As a kid growing up in Batavia, a suburb of Chicago, Matt Puttin always dreamed of working in the big city. The oldest of three, Puttin was taught to lead by example—which happened to come naturally for the driven young man.
“I think that as the eldest child, I always wanted to have my own path, but have my family encourage me along the way,” said Puttin, who now proudly cheers on his siblings as they navigate their way through high school. “I see how the support from my parents has rubbed off on me.”
Puttin played baseball and golf in high school and planned to major in business when he went off to college. But during his senior year, he snagged an internship with the local Kane County Chronicle that changed everything.
“It was supposed to just be a job shadow, but by taking initiative, I made it a bigger thing than it was,” laughed Puttin. He had 10 articles published in the paper, which was not actually part of the program. But this anecdote isn’t a surprise for anyone who knows him.
The experience was an “aha moment” for Puttin as he realized that he could merge two of his biggest passions: storytelling and sports as a sportswriter. His loving parents imposed an eight-hour radius for his college search—which he says he was later grateful for—and he headed off to the University of Missouri as a journalism major.
Puttin continued forging his own path from there. “After the first six weeks of classes, I thought, ‘Gosh, so many people here want to be sportswriters,’” he said. “I knew for a fact that while my passion was writing and sports, I just didn’t want to be writing about high school football in Wyoming every Friday night.” Instead of pursuing traditional print journalism, he switched his emphasis area in the Missouri School of Journalism to Strategic Communications and Public Relations out of an interest in looking at marketing through the storytelling lens he had been carefully polishing. He found that he didn’t envy the business students’ focus on numbers and trends—from his journalistic perspective, he just saw stories.
While most new graduates have an excess of time between school and landing that first job, waiting to take action is not exactly Puttin’s style. As graduation approached, he began looking for employment opportunities in Chicago. He knew it was the place he wanted to be. “I came across Mainland,” he said. After an interview with the team, Puttin drove back to Mizzou feeling hopeful. It wasn’t long before that good feeling was confirmed mutual.
“It was the Thursday going into finals week and I got a call, and the rest of that day was an absolute blur,” laughed Puttin.
Since starting as an Account Executive at Mainland in June 2018, Puttin has made a big splash. Barely over six months into his role, he officially broke the agency-wide record of securing the most interviews in one month. In fact, he shattered the previous record of 67 by twenty-one interviews, ending the month at 88. Of course, in classic Puttin form, he points to the support of the team as the root of his success.
“I’m very proud, but one of my former colleagues told me to stay coachable, humble and hungry,” he said, adding that his true proudest moments so far have been being viewed as a responsible leader on the team who can handle high profile projects, securing press coverage for clients in major publications like Sports Illustrated, Houston Chronicle and Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The analogy I always use in media relations is: ‘If someone tosses you the keys to the Porsche, are you gonna sit back and be timid about it, or are you gonna put them in the ignition and drive the car?’” he said. “This is a place that has allowed me to get a full hands-on approach, which I’ve been really grateful for. Not many entry-level positions that would let you come in and be all hands on deck.”
This isn’t the only quote that Puttin lives by. He says that while maybe he was never the best baseball player and maybe he didn’t get a perfect ACT score, he stands by the phrase, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” He believes that in order to accomplish great things, he has to believe that anything is possible—which is also one of Mainland’s core values.
At first, Puttin says that he was very uptight about hitting his KPIs to prove that he could hack it with the other talented media pitchers. But as he started becoming an integral member of the team, his success began to be defined by something else. “I found myself loving to hunt stories, being able to tell those stories to the media and then have the spotlight shine on our clients,” he said. From there, he began hitting his numbers naturally and gained a lot of confidence.
When it comes to what gets him out of bed at 5:00 a.m.—because now that he lives back home with his family, his train from Batavia leaves at 6:00—Puttin joked that he owes it all to his amazing alarm clock.
“It all starts with the people here,” he said. “When you work with people who want to see you succeed, it’s motivating. When you can find an organization like that, that’s small but mighty, you really feel like a valued member of that team, every day.