30 Under 30: Kirsten Walkom

August 29, 2012  |  Alicia Androich  |  Comments

The future of Canada’s marketing industry will be shaped by its youngest talent—the super-worldly, plugged-in, brilliant and creative youth who are already making a name for themselves. Marketing put out the call to the industry to find the top 30 standouts under the age of 30 who have already made their mark on the industry.

From PR to advertising to media and beyond, our 30 Under 30 showcases the smartest, bravest and most creative ones to watch in the business.

Kirsten Walkom, 28

Senior consultant, Maverick Public Relations

What do PR and psychological warfare have in common? Quite a bit, according to Kirsten Walkom. As someone who studied terrorism and counter-terrorism at Queen’s University (where the psychological aspect appealed to her more than armoury) then zigzagged her way into a PR career after a stint in a law firm’s marketing department, Walkom says her Jack Bauer-esque schooling set her up well for the PR battleground.

Take her thesis on how the FBI used psychological warfare to undermine the KKK and the Black Panthers by creating mistrust amongst members; it taught Walkom the power of communications and that “words could solve almost anything… I know that no matter what the issue or problem is, there is a solution and it’s 95% because of how it’s communicated.”

Walkom also applied her psychology training to advertising while she was with Henderson Bas Kohn as the in-house PR manager and an interactive strategist. Working on successful campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola and Joe Fresh, Walkom says, “It was ‘How are we going to get you to buy this product?’ It’s all psychological.”

So is the ability to read a room—a valuable skill that Martin McInally, Maverick’s senior vice-president, corporate affairs, appreciates. Not just anyone can pick up and successfully act on the nuances during strategy sessions, but Walkom does, he says.

It’s not a teachable skill, but Walkom is generous about coaching others on succeeding in the trade. She helped launch Maverick’s mentor program and, as McInally says, “She’s great at not just directing people to do things, but explaining why to do them in a certain way; if she changes things, she goes out of her way so that people know her thought process behind it, which is really important.”

Those skills have had a noticeable impact. “She helped completely change the face of the corporate practice here at Maverick,” says McInally. “Kirsten understands strategy and how to turn it into tactical products we can use with our clients.”

So while she didn’t end up protecting against terrorists, she will protect the hell out of a brand.

For lots more of the 30 Under 30, pick up the Sept. 10 issue of Marketing magazine.

Photo: Mike Ford

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