PR Mavens we Love: Katie Witkin, Co-Founder and COO, AGW

Name: Katie Witkin

Title: Co-Founder, COO

Agency: AGW Group

Education: The University of Wisconsin-Madison, BA in Journalism and Mass Communication

Connect with Katie

In 2013, Katie Witkin co-founded AGW at age 25. In the last five years, she has been one of the driving forces behind the agency’s success, attracting an impressive client roster of iconic brands, including Condé Nast, HBO, Red Bull, Armani Exchange, Mother New York, and ’47. 

Under Witkin’s leadership AGW has won multiple industry awards including a Platinum MarCom Award for the agency’s work with environmental incubator, Lonely Whale, a Webby and Clio for HBO projects, as well as numerous Hermes Creative Awards for work with Women & Allies, Vinyl Me, Please, and ‘47.

What's your career story?

Prior to my co-founding AGW, I had more of a traditional career trajectory with spurts of entrepreneurialism. I worked as a music marketer at both an agency and brand, but found myself tapping into side projects that allowed me more freedom to channel my creativity and strategic thinking.

I thought this was going to be my path, working in more structured environments while seeking personal gratification elsewhere until I met my business partner, Adam Gorode. Adam and I had been friends and then had the opportunity to work together on a project for the brand I was working for. During this time, we connected over a shared love of strategy, innovation, and collaboration, and naturally we began discussing new ventures and projects we could tackle outside the office.

To be totally honest, at this time, I wasn’t prepared to leave the stability of having a full-time, paying job, after all, that’s what was I was “supposed” to do. It wasn’t until after a series of events that it finally became clear why I was seeking outside work; the more traditional jobs just weren’t fulfilling enough for me. It was then I was able to think differently about my professional journey. I had proven my ability to make things happen on my own, and while I was certainly scared, I decided to take the leap with Adam and start our business.

What do you wish more people understood about your work?

There’s no one right way of doing things. Many people get stuck in the way things “should” be done, because that’s how they’ve been done in the past. But often times the biggest successes come from exploring new methods and questioning the status quo.

What are you #obsessed with right now?

I spend a lot of my time on LinkedIn. It’s an incredible resource and an engaged and responsive community. I find that it can be far more effective in directly connecting with people professionally, even more so than email.

What's a recent success story you're still smiling about?

The work we did alongside non-profit Lonely Whale around single-use plastics and the straw ban was a big one. We worked with the brand on a year-long communication strategy, that leveraged a phased approach consisting of media education, consumer education, and verticalized value-driven storytelling to effectively bring awareness about the issues of single-use plastics, specifically around straws, to the masses. The strategy worked to say the least, and in fact Ad Age reported straw bans as being the most-remembered food story of 2018. What was even more gratifying was the campaign’s affect on policy change. We were honored to have been a part of such an important movement!

What's the mood like at AGW?

I’d say the environment cultivated at AGW is exciting, fast-paced, honest, and fun. We work in an industry that is constantly changing, with new platforms, channels, services, and outlets to consider for our clients every week. This requires a team that embraces the ever-evolving media landscape and appreciates how the fluidity of the industry allows for more opportunity to think tactically and non-traditionally. So while there are definitely times when things can feel overwhelming, I strongly feel the team we have here is enthusiastic and eager to tackle new challenges, and it shows through open dialogue in the office, cross-department collaboration, and results.

"There’s no one right way of doing things...often times the biggest successes come from exploring new methods and questioning the status quo."

PR can be stressful - how do you deal?

I understand that rejection is inevitable; in fact, I welcome it. We strongly encourage everyone on our team to track down feedback and not be afraid to ask “why”? More often than not people are willing to tell you, and taking that information and applying it to how you communicate in the future is growth, which is empowering.

What's your most memorable/meaningful career moment?

One of the most meaningful moments of my career was when AGW ran its first payroll. It was no longer about the founders, it was about the team. We’d found individuals who believed in our mission so much that they trusted us with their livelihoods. It was a game changer.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF?​

To me, success and growth go hand in hand. As long as I’m learning, being challenged, or trying new things, I’m on the road to success

HOW about for clients?

We like to think of ourselves as strategic partners to our clients, an extension of the team, often playing a major role in helping identify and define goals, and voicing our opinion if those goals need to shift. Being able to develop collaborative relationships with our clients that are built on trust and open lines of communication is success in my eyes.

"You’ll never be satisfied comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different paths and it will distract from your own growth. So stop looking left and right, just look forward."

What industry shifts are on your mind?

Something we feel strongly about at AGW is evaluating our work both qualitatively and quantitatively. With communications it’s always been a bit tough to do the latter, but we do our best by implementing unique link tracking methods, distributing SEO optimized content, and focusing on different data points beyond impressions to evaluate performance.

While this has always been important to us, in the last year, we’ve seen a big shift in the desire for this type of reporting by our clients.

We love it and hope this demand results in stronger measurement systems and analysis tools that track communications’ impact beyond the traditionally reported measurements of success.

Out of office reply - what do you do for fun?

I’m big into exercise. It clears my head and helps me disconnect.

Running and spinning have always been my main activities, but I’ve recently started practicing yoga, which requires a totally different level of focus and mindfulness that’s benefited other aspects of my life.

Travel is also something I prioritize. I’m eager to explore different places and embrace new cultures; it’s fun and offers new insights and different perspectives.

Let's end with a bit of advice your younger self:

You’ll never be satisfied comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different paths and it will distract from your own growth. So stop looking left and right, just look forward.

Anything Else?

We’re always looking to meet new talent and our client roster is growing so please feel free to reach out to careers@agwgroup.com if you want to say hello!

Thanks, Katie!