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Monday, September 24, 2012

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Three-Time Emmy Winner Maura Kelly, Executive Producer at PBS, Media Strategist Our Coverage Sponsored by The Cutler Salon, Official Hairstylist of Whom You Know

Maura Kelly

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When she was in college, Maura Kelly studied economics and psychology. They weren’t directly connected with the profession she later decided on – MEDIA – but they certainly stood her in good stead. As a result, she understands the financing and ROI (Return on Investment) it takes to get productions and media campaigns made and understands that innate values and beliefs systems govern the general public’s behavior.

Today, from developing kids transmedia projects to producing LIVE national TV broadcasts, Maura has built a diverse media career. She has been a Broadcast Executive Producer, Director of Marketing, Journalist, Adjunct Professor, and is now Principle of Purple Mountain Media. She also currently writes for the Irish Echo and the Huffington Post and covers everything from entrepreneurs to emerging technology trends.

At Purple Mountain Media, a creative consulting company focused on building cross-platform media projects and experiences, Maura works with top-tier entertainment companies and non-profit’s; and specializes in project management, marketing and building partnerships. Some current and past clients include: PBS Kids, NorthRidge Productions, Spectra Animation, NY Women in Film, The Jim Henson Company, Tribeca Film Festival, and HOPe (Helping Other People).

She recently helped organize and launch the first annual Sober St Patrick's Day event in NYC to celebrate the best of Irish culture in an alcohol-free family friendly setting. She is currently developing Celtic Roots of Americana Music, a musical odyssey of 200 years of Americana history and culture for broadcast; and “The FACE-OFF, a multi-part transmedia competition and debate series for college kids, with NorthRidge Productions.

Recent projects include “Hope in Ethiopia,” a field trip to northern Ethiopia with NGO HOPe and blog to document and promote HOPe’s efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS and support human rights.

She is currently planned a trip to Peru to visit the slums on the outskirts of Lima for HOPe and will conduct evaluations and provide media coverage. For two years, she covered global issues and social innovators for a WebTV series, and blog on the Huffington Post called Reporters Uncensored. Maura was on the education advisory board and was an outreach consultant on Dinosaur Train, now on PBS for the Jim Henson Company.

A former executive producer at PBS for over 15 years, she developed and produced award-winning programs for a family audience, including Planet H2O with America Ferrera, Nate the Great, ZOOM, and MythQuest. She has collaborated with partners, such as the US Department of Education, National Science Foundation, the United Nations, and The Museum of National History. Her Emmy Award-winning programs dealt with a range of topics, including: addiction and recovery, the environment, HIV/ AIDS, plus youth centric issues for tweens. Her work has been featured on PBS, NBC, WPIX, RTE, the Annenberg Channel and globally through the American Forces Network (AFN) and Livestream. To see clips of selected projects, visit:

Every year, she produces a number of events for NY Women in Film on emerging storytelling formats and digital trends. Her overriding passions are using media for social change, humanitarian innovations, and exploring Irish culture - past and present. She is a member of the WGA, Writer’s Guild East, NY Women in Film and TV, the Irish Business Organization, International Irish Business Network and the Irish Writers and Artists Association.

Maura has a Masters’ in Communication from New York Institute of Technology. While studying for her graduate degree, she started work in an assistant job at a UN agency (United Nations Development Program) that would have a profound impact on her career. At UNDP, Maura was exposed to the use of media (TV, VIDEO, internet radio, print) to impact social change – to educate – and to activate communities. It was called MEDIA THAT MATTERS and that is how she helps clients use media today. 

Maura was born in Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Her family moved to New York when she was seven, putting down roots in the Bronx. At 21, she moved to Manhattan with a roommate and lived in the city for many spectacular years. She now resided in leafy Westchester with her husband, National Australia Bank Director, Michael Pryce. We are absolutely thrilled to present Maura Kelly as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Maura Kelly for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What should most people know about economics and psychology that most do not know, and how has your background affected your perspective as a member of the media?
Maura Kelly: M
ost people know that economics is the social science that analyzes the production, and consumption of goods in the market. And, psychology studies the brain and why people make decisions. They may not know that the integration of both – (the study of human psychology and a free market) is a vibrant emerging field of study. I studied both in college with the idea of becoming an industrial psychologist. When I realized there was little opportunity, I switched to media and pursued a Master’s degree in Communications Arts. My academic background has helped me understand the market forces (financing plans and ROI measures) it takes that get projects funded; and more importantly, how values and belief systems affect the public’s decision making process.

What aspects of journalism do you enjoy the most and why?
I really like doing the research and exploring new concepts and ideas – ultimately separating fact for fiction. It’s always interesting to meet the subject too, be it an expert, or an average Joe. 

What makes an excellent journalist?
I think you have to be really curious, have a sincere interest in a broad spectrum of ideas and issues and be persistence. Journalists need to have good contacts and have the ability to find the truth in the facts. Being responsible and accountable are paramount. In broadcast TV, they need to go further and take the viewer on a visual journey. I think broadcast journalists are like independent filmmakers – many times they tackle subjects that the mainstream audience knows little about. They humanize the subject and make the reader care about the issues. 

What are the biggest mistakes PR firms make?
Nothing in PR is guaranteed. A client can spend a lot of money and get very little placement and exposure. A big pitfall is thinking one size fits all. Getting media placement is a very tricky business and pitches need to be customized to a particular reporter, publication or a community. It is time consuming but if the story relates to a particular outlet, the PR firm has a better chance of getting placement for their clients. 
Also, using too much corporate talk and boiler plate language in PR materials is a mistake. Today, pitches need to be humanized, and highlight the values of the company.

What are the biggest mistakes brands make in marketing campaigns and how can we learn from them?
Overall, not being authentic or transparent are huge mistakes brands make. Inconsistency is probably the most common branding mistake. Business owners get tempted to change the message in order to attract different buyers/ prospects but over time this approach weakens the brand. 
Another mistake is the failure to establish expertise; and a third is a failure to let the brand evolve with the times. The challenge it to tell a compelling story and share experiences with your audience. By giving your audience a living, breathing brand, they may connect with it better.

What should our readers know about Ireland?
Many people tend to forget or not pay attention to the fact that Ireland is an island. Therefore, it has amazing beaches, great surfing, exciting sailing and seafood that is so tasty. Instead they focus inland on the mountains and lakes etc. which is great too but I love to travel the coast roads. There are numerous small islands off the coast of Galway and Donegal to visit too. Venturing out to them is like going back in time and the terrain is so beautifully rugged.
Tourism Ireland has launched an exciting campaign called “The Gathering 2013” and its aim is to attract people of Irish heritage back to the island for a year of amazing festivals. I think it’s going to be very successful.

Who are your favorite Irish writers and why?
I like Sebastian Barry who wrote “The Secret Scripture.” It is a very unusual story and is now being made into a movie with Charliz Theron. Also, Colum McCann who penned Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs has terrific imaginative gifts and I like his immigrant’s interpretation of US themes.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
I would have to say my father first. He taught me early on that if you say you are going to do something make sure you do it. Some many people promise and don’t deliver or follow through. I also worked at PBS for many years and still do some consulting there. At PBS, I was exposed to exceptional filmmakers and journalists and the standard was quiet high. You had to raise your game to get noticed and get on air and I did. 

What are you proudest of and why?
I really hope the best is yet to come but for now I would have to say merging my media work and my philanthropic work is very gratifying. Last year, I went to Ethiopia with the HOPe organization and created several media pieces that shed light on the issues poor people living with HIV/AIDS encounter. This fall, I will travel to the slums on the outskirts of Lima and will do the same. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Two things. I’d like to successfully set up a co-production deal with an Irish production company to develop and create an Irish centric media project (with television as a main component) for international distribution, and second, I’d like to head up a Foundation that uses media for social change. 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Thankfully, I have received numerous awards for my television and community work. Of course, I am happy to have received three Emmy-awards of outstanding television programs, a Gold Medal at the NY Festivals for a multi-media project on the environment starring America Ferrera, and several CINE Golden Eagles for excellent media programs.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
I really like Conservatory Gardens in northern Central Park (around 105 Street and Fifth Ave) for its fountains, flowers and statues. Central Park in general is an amazing playground all year round. 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
The shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is great. I usually get my greeting cards there and gifts for all occasions. They just have a lot of unique things. 

What is your favorite drink?
I don’t drink it often but I love Bailey’s on ice. I do enjoy it during the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and it is so yummy!

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Humm? I walked into an apartment once and it was the wrong party. I stayed for about 15 minutes before I realized it.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I really like the lively, casual feel of French bistro, Pastis when it is not super crowded. Being situated in the Meat Packing District, it is really good for people watching too. 

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
I like “Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe because I’ve come across so many social ex-rays both socially and at work and Tom captures their lifestyle so well. I also like Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis because he shed light on the shenanigans of Wall Street at the time and turned it into a great story. 

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
I think I’d like to be Mayor Bloomberg for a day and see what it feels like to be one of the richest people in the US while running the greatest city in the world.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
I would like a Tall Ship (a three masted barque) specially designed for speed named after me that would sail around Manhattan, and also sail around the world to international Tall Ship and flotilla celebrations.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I loved running the New York City Marathon three times. Coming off the 59th St Bridge onto First Avenue was amazing. The cheering crowds give you the energy to run the remaining 12 or so miles up to Harlem and the Bronx and then back to Central Park. It is a great NY tradition and day.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Rowing around the lake in Central Park in the summer early in the morning is serene. The lake is tranquil and you are surrounded by a lush tree canopy with a landmark skyline in the distant.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
I would love to chat with my father again so he is my first choice; and Amelia Earhart is my second. I’d love to talk to her about her pioneering spirit and also find out what the heck happened to her.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
Every summer for many years I would go with a group of friends to the Philharmonic in the Park concerts. We had so many great picnics there with world-class music as background. Those evenings were so much special and I hope the city brings the concerts back to Central Park soon.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Over the years, I have done pro bono work for Irish relief agencies, GOAL and CONCERN USA in the area of fundraising and media production and promotion.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
I think kindness is underrated everywhere and NYC private schools are overrated. Going to a “better” more expensive school does not make you a better person. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like the reviews of unique NY events, like “Sober St. Patrick’s Day.

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
Not yet but look forward to it.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I enjoy going to NY Toastmasters on select Monday’s nights.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Follow Maura on Twitter 

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