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A Closer Look: Jami Milne


When Christopher Diebel at Happy Medium first emailed me about Jami Milne, the company’s new director of connections strategy, this is what he had to say:

“Happy Medium employs a diverse roster of people who are creators, innovators, artists, storytellers, makers and leaders. Jami just happens to be that rare professional who is all of those things.” 

Milne graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in advertising and worked with Principal Financial for about four years, starting in community relations and transitioning to the corporate advertising team. From there, she joined the Integer Group as a strategic analyst for eight years before she left advertising completely as a full-time artist. 

Milne developed a residency with Ballet Des Moines as its photographer for about six months, before stepping back as artist and picking up the role as residency manager (see her portfolio: www.jamimilne.com). Milne joined Happy Medium in January. 

Describe your new role at Happy Medium as director of connections strategy.
I oversee our media and social media departments. I think what we’re finding, and what a lot of agencies are finding — as much as agencies consult with clients to try to break down silos so their marketing strategies are more comprehensive, the agencies are just as bad. … How do I make sure everyone’s talking for the benefit of the client?

At this point, I’m meeting with clients to help better understand who they are and what their needs are, and oftentimes I think clients feel like they know what they need, but that might not be the case. With a background in strategy, I’m able to go and listen and maybe hear things differently, to put together what I think can better capitalize on what their needs are. 

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten since starting?
The advice of being direct. While it might not come naturally, I think a lot of people feel if you’re direct, there’s a sense of negativity or terseness to it. While I’ve only been there since mid-January, I have seen a shift in my ability to be specific, and be quicker with my ask in a way that feels right.

How do you make an outside ad agency feel like a seamless part of a client’s team? 
I think the thread that I and Happy Medium bring to the client is actually tying their corporate or company goals, mission and vision into the actual tactics that we are assigned. In my experience, I see clients develop goals that maybe aren’t tying back to a bigger picture, and I see it as my job to get as foundational as I can get with what they’re trying to do as a business — to be able to say, “Here are the vehicles that we have and this is how you will see those goals threaded through each tactic.”

It’s easy to be an agency and sort of be off to the side of it, and not feel accountable. It’s my goal that the client, whatever level they’re at, know that I am beside them, on their team, trying to reach those goals. 

You have a reputation as an artist passionate about area nonprofits. Does that change the way you do business?
I think it’s such an ingrained part that I don’t know anything different. It definitely puts a lens on things that are perhaps not black and white. … I think a lot of my background in strategy from Integer has me seeking for this larger truth in anything, even if it’s as simple as, “What’s this tweet going to be?” I’m always digging for the why, and that’s what an artist does, too, is creating because they’re looking for a different answer. 

What kind of projects attract you?
A lot of times it’s just creative impulse. With the viaduct installation [“The Answer Comes When We Understand What Pressure Is,” displayed March 5-8], it was “I need to create this so I can breathe. I need to create this so I can feel as though I’m creating change, or pushing a conversation.” There’s nothing else that feels as natural or purposeful for me than to create something as a response. 

When it comes to the ballet, I took my first ballet class when I was 33. … With that, I fell in love with it late in my life and from there just wanted to keep getting closer in some way. I knew how dancers work and how hard it is, and with the mechanics of their jumps, I would know when to take the shot or what to look for.

What inspires you the most in this job?
Right now it’s the incredible team that I’m a part of. … Part of the reason I was so eager to look at Happy Medium and accept this position is because I knew I would have a team working with me and for me, so the ability to bring my experience to people that are younger than I am, or earlier in their careers, is, I think, one of the most rewarding things. It’s fun to help instill a sense of curiosity and leadership and strategic thinking, and that is what I look forward to every day. 

What kind of goals do you have for this year?
Happy Medium has this beautiful blend of making sure work goals and personal goals intertwine. I think as any of us know in a professional setting, there’s really no such thing as work/life balance, but how are you balancing it all in life, period. 

One of the things that I have decided as a personal/professional goal, is scheduling more time to be alone. That might sound odd as a wife and a mother of two — that doesn’t exist. Part of carving that out — I have time to say this is the time I need to think, to create, to develop, to read. It’s something that I think will bleed into the workplace in a very healthy way. … I think without specifically applying that out as a goal, it won’t happen. 

Of course, how do we win more business, how do we ensure happier clients, how do we ensure we are delivering on the things we said we would and go above and beyond in the places where we haven’t. 

What are you reading/watching/listening to lately?
I’m reading a book called “Madness, Rack and Honey.” The author’s name is Mary Ruefle. She’s actually a poet, but she’s also a lecturer on poetry. The entire book is her lectures. … In the intro, she talks about as a writer, it only makes sense that she was going to write what she was going to say, rather than just lecturing as a professor. It’s a beautiful collection of essays.

From a listening standpoint, my husband and I are avid believers in the record player. This is our second year of subscribing to something called Vinyl Me, Please, where they send you a record every month. We just got Beach House [“Devotion”] yesterday in the mail, so that’s currently on the record player. They also do limited edition — we have a pink record by Miles Davis that was released a couple months ago, and red records by the Gorillaz. Whatever’s coming in every month is what’s on [our] record player.


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