DanielPrincipal in New York
When I first interviewed to work at Kekst CNC, one of the partners I spoke with told me that when she joined the firm, she told herself that she’d stay until she was bored. More than 25 years later, she’s still here, and I can totally see why. We work together now on a bunch of things – it’s safe to say that none of them are boring.
Today, I love being able to work with smart, thoughtful, and funny people – some of whom basically invented this industry – on a wide variety of high-stakes situations. Kekst CNC pioneered strategic communications as it’s known today, and it’s really humbling to feel a part of that and to be learning alongside so many talented individuals. We get to help our clients build confidence with the people who matter most to them. And we get to do that at a time when it couldn’t be more important and needed. The world is a crazy place right now, and getting to help our clients put their best foot forward while navigating it all… you really do feel like you’re making a difference. That’s an incredibly cool feeling.
I started my career at Pearson on their corporate affairs team right out of school. They were undergoing a ton of change, making a big shift from being a media and publishing conglomerate to a digital-first education company. I started in employee communications, and then in corporate and financial communications and IR – all roles that gave me a front-row seat to what was going on and provided me opportunities to work with the CEO and management team, while shaping the communications around our transformation. From there, I knew that no matter where I worked, I never wanted to give up that level of access and ability to make an impact.
I eventually reached a point where I wanted to broaden my skillset and be exposed to more industries and situations, which is why I decided to move from a role in-house to working at an agency. I’ve definitely found that at Kekst CNC. For example, before I came here, I had never written a fight letter for a shareholder activist situation in my life. But that didn’t stop anyone from saying: “Why don’t you give it a shot?” It just shows that as a firm, we believe that the only way you get good at something is by diving in and trying it. What you come up with may not be perfect, but it’s the only way you will learn.
The situations I’ve gotten to work on at Kekst CNC where I feel like I’ve made the most impact haven’t always been the most high-profile, like a name check in The New York Times or working on a megamerger. More often than not, it’s been when we’ve helped a client deliver a very delicate piece of news – announcing a Chapter 11 restructuring, or having to tell their organization about layoffs – and then hearing from the client after that even though the news itself was tough, people appreciated that the message was empathetic and clear. I’ve learned that in communications, you can rarely change the substance of what needs to be said – that’s usually a function of the realities of a client’s business. But we can influence how it is said and articulate why it is happening, and that can make an important difference.
I think also what’s great about working in strategic comms is that you don’t need to be a finance whiz, or have an engineering background, or have a bunch of technical skills. You do need to be thoughtful and empathetic, to ask questions, to be motivated and work hard, to be a good writer and clear communicator – and for anyone interested in working in comms, those are thankfully all skills that you’ve probably been practicing and honing your entire life.
You also definitely have to be attuned to the media, and reading it with a critical eye is important, too. Working in strategic comms makes you read the media much more analytically and to pay attention to journalists and their reporting styles and biases, because clients really value our insights there. They trust that we have a deep understanding of the media environment and the different ways you can engage – even within one specific outlet.
Outside of work, I love to cook. I follow a bunch of food influencers on Instagram and also love the Barefoot Contessa. I grew up watching her with my mom. I also recently got a sous vide cooker, so I have been experimenting with that and cooking everything I can in a vacuum-sealed bag. Also, like the rest of the world, my boyfriend and I adopted a dog at the beginning of the pandemic. He’s a rescue, and – we think – a mix of a dachshund and golden retriever. He’s been a great source of joy, and we love taking him to dog parks in the city. We’ll go around dusk right after work, bring some wine in sippy cups, and watch him run around. It’s always a good time.