Oral Histories

Kelly McGinnis

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics/Qualities of PR Professionals

Kelly McGinnis Biography

Kelly McGinnis is the senior vice president and chief communications officer for Levi Strauss & Co. She shapes the company’s corporate affairs strategy and managing stakeholder relations.

Previously, McGinnis served as the vice president of global communications at Dell, Inc. Before Dell, she was the general manager of Fleishman-Hilliard’s San Francisco office and led corporate communications for drugstore.com.


INTERVIEWER: The aim of the Arthur Page Center and the Arthur Page Society is to help individuals become counselors to leadership. How can individuals best prepare themselves for this role?

MCGINNIS: I talked about, I think the thing that you earn with our business leaders is an ability to toggle between understanding the business, understanding the strategic direction of what you’re trying to achieve and then actually being able to execute in real time. That’s how we earn it. I think the way that you get there as a counselor takes a huge amount of courage. You have to really get comfortable with the uncomfortable places. No one is an expert and you just have to be really willing to engage and jump into that. I think for us, one of the things that our internal stakeholders expect of us is to bring an outside perspective. So one of the great things in today’s environment is that that’s more immediate and closer than it’s ever been. Really being able to channel and understand what the possible implications are and the reception that we’ll hear from external stakeholders is something that we’re relied on for. I think those are probably some of the big ones, and then I think the other piece is like I said, being able to build the network and relationships so that you can be able to effectively drive change within your organization. For us, the people that are really successful are the ones who are passionate from day one. It takes a level of optimism and energy to be able to do that every day, and I think it’s really hard to underestimate how much a really positive attitude and a strong sense of passion and energy—and bringing that to a conversation—how compelling that can be to an organization.