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Women Who Mean Business

Priscilla McKinney is a Woman Who Means Business

As CEO and Momma Bird of Little Bird Marketing in Joplin, Priscilla McKinney has positioned herself as a leader in the market research, content marketing and digital marketing industries.

By Jenna deJong | Art Direction by Danielle Giarratano | Photography by Brandon Alms

Mar 2021

Priscilla McKinney: CEO and Momma Bird of Little Bird Marketing
Photo by Brandon AlmsPriscilla McKinney: CEO and Momma Bird of Little Bird Marketing Purchase Photo

Priscilla McKinney likes to be kept on her toes. She was born in Denver, Colorado, grew up in Spain, attended boarding school in Germany and moved to California. Her life was never stationary, and it still isn’t to this day. Eventually, she and her husband moved to the Midwest so he could be a stay-at-home dad while she built her three businesses. 

Her first was a credit card processing company called Relay for Business, started in 2004. Five years later, she launched Little Bird Marketing, a Joplin-based marketing agency where she is now CEO and Momma Bird. In 2011, she launched Skylark Advertising, an indoor digital billboard network throughout Joplin and Northwest Arkansas. Her most notable success comes from Little Bird, which is partly built on the constant movement she experienced in her younger years. “I think a lot of people think that growing up overseas or getting to travel is something that opens your mind and expands the possibility or idea that there is a different perspective, but I think it goes deeper than that,” McKinney says. “I think that it breeds empathy, and I think what’s really important and really great content or marketing is an empathy toward the audience. You can’t just bark orders at people, and you can’t just sit there and drone on about features and benefits and tell people to use your product. You have to understand what their challenges are, what they’re feeling, why they choose the thing they choose.” 


McKinney never stopped traveling. In fact, at the beginning of last year, she booked more than 12 professional trips to places like Amsterdam, Bangkok and London, all of which featured eager audiences ready to soak in her knowledge about market research and content marketing. It’s her developed public speaking skills and a niche understanding of her field that has awarded Little Bird Marketing international clients. The company’s podcast, “Ponderings from the Perch,” also helps reel in clients from faraway lands. To date, the podcast has 10,000 listeners from all over the world. 

“... I truly believe that collaboration is the new competition, and I feel like I’m making a difference in my industry by helping people see that.”
— Priscilla McKinney

It’s clear to see that these outreach efforts are working. The majority of Little Bird’s clients are outside southwest Missouri, and she works with a few clients in Europe and Central America. Since early last year, McKinney had to cancel these in-person commitments, but that’s not to say she’s slowed down. Her calendar is packed with back-to-back Zoom meetings, often with those same international clients who want to learn various subjects, like how to be social media influencers. Simultaneously, she rallied her connections to create a group that could lean on each other during a time of instability and uncertainty using #AlwaysBeHelping. Since Little Bird launched, it has survived the 2011 Joplin tornado, a serious fire and now COVID-19. In McKinney’s experience, starting an initiative to help others is what makes a business stronger. “I was able to, very quickly, galvanize a response and bring a lot of people together,” she says. “I created an amazing collaborative colleague network in market research, globally. I’m very proud of that because people help people first, and I truly believe collaboration is the new competition, and I feel like I’m making a difference in my industry by helping people see that. We’re going to go forward, but we’re going forward together.” 


So why is McKinney a thought leader in her industry? It’s because of her work in demystifying digital market success. McKinney says there are more than 20,000 marketing technology tools available, like MailChimp and HubSpot, and this space is often overwhelming to business owners. In 2016, she decided to develop a proprietary system that could provide a solution. The result is SOAR, which stands for Strategy, Organized, Accountable and Repeatable. McKinney says the system identifies her customer’s most ideal client and then uses content to drive predictable and sustainable lead generation. The system has been so successful that McKinney says Little Bird no longer searches for clients. Instead, clients are earned through brand visibility and targeted content. 

It’s safe to say McKinney’s built a well-run machine, but that’s not to say she hasn’t stumbled. One of her missteps came shortly after acquiring Branson-based Clear Entertainment and Marketing Group in 2019. McKinney says her intent was to diversify her portfolio, which led to the purchase of the travel and tourism advertising agency. But 2020 was a tough year for that industry. “I opened myself up into a new industry which basically suffered a major collapse in the next year,” McKinney says. Nevertheless, it was a learning experience, and one that was, in the end, still prosperous. “The clients we work with had a record year, even in 2020,” she says. “You have to be able to manage that scale and be very quick to make decisions.”  

MORE ABOUT PRISCILLA

2021 VISION

Scaling Little Bird, and launching a new podcast in March called Digital Transformation Success

FAVORITE THING TO DO IN SOUTHWEST MISSOURI

Sailing on Stockton Lake

FAVORITE ITEM ON HER DESK/IN HER OFFICE

Her Andy Warhol print that says “I think everybody should like everybody”

HER WORK STYLE

Waking up at 6:30 a.m. and working in her home office for an hour before spending some time with her husband praying. She’s in the office by 9 a.m. and back home by 6:30 p.m.