Michelle Williams: Managing the details for Current Lifestyle

Current Lifestyle Marketing has headquarters in Chicago, designers in Dallas, media relations in Los Angeles and plans to open a New York City office in a few months.

Senior Vice President Michelle Magat Williams, a company co-founder based in the San Francisco office, must sometimes cooperate with all these offices during her business day.

Williams’ responsibility is “allegedly client relations,” she said. Current Lifestyle, created by Virginia Devlin in July 2006, has 15 clients, the largest being Clorox’s food division: well-known brands like Hidden Valley, Kingsford charcoal, K.C. Masterpiece and Red Vines.

But with so much work spread across offices, Williams’ job also requires managing details, no matter how widely diffuse they are.

“Coordinating with people spread elsewhere is difficult if you haven’t done it before,” Williams said. “Virginia and I have been working acrossoffices for three years. We have a lot of systems in place to shift programs between teams.”

One way Williams prepares for handling complex interactions — or recovering from them — is playing video games. Williams said she grew up in the 1980s with an Atari 2600, a machine she still owns along with a PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii.

She was also classically trained on the piano as a girl, and Williams said her parents always encouraged a pursuit of arts.

Williams started out working in Chicago for public relations group Weber Shandwick, where she helped develop the “Got milk?” campaign. Raised in Iowa and educated in Minnesota and Indiana, Williams grew tired of the Midwestern climate and in 2005 fled with her husband to San Francisco.

“In the wintertime, people just get depressed and everyone gets aggressive,” Williams said. “After nine years, I was just fed up with it and I wanted a more sunny location.”

Leaving Weber Shandwick opened an opportunity to handle a new specialist marketing company.

“There was a need in the boutique agency market for some bravado,” Williams said. “We had people who were über-creative, scrappy, innovative. But also a company with a powerful executive team, with resources at your fingertips when you need it.”

Williams said many of the agency’s staff possess very niche experience, which lends them unusual expertise. Current Lifestyle is also part of The Interpublic Group of companies, which Williams said grants availability of yet more specialist resources like Web commodities and design techniques, through IPG’s holding companies.

For Williams, it’s all in the game.

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