What Drives Her: Shelley Pratt Connects Infiniti to its Customers Through Honesty and Vulnerability

As Infiniti's director of marketing and media, Shelley Pratt finds leading with honesty and vulnerability defines Infiniti's connection to consumers.

Shelley Pratt Infiniti Director Of Marketing

She wanted to be a marketer by the time she was in eighth grade.

“We had a professional come to talk about marketing and everything they did,” Shelley told us. “I sat there and thought ‘I would love to do that!”

Now, she’s the director of marketing and media at Infiniti, charged with instilling honesty, vulnerability, and trust into the brand. And she brings a lot of varied experiences to this: her role as a mother influences the way she leads her team, including knowing when to set personal elements aside. Then, she relies on data to identify what her customer needs. And she brings a creative mindset to connecting with car buyers to ensure that Infiniti stays ahead of shifts in the industry. All of this defines a personal connection to customers and Infiniti’s business partners.

And, she’s in the leading role she has always dreamed of.

Related: What Drives Her: Infiniti’s Trisha Jung’s Authenticity and Family Life Helped Shape Her Success

Infiniti Automotives Marketing Team

Infiniti Automotives marketing team. Photo provided by Shelley Pratt

Sales was a Good Place to Start, but Creativity Came Calling

Shelley went to the University of Tennessee where she majored in business with an emphasis on marketing. She credits her professors and passionate guest speakers for motivating her. However, she didn’t go into marketing straight out of college.

Instead, Shelley thought sales might be a good fit for her outgoing personality. She dove right into her first job selling power tools. Although Shelley enjoyed the job and learning something new, she was eager to branch out and become a marketer herself. Every time Shelley visited the corporate offices at her first job, she would find herself in the marketing arm of the company seeking out people with more knowledge.

“I think I have a more creative nature at heart, so I wanted to do more traditional marketing,” Shelley explained. “When I got in there, I fell in love.”

Related: Muse-Inspired, Thoughtfully Crafted and Poshly Appointed: 2022 Infiniti QX60 Luxury 3 Row SUV First Drive

Shelley Pratt With Her Team. Photo Provided By Shelley Pratt

Shelley Pratt with her team. Photo provided by Shelley Pratt

Nissan was Shelley’s introduction to the Automotive World

Then Shelley landed a job at Nissan in 2006. She worked with product price positioning and planning future products. However, this still wasn’t the area of her true passion. Shelley has always been eager to learn and get involved, so she aligned herself with people she looked up to and always asked questions.

“How can I prove my chops? What do I need to do to get into this field?” Shelley would ask.

In 2008, Shelley got her first position at Infiniti. Her eagerness to grow and ask questions is a consistent thread in Shelley Pratt’s story of success. While she has always seen herself as a leader, she is also not afraid to lean on others for professional expertise and support. Shelley’s connections with leaders and mentors have lasted many years after, and even after some have retired.

“We can’t do these jobs alone,” Shelley said. “In fact, Phil O’Connor, who was in this chair before me, knew I wanted this job for most of my career, and he helped me.”

Related: What Drives Her: Chevy’s Jennifer Kraska Wants to Inspire the Next Generation of Automotive Designers

A New Kind of Leadership is the Right Kind of Leadership

Shelley’s openness about her priorities extends not only to her mentors, but to her marketing team as well. She leads her main team of 17 people while also managing the creative, media, website, social media, and e-commerce agencies. But rather than commanding her team and agencies with a hard fist, Shelley approaches her job with trust and vulnerability.

“Proverbial beating someone up or fear-based leadership, that’s not going to work anymore,” Shelley said. “We need to make safe spaces to show up and be your whole self.”

Leadership culture is changing as people recognize the importance of a kind, honest, and collaborative leader. Shelley is especially proud of the work environment at Infiniti that she describes to be almost like a second family.

Women like Shelley are Redefining what Leadership Looks Like

“Maybe women are driving it forward too,” Shelley added. “We’re more vulnerable, we’re more open. We encourage flexibility. Those are the types of things you see in the industry now.”

Of course, knowing what to do as a leader doesn’t always come naturally. While Shelley is often the expert that her agencies rely on, she has learned that she also has to take a step back.

“I love to be there for them to help, coach, and mentor. I apply the situational leadership of meeting people where they are, not where I am,” Shelley explained.

Shelley Pratt With Her Husband And Daughter

Shelley Pratt with her husband and daughter. Photo provided by Shelley Pratt

Her Family is her Number One Priority

Finding this balance can be difficult, especially as a mother and caregiver. A decade ago, Shelley believed everything had to be professional and “buttoned up.” However, now she realizes that being vulnerable actually allows her to set her priorities straight and empower her team.

This became especially apparent recently when her husband faced a health crisis.

“I had to cry in front of my team. I had to have these human moments to say ‘I need help.'” Shelley said. “They’ve come to me and actually thanked me for that because I’m prioritizing the right things in life and show that I trust them and empower them.”

Shelley makes it known that her family is her number one priority. Her family collaborates with her on ideas and celebrates in her career success. The pandemic offered the opportunity for Shelley to work remotely, and she is grateful to spend time with her daughter every day when she gets home from school. Wednesdays are Shelley’s most sacred day of the week; it’s when she gets the most time with her husband and daughter.

Changes in the Industry Are an Opportunity

A strategic thinker with a vision of Infiniti’s future and needs, Shelly takes an offensive stance tackling new forms of media and directing resources in the right direction. When Facebook first hit the stage, Shelley was responsible for creating the Infiniti Facebook page and directing funding away from print advertising to social media. She works with partners like Google to expand Infiniti’s connections and continue growing her knowledge base.

“In the past, we were so afraid of failure that we didn’t want to try new things,” Shelley said. “I need to make sure I stay open, especially as a leader.”

In fact, one of the ways that Shelley stays an active learner is by sharing her work with her 14-year-old daughter.

Learning from a 14-year-old, that’s probably one of the best ways to know what’s trendy and what’s on brand!” Shelley said.

Shelley’s most recent and proudest endeavor has been the “Infinitely You” campaign. The project highlights Infiniti’s beautiful interiors and the special moments people experience in their cars. Having spent much of her adult life building the Infiniti brand, Shelley was happy to create a brand campaign that created an emotional connection to their consumers.

Infinitely You Campaign. Photo: Infiniti

Infinitely You campaign. Photo: Infiniti

Shelley’s passion for marketing is reflected in her daughter

Shelley has dedicated her life to two things: her family and her marketing team. After years of sharing in Shelley’s marketing strategy, her daughter has taken an interest in marketing herself. Shelley is incredibly proud that she’ll be taking marketing classes next school year.

“She can see us getting excited about it and having a true passion for it,” Shelley said. “It’s different for all of us now because we can see ourselves reflected in leaders and other people at work.”

The creative and quick moving environment of the marketing sphere has given Shelley the career of her dreams. Shelley encourages and hopes other young women like her daughter will continue to pursue careers in marketing and carve out their own paths in life.

“You know, there are moments where you get to do some things you wouldn’t have done in life otherwise,” Shelley said. “It’s an amazing industry.”

Eden is a freelance writer and editor. She is based in Austin, Texas where she is pursuing a bachelor's... More about Eden Shamy