Portrait of a Graduate
EMILY McKHANN ’79
A joyful woman who holds work and responsibility in balance with time for physical fitness, spiritual growth, personal interests, and friends and family.
“What SPSG stands for—educating the hearts and minds of girls—are traditional values, yes, but they’re also big, bold ideas because we’re saying to girls, listen to your heart, be curious, let what interests and excites you guide your path, and trust yourself.”
A joyful woman has a smile that starts in her eyes, believes her efforts matter, cares about the people around her, has good friends, doesn’t get caught up in petty worries, often has an easy-to-manage haircut, likes to laugh, and is kind,” says Emily McKhann ’79, an award-winning marketing-to-moms expert and best-selling author.
“When I was at St. Paul’s School for Girls, I really had no idea that SPSG values would underpin everything I did later,” said Emily. As a student at SPSG, Emily loved starting each day with Prayers, hymns, and words of wisdom. Her favorite classes were English, biology and other sciences, and she thought her class of 30 was an incredible group of girls.
“What SPSG stands for—educating the hearts and minds of girls—are traditional values, yes, but they’re also big, bold ideas because we’re saying to girls, listen to your heart, be curious, let what interests and excites you guide your path, and trust yourself,” she said.
“So many girls don’t get to hear these empowering, hopeful messages, and I feel so incredibly lucky that I did, that I got to go to SPSG,” said Emily. “From the moment I arrived on campus in the 10th grade, I felt the school’s commitment to educating the ‘hearts and minds’ of girls. I felt believed in and lifted up and that there was room for the whole, imperfect me.” A simple Google search of Emily’s name yields multiple hits. The most notable, however, is a company called The Motherhood—a powerful, parent-driven digital media agency run by Emily, her co-founder, and their team.
In 2004, the same year Facebook got its start, Emily started blogging as a way to connect with mothers across the country through shared experiences. In 2005, the day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, she turned her blog into a clearinghouse for people to send goods directly to those living on the Gulf Coast who had lost everything.
“Thousands used our blog to send everything you can imagine—clothing, diapers, medical supplies, water, airline miles, refurbished computers, used cars, and so much more—to individuals and families who needed supplies in their time of crisis,” said Emily. “More than anything, people across the country wanted to show they cared.”
“That year—2005—we all woke up to the power of the Web to connect us one to one, and through our clearinghouse, we got to see firsthand the amazing ways that people could help each other. From there, we wanted to be a part of this new way of connecting and raising each other up, so we created The Motherhood in 2006.”
When The Motherhood began, Emily knew that she wanted to use the Internet to help people, companies, and nonprofits communicate with each other better. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest did not exist and Facebook was only for college students. Today, with these powerful online platforms in her toolshed, she designs online marketing campaigns that are engaging, positive, creative, thought provoking, and entertaining—and reach millions of people. The Motherhood has grown exponentially, with offices in Pittsburgh, New York, St. Louis, and Seattle, and has a network of more than 14,000 mom and dad bloggers, all of whom have loyal, engaged communities of followers.
“To give you a sense of the reach of social media moms, a brand working with 10 or 20 top-tier bloggers can garner more impressions than the average print or online circulation of The New York Times,” said Emily. “I believe moms overwhelmingly share a common trait: we want to make the world a little better every day—and that idea is at the core of our company,” said Emily. “There is infinite power in people coming together to solve problems, and we want The Motherhood to be a place where people have a positive impact on each other’s lives.”
Emily has created ways for her clients—big consumer products companies and non-profits—to engage with women online in meaningful ways that shift opinions, garner support for important causes and improve sales. Not only do her clients include brand-name companies like Hearst, Johnson & Johnson, GoldieBlox, OshKosh, Seventh Generation, but she also works with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, March of Dimes, the National Wildlife Federation, the United Nations Foundation, and many others.
Her campaigns have generated extensive coverage by major media, including “The Oprah Show,” “Good Morning America,” The New York Times, and many others. In addition, Emily was named an Enterprising Women of the Year in 2014, a Top Ten Power Mom on the Web by Parents Magazine, Person of the Week by “ABC News,” a Babble Top 50 Parent on Pinterest and Top 25 Blogger Changing the World. The Motherhood has also won several awards, including WebAwards, numerous Public Relations Society of America Awards for client work, a Best of Blogs Award for Most Inspirational Blog of the Year, and twice has been a finalist for a Webby.
Despite her acclaim and success, Emily’s path was not straightforward. After graduating from SPSG and Kenyon College, she moved to Japan to teach English for a year before joining a Washington, D.C. public relations firm. She started and ran the Southwest branch of the firm while simultaneously running the Dallas Mayor’s International Initiative. She then moved to New York to serve as the Director of International Business and Acting Commissioner to the United Nations for New York City. While running a PR firm in New York, she wrote a bestselling book with one of her close friends titled “Living With the End in Mind,” which addresses mortality, living life fully and creating a legacy for your loved ones.
An entrepreneur, blogger, mother, and wife, Emily says her favorite times are with her family—sailing, hiking, cooking and eating together, reading, walking and talking, traveling, family movie nights, summertime on Cape Cod, and cheering on her girls’ sports from the sidelines. “I also get a lot of joy from my work, particularly creating social good campaigns and seeing what can happen when people take on a cause together,” said Emily.
Like most women, Emily continuously seeks balance. “Finding time for things that matter to me beyond my day to day—time with friends, exercise, prayer, walks along the water, writing—is a challenge,” she said. “I like to think I’m getting better at it with each passing year, but it’s always on my list of ‘if only I could do this better’ personal fixes.”
Emily recalls life-changing conversations in and out of SPSG classrooms with Mrs. Wagley, Mrs. Huge, Mr. Bassett, Mrs. Nekola, Mrs. King, Mrs. Gorsuch, and others. “To this day, my SPSG teachers are some of my all-time favorite human beings,” she said. “And thanks to them all, when I got to college, I was so well prepared.”
She lends the following advice to students: “Be curious and find things that interest you, follow topics to see where they might lead, and work hard to find the skills you like to put to use. It takes a lot of practice to actually get good at something, so put the time and effort in to become an expert, to know what you’re doing. Build your foundation and the world will show up with a challenge that needs your particular skills, interests, experiences, ideas, and commitment.” She adds, “And never forget Anne Lamott’s famous line, ‘Joy is the best makeup.’”