Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Author Jo Ann Herold of The Honey Baked Ham Company Is…

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Author Jo Ann Herold of The Honey Baked Ham Company Is Helping To Change Our World

I would like to celebrate the lessons I’ve learned from others to live a big life and lead with love. There’s a lot of negativity right now and I strive to create positivity….it’s about having a strong purpose, values, and mission and leading with kindness and love.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jo Ann Herold.

Jo Ann is a purpose-driven executive and brings more than 25 years of marketing experience. She has a long track record of delivering financial results and award-winning marketing programs that build sales and profitability for iconic brands in the B2B and B2C space. She has served as the Chief Marketing Officer for The Honey Baked Ham Company, LLC twice. Prior to Honey Baked Ham, she was the Chief Marketing Officer for Interface, Inc., where she globalized the marketing team and brought forth a highly effective, integrated marketing approach resulting in five consecutive quarters of record financial performance. Prior to Interface, she was Vice President of Brand Marketing and Public Relations at Arby’s Restaurant Group resulting in a brand turnaround and 13 quarters of same sale growth. She also has owned her own marketing firm.

Jo Ann has an MBA in International Business from Mercer University in Atlanta, and an undergraduate degree in Communication from Mississippi State University. She is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and Georgia State University. A passionate community volunteer and served as Vice Chair of the Arby’s Foundation, whose mission is to end childhood hunger. She serves on the Executive Board of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and served as the Board Chair. Her work has been lauded by industry and community groups including the National Diversity Council’s Most Powerful and Influential women, two AMY Awards from the American Marketing Association. She was recently the recipient of the Atlanta AMA’s Lifetime Achievement award and the CMO Club’s President’s Circle Award.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where a sense of place and purpose is a part of the culture. It’s a stunningly beautiful spot on the bayou, located near New Orleans and Mobile, AL. It’s a place where everyone knows your name and you will be treated with some of the best food in the world. It’s a place where I still meet my bff’s for a happy hour every December 26th at 4:00 and we laugh about the past and look forward to the future.

My parents, Mike and Marilyn and brother, Mike, and my sister, Blake, all still live there. My mom and dad were high school sweethearts. My dad was a computer scientist and my mom taught third grade. We are also die-hard Mississippi State fans (#HailState)!

My first job was working as a STAR at McDonald’s. Through that role, I gave the birthday parties and wore the Hamburgular costume. I learned two valuable lessons from that first job that would set a path for my career. One, is that I love serving others. Food is the ultimate source of joy. And, two, that I have an enduring love for iconic brands. This early job spurred my marketing career, working for Arby’s, Inc., The Honey Baked Ham Company, LLC (twice), and Interface, Inc.

All this to say is that my family and my friends from Ocean Springs are my roots and my wings.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that changed my life. Harper Lee so eloquently shared the story about fighting for justice and what is right. It was published just as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum and is such an important book. The lessons learned about overcoming prejudice, being courageous, and standing up for others.

Another author I love is Truman Capote. Truman and Harper Lee were childhood friends in Monroeville, AL. I have read most of Truman’s books and short stories and love how they influenced and served each other throughout their respective careers.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Oh gosh! There’s so many. I do remember being mortified about having to dress up in the Hamburglar costume at McDonald’s when I was 16. The lesson learned is that these funny things that happen create resilience.

I worked really hard to become a good speaker. I’ve learned to practice, practice, practice before getting in front of a large audience. I work hard to craft an engaging story to make the presentation meaningful and entertaining.

Over the years, I have learned to find my voice and use it, whether that is in a difficult situation at work or within community work. It’s important to be courageous and be a bad-ass.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I would like to celebrate the lessons I’ve learned from others to live a big life and lead with love. There’s a lot of negativity right now and I strive to create positivity….it’s about having a strong purpose, values, and mission and leading with kindness and love. My values are:

  • Be kind and generous
  • Drive lasting value at work
  • Have fun, be there, and laugh a lot
  • Take the high road and the long-view
  • Be brave, be a badass

After each chapter, I’ve included worksheets for the reader to define their purpose, strengths, goals and values.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

My brother, Mike, is 16 months younger than me and a great athlete. He was on the traveling soccer team and quarterback of our high school team, the Greyhounds. Mike was very popular in high school and college. I introduced Mike to my sorority sister, Wendy, and they became high school sweethearts.

They broke up after college and Wendy was about to marry someone else, but called off the wedding. I encouraged Mike to call Wendy, and he did and they rekindled their relationship and got engaged.

Early one morning, I received an urgent call from my mom. Mike and Wendy, on the way to a wedding shower were hit by a truck. Mike was being airlifted to Elvis Presley Memorial Hospital in critical care in Memphis. Things did not look good and I jumped in my car from Atlanta to Memphis to be with my family.

When I got to Memphis, I learned Mike was in a deep coma. He had a pretty severe head injury. The doctors told us “if” he made it, he’d have to relearn everything–how to walk, talk, and live.

Mike was in a coma for 18 days in the ICU in Memphis. My parents basically moved into his house so they could be there everyday. I traveled from Atlanta every weekend and my sister, Blake, was there as much as she could be during the week and on weekends.

On the 19th day, Mike woke up from his coma. He immediately started talking about football and his job at the bank. Mike was then moved to rehab at HealthSouth, where he had an amazing rehabilitation team that included his lead therapist, Megan. They set out to heal Mike. Mike was so incredibly determined to get back to a normal life and heal. He pushed his trainers to do more, work harder, because he not only wanted to survive–he wanted to thrive.

Today, while his tracheostomy scar is still visible, he has no scars. He’s president of the bank in Ocean Springs and has two beautiful daughters. Mike is involved in many boards and was named Rotarian of the Year. He was also recently recognized as a “Hometown Hero.”

I tell this story because it’s a beautiful example of determination and hard work.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I had two people encourage me to write a book. The first is Jeff Hilimire. He’s the CEO of Dragon Army and founder of Ripples Publishing. He recently wrote his 4th book and we became accountability partners when I was authoring my first book. Randy Hain, a prolific author of 9 books also encouraged me to share my story.

I have been a big believer in purpose and values and have articulated that for many brands. I decided to develop the same process for myself. Once I did that, I put it on paper and shared it on LinkedIn. From there, one thing led to another and I started to get asked to speak about purpose and mission.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

First, listen to issues. Read and understand and be vulnerable when trying to learn about a problem.

Second, look at the problem from all angles. Be vigilant and kind when helping others.

Third, have empathy and gain perspectives from those who are impacted.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

My purpose is to Lead with Love. For me, I started by defining my principals, beliefs and ideals that guide my behavior. For example, my personal motto is “good goes around” and that means being of service in the world. That purpose has defined many of my professional and personal choices.

Professionally, I have been able to use my marketing and purpose for good. For example, I was asked by Hala Moddelmog to rebrand and ultimately serve as the vice-chair of the Arby’s Foundation as a part of my role, along with Kate Atwood. Through that work, we had a mission to eradicate childhood hunger. As a result, we raised over $18 million dollars to end childhood hunger. I also serve on multiple boards, including Covenant House and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Leadership is a privilege and serving others and helping them be successful is something I am always focused on. Clear communication, good strategies, and aligned goals help others when leading.

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

First, I wish someone told me not to worry about being perfect. One of my mentors, Steve Romaniello, would say, “I’d rather have a good product this year, than a perfect product next year.” I used to wait to share my work until it was perfect and polished. Now, I share my work early and often. It helps to create a better work product when others are involved.

Also, follow your passion, show up, and lead. Do what you love, love what you do. You will spend a ⅓ of your time at work. Be happy and make friends while you are working. I have many best friends at work and try to eat lunch and dinner with others.

Moreover, give with my entire heart and show love and grace. Teams that are drawn together by love, stay together. I am now looking for the up and comers and including them on teams that I lead.

Through friendships and at work, I show up, listen, and laugh a lot. Humor can cut out a lot of stress and make situations more fun.

Finally, be balanced. Exercise, going out to lunch with friends and family, and taking vacation will make you a better leader and a more interesting person.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Maya Angelou reads, “I’ve learned people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I try to remember that quote with every interaction I have with others. I try to be present in the moment with them and really listen.

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

I would love to have breakfast with Sara Blakely. I admire her tenacity and humor. I follow her and her husband on social media and love how they work to serve others. She created a successful business with Spanx and is a mom and a friend to many.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can pre-order my book ‘Living On A Smile: 16 Ways to Live a Big Life and Lead with Love’ on Amazon here:

I love LinkedIn at My Instagram is joannheroldp_lop or you can e-mail at

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

Thank you for giving me the opportunity!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Author Jo Ann Herold of The Honey Baked Ham Company Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.