In the fall of 2008, when the financial crisis brought our nation’s economy to the brink of disaster, I was leading a communications team at a large financial services company. During the many months in which Americans watched their home value, retirement savings, and college investments fall, my team and I worked to restore trust through communications.
To aid our efforts, the marketing department supplied us with behavioral-based buyer personas of our customers. However, in order to build trust, we needed customer insights that didn’t treat customers like marketing targets. In early 2009, just as the pain of a protracted crisis and potential recession was becoming real, I began an initiative to segment our customers according to their emotional needs.
In the following two years, I worked with teams across the organization to develop human-centered customer personas, which illuminated important differences among our customers in both our B2C and our B2B channels. We discovered what the Corporate Executive Board and Google realized several years later: regardless of channel, emotions shape customers behaviors. If we want to fortify trust, especially in times of uncertainty and fear, we need to connect with our customers as humans.
Today, I consult with organizations and senior leaders to help them understand how trust, communication, and leadership form the three fundamental laws of influence.
Several years after receiving my BA in French and International Studies and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa honor society, I studied film at New York University and began working for companies such as Showtime Network and Lincoln Center. Soon I became smitten with a new communication technology that was just taking flight: websites and went on to work as a content strategist for large, complex sites such as TD Ameritrade’s first website for institutional investors and a project for The White House Office of Management and Budget under President George Bush. Years later, I worked in corporate communications, served as a managing director of a print magazine, and developed a vast array of print and digital communications.
As I look back at my career, including the years of raising kids and working from home, communication is the one thread that ties it all together. Recently, I gave a guest lecture at George Washington University and talked about a physics professor I’d had in college who explained his love for physics by saying that for him, physics was as beautiful as music. The great gift of my career is that I can genuinely say that for me, the questions and considerations that shape my approach to communication are very often as beautiful as music. I hope everyone can find a career they love as much as I’ve loved mine.
Now, I have the immense pleasure of teaching communication in Johns Hopkins University’s MA in Communication program and serve as the Communications Chair on my alumni association’s Board at the University of Pennsylvania, where I recently led the launch of a digital magazine for our alumni association.
THE SCIENCE OF WELL-BEING
In 2011, my husband and I adopted two traumatized adolescents through the U.S. foster system, which was far more challenging than I could have imagined. Helping children unwind from trauma is traumatizing in itself. And my kids seemed to struggle with every part of life, which is one of the many unfortunate effects of PTSD. Desperate for guidance, in 2013 I found Paul Tough’s brilliant book, How Children Succeed, which led me to Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindsets, which led me to Angela Duckworth’s research on Grit and an entire world of research devoted to positive psychology.
In 2017, I applied to study the science of human flourishing in the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology program and was accepted. While there, I learned the tenets of human flourishing and the ways in which our morality is tied to our happiness. My capstone project: Moral Excellence, A Theory of How Business Leaders Stay True to Themselves, centered on interviews with extraordinary leaders such as Presidential Appointees and senior executives in corporations and regulatory agencies. And, thanks to training from the Penn Resilience Program, I gained a deep knowledge of and passion for resilience.
My hope is to utilize the science of well-being to help people in all walks of life achieve their true potential and lead fulfilling lives.
KELLIE’S SHORT BIO
Kellie is an international speaker, writer, and management consultant. Read below to learn more about her education and professional achievements.
- Received the 2009 Platinum MarCom Award for communication leadership during the 2008/2009 financial crisis.
- Received the following awards for retirement plan campaigns: 2009, 2010 MarCom Gold Award; 2009, 2010 PSCA Gold Award; and 2007 PSCA Bronze.
- Received the 2000 Gold Telly Award for writing and producing an interactive program for Comcast Marketing.
2018 – 2019, Master of Applied Positive Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
Studied the science of human flourishing with leading scientists in the field of positive psychology such as Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson, and Angela Duckworth. Learned resilience training from the Penn Resilience Program, which trains the U.S. Army in resilience skills. Studied leading practices in organizational behavior from visiting professors from the Center for Positive Organizations at Michigan University.
2011, Accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators
IABC’s accreditation program certifies that professionals possess expertise in all areas of organizational communications including crisis leadership and public relations, internal and external communications, and leadership communications.
1994, Bachelor of Arts, International Studies and French, Trinity University
Double major; elected to Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society; Received the T-Pin award for service to the community.
RECENT PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
2019-Present, Board of Directors, MAPP Alumni Association, University of Pennsylvania
Leading a data-informed approach to communications focused on strengthening alumni engagement and sharing the remarkable work of our alumni with the public. Launched a digital website and distribution strategy, developing communications plans, and assisting in day-to-day messaging decisions.
2017 – Present, Adjunct Faculty, Johns Hopkins University MA in Communication Program
Teaching graduate students in the Department of Communications, including the following courses:
- Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns
- Organizational Communication
- Branding and Advertising
2011-Present, Leadership and Communications Consultant
Training executives and teams on the fundamentals of trust, communication, and the practices that promote thriving organizations.
- Optimizing talent through training and education rooted in the science of human flourishing.
- Developing crisis communications plans and responses, creating brand communication strategies, and refining internal communication processes to improve quality and well-being.
- Speaking at international conferences and at smaller venues to help communicators learn how to develop consultative business skills and become a trusted advisor to their clients.
2005 – 2011, Associate Editorial Director, T. Rowe Price
Led a team of writers developing communications for retail and institutional customers, drafted executive speeches, led content strategy for websites and digital communications, served as the managing director of a print magazine for institutional customers, and led an enterprise-wide program to foster a human-centered approach to client communications.
(Note: only the abstract to this paper is available online. Contact Kellie for more information.)