Where are they now? – Sara McKinniss

By Dan Toland

Brad Boyer, Tyler Hall, and Sara McKinniss, were just three fresh baby-faced young professionals when they joined Melanie Wilt during the early days of Shift•ology (then known as Wilt Public Relations).  During a recent episode of our Shooting the Shift podcast, we had the opportunity to catch up with the trio to learn where their careers have taken them, what they have carried with them from their time with Melanie, and to reminisce about the good old days of agency life. 

Here we feature Sara McKinniss Check out our other posts in this series featuring Brad Boyer and Tyler Hall.

Sara McKinniss

Sara McKinniss was Melanie’s first legally-hired employee when Wilt Public Relations was launched in 2008. The early days of the company were spent working at Melanie’s home in South Charleston, Ohio, where Sara built a great understanding of startup culture, bonded with Melanie and her two children (and the family dog, Buckshot) and helped Melanie on her first branding project from the porch swing.

Sara later accompanied Melanie when Wilt PR established an office in downtown Springfield, and she had the foresight to know that Melanie would one day be a public official. Making light of nasty political advertisements, she would often banter about Melanie running for office with the phrase,  “Melanie Wilt eats babies”…an inside joke that carries to today, but is neither true, nor used in any political campaigns. 

Sara has had a number of positions in a variety of disciplines since her time at Shift•ology/Wilt PR, but her love of the healthcare field has led to her dream home at The Ohio State University, where she serves as a web management specialist at the university’s Wexner Medical Center.

What Sara learned from Wilt PR:

  • There was no blueprint for how to do her job when she first started at Wilt, and that’s been the case with every job she’s had since. She said she learned ingenuity from having to have the willingness to take initiative and figure things out.
  • With no iPads, just a few BlackBerries and the dawning of social media, technology was rapidly advancing during Sara’s time at Wilt. Sara credits Melanie as being an early adopter and helping her understand that even though the underlying principles of communication are the same, the technology revolution was going to highly impact communication strategies going forward.

In Sara’s words:

  • “I gained a foundational skill set. I learned how to write, how to speak and a variety of communication-related skills. I’ve always been interested in the science of it all…being able to take highly complex information and breaking that down into tangible, understandable things. That’s a skill set that not everyone has that I still do in my job today.” 
  • “I took a lot of the lessons I learned from Melanie through observation. How she edited copy, brainstormed, developed a logo, or purposely thought about why a website should be built a certain way, or the key messages people should take away. I’ve been able to emulate some of that in my career, and oftentimes even today will ask, “What would Melanie do?” when I get in a situation, and have actually called her to talk through predicaments from time to time.” 
  • “Melanie saw early on that downtown Springfield would have a renaissance. There are good things coming out of Clark County, and there are great minds and knowledge workers driving creative change in Springfield. Melanie has shown you can have a successful business in a small-to-medium-sized town, and your talent can be just as good, if not better than you can find in larger cities.”

Special Note from Melanie Wilt

“I am incredibly proud of the careers these three have created, the work they do in their communities and the positive impact they have on those around them. Although I shed tears the day each of them let me know they were moving on, I am better for having had the opportunity to get what I could from them and teach them what I could. I am honored to have been a part of each of their journeys and consider them a part of my network.”

Shift•ology’s first-ever employee lets others know exactly what it was like working with Melanie as she got the company off the ground. Hear that and more in this episode of Shooting the Shift.