Game Changers Feted by She Runs It

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She Runs It's 2020 Changing the Game Awards were supposed to take place in April this year, a beautiful in-person event meticulously planned. And then, well… we all know what happened.

Using the entrepreneurial spirit possessed by all She Runs It members, though, this year's Awards, which took place over Zoom on November 19, served as a reminder of the resiliency and creativity that women bring to every industry they work in.

She Runs It CEO Lynn Branigan handed off MC'ing duties to Jill Kelly, CMO of GroupM, and Lynn Lewis, U.S. CEO of UM. There were four categories: Brainwave, No Apologies, Paradigm Shift, and Quantum Leap.

The Brainwaves honorees were lauded for changing the way a brand or product is marketed; the No Apologies honorees for creating whole new business models or marketplaces; the Paradigm Shift for changing the way a customer segment or target audience is approached; and the Quantum Leapers for changing the way an organization is aligned to proactively meet new challenges.

The honorees came from a variety of industries—fashion, beverages, media—with a variety of different viewpoints. A few distinct themes emerged from the honorees' speeches, though.

Flexibility

Jennifer Olsen, CMO of fashion brand UNTUCKit, was faced with a complete overturning of her business model: Her business was focused on the trend toward business casual in workplaces, and all of a sudden there were no workplaces. "Business casual" has transitioned to pure casual, and that mindset is here to stay. "People going back to work are not going to be dressing in a formal way." So the company took its personable, knowledgeable staff and put them to use as online concierges. They took the concept of the "Zoom shirt" and ran with it. "We're doing things that will serve us well even post-pandemic," Olsen said.

Molson-Coors CMO Michelle St Jacques faced a similar issue with the shutdown of restaurants and bars, putting to use her "fast, messy, and awesome" mindset and 5-point, in-depth survival guide to chaos. " The biggest challenge in this moment is to make sure you don't stand still," she said. While the creative from other companies felt rather Doomsday-ish, St. Jacques decided on a different approach: "America could use a beer." Combined with a virtual tip jar for service workers affected by shutdowns, Molson-Coors was able to be a bit of a light amidst the gloom.

Media has also seen a fundamental and perhaps permanent shift, though perhaps because of the near-constant seismic changes in this particular industry, women in media were fairly prepared for the effects of the pandemic on their business. "My career has been grounded in change and bringing order to chaos," said Senior Vice President & Chief Revenue Officer, CNN Digital, WarnerMedia Ad Sales Christine Cook. Aside from a "sick love for chaos," she sees three principles as the core of her team's success through the pandemic: service, patience, and creativity.

"We saw our clients' strategies changing on a dime," Cook said. It was crucial to allow those strategies to change and to remain flexible when it came to creative, time, and budgets—to serve the clients' needs with patience and creativity.

It wasn't just clients whose needs were changing. "Generation Stream demands more choice and control," Hulu ad sales Vice President Lauren Benedict said. Hulu and other streamers have seen massive audience increases during the pandemic, and Benedict and her team have been working day and night to connect these viewers with ads that are actually relevant and enhance the viewing experience. Custom binge ads, pause experiences, and integrations are the order of the day.

Publicis Media Chief Digital Officer Helen Lin dropped perhaps the pithiest aphorism, though: "Agencies in motion stay in motion. Agencies at rest, rest in peace."

Creating Space for Everyone

Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of LIVELY, had to scuttle plans for store openings when the pandemic hit. But because the company, which prides itself on creating undergarments that fit everyone, already has such a strong community, it was able to shift its marketing strategy relatively quickly.

That meant creating content around staying home, taking care of your skin, and, perhaps more importantly, taking care of one another in a digital world. The company connected with and lifted up its community. "We honored our biggest asset, and that was our people," Grant said.

Mordecai, Principal of Mordecai Inc., makes a point of "offering consumers a space to be who they are." "For me, one of the important things is to first look at the now, and when I approach the now, I ask: 'What if?'" That leads to a mindset of inclusion, of intersectionality that creates space for innovative ideas—and, per Mordecai, becomes an integral part to the growth of the business.

"Companies must be change agents," said Lucinda Martinez, executive vice president, HBO/HBO Max, Multicultural and International Marketing. And while for women of color that may mean having to deal with the discomfort of being the only woman or person of color in the room, it's all the more important for them to use their voices.

COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for companies to be real change agents, said Louisa Wong, Wavemaker's CEO of the Americas. Remote work means companies can recruit from populations that were previously locked out of certain industries or positions—women, single mothers, carers who don't have flex time, people who don't live in New York. "We can build connectivity, it's about empowering our people," she said. "I'm so excited about the talent pool."

Heart-centered Leadership

Nearly every one of the 18 honorees talked about putting their people first; to do that, they agreed, you need to lead with empathy—with heart. This principle extends not just through the teams being led, but to clients and customers as well.

VaynerMedia Chief Heart Officer Claude Silver has made this principle the core of her professional and personal existence. "We're connecting heart to hustle," she said. "I think we're all Chief Heart Officers."

Leading with the heart means taking into account the affects of the pandemic on mental health, said Wavemaker's Wong.

The physical effects are top-of-mind as well. Rachel Tipograph, the founder and CEO of eCommerce platform MikMak, has spent the last six years building her company through the right people. She's committed to providing completely free—paid for by the company—health care to every single MikMak employee. " I truly believe if you can create an environment that meets everyone's basic needs they will show up and be the best versions of themselves," she said.

Sarah Kramer, chief client and operating officer of Spark Foundry, agreed: "People will always be at the heart of my strategy for how we win and evolve and move at the pace our clients expect and need."

You can check out the full list of honorees at here.

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