Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Ken Buraker. Photography for the series is by 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.
Ken, please provide a short bio.
As the SVP/Executive Creative Director for Ketchum Digital, I’m a business leader, chief storyteller and creative collaborator powered by a life-long love of comic books and graphic novels. I’m grateful to lead an incredible team of creative talent across our U.S. offices. Combine that with great clients, I couldn’t ask for much more. Both compel me to inspire and learn.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I currently belong to the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU.
What is the things you are most proud of?
Having a long career in the agency world gives me great pride, especially for working with a global agency like Ketchum. From financial services to food, I’m always challenged to innovate and grow. This includes growing my team and myself.
I also pride myself on being equal parts creative and pragmatic. We’re in a 24/7 content cycle, so I’m nimble at leading work that meets deadlines and producing creative that delivers. Sometimes spending two hours creating a social post that reaches 200,000 fans can be just as effective as an ad campaign that took two weeks to produce. Both are important in your creative arsenal. You just have to know the right time and channel to seize the day.
Whether it’s creating a website about the Internet of Things or teaching Americans how to eat better, I take great pride in always learning something new. One of my career highlights was working with USDA to design MyPlate and the SuperTracker app. It’s a powerful system for behavior change and healthy eating. In fact, I put it into practice myself and have lost 42 lbs. in the past year. I practice what I preach.
My strategy was to redesign myself through transforming my diet and workout routine with small wins. Reinventing my wardrobe and personal style has been an adventure. I find myself applying design thinking to many aspects of my life to solve problems.
Who were your personal role models?
My mentor, Michael Ramah, taught me to always start with a smart strategy. Sun Tsu, an ancient Chinese military strategist, stated, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Michael is my proverbial Sun.
My other mentor, Dan Snyder, hired me in my first agency job as a junior designer. As I grew professionally, Dan taught me fearless creativity and not to be afraid of taking risks. He took a chance on me that I will forever be grateful for. And Dan always pushed me to be better with tough love. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
Never stop learning and never rest on your laurels. More than ever, creative technology is changing how we tell stories. Dan and Michael taught me to always try something new in design, technology, travel or food. They bestowed upon me a love of traveling the world whether it’s in Europe or inside the pages of a great book. Most of all, take time to recharge.
What professional advice do you have for others?
- Appeal to people’s hearts and minds with the work you produce.
- Don’t let your ego get in the way. Know when to let go.
- There are days when I feel like Sisyphus. Other days I feel like Superman. Just go with the flow and remember to breathe.
- Sometimes it takes mistakes to get to innovation. In short, try, try and try again.
- Finally, the late Governor Ann Richards used to say if you’re resting, you’re rusting. ALWAYS push harder to be better and constantly reinvent yourself.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Goldfrapp’s new album, Silver Eye, is on my current playlist. It’s ethereal ear candy. Of course, Madonna, the Queen of Pop, is my biggest playlist of all.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
For upscale fun, it’s definitely Ris in DC. Their scallop margarita is out of this world. For casual fare, the Duplex Diner is my place to be with my urban tribe. It’s my true social network with my partner Mark and friends.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Paris is my favorite place on earth. I get there as often as possible for inspiration.
Comic book collecting is a huge hobby – 12,000+ and counting! It’s the source of my storytelling passion and utilizes a visual language like no other. I’ve learned everything from UX, content strategy, design and the element of surprise from comics. In the world of social media, it’s always a good story that’s going to keep them coming back for more.