Kelly McGinnis | Influence 100
Charting the future of public relations
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Kelly McGinnis

SVP & Chief Communications Officer
Levi Strauss
US

@kellylmcginnis

 

Levi Strauss credits itself as the maker of the “quintessential American garment” — which is, of course, the blue jean. But CEO Chip Bergh (who McGinnis reports to) is the first to say “it take more than our strong enduring brands” to succeed. So Levi Strauss is partnering with Google to design smart clothes and the company is continuing to showcase its sustainability mission, in addition to work being on the forefront of social issues.

This is embodied in the company’s values: empathy, originality, integrity and courage. As chief communications officer, McGinnis is responsible for making sure these are demonstrated in all the 160-year-old company’s communication touchpoints. More specifically, she oversees corporate media relations, executive, internal and stakeholder communications, government affairs and community affairs. Bergh said of McGinnis: “Kelly is the best in the business: wicked smart, strategic, and fearless in her leadership. She will play a pivotal role as we work to establish LS&Co. as the best apparel company in the world, both in terms of advancing our corporate reputation and strengthening the capabilities of our communications team.”

Previously, McGinnis was the VP of global communications at Dell. She also held the senior communications position within WPP’s ill-fated agency-built-for-Dell Enfatico (and later, AxiCom). Prior to that, she was general manager of Fleishman-Hillard’s San Francisco office after working with the firm in St. Louis and San Antonio.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance
Time and again I've seen communications help set the conditions for changing perceptions and reshape expectations, laying the groundwork for wholesale transformation.

What do you love about this industry?
The people and the relevance of what we do.

What most frustrates you about this industry?
Resistance to change and risk taking.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities?
Business is operating in a climate that is disruptive and the pace of change is increasing. The stakes for reputation and trust are higher than ever. As a result, we have the opportunity to contribute more but it takes a lot to fully seize that opportunity.

How do you relax or change pace when you're not at work?
I love novels (highbrow, low brow, thrillers & chick lit). I usually read one a week.

Can you share a book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
I love the NYT's Still Processing. It's a glimpse into thoughtful dialogue about culture from diverse points of view.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
A teacher.