Mary Kate Nyland ’15: Authenticity at VaynerMedia

Mary Kate Nyland ’15 is an Emerson alum who understands the true potential of marketing. Having written on the subject of authenticity and transparency in digital marketing, she understands the value of being upfront with an audience and the offering a company can bring to an individual consumer versus an over-generalized target audience.

It’s this passion for meaningful communication that led her to VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency that’s worked with brands like General Electric, Budweiser, and NBCUniversal, amongst many others. In her own words:

“Our CEO, Gary Vaynerchuk, champions marketing that empathizes with the consumer and speaks to things they care about. As a new agency, we’ve never been trapped in the old-fashioned cycle of doing things; Spending loads of money on TV spots that aren’t reaching people or connecting with them. We’re really focused on putting that energy into where people’s attention is and producing creative that’s truthful, honest, and helpful.

That’s something that was very spiritually aligned with what I had studied and written my honors thesis on, which was exciting for me to hear as an entry-level graduate. It was great to jump into an organization that’s working with huge clients but is still doing creative work that’s contemporary, new age, and digital.”

We caught up with MK to learn more about the journey that brought her to Vayner and how Emerson helped prepare her for it:

What originally drew you to Emerson College?

I was really involved in the arts growing up. I knew when I was applying to college that I wanted to study Communications, but I did want to maintain the community I had built in music and theater. I wanted to stay within a creative space. Emerson was perfectly aligned at that cross-section where I could study marketing but have that creative energy and people around me.


Do you keep in touch with folx from Emerson?

Definitely. I would say the closest people in my life right now are all from Emerson. Actually, my whole transition to Vayner started when I had my resume bumped by someone I knew from Emerson there.


What were your first steps after graduation?:

In my last semester at Emerson, I was starting to apply to agencies. I knew that advertising was what I wanted to do after having spent the last year interning at Racepoint Global in Boston as a copy intern. So I was applying to agencies I respected creatively and ones that would kickstart my move to New York City. What drew me to Vayner was the height of the creativity as well as the ethos of it.


Do you find a lot of connection between the research you did at Emerson and your current work?

A lot. For my Senior project, I created a two-part thesis based on research of why authenticity and transparency in marketing is so important in this era, with the onset of digital technology and the amount of information available to the consumer.

In the latter half of the project, I built a design and apparel brand and outlined a marketing plan that would successfully execute the strategies and tactics I developed in the research. A lot of those were related to transparency, treating consumers well, and retaining people by actually speaking to them like people, especially in valuing their individuality versus their data point in an audience.

That’s definitely something that’s been relevant to my work at Vayner. We do a lot of Community Management—which was actually my first role here—speaking to people on a one to one basis and letting them know the brand sees them and appreciates them. I genuinely feel I could have pulled that straight from my thesis.


What interested you in New York specifically?

I think it’s a really great place to go after Boston. Boston serves as this perfect bridge between the suburbs and city life and really prepares you for the next level, which is everything New York has to offer. I felt ready for that environment after spending four years in Boston.

I also have a strong support group. So many Emerson students go to New York after graduating so I have a good group of friends here. I think the hardest part was preparing for the transition in advance with finances and logistics.


Can you think of one moment at Vayner that sticks out in your mind?:

I’ll give you a couple because I don’t want to pick and choose. As a Community Manager, one highlight was launching Season 2 of Mr. Robot on social.

We told fans that we were going to stream a Q&A with the cast on Facebook Live. And we did, but about 5 minutes into the session, fsociety (if you’re familiar with the show) “hacked” into the stream and dropped the first episode of the new season. Fans went wild.

As a copywriter, I’ve had great opportunities to travel. Last year, with the SYFY channel, I was able to go to San Diego Comic-Con and work on a live show there which was sort of like a … nerd’s dream.

Do you have any advice for current students?:

Use your time at Emerson to explore things that are outside of your major and outside of your comfort zone. For writing in particular, your work just gets better when you have a diverse background and a variety of different experiences.


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By Anders Croft
Anders Croft Marketing Communications Specialist Anders Croft