Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Elizabeth Phillips. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Elizabeth, please provide us a short bio.
When I was in high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. No one in my family had gone to college. I was a copywriter on the yearbook and loved it. I remember my guidance counselor gave me an English career book and when the copywriter description said I would get to make magazine ads, websites and spots, I thought wouldn’t it be fun to be a copywriter forever? So I went to VCU and then the Brandcenter.
I worked at Arnold for years. After my second child, I decided to freelance and worked all over town. After my third child, I started my own agency called Fortneon. I learned a lot about myself and the business. It was a lot of juggling. After a few years, I reassessed everything. I really missed working alongside an entire full-time team and growing together. And I also wanted to do something I could feel good about. So I took a job at Influent50, an AARP Services agency. Here, I learned about the 50+ and how affluent they are. I worked on everything from YouTube videos for the 70+ to inspiring the 50+ to conquer their “somedays”.
Earlier this year, I was asked to start Creative Services at AARP Services as Director, Creative Services. The team is great here. They are really passionate about the mission of disrupting aging. Every day we come in to elevate the work, help connect brands with the 50+, and help transform the marketplace for the 50+. I’m really excited about what we’re creating here together.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I do what I can when I can in my own way. I help at my kids’ schools, donate at Haymarket Food Pantry and I teach investing strategies to immigrants. I’m all about financial literacy for all.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I’ve got a few I’ll share:
I started an ad agency and pitched by myself against a major agency and won. I stopped doubting myself after this.
I extreme couponed for over two years and wiped out all $60,000 of my student loans.
I moved to a quiet five-acre property a few years ago. The first weekend here, we made a huge fire and I told the kids to go play. They just stared at me confused. They were so used to being inside they had no idea what to do. It really made me sad. Now they notice the moon and stars and all the deer, fox, bats, hawks and bears. We’re outside all the time together. I’m proud they can successfully disconnect from their devices for hours.
My team here has made me really proud, too. Almost all of us come from ad agencies. And this is a really different world. I’ve loved watching everyone grow to the level they have. We’ve made the work better. But we’ve also learned the business together. We’ve had to create everything from scratch. The process. The capabilities. And we’ve created a place where we’re able to make good work and have total work-life harmony.
Who are your personal role models?
For teaching me the craft and ropes: Coz Cotzias, Mark Fenske, Jerry Torchia, Jenn Maer, Sissy Estes, Craig Coughlin, Bob Petkofsky, Jeff McWeeeney, Chris Davis, Tracy Nenna, Chris Sheldon, Mimi Tan, Lisa Biskin, Woody Kay, Ken Marcus, Don Corrigan, Mick Sutter, Alex Epstein, Jamin Hoyle, Rebecca Mabie, Anibal Quinones, Jim Lansbury, Bill Hartman and Scott Collin.
My mom. She reminded me every morning how beautiful life is and to make sure I took the time to see it.
My husband, KC. He always finds opportunities. The reason I was invited to a pitch against a big agency was because of his colonoscopy. I kid you not. Before he was sedated, he was talking to the doctor who informed him he just went through a massive healthcare merger. KC asked if he had an agency and then told him all about me. I got a call the next day. Soon after, I won and grew the business to 15 healthcare practices with almost 40 locations. He is incredible at opening doors and creating relationships. I’ve learned a ton from him.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
Here are four that had an influence on me:
“Why are you stopping so soon? Keep going. Make the hair on your arm stand.”
“Love the process.”
“Never show what you don’t absolutely love. Or your least favorite will get picked and you have to live with it.”
“You think awards are cool? I think getting paid your worth is cooler.”
What professional advice do you have for others?
There’s never a good time to take a sick day and take care of yourself. But do it. This includes physicals, mammograms, colonoscopies and any other test you’ve been putting off. Early detection saves lives.
Being a good partner means not giving up on them. If you’re having issues, ignoring it will not make it go away. Difficult conversations are hard. Brave it up and have a calm conversation over a cup of coffee. Maybe your partner has a blind spot. Maybe your partner has an issue with you. Ask what you can do to make it better and really listen to what they have to say. And ask your partner if they can do some things to make it better. Not facing this jeopardizing the work.
Don’t just be great at coming up with big ideas for your clients. Be great at coming up with ideas on how to help your company grow, too. What are new capabilities that would help? What if you collaborated with other groups, what kind of services could you create together? Help your company to grow.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
I don’t listen to either anymore. I’m all about telling Alexa to play what I want to hear. It could be anything like Tribe Called Quest, Kid Cudi, Lord Huron, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige or Ludovico Einaudi.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Gom E Tang. It’s this Korean soup house. Get seol leong tang, which is beef bone broth, or ppyeodagwi haejanggook, which is spicy pork soup with wild sesame seeds). Both are like $10 and amazing.
Annie’s Paramount Steak House in Dupont Circle, a place where everybody knows everybody. Say hi to Al for me. And order their southern boneless fried chicken with mashed potatoes.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I love K-drama.