Foodie Moves In-House After Successful Agency Career

By Madi Shaw

Initially wanting to be a lawyer, Caitlin Gustman found her way into the world of public relations through the help of DePaul University’s Master of Arts in Public Relations and Advertising program along with the mentorship of a professor who would help her get her foot in the door at one of the industry’s top agencies – Ketchum.

During her graduate program, Gustman found herself in a social media marketing course taught by Ketchum’s former Senior Vice President of Digital, Ben Foster, now Senior Director of Marketing at Medline Industries. “Ben helped me make the connection when I applied for my internship there (Ketchum) and then when I got the job as a PR intern, I slowly started helping him with social media projects. As I took on more social media work, I transitioned into a digital strategist role, away from PR, and stayed in that field for the rest of my time!” Gustman states when discussing the twists and turns she took throughout her career at Ketchum.

Gustman quickly climbed the ranks at Ketchum and helped the agency develop its digital practice upon uncovering her passion for digital. During her time at Ketchum, Gustman was given the opportunity to learn a lot quickly. She dove head-first into different practice areas but quickly took an interest in social and boosted content, a new and exciting concept hitting the communications world.

She helped to develop the paid social offering at Ketchum and shifted from focusing partially on paid media to quickly becoming a paid media specialist. Reflecting on her agency career, Gustman states “Agencies give you a lot of well-rounded experience.” She credits that experience with helping her figure out her career direction – paid media.

After spending more than eight years with Ketchum working with noteworthy clients like Whirlpool (one of her favorites) and Jack Links, Caitlin decided the in-house life might better suit her at this point in her career and transitioned into a new role as Digital Media Manager at Instant Brands. Being an avid home cook and having a passion for food, Caitlin found the perfect opportunity to transition into in-house life with a company that sells a wide range of kitchen appliances like Pyrex and InstantPot.

When asked how she implements her passion for cooking into her work at Instant Brands, Gustman mentioned “Everything we do is related to entertaining – cooking, recipes, food! A lot of it is working with third parties to create recipe content that is then amplified to audiences who are interested in cooking.”

Spending time both in an agency setting and now in-house, Gustman places a deep importance on over communicating with teams, both internal and external. Now that she is on the client side, she mentioned that “as the client, we want to put trust in the agency as experts and let them do their thing. We must learn to work with them and be collaborative.”

While on the agency side, she advises agency partners to talk to and treat their clients like regular people and focus on building relationships with them. Her best practices for relationship building are as follows, “The number one is facetime, which right now means lots of video meetings and that works just fine. Being in constant and easy contact results in communication that is so seamless.” On both sides, client and agency, having trust in one another is key.

Reflecting on her successful career thus far, Gustman urges communications professionals to learn as much as they can, become experts on their clients, be on top of industry trends, and, most importantly, to work with your managers on setting a long-term goal for yourself – a goal that you say out loud often.

Madi Shaw is an Account Coordinator at Access Brand Communications working for clients across the food, beverage and spirits industries. She is a second year graduate student in DePaul University’s Public Relations and Advertising program.

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