By Julie Tereshchuk
Harry Potter may seem an unusual role model for a seasoned business woman. Well—truth be told—it’s young Harry’s invisibility cloak which 71-year-old Margaret Keys admits to having her eye on. Keys is the archetypal professional communicator—forever behind the scenes and out of the limelight. Yet, through her clients and the innovative communication models she has created for them, she has elevated communications to its rightful place: at the heart of an organization’s strategy. With her focus on creating a process for strategic preparation and delivery, Keys has broken down barriers in the field of communications, while enhancing to Austin’s reputation as a center of creativity.
Lee Walker is a longtime friend. “I met Margaret on a plane coming back from England when I was president of Dell. I was instantly smitten by her amazing persona, and have not lost any of that over the 25 years I’ve known her,” Walker says. Keys has gone on to coach a myriad of Dell executives, while Walker has remained a client throughout his high-flying career.
Keys’ own career has by no means been limited to Central Texas.
Through the power of her communications skills and the highly skilled individuals she has trained, Margaret Keys has had a global influence, with clients such as Microsoft, AMD, Harcourt Achieve Publishing, H-E-B Central Market, Honeywell, Dell, and more.
Here’s a sneak preview of what the 2013 Liz Carpenter Lifetime Achievement award winner will be talking about on April 20th, when she’s one of the four invited panelists at the 40th annual Banner Brunch.
JT: There’s much talk about how the world of professional mass communications has changed over the years. What do you see has remained the same?
MK: Building and maintaining authentic relationships is bedrock. That aspect doesn’t change. Trust is more important than ever.
JT: Are there things that we’re forgetting to use in our toolset because we’re distracted by bright shiny objects such as Skype, Facebook and Twitter?
MK: The things we are forgetting to use include face-to-face dinners, the phone, and recreational time together. All of these are the ways we nurture and deepen our understanding of each other. This is even more important as we cross cultures. The “bright shiny objects” help us stay connected once the foundation is built. We can never substitute the bright shiny objects for real connection.
JT: What advice would you give to a new professional communicator who is building her career?
MK: Don’t think of networking in a superficial way. Find a way to connect authentically and build from there. Always circle back to those who guide and help you. Don’t just take—find ways to give and stay in exchange. Listen and truly pay attention, don’t be blinded by your agenda. And expand the network.
That’s no different than the advice I’d give to a more experienced communicator.
JT: What keeps you passionate about your work?
MK: My clients and the problems they ask me to help solve, along with curiosity about our changing world and what that means in terms of assisting clients.