I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Kern, Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Media Frenzy Global, a leading integrated PR and marketing agency located in Atlanta, GA. Katie, an award-winning marketing and communications professional, has led creative innovation and strategy for a variety of brands for over 15 years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Compared to my relatives, you might say that I took the road less traveled. I come from a family with an extensive medical background, ranging from nurses and doctors to radiologists involved with nuclear medicine. Although I found those professions admirable, I did not feel drawn to a career on which lives would depend. I knew for sure that I was a great communicator by nature and a confident public speaker. This set the stage for my interest in public relations. Other life experiences also came into play. I have always enjoyed helping people solve problems — something we do every day with our clients. I learned the importance of teamwork by taking part in sports such as track, basketball, and tennis. These attributes helped guide me in the direction of the career path I’m on today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
What I find most interesting as Partner and Chief Operating Officer is that I’ve become deeply invested in learning how to strategically take our company to the next level. Many business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders want millions in revenue but how does one reach that level? What does it really take to scale your business successfully? I have always had a winner’s mindset. When I started my career as a coordinator, I walked into the office as if I were the CEO. Now that I am a Partner, I am still eager to learn how can we advance even further by mapping out the steps we will need to get to the next level.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It wasn’t funny at the time, but I remember writing an email with, shall we say, unflattering comments about a client’s work. Unfortunately, I failed to realize he was copied on the email. You can imagine my feeling of pure sickness when I realized what I had done. I immediately acknowledged my action had been unprofessional, owned up to it and apologized. As fate would have it, this client and I would work together for a few years after this occurred, and he was gracious and forgiving. A couple of lessons come to mind: First, always be constructive and diplomatic when dealing with clients. Second, always double-check the names of people copied on your emails!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Media Frenzy Global stands out because we are a group of creative, enthusiastic and highly intelligent professionals who are making a difference. We are determined to be changemakers in our industry, but we always link our bold ideas to campaigns that deliver practical advantages for our clients in the form of improved sales, building the brand or other promotional needs. Not only are we passionate in delivering on our promise to our clients and stakeholders we have a successful track record in delivering on promises to our team as well. At Media Frenzy Global, when you perform at a high level you are rewarded, and we make sure everyone on our team knows and feels they are appreciated. We empower our team to solve problems, expand on their creativity and bring their full-self to the table. It’s an important company culture formula that time and time again has delivered great results.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our team is strategizing and implementing new ways to break the standard traditional methods of PR and marketing. Companies aren’t just looking to “move the needle” anymore- they want to make a massive impact. The most exciting new projects today often involve emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, mobility, and so on. Many of our clients are technology leaders, and it’s exciting to help them tell their stories. We have a few amazing projects up our sleeve that we believe will truly help brands reimagine their narrative, with an immersive twist. I’m thrilled that Media Frenzy is riding this wave with our clients. Personally, as a mentor for Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Program (WEOP), I teach workshops on various marketing and PR disciplines. I intentionally include topics and offer advice that can help women business professionals move forward on their business or career paths. While WEOP is important to me, I think all professionals have an obligation to give back to their community through service or mentorship, especially for women. There is strength in numbers. When one of us succeeds, we all do.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice to women leaders? Never second-guess yourself. You are doing yourself a disservice if you constantly question the work you are doing — and you’re not doing your client any favors, either. You are the expert. Will you get things wrong? Yes. This means you are on the path to getting it right. At the end of the day, I truly believe you have to trust your gut and stop second-guessing your knowledge and intuition. Be confident, and this, in turn, will instill confidence in your clients.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
View everyone as an individual, not as a collective. Every person on your team has different views, goals, and aspirations. If you are giving the same advice to each member of your team, someone is going to fall behind or slip through the cracks. Sure- leadership is hard work, but, success depends on your ability to understand the unique goals and aspirations of team members. Throughout my career, I’ve recognized how valuable it is to curate individual goals. In the end, individual success will drive the success of the whole team.
None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Throughout my professional and personal life, I have been blessed to have an immense amount of support from family and friends and for that, I am truly thankful. I do credit my biggest cheerleader and someone who has helped me immensely, my sister, Kidada. She has always encouraged me and led by example. She has never judged my personal and professional decisions. She knew I would take the road less traveled professionally, and she’s always provided me with support along the way. Those are qualities and attributes you cannot buy.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
There is an old proverb about a fish. If I give you a fish, you’ll be hungry again tomorrow. But if I teach you to fish, you’ll eat for a lifetime. By giving others advice and counsel on their business, I like to think that I’m enabling them to thrive in a dog-eat-dog professional environment. In other words, I teach them to fish. This is my way of “bringing goodness to the world.” I think my role as a mentor is particularly important for young people who are interested in a creative field, especially young women of color. People who don’t understand creatives are always pushing us into more “practical” jobs, perhaps something in law or healthcare. If I can help someone get over the hurdles I know they will face succeeding as a creative, then I believe I’ve done my job.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Listen– The more listening you can do, the better. I find this is an often-overlooked leadership skill. When a member of my team approaches me with a question, my usual response is, “What do you think?” As someone in a leadership role, I believe listening should be seen as a tool to help coach colleagues and employees to find the best answer.
Do Less Talking — This lesson is the flip side of listening. You can find out so much when you close your mouth and open your ears and your mind, especially when you are in a meeting.
Always have an open mind — A true leader never stops learning or exploring new concepts or ideas. You must have a sense of curiosity, always. Having an open mind gives you the ability to see things from different perspectives.
Always provide solutions, don’t harp on problems — As a leader, it’s important to counter the “Why did this happen?” question with a “What do we do now?” response. In PR, we are true problem solvers. We don’t have time to harp on what was. We are continually moving forward. No matter what industry you are in, I believe this skillset is crucial.
Create a team of experts who know more than you — I never want to enter a room as a person who has all of the answers and knows everything. When I am searching for talent for our team, I am looking for someone who bleeds excellence and knows more about certain aspects of the industry than I do. Even in my personal life, I surround myself with people who have mastered a certain skill set or industry. I learn something new, and I feed off of that energy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Anyone who knows me knows I often say, “Always have a voice!” If more women will speak up and speak out, no matter how scared or fearful they may be, it would be a game changer. This is especially true in a professional career. As women, we too often sit back and allow others to speak on our behalf when they have no idea what we really think or feel. So, if I could start a movement, it would be one where women are speaking up for themselves. #HaveAVoice
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Maya Angelou said, ‘When you get, give. When you learn, teach.’ I think this simple quote captures as well as anything why, as a business leader, I want to support young women creatives who are climbing up the career ladder in our very challenging, but satisfying, field. I take pride in helping them grow professionally while staying focused on the business needs of our clients.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@MsKatieKern on Twitter
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!
Featured in Thrive Global