Meet the Board Monday: Ellen Kiehl
In our latest edition of ‘Meet the Board Mondays,’ a series to help you get to know your 2019 Board of Directors, we bring you PRSA-SF Bay Area Director of Social/Events, Ellen Kiehl. In her day job, she's Communications Lead at Affirm.
Give us a P-R-S-A!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been involved with PRSA for a number of years and joined the board last June. A St. Louis native, I moved to San Francisco nearly five years ago after graduating from Texas Christian University where I studied strategic communications and minored in business.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work in the communications field but if you’d asked me five years ago, I would have laughed if you’d told me I would specialize in finance instead of fashion or lifestyle. A few weeks after graduation I was offered an internship at Edelman in San Francisco – a place I had never been and knew ZERO people – so I took a leap of faith and moved across the country. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
I spent the first four years of my professional career on the financial communications team learning everything there was to know about communications from media relations and executive positioning to investor relations, internal communications and digital. It’s also where I discovered my passion for media relations and financial literacy which ultimately brought me to Affirm just over a year ago, where I currently work as a Communications Lead overseeing media relations and driving strategy for product announcements, merchant partnerships and consumer research.
What’s the reason you joined and serve PRSA?
I was involved with PRSSA in college and joined PRSA soon after moving out to San Francisco to build a network and frankly, make friends. I started off by just attending the media programs and reporting back to peers at Edelman. Throughout the process I made new friends, learned a lot about the media and increased my confidence in working with them. About a year ago a co-worker informed me about an open position on the board and I filled in as Communications Director before moving over to Social Director in January. It’s been really fun to meet all the new faces at various PRSA events, share war stories and trade tips. The San Francisco PR community is also a lot smaller than people think, so it’s been hugely beneficial for me both personally and professionally.
What are your specialties in your personal and professional life?
At Affirm, I specialize in media relations and spend the majority of my time focused on leveraging efforts to increase brand recognition, elevate our position within the industry and protect our reputation; ultimately to expand our merchant and customer bases.
What I love most about my job and working in media relations more broadly is that every day is different. One day I might be in New York on a media tour with an executive and the next day back in San Francisco writing a press release, putting together a launch plan, updating company messaging or facilitating a brainstorm for new consumer research ideas. The large variety of work ensures I’m never bored and always learning and flexing new muscles, so to speak.
Outside of work, I love interior design and believe it or not cleaning – I find it really relaxing. On the weekends you can find me enjoying the sunshine, playing tennis or going to a hot yoga class. I also love to cook and there’s usually a glass of wine (or two) nearby. However, my favorite foods remain those of a child – mac n’ cheese, hot dogs and ice cream!
What advice would you give other PR pros?
Take risks, especially early on in your career, and find a place where you can learn a variety of skills and figure out what you like. I firmly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and moved my life to San Francisco at 22.
The other piece of advice I’d offer is to never view your work by level. By this I mean feeling you are too junior or senior to do a task. At Edelman we had this saying “everyone is an account executive.” To be a true team player you have to be willing to jump in on anything and things that might feel like “admin” work – meeting agendas, recaps, coverage tracking – are incredibly important at every level and demonstrate value. In my experience, this is a mentality companies are looking for in the talent they hire.