In January 2019, the American Botanical Council (ABC) hired Sahar Hanrahan as its communications and marketing coordinator. Since then, Hanrahan has breathed new life into the nonprofit organization’s social media presence. Instagram (@herbalgramabc) now abounds with photos of the spring and summer blossoms in the gardens of ABC’s headquarters, the 2.5-acre Case Mill Homestead, and ABC’s Facebook and Twitter pages (@HerbalGram) keep members and followers up to date with timely posts, videos from the Sustainable Herbs Program, and snippets from media interviews and ABC publications such as HerbalGram, HerbClip, and Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletins. “I was hired to communicate who ABC is to our members but also to people who don’t know us, to help people get a sense of what ABC does and why it’s important that we are supported by the larger herbal community and other stakeholders,” Hanrahan explained.
Her job involves answering media inquiries, publishing press releases, and updating different social media accounts. “Having access to so much scientific information and research on herbs is really enriching,” Hanrahan said. “I think it’s important that people are aware of the scientific evidence on beneficial plants.” Born in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, Hanrahan earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, the Netherlands. She gained her first work experience during an internship at the Groningen Forum, an international film house. There, she handled online communications, advertising, website updates, and volunteer management for film festivals. In 2015, she accepted a public relations position for the international Building the Future of Health conference in Groningen, which sought to bring together health care, city planning, and public health to promote healthier aging.
After the conference was held in June 2016, its organizers could no longer employ Hanrahan full time, so she looked elsewhere. With family near Austin, Texas, she relocated to the United States, and, in 2017, began attending the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine. Learning about herbalism, she said, gave her a renewed sense of purpose and also introduced her to ABC as an organization, since the classes are held in the ABC annex building.
“Spending a lot of time in the garden multiple times a week helped me get to know Austin better and feel more at home because I knew the plant life,” Hanrahan said. “So now, everywhere I go, it’s like I see familiar faces.”
Hanrahan’s enthusiasm for herbal studies and background in communications and public relations are vital assets to ABC, and she looks forward to future projects with the organization. She particularly enjoyed working at her first HerbDay, a public event that ABC holds at its headquarters every May to celebrate herbal medicine and promote its educational mission. The biggest change Hanrahan foresees is the update of ABC’s extensive website, which she thinks will be a dynamic tool for future marketing strategies.
Denise Meikel, ABC’s development director, welcomed Hanrahan and her talents. “Sahar’s been a boon to our communication and marketing efforts,” Meikel said. “She’s enthusiastic, equally able to be self-directed and a good team player, and filled with creativity and technical knowledge. ABC and Sahar are an excellent fit.” In her free time, Hanrahan enjoys hiking and camping, plant walks, and self-guided ashtanga yoga practice. She also makes her own herbal tinctures and has begun to experiment with plant-based dyes. “Before I moved to the United States, I developed an ulcer from stress,” she said. “It taught me to listen better to what my body’s saying, and I got into natural ways of healing…. [Studying herbalism] helped me realize this is something I want to focus on. I wanted to work for a nonprofit that’s health related and is working on bettering the community that I’m in.”