Katelynn Dugan serves as the chief communications officer at Academic Partnerships, spearheading the company’s strategies for both internal and external communications, as well as managing media relations.
Before joining Academic Partnerships, Dugan navigated the intricate world of politics, serving as a policy and media staffer in the U.S. Senate. Her professional journey took her to Bracewell LLP, where she managed the office of former NATO ambassador and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Now at the helm of AP’s communications, Dugan weaves stories that resonate both internally and externally.
We caught up with Dugan to get her thoughts on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
I recently started listening to Wisdom from the Top with Guy Raz. Although it isn’t solely focused on the communications world, I have found it to be very insightful. Guy Raz interviews leaders across different industries and discusses the hardships they faced and how they managed through difficult situations. There are a lot of real-world lessons to be learned from the experiences of others, especially in times of crisis.
I am also in the middle of Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change by William Bridges, Ph.D. As a communicator, the “end-user” is always very top of mind for me. This book is a great reminder that change affects people and those people are the ones who impact teams and ultimately the company. For anyone who is working through change or having to communicate change, it is a great read.
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
Working in a remote-first world has been such a blessing for me. As a mom of two young children, it means stepping away from my office to have lunch with them some days or having the flexibility to give a hug between meetings, it also means not being side-by-side with my team and my colleagues. This can be hard when your job is to have a pulse on the heartbeat of the company and communicate the needs of your workforce. So, for me, Microsoft Teams is a lifeline. It allows for constant communication with my team while also providing a more casual way to connect as opposed to an email. When I see a little green dot next to someone’s name whom I haven’t connected with, I often reach out just to say “hello”. As we continue to work in this new remote world, having the ability to connect in more personal ways is critical and Microsoft Teams allows me to do that – even during packed days!
What excites you most about the future of communications?
Last November ChatGPT was publicly released, and some are saying it has the potential to change our world forever. Over the last several years we’ve seen the rise of other new technologies that are automating processes, increasing efficiency, enhancing engagement, and generating new content and ideas in real time.
There is a real opportunity to embrace this technology and use it to make us better communicators. I don’t believe AI should ever replace the critical role people play in communicating but, if we can figure out how we leverage these tools to make us faster, smarter and more efficient – I see a lot of potential.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
The means by which people communicate are constantly evolving. Very similar to what excites me about the future of communications, new technologies and the ever-evolving way in which people communicate, will always be the biggest challenge in the communications world. It feels like there is a new app or platform to share and digest information every day. As technological capabilities evolve and the number of channels continues to grow, we must stay ahead of the curve. From TikTok to Slack to X, as communicators, we must reach people where they are.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Like many other communications professionals, I didn’t have the most direct path to the role I currently play. I have worked in politics, business and now higher education and have worn many hats in the process. When I started at my current company, it was founder-led and still in the early growth stage. Over the last eight years, I have seen the evolution of the business first-hand and had the opportunity to evolve alongside the organization. I learned to quickly adapt and find the “voice” of our leader in an ever-changing environment. Although initially challenging, it has been the most amazing learning experience.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Always have a “can do” attitude. I worked for a very accomplished woman leader early in my career. She had held positions and sat at the table as the only woman more times than not in her career and one thing she always told me was to have a “can do” attitude. Over the years, I have taken that with me in everything I do. No matter the challenge ahead, if you walk into it with the perspective that you can solve the issue, more times than not, you will. You better have a lot of perseverance, too!
Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.