In a picture from 1985 is a little girl, barely a year old, sitting on her father's lap in front of a very primitive (by today's standards) computer. Five years later she was emailing her first grade teacher using another relatively primitive technology called Prodigy. Little did Kelly Clay know, these were the 'baby steps', the precursors to her future in the tech startup arena.
I recently saw Clay on stage at a social media-oriented event. She was on a panel of four women 'thought leaders' who specialize in the areas of digital communications, analytics/metrics, and digital strategy and in an instant I knew I wanted to learn more about her 'story.' At first impression her demeanor seemed serious, to-the-point; reserved but confident. When we caught up at a local Seattle 'hot spot' for lunch last month, she still conveyed the trait of confidence but not the others. Instead, she was quite animated and radiated a youthful innocence while embodying a person wise and steadfast beyond her years.
"I failed microbiology twice. I thought I wanted to be a nurse. Then I went the pre-law route and took a prerequisite course for the University of Washinton's Law Societies and Justice program." As I listened to her I was grappling for the pieces to come together--the connections or parallels that lead her to her current position as the Digital Communications Strategist for HasOffers, a Seattle-based metrics-for-advertising startup. "And then what?" "I had always loved to write but that prerequisite course solidified it for me." During some time working as a paralegal post-graduation, the economy took a 'nose dive' and Kelly joined thousands of other new college grads in restaurants across the nation as a waitress. Soon after, not surprisingly, an attorney noticed her gift as a writer and offered her the opportunity to teach other lawyers how to blog and use social media.
"I was happy freelance writing after that when I came across HasOffers and they offered me a contract position writing blog posts." Just two months after she began working with HasOffers on contract, she was offered a full-time position as the company's Digital Communications Strategist. It seems, in this tech revolution era, that there are innumerable titles for freshly created positions, that leave even those of us with tech-savvy background saying "huh? What does that mean? What do you do, exactly?" Kelly summed it up best: "I'm a storyteller."
Through the course of many discussions with startups lately, there's one common denominator that's incomplete in their business strategy: telling the right story. With most tech-oriented startups focusing heavily on development, some are starting to realize quickly that illustrating the right story for the right audience is elemental to the success equation. "Storytelling is a powerful part of a company's campaign and strategy. How does a brand tell a story in a way that quickly establishes trust with other brands and companies with which they do business?" explained Clay.
This burgeoning Seattleite is doing what she loves but doesn't ignore the amusing and lively environment in which she enjoys telling stories. HasOffers employs an in-house chef, recognizes the need for flexible working hours and is growing at a respectable pace with a dynamic and diverse team. Kelly has come a long way since the photograph on her father's lap in front of the computer but interestingly, has remained in the same place; even then, she was ahead of her time.