Sara Altschul – Known
How do clients in media and entertainment, food and beverage and healthcare launch new products and services? How do they get their new offerings known? By partnering with Known, a modern marketing agency that has launched campaigns for companies like Ubisoft—Just Dance, TikTok, Beyond Meat, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and more.
Since its founding in February 2020, the company has become known for its innovation using data science, strategy and creativity to meet a broad set of complex challenges and opportunities facing marketers today.
When Known strikes deals with its partners, the legal matters related to the partnerships come before Sara Altschul, the company’s executive vice president, general counsel and partner. With a diverse educational background and experience across various industries, Altschul brings a unique perspective to her role at Known.
“The legal team can start things off with our clients on a positive note and set the foundation for the relationships with the rest of our teams,” Altschul tells Vanguard during a conversation from the company’s New York City headquarters in November.
The new normal
Known has locations in six cities: New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas. Like many other companies, Known had to navigate the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift towards remote work raised legal challenges due to different local laws and regulations that employees across the country had to adhere to.
With the pandemic in the rearview, Altschul, who is also in charge of Known’s facilities and real estate operations, has begun looking at the spaces utilized across the company and whether there are different ways to manage its footprint.
“To accommodate the hybrid environment that has become the ‘new normal’ for most companies, we’ve found ways to maximize our spaces and right-size the company’s footprint in conjunction with our return-to-office initiative,” she notes. “We currently have construction projects underway in Los Angeles and Seattle that are helping us be more effective.”
Known has a robust office culture, and most employees are in the office at least a few days per week, which ensures optimal collaboration and connection. Senior Leaders are in the office regularly to interact in person with clients, their teams, and their colleagues.
Known’s offices reflect the company culture and are an exciting environment for creativity to flourish. Known’s offices have welcoming communal spaces, including an indoor lounge, a terrace, and a coffee bar to meet with each other for natural conversation, as well as a pool table for when employees need a break from their inbox. In addition, client work and industry awards are displayed throughout the office to show how far the company has come since 2020.
“There is tremendous value to being in the office, especially for more junior staffers, because they can interact with senior leaders and learn more about the business in often unplanned, casual and spontaneous settings,” Altschul explains. “I work much better when I’m in the office because I can meet face-to-face with my teammates and internal clients, which is why I come in five days a week.”
Growing her role
Altschul leads a legal team that tackles most of the legal matters that come up—Altschul also has a dedicated group of outside counsel she calls on for more complex issues.
In addition to her legal, real estate and facilities work, Altschul also heads Known’s experiential business, which includes internal and external live events. Known has planned and executed events both offsite and in their own office space for clients such as Google, Axiom Space, ALSAC St. Jude and Build a Bear Workshop. She says 2024 will include even more live events as a way for clients to reimagine and amplify their brands.
Reflecting on her expanded operational roles, Altschul says that the advertising, media and tech industries are experiencing a dynamic transformation, some of which is being led by Known.
“We must be agile and respond to the opportunities we help create. We all roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done,” she adds.
Altschul grew up in New Orleans and earned a degree in sociology and art history—with a minor in French—from Barnard College in New York City. She says she always knew she’d go to graduate school, and her path to law school started back home in the Big Easy during her undergrad summers.
“I worked in the admissions department at Tulane Law School and read about hundreds of applicants,” Altschul says. “By doing that, I got to see various profiles of future lawyers and was energized by the prospect that this was the path I knew was right for me.”
After earning her J.D. from Tulane Law School, Altschul spent three years in the healthcare and corporate practices of McDermott, Will & Emery. There, she learned about M&A, contracts, business models, and dealmaking and got to know the companies she was representing—which got her thinking about what it would be like to work in-house.
Altschul moved in-house with PR Newswire as a junior attorney reviewing client contracts but quickly advanced through promotion to the role of Associate General Counsel, leading numerous international M&A deals and regulatory and cybersecurity matters. In that role, she impressed the company’s then-CEO, Ninan Chacko, who promoted her to General Counsel and recommended her for a corporate leadership program offered by PR Newswire’s UK-based public company parent, UBM plc.
“I spent a lot of time looking at things from different angles and viewing legal matters through a commercial lens,” she recalls. “Ninan opened my eyes to how a General Counsel can contribute to a company’s business strategy and bottom line and gave me great opportunities.”
Overall, Altschul spent 16 years with PR Newswire, including the last six as senior vice president and general counsel. She departed PR Newswire for a lateral position with Travel Leaders Group (now Internova), an international travel agency conglomerate after Chacko took over as that company’s CEO. She joined Known in February 2021, as the travel industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout her career, Altschul has tried to mentor women who were trying to rise in their respective fields, whether legal, operations, events or beyond. Since she was a young in-house lawyer, she has always been fortunate to work for progressive CEOs, including Known’s CEO and chairman, Kern Schireson, who has always offered her expanded leadership opportunities. She wants to help open the door for other women to have the same career opportunities.
“Women and men who support and mentor female leaders paved the way for me to be successful, so I will always strive to pay it forward,” Altschul says.
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2024 Edition here.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing