Career Profile: Macaela Mackenzie, Ketchum

Macaela Mackenzie is a senior planning associate at Ketchum and a freelance writer. Our friend Samantha Emrich introduced us, and we instantly connected over our passion for writing. I admire the fact that Macaela manages her successful career in PR and her impressive freelance writing career. In fact, after we met for appetizers at Lillies Victorian Estate, Macaela went home to write a last minute article assignment due the next day.

Career Profile: Macaela Mackenzie, Ketchum

Macaela Mackenzie, Senior Planning Associate at Ketchum

How did you end up at Ketchum? What was your career path? 

In college I studied journalism and was planning on moving to New York after graduation to do the whole starving writer thing. A few weeks before graduation, a recruiter from Ketchum reached out to me on LinkedIn about a position on the New York creative team. I ended up falling in love with the team and thought an immersion in the world of PR would be a great learning experience. It definitely has been. After a year in creative, I moved into our Planning department.

What are your responsibilities as senior planning associate? 

As a planner, I work mainly in the realm of research and insights. I work on projects across a broad expanse of clients (everything from health and wellness to tech) so every day presents a new learning curve. In a nutshell, it’s my job to work with our research teams to shape the findings into an insight about the target or the company, or the product, or the competitive space. Then, I take that insight and turn it into a strategy that will help solve the communications problem or business challenge. It’s a good mix of art and science.

What is your favorite thing about working at Ketchum? 

Hands down, it’s the people. I work with some really wonderful humans. That’s not really something I felt like was emphasized when I was first looking for jobs but it has really made all the difference in the world.

You juggle your full-time job with your freelance writing career. How do you make time for your job and writing for publications like ShapeWomen’s Health, and Greatist

Honestly, it’s a lot of sacrifice. I have to ask myself each week, “Okay, do I want to have a social life or sleep this week?” and then adjust my schedule accordingly.

I’m sure every day is different, but what is a typical day like for you? 

Every day is definitely different, but on a typical day, I’m up around 5 am. I get my best writing done in the morning, so I try to hit the ground running before I have to get into work.

Once I get to the office, I make my second cup of coffee and sort through emails. With all the deadlines I’m juggling, I have to be super anal about to do lists and assignment spreadsheets. I usually spend an hour getting caught up on correspondence and setting up my calendar for the day.

My day is usually a mix of working with the research teams, mining secondary research databases, and trend hunting. Usually, there’s a few brainstorms thrown in there too—even though I’m not in the creative department anymore, I like to keep a foot in that world. After work, I try to squeeze in a yoga class or a run depending on my deadlines and then it’s back to writing for the evening.

What advice do you have for other freelance writers? 

Hustle hard. So hard, haha. It’s really tough to build up a portfolio, especially when you first start out, so I always say work your connections. Once you get established with a certain publication, ask if there are other editors you can be introduced to, or if there are any sister sites you can contribute to. I also think being an interesting writer starts with being an interesting human, so I try to prioritize doing new things, whether that’s a workout class, checking out a new museum exhibit in the city, or going to a lecture.

What is your favorite piece you’ve written so far? 

I really like pieces that allow me to nerd-out about psychology. I did two pieces for Greatist earlier this year on relationships that were really fun for me to write. The first was on the benefits of breaking up and getting back together. I got to profile some couples and that was really fascinating. The second was a piece on cheating that I got to interview Dan Savage for. Definitely one of the coolest interviews I’ve done.

What’s on your desk right now?

Tea. Lots and lots of tea.

What advice do you have for other young professional women?

Don’t think you have to have it all figured out today. I stressed a lot about finding the perfect opportunity right out of college, but that type of situation doesn’t really exist. The older I get, the longer I realize life is — you have a lot of time to build your dream career. My freelance career started simply because I started doing what made me happy on the side. When you’re truly passionate about something you’re doing, it starts to create opportunities for you.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

Always raise your hand for things. I honestly can’t remember who told me this, which is terrible, but it’s really become my professional philosophy. No one is going to give you an opportunity you don’t ask for, so be proactive and persistent.

Thank you, Macaela!

Image via Macaela Mackenzie

20 Responses to Career Profile: Macaela Mackenzie, Ketchum

  1. Great profile! I completely agree with Macaela about not stressing over finding the perfect opportunity right out of school. I know I did when I graduated, but as you get older you learn that it takes time — and you have to be open to new opportunities that maybe you hadn’t thought of before.

  2. Annaliese says:

    I’m also a journalism major in college, so it’s cool to hear what other journalism majors end up working in!! Love learning about Macaela!

    xoxo A

  3. ah this is awesome! I am a journalism major at college as well! x, kenz

  4. Amy says:

    Loved this interview! I especially love the tip that she gave about always raising your hand for things. How are you going to expect opportunity to come to you if you don’t ask for it? That is something I definitely have to work on considering I am rather shy in situations like that. Hopefully I’ll work on it more this semester. Thanks for sharing this!
    Amy |

  5. Sara says:

    Reading profiles and interviews with people who are doing what they love is so inspiring! I’m interested in going into writing as a full-time career post graduation, so it helps to know that it’s achievable!

  6. Kayla says:

    Great profile! Juggling a career and blog and other activities is tough. I’m slowly but surely learning the work-life balance!

    Kayla | Keynotes from Kay

  7. Audrey Stowe says:

    She is such a girl boss! love it.

    Also really love how you do these career advice, from real people. That is so cool

  8. Ashley says:

    You always have the best interviews, and this one was no different! Loved reading about Macaela! Such an inspiring woman, especially taking on two fab jobs!

    xo Ashley

  9. Lindsay says:

    This is great! So great to hear how much success people have had over linked in finding careers!
    Sugar & Something

  10. Kayleigh says:

    Her advice about not stressing hits home right now while I’m starting my last semester and about to move to NYC in May! Love this profile!

  11. Such a fantastic profile, and as a journalism/English major, I can relate on so many levels!

  12. Savannah says:

    Understanding that I have so much time to work out the nitty gritty is hard, but I know that right now I’m doing the best I can and working towards what I love. I hope that one day I’ll have the chance to put everything I’m learning and what I’m passionate about to good use!

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  14. Amanda Cross says:

    Love the advice on not having to have it all figured out. I have no idea what I am doing and I am still going back and forth on what I want to do after graduate school, so many options, but I definitely want to make the right decision for me! Also planning sounds like such a fun job. Research can be so fun so the fact that she gets to mix that with strategy is pretty awesome!

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