As a senior director of content at W2 Communications, Kathy Stershic brings more than two decades of experience working in IT research and communications. Kathy is known for her ability to bring focus and alignment to complex environments including working with many IT companies in various stages of growth, from industry giants like Cisco and Oracle to midsize and start-up organizations. As a senior advisor and communicator, she works with clients – including executives, global work teams, partners and affiliates – to help them seek, organize and translate complex information, then persuasively convey it to the audiences they need to engage – internal, external or both.
What first intrigued you about working at W2 Communications? What made you want to work here specifically?
I am fascinated by the field of cybersecurity. I’m also a privacy junkie. For the last four years, I’ve spent a lot of professional time and effort learning about privacy and trying to carry the message about its relevance to marketers. When I learned about W2 Communications and how much experience the agency has working in the cyber and privacy realms, I wanted to become a part of that mission. Having worked in the Silicon Valley for many years, it was rewarding to find another communications firm here in the D.C. area that is dedicated solely to tech – but in both the private sector and government spaces. I am very interested in tech policy; in fact I moved to D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in it – so to see up close how tech companies are serving the federal space was really interesting to me.
What is your favorite piece of content you’ve ever written?
In the Dot.Com era, I helped write a thought-leading book on the advent of eCommerce and its impact on how business would change. I was able to help my then-boss find her voice and articulate her leading-edge thinking on the direction eCommerce would take. We collaborated to turn out something new and different that turned into an Amazon best seller. It was a very gratifying and educational experience. More recently, I conducted my own research around people’s attitudes about how their data gets used by the vendors they share it with. I turned a series of posts into a brief e-book called Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – 8 Principles for Trustworthy Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships. It took a lot of thought and energy to distill this information and get it down in writing. A lot of what I wrote about two years ago is now being expressed in customer sentiment and pushback around abuse of personal data. It’s validating to see that my instincts were on point.
What is the biggest mistake a content writer can make?
Thinking you know stuff you don’t. Not doing your research. Real subject matter experts will identify fluff in no time. Oh, and typos. You must always check for typos.
Are there specific techniques or methods you find helpful when learning to write in someone else’s “voice”?
I like to ask a lot of questions of the people I’m writing for. Then let them talk, and intently listen to what they’re saying – their tone, what they care about, their sense of formality (or informality), their vocabulary. I do my best to present a draft that reflects what I thought I heard; then let them react to it. You can learn a lot about what the subject wants from their reactions and comments. Learn that; use it the next time. I always like to ask people ‘does this feel like you? Is this on track? How should I make this more reflective of your way of thinking?’ I’ve been told I have a highly empathic personality, so I can usually pick up on these client queues. One of my favorite adages is “Two Ears, One Mouth.” 🙂
What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?
When I make a client happy, I’m happy.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I’ve been very fortunate to travel to many countries and visit lots of places that have been on my ‘list’ for years. I think I most enjoy sailing in the Caribbean – there is really nowhere better to relax and feel human!
You’re first in a long line to ride the carousel. Which fanciful carousel seat (lion, fox, swan, etc.) do you rush to and why?
The gold and blue horse with the fancy saddle. Because what else would you ride?
If you could go back in time and chose another career path – what would you have picked?
I knew from a very early age that I was interested in journalism. I didn’t pursue becoming a reporter out of college; instead I moved to the Silicon Valley and got involved in tech. Some years later I found myself working as a qualitative researcher – asking people questions, analyzing what they told me and writing about it for clients. It’s a variant on what I would have done as a journalist. So I like my field. But if I was going to do something radically different, I think I’d like to be a marine biologist or explorer like Jacques Cousteau.
What is some career advice you would give to your younger self?
Don’t let other people tell you what you want to or should be. Do what you love. We only go around once and every day is a gift.