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PR Rock Stars: Sleep Number’s Kaitlyn Cox

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I can’t recall how or when, exactly, I met Kaitlyn Cox for the first time. But, I’m sure glad I did meet her. Kaitlyn is one of the most kind and sweet people you’ll ever meet in our profession. And, she’s a heckuva a rock star. Just ask her teammates at Sleep Number (client). I got a chance to catch up with Kaitlyn recently–let’s hear what she has to say about her career, running and how college prepared her for the “real world.”

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Your current role at Sleep Number has you focusing almost squarely on content creation. Tell us a little about your road to this unique position, and what you enjoy most about your content role.

My journey was, and continues to be, a lot of self-discovery, a little bit of trial and error and influence from many awesome people (who mentor me whether they realize it or not). I started out post-college with an internship at MOA focused heavily on media relations with sprinklings of social media work here and there. At OLSON I was split 50/50 between media relations and social, eventually focusing fully on social. Life Time Fitness started and evolved the same way as OLSON, and now I’m at Sleep Number in a full social content role. I’ve learned many things including: media relations is not for me and I love ideating and creating with ridiculously smart people.

I describe my current role as “getting to do all the fun stuff in social”. J My favorite parts (sorry, I can’t pick just one!) are the awesome people I get to create with, the creative push my role gives me and the opportunities I have to continue learning every day.

Working in social for a big company isn’t exactly what most people think it is–that’s me opining there 🙂 Can you tell us one thing about your social content role that might surprise people?

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This is a tough one for me but I think what might be most surprising for some is how creative my role is. Because I don’t do any community management, I get to focus solely on strategy and creative ideation, as well as the actual execution of our ideas. I have the best creative team and we work super closely together which is so fun for me.

 

You cut your teeth in the industry at OLSON. I always tell students one of the best way to learn our industry out of the gate is to join up at an agency where you’ll be exposed to a wide variety of roles, jobs and clients. Would you agree with that? Did joining an agency early in your career prepare you for the corporate roles you’ve had recently?

OLSON was foundational for me in so many ways, and I wouldn’t trade that time in my life for anything, so yes, I would agree. OLSON had faith in me, taught me more than I could have anticipated and pushed me in ways I wanted, but also in ways I didn’t know I needed until later on. Starting out at a place like OLSON not only gave me the opportunity to work with incredibly smart people, it also shaped a lot of the ways I think, ideate, create and work. I left OLSON with a variety of experiences, industry knowledge and relationships that have continued to serve me well to this day. It wasn’t always easy but it was definitely always worth it.

 

Absolutely love this quote you feature on your LinkedIn page: “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” -Dr. Seuss Can you talk a bit about what that quote means to you and how you’ve lived it during your professional life?

So much of life is about being present where you’re at and I think, as a whole, we’re not very good at that anymore. For me that quote serves as a reminder of how I want to be: ready for what’s in front of me and never too distracted to miss the important things happening now. I also think it speaks to fear. If we close ourselves off because we’re afraid, we might miss the greatest opportunities. Professionally that might mean a new job opportunity, even when you weren’t expecting it. Personally it might mean an uncharted adventure. Whatever it is, I want to be brave enough to at least notice the things in front of me and then brave enough to explore them to see if they’re my next big adventure.

 

You stay busy away from work, too. Namely, you co-founded a running group called WeRunMpls where young runners get together, take quick runs around Minneapolis, grab a beer, and hang out. What drove you to start WeRun? And, is there a budding entrepeneur in there waiting to get out?

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Hey, thanks for the plug! Shameless addition: come run with us every other Thursday! We’d love to have you – beginner to elite (we’ve had both, and everything in between).

A huge part of what drove me to start WeRunMPLS is the idea of connecting people around a shared interest. I’m a big believer in the power of community and shared experiences, and I really enjoy running so it was an easy combination. I also wanted to create a space that wasn’t defined by age or gender or skill level, but by common interests and encouragement. We’re still in our infancy (2 years this April!), but I’m already seeing those things happen and I couldn’t be happier. The entrepreneur part? We shall see… J

 

You graduated from Northwestern College in 2010–not THAT Northwestern, but the college here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. That’s not a huge school. It’s not a well-known school across the country. Yet, here you are with experience working for some of the biggest brands in the Twin Cities (Sleep Number, MOA, Life Time Fitness) just six years into your career. Do you feel like your time at Northwestern prepared you for the “real world”–and how do you think a smaller school prepared you for work life in a way a bigger school couldn’t?

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Getting anywhere in life is about making the most of your circumstances and not letting limitations define you. Northwestern is a small school which could seem limiting, but a majority of the professors there worked in the fields they instruct, bringing relevant real-life examples to their classrooms as well as being able to connect their students with awesome professionals. My classes were small, giving me great exposure to my professors and in turn connecting me to people who hired me for internships and mentored me before I even left school (I held 6 internships before I graduated). Again, it’s about building community for me and those connections I made in college still exist. I’ve seen that same experience for so many people I graduated with and it’s fun to walk alongside them as professionals now.

My favorite example of what I got from a school like Northwestern is a few months after I graduated I didn’t have a fulltime job in my field and was frustrated. One day I tweeted at Lisa Grimm (who I’d never met; editor’s note: Another PR Rock Star!) wanting to know if she would meet up with me to share career advice (something I never would have done without my professors’ encouragement to ask for the things I wanted). Two weeks later I started my internship at MOA and now have a dear friend in Lisa.

 

Finally, you may be one of the most likable people I know. EVERYONE I know that knows you loves you. How do you do that? 🙂 More importantly, that likability translates well to the business world. People want to work with people like they like. People trust people they like. It helps immensely. I’ve seen it first-hand many, many times. Have you noticed that likability factor helping you in the workplace? And if yes, how has it specifically helped you at Sleep Number?

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Wow, Arik! Such an overwhelmingly nice compliment – thank you!

I look at work relationships the same way I look at my outside-of-work relationships: people are all humans at the end of the day and I like getting to know people. At work, the people I work closest with are now my dear friends, and some are even like family. You spend so much time with your coworkers – why not find out what’s interesting, beautiful, unique about them and let that help shape your work? As close relationships are built, we are able to easily identify our strengths and weaknesses and help each other out – equaling better, more efficient work. For me viewing work relationships this way not only makes me look forward to each day, but also makes my work more productive, my ideas better (because they’re collective ideas, not just mine) and my challenges less challenging.

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PR Rock Stars: Sleep Number’s Kaitlyn Cox

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