Alumni Q&A: Interview with Journalism Alumna Jacqueline Kelly

MSU Alumna Jacqueline Kelly, Journalism, M.A, may have just recently graduated in 2019, but she is already blazing a trail in the marketing sphere.

At, Kelly markets and spreads the word about marathons being held to raise money for charitable causes. Specifically, Kelly promotes The Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon weekend event. The digital marketing and events specialist wears many hats and credits ComArtSci’s graduate opportunities for her career success.

At Michigan State University, we invited her to share her experiences in a Q&A with ComArtSci.

Q. When you look back at your life and work so far, what gives you the most pride?  

A. Getting the graduate assistant (GA) position for the second year of my Masters degree was not only something that is a great source of pride for me, but also pivotal for my career. Being able to take the financial stress of school off my shoulders has made it so much easier for me to just focus on my studies. 

Additionally, I would credit the work I did and the people I worked with at REHS as major influences in where I am today. I learned so much about strategic communications and where my strengths lie as a communicator and marketer. I loved working with the students, I learned so much about MSU that I don't think I ever would have learned about as a graduate student otherwise! Seeing the work that goes behind so many of our events and the heart and soul people put into their jobs made me so proud to be a Spartan!

Q. What inspires you to work toward your goals and accomplishments? 

A. When I was younger, I always struggled with deciding what I wanted to be "when I grew up," but one focus that never changed was helping and working with people. I get excited about coming to work everyday and reaching new audiences. I love going to our different events and meeting the people in interact with daily. As I've grown more comfortable in my role, I have started working towards growing our current audience and understanding other areas of our race weekend such as race operations, charities and the expo.

Q. Could you describe a day in your professional life?

A. A day in my professional life typically starts by logging in to monitor the Free Press Marathon specific accounts then checking the other events that I manage (film fest and high school sports). After sorting through messages we have receiving and responding back to those in need of assistance, I will head over to managing our Influencer campaigns. Working with influencers is a marketing tactic we started using shortly after I came on board. Using an online platform, I research influencers at different levels, meet with them, then create custom campaign proposals for them to expand our digital marketing reach. 

After all of these individual campaigns have been set up, it is my job to monitor their profiles to keep track of if they are meeting their deadlines and keep track of ROI. In addition to that, I write the blog content on our website and handle the email marketing. As a full time team of 4 people, we all help each other out with other areas of the race development, giving opinions when needed. A typical day at work usually consists of the 4 of us meeting at least once to work on various aspects of the Marathon. I also have weekly meetings with other event marketing team members to discuss other marketing plans for the events I mentioned before.  

Q. What are some of the greatest challenges of working in your field?  

A. People don't like to read- half kidding. Finding creative ways to engage your audience, especially in a digital world can honestly be really tough. One of The Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon weekend races has international aspects with Canada so it's really important for us to work closely with the border and make sure we are communicating the requirements to participate. If I have learned anything during the 8 months or so that I have been working on this team and communicating to 70k+ people is that even if you think something is clear--it isn't. 

Just last weekend I had put up a post that was supposed to just be a fun "fluff" post to encourage engagement. It wound up showing us that a decent amount of people (at least those who engaged) did not know they even needed to be carrying their passport during the race- something that has been mandatory now for years! So that's just one example: you never know how you're going to reach people.

Q. What would you consider to be the defining point in your life or career?  

A. Working on the Marathon, I have been given a lot of opportunities to impact people's lives --or at least that is what my boss always says. I feel like I didn't fully understand that until actual race day. Seeing people crying as they crossed the finish line for the first time is such an overwhelming feeling, you can't help but be proud of these people you have never met before too. 

The last person to cross the finish line this year was Sister Beth. She was a 90 year old nun who did the U.S.-Only Half-Marathon and crossed the finish line around 3:30pm after starting at 10:30am that morning. She had a fellow nun as the only person waiting for her in the stands, everyone else had left. We gathered as many people as we could, volunteers, some of my friends helping out that day, etc. and we all cheered her on as she made her way to the finish. It was amazing. I cried. She is a real inspiration that anyone can do anything if they set their mind to it and not give up.
After seeing that and that her friend waited for her all day, I understood what my boss meant when she said we really change people’s lives.

Q. What is the most important lesson you have learned along the way? 

A. Own up to it when you make a mistake. Personal accountability goes a long way in jobs and on the internet. People are much more forgiving to the humble.

Q. How do you give back to your community or motivate others to work toward the common good? 

A. I volunteer for different Metro Detroit causes with my team 4 times a year. We raise money for different charities and work with groups in the area year round.

Q. What are your future plans or career goals? 

A. I would love to grow in this position. I hope to work more on blog posts or other longer form content. I also freelance for some business magazines in my free-time and I would love to expand upon that as well!

Q. What advice would you give to MSU and ComArtSci students? 

A. Don't be afraid to network and take a chance with getting experience! I don't think I would be where I am today without the work experience I got at MSU as a Communications Aide for the Plant Soil and Microbial Sciences Department, working for REHS, interning at Dart, or writing for Great Lakes Echo. I applied for my GA position on a whim, not really expecting to even get an interview and look where it took me.

By John Castro

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