Diana Hilson – CUP Leadership Board Spotlight – June 2012

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?

I am an Integrated Marketing Manager for Forbes Media, the publisher of Forbes Magazine, Forbes.com, ForbesLife, and ForbesWoman.  After studying marketing at the University of Cincinnati, I spent the bulk of my career with marketing agencies crafting and guiding the messaging for brands such as Duracell, Ragu, Lawry's, Lipton, Smirnoff and Tanqueray to name a few.  Over the years I have made connections across industries and it was one of those connections that led me to publishing.  A professional friend thought highly enough of our interactions to recommend me for the open Director of Marketing for VIBE Magazine.  When VIBE unexpectedly closed I was again able to leverage my connections to land at Black Enterprise Magazine and work for the legendary Earl G. Graves.  I leveraged my experiences at the previous two publications to make the move to Forbes.  The irony is that I have always been a fan of magazines, I even wanted to have my own when I was in college.  As my career progressed at various agencies I didn't think that I had the right experience to even get a chance at an interview at a magazine, and now I have worked at three of the most iconic titles in the business.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

Many are familiar with the adage about the separation of "church and state," well publishing is much the same way.  The business arm, the side I work for, is the "state." State is responsible for generating the revenue so that the "church" - editorial, can write the content they desire and have the pages/website to publish said content.  The biggest challenge is that marketing serves as the bridge between the two sides; our job is to weave the story of the features and benefits of our publication with the goals of the intended advertiser.  State or sales is concerned with the bottom line of the business while the church or, editorial, is concerned with the integrity of their content.  In other words editorial don't and won't write an editorial story just to appease an advertiser to sell them advertising space.  Serving two masters is never good for anyone, everyday is filled with striking a balance between the needs of sales to get the sale and maintaining the integrity of the brand that has been built on the editorial content.

What is your proudest achievement?

So far that is a toss up between producing the 2008 Dress For Success Gala on behalf of Diageo and creating, selling and ad-directing a sweepstakes for Ford in the pages of VIBE Magazine.Diageo's CMO at the time was named the Chairperson for the Dress For Success Gala in 2008.  The CMO used all of her available resources to raise funds and produce that year's event.  I was the lead executive on the Smirnoff business for Diageo's experiential agency of record, meaning that we produce all of the events for Diageo brands in the US.  I was asked by my EVP to coordinate our efforts for this event.  Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, my team wouldn't always have much to contribute to the large all-hands meetings with the other partner agencies.  Leading up to the actual event the advertising, PR and media agencies were doing creative, securing press, donations and celebrity attendees and were reporting something new every week.  I had to assuage my EVP that our 'silence' in the meetings would be erased on the evening of the event and not to worry, that our profile amongst the other agencies will be elevated beyond all of the talk leading up to that night.  I was able to produce, with one of the best teams in the business, a $1.5 million event for less than $400K.  As promised the Diageo CMO gushed about our production and agency throughout the entire program that evening.  For Ford I was able to answer their call to reach VIBE's female readers and excite them around the launch of the new Ford Fusion Hybrid.  After winning the business from Ford, I was tasked with copy writing and ad-directing the creative for the campaign in print and digital.  Not many marketers get to create completely original ad campaigns from idea to finished product, we are usually just the minds behind the idea for sales and others to advance down field.  From producing a major event and quieting naysayers to flexing my creative muscle in strategy and design, I look forward to having more opportunities like these in the future.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?

Carol H. Williams, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, Hillary Clinton, Olivia Scott Perkins and my mother, Linda J. Hilson are among the women that inspire me to do better both personally and professionally.  All of these women have withstood unique trials either before, during or after their rise and they are doing more than still standing.  These women are leaders and mentors that are mining success everyday.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I hope to take advantage of all of the skills and talents that I have acquired over the years to be in a position to really have an impact on my local community through the work I am doing organizationally and on a broader basis through my professional life.  I want to be in a position to give back as a mentor, philanthropist, and strategic decision maker.

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?

It may be that as you start your career you are not working in a field that is closely aligned with what you're most passionate about.  Skills come from myriad experiences and who says that you have to do tomorrow the same job that you are doing today.  As you are building your skill set take assessment of your current work environment.  Are there any potential synergies between your work and your passion?  If so get creative and if need be ask for help to move your idea forward.  If not then see if there are others in your workplace that are like-minded; there may be opportunities for your group to participate in efforts outside of the workplace.  Your marketing agency might not be in the business of securing media placements and PR but you can produce the most beautiful fundraising event that organization has ever seen.