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‘I love stories’: Beyond the Brief featuring Shannon Pruitt, The Story Lab


By Bennett Bennett, Staff writer

April 5, 2017 | 7 min read

The kitchen table was where a young Shannon Pruitt, president of LA’s The Story Lab, cooked up her first stories.

Shannon Pruitt, president of The Story Lab

Shannon Pruitt, president of LA’s The Story Lab

Her life and career since then has been nothing short of exceptional, and not only because we featured her on our women's leadership podcast.

Pruitt’s career has spanned the TV worlds of Warner Bros. and 19 Entertainment, working for the likes of Simon Cowell and Mark Burnett before switching over to the Dentsu Aegis shop in 2014.

Sit in a room with her and there’s a buzzing energy in the insights she discusses: she’s the closest thing to a branded entertainment history buff. The Oregon native prides a small-town upbringing for the foundation that’s helped her work with the likes of the new and old. Among those values: kindness and honesty, both of which she uses to connect to her employees and to those who need it more than most. It doesn’t get more honest than Pruitt’s work with the Angelman Syndrome Foundation — her young daughter has the rare genetic disorder.

Storytelling has been her passion from an early age, and when you spend your career around the world’s best stories and storytellers, being named one of Southern California’s top media execs seems more than natural — and makes it only natural for us to get Beyond the Brief with Shannon Pruitt.

What's your favorite campaign (that isn’t yours) and why?

The recent American Family Insurance judo commercial. As someone who is passionate about brands telling stories that do not disrupt the consumer experience, this ad is truly content. It genuinely delivers what the brand stands for in a way that captivates from the beginning and taps into pure emotion and a message that is tied to what the product does and what life means when you start to plan and prepare for the future. It makes both a personal connection and is relevant to culture, and it moves me every time.

What makes you excited about going to work every day?

I love stories. Telling them, sharing them, using them to connect with clients, clients to connect with consumers, and for me to connect with my colleagues and constituents. I tend to be a storyteller in the way I communicate, so my passion and genuine love for the craft runs deep. I have the good fortune to lead and work with a group of people who feel the same. To spend time sharing and learning with them is a gift in my work that keeps me inspired, motivated and excited to go to The Story Lab every day.

Best moment in a client presentation? Worst moment? Funniest moment.

In a new business pitch to a very conservative company whose current campaign viscerally connected with me, the technology failed. I was on next and the unexpectedness rattled me. My script went out the window. I told the story of my young daughter who has a genetic syndrome called Angelman Syndrome. I began to cry and struggled to compose myself. I was embarrassed but shortly after, I got a note via Linkedin from the chief communications officer saying he appreciated my realness and my story. The moral being, always just be who you are and you can't go wrong.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

The Golden Rule. "Treat others as you want to be treated." So simple, yet so powerful. Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes teaches us in every way. The information we communicate, the information we receive, how we act and how we react. It teaches us to not lead with me, or our ego, but to really listen and understand what we need to say or what is being said, and when you work in storytelling, it is the thing that can bring you together or keep you far apart.

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? What (in)tangible thing have you taken from there?

I am from Ashland, Oregon. A small town where California meets Oregon. A place of neighbors, friends and community. A place of Friday Night football games, and not doing something wrong when you are a teenager because your parents are bound to find out. It was where I learned about receiving kindness and that your circumstances don’t define you. Families of all types come together and kindness from friends, teachers, coaches help you as if you were their own family, as you become who you are and who you will become. It is my foundation personally and professionally.

Where was the last place you traveled to? What did you learn from that trip?

I recently traveled to Cabo San Lucas with two wonderful women friends to celebrate one friend being cancer free for 25 years. As a mom, wife, career person, I rarely take time for myself without feeling guilty or self-indulgent. I cut short trips, modify "vacations" and bend to the responsibilities that haunt me from afar. So, I took a break. I read books, talked and laughed with my friends, and disconnected. It reminded me how important it is to reset and take time for myself. It makes me a better version of me in all parts of my life.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

See the industry pros we're featuring here.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

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