Michael Kaye, director of brand marketing and communications at ARCHER and OkCupid, has been named one of Ragan’s 2023 Game Changers, sponsored by Omnicom, an honor that recognizes trailblazing leaders in the communications and PR industries.
Kaye leads marketing, events, public relations and social media efforts for ARCHER and in his role at OkCupid he was tasked with growing the brand around the world. Under his leadership, OkCupid received the highest volume of press of any year in its history during his first year in the role.
When the Game Changer isn’t growing brands globally, he loves to exercise his body and mind with an energetic cycle at SoulCycle, or a walk in Central Park. Reading biographies and thrillers is a favorite pastime for him, too.
To set the stage for his recognition at Ragan’s Future of Communications Conference, Nov. 6–8 in Austin, we asked Kaye to elaborate on his approach to challenges, innovation and strategic leadership.
What is one challenge communicators should be prepared to face in the next year, and what is one opportunity they may be able to embrace?
Artificial intelligence is transforming the way we communicate and connect, and as brand builders and storytellers, we cannot allow ourselves to fall behind. We need a deep understanding of how these platforms operate, and how we can use these tools to become more efficient and impactful for our brands or clients.
Another challenge is that news is being distributed and shared faster than ever before. We’re drowning in content every second of the day, and there are reports that estimate there are between 2 million to 3 million news articles published online or printed every day. That’s creating another challenge for communicators who are tasked with breaking through the noise.
What do you think will be the most important skills for communicators to master in the next five years?
The ability to effectively analyze insights to craft impactful data-driven stories. It’s an art being able to look at data and share it in a way that evokes emotion or leads to a person taking an intended action, oftentimes you’re aiming to do both. And the media are hungry for these insights.
Having a deeper understanding of intersectionality, especially because Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history and is gaining greater purchasing power. The experiences of a Black transgender woman are different from a Latinx Millennial man or a nonbinary Jewish person. And how we speak to these consumers needs to be adapted and tailored by demographic. We also need to recognize that most, if not all, communities are not monoliths. For example, though I identify as a gay man, I am only one person in a beautifully diverse and expansive LGBTQ+ community filled with tons of unique experiences.
What’s something about you that someone would be surprised to learn?
I deal with anxiety, especially social anxiety. People see me speaking in a class, on a stage or on TV and assume that I am extremely extroverted, and part of me definitely is, but there’s another part of me that needs the space and time to feel comfortable and safe in a new environment. I still get nervous. And no one ever talks about that, which makes many of us feel like we’re living an isolated experience. That’s why I talk about it. I tell people every time I’m nervous. Because it’s not a weakness. It means I care about what I’m doing and speaking about. It’s actually a strength.
Can you share a memorable experience or challenge you encountered while managing integrated communications firms in multiple countries for OkCupid?
In college, I began freelance writing for Elite Daily, months after the publication launched in 2012. Fast forward to 2019, I came back to work at OkCupid after a weekend in Washington D.C. with the Human Rights Campaign feeling inspired and decided to add new matching questions to the app created by and for the LGBTQ+ community to help queer people build deeper, more meaningful connections. Elite Daily did an entire feature story on the launch and interviewed me. It was my first time being a brand spokesperson and was a true full-circle moment.
It’s really challenging to maintain your brand mission and values across varying cultural, economic, political and social environments. At OkCupid, we’ve partnered with GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign on multiple initiatives for the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. But we’re also operating in markets like India where the Supreme Court recently refused to legalize same-sex marriage or Turkey where the Pride March has been banned for nearly a decade. As a brand, it’s important to remember what you stand for. We believe love is love no matter what country you’re in. But challenges lead to opportunities. In Turkey, we became the first dating app to activate in a Pride Month celebration held in the metaverse.
What was it like getting OkCupid data mentioned in a White House press briefing, and how did that come about?
I’ll never forget hearing our brand mentioned in a White House Press Briefing. To support the Biden Harris Administration’s efforts to increase vaccinations among Gen Z and Millennials, OkCupid released the “I’m Vaccinated” profile badge for all daters who self-reported that they’ve had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Everyone who added the badge to their profile in the first 48 hours also received a free Boost. The following day in a Press Briefing by the White House, a spokesperson said “According to one of the sites, OkCupid, the people who display their vaccination status are 14% more likely to get a match. We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive: a vaccination.” This was roughly one year into the pandemic, and I had yet to adapt to our “new normal,” and it was such a surreal experience.
Don’t miss your chance to celebrate Kaye and more Ragan’s 2023 Game Changers at our Future of Communications Conference, Nov. 6–8 in Austin, as well as our satellite Comms Week events in cities across the U.S. and U.K.