A versatile writer and consultant, Stephen writes fresh content for organizations that create influence on culture.
Bridging experience at some of L.A.'s top academic and creative institutions, he brings unique perspective to communication projects. Prior to starting his freelance business in 2015, he served as Communication Director and lead speechwriter to the USC Provost during a period of tremendous institutional growth. Before that, Stephen worked for Creative Artists Agency and Dreamworks Animation, where he supported top executives and analyzed stories for commercial viability. He earned his B.A. in Communication from Northwestern University.
Short Story Long
As a cheeky kid growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, there wasn’t much exciting about the annual migration of snow geese. Or the horse and buggy holding traffic to 10 MPH. So I would get creative.
At 16 I guided tours at America’s oldest pretzel bakery, reciting a uniform script to group after group. As luck would have it — teenage luck that is — my supervisors included an ex-convict, an internet addict, and Gerald (aka Miss Understood). So I had plenty of opportunities to add some — color — to the tour. "The hobo got off the train with nothing but a recipe in his pocket for twisted dough." "Those starving Union soldiers were nourished by the crunchy snacks that wintry night." Did I skew the truth? Yep. But I also got to watch when and how visitors grew more connected to the message. Energy transfer through compelling story. These days, I add color to your narrative in ways that both engage and maintain integrity. It’s a brave new world.
Fast forward to 2004. After graduating from Northwestern University
with a degree in Communication and minor in Philosophy, I checked into the Hotel California. Working for world-leading entertainment and media companies, I experienced the urgency that underscores creative business. And I learned the dedication to craft that can easily be taken for granted. Of course on the side I was writing, exploring, and networking.
The next stop was USC, where I served as Communication Director for the Office of the Provost — the university’s 2nd-ranking official. The position involved a slate of responsibilities that reflect the motley nature of modern communication. Speechwriting, web copy, press releases, fundraising collateral, distillation of research, and more — all of which had to connect, at the core, to an institutional vision. The opportunity to work over five years with brilliant people; to get a forest-level perspective of research in emerging fields; to forge relationships with other institutions across the city; and, most importantly, to hone skills in crafting messages for wildly different audiences. It was an opportunity to create real influence through words and ideas.
Warp Speed to Delirium...
In 2015 I left USC to start my freelance writing business, Koenig Communication and Narrative Services. I'd always wanted to start a business of my own; be a builder, a maker ... wear slippers at noon. The truth is, it was frustrating to read the content coming out of most institutions. It all sounded the same. When everything is "innovative," can innovation exist? These existential questions keep you up at night.
If it isn't clear by now, I'm a sucker for stories. They are the lens through which we experience the world. So let's make them outstanding. Let's dig for words that express authenticity through their connotations. Let's use rhetoric that inspires people to shape culture insomuch as culture shapes people. Let's explore what’s unique about your organization — how you got there, and how far you'll dare to go.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
So my story continues, here in Los Angeles. And like every odyssey, I find those ironic, lingering reminders of where it all began ...
... still caught on streets, moving 10 MPH.