EPISODE #76 || Kate McElroy, Associate Director of Strategic Planning at Swift


Kate McElroy, Associate Director of Strategic Planning at Swift, shows us the beauty in knowing there's not one right answer or one way to do things. Hear about the pressure for strategists to have all the answers, why there's no manual for putting together a creative brief, the evolution of social media, and how to get the most out of a mentor relationship (pulled from her involvement in Swift's For The Women program).

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Topics Discussed

  • Starting her career in academia, and the skills from academia that translate into planning.

  • Feeling the need to have all the answers as a strategist, and collaborating with other teams to get to a solution.

  • Her approach to building your strategy narrative, not confining your thinking to Keynote, and why there’s not a manual for putting together a creative brief.

  • The evolution of social and the work that Swift does, running social strategy for Google Hardware, and seeing Google as a challenger brand.

  • Her involvement in For The Women, Swift’s female mentorship program, and turning advocacy into practical advice.

  • How to get the most out of a mentor relationship, including not constraining it to the traditional model of mentorship.

Mic Drops

“Once you’re in an agency, it’s easy to feel like there are people who’ve been trained in this since post high-school. But I think some of the more interesting people that I’ve met in planning have had really meandering paths into agency life.”

“There’s a lot of pressure to have the answers. But I find that the most interesting work, most interesting briefs, and insights really come from a place of exploration, and not necessarily knowing the answers, but being really excited about figuring out what questions to ask.”

“With things like #MeToo […] we get to that point where every news cycle there’s another story, and I think that you get to this point where you become a little numb to the struggle and to the challenges associated with it. And it’s really important to ground yourself in those day-to-day challenges, to make sure that you stay vigilant and mindful of the fact that there are these issues that are pervasive and need to be solved.”

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About Kate

Kate McElroy is an associate director of strategic planning at Swift. She runs the Google Hardware planning team - a cross-disciplinary group that supports creative, comms and media planning. An advocate for the agency's planning practice, she's committed to finding innovative ways for planning and strategy to reach audiences. 

She's involved in Swift's mentorship program, For the Women, leading the organization's efforts to gather insights related to professional women's experiences. 

She got started in advertising after pursuing a PhD in political economy. Different fields, united by an obsession for understanding how people make decisions. A Portland transplant, Kate is kind of Canadian and will take any excuse to lose cell coverage. You can call her McKate.