Alumna’s Journey to Building Successful Career and Award-Winning Agency

Woman with blonde hair standing in her office

Kate Snyder, who as a junior at MSU told her academic advisor that she wanted to plan parties at The Met, is now the Owner and Principal Strategist of her own award-winning public relations agency, Piper & Gold. So just how did she transition from a desire to be a party-planner in New York City to owning her own successful mid-Michigan-based business?

MSU Education

Snyder, who originally wasn’t interested in attending a large institution, was drawn to MSU’s Residential Option in Arts and Letters (ROIAL) program, where she lived in Mason/Abbot Hall with other students who shared her interests in the arts.

“What appealed to me about being in ROIAL was that immersion with other people that cared about what I cared about,” Snyder said. “Theatre, dance, and music have always been part of my life, and the ROIAL program was everything I expected it to be – people playing instruments in the basement and people painting in the lobby.”

In addition to ROIAL, Snyder was involved with music groups at MSU, Ladies First A Cappella and Women’s Glee Club, and her art was on display in multiple art exhibitions.

a woman with short blonde hair wearing a cheetah print shirt working in an office
Kate Snyder at her Piper & Gold office

But she was a Humanities Pre-Law major among the visual and performing arts students. As the years went by, she took courses in what she was interested in: from interior design and theatre to history and philosophy. With her diversity of interests, Snyder’s academic advisor recommended taking a few more classes to obtain a degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities with a primary cognate in History and secondary cognates in Interior Design and English.

In this same conversation, when Snyder admitted that her dream job was to plan parties at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, her advisor recommended she get an internship in public relations. This is when Snyder’s almost 20-year career as a distinguished PR professional began.

“Through my English classes, I studied literature, storytelling, and how to evoke emotions through the written word.”

“I never had a formal education in PR, even in my master’s program, but I did have a formal education in the liberal arts,” Snyder said. “Through my English classes, I studied literature, storytelling, and how to evoke emotions through the written word. I studied interior design, which was all about creating emotional experiences and connecting through visual spaces. In studying history, I learned how to research, analyze, and comprehend complex concepts and information. Those strategic foundations and knowing how to motivate groups of people to make decisions or change behavior are a core component of PR.”

Career Path

Snyder took an internship at Lezotte Miller Public Relations in Lansing, which led to a full-time position after she graduated from MSU in 2002.

“Before that, I knew nothing about PR. I didn’t even know what a press release was,” Snyder said. “But I realized through my job [at Lezotte Miller] I really enjoyed working with nonprofits and governmental agencies. When it came time for me to leave the agency and move on to my next opportunity, I sought out positions in government.”

Snyder’s eight-year career with Capital Area Michigan Works! (CAMW!) as the Marketing and PR Director began in January 2004. CAMW! is a network of resources for employers and career seekers that supports Greater Lansing’s workforce and its development. During her time there, social media started emerging and Snyder took an interest in how CAMW! could use social media to help job seekers and employers.

three people talking a table
Kate Snyder with two of her team members at Piper & Gold

During this time, Snyder earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and Master of Science from Eastern Michigan University in Integrated Marketing Communications. She also served as Interim Executive Director for the Capital Healthcare & Employment Council and the Chief Communications Officer of CAMW! before leaving in 2011.

“Being at the epicenter of arguably the most impacted state in a really terrible recession had taken its toll on me,” Snyder said. “I loved my work team and the work that I did, but I just needed a change.”

Snyder went back to the private sector and started consulting to fill her time in between adjunct faculty positions at Lansing Community College and with MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Toward the end of 2012, she committed to consulting full time.

“The biggest thing I missed was that work family,” Snyder said. “That’s when I decided, I’m going to build a company instead of a consultancy, which was the birth of Piper & Gold.”

“What I’m most proud of is creating a workplace where people can come to work and be their most authentic selves.”

In her first year of consulting, Snyder hired three employees to help her out with the business. In the years since, the company has outgrown offices and grown a broad family of student and full-time employees scattered across the globe. Today, Piper & Gold’s client base is still focused on government agencies — in fact CAWM! is now a client — and works with a variety of nonprofits, schools, associations, health care systems, and small businesses to make a positive impact on their communities.

“What I’m most proud of is creating a workplace where people can come to work and be their most authentic selves,” Snyder said. “I think [Piper & Gold] allows people to pursue work they’re passionate about and make an impact in our communities. I’m proud to have created, and that I still work every day to create, a place where authenticity is celebrated, and we can all support one another.”

Career Success

Last year, Snyder was awarded Central Michigan Public Relations Society of America PACE Maker Award, which is mid-Michigan’s highest honor for significant contributions to the public relations profession. The award, which was presented at the 2019 PACE Awards on April 18, is awarded annually to practitioners who, in the eyes of their peers nationwide, “have successfully addressed a contemporary issue with exemplary professional skill, creativity, and resourcefulness.”

With the help of her team, which Snyder likes to call “small by choice,” Piper & Gold has won awards for its own projects, like its “Be the &” Pride social media campaign, and more than 100 awards for work for its clients, like the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan, Capital Area Michigan Works!, and Downtown East Lansing, to name a few. At the 2019 PACE awards alone, Piper & Gold took home 15 awards.

And Snyder doesn’t keep her keys to success a secret. This past October, she shared her knowledge with hundreds of PR professionals at the Public Relations Society of America’s 2019 International Conference in San Diego. Her presentation was titled “Nine Brainstorming Techniques to Add Creativity Into Your PR.”

Additionally, Snyder stays busy serving on the board of Impression 5 Science Center, the executive committee of the Public Relations Society of America’s National Counselors Academy and the Wharton Center for Performing Arts’ Advisory Council.

In between all of that, Snyder still finds time to attend, act in, and direct lots of local theatre, read her favorite fantasy or science-fiction novel, and embed the arts — visual, performance, and liberal alike — into almost every single thing she does.