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Team Spotlight: Mike Santoro

Katie Canning

He’s known as a team player, proud University of Illinois alumnus (Go Illini!), family man, co-founder of the Little Giraffe Foundation and was recently named PRSA’s PR Professional of the Year.

Can you guess who?

Mike-SantoroIt’s none other than Walker Sands’ president, Mike Santoro! As our company’s presence continues to flourish in the Chicago area and beyond, we thought about how important it is to share our leaders’ thoughts about Walker Sands and why working here is special to each of them.

Diving into our initial round of Q&A’s, it was fitting to start with the head of the pack and gather Mike’s insights on all things Walker Sands!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

As the president, my primary role is setting the vision and course of the company, identifying future market trends and evolvement of the agency. I also play a huge role in the culture of Walker Sands, such as how to make this a great place where people can learn, collaborate and support one another. Also, it’s important for me to incorporate our core values of learn, support and do into everything that happens here.

2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

It’s changed dramatically since I started. I was here when we were about six people. It was a marketing company for all things and all people. When I became president, we started focusing on technology, and from there we have grown pretty rapidly. Now, we have bigger, better and stronger abilities.

In the past, people thought I was insane when I would suggest awards we might win or present the possibility of being the best marketing agency in North America. Now, we’re achieving many of the steps on that journey and those dreams are becoming reality.

3. What do you like most about working at Walker Sands?

The people! I think everyone we get to work with is awesome. This is an agency where I want to have a good time, so who you surround yourself with is very important. It’s nice to be able to have all of these smart people around. They can talk as easily about Google analytics as they do about whatever random book they’re reading.

4. What sets Walker Sands apart?

Two big things set us apart:

  • Industry specification. When we grew up, we started to focus on B2B technology. We have since further specialized into things like: security, fintech, marketing tech, retail tech and a couple other areas like that. This specialization gives us expertise within these spaces and allows us to have those meaningful conversations with clients.
  • Bringing PR and digital together. This is something a lot of agencies are trying to do right now, but it’s something I think we do really, really well. We have all the right people in place and flexibility with our size. Naturally, we also have history in measurement and digital analytics, which is crucial.

5. What excites you most about the next year at Walker Sands? The next three years?

We have such potential in terms of what we’re doing right now in content services. So, I see us adding more capabilities there. We’ve added video this year, and I think that department will expand. We’re strong with the written word, but we’ll continue to strengthen our abilities in that area. We’ll also grow in the paid, owned, earned cycle along with geographic expansion. Our San Francisco office is going well, and it’s only been open a few months. We’ll continue to add cities to our list.

6. If a fairy godmother granted you three wishes, what would they be?

I have a pretty good life, and I feel really fortunate with where I am right now. So, this is a hard one. If I had one wish, it would be to get more sleep since I have a new baby. Or, I would love to travel more. My wife and I have always talked about going to Greece. Lastly, to slow life down would be my biggest wish. I like having fun, but moments slip away pretty fast.

7. Who is your mentor(s)?

My mom has made all kinds of sacrifices and encouraged me to read, and my dad always pushed me to write. They both had huge influences on me. Business wise--our founder Ken has been a great mentor to me.

Interested in learning more about our team? Keep an eye out for another Team Spotlight later this week!