Up Close & Professional with Ashley Meller, Head of PR at The Agency

In our Up Close and Professional series, we shine the spotlight on the people that make up The Agency as we discuss their career paths, areas of expertise and what drives them to excel at what they do. For this first edition, we sat down with Ashley Meller, Head of PR, for a conversation on all things PR and marketing where she dispels some notions about the industry and shares her valuable experience as a professional in the field.

On a typical work day, you will find Ashley Meller actively managing the many responsibilities that come with being the Head of PR at The Agency. From pitching press releases and meeting with clients to brainstorming the next communications campaign and even carving pumpkins for the gram, Ashley’s unique career and experience as a PR professional is what makes her stand out from the crowd. As one of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2021, Ashley has been recognized for her work within the arts and theatre scene in Calgary and is now leading PR in the innovation and technology space. 

Read on for a casual tête-à-tête with Ashley as we get up close and professional with The Agency. 

Given your recent Top 40 Under 40 recognition by Avenue Magazine, if you were to look back at your career trajectory so far, how would you describe it? 

I think my career so far has been very diverse and anything but linear. I actually entered the professional communications and PR industry with a BA of Fine Arts (BFA) in theatre and playwriting. My love for people and culture brought me to Calgary where I worked for Travel Alberta as their Global PR Specialist for Canada and the U.S. During my time there, I worked alongside news outlets on media and influencer story pitching and itineraries, destination communications and recognizing voices of tourism operators that could be amplified as spokespeople for the province. It was here that I really embraced the project management side of the job, working on logistics and facilitating storytelling as it drew on the skills for narrative, tone and voice that I had gained in my studies. It felt like a full circle moment when Alberta Theatre Projects gave me the opportunity to work in a role that combined leadership, communications and theatre. I then spent three years working at the Calgary Opera as their Director of Marketing and Communications where the pandemic pushed me to adopt innovative ways of communicating the arts through digital programming and video production as well as live-streamed music events that enable us to serve our community despite the restrictions of being unable to gather to perform for audiences. My background in the arts allowed me to develop ways to communicate what art means, incorporating the feedback loop into marketing strategies while maintaining the integrity of the artists’ intentions of the art or programming itself. Now at The Agency, I get to do something similar in the innovation and tech space, where we’re tasked with translating complex, and often technical, ideas into compelling stories that serve to emphasize relatable concepts instead of simply speaking geek. Our world is more conversational now than ever before, people want to be a part of the programming and conversation and not feel like they are being talked at.

What is your favourite part about your role as Head of PR at The Agency?

The people are most definitely my favourite part of the job. Whether it is the team of adept communicators and marketers at The Agency or our roster of incredibly compelling clients. I had a peripheral awareness about the innovation field before joining so I’m enjoying getting to dive into it more deeply. As an outsider, it is easier to identify what cuts through the noise. I also think that we at The Agency are playing an increasingly important role in the growing opportunities for collaboration and communication between the energy industry and the tech sector. 

How has the industry changed since you first started?

I think we are starting to recognize the importance of shaping and communicating experiences by thinking of the diversity of our end-users. It is really easy for companies to feel like they have to jump on the bandwagon where they assume everyone knows what they are talking about and assumptions go unchallenged. In a world of infinite distractions and finite resources, we are slowly realizing that we need communication designed for human beings who are busy people. I have a lot of respect for people who are able to lead us through a complex journey step-by-step and I believe that that is our job as communicators. 

What kind of opportunities are you exploring to continue learning and growing personally and professionally?

Right now a lot of my professional development is self-directed and driven by immediate need. To me, leadership is a skill that permeates everything. Values-driven leadership, strategic thinking and effective decision-making are some of the skills I really value and am currently focusing on strengthening. I think constantly being on-the-go can sometimes feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions and I’ve realized how important it is to manage time wisely if I want to keep up with the fast pace of work. The pandemic has taught me that the world is uncertain and unpredictable. I’ve always put my career first and while I’m glad about where it has brought me, I think it is time for me to focus on myself as a whole person and prioritize things that are personally important to me. I think we need to stop being fixated on progress, success and achievement because simply pausing and taking time to nurture new realms can open your mind up to new possibilities and discoveries, and reinvigorate you creatively.

Lastly, some words of advice for up-and-coming PR and marketing professionals?

Recognize that there is value in specialization as well as in being able to do a little bit of everything. Becoming a targeted leader with a specific area of expertise is incredibly important in the field because it means you accept you can’t do everything and are more open to collaboration. As a PR professional, you can no longer work in just words. I think having basic graphic design composition, video and image editing and other collaborative skills can help you bridge the gap between the words and the visuals people by giving you the knowledge needed to provide constructive feedback and recognize when it is time to change who you are collaborating with due to a lack of alignment between creative styles and visions. At the end of the day, it all comes down to communicating the right story, clearly and effectively. 

Thanks Ashley– we love having you on our team! Learn more about our growing team by checking out our About page and following us on Twitter @PRTheAgency!

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