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Amanda Richman: Leading with Optimism, Empathy and Bravery
Amanda Richman joined Mindshare as CEO, North America, in April 2021—more than a year into the pandemic. But Richman wasn’t afraid to enter a new role amidst so much uncertainty. So, she accepted the role as CEO and never looked back. Now, she’s responsible for driving the strategy for one of the world’s most notable media agencies and its more than 1,700 employees across the U.S. and Canada as they work to support top brands like Unilever, Ford, General Mills and more.
She started this position during a time where organizations relied on strong leadership more than ever to pivot, innovate and overcome the market challenges. And that’s just what Richman did. She came in with fresh thinking and a fresh take to bring Mindshare’s “Good Growth” proposition to life. And she’s building upon Mindshare’s philosophy of “Intentional Media,” or looking at media investment beyond cost savings and value creation. To Richman, ”media can be both good for society and good for the bottom line.”
Richman has brought her take on leadership to Mindshare, which focuses on optimism, empathy and bravery. “I do believe leaders lead with hope, not fear, and paint that picture of positivity and the impact that we can have by making sure that we’re living that and expressing that every day,” Richman said.
Prior to taking on this role, Richman joined GroupM agency MEC from Starcom as U.S. CEO in 2017, ahead of its merger with Maxus, which resulted in the creation of Wavemaker. Last year, she led Wavemaker through the pandemic to impressive growth in the U.S. and helped the company gain recognition as Adweek’s U.S. Media Agency of the Year.
Richman spoke with New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) to talk about her leadership style—especially over the past year—and why winning a NYWICI Matrix Award this year is meaningful to her.
What’s interesting coming out of this past year of the pandemic and social unrest is that there wasn’t one single dynamic change. Overall, it was this acceleration of change that we all predicted, and we knew what was coming, but it came at a much faster pace.
We also saw this pivot to how consumers start to vote more with their wallet and really try to understand the values of the companies they’re supporting. They realize that there has been a gap that has been created by this focus on the short term and an immediate sale versus a longer-term customer relationship. How do we think about growth from the lens of short term and long term, and how do we help marketers find their purpose [and] build on that purpose with where their media dollars are invested to support it?
This year raised a spotlight on what I would say is the notion of getting real and being real. We needed to take a step back and see what truly matters to our people, our customers, our clients, [and] how do we simplify and really focus on what the achievable goals are and how we can help. And I love that, so let’s get real about the business and focus where it matters.
The “be real” element is something that I think we’ve all been hearing more and trying to live—being more authentic and showing vulnerability. How do you walk away from [the] notion that you have to appear to have solved it all in your role, and instead turn to your network, bring others aboard and make sure that you have that support system in place to share the problem. How can we be more real—focusing on the right places and engag[ing] others and solving a problem together at every level.
Leaders at every level need to possess three things: optimism, empathy and bravery. We need to be able to set forth a vision that is positive. There is the empathy element, which I think this last year has really brought to light––the need to understand from another view of the world through another person’s perspective. And that helps us understand the impact of our decisions. So, having that empathy and understanding is critical. There’s also a time to lead and make hard decisions and have the bravery to go where no woman has gone before.
Our notion of Good Growth is how do we help marketers resolve this tension between short termism and long termism and really think beyond the moment of sale. What’s the relationship with customers over time from a brand building plus performance perspective? And how do we then deliver profit and performance, as well as purpose—those two don’t have to be in conflict. So, our notion of Good Growth is how do we use our tools and our talent and our expertise to make sure we’re able to deliver both for our clients: performance, as well as purpose.
Winning this award takes me back to my first Matrix awards, sitting in the room with a lot of women in DVF dresses and inspiring speeches. And what I had realized at the time was this was really the very first event where I was in the audience of a virtually all-female event with all women being honored for their stories and [their] further impact across the full breadth of communications.
It was really a wake-up call for me of the power of developing a strong female network of support and being inspired by other women and their stories. And it actually wasn’t long thereafter that a few friends formed a group called the Wild Women of the Web, which has been an amazing support group for myself and each other through not only work and navigating that digital transformation that we are helping to lead, but also through personal lives—from weddings and losses to day-to-day challenges. We’re there to support each other. I would have to say the Matrix awards annually was that reminder of the power of a support system and network and the need that we have to actually continue that tradition and make sure we’re lifting others up at work and connecting and support[ing] each other in life more broadly as well.
Oh, yes, completely. It’s more on WhatsApp [now] than ever, but we used to get together, four or five times a year. It’s those moments where we can actually connect and talk about what we’re seeing, how we’re reacting, how we can support each other, how we can help others in business and just in life. That’s been wonderful. And I love that we really have grown together. And like you said, it just reinforces the power of women supporting women.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Andrea Goldstein is currently a marketing consultant at Citi.