Bring New Disciplines Into the PR Fold

Kelly McGinnis    Exec. VP + CCO  Levi Strauss & Co.
Kelly McGinnis
Exec. VP + CCO
Levi Strauss & Co.

Kelly McGinnis became executive VP and CCO of Levi Strauss & Co. in 2013. The move came 18 months after Levi Strauss hit the reset button following years of no growth. From the get-go McGinnis—who reports directly to Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh—instituted four principles that have guided communications strategy and enhanced integration.

Establish the right team and build credibility across the organization by demonstrating that PR is aligned with the business. Since McGinnis joined the company, there has been a 30 percent turnover in the corporate affairs team, for example.

Be the eyes and ears of the company. “We must always rely on multiple stakeholder inputs and perspectives to inform our recommendations,” McGinnis said. “Without those inputs, it’s just opinion.”

Align behind a core narrative —based on the company’s long-term business objectives—and make the PR team’s effort align with that agenda.

Find like-minded thought partners across the business who share your vision and want to work with you toward a common set of goals.

McGinnis has put these tenets into practice to build more cohesive messaging.

For example, last week Levi Strauss introduced its Lifecycle Assessment Update, a sustainability report catering to the company’s supply chain and other stakeholders.

What’s key for communicators: Executives from a variety of disciplines had an important stake in the report, getting more people vested in PR’s value. “From our Sustainability experts to our ecommerce and Marketing colleagues, who are using every tool in their tool box to activate a consumer campaign, asking jeans owners to wash their jeans less,” McGinnis said. “Doing this in such an integrated fashion is a step up for us.”

Another way Levi’s is boosting integrated communications is by involving researchers at its Eureka Innovation Lab, an R&D facility.

In the past two years McGinnis and her team have helped to bring the company’s 30-person research team into the communications fold, resulting in stories about the lab appearing in Fast Company, along with features on Good Morning America and CBS This Morning.

“Things used to be behind-the-scenes,” McGinnis said. “But by integrating PR alongside the lab we’ve been able to ask our researchers to tell a story, with our visibility up dramatically.”


Kelly McGinnis,

This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.