Shama Hyder Feature

Headshot of Founder & CEO Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is the Founder & CEO of Zen Media, an international keynote speaker, and a bestselling author. Fast Company calls her a “millennial master of the universe” and a “zen master of marketing.” She’s a Forbes and Inc. 30 under 30 alum, and LinkedIn has called her a Top Voice in Marketing four years in a row. Shama was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by The White House and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations. Zen Media is a PR and marketing agency serving b2b companies around the globe, which include Chase Business, Dwolla, ATB Ventures, Cox Communications, and more.

Shama has been a media correspondent for Fox Business, MSNBC, Bloomberg, and CNBC and she’s one of the world’s leading experts on marketing and PR in the digital age.

[Q U I C K   N O T E S]

Shama Hyder in white blazer and folded arms

Shama, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you chose marketing and PR?

Let’s rewind to 2008. I had just graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a master’s degree in Organizational Communication and Technology, and I’d done my thesis on Twitter. At this point, Twitter had only 2,000 users! It was VERY early days for social media, and I just knew that it would forever change the world. This was a time when most people thought social media was a fad. I couldn’t even land a job because the industry didn’t exist. That was when I started Zen Media, my own company, and never looked back. We are the only marketing and PR firm to be honored by both the Whitehouse and the United Nations as a Top 100 company in North America. We’ve had the honor of working with some of the best brands in the world, including Chase Business, The US Navy, Forbes, NASA, COX Communications, TATA, McKinsey, Bain, and more.

Can you tell us what drives you to be successful as an entrepreneur?

It means can you be a rising tide? As in, a rising tide raises all boats. That’s what being a successful entrepreneur means to me. It means being able to uplift your team, your clients, your community…those waves of impact. My career really defines me. When I first started, entrepreneurship was something I did. Today, it is very much who I am. I am also a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter…I wear many hats, but my career is extremely meaningful for me because of the breadth of difference I am able to make. It’s my contribution to the world.

Shama Hyder in lavender blazer leaning against pillar

Tell us about your vision of the company in the next 2-3 years.

Marketing is the greatest investment tech-driven B2B companies can make to gain a disproportionate advantage in the marketplace. We are committed to ensuring B2B brands stay relevant by increasing their Share of Voice in response to an ever-discerning and evolving buyer. In a few short years, we will have redefined what earned media means in a changing world.

What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?

Writing one of the first books on social media, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, will always be a pivotal moment for me. What I am most proud of today is how many brands and leaders trust us at Zen Media with their strategies. It’s no small feat to have some of the people I admire the most look to us to help them win market share. That’s never lost on me.

What advice do you have for other up-and-coming marketing, PR leaders, or speakers?

If you look at the “Mad Men” era of the ’50s and ’60s, you find that leadership and even advertising and marketing all had a very different tone. The more important a leader, the harder they were to access. Same as information; where guardians of access held all the power. Today, the power dynamic has really shifted. We are dealing with “connected consumers” – where we are essentially marketing to gods. The more important a leader, the more the public requires and expects a certain level of transparency and accessibility. It’s more important than ever before for corporate leaders to be present and engaged on social media because they are leaders. Leading digitally isn’t a “nice to have” – it’s a requirement inherent within being a leader of today. And, it’s not just a presence that’s important but the right story that needs to be told. One of my top requested keynote topics for the past two years has been Leadership in the Digital Age.

Shama Hyder in red dress turned sideways to face camera

Are you active on social media professionally?  If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?

Yes. Mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Who was your biggest influencer?

I’ve had a few but two of note are both past teachers. Mr. Seeley, my high school teacher, who had the patience of a saint. And, Professor Dawna Ballard who went from being my professor to my graduate advisor to my friend. She was my first example of what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace.

What is the most challenging part of your work as a CEO?

Balancing the needs of the many with the needs of a few. Hands down. I always find it interesting that folks who preach leadership have rarely been in leadership positions themselves.

What do you have your sights set on next?

AI. We just launched – a game-changing tool that uses AI trained by our team of expert public relations practitioners. Imagine this: you’re a business with something to announce, but you’re not sure if it’s newsworthy enough to grab headlines. We get it – crafting a press release that really packs a punch can be quite the challenge. That’s where Snooze or News steps in! It’s a super-smart AI-powered tool that tells you whether your announcement is snooze-worthy or if it’s something that’ll make the news.

Shama Hyder in white blazer and resting chin on her fist

But that’s not all. Snooze or News doesn’t just stop at a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. It’s like having a PR expert right at your fingertips. This tool goes above and beyond by giving you creative suggestions to make your press release pop, fixing any tweaks that might be needed, and even guiding you on how to get the word out effectively.

The best part? It’s absolutely free! Yep, you heard that right – we’re all about making sure you have the tools you need to ace your press releases. I’m proud that Zen Media is known for giving businesses the tools they need to shine, and Snooze or News is the latest proof of that. We’re super excited to introduce this cutting-edge tool to the world. Our goal? To empower businesses to communicate like never before and connect with the audiences that matter most. With this new tool, we’re pretty confident companies will see a real boost in reaching their customers and the media.

What is a day in your life like?

I wake up every morning at 4 am and then I meditate. Just kidding!!! I am a night owl, and honestly everyday is a little different. I have two kids under 4, I am CEO, and a keynote speaker. Some days, I might be at a conference halfway around the world. Another day, I might be working with the Zen Media team on an upcoming client launch.

Do you have any hobbies?

Does parenting count? Does running a company? I love what I do so it doesn’t leave a lot of room for hobbies. I do enjoy learning new things. Right now, I am learning to box and have found it fun!

What makes you smile?

The sound of my children giggling.

Shama Hyder in scarlet jacket walking across the street

What are you never without?

My wedding ring.

What scares you?

What plans fate may have that we have no control over.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Just one?! I do love London.

Other work, published articles, interviews or accomplishments:

Some things I am very proud of include being named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by Fast Company. I’ve also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country.

Some of the awards I’ve won over the years that I’m most proud of include the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award, being named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. One of my most recent accomplishments that I enjoy participating in is being a member of the 2022 Class of Henry Crown Fellows within the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute.

I’ve had the pleasure of taking the stage in over 40 countries as a keynote speaker, and been featured in countless top-tier outlets and broadcast correspondence opportunities on the likes of Fox Business, MSNBC, Bloomberg, and CNBC, so there are too many great moments to list, but some of my favorites include:

~ Shama


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