Well, hello there! My name is Abby, and I am happy to report that I am Ketner Group’s Spring 2023 PR intern. I believe an introduction is in order. Here goes!
What makes Abby, Abby?
Here are the basics: I am a senior public relations major and business foundations minor at UT Austin, and I hail from Plano, Texas.
If you saw the recipe of me, energy would make up at least half of the ingredients. I am the world’s most obvious extravert, with the propensity to over-tell jokes and the audacity to perform my pizza raps for strangers. Yes, pizza raps. And yes, strangers.
I love music. You can find me leading worship in the local church, yell-singing Taylor Swift’s “reputation” album in my car, doo-wopping with my a cappella group and even sitting at the piano writing songs of my own.
In fifth grade, the poetry unit was my favorite. I found joy in placing the perfect rhyme in the perfect spot with the perfect phrasing. At the time, I did not realize that was an indicator of a long-term trend in my life. Writing.
And that is a perfect segue into my next section.
The creative writer to PR professional pipeline
To be honest, PR as a major was my second choice. But thank goodness, the more classes I took, the more I saw a future in the PR field, where I can both make a difference and be made different. I fell more in love with writing and learned tools that help me bridge the gap between the creative and technical.
There is something to be said of creativity within the field of PR. The bounds of communication are endless. Why tell an audience something when you can show them instead?
My growing curiosity directed at media and its intersection with writing first took form through leadership positions on campus (hook ‘em!). I served as marketing executive with a campus ministry and ran the social media accounts for my a cappella group.
Those experiences turned into a client-side PR internship in the large corporate setting. Finally, that turned into the realization that to complete the real PR crash course of life, I needed to head agency-side. Enter Ketner Group.
How I landed at Ketner Group
Ketner Group is an interesting agency because of its niche. I mean, come on. What on Earth is retail tech? That was my exact question when Ketner Group showed up on my radar. Of course, any good soon-to-be graduate does her research. So I did mine.
With my research came the understanding that retail tech is an industry that is growing rapidly. There is great value in gaining a frame of reference with an industry that’s on the up and up.
Not only that, but every single person I come into contact with at Ketner Group is friendly and on the ball. Starting with the recruitment process, I quickly understood that this is an agency that values efficiency in conjunction with kindness. And after being here a week, that observation holds firm.
I look forward to honing my skills and developing new ones here at Ketner Group. Bring it on.
I’m usually not nervous about interviewing someone, but this blog post is a bit different. After all, it’s about my business partner and our agency president, Catherine Seeds, who celebrated her 20th anniversary at Ketner Group earlier this month.
This agency absolutely wouldn’t be the same without her. Catherine dares to dream big, she’s fiercely loyal, and she always, always has the best interests of the team at heart. I’m thankful for her leadership and friendship.
Catherine and I sat down for an interview recently, and we could have talked all morning; this interview is only a part of our conversation. But it sheds a lot of light on what makes Catherine tick (spoiler alert: Walt Disney plays a key role), the challenges and opportunities of running a PR agency, and her vision for the future of Ketner Group.
Here’s to the next 20 years!
20 years working at a PR agency is almost unheard-of these days. What’s inspired you to be part of Ketner Group for all these years?
One of my inspirations is my dad. He worked at John Deere for 35 years, and after retiring from John Deere Corporate, he worked for them again managing a dealership in Marble Falls. He’s very loyal and steadfast, and I get a lot of that from him. When I met you and Terry (my former agency partner), this felt like a place I could be for a long time.
One of the other things is that Ketner Group has always been open to change, for example, changing from a B2B technology PR agency to focus entirely on retail technology. There is so much innovation in retail, and we’ve had the opportunity to not only work for great people but also be part of an industry that’s fun and exciting.
Our team is a big part of it, of course. They’ve always inspired me to keep doing bigger and better things.
You’ve made so many contributions to Ketner Group, and you’ve continually challenged us to dream big and step outside our comfort zone as an agency. Looking back at your first 20 years, what are you most proud of?
This is a hard one—there are so many things I’m proud of! Opening the New York office was big. But even more important, we’ve started thinking bigger as an agency. Ketner Group used to be thought of as a small Austin agency that catered to startups; we didn’t look at things on a global scale. I’m proud that we’ve been able to slowly change Ketner Group into an agency that’s nationally recognized.
I’m also very proud of our team—past and present. We’ve always brought in the right team members at the right time. It’s been a collaborative effort of so many people over the years, both inside and outside the agency, that have encouraged and helped us to do more than we’ve done before. Our team has grand goals, and they are a huge part in helping us achieve those goals.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I can think of over 100 challenges that I have had to overcome in my 20 years at Ketner Group! I keep using the word lucky, but it is so true. I have been so lucky to have an amazing partner in Jeff Ketner and a fabulous leadership team that have all worked together to solve whatever challenges come our way. We will continue to face challenges, but we will do so as a team, just like we always do.
On a personal level, one of the biggest challenges is being a working mom. I am blessed to have a fabulous husband who’s a true partner, and we always do things 50-50. But being a working mom has its challenges. Over the years, there have been plenty of late nights, working on weekends, trips on which I missed things. But these were small sacrifices, and my husband and kids are extremely supportive of me and my work.
As I said in my blog last year about parenthood at KG, Ketner Group has allowed me to have the best of both worlds, and my children get to see first-hand the aftereffects of a family-first and employee-first company. More importantly, they know that it is possible to have a successful career and be there for them no matter what. I have always been so grateful for that.
Who inspires you as a leader?
Walt Disney has always inspired me! There are rumblings that he was a micromanager and had a short temper, which is not like me, but he had a grand vision for what he wanted to accomplish. Disney has famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world.” I just love that quote!
We’ve done a lot of things at Ketner Group that I’m proud of. But there’s so much more we could be doing. I’m always trying to think of what’s next.
I’m also inspired by female leaders! And in Austin, there are plenty of fabulous women to look up to. I love how Elizabeth Christian and Kendra Scott are always giving back and going beyond what’s expected. Their leadership inspires me to do more in my community. I’ve been on the PTSA board at Cedar Park High School (Go, T-Wolves!) for several years now, currently serving as president, and volunteer regularly with my son at the Leander ISD Clothes Closet. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when you participate in something that is bigger than yourself – it is a great feeling!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like the things that are the scariest! I loved the miniseries “The Offer,” about the producers of the original Godfather movie. As the series indicates, making the Godfather movie was riddled with problems—budgeting issues, fights about casting, and the mob! The producer of that film had to constantly deal with challenges, but he never wavered and kept pushing forward.
This show spoke to my soul, ha! It occurred to me that in my role as president, I’m basically a movie producer. (Minus the mob of course!) Our job as leaders is to keep calm and work with our teams to solve problems one step at a time. I love facing challenges head on, and I especially enjoy mentoring my team through these challenges.
What are your goals for Ketner Group over the next few years?
We have ambitious goals. First, we want to continue branding Ketner Group and establishing ourselves as a nationally recognized firm that is the go-to agency for retail technology. When retail tech companies think of hiring an agency, I want Ketner Group to be top-of-mind.
I also want to figure out the best way to maintain a hybrid work environment. We will always have some remote employees, and we’re investing to make sure we still come together as a team. We’re working hard to find the best ways to continue building a great company culture.
I joined Ketner Group as an intern in early 2020. And as you can imagine with that start date, I haven’t had many opportunities to attend in-person retail conferences. So, when my team mentioned the possibility of having me attend the 2022 SKU Retail Brew Summit, I jumped at the opportunity! I couldn’t wait to hear from some of the brilliantly talented people in the retail technology industry.
I can confidently say that the conference lived up to all my expectations. I was able to hear from executives at JCPenney, Crocs, Shipt, Kroger and more. In addition, I had the chance to network with the reporters from Retail Brew while enjoying great food.
For those of you who didn’t make it to New York City for Retail Brew’s conference, I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes and how they apply to the future of retail.
“What you do to get them, you should do to keep them.”
A major topic of discussion at the conference was customer experience. When discussing this all-important aspect of retail, Ciara Anfield, chief member and marketing officer, Sam’s Club explained that the things you do to gain a new customer should be the same things you do to keep them around.
This sentiment can be achieved through added-value strategies like promotions, deals and personalized outreach, or through community-building tactics like authentic collaborations and user-generated content.
Similarly, Kat Cole, president and chief operating officer, Athletic Greens, spoke about authenticity in employee culture. According to Kat, businesses should open clear channels for dialogue with their employees to ensure everyone feels supported from their first day at the company to their last.
“Confidence is earned through experience.”
Melissa Ben-Ishay, co-founder and CEO, Baked by Melissa started her mini cupcake business in 2008 and it has since become a staple bakery chain in New York City. This is an impressive feat in a crowded industry, and it was made possible by her focus and innovation. After explaining her rise to the top, she told the crowd that “confidence is earned through experience.”
This sentiment rang true throughout the event as multiple speakers explained that staying true to core values and the value proposition is critical to success.
They also explained that retailers must be customer-obsessed, dedicated to the quality of their product and open to testing and retesting based on data and customer reactions.
“Be the cockroach.”
Believe it or not, Tyler Williams, head of brand experience, Zappos, used cockroaches as a metaphor for successful retailers. The pest is known for its genetic adaptability, something that should inspire retailers to continue to innovate despite industry challenges. As retailers deal with labor shortages, inflation and an impending recession, adaptability has never been more important.
Speakers throughout the day touched on upcoming innovations. For example, executives from Athletic Greens and Puppyspot expressed interest in adding subscription services for loyal customers and Jing Gao, founder and CEO at Fly By Jing mentioned focusing on seamless omnichannel experiences in 2023.
Innovation is always top-of-mind for our clients at Ketner Group, and hearing so many retailers express their intent to lean on these new technologies is promising for the new year ahead.
There’s always more to learn after the Retail Brew Summit
Every event that brings professionals together is an opportunity to get smarter, craftier, and more excited about what you do – and the 2022 SKU Retail Brew Summit was no exception. I loved hearing from so many brilliant people because it only motivates me to dive deeper into this exciting industry.
The Ketner Group team is looking forward to attending more in-person events both to support our clients and to strengthen our own understanding of the retail technology industry. For example, we’re looking forward to attending NRF Retail’s Big Show, and just last week we enjoyed attending The SEMA Show!
Please reach out if you want to meet us at one of these exciting industry events.
Many of us can remember the social unrest that occurred in May and June 2020. George Floyd’s murder not only initiated immense public response, but many businesses made statements against racism and injustice. Another result of this societal awakening was companies began looking inward to support diversity, equity and inclusion – including yours truly.
With communications at our company’s core, it was important for us to formalize our dedication to DEI efforts and ensure Ketner Group continues to be a great place to work. As the DEI committee co-lead, I wanted to share more about how our committee was created, and the ways we promote DEI to foster a sense of belonging and ensure everyone has a voice.
Training sessions: uncomfortable but critical
When the act of formalizing DEI processes is net-new, it can be daunting to start. We all know it’s important, but it’s equally important to get it right. DEI efforts must be authentic and sustainable, not performative.
With this new initiative ahead of us, we reached out to Daniel Oppong, a friend of Ketner Group, and founder of DEI training and consulting firm, The Courage Collective. With his team, we held a training session via Zoom during which we learned everything from identity as it relates to the workplace to allyship and antiracism. What’s more, the Courage Collective team encouraged us to acknowledge our diversity and have hard conversations with each other.
Committee creation: approach from both sides
By its definition, DEI can’t be done alone, so our next step was to form a volunteer-based committee. For us, it was imperative for the committee to be led by members of the junior team. However, we also sought executive leadership buy-in, as this is crucial for a committee’s success. In this way, we ensure all voices are heard and that initiatives have the support needed to get off the ground.
Over the past two years, the team has launched several initiatives, including:
Updating language around hiring and recruiting processes, to search for new team members that are a “culture add” rather than a “culture fit.”
Identifying quarterly initiatives and goals based on anonymous employee surveys.
Establishing our values to set expectations for how we work together as a team as well as how we work with clients.
Monthly observances: continuing the conversation
One of my personal favorite activities that has come out of our DEI committee is our recognition of monthly observances. This often involves us learning and celebrating the histories and contributions of marginalized communities. This is another team-voted idea where we highlight different topics throughout the year.
Most recently, the team celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Across our offices and remote teams, we were able to come together in several ways:
Sharing unique articles in our team Slack channel.
Voting on a charity and making a donation to the charity on the behalf of the Ketner Group team. This month, it was Latinos for Education.
Holding a Spanish “pop quiz” on our team staff meeting, to learn words in Spanish that were specific to the PR world.
Lastly, we wrapped up the month with a team lunch-and-learn. Each team member was able to share a slide and speak on a subject of their choice. Topics ranged from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Prudencia Ayala, Sylvia Mendez and more. We also encouraged our team to order in from local, Hispanic-owned restaurants.
Whether we’re a company of 10 or 100, it’s important to ensure our culture is built on a solid foundation of DEI. There’s even data-backed proof that DEI improves team innovation and financial success. But while it’s good for business, more importantly, a DEI program is good for people, too.
At Ketner Group, we’ve made it clear we’re in a people-first industry. As conversations and programs around DEI are ever evolving, we have an ongoing motivation to ensure a sense of belonging for every one of our team members.
AUSTIN, Texas – Oct. 12, 2022 – Ketner Group Communications, the leading public relations agency for innovative retail technology companies, today announced that PRNEWS has included the agency in its 2023 Agency Elite Top 100. Each year, the editorial roster serves as a comprehensive guide highlighting the most innovative public relations and communications firms in the business. Ketner Group was also included in the 2020 Agency Elite Top 100.
“To be ranked again among such high-caliber agencies is a testament to our team’s consistent creativity and quality of work,” said Catherine Seeds, president, Ketner Group Communications. “We strive to create a work environment in which our team is given the tools and opportunities to exceed client expectations, progress in their careers and thrive outside of the office. Being included in this prestigious list validates our efforts and illustrates our success in creating a culture that delivers strong results.”
Over the last year Ketner Group achieved significant growth, culminating in 20 percent year-over-year revenue growth last year, the creation of a net-new leadership role and multiple industry recognitions. Ketner Group’s momentum is a result of the agency’s continued specialization in retail technology, which resulted in the onboarding of 10 new clients in the retail technology ecosystem, from omnichannel commerce to online marketplaces, hospitality, adtech and supply chain solutions. This past month, Ketner Group solidified its expertise in retail tech PR with the release of The Retail Tech PR Handbook, which shares how retail tech companies can use communications to build brand, drive demand and increase shareholder value.
“Flexibility and evolution are two words that immediately come to mind when I think about the agencies on this year’s list,” says Erika Bradbury, editorial director, PRNEWS. “The firms this year stood out for their work on the most important issues of today, including DEI initiatives, social impact causes and COVID-19 relief work, as well as their understanding of the importance of being nimble in an always-on media world.”
To learn more about Ketner Group’s expertise in retail tech and communications alike, contact us.
About Ketner Group Communications For more than 20 years, Ketner Group has helped retail technology companies build brand, drive demand and grow shareholder value through strategic PR programs. We give retail technology clients an edge through our deep retail expertise, extensive network and targeted communication strategies. Our core services include media and analyst relations, content development, PR messaging and strategy, and more. Ketner Group has offices in Austin, Nashville and New York City, working with clients located in North America, the UK and Europe. For more information, visit www.ketnergroup.com.
Media Contact Kirsty Goodlett, director Ketner Group Communications [email protected]
Hi everyone! My name is Naomi Osuji and I’m so glad to join the Ketner Group team as an intern.
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media studies with a specialization in radio and television production from Mercy College in 2016. I am currently obtaining my master’s degree at Pace University in arts and entertainment management, and I am expected to graduate in May 2023.
My work history
In terms of my career, when I graduated college, I initially saw myself being involved in entertainment or media, whether it be writing at a major publication or being involved with a television network. After college, I worked in retail and did some freelance writing.
In 2018, my friend recommended that I enter the public relations industry, and I took an interest in PR while researching the field. In 2021, I was able to secure two internships within six months, the first one at The Garnette Report, which specialized in music, fashion and entertainment news.
My path to PR
One of the reasons I got into PR is that I like making personal connections with other individuals. I always enjoy learning more about people, and I’m excited to use PR to build relationships with media.
When I discovered that Ketner Group was hiring an intern, I was excited by Ketner’s retail tech specialization. I’m looking forward to learning more about retail tech, as well as being able to work with a great team.
My favorite hobbies
I am a Jersey girl, born and raised. And I am the daughter of two Nigerian immigrants.
I love to read, and I’m always reading any form of articles, opinion pieces, books and more.
I also like to watch video essays on YouTube regarding different topics, particularly pertaining to black women, fashion, the music industry, and retail. I enjoy writing, and I am in the process of creating some content of my own.
Hi Everyone! My name is Isabel Vargas Jaros and I am excited to join Ketner Group as an account supervisor!
Why I went into public relations
Having always enjoyed reading and writing, I knew I wanted to work in an industry that would allow me to story tell daily.
That led me to majoring in public relations at The University of Alabama where I learned about the exciting world of PR. As a student there, I also enjoyed watching the Crimson Tide win two football national championships!
How I ended up at Ketner Group
My career began in New York City where I developed my skills at a few agencies that focused on luxury real estate. After five years in that space, I decided I wanted to branch out into a new market of public relations.
This led me to Ketner Group. After my first interview, I had a feeling that this was going to be the right place for me.
The team at Ketner Group emphasized that professional development and work-life balance were just as important as working hard and delivering excellent client results. These qualities along with the exciting sector of retail technology made it clear to me that I wanted to join Ketner Group!
A little bit about me
While I was born and raised in Texas, I have since made pit stops in Alabama, New York, Connecticut and have now landed in Missouri.
When I am not behind my computer screen you can find me reading romance books, taking a workout class, traveling or spending time with friends and family.
Hi there! I’m Maya Halabi and I’m super excited to join Ketner Group as the newest assistant account executive.
Storytelling and writing had always been at the core of my college experiences and one of my greatest passions. Through a myriad of writing internships and positions, I learned about my love for connecting with others through words. And I enjoyed the creative process of researching and developing pitches.
It wasn’t until my great friend and mentor gave me more of a glimpse into branding and what I like to call, the “business” side of storytelling, that I learned about PR and how much I enjoy it.
Learning the ropes at Spark Magazine
During my time at UT Austin, I initially joined Spark Magazine, an independent fashion publication, as an online writer.
Developing additional interest in the visual side of the editorial world, I made my way up to the role of digital director, where I oversaw all of Spark’s digital visual content. While I was digital director, our then editor-in-chief, Joanne Xu, a PR-maven, decided it was time for the magazine’s first major rebrand.
My curiosity into this process peaked, so I hopped into the “rebrand task force”, where I learned a ton about the strategic creative process behind branding and how it plays into the way people perceive organizations and platforms like Spark.
Shortly after we completed our rebrand, I stepped up to become Spark’s next editor-in-chief at the very tip of the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. I strived to hone into the reputation and crisis communications side of PR amid this experience and in turn, embarked on a path towards corporate communications.
Striking work-life balance at Ketner Group
After I learned about Jeff and Catherine’s focus on work-life balance and their dedication to their employees’ career growth, I knew I wanted to be a part of Ketner if given the chance. I’m also stoked to be doing PR in an innovative and quickly growing sector such as retail tech.
Outside of work, I’m usually jamming with my band, reading about bands, or listening to and discovering new ones.
In the other bulk of my time, you can find me working on my Substack newsletter about vintage and rare antiques, or hanging with my mini-schnauzer, Dotti.
Hi! My name is Susan Nam and I have the privilege of being Ketner Group’s newest intern for the summer, based in Austin.
I’ll graduate from the University of Texas at Austin this summer with a degree in public relations as well as communication and leadership. Sounds like three majors, but thankfully it’s only two.
A little about me
I’m a second generation Korean American born and raised in College Station, Texas. After living in Aggieland my whole life, I was ready to move somewhere new for college.
My time at UT Austin gave me two precious things: identity and community. Through meeting my tribe of friends in college, I’ve grown to cherish my Asian American heritage and forge my values with a group of people. It’s also been nice to struggle through post-grad life together with them.
When I’m not struggling with adulting, you can catch me drinking boba with friends, adding books to my TBR list, or curating my 19-hour Spotify playlist for the summer.
Why I choose PR
I stumbled across the world of public relations while searching for a major that had a definitive career path and could provide me with technical skills to stand out.
PR not only meets those criteria, but it also combines relationship building with storytelling. As a self-proclaimed people person who loves creativity, PR is the ideal career field for me.
Despite half of my college experience occurring during a global pandemic, I’ve had incredible opportunities to intern in a wide variety of places – a nonprofit, a grassroots organization, a tech company, and my own university to name a few.
Although I gained extensive experience in internal and external communications at these organizations, one experience I felt that I lacked was work in an agency setting. Enter Ketner Group!
Agencies tend to be known for being all-encompassing work environments. As a new communications professional, I wanted to experience working at a place that balances spontaneity and hard work with respect and protection for employees’ personal lives.
Ketner Group also serves a niche clientele, retail tech companies, which allows the agency to become experts for its clients.
I look forward to learning the ins and outs of the retail tech industry niche. Already I’m learning a lot from my coworkers who talk excitedly about all the cool aspects of retail tech!
What I’m looking forward to
After working one week at Ketner, I feel encouraged by the work I’ve been trusted with and the support offered to me by Team Awesome.
While interning at an agency does feel a little intimidating, I look forward to challenging myself to grow in my PR skills and soaking up as much wisdom as I can while I’m here.
A lot has changed in my personal life as well. Due to family circumstances, my husband and I recently decided it was time for us to move from Austin back to the suburbs of Dallas. Ketner Group was incredibly understanding and flexible, allowing me to continue working remotely.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a senior account executive (SAE) at Ketner Group, here is a peek into the day in my life — remote work edition!
Emails, meetings and a smoothie break
Today is Monday, so I started off the week by catching up on emails and newsletters. I also put together weekly tasks and assignments for the client accounts I’ve started project managing. Ketner Group is great about providing these types of opportunities for us to step up and take on new responsibilities.
As my other teammates have pointed out, there’s not a dull day in PR. Every day, we are working on different pitches, content and campaigns.
This week, my calendar is filled with client update meetings, webinars to attend, and a client’s quarterly marketing sync. After getting organized for the week, I worked on scheduling a media briefing, reviewing blogs and bylines and following up on pitches.
It’s been a busy day, so in the afternoon, I decided to get a little pick-me-up. Ketner Group offers a snack budget each month. Today, I used the budget to pick up a smoothie from a Tropical Smoothie Café that just opened near my house — just what I needed as I write this blog!
Welcome to my home office
Where do I spend my day working? My husband and I put together a home office where I spend the majority of my time.
We painted the room a dark and moody color to create a space that feels separate from the rest of the house. It’s also one of the rooms that get the most natural light in the house, so my desk is surrounded with plants!
Since I share the office with my husband, we’ve also put together a “conference room” where I can go and take meetings throughout the day. Today, the weather was particularly nice, so I decided to go work outside on my patio for a bit. It’s always nice to have a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air.
Tips on working remotely
Now that I work remotely, here are a few lessons I’ve learned that are helpful to stay connected:
Zoom meeting are still important – We may all have Zoom fatigue, but really, Zoom is still a powerful tool to help me collaborate and stay connected with my team!
Slack is key to connecting – Our team stays active on Slack. Not only do we discuss projects on there, but we also have fun sharing funny TikTok trends.
In-person events are valuable – Even though I live remotely, I still love getting to see the Austin office every so often for events, client meetings, etc. We also had a Ketner Group get-together in Austin recently so that the whole team could bond!
If you’re looking for a place to grow professionally while living your life your way, then visit our career page for opportunities to join our team! We’d love to meet you!