Who is Jill Schnarr and what is she doing at Telus?

In just 16 months, the chief of everything related to brand and social innovation helped move perception scores up five points.

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By Will Novosedlik

Jill Schnarr has been busy since she took on the role of chief social innovation and communications officer at Telus.

When strategy spoke with her almost a year-and-a-half ago, Schnarr was new to the role (having been promoted from VP of public affairs) and had a massive mandate that touched on health, agriculture and the company’s Connecting for Good social programs, which, at the time, she said were “about leveraging our technology and our compassion to enable better human outcomes.”

So we thought we’d check in on the progress so far and how she’s helped Telus on some of these fronts.

Jill, you’ve been in your new role for 16 months now. Has it aligned with your expectations? 

Well, my job’s morphed into three jobs.

I’m chief social innovation officer, making sure that we’re integrating social purpose into everything that we do. I’m effectively the chief brand officer, with responsibility for the brand team and the marketing operations team – because marketing at Telus is distributed across the business units. And then I also have communications, so I’m the chief communications officer as well.

For anyone who believes in brand- and purpose-driven culture, it’s a dream role. It ensures that the core brand principles are activated across all those areas rather than having to fight for a place at each table. At the end of the day, it’s about protecting and elevating our corporate reputation. It’s about elevating our brand and who we are and what we stand for. And it’s making sure that we’re living and breathing our brand right across the business.

It’s given me a view of every single customer touchpoint, of which there are literally thousands in an organization as diversified as Telus. Weaving social purpose into the execution of all those touchpoints has played a big role in helping Telus move the needle on brand perception. As you know, it can be tough to even move one or two percentage points on brand reputation measures, but we went up five points for the general public’s perception of Telus as a socially responsible brand.

When you first joined, you talked about leveraging your technology and your compassion to enable better human outcomes. Telus Health was a big part of that story. What have you been able to accomplish on that front?

[We created] Telus Home Health monitoring service to help doctors monitor patients remotely, [for example]. It’s made a big difference for people that have had COVID symptoms that are not severe enough to require hospitalization. It also helps those who have been released from hospital to recover at home. Telus Home Health Monitoring saw incredible growth this year – we expanded from one province to four, and now we’re supporting over 30,000 patients.

It’s been very effective when you think of the pandemic and the massive demands it has placed on acute care. It has helped to reduce that strain, allowing hospitals to send patients home a little earlier, comfortable in the knowledge that they will continue to be monitored remotely. Patients are generally happier at home, which helps recovery. Releasing them from hospital a little earlier also allows you to build your capacity to support other patients, especially when there are spikes in case loads like we’ve been seeing with each new COVID variant.

Back in 2020, we also spoke of your “For Good” social initiatives. How have they done?

We’ve really expanded these programs over the last year.

The first is Mobility for Good. This is a program for seniors, for youth transitioning out of foster care, and for indigenous women who are fleeing violence. We either provide them with a free or low-cost smartphone. We added an additional 7,000 Canadians to the Mobility for Good program in 2021.

Then there’s Internet for Good. It’s available in B.C., Alberta and parts of Quebec, basically wherever we have incumbent telephone or internet infrastructure. We launched the program to all seniors who are on the guaranteed income supplement as well as to low-income families who get the child tax benefit. We welcomed 12,000 new households over the past year.

The third program is Tech for Good. This is a program where we work with charities or organizations that serve Canadians with disabilities. We give them the devices or the extra technology they need to access their smartphone or use their laptop. The program also supports more than 4,600 Canadians with disabilities with the custom training and support they need to be able to use their technology and connectivity.

The fourth Program is Health for Good. As an internet company and a mobility company, we believe it’s important that we make sure everyone can get access to internet and mobility. As a health company we want to make sure people in marginalized communities can get access to world class healthcare. That’s why we continue to expand our mobile health clinics. We now have 14 clinics operating in marginalized communities across Canada to provide healthcare right on the street.

With all these initiatives, it’s easy to understand your brand perception metrics.

These initiatives have really differentiated Telus. The brand perception measures reflect the cumulative impact of all of them being done simultaneously. We’re identifying the programs that are needed. We’re leveraging our technology to transform health and transform agriculture. We are using our technology and our connectivity to build a global powerhouse. It’s not just telecommunications, but also a transformation of health and a transformation of agriculture.

And now we’re starting to see the fruits of our labour pay off in our brand and our business. Our fourth quarter business results are industry-leading across the board on customer experience, customer loyalty and customer loads in comparison to Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Videotron. Ultimately it reflects our new brand promise, just launched this past year: “Let’s make the Future Friendly.”