How did you hear about SalientMG and why did you decide to join the firm?
Mack McKelvey and I first met in 2010. What started as a professional relationship based on my role at Advertising Week grew into a great friendship. So when Mack was building SalientMG, I had a front row seat to that process—and it’s been exciting to watch this grow over time. Mack and I have talked from time-to-time for several years about the “if”s and the potential “when” of working together. I finally felt like this was the best time. I’ve accumulated enough interesting and diverse experiences that I now have more of the tools to be an effective part of what’s happening at Salient. I like being part of things that grow and are independent. But a lot of coming here goes back to Mack and her enthusiasm and care for this industry. What I’ve quickly discovered is that this team feels the same way.
Describe your role and what you’re most looking forward to in your position.
I’m the senior VP of brand, creative, and content. My role is to take all the great things that SMG has done, continues to do, and will do, and put a layer of creativity over it with the goal of raising visibility. Essentially, I’m helping drive how we use creativity to be a powerful success multiplier for our clients and for ourselves.
Given your role, what is your personal philosophy about the purpose and power of marketing and communications in growing or moving a brand forward?
I think the things that are most human are the most effective. In my experience things that feel very human tend to stand out. Humor and comedy on one end and deeply emotional stories on the other—they resonate well because they’re core to being human. If you position yourself to make people pause to think about what you’re saying about your product or service, you’ve given yourself the advantage. We’re in a jargon-heavy industry, and I’ve been guilty of falling into that, including in this interview a little. But I make it a point now to look through a human-first lens and move in a way that feels natural and unforced. It’s about empathy but also an overall approach of humanizing problem-solving for a customer, client or prospect.
What is the best piece of advice someone gave you and how has it impacted your personal and/or professional direction?
Early in my radio career, the person who brought me onboard told me to always care about what you put on the air. I think you can extrapolate that out to anything that you do: Take the extra step. Do what it takes to make sure you’re not compromising quality, the people around you or who you are as a professional.
There are other pieces of advice I’ve been given or have stumbled across that I’ve also found interesting and impactful:
- I’m not great at asking for things, but a colleague once told me, “They can’t say ‘no’ unless you ask.”
- Take pride, not credit has become one of my mantras. I’ve gotten much more satisfaction in seeing other people thrive and succeed.
- Never let the lyric get in the way of the groove. It was the takeaway songwriter Allee Willis had after arguing with Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire over the meaning of the hook on the song “September.” It was the “ba, de ba” part. They fought about it because Willis wanted lyrics but White was right. That’s the most iconic part of the song. To me that lesson means you may have an idea about something, but you need to listen to everybody and really take in those other points of view in order to make the best decision on achieving your ultimate goal.
What advice would you give to a startup founder or leader on gaining the advantage through brand-building, thinking creatively, and/or producing content?
Tell your story in the most real way possible. People will root for people who are trying to do good in this world, and doing good also means building a viable business. That includes acting with purpose, in a way that feels real enough that it offers a peek into your thinking and your passion for what you’re doing. In my experience, startup founders and employees have a great deal of passion, but that can get stripped away as they work on their narrative. It’s important to tell the whole story and inspire people to root for you.
SalientMG specializes in helping growth-stage technology companies. Real tech talk here–how would you describe your everyday technological prowess?
I’ve been working adjacent to technology for a long time. And I think being one step removed from it allowed me to think a little bit more objectively about it. The things I’m most interested in are technologies that solve very specific problems, whether that’s just practical or has some element of emotion layered on top. That’s the beauty and excitement of working with growth-stage companies like our clients. They’re taking the risk of addressing very specific challenges head-on. In my own life, in terms of technology, I’m not quite that level of a risk-taker. I’d say I fall in the second half of early adopters. I don’t mind experimenting—I’ll definitely try something new if I think it’s interesting.
What is one thing your colleagues don’t know about you (yet)?
Oddly enough, I’m a pretty open book. But what people may not know is that I never order regular coffee. It has to be espresso. This may sound like a “Portland coffee snob” thing, but it’s a quirky preference. I’ll blame my being half-Italian on that one.