A Conversation with Diana Steeble: young, dynamic, passionate and ranked among the ’40 under 40′ by PR Week.
Diana Steeble, one of our talents in the US, was last month inducted into PR Week’s ’40 under 40′ hall of fame. Wanting to know a little more, Sophie Martin Chantepie – MSLGROUP’s Chief Talent Officer – recently got in touch with Diana and here shares her thoughts and impressions.
“I called Diana up and we spoke for about an hour about her journey within MSLGROUP, starting as a junior inexperienced graduate learning on the job with her team and her clients, being a young woman having to engage and gain credibility with male clients who could be her father if not grandfather, and about her remaining faithful to her beliefs and passion so that anything she does and conveys to her clients and her team has meaning.
What I have learnt from our conversation is that Diana has been able to combine her professional responsibilities with her own beliefs and has found the right balance in her life so that everything she does is done with joy and pride. So, I wanted to share with you her very own recipe for success and I am sure you can all add your personal ingredients and make it yours!
Quite soon after graduation, Diana discovered the power of networking and having a good PR voice, as a friend introduced her to our industry during a Beach Party for local alumnae of her college (more on that in a minute). Diana is quite representative of many of the Talents who work at MLSGROUP and who trained in unexpected subjects, which makes them see the world through a different lens than others and gives an extra spice to how they perform.
Diana graduated in Dance, with a concentration in Dance Anthropology, and combined both topics under the study of Spanish Flamenco and Argentine Tango, analyzing how these dances revealed or influenced behaviors in their respective cultures. That ability to understand what makes people tick certainly applies to communications work! She sees her falling into PR as a good example of how you can change your mind and your career track.
She also realized very quickly that there were many opportunities and challenges where her studies were more than helpful. “When you are used to performing and dancing before an audience, you feel comfortable standing up and giving a presentation to a client!” Her arts background has also been a great asset to her, allowing her to tap creativity as well as strategy when acting as a Trusted Advisor.
Diana reflected that her education at Mount Holyoke College, a renowned women’s college, gave her conviction in her thinking and resiliency to take a Trusted Advisor role rather than accept a subservient one. Gender bias exists in the world, but she drew strength from her Mount Holyoke training and later the leadership of her Seattle office (namely, Steve Bryant and Lisa Kelly) to develop and stay true to her voice, which ultimately delivers better results for her clients.
Diana believes that all clients want good counsel for shared success, and have not discounted her ideas because they came from a young woman. Instead, she’s bridged to their world by learning the results-oriented business language that sells in programs to boards of directors and senior management, whether comprised of men or women. For instance, proposing a recipe program may sound “soft” – but not when she shows them the evidence that health professionals advocate clients’ products when they receive tools (such as recipes) to help their patients put recommendations into practice.
Starting working in PR was not easy and, from the Beach Party introduction, Diana had to demonstrate her skills and ability to become a Trusted Advisor as well as a Storyteller specialized in Food and Nutrition – a long way from Flamenco and Tango. She met with an open-minded team, who coached her into her acquiring the behaviors and competencies, which she now masters. The lesson is to not become defeated as you pay your dues learning the PR industry and client subject matter – stay with it!
As Diana knows, it takes two to tango, and another challenge she had to face was how to create the bond with her client. Being a young woman working with the United Soybean World, a male-dominated world with a Midwestern sensibility, required a lot of questioning and understanding from Diana to properly engage with her clients. Not only was there a gender difference but also a generation gap. How could she reconcile these so that they spoke the same language?
Diana quickly understood that her difference was an asset and played it to her advantage. She had to find her own methods and not replicate a “guy’s attitude.”
While some women love football and basketball, Diana had no clue about sports talk. She is more of a movie watcher and book reader. She used her rabid consumption of books and films to her advantage in two distinct ways:
- An endless supply of fresh conversation starters that build a bond when carefully assessed for relevance to the client and transformed into meaningful anecdotes.
- The chance to step inside the character’s experience for another perspective of life and develop empathy; in our multicultural world, most of us will have clients who are different in some demographic way, such as gender or generation, and fiction allows an opportunity to see the world through a different lens for a while
She knew that creating the bond with the client was critical: providing great work is expected and essential – and her clients trust with 100% confidence that she will deliver on any assignment with perfection and smarts – but creating the right relationship is also part of what makes clients want to stay with an agency and enjoy the collaboration. She engaged in conversations with them, anticipating and finding solutions, and became a Trusted Advisor because she also remained herself.
Sharing Knowledge and Passion
These are major aspects of Diana’s personality. She remembers from her early days in PR how her own management coached her but also empowered her and trusted her to run her own projects. Thus she truly believes that team collaboration and brainstorming, coupled with mentorship and autonomy, are the best tools to allow talents to grow fast and well. Diana also trusts that combining your passion with your work is the best way to grow into being a Trusted Advisor. Hence, she is now a master in her subject field, providing strategic guidance to her clients.
The key for achieving this, she confessed, is “being proud of working for her clients because it has meaning.” From encouraging consumers to eat more healthfully to promoting better-for-you ingredients to food and healthcare professionals, to helping the family farmers who grow the food, Diana recognizes and stays motivated by the big picture.
Mobility and Flexibility
After having heard Diana telling me so much about her passion and her investments with her team and her clients, I was intrigued how Diana managed her work/life balance. That’s when she told me she’d returned from 10 days on the road and was actually working at home that day. Flexibility, yes, that’s the trick – plus some yoga too. She also recharges with international travel, thanks to her frequent flier miles and the company’s benefits policy.
Diana was actually one of the first, in a long time, that did admit “technology is very helpful” and that she was “good at managing her Blackberry” and working remotely. She is a strong believer that technology can be used to one’s benefit and a great proof that the U.S. Flexibility with Accountability policy is a great asset for the teams.
So that’s how I got to know Diana, the Baltimore girl who moved to Seattle, travelled Europe, the Middle East and Africa and is now touring the USA for her work and is making us all at MSLGROUP proud to count her amongst our Colleagues.