Laura Nelson, Senior Vice President, Strategic Sales Insights at Freeform, has always balanced the qualitative with the quantitative. She began her career as an agency media planner before moving to NBCU Marketing. While at NBCU, her responsibilities went from creating sales marketing collateral materials to a more integrated marketing role in the larger branded entertainment world. From there she moved to ABC Family (now rebranded to Freeform) where her job expanded from sales marketing to sales forecasting, including responsibility for budgets and long-range planning. She is essentially the conductor in a sales symphony of creative marketing solutions and revenue/inventory management.
Charlene Weisler: How do you manage the qualitative and quantitative demands of your job?
Laura Nelson: Get a good team and figure out the balance. I have a good team in place and I feel that strategically we are going in the right direction. At a certain point you cannot know everything. With all of the possible platforms, devices and opportunities, we have to ask ourselves, should we do a certain partnership or not and does it benefit the network? It took me time to get the processes down but we have a good integrated team composed of marketing and revenue planning.
Charlene: The TV landscape is changing with new platforms emerging every day. How do you manage all of this change for Freeform?
Laura: Because of the increase in platforms, data, devices, etc., it is becoming a much more complex and convoluted marketplace that touches many departments. My role is to help simplify all of those issues for my management. We take all the information, synthesize it, simplify it and use it to better understand what our message should be to the street. It is a big challenge to stay on top of things. With linear TV we were certain of the amount of inventory we had to sell. Now we are always launching new platforms and we sometimes struggle with all of these changes.
Charlene: How did the rebranding from ABC Family to Freeform start?
Laura: We did a research study comparing ABC Family viewers to non-viewers. We spoke to ABC Family fans who had positive attitudes towards our brand -- relevant, fun and modern. When we spoke to non-viewers, they only thought of us as family friendly. Clearly there was a disconnect that we wanted to fix. We saw the need to build off the strengths of the current audience and make it more aligned to today's young viewers. So we then conducted marketing studies to find a name that is representative of the digital world. We wanted our brand to represent the fact that we are a part of a much larger Disney family of networks with our own digital platform that is also part of many other digital services such as Apple, Hulu, Roku, cable ecosystems, Dish and Xfinity, etc. We have to manage inventory from ten different platforms so that our viewers can watch our content on any platform they choose and on their own schedule. With the name Freeform, the initial research showed positive attitudes to the name and to the tested attributes. We will continue to monitor our viewers to be sure that we are on track.
Charlene: What advice would you give the next generation of media executives?
Laura: I am incredibly impressed by the strong interns we have here at Disney. They seem much more serious and focused earlier in their professional lives. What I would say to them is that I started out as an administrative assistant which gave me time to decide on a career path. You have time to figure it all out, even if your first job is not a great fit. You will find your path over time. And you have many resources for advice at your disposal such as the parents of friends where you can learn about other industries. I learned about media from my roommates. Always network.
Charlene: How do you achieve work/life balance?
Laura: It is a challenge with everyone. When I took more responsibility at work for sales revenue, I was also just getting married and later on had a child. It is a busy time at both home and work. I am very lucky in that my boss and my company allow for flexibility -- sometimes I can work from home or be late. Balance has its ebb and flow cycles. There will be busy periods. It is always a challenge and I am not sure that I have the solution but I know that I can talk to my boss and we can make it work.
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