Q&A with October Luncheon Presenter, Kasey Riley

Name: Kasey L. Riley

Title/Company you work for: CMO for The Fat Plant Society, a business my husband and I started together in 2015.

Owner of KLR Marketing, a Web Design, Marketing and PR Consulting firm (currently working with three clients: an art gallery, a soon to be launched new business, and a satellite uplink firm that is reconfiguring due to the changing media landscape.

  • How did you get started in this field?

My first job out of the University of Iowa with a degree in Communications/film studies was as marketing coordinator for John Deere.  While I was floored that they were not hiring at the “Film Studies Factory,” I was thrilled to land a job right out of school and I learned an incredible amount about metrics in my first “grown-up job.  John Deere has always been so remarkable at retaining their core values while being on the forefront of solid business practices (these were the days of LOTUS 1-2-3 for those of you that remember what PC work was like in the early 1990s).  We measured everything and that was actually before it was common practice to look at metrics other than basic revenue and sales numbers.  Cutting my teeth as a marketing coordinator for Deere was the best training a wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-graduate I could have had.

  • Why did you stay in marketing? What attracted you to it?

I didn’t at that time.  Deere collapsed the eastern and western marketing coordinators into one job and offered to move me into sales (apparently I tested as some kind of super-freak, sales prodigy and they pushed me really hard to go into sales) but I declined.

I entered graduate school to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching but found that it was not financially feasible for me to obtain a teaching certificate as I did not have the ability to work full time without pay for my full year of student teaching.  I completed all of the course work however, and that course work has been invaluable.  A marketing consultant is as much of a teacher as consultant and my teaching and coaching skills have served me extremely well in every job I have held.

By 2000, I had taught in China and Europe and began a full time faculty position teaching advertising and public relations at Avila University, a position I held for six years.

  • Who is your biggest influence and why?

As corny as it sounds, my husband.  We only knew each other for two weeks before we got married and as Morten was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, it is an inter-cultural marriage so I have learned to tweak my perspective on many notions that were once “hard-wired.”  Observing him learn and navigate American culture has taught me more about communication as a whole than any book I have ever read.  There has also been the added bonus of living abroad more than once, which, if you ever have the opportunity, you should do.  There is no greater education than living abroad.  And there is no one that can call you on the lies you tell yourself quite like a Dane.

  • Was this always your career goal or did it happen by accident/you stumbled into it?

I have always talked a lot.  A lot.  Just ask my mother.  I pretty much came out of the womb with my head bobbing around and words coming out of my mouth.  My love of communication in all its marvelous forms has been life-long so there was never a question that I would be communicating in some capacity (or all of them as is the case now) professionally. However, like most people, life has thrown me opportunities as well as curve-balls and had you told me two years ago that I would be the CMO of a company that my husband I own together, I would not have believed you.  As Pixar’s Dory would say, “just keep swimming.”

  • What are some of your accomplishments and what do you hope to gain/give back with your role?

Aw geez, now you are pulling out the hard stuff.  The “give back” part is easy.  Our long-term goal for The Fat Plant Society is to hire and train young people who may not have had the luxury of being around plants but have an interest and/or love of plants that we can nurture.  As a former educator, I am very supportive of alternative types of education such as apprenticeships and craftsmanship certifications and to be able to provide solid training and a career path for young people would be its own reward.

As for accomplishments, I am most proud of the “6by6:Ready to Read” program I developed for Johnson County, Kansas Library system, and subsequently the State Library of Kansas.  I am most proud of that program because it has had such measurable impact with kids.  There are six key skills a child needs to acquire before starting kindergarten to be successful readers (there were actually more than six but I recognized redundancies in the concepts).

I often joke that I speak “corporate” and “government” but I translate those languages into “human.”  That was exactly what I did with the existing “Every Child Ready to Read’ program developed by the American Library Association. I took a program that had a solid foundation, translated it into “human,” (no offense to the ALA)  and had a local, Kansas City artist develop gorgeous illustrations for to accompany the key tenets.

The simplified, human, language, complemented with rich illustrations made the six skills accessible as well as appealing which meant that parents and care-givers of all economic and education levels could utilize the packaged tool to get kids “reading ready” by kindergarten.  I was delighted that the State Library of Kansas saw the value in the packaged program and saw fit to roll it out state-wide.

  • What are you most excited about presenting to AMA Omaha?

I am most excited about helping to alleviate any fear or anxiety that attendees have about writing.  To find one’s voice is truly a treat and it is an absolutely achievable goal for anyone.  As we all know, writing has become core to marketing once again but if you expect people to engage with your writing, you have to be clear, you have to be sincere, and you have to find your own voice to do that.
I am also rather excited to talk about how to promote the writing we do as marketers.  The fact is that now, we need to spend as much time promoting the content we create as we spend creating it.  Since none of us can be all things to all people, I am excited to talk about how to use words to gain the audience you want.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I want to hear from attendees about their writing successes and challenges.  I am a rather inter-active speaker so my presentation will not be a monologue.