From traveling through NYC with Jason Momoa (a wax version, at least) to teaming up with Ryan Reynolds to cancel sugar—Morgan Shepard, APR, knows that getting organizations their time in the spotlight comes with a lot of work behind the scenes. For this month’s Member PRofile, we caught up with Morgan, the Director of Brand + Communications at HighKey, for some snack-sized PR advice on how to get high-impact results and to dig in to her advice for earning your accreditation.

About Morgan:

  • Hometown: Orlando, FL
  • Current Role: Director of Brand + Communications at HighKey
  • Years of Experience: 9

Your LinkedIn profile details some pretty incredible accomplishments—including taking Jason Momoa on a press tour and becoming a national cheese influencer. Can you tell us more about your most notable career wins? What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Some of my first major PR wins are ones I reflect fondly of because when you’re young in your career and first flying solo without a manager, there’s that imposter syndrome of “do I really know what I’m doing? Can I lead an account?”

I remember so clearly when my boss at the time split me off into a team of one because she believed I could do it. It was right after we’d gotten a client a feature in Sports Illustrated. One of my first accounts was a website that matched shelter pets with owners based on compatibility. I think we crashed the website twice from all the traffic we drove directly to it online. Keep in mind, they weren’t investing in advertising at the time so it was 100% attributable to media coverage.

Through that campaign and the Aquaman wax figure press tour, I think the key lesson I’ve learned is to be tenacious and pivot. All of the amazing PR results I’ve gotten for clients have come with hours of work and trying, failing and trying again. Researching new contacts. Trying new pitches. It takes time to gain momentum with media coverage and it takes time to build trusting, mutually beneficial relationships with the media. That’s the other thing: you have provide value to your media contacts and their audience. Reading up on the topics they cover and coming to them with timely story ideas, connecting them to sources or clients that aren’t yours, sharing their articles on your social media channels, and sending them thank you notes go a long way. 

You lead Brand and Communications strategy for an innovative and growing snack company. Can you share a little about your job responsibilities and what a typical day looks like for you? What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?

Being part of a startup, my job responsibilities and role have evolved so much since I started 2 years ago. I think I was employee 7 then? As a team of one, I started out handling all media relations, overseeing content development and strategy and managing all our social media content and strategy. Now, we have a PR agency partner that I manage and a dedicated and independent, in-house social media team. Currently, I work on packaging copy and compliance, develop marketing copy for product launches, oversee brand partnerships (outside social) and creative brand executions, and support our retail marketing team. 

Your career includes a recent partnership with Ryan Reynolds’ company, Maximum Effort. Can you tell us a about that experience?

Honestly, I have to pinch myself. It’s such an exciting and surreal opportunity to be able to partner with an agency like Maximum Effort. I love the fresh approach they take to creative and marketing. I don’t know if it would surprise anyone but Ryan is incredibly involved in the creative process and invested in his clients success. He’s not just the voice of Sugar Panda but he’s also a key part of the concepting and copywriting of our unconventional spokes-animal.

How long have you been a member of PRSA and what made you join?

I joined in 2016. My agency and boss at the time were the ones who encouraged me to get involved in a professional organization. They believed in the value of investing in their employees’ continuing education and paid for membership and program attendance. I’m so grateful they allowed me to get involved and invested in my professional growth. We have an amazing community of PR professionals in our community and I’m honored to be included. 

How has receiving your APR impacted your career? What advice do you have for professionals interested in pursuing their APR?

It’s made me feel more confident in myself as a strategic leader. I minored in PR in college and all my work experience prior to entering the industry was in journalism. I learned everything I know at my first job and it was validating to go through the APR process and reinforce what I knew from working. I also came away armed with new knowledge to better serve my clients and now my current company. 

My APR advice is to read the book, attend the classes (they’re free!), complete the workbook, make note cards and leverage current APR’s for help. Some of the questions were hard for me to understand, and I needed an APR to walk through how to answer it correctly. Special thanks to Jamie Floer and Megan Paquin! I also benefitted from having a study buddy, Alyssa Chandler, who was preparing for the test at the same time. Even if we weren’t quizzing each other, it was nice to not be alone and have that accountability if we were reading in silence.

If you could grab coffee with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

Oprah. I grew up watching her show and I’ve always been inspired by her. She’s ambitious and opinionated and doesn’t apologize for it. She is also an amazing interviewer. 

What’s your most-used emoji?

The laugh crying emoji which I’m told is very millennial and not cool among Gen Z. 🤣