KC Sledd, senior manager of strategy, Atlantic Media Strategies, was one of three women recently honored by Washington Women in Public Relations with a 2016 Emerging Leaders Award. The award is described as “a special accolade for young women active within the communications field who have made a significant impact on the industry.”
Capitol Communicator interviewed Sledd to gain insights into this award winner.
KC, how did you get started in communications?
I started in communications by working on social media with GlobalGiving. I’d transferred from partner services to join what was then called our “Unmarketing Team,” leading customer service and assisting with social media. I was completely hooked. My job helped promote our resources to nonprofit organizations and donors all around the world, so my first instinct was just to jump in and get going. I was so wide-eyed about the whole thing, and my colleague, Alison Carlman, was the first person to tell me, “Look, you can’t just ‘do social.’ You need to have a goal and a strategy, then you figure out tactics.” She helped me realize how critical it was to have a plan and how to be creative within those boundaries.
How has communications changed since your first job?
Compared to when I first started, communications and digital strategy are now so much more a science than an art. I just went through an entire process with my team to decide how we define “clicks” on Twitter. Clicks. Because with paid vs. organic, on-platform vs. off-platform analytics–there are so many different ways you can look at how your audiences are interacting with your content and evaluate success. Never before has there been this level of granularity and detail. It’s way more complicated. No person going into social now can only say “I write a killer tweet.” You have to also be willing to put in the math behind the scenes.
What skills will it take to be a success in the coming years?
Inclusion, diversity and social impact need to be front-of-mind in communications, or business, for that matter. In any campaign or strategy you put together, you have to ask yourself, “Is this moving the world forward or backwards?” Look at what Cheerios did with Gracie in the “Just Checking” commercial or Tylenol with #HowWeFamily. Moreover, corporate social responsibility no longer means some stand-alone recycling initiative at a company. The most successful brands are integrating social impact into their identity, and communicators are going to be at the forefront of making sure those messages are authentic and carried out to the public.
What lessons have you learned that you want to share with others?
Empathy is so important: empathy for your clients, your colleagues, your partner, your audiences, everyone. Being able to understand – or try to understand, at least – the perspectives of those around you helps you become a more effective communicator and an all-around more pleasant human being.
Who are your role models?
I have many role models. There are so many women out there doing incredible things on their terms that inspire me literally every day. What I wouldn’t do to have a dinner party with all of them: Cindy Gallop, Soraya Darabi, Peggy Olson, Beyoncé, Elizabeth Warren, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Amy Schumer, Shonda Rhimes, Amal Clooney, whoever came up with the new all-female presidential ticket Barbie. The top three, though, are Hillary Clinton, Donna Callejon, and my mom. There are no words to describe how much I look up to Secretary Clinton for all the good she’s done for the world, and the trail she’s blazed while doing it. I have a poster of her next my bed. Donna Callejon is the Chief Business Officer at GlobalGiving, and I consider her one of my greatest influences and mentors. Through her work at GlobalGiving, she has infused social good into the day-to-day business of some of the top companies in the world, and she did it by taking a major bet on an unexpected idea. She is so fearless and incredible. Finally, my mom has been a huge source of guidance and inspiration. I’m an only child, and she raised me as a single mom after my dad passed away. She has never failed to be my number-one cheerleader. Whenever I’ve had a tough day or month, she is there for me, and her support has given me the confidence to feel like I can accomplish anything.
If you didn’t go into communications, what field would you have gone into?
My first major in undergrad was fashion merchandising at VCU, so I’d probably be working as a buyer or stylist somewhere. Now I help dress my friends via Pinterest boards, so it still works.
What are the things you like to do when not at work?
I just came back from Peru, so my goal for the summer is to perfect the ceviche/pisco sour combo.
Anything else we should know about you?
I’m a bit of a rabid VCU Rams fan, so I’m excited for college basketball to kickoff this fall. My husband and I are going to see them play at a tournament in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving, so I’m pretty much just counting down until I get on the plane.
And, what does “KC” stand for?
KC stands for Kristin Channing. My mom always wanted to call me by my initials, so I’ve used it as my name since I was born.