Maggie Palmer: Founder, MKP Creative

My NativeAdVice:


Maggie Palmer is Founder of MKP Creative.

How did you get into the industry?

I studied public relations and film at Ohio University (Go Cats!) After college, I literally drove to Hollywood, without a job and without any connections, to try my hand at movie production. After a long “internship” and working my way up the ladder with a production company, I ended up writing and producing for a series that aired on The National Geographic Channel at the beginning of the reality TV craze. After realizing I didn’t want to be part of the reality TV scene, I packed up and moved to Chicago, and then ended up in Portland, Oregon where my husband got a job. I worked at a company out there as a marketing manager and then ended up forming my own company in 2009, after the crash of 2008 left me jobless. In a way it was the best worst thing that ever happened to me (getting laid off) because it allowed me to realize having my own agency was my dream job!

Any emerging industry trends?

Early on in my career I noticed social media, SEO and SEM as major emerging trends, while many of my clients were managing these channels in house or not at all. Social Media will continue to play a large role in marketing for 2018. I’d say influencer marketing is also going to play a huge role in 2018, as well as credibility for the media. In today’s political landscape, it seems a war is being waged on media. We have so much information, and so many sources, that many people only read the headlines. No one really is digging deeper into the sources of the articles (for example, the other day I saw someone attempting to refute a story by crediting what was essentially an opinion blog against a national, known newspaper). I’m also keeping a close eye on AI, Artificial Intelligence, as it relates back to influencer marketing. There are so many blogs, and influencers, etc. but what it all comes down to is results. We’re still in a bit of the wild west when it comes to AI but I think it has the real potential to automate some of the most important PR functions and I’m excited for the new analytics development to tie together online and offline campaigns.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

I think a main challenge in our industry right now continues to be measuring results in a way that shows real growth and how to measure results against goals. There are so many options for measurement- engagement, reach, etc.- but I think we have to be careful we don’t overwhelm our clients with too much data. I also think a challenge that’s come out of 2017 is media perception and trust. There’s a fine line between paid and earned media and the lines have blurred quite a bit especially on social media. You have influencers being paid to run Instagram accounts or promotions and there hasn’t been much transparency there yet as to what is paid and what is earned. I think as a result it has lead to consumers feeling a lack of trust in brands.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Originally my business was built out of necessity. I had taken on a new job that allowed flexible hours following the birth of my first child, and about 3 months later was laid off. I had never thought about or intended to start my own business, yet there I was in a 2-income household without a job, staring down our first mortgage of our new home. I started calling businesses in the area and inquiring if they had laid off their marketing person. It was 2008, so most of them had! The first to go in the recession tended to be roles that seemed “expendable.” That was, until they got rid of the position and realized just how important marketing was for them! So I started that way, and with a few checks in hand I went to the bank and set up a business  account. The teller and I decided on the name “MKP Creative” together. It’s my initials! For someone who works in branding, I still find it funny that I have the same business name after all this time! I have a small staff and we consider ourselves a “boutique agency.” We work with compassionate clients on engaging and creative work, and we have a great time doing it. My vision is to continue to work with passionate clients, both large and small, as well as continue our service of two pro-bono non-profit clients were year. In the end, giving back is what drives me, and working with people I like and consider collaborators and partners, not clients.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We’ve recently partnered with a firm who is offering an online platform for social media automation. Through the portal, clients can pay a small monthly fee and manage their social media platforms with content we create and source, approve posts, see analytics and engage with their followers in a meaningful way. The future for the platform will include more robust content, additional levels of reports, and integration of influencer campaigns. I’m very interested in how AI will play a part in making it easier to cut through the noise of social media- such as times of day to post, perfect type of posts and how to engage with your audience in a meaningful and beneficial way, without just throwing out a bunch of information to add to the already overloaded information train.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I regularly partner with other agencies and work with them on projects. Not only is it interesting to work with other professionals, I find it incredibly insightful to see how other PR and social media professionals work and engage with clients. I love learning from them and working in areas I wouldn’t normally work with through my own firm. For example, I’ve been able to work on very large, global initiatives with very large firms and also work one-on-one with other boutique firms as a partner. This allows me to grow as a business professional when I have access to large corporations who otherwise would not hire me personally. It also allows me to get to know people across different industries and network.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Being in business for yourself puts a lot of stress on you, not only to perform well for your own financial goals and needs, but to provide for your associate or partners who are counting on you. The roller coaster of starting a business, when you aren’t sure if you will succeed or fail, never really goes away. I’ve been doing this for nine years and I still have moments of doubt, or you lose a large account or don’t get the account you were hoping for, when you feel a sense of loss. But for every down there is an up. For every loss a win. The other challenge is acknowledging at times that you and a client are not a right fit. It gets easier to understand what your “ideal” client is the longer you’re in business, but there are still those moments when collaboration is not working out the way you’d hoped and you have to decide if the relationship is worth pursuing or continuing. Those moments are still difficult for me but I have come a long way. At the end of the day, if there are personality issues or other contributing factors where you most likely know there will be barriers to a successful campaign or relationship, it’s important to acknowledge that and pass on a client or project, so that they and you can find the right fit. You’re not right for everyone and everyone is not right for you- and that’s ok!

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

I want every client to walk away feeling a sense of success and satisfaction. I work very hard to communicate regularly and in a way that suits the client. For example, some people prefer emails, some prefer text, some would rather a phone call touch base. One of my first steps is to understand how the person I’m working with communicates. I feel this part of the process is so important. You can have an amazing campaign with great results, but if someone walks away feeling like they weren’t communicated with properly the success on paper won’t quite translate to the emotion of the interaction. I know the formula for a successful SEO, SEM, social media campaign. But the most important formula for me is how can I best communicate with this client every step of the way so that they feel taken care of in the process, and they feel like I listened to and valued their opinion and feedback.

How do you motivate others?

I think at the end of the day everyone wants to feel like his or her voice was heard and validated. So I try in every case to spend more time listening than talking. And then I like to repeat back to them what I think I heard from them so they can understand I’m hearing the same thing. I think miscommunication can lead to so many problems, especially in the day and age of texts and emails, so much gets lost in translation. I also really try to empower my staff and contractors by not micromanaging them. They are the experts in their area and I trust and value their work. At the end of the day, telling someone how much you appreciate their work, their professionalism, etc. goes so much further than trying to motivate people from a sense of fear or worry. It also sets the tone for the entire team so that we’re all encouraging one another and keeping the work engaging.

Career advice to those in your industry?

My best career advice to someone in my career path is to stay curious and keep learning and growing each day. I spend at least 3-4 hours each month on webinars, at conferences, reading articles about the latest trends in social media, learning from other professionals about pitching and story telling. I never want to stand still and think I know all there is to know. Of course I know what works for my clients and me specifically over time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear about other case studies from colleagues to learn about how something worked out differently for them. I also would tell people to stick with it and stay it in for the long haul. Working in Public and Media Relations can cause a lot of stress and potential burn out, because there are so many deadlines and expectations. At the end of the day if you’re doing what you love, success will follow. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to get out there and work hard and stay on top of your game, but I learned a long time ago that if you’re not happy it’s more difficult to ride out the challenging assignments.

My NativeAdVantage:

What do I do best?

I’ve been told I’m a very good listener. I think a large part of working with other people, in any role but especially as a leader, is to listen to their needs, wants, fears, goals, etc. You get a good sense of what they want by being the last person in the room to talk. A large part of being successful in any relationship is communicating in a way that works best for the person you’re trying to either lead, influence or work for. A large part of that can get lost in translation, so if you know how to best communicate and what the client expects, you will be better suited to know if you are going to make a good team.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I’m constantly trying to learn and improve, and be the best version of myself. Either in my personal life or my professional life, I always want to surround myself with positive people and people who have excelled in their fields, so that I can learn and grow.

What are my aspirations?

My personal aspirations are to raise 3 amazing humans (my kids), be a great partner to my husband and help him achieve his dreams, continue to grow my business and help my clients reach their goals, and eventually jump up from running half marathons to a full marathon- hopefully in 2018!

My Biggest Success?

My biggest success is when teachers, babysitters or others who interact with my 2 sons and my daughter tell me they are kind, smart, good people. After living through Hurriane Irma in St Maarten in 2017, my kids have been through a lot. I know that seeing people stepping up to help others in their time of need in the aftermath of a disaster further shaped their character. My kids are my greatest accomplishment and they make me proud every day. I can’t wait to see the adults they grow up to be.

My Most Challenging Moment?

My apartment was broken into in 2005 while I was living in Los Angeles and I came face to face with the perpetrator. I was asked to testify against him in court after they caught him and tied him to other crimes, and he was a known gang member who they had been trying to put behind bars for a long time. I was terrified to testify but I did it at the urging of an amazing district attorney who was working the case. Standing up for what was right, even in the face of fear, was a defining moment for me. I had just turned 25 (he broke into my apartment on my birthday, actually) and that was a turning point for me. I don’t think anything will ever be harder in my life and I’m very proud of what I did to make sure he would never hurt anyone or steal from anyone again.

My Motto?

This too shall pass and just keep swimming! Yes, it’s from a kids’ movie but I think Dory had it right. There will be ups and downs, especially when you own your own business. But if you linger too long on the failures or bad moments, bad days, bad clients, you won’t be able to keep moving forward. Not everyone will like you, you won’t always get the amazing press hit you want or run the social media campaign you had hoped for. But you can’t let failures or short comings define you.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

I think Amy Pohler has done a great job using her celebrity to inspire women and girls in an approachable way through Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls. I think Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) has a great approach to life and going after your goals and dreams by working hard. My husband is one of the most positive people I know- he had been at his job only 3 weeks when the hurricane hit St Maarten and he stepped up to be a leader for the students and faculty at the medical school who were trapped on the island. While we waited for help he kept everyone calm and gave people a sense of leadership.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I have been to Ireland and Scotland a couple of times and I think the entire British Aisles are incredibly enchanting. I have Morocco on my bucket list and can’t wait to go- I’d love to also see the Empty Quarter in Arabia some day.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I am loving Coverage Book at the moment for PR coverage, as well as social media reach. It makes my job much easier and they keep adding new features I like. I am still a big believer in Hootsuite and BaseCamp for organizing social media posts and Basecamp for organizing my team, projects and clients.

My Current Passions?

I am passionate about running, writing (fiction), and watching my kids (9, 5, 3) discover life, the world, and what they are passionate about.