Savvy Communicator: Q&A with Matt Kelly

Photo courtesy of Matt Kelly

In our second post for the new Savvy Communicator feature, we sit down – or, rather, play e-mail ping pong with – Matt Kelly, a Chicago-based freelance social business consultant and online PR/marketing professional with previous ties to Weber Shandwick and State Farm Insurance.

Q: Why did you start a career in PR?

A: I’d like to say it was a childhood dream, like firefighting or playing shortstop for the Yankees. Not the case. I studied public relations as concentration while at Eastern Illinois University’s J-school.

Fortunately, after I entered undergrad undecided, I found a once-in-a-lifetime mentor in one of the department’s professors: Terri Johnson. She helped me to develop my writing, campaign-development and presentation skills. Moreover, she showed me the importance of advocacy: not just B2B or B2C, but person-for-person. Studying PR in grad school at Ball State helped galvanize my understanding of its history and application.

Q: What is one of the most rewarding experiences in your career and/or a favorite campaign?

A: Helping to build State Farm’s social media presence has been my crowning achievement thus far. We were able to demonstrate value not through vanity metrics, but through building personal, shareable experiences for people. An example: One day, someone tweeted his tongue-in-cheek disillusion after seeing one of our Magic Jingle commercials, saying we hadn’t performed any magic for him. Shortly thereafter, we found a simple magic trick, shot a video of our manager performing it and sent the video to John P. directly (link to video). The video became a presentation piece for executives and earned State Farm a new advocate.

Q: What are some best practices?

A: Best practices in public relations, by and large, haven’t changed since Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays in the early 1900s. Practitioners are still working to create mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and publics. A solid understanding of research (primary AND secondary) and new tools allows us to know our consumers on an unprecedented level. Organizations leveraging those insights to create worthwhile experiences and programs for communities will succeed. By doing this, you get a third-party endorsement with interesting content and – most importantly – context. The blending of paid, earned and owned media now requires us to be conversant in all facets of the marketing mix.

Q: What keeps you in the field of PR?

A: The field has changed dramatically even since I entered the field as a full-time practitioner in 2009. People like Jeremiah Owyang and Brian Solis have added to a new body of knowledge about social media for businesses and consumers, respectively. And while they’ve done so, I’ve had the pleasure to work within the walls of a Fortune 50 company and an agency that serves several of them. Not only is the role of the practitioner evolving, but so is the function. Right now, I’m in the field because I like to hear how an established company sounds on Twitter and Facebook. And I like being their vocal coach.

Q: Where do you see PR in five years?

A: Every PR person will be responsible for being conversant in all things social media. Technological advancements in how we can target publics through paid placements will lend to a signal-to-noise ratio consumers will grow increasingly intolerant about. As publics tune out on the largest platforms, only unique, one-to-one experiences will prove impactful. Thus, I’ll probably be shooting my manager performing magic tricks for Twitter followers … but in real-time.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: Pick my brain on Twitter: @SoMattKelly.

Do you know a PR or marketing professional who should be featured in our Savvy Communicator feature? Contact Lisa with details.



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