Jacquie McMahon: Ketchum’s Break-Through Yo Pro

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Published on April 23, 2018, at 4:04 p.m.
by Maret Montanari.

From one look at her LinkedIn profile or résumé, it is not hard to determine Jacquie McMahon is an impactful force in the public relations industry and worthy of such an accolade as “Honorable Mention” for PRWeek’s Outstanding Young Professional Award.

As one might guess, McMahon was gaining industry experience before even stepping foot on a college campus or in an office. Her high school involvement opened the doors for her many successes to come.

“I thankfully found public relations earlier than some people do,” McMahon said. “Even when I was involved in yearbook at my high school I didn’t know what PR was yet, but I knew I enjoyed what I was doing with writing and visual design.”

During an invite-only journalism and media camp in Washington, D.C. as part of her yearbook experience, McMahon first discovered PR and began researching the profession even more. A Google search led her to discover The University of Alabama  and its consistently top-five-ranked PR program. This news sold McMahon on the university, so she packed her bags as she made the move farther down South from Pawleys Island, South Carolina, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The university was her oyster, and McMahon took the campus by storm as she joined pre-professional organizations, such as the Public Relations Student Society of America and Capstone Agency, as a freshman. This set the precedent for the rest of her time at Alabama.

“I can’t recommend enough getting involved with these types of organizations when you’re getting your feet on the ground,” recalled McMahon, who served as Capstone Agency’s then youngest firm director. “When it came to my junior year and the time to choose a firm director, I was familiar with the ins and outs of the agency, whereas some juniors were just beginning their time in the agency.”

Not everyone is as fortunate to have this kind of experience under their belt or a support system of Alabama’s magnitude when they graduate, but McMahon insists a passion for the industry, driven attitude and willingness to learn will propel one to success. Her colleagues say these same traits exist in McMahon.

“Jacquie makes you work hard, while she sets high expectations, always performs with perfection, and yet, remains cool, calm and collected in any situation,” shared Myreete Wolford, who has worked with McMahon at The University of Alabama, Ketchum and The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. “My favorite thing about her is watching her work.”

McMahon’s college experience may have been everything she was looking for, but her post-grad experience is arguably even more stellar. She began her career at Ogilvy as an assistant account executive, and in less than three years since, she’s proved herself worthy of the senior account executive position at Ketchum New York.

Photo by Maret Montanari

“Jacquie was a superstar from day one. She participated in [The University of Alabama’s] Bateman team as a sophomore, and even though the youngest member, it was clear she was the leader of the team,” said Teri Henley, instructor at Alabama and faculty adviser to Capstone Agency and Bateman. “She led her team to earn an ‘Honorable Mention’ in the national competition that year, and she’s found great success outside of the university.”

McMahon continues to lead at Ketchum as she works on a variety of clients in financial services, food and beverage and retail sectors. There is no such thing as a typical day in the industry, but McMahon describes her role as communicating with clients regularly, planning and executing strategic campaigns, and leading content development while mentoring team members throughout the process.

McMahon’s experience, many successes and work-hard mentality all made it clear she was a perfect candidate for PRWeek’s Outstanding Young Professional Award.

One of the PRWeek judges remarked, “[She’s] garnered fantastic internal engagement and outside activities, as well as impressive client leadership with big name brands.”

“Jacquie is real. She inspires me to be my best and give my all while still remembering to have fun and love life. She’s every account’s dream and every friend’s love. Even our [Ketchum’s] regional president Mike Doyle called her a ‘rock star’ and ‘equally strong’ to her VP leads,” shared Wolford.

Photo by Maret Montanari

Although McMahon’s colleagues, mentors and former professors were not surprised by her being a top-five finalist and eventual “Honorable Mention” recipient of the award, McMahon was more than gracious for the honor.

“I was so thankful just to be a finalist for this amazing, prestigious industry award. I am so excited for all of the other finalists and wish them congratulations as well,” McMahon said. “I’m grateful for this entire process and reaching the Honorable Mention, and I’ve been touched by the outpouring of support I’ve received from Ketchum, current and former mentors, colleagues and the Alabama A+PR program.”

After receiving such an accolade, one might think, “What more can McMahon hope to accomplish?” This PR pro has only just begun, however.

As she continues her work with Ketchum, PRSA New York and The Plank Center’s Emerging Leaders Group, McMahon is one to watch as she will likely continue to break through barriers and positively impact the industry.

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