Publicist Rockstars: “Surround yourself with people you aspire to be like” with Kristy Kennedy

I had the pleasure of interviewing, Kristy Kennedy, Director of Marketing & Communications for Chopin Vodka. Kristy has worked for major global brands and start-ups, in an agency and corporate settings, and held a variety of positions from traditional PR and marketing to digital account services. She has checked all the boxes on the “PR […]

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I had the pleasure of interviewing, Kristy Kennedy, Director of Marketing & Communications for Chopin Vodka. Kristy has worked for major global brands and start-ups, in an agency and corporate settings, and held a variety of positions from traditional PR and marketing to digital account services. She has checked all the boxes on the “PR Bucket List” — placing products in national morning show segments, major newspaper placements, national PR and marketing awards, and growing future PR professionals through internship/leadership programs. When she is not working, you can find her traveling or trying new restaurants and adventures with her husband, two young daughters, and dogs.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always loved words, people, and literature but I didn’t realize the career opportunities until I saw one of the first reality shows, PoweR Girls. It showed the glamorous side of being a publicist, working with celebrities and public relations. It piqued my interest, and so I began to research career opportunities. Once I finished researching it sounded like the right match for me, and I changed my major from interior design. After the first semester, I knew I was “home.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to be a part of many great projects, events, launches, and campaigns. One of the most time and labor intensive, yet equally thrilling, projects was leading a Top Gear segment from conception to final taping. I witnessed first-hand what it takes to put together a global TV segment and fine-tuned my planning, logistics, permitting, budgeting and pivot skills. The episode aired in 13 countries to more than 300 million people and it still is a source of pride for me.

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?

Two things come to mind that has similar takeaways of being true to oneself.

  1. When I first started in the industry, I was confident in my abilities but felt that everyone around me had a deeper grasp on real-world PR and questioned if I could “keep up.” I stressed over it day and night until 3-months later I realized I had found my way and was enough. Looking back, my fear of failing was keeping me from growing.
  2. Starting out I always tried to hide my Southern accent. “Y’all” was omitted from my vocabulary as were other obvious words. I still would be asked by clients and journalists where I was from. I began to realize it was something that set me apart and a starting point for commonalities that began to open doors. While I still don’t use ‘y’all’ often, I don’t shy away from who I am or where I was raised.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Right now, I have pivoted into a marketing role, creating an arsenal of sales tools to help our team. I’m also working toward a new product launch for Q1 2019 and planning our debut at a few of the world’s largest cocktail conferences.

Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?

The best advice I can give is to have an internship — any internship. I have found that interns either realize PR is or (more importantly) is not the right career path. Dipping your toe in the water is the best way to understand a typical day in PR life. A career in PR can be quite fulfilling as every day is different, the profession is constantly evolving, and you will always have something to talk about with dinner party guests!

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

  • Consider every interaction as a networking opportunity! I say hello to everyone — at the grocery store, daycare drop off, the dry cleaners, you get the idea. You will be surprised how many amazing people will cross your path.
  • Show a genuine interest in their likes and dislikes. When you become friends with someone, they are more apt to help or connect you with their network.
  • Deliver on your promises. When you are known as a dependable person, others are more confident in introducing you to their network.
  • Always follow up with a text, email or phone call to ensure you make it into their “Rolodex.”

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

Early in my career, a boss had the entire agency read “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t” by Robert Sutton. Not only has it helped me in workplace situations but allowed me to realize my value and not to settle when considering freelance clients and job opportunities.

Because of the role you play, 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?

I would love to bring together global leaders to learn the secret to closing the gender equality gap and consider making maternity and paternity leave part of our cultural norm. As we strive for gender equality, leave for all have a positive impact on families, businesses, and morale to name a few benefits.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Surround yourself with people you aspire to be like
  2. Be your own advocate
  3. Embrace the unknown
  4. Understand that work-life balance is more of a work-life seesaw
  5. Be kind to yourself (and others)
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