Denise Kaufmann, ’86, has always believed in saying, “yes.”
The power of that single word has steered her career through Ketchum, one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, where she is a now a partner and director of client development for North America.
During much of her career with the agency, she worked abroad. The job that got her foot in the door at Ketchum was to run the Lions Club International account in 18 countries. She was based in Chicago (her home at the time), but traveled internationally for about six months out of the year.
“I had no international experience at that point,” she said. “But it was just one of those steps in your life where you know, ‘This is the perfect, right thing for me.’”
She took a leap of faith, said, “yes,” and it turned out to be a humbling experience that would shape the rest of her career.
After four years of traveling the globe, Kaufmann transitioned into a role based in Hong Kong, where she worked on Ketchum’s FedEx account and served as the head of client services for greater China. Later in her career, she was based in London as a partner and CEO of the agency’s London headquarters.
“I think that sometimes when you move to a country that shares a common language, you assume that a lot of the cultural norms you know as an American will take root,” Kaufmann said. “It’s not like that at all. It’s culturally extremely different, in terms of how people interact, in terms of how people deal with confrontation.”
Yet Kaufmann has noticed two things that remain universal in her work in integrated communications across the globe: that change is constant and that good writing will never go out of style.
“When you have that kind of background,” she said, “and when you know how to put thoughts down on paper, it is worth everything.”
(Adapted from a previously published article, based on a 2017 interview)
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