How did you get started in advertising/marketing/PR? What's been your career road map?
I had a good sense early on that communications and marketing was the path I wanted to take. I graduated with a degree in communications and during my time in college I had a couple internships and jobs that focused on marketing and promotions. Where it really got my foot in the door was during my first job out of college at Marvel.
Marvel wasn’t what it is today. It was 2007, and they had only recently unveiled the studio and were working on the first Iron Man film. There was this constant feeling that we knew we were all a part of something special... something that was going to be great.
On a daily basis, we were operating within what felt like a small “ma and pa” organization while simultaneously being surrounded by beloved and well-known properties, and everyone had to pull up their bootstraps and just get it done, no matter how high up in the organization you were. Everyone got their hands dirty. The atmosphere was creative and constructive chaos that, although crazy at times, allowed for me to dip my toes into a variety of areas and really get a feel for what I was passionate about and what route I wanted to take. I latched on to entertainment marketing early on and slowly honed into a communications and PR focus.
That was where I felt the most comfortable yet the most challenged at the same time. Communications and PR made absolute sense to me while making me understand how quickly it can change and evolve, and I wanted to be at the tip of it all.
After being at Marvel for nearly four years in a variety of marketing, promotions and PR roles, I felt it was time to expand into a new area that I had been extremely curious about: digital media and online content. I headed over to Machinima, which at the time was this bright shiny object known as one of the first “MCNs” (multi-channel networks). Over the next four years, I grew within this wild west of a company and ended up overseeing all communications and PR for Machinima.
Around that time, esports and live streaming was starting to gain significant traction. I had been working in entertainment gaming-related content but was very interested in an industry in which its tournaments were selling out Madison Square Garden. I transitioned over to a company called Azubu, which was a live streaming platform focused solely on esports. That was an extreme learning curve for me, but one that I took it in stride, traveling globally to develop and execute PR strategies across multiple regions, including Korea, Brazil, the UK and more.
After a couple years there I jumped ship to Defy Media, starting out focusing on PR for their consumer brands (Smosh, Smosh Games, Clevver, ScreenJunkies, etc), and eventually overseeing PR for the company as a whole. It was around early 2018 when I really began contemplating and eventually mapping out what it would look like to start my own PR firm. My passion, understanding and experience for all things digital media, online content, games, gaming and geek-related culture and technology really made me realize it was time to get outside of my comfort zone and start my own thing.
At the end of 2018, I launched Motiv PR, and it has been one of the best career decisions I have ever made. I now run Motiv PR, which primarily focuses on communications and PR across digital media, gaming and technology, but we also offer social media management, influencer marketing, event marketing and more. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing clients on some super exciting and entertaining projects that I’m deeply passionate about, and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me.
What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
As I’ve grown in my career, two of the most valuable lessons that have become staples in my life are:
• Vocalize what you want and communicate with whoever you need to about it. Never be afraid to talk openly and honestly about it, but be realistic and ensure it’s not too above and beyond or outside the scope of what you’re working towards. Everyone is too busy working on themselves and their own lives, and they’re rarely going to go out of their way to ensure you get what you deserve. So do not be afraid to push for it.
• Work very hard and be nice to people.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
I made a promise to myself early on in my career that if I woke up consistently every day unhappy with my job, I’d make a change then and there. No one is going to hand opportunities to me. Complaining about my current situation won’t change it. Only I have the power to do that, so what keeps me motivated is always knowing it’s me who is in control of my own destiny, and I can make decisions and take actions that point me in the direction I want to go. I’m not at the fate of anyone else, and as long as I do what I love, treat people well, work REALLY hard and understand where I need to go next in life, that’s my sense of constant motivation.
What excites you most about this industry?
Where do I even begin. Being involved in digital media and emerging technologies is a constant reminder that NOTHING is stagnant, everything is constantly changing, and as long as you’re open to not only change, but being a part of what helps the change move in the right direction, it’s an extremely exciting area to be in. Especially for PR, because it’s the role of a PR person to explore and share narratives, and due to digital media, the many ways in which a narrative can be developed, shared and expanded are constantly changing. I also absolutely love the people who work in this field. So many whip-smart forward-thinking game-changing people who are ready for anything, or are the ones paving the way. I love surrounding myself with people who challenge me in every way and make me want to be better and do better, and this industry provides just that.
What were some factors which influenced your decision to become a ThinkLA member?
I had learned about ThinkLA a few years ago from a good friend and colleague of mine, Myra Marayag, and after doing some research I realized how amazing this organization is. So many opportunities to meet creative and thrilling people across the industry and continually grow as a professional. No matter how far you go in your career, you always have to be open to learn and grow, and being a part of ThinkLA helps me do just that -- exposing me to new conversations, ideas and points of view on a regular basis.
Where is advertising/marketing/PR headed? What do the next five years look like?
We’re really in for something special to take place across those areas, for a multitude of reasons.
1. From the PR side, the idea of just putting out a press release to gain traction is going to be a distant memory. Each and every story that will be told will need to be uniquely approached from all angles and aligned with tactics and goals that make sense for the brand as well as the audience that they’re trying to reach. No more one size fits all, although it’s safe to say that hasn’t been the case for a while.
2. Still related to PR, I think we’ll also see podcasts and online video content (YouTube and other video platforms) being a go-to place for editorial brand awareness, no longer traditional publications (although they’ll of course still be valuable).
3. There will be a very clear and overwhelming shift from traditional advertising and marketing placements to much more organic and involved brand integrations within content and tied to other brands. In other words, it would need to be so organic and feel native to the content it’s included in that without it, the content couldn’t exist.
4. Consumers will have a much larger and more vocal say on how and when they’re marketed and advertised to, which will play a huge part in what that ultimately looks like. Online communities especially are extremely vocal about what works and doesn’t work for them and brands will have to pay close attention to ensure they’re not alienating or not catering to the communities they’re trying to reach.
Essentially, due to the online landscape, there will be so many changes across advertising, marketing and PR that it will be difficult to keep up; from new platforms to engage on, to unique and valuable communities emerging, to leveraging organic methods to expand credibility and user affinity, it’s the role of the advertiser, marketer and publicist to stay ahead of the curve across all of those areas and ensure they’re smart enough to differentiate between a blip trend and something that has staying power.
What advice do you have for ad professionals who are beginning their careers?
The best advice I can give is:
• Put in the work. Nothing is ever going to be handed to you, so don’t assume anything -- just lean into something you love and lean into it hard. If you work hard, hone your craft and start to shine, you’ll get noticed.
• Meet as many people as possible; don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone in an effort to meet new people from all walks of life. You don’t know what they’ll teach you or how they might play a big part in helping you grow, both personally and professionally.
• Early in your career, try not to say "No". For example, early on I took a job that I didn’t want, but it helped introduce me to someone who eventually hired me for a gig I did want. Don’t just assume because at face value it’s not for you, you should pass it up; you just never know where it’ll lead you. P.S. You can be a bit more flexible with saying "No"later on in your career.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help; however, not until you’ve done the necessary diligence to try and figure out the problem yourself. Critical thinking without immediately asking someone else for the answer or help is so crucial to develop a strong mind and detail-oriented approach for both work and life.
• Have fun. The moment it’s not fun, do something about it.
• Always be open to change, and at times, when it makes sense, be at the forefront of change.
• Again, and most importantly, work hard and be nice to people.
What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?
Co-chairing the 2019 ThinkLA Gaming Breakfast with Myra Marayag and Robert Figouroa, and all the amazing planning we were able to accomplish with ThinkLA gurus Marcie Booth and DonLupo.
Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?
I have a really good feeling about 2020, and you should too.
Kat Jones is Founder of Motiv PR.