Q&A with Kristy Keller, SIPA's 2018 Rising Star

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Kristy Keller, brand director at Access Intelligence, was recently the named the inaugural recipient of SIPA's Andy McLaughlin Rising Star Award. We asked Keller a few questions to get to know her and her work better.

SIPA: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your department/brand/organization?
Keller: The biggest opportunity is around web/digital technology. The ways we reach our audiences have changed so much in the past few years. It's been exciting to be able to try new technologies like re-targeting and programmatic marketing. With rules changing about how we can deliver content and ads to our audiences, we have to constantly be one step ahead and understand how the changes will impact our efforts. While others may be overwhelmed by the technology options and the changing rules, I see this as an opportunity for us to continue to test and find what works for us.

What is your most valued accomplishment in your career?
Becoming brand director of my current portfolio of products. One of the brands I manage was very challenging in that when we acquired the business, all but one staff member left. In the beginning, I was responsible for just the events within this business and was able to build a team that wanted to take on the challenge of working on conferences in an industry we had no experience in with a very new, very niche audience. Some of the things we experienced were firsts not only for us as a team, but also firsts for leaders at my organization. With our leadership's support, we were able to manage the challenges and come out not only with successful events but eventually also a stellar editorial team that works on the publications that support the events.  

What are three lessons you've learned that you can recommend every marketer to look at?

  1. When writing copy, spend time thinking about your audience. More and more communication is becoming personalized, so think about a handful of attributes that apply to your audience and consider those when you speak to them through marketing to try to cut through the clutter. And test!
  2. Spend time with the data you collect on your audience—work with your database vendor to slice and dice the data to target certain audiences. You may also find new titles or industries that have shown interest in your products and services that lead to a larger opportunity to reach new names. 
  3. Pursue partnerships. My conferences are less than 500 people, and my subscriptions are geared toward a very specific audience; it's less about quantity, more about quality. I find that partnerships with key players in the industries you serve go a long way, including lending credibility to your brand. 

What does being a Rising Star mean to you?
Being a Rising Star means the world. I am lucky to work in an environment led by leaders who have invested in my professional development and growth, and lucky enough that two of these leaders nominated me for this award. Heather Farley, our COO, and Jennifer Schwartz, SVP, have been mentors that I learn from daily. They have created an environment of "safe" entrepreneurship. You're allowed to completely own parts of the business, but you always know that someone is there to run ideas by or to help you when the chips are down. In addition, while I didn't personally know Andy McLaughlin, I was able to sit in on some of his sessions over the years at SIPA Annual. I know that he was an important figure in our community, and I'm proud to be a recipient of an award that SIPA introduced in his honor. 

What is your favorite quote or motto?
Honesty is the best policy. To consider this quote in a business setting, to me, it's more about how if you make a mistake, own it. It's not the end of the world, we're all human, but what could be learned from the mistake and how do we make sure it doesn't happen again? 

What professional development book or resource would you recommend?
I encourage all new marketers to read The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert Bly. I just finished reading Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and that really helped me think about the members of my team in a different light and how I could play to each of their strengths. 

What is your biggest day-to-day challenge and how do you respond to it?
I'm having difficulty thinking of one challenge that affects me daily; every day is a new adventure! There's so much that happens daily with things like staff, websites, sales, editorial and events that every day brings a new challenge—but that's what keeps work interesting!

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…