#HireFriday: Smart, an interview with Megan Kessler

SHIFT Account Director Megan Kessler

As you’ve probably noticed by now, we’re pretty big on our 7 core values here at SHIFT. One of the things we like to do is to recognize team members who not only fully embody but go above and beyond those values. This week, we sat down with Megan Kessler, an Account Director in Boston, who won her award for the core value of smart – and that’s an understatement. She’s really smart.

We asked Megan what it means to be ‘smart’ at SHIFT, how she recognizes the seven core values on the teams she manages, and how she sees SHIFT’s leadership embody the values.

What does it mean to be ‘smart’ at SHIFT?
Being smart at SHIFT means a lot of things.  It means making connections that others may not have recognized yet. It means listening carefully to your clients, really hearing what it is that they need, and then figuring out where to find it. It also means recognizing opportunities to learn, taking them, and then teaching others.  And, most importantly, it means recognizing and responding to what motivates and builds trust within your team.

When hiring for your team, screening to make sure a candidate embodies all the SHIFT values is important. Once someone new joins your team, how do you help him or her grow and assimilate into the SHIFT culture?
One of the first conversations I’ll have with a new hire is about values.  I’ll tell them upfront that SHIFT’s values aren’t something we talk about, but something we live.  I’ll offer anecdotes about my experience at SHIFT and at other agencies and how SHIFT is different – it always ends up being a conversation about values.

Then, as I get to know them more as a professional and a person, I’ll point out the values that they innately embody – connected and positive; smart and creative; ballsy and dedicated – and look for opportunities for them to teach those values to their team and the agency.  I’ll call out examples of SHIFT’s values in their work as well, sharing their success with the larger team.  I’ll also point out examples of teammates’ success, and offer context on how and why it ties back to the culture that SHIFT has built.

I always try to align new hires with the people on the team who can teach them the most – whether they are a direct teammate or not. Building a support system for a new hire is incredibly important because they will be far more comfortable asking questions of their peers at the outset.  This is a huge opportunity to bring them into the culture on their terms and to build their trust in the agency.

How do you reinforce the SHIFT values within your team?
I lead by example and recognize great work.  I make it my mission not to take great work for granted.  My team is incredibly talented, and I am inspired by the work that they do every day. I hold myself to their standard, and I also challenge them to move outside of their comfort zones.

I’ve found that certain SHIFT values are inherent in most everyone I work with – dedicated, honorable, positive, connected – these values are what define great people and great leaders, and SHIFT has many.  Other values form the foundation of great work – creative, ballsy, smart – and these are the values that remind us to push the envelope every day.  The team inspires great work in each other by living these values – I just make sure they all get to see what I see.

How do you stay ‘smart’ within the industry? What would you recommend to others?
Read everything.  Management books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters – whatever you can get your hands on.  Time is rarely better spent in PR.  The pace of life at an agency can sometimes make reading fall off of the priority list, but you can’t let that happen.  Each time that I spend just 30 minutes reading my news feed on LinkedIn, I come across an article that spurs a story idea for a client, offers me a new perspective on a persistent challenge, or helps me to illustrate an important lesson in to my team.  It happens literally every time.

On the days you don’t have time to read, watch or listen to the news.  To be effective in PR, you need to know what is going on in the world.  Any national evening broadcast will give you the information you need to make timely connections for your clients – challenge yourself to look for them, even in your off-hours.

Lastly, ask questions. When I came to SHIFT, I had great experience in traditional PR, but little else. There is so much more to PR than pitching and writing.  To think like your client – the CMO – you need to understand marketing analytics, content strategy, social media, investor and analyst relations, the competitive landscape and the industry trends that are driving their business.  The best way to develop this understanding is to ask questions of your clients and your team.  And don’t discriminate.  Your boss can teach you a lot, but so can your peers and your direct reports and the specialists in your office (shout out to the marketing team!).  There are far more “smart” questions than “dumb” ones – so speak up!

What tips do you have for others who are interested in public relations positions at SHIFT?
First, show that you can “think big,” and that you are intellectually curious. SHIFT’s approach to PR is multi-faceted and this is what differentiates the agency from its competition. Media relations is the foundation upon which campaigns are built, but it is rarely the only consideration.  Demonstrate that you understand the role of social media, content marketing and other facets of the marketing mix and how they can enhance media relations efforts to get us closer to a client’s end goal of increasing audience or driving leads.

Second, show that you are keeping pace with technology by reading up on the newest tools and thinking creatively about how they can be used in a communications campaign.  SHIFT’s own blog offers some great insight here.  Chances are, if you are interacting with the agency in a creative way, we’ll notice.  Case in point, my SAE responded to a Twitter post from our CEO and, a month later, we hired her.

Third, come to an interview prepared with examples of how you’ve lived SHIFT’s values in your current position and in your past work.  Cultural fit is incredibly important.  We need to be able to see you as a member of our team and the best way to illustrate that you are the right person for the job is to have ready examples of how you are already a SHIFTer at heart.

Are you interested in joining us at SHIFT? We have a number of current openings including Marketing Coordinator, Account Director, Senior Account Executive and more. To apply, visit our Careers page.


Amanda Grinavich
Marketing Analyst


Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk