Steve Johnston is a former Google Account Executive who works with campaigns, committees, and other organizations to drive the adoption of online advertising in the elections and advocacy space. He started working on federal political campaigns seventeen years ago…before he could even drive. In addition to his digital marketing work for the House Majority Leader in Congress and a presidential campaign, Steve did product marketing for the Silicon Valley tech startup Quora and developed digital-focused business strategy for the national fast casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen. He was named to Campaigns & Elections Magazine’s 2016 “Rising Stars” list that recognizes “young operatives who will shape the future of political campaigns.”
Steve has a degree in Government from Harvard and an MBA in Marketing and Operations Management (joint major) and Entrepreneurial Management from Penn’s Wharton School. Follow him on Twitter at @StevenEJohnston.
AAPC: What does being a 2017 AAPC 40 Under 40 Award winner mean to you?
Steve: It means a lot to me because I respect so many of the other honorees, past and present: it’s a privilege to be among folks I’ve heard of, worked with, and even worked for. I started volunteering on political campaigns before I could drive, so it feels like this is the cumulative effect of the hours I’ve spent in politics and the lessons I’ve learned from many people along the way so far.
AAPC: What are you most looking forward to this year?
Steve: I think the year following a presidential election always presents an opportunity for innovative strategies from the campaigns to be applied by advocacy organizations, by the government, and even by consumer brands. 2016 was a landmark year in that the winning presidential candidate spent about 50% of his media budget on digital. That kind of aggressive, successful investment in digital that we saw should really make people think more critically about how media consumption has changed so much that budget allocation has to change, too. So, I look forward to seeing smarter media mixes that more closely reflect how people are consuming media.
AAPC: To what do you credit your success at such a young age?
Steve: For me, it really started with my parents. They were not political people by any means, but they always encouraged my interests, including my precocious interest in politics. Being really curious about campaigns and elections has served me well, too: I’ve rarely been afraid to ask questions when I don’t know about something because I’d rather learn than not know. Having really skilled teachers in politics who were generous with their time and their advice has been critical, too.
AAPC: What advice would you give to a young professional who has their eye on being a future 40 Under 40 Award winner?
Steve: I’m gonna quote one of my favorites, Conan O’Brien, and his farewell speech from his time hosting NBC’s Tonight Show: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”