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Team Mathews Spotlight: Introducing Susan Connery!

We recently chatted with our controller, Susan Connery, about what it’s like to manage a virtual agency – well, virtually. It is not by coincidence that things run so smoothly around these parts. What’s our secret? We have a Susan.

Q: Can you share a little about yourself?

My husband and I live in McLean, Va., and have three children. We are thinking about adding a dog, but we haven’t taken the plunge just yet.

Q: When did you join The Mathews Group?

I joined the team very early on, when Melissa was starting her business in 2010. My next-door neighbor at the time saw an ad in a local mom’s group for some part-time operations support. I was still a new mom to a baby, so this seemed like a good way for me to transition slowly back into the workforce.

“I love the water and all activities involving balance. Stand-up paddleboard, skating and water skiing are my favorites,” said Susan. “I guess it sort of goes along with the accountant thing – we love everything to be ‘in balance’.”

Q: Tell me about how your career evolved as a corporate controller?

After graduating from the University of Florida in 1995, I went to work for Arthur Andersen as an auditor in Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter, I got married and my husband and I moved to New York, where I worked in the treasury department for Revlon. Both positions were great for getting me grounded in the financials of running a business. Next, I went to JPMorgan, where I was a corporate controller for AT&T’s real estate portfolio. This was a valuable opportunity for me and challenged me professionally. When my husband was transferred to D.C. in 2001, I became one of the first remote employees at JPMorgan. I used to work from home two days a week and commute the other three. At the time, working remotely was very challenging. Technology was not as developed, we used VPNs that were painfully slow and clients were less supportive of this model. Today, it is a very common practice but in 2001, I was a bit of a trailblazer.

Q: What are some of the challenges you encounter working for a virtual agency?

I think with a flexible work arrangement time management is critical. Because you are not a full time employee and you are not a full time homemaker, you have to be very careful and keep clear divisions between work and home time. For example, I have established days for laundry, cleaning the house and running errands. I always work ahead and prep meals during the day while children are at school because of after-school demands. When I am working, I am completely committed to maintaining a quiet workspace. I focus on what needs to get done that day and make it my priority. It can be exhausting to put your life in boxes, but I find it’s the only way to stay ahead and allows me to really be present in the evenings and enjoy the simple moments with my family.

Q: What do you love most about the virtual agency model?  

The flexibility in working remotely is so valuable. If a child is home sick from school and needs to go to the doctor, it can be managed pretty easily. The ability to reshuffle your work schedule takes a lot of the pressure off the family. The remote model at The Mathews Group affords me the opportunity to work and be a mom – I don’t always have perfect balance, but I certainly feel fortunate to be part of a great team.   

Q: When you are not working, what kinds of things do you like to do?

I love to travel and to stand-up paddleboard (SUP). I discovered SUP while in Hawaii a few years ago and immediately fell in love. It’s an activity that is totally my speed.

I also really enjoy watching my children play sports, especially basketball and baseball games. It’s great family time for my husband and me, while also supporting the children doing something that they love.

 


 

 

A seriously fun Saturday

It’s a privilege whenever we’re entrusted to work with a group to help them elevate their communication skills. This past weekend Katherine (director of training) and Tia (VP and chief strategy officer) –they’re in the middle of the photo behind the student with the #IAmAnEngineer sign – travelled to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to do a one-day presentation skills seminar for 54 students in the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute. As you can imagine, it’s no small task to convince dozens of college students to come to class on Saturday and spend an entire day learning about how to plan and deliver an effective presentation – and practice those skills on the spot. These students blew us away! Getting there early, being great sports and really putting in the work to get the most out of the day, and having a few laughs along the way.

PR pros by day, beta testers by night

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We like staying on top of the latest communication technologies at The Mathews Group, so recently our Creative Director Katie Kelty participated as a beta tester for a program that applies text to photos for use in social media.

“Project Theo has the potential to give non-designers the tools to design graphics for social media that look as though they were laid out by a professional. I cannot wait to see the final product,” says Katie.

The pilot codenamed Project Theo puts more traditionally sophisticated creative capabilities usually reserved for a graphic designer into the hands of a novice. Clients are telling us they want the ability to quickly turn customized images with eye-catching copy and graphics, and Theo promises to be one way to achieve this with ease.

Project Theo is slated to release later this year. If you are eager to try the app now, the team is looking for more beta testers on their website. Meanwhile, check out their Instagram or search using #madewiththeo to see what we can create with this product.

We’ll keep you posted on when the app will be available for public (and reveal the impressive company behind it) and how we can put Theo and other technology tools to use to achieve your communications goals.

Tia & Emily share career insights with college network

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As communications professionals, we are accustomed to coaching clients from behind the scenes but not often in front of the camera. Recently, the tables turned for The Mathews Group team members and Linfield College alumnae Tia Over ‘01 and Emily Pappas ’04 who sat down with Linfield’s Kevin Curry, to film a video interview about what they value most about their private liberal arts education, how it prepared them for their career paths and current roles and advice for recent grads.

We’ve got our own firework and her name is Melissa!

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Melissa’s article, 10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Hiring a Virtual PR Agency, is featured in PRNews’ Water Cooler section this week. She breaks down the growing trend of virtual work across industries, how it’s brought value to Mathews Group clients and members, and why she thinks others in the PR industry should consider it for themselves. Read it, share it and let her know what you think.

Leaning In Together

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If you are active on social media, you are likely familiar with #LeanInTogether, a campaign designed by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement, and inspired by her late husband Dave Goldberg, to encourage men to join the push for gender equality both at home and in the workplace. It has been a heavily celebrated campaign within Hollywood, by professional athletes, politicians – and also with everyday families.

As a group of working professionals and parents, we are familiar with what it takes to balance the needs of a career and family. One of our colleagues, Senior Communications Counselor Kathie Schoff, offers her perspective on the man in her life that provides support and encouragement as they #LeanInTogether.

From Kathie:

My re-entry into the workforce did not prompt my husband, Jim, to lean in around the house.  Even when I was at home, he was leaning in.

It started one fateful morning when our twins were three months old.  I was struggling to feed them simultaneously, sweating as each cried impatiently until I lifted another spoonful of oatmeal into their mouth.  My husband’s morning routine seemed to change little after the birth of our twins.  He would sit quietly in the kitchen enjoying his cereal and front page.  One day he made the mistake of complimenting me during the morning feeding frenzy.  He said he was going to tell our kids how I single-handedly managed to feed them both at the same time and in my post-partum, sleep-deprived state, my response was not so kind. That was the last day my husband enjoyed a quiet breakfast in the kitchen.  I suppose being outnumbered from the get-go was a contributing factor to the early lean in.

To give him credit, Jim is an extremely helpful and kind person.  As soon as I asked for help, he was happy to pitch in.  When I was ready to return to a career, I already knew I had a reliable partner – one who would jump in when needed and was familiar with the kids’ schedules and at-home routine.

We all benefit in this situation, especially the kids.  I did not get to truly know my dad until my mom got sick a few years ago.  He worked a lot, with a long commute, and at time when there was less expectation of shared responsibilities.  After my mom got sick, my dad often commented that he had no idea how much she did.  He, as it turned out, had an outstanding ability to lean in when needed.  He cared for my mom, learned how to do laundry, remember birthdays and cook!

I can see every day how we all benefit in our house from leaning in together.  I don’t feel alone in the household/childcare duties and my husband appreciates the help paying bills and funding family vacations and our never-ending construction projects.  We both have a better understanding of all the jobs inside and outside the home it takes to keep a family running.

I’m thankful for a partner in it all!  –  KS

To see how other families are sharing the load, you can check out the #LeanInTogether social feed and follow along on Twitter. If you care to share in the comments section, we would love to know how you #LeanInTogether.

Q&A with Elizabeth: Conscious spending and investing

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By day our Elizabeth Beauvais is a seasoned communications professional and corporate social responsibility expert. By night, she teaches friends and neighbors how to apply CSR principles to their own investing. We recently talked with Elizabeth about her experience. Here is what she had to say:  

Q: How did you come to be knowledgeable about this topic?

My background is in impact investing and corporate social responsibility. I’ve spent nearly 20 years thinking about how social and environmental issues affect financial markets and corporate behavior. In my work, I’ve advised a lot of big companies in oil and gas, defense and banking on how to factor in environmental, social and governance issues. Although I work mostly on the corporate side, I discovered that I really enjoyed presenting through the lens of a consumer and investor.

Q: Can you tell us how you were invited to present on this topic?

I am a member of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport, and each month they host a University series that is open to the community. The University program provides short-term courses for adults wanting an in-depth and balanced education on a variety of issues. This is a program I feel passionate about, and I wanted to give back and be of service to my community.

Q: Could you tell me a little about your talk?

I offered guidance about the art of spending money wisely and consciously. We’re all faced with making smart, cost-effective purchases, and we also have options for spending and investing in ways that affect a wide variety of global and environmental issues. It’s an ongoing challenge, which is why understanding the impact of your actions, understanding your options and aligning your values with your spending is so important.

Q: What is sustainable investing & spending?

At a high level, it is how we choose to spend our money, whether investing in retirement funds, or buying new tennis shoes. The choices we make can have far-reaching impacts, from a company’s corporate governance policy, to the life of a young girl in a distant country making textiles, to the strength and growth of our own local economy.  What’s most exciting to me is how environmentally conscious spending and investing can be truly innovative and profitable, such as through leapfrog technologies or rethinking products in terms of services.

Q: Where can we get more information?

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Team Mathews is happy and productive. New research shows us why.

Final-desk

The Mathews Group is proud to be a small business on the leading edge of a global trend in flexible, remote work. The media is beginning to pick up on why this business model works for professionals and clients alike.

Together, this group of eight women successfully collaborates with Fortune 50 clients from across the world. When our founder and President Melissa Mathews launched The Mathews Group in 2010, a virtual public relations agency was a pioneering model. Five years later there is a growing awareness of the virtual model in PR and across a range of professional services industries, such as law. The model offers employees a more equitable work/life balance and provides clients with strategic support from seasoned professionals, often at lower rates.

Forbes recently featured two female attorneys who launched a thriving business based on developing a network of freelance attorneys. Fortune reported on the company PowerToFly, also launched by women looking to strike a better balance between work and family. Vodafone recently introduced a mandatory minimum maternity leave and upon return to work, new moms receive full pay for 30-hour weeks for the first six months.

But, it’s not just women looking to move beyond traditional brick-and-mortar companies in favor of a virtual approach. According to the Harvard Business Review and a 2009 Forrester report, “by 2016, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce are expected to work from home; 34 million people already do. This trend is driven by a number of factors, including professionals’ desire to have control over their day-to-day work life.”

The Mathews Group recently talked to agency peers about this model. Read more on our leadership in this area, and join our LinkedIn group Virtual Agency Realities to join the discussion.