Growing up, Melissa Rowe toyed around with a few possible career paths. She really admired her aunt, who’s an architect, and considered following in her footsteps. After she did more research on the subject, she found that her heart wasn’t into the engineering and structural side of it; rather, she was passionate about art and graphic design.
Rowe graduated from Ball State University in 2007 with a degree in visual communications, but she never dreamt she’d end up specializing in PR and events. Yet, more than a decade later, she’s the head of PR and events at Pivot Marketing, an innovative firm located in downtown Indianapolis. Not only that, she founded the department by speaking up when she saw a need and opportunity to combine the two areas.
We sat down with Rowe and learned more about effectively communicating with executives, why you should always have a solution to problems that arise in projects, and what her go-to cocktail after a long week is.
Maven superpower: Mediating. I’m the peacemaker and diplomat.
What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?
I spend a lot of time in meetings. Internal meetings with our team and strategizing on what the current project and the plan for the next quarter. I also spend a lot of time in client meetings where we’re touching base on goals and making sure that we’re all aligned on our strategies, and specifically when it comes to media. Everything is very timely. We have to be in constant communication so we can get the most up-to-date information to the media when we’re pitching new ideas for stories and things like that.
You started out at Pivot Marketing as an art director and now you’re the head of PR and events. How did that transition happen?
We’re a fairly small company. So, we’re not super focused on labels and job titles, but we are focused on growth. We like to make sure that everybody is happy and feels like they’re advancing and contributing.
The leadership team here, which I’m now a part of, is very open and transparent. The two owners are always willing to share the state of the company and where we’re headed in the future. That always makes it easy to have a conversation about what your goals are and how you may want to shift things and grow in your role. I transitioned from art direction and designing things to specializing in more events and public relations. I was finding that the events piece and the public relations piece were often thought of as two separate things, but I saw that they were intersecting. I thought it would be really powerful if we combined these departments. So, I proposed that and ended up leading the department.
So, you pitched the idea of combining events and PR, now you head the department. How can others have effective meetings and communication with executives, too?
Be direct about your goals, come to the table with ideas, and make a plan together. It may seem intimidating at first, but good leaders appreciate initiative and want you to succeed. That being said, it’s important to keep an open mind throughout the process. Your boss will want to ensure a shift in direction aligns with the needs of the organization as well as your own.
How do you approach or tackle big projects?
For any big project it helps to refer back to your goals and strategies. If you fully understand those, it’s much easier to break the project down into tasks and stay focused.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A manager that I had early in my career told me not to come to your boss or to your client with questions but rather with answers. Don’t present them with a problem. And if you do, present an answer along with it. That is something that I think about almost on a daily basis when I’m presenting something to a client. Think ahead and come to the table with ideas on how to solve it.
What are the three foundational career characteristics that you live by?
Creativity. Authenticity. Inclusivity.
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Who’s a marketer or designer you look up to?
Jessica Walsh is a designer and female business owner that I’ve always admired throughout my career as a designer and just as a woman leader in business. She’s very bold in her ideas and in her executions and she just really challenges her clients, herself, and her team. It’s very progressive in the way she handles her work and her business. I do see some of the values that she embodies reflected in our own company’s approach. We’re just really passionate about progress and our clients are, too. I think that’s an interesting tie-in between the things I admire that she’s doing and the things that myself and our company are striving to do as well.
Favorite things to do in Indy during the summer?
I have three kids: a stepson who is 13, a 3-year-old daughter, and a 1-year-old son. That being said, in a past life, I would enjoy going to different breweries with my husband. and we live just a couple blocks away from Hoagies and Hop, the one in Butler Tarkington. That’s a go-to for us. On a Friday night, it’s fun to pop in there and grab a sandwich and beer. We always enjoy walking around Newfields and enjoying the beer garden. We like going downtown to Military Park and walking around downtown by the library. We go to Eagle Creek quite a bit, too, for kayaking and hiking.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I can say my ABCs backwards. I’m pretty good at that.
What keeps you inspired and motivated?
My kids. They are hilarious and creative. They see the world differently and give me perspective—which can actually lead to breakthroughs in problem solving.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to let go of things that don’t serve me.
What’s your go-to cocktail?
Bluebeard’s hopped gin and tonic is one of my favorite drinks. It is perfection in a glass. But honestly, I’m a beer girl and can often be found sipping a citrusy IPA.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would have dinner with my late grandmother, Dorothea “Dot” Martin. Much of my childhood is rooted in memories of sitting around the kitchen table with her and my grandfather—telling stories, playing cards, and catching up with other relatives and friends that would pop in. Everyone adored them, and their table was always full of food and laughter.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.
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