In episode 140, Kerel and Erik have a conversation with Katie Kern, Agency Partner at Media Frenzy Global. Media Frenzy Global works primarily with tech companies, from midsize to enterprise-sized companies, working on brand development, public relations programs, and also content marketing. Katie, also known as Ekaette, is a big sports lover and has moved from companies such as Nike and Reebok to now helping Atlanta as they go through a major tech boom. She was very inspired by her mother who was always a curious person and her father who was a Black Panther, constantly in the forefront and shaking things up. After having trouble finding work after graduation, Katie decided to change her name from Ekaette to Katie. She uses her story to help her mentees in making sure they stay authentic and take part in shaping the tech industry and beyond.
Katie shares what an exciting time it is to be in Atlanta, as it influences everything, working with challenger brands to really make a difference and change the culture in the community, especially in sports, which is something Katie loves, and also the hard work companies need to take on to create progress in diverse hiring and culture.
“You really do have the power and it really just takes someone being brave and saying this is what we're going to dedicate ourselves and do and pushing that forward. Action speaks louder than words. And that's the expectation that all these agencies, these major brands, just do what you say you're going to do.”
Ekaette (Katie) Kern on LinkedIn
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of Minority Report podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode we talk with leaders in business, tech and media. And today joining us is Katie Kern, who's Agency Partner at Media Frenzy Global. Let's jump in and get to know Katie. Katie, welcome. How are you?
Katie Kern 00:26
I am great. Thank you guys for having me. I'm really excited to be here. Thanks so much.
Absolutely. We're excited to have you on and be able to cover a lot of things. But first, tell us a little bit about Katie. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? Tell us about you.
Katie Kern 00:42
Absolutely. So I am a Georgia girl born and raised. I was raised in Augusta, Georgia, home of the Masters. I'm sure everyone's familiar with the Masters golf tournament. That's what we're known for. And born and raised there. Once I decided to take flight from the small city of Augusta, went to college, graduated from college in four years. I like to brag about that, because four years is a very aggressive time to graduate from college. And then I decided to take my career to Reebok. That was my first job in the marketing department at Reebok. I uprooted myself from the south, knew nothing about living up north except that it's cold and decided to take a leap of faith and really see what I'm worth, and move to a place that was completely foreign to me in Boston, Massachusetts. So it was quite an interesting journey, to say the least. Worked for Reebok for a couple of years. Was on a lot of various projects, decided to go to another company called Casual Male Retail Group. You guys probably on the customer facing side know that company as a big and tall company - it's Big and Tall brand. That's client facing. And then from there, my husband and I met and decided to move to Charleston, South Carolina, where I started my own lifestyle and boutique agency where I was really focused on fashion and beauty. I did that for a few years. And then my husband's job once again, you know, we're always running behind our husbands trying to make sure that you know, we're keeping the family moving and growing and settled back in Atlanta, and started working with Media Frenzy Global. So we work primarily with tech companies, from midsize to enterprise sized companies primarily working on brand development, public relations programs, and also content marketing.
Katie, I have to ask, Augusta, Georgia, do you play golf?
Katie Kern 02:45
I do not play golf. I play tennis. And I'm very good. So I'm very competitive and good.
Nice. Nice. (laughs) That's cool. Where did you find that side of yourself that said, "Hey, you know what I'm okay uprooting myself and going way far away from home, right, to an unknown place. It sounds like you didn't have a lot of sort of a nucleus of friends and family that were there in Massachusetts who welcomed you, right? So where do you think you found that pioneering spirit for yourself to just kind of go and do that?
Katie Kern 03:18
Yeah, I think it came from my parents. My mom is, she passed away actually in October. And I always say that I got my mom's kindred spirit. We're always looking for things that are new and special. My mom was a very curious person, she was always great at evolving and adapting to new situations. And then, on the flip side I have my dad, my dad was actually a Black Panther. He actually led the Black Panther Party in Augusta, Georgia. And when you see someone who's constantly out in the forefront, shaking up things, and really, really trying to make a difference in the community, his goal was always to make sure that his daughters were first and foremost, giving back to their community, but making sure that we were spreading our wings wherever we went.
Yeah, and when you decided to go to school, how did you make a decision on like, where to go and sort of start that chapter of your life?
Katie Kern 04:18
You know what's interesting, my family is very much rooted in the medical field, whether it's my sisters with nurses, doctors, if you look at my family, everyone is in the medical field. That did not interest me whatsoever. I wasn't interested in helping people in that way. But then it was interesting, I actually got to do an internship with Nike and one of the assignments that I received was the Nike Peach Jam. I don't know if you guys are familiar with the Nike Peach Jam, but I was able to go and see all these elite high school athletes in these AAU tournaments play at this high level. And all these college coaches and recruiters and you know, really out there just looking at this talent and these kids doing these amazing things at such an early age, and this brand just rallying around them - Nike just rallying around them. And I was in the midst of all of that. That excited me so much. And I was like, You know what, I think I want to do this every day. So fast forward, was not interested in moving to Portland, Oregon whatsoever, but Reebok, great company, it was the second largest footwear company in the world at that time. And I was like, well, they're in Boston, that's a cool place. Let's go and see if that's gonna be somewhere that could be a place where I can kind of lay down, you know, some roots and also just learn. You know, I'm a curious person by nature and always looking to kind of see what's on the horizon. During my time at Reebok, we were able to sign a major contract, a licensing contract with the NFL and the NBA and then the NHL as well, so that was great to be a part of that. There was other great opportunities. We work with Pharrell Williams, when he kind of launched the ice cream brand that he was doing for a while, which was great. And then Sean P. Diddy Combs came through and we were able to do the licensing for Sean John footwear as well. So some really cool projects I got to work on.
Nice love that. Tell us more about Media Frenzy Global and what you're up to today.
Katie Kern 06:23
Yeah, you know, with Media Frenzy Global, which is very much the opposite of what kind of my passion, you know, around sports, I grew up in sports, I played basketball, I played tennis. I just love being a part of that. Just being a part of just that excitement that was constantly going on. I'm an athlete at heart even though I don't play competitively, I'm still very much out there playing and just kind of being a part of what's happening. You can ask me anything about what's going on in the NBA right now, I'll let you know what's going on. Play by play, players, stats, whatever the case may be, it's in my DNA. But with Media Frenzy, just being able to come into a time when Atlanta was kind of getting really big with tech, the tech boom was happening in Atlanta, there were just so many great companies that were coming out of Atlanta like MailChimp, Google was setting up, you know, a home base there, Pinterest, Spotify, all these great companies looking to Atlanta, because I don't know if you guys know this, but Atlanta influences everything. Any and everything, Atlanta influences everything
I could see that. (laughs)
Yes, we know it now. (laughs)
What is it about the challenger brands that gets you so excited and makes you so passionate about helping them succeed or grow their brand?
Katie Kern 07:31
I'm not just talking about the US, around the world. You can go to the continent of Africa, you can go to Europe, you can go to all these different places, they know who the Migos are, they knew who Drake is. Drake actually got his start in Atlanta. Whether it's any sort of, Cardi B, she actually is not from there, I know she's from you know, New York, but she lives right here. There's, you know, Tyler Perry studios. There's all these great things that are coming out of Atlanta and I wanted to be a part of it because I wanted to make sure that we kept our finger on the pulse of all great things tech that's happening in Atlanta. And so Media Frenzy, we are working with really great clients that are in the tech industry and we do have a passion project, which I actually decided that I wanted to take on. We actually work with the Harlem Globetrotters. The Harlem Globetrotters are actually based here in Atlanta. They're not based in Harlem as people might think. And that's a passion project for us, so we're doing all of the media relations for the Harlem Globetrotters. So whether it's, you know, taking campaigns like a Dear NBA letter, where we actually sent a letter to Adam Silver and demanded they give their credit to the Harlem Globetrotters because they are the trailblazers who actually got black players initiated into the NBA. So we're just doing a lot of great things with these, I think we like to call them challenger brands, you know, to help them tell their story and really develop some really cool messaging around their story.
Katie Kern 09:07
You know, it was interesting when we were actually asked to come on to be the agency of record for the Harlem Globetrotters, the PR agency of record, I don't know if people know this, but the Harlem Globetrotters actually skipped a generation. They were very, very active for a while and then they, you know, like the Curly Neal's and the Meadowlark Lemon's, these like legacy players, and then you didn't hear from them for quite a while. So when we were asked to reintroduce this brand to a new demographic, I was like, Yeah, let's take on this challenge because there was a lot of research that we had to do, you know, when your core demographic that you're trying to target are black boys between the ages of 10 and 13, just think about that age and what their thoughts are on basketball and what the Harlem Globetrotters do at their events that they host in various cities. These kids have grown up with Steph Curry, Lebron James, some of them are playing in AAU by that time between the ages of 10 and 13 and they're being looked at by recruiters and colleges so their expectation is that they want to see balling, ballers, you know? So and that's not necessarily what the Harlem Globetrotters are at their core, they're not playing at the NBA level, so having to figure out what's going to really resonate with them. And that's going to make those kids kind of say, you know stand up and pay attention, it's going to be their connection to their community, the activism that they have out in their community, fighting for, you know, Black Lives Matter and all these different civil rights, the volunteering that they do at the Boys and Girls Club, and all these different things. So being able to tell those stories at a high level, is what really intrigued us taking on that challenge or brand.
Great. Katie, I want to ask you about something that you helped launch a couple of years ago with the A Pledge. Can you talk to us about the A Pledge?
Katie Kern 11:06
Yes, absolutely. The A Pledge is my baby right now. It is something that I hold near and dear, because, of course, after the murder of George Floyd, all these different brands across the country wanted to put up those black boxes in solidarity saying that enough is enough and we came to find out that when all these pledges were being kind of spearheaded, you look at the data now a lot of the diversity, equity and inclusion that we expected to happen, especially in the industry that I'm in, advertising and marketing, they're not living up to those pledges. And the A Pledge, which I love, which is the mission for Atlanta. The city of Atlanta is 53% black. And that's nowhere near representation of black and brown people in advertising and marketing agencies. It's probably more around seven to 10%, just depending on if you're taking them at outside of the perimeter. So one of our missions is to make sure by 2030, that the city that we live in is representation of the people that are working in these advertising and marketing agencies.
How do you think the progress is going on that? Because Erik and I talk to our guests a lot about, you know, some of the what you said, you know, all the unfortunate events that happened two plus years ago now that got a lot of recognition, right? Let's be clear, events like that were happening well before two years ago, but you know, started to get recognition or a light shined on them two years ago and a lot of companies made pledges, a lot of companies decided to relook at their own DEI efforts, so on and so forth. Where do you think we stand today in terms of progress being made over the last two and a half years?
Katie Kern 12:55
You know, unfortunately, if I'm looking at the US, I know that the most recent data, people have not lived up to those pledges when you look at when they are able to show their numbers. Because that's one of the things that the A Pledge, we require the agencies that have pledged that we want to see your numbers, we want to see how you've retained diverse talent, have you hired, you know, executive level talent. So that visibility is really important to us and that transparency, but if you look at it from a nationwide bird's eye view, things have not changed at all. It's very much smoke and mirrors. Like most of the time when people are, they're more reactive than anything and that's when they make the mistake for when they get outed by their agency, employees, or even brands. So right now, there's a lot of work to be done. A lot of work to be done.
Yeah. What are some of those things you think in terms of work that needs to be done, can be done to move us forward?
Katie Kern 13:56
One of the things that really kind of frustrates me more than anything, sometimes I don't understand when companies say they can't move, they can't do anything. Well, they're like, "Oh, we don't have any job openings right now so we can't hire any more people. Just people in general. We have a hiring freeze or the economy's not doing well," there's so many excuses. And I feel that if you really want to make a difference, and you're sitting in these executives -we're not talking to mid tier or junior level executives, we're talking to the CEOs and CMOs of companies - if you really want to make a change, you have the power. You really do have the power and it really just takes someone being brave and saying this is what we're going to dedicate ourselves and do and pushing that forward. Action speaks louder than words. And that's the expectation that all these agencies, these major brands, just do what you say you're going to do. It doesn't take like, people think they have to put these programs together. Just like, no, hire! There's so many things that are out there. I mean, I tell people all the time, they're like, "Oh, we have such a hard time filling these entry level people," I'm like, "Come to Atlanta, we have tons of HBCUs here. Some of the top in the country." There's no lack of talent that's out there. You can see tons of creatives. Go to TikTok, for God's sake. Some of the best of the best creatives, creating content on those platforms and you would be amazed, if you brought them into your company, how they could really change the dynamics of the work that you're creating, to move and shift your business forward. It's pretty simple to me, but unfortunately people make excuses. And that's what we've seen over the past two and a half years.
Right, right. You talked earlier about your dad was part of Black Panthers. How much of your drive today, especially around the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion was influenced by him in the work he did?
Katie Kern 16:01
Yeah, I mean, it's interesting, I know, before we got on, we were talking about my name, making sure to pronounce my name correctly. And one of the things that was a little bit sad to myself, it was very, very depressing to myself and to my family in general, is that I changed my name. My government name, is Ekaette..... we have African names. And when I graduated from college, I found it very, very difficult to get a job. Submit my resume, I was not getting any callbacks. And it wasn't because of the lack of experience or I didn't do well in school. I mean, my resume was pretty stacked. But I did not get any callbacks. I changed to Katie, at that time, my last name was Nelson. Immediately, I got an influx of interests. It's a very, very sad story, because that's something that my dad made sure that we were very proud of our names. And I had to go and do something pretty drastic in order to make sure that I made my way in this American society. So taking that from my dad, that's something that I did have to, to do that I wasn't very proud of, but one of the things that I did take from my dad, as we were growing up is my dad was fearless. And one of the things that I have done in my life is I've trail blazed through things. You can tell me know a million times, I don't care. You gotta accept those types, that type of rejection. I have built thick skin. You can say a lot of things to me and it's not going to break me down. Seen it, heard it before, probably things that were worse that were said to people out there. But that was something that my dad really prepared me for. It's interesting. My dad is always like, he was like you're unbreakable. That is something that he built and instilled in me
Any thought of ever changing your name back?
Katie Kern 18:04
The interesting thing is that everyone else outside of work called me Ekaette so it's not like it's forgotten or, it's just more in the business. Like even in school I was Ekaette. Even my childhood friends and schoolmates it's Ekaette. Katie came into play for work.
Great. Somebody who really knows you. Who really knows you and you're name, right, isn't that great?
Katie Kern 18:30
Yes. It's so funny, I'll go out and they'll say Ekaette, I'm like, it must be someone from school, you know, because it's not what I use in my everyday life, so yes.
Yeah, thank you for sharing that with us. And I think often about previous guests that we've had where they shared experiences about how in just a name, not even meeting someone, not even taking five minutes to get to know someone, that through someone's name, that can be an immediate shutout, that can be an immediate, just stop. And, you know, for anyone listening that's evaluating candidates and evaluating folks to bring into their company, you know, I think that's a powerful thing to think about and hear about. So thank you for sharing that with us. Also, Kerel and I, we take the time to sort of talk about that because it's that important and respect can even begin with pronouncing someone's name correctly. Making sure that you take the time to say it correctly. You would do it with a lot of other situations, why not in a name, right? And so, that's fascinating. I want to ask you about something that I know you're really proud of and that's being a mentor, and you're a mentor along with other esteemed women. Can you talk about some of your mentorship work and what it kind of means to you today?
Katie Kern 19:48
Absolutely. I just actually wrapped up a great mentorship program with Live Nation. I was matched with this incredible young woman…She goes to Savannah State University, and she's majoring in marketing, she's actually getting her Master's. She's about to wrap up in December. And those opportunities for me are just so important because I don't think that people understand that when you actually have someone that can listen and really understand what you're going through, understand some of the challenges that you're going through, even facing the name thing, Judea, think about the name. We actually had that conversation and I encouraged her, I said, "Do not change your name," because she's going to change it to J, I said, "Absolutely not," keep your name. Your name means something. And we actually had to tell her my story. And if I could go back and do it again, I would completely keep my name. But just being able to have an opportunity to guide a young person through their journey, and get them prepared for what's to come, that is the most rewarding thing that I do every single day. Media Frenzy, I love the A Pledge, but my time with Judea and being able to guide her through this journey before she embarks on going into her professional career, and really prepare her for what's to come. You know, I don't sugarcoat anything with her, we're very, very transparent. Her dad actually even called me at the end of the internship and said, "Thank you so much. You have no idea the impact that you've made on my daughter. She actually was interviewing for a job, and she's a beast at salary negotiations." Because you know, I told her, I said, "Do your research. Make sure you go out there and do your research. You're getting your masters, that's a leg up on other candidates that are out there. You put in the work, you've put in the time. So don't ever underestimate yourself." So these types of engagements are so important. And I feel like I've gotten so much from these mentorship opportunities, more than I feel like I've given. These kids are curious and they're hungry. They're living in a time that's so just kind of unknown. Just imagine being in COVID, and going to school online for two years straight, and not knowing what the job market is going to look like. Going into marketing and knowing that, you know, there's very few black and brown people that get the opportunity to work in agencies or for these major brands. Those jobs, they're just not knocking down your door, you really have to be aggressive and know someone, have resources. And that's what I offer to her and any of the individuals that I mentor. You have my resources, you have my ear, I'm an advocate for then and these are lifelong friendships that I've been able to establish.
That's awesome. That's great. Earlier, you talked about sort of inspiration through exposure with Nike and sort of kicking off your career and then even inspiration from your dad and your mom and life lessons, right? Where are you drawing inspiration from now? What are you finding inspiring today?
Katie Kern 23:14
You know, right now, I'm doing a lot of Audibles right now. I listened to the Will Smith book that came out. And he really has created this formula of being a major actor, entertainer and his life lessons, there were so many things that I could walk away from and say, You know what, this is something that you can actually apply. This is a thought process that you could actually implement. There's so many great learning lessons that came out of listening to that book. And I just started embarking on, one of the people that I want to meet and I hope I get to meet in my lifetime and his lifetime is Quincy Jones. I'm a huge fan of Quincy Jones. I feel like he's lived an amazing life. And he's really remained curious and has changed music in so many different ways. I was actually looking at a documentary around Quincy Jones on Netflix, and I was just so, I was actually jealous of the people that worked with him because they were able to absorb everything that he's been able to acquire over the years, just all the knowledge and the exposure. This man is living extraordinary life. And I think the life lessons that he has, and his book is all about life lessons, his recent book that he just released, and I'm just diving into it because there's just so many life lessons to learn from someone like at his caliber.
Alright, Katie, two fun questions that I have for you. I'll ask the first one. First one is give us the top three apps that you use on your phone on a regular basis but you can't name email or calendar or text messaging because those are boring and way too easy.
Katie Kern 25:03
The fitness app, use that one. Audible, use that one on a regular basis. And Spotify.
Okay. Alright. Alright, now the second question, who's winning the NBA finals this year? (laughs)
Katie Kern 25:20
Oh gosh...I'm going to be hopeful and say Golden State. I'm going to be hopeful.
That's who I would go with right now considering Booker is out for Phoenix, and who knows if they're gonna get past New Orleans and I don't really have much confidence in any of the teams in the East because they all just go up and down all the time.
Katie Kern 25:41
That is true. Even though Atlanta could have been in contingency, but they could not pull it through, so I digress. (laughs)
Well, Katie, thanks so much for hanging out with us. You know, a lot of our listeners and viewers love to stay in touch and reach out if they can, what are some easy ways that they can do that?
Katie Kern 26:01
The best place to reach me, of course, and I would not, I'm putting like a little bit of a hesitation because he actually just purchased my favorite social media platform, but Twitter is where I love to have conversations with people and people can reach me at Katie Kern. I actually was able to acquire that very early on because I was an early adopter of Twitter. And I might be moving away from that just depending on how things go with this new ownership. But yes, @KatieKern and then LinkedIn is a great place. If there's anything that someone wants to reach me, especially dealing with marketing or DEI or PR, advertising, LinkedIn, I'm always very, very linked in to those platforms. And I do respond, I do not ignore people. I do much very respond because I think it's very, very respectful. That's why you're on the platform, it's not private.
Excellent. Well, thank you, Katie, Ekaette Kern. And we want to thank everyone for listening to another episode. And you can find more episodes where you find all of your audio and video, just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks again.