Rob Balfanz [VSI’s Director of Workforce Development] deserves most of the credit for this milestone, but the challenge of marketing these and other programs was an exciting one for us, and it has been rewarding to see the strong response to our e-blasts, e-newsletters and social media activities that we use to promote these events as opportunities for growth and advancement – in spite of the big unknown.”

The VSI has also had a record 200 participants for its Architectural Design Program (ADP) webinars – thanks in part to Lisa’s marketing efforts – with six more remaining on the 2020 schedule.

Lisa said she doesn’t like to refer to the term, “new normal” when describing the current state of affairs.

“As a marketing professional, even with so much uncertainty in our world right now, I see opportunities to create new paths for the industry we serve. There’s no doubt that it’s a challenging time, and we all miss the ‘in-person’ dimensions of traditional meetings and events, but we’re also saving resources on time and travel.”

Over the Years: Writing and PR Experiences

While she has a wealth of communications management experience in the association and nonprofit sectors, Lisa attributes some of her success in her current role to her experiences as a writer.  As a special sections editor and reporter for the Aspen (CO) Daily News, she wrote feature articles and hard news with a focus on real estate, entertainment and tourism. In addition to her writing and editorial duties, Lisa also managed a pool of freelance writers.

“The reporting and editorial work was very much like being a detective,” Lisa said. “You learn to excel at research in a hurry in order to capture the essence of a story, and you need to know how to ask the right questions as well as make people feel comfortable enough to open up when you interview them.”

Her work in writing gave her the confidence to take on public relations management roles with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Alzheimer’s Association. During this seven-year stretch, she developed skills for raising awareness and visibility for these organizations and their causes. In these roles, she leveraged her writing and reporting experience to develop annual publicity plans; foster strong relationships with media outlets, industry and community leaders, and relevant celebrities; and deliver clear and reinforcing messaging.

In the early-2000s, Lisa was charged with the unique challenge of merging her Alzheimer's Association chapter with three other Washington, D.C.-area chapters to form a more dynamic group - the Alzheimer’s Association, National Capital Area Chapter.

"I had the opportunity to work with outside PR consultants who specialized in organizational restructuring. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience, and we were successful in helping with rebranding and marketing a more robust chapter that would better serve the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We took charge of the narrative right away to address any fears, and generated a strong, positive reaction from our core audiences about combining forces to strengthen our mission.”

In 2013, Lisa launched her own freelance writing and editing business with a focus on supporting associations and non-profit organizations with content creation, blogging, and ghostwriting for thought leaders in the building and construction, real estate and environmental industries. Her project work ranged from writing and copyediting articles, press releases, and newsletters, to playbooks, case studies, white papers and professional bios. Many of the initiatives across all industries involved technology-based products and events in which the clients leaned on Lisa’s expertise with planning and development.

“Being in business for myself gave me the flexibility to give my clients special attention to turning their ideas into concepts that boosted their brand awareness,” Lisa asserts. “This work served me well in collaborating with the VSI team to create activities and initiatives that have elevated our presence in the marketplace.”

Looking Ahead

As the new Director of Communications, Lisa’s primary goal is to ensure that VSI’s marketing strategies and initiatives are focused on keeping vinyl and other polymeric sidings the #1 choice. Working with what she calls “the most dedicated team of unique individuals she’s ever worked with,” Lisa feels confident that this goal will be achieved by:

  • facilitating communications to VSI and from member companies in a wide range of ways, including but not limited to social media channels, monthly e-newsletters, VSI’s website and blog, regular e-blasts and more;
  • maintaining the highest level of member participation in marketing decision-making through VSI’s Marketing Committee meetings; and
  • assuring that certification program marketing responsibilities are fulfilled.

Because she enjoys being creative and highly-engaged with internal and external stakeholders, Lisa has come up with innovative ways to connect with members and reach out to a wider audience through a variety of virtual platforms. Lisa works closely with the different VSI committees and workgroups to identify areas that need marketing support. And she heads up the Marketing Committee which consists of her counterparts from the VSI member companies.

“It’s been refreshing to have a director-level communications leader to interact with our member companies’ marketing teams,” said Kate Offringa, VSI President & CEO.  “Lisa has proven to be a powerful asset to VSI and will be an integral part of our success in helping the industry gain more exposure and more market share.”


Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.