Chairman & CEO, Magrino PR
By Gennifer Delman
“Keeping people happy is the number onefunction in public relations — whether it’s your client, the media or a colleague,” said Susan Magrino, chairman and CEO of her eponymous firm, Magrino PR. Most PR professionals would agree — and you can consider Magrino the proof point. The industry legend created her own agency in 1992 at age 30, going on to build a 50-employee company with a client roster that’s both recognizable (Martha Stewart) and buzzworthy (Whispering Angel wine). When asked what it means to win a Matrix Award, the firm’s leader mused, “I feel honored; it’s really, really exciting. And as important as it is to receive this kind of recognition, it’s also given me pause to reflect a lot.” Here, Magrino shares some of those reflections with NYWICI.
TELL US ABOUT AT LEAST ONE PERSON WHO HAD A BIG IMPACT ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE.
Definitely my early bosses, mentors and clients — that is who you learn from. I really try to be that for my team; I’m always proud to see people I’ve trained or mentored go on and start their own business or take on a big challenge. I remember people who gave that to me (like Nancy Kahan, my first boss).
WHAT ROLE DID YOUR FIRST FULL-TIME JOB PLAY IN SHAPING YOUR CAREER?
I was an English major and drawn to publishing; I thought I wanted to be a writer. I got into the publicity department [at Crown Publishing] and from that moment on it was game on! All that training was amazing for me; I was there for nine years and it laid the foundation for my career in public relations. It gave me the confidence to do it on my own, and that’s what I did. I said, “I don’t ever want to look back with regret — I’m going to start my own PR firm.” That was a wonderful moment and continues to this day.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR CAREER THUS FAR?
Building this business, creating our brand of Magrino, and evolving in the working world for 27 years and counting — I feel very proud of that. It would be hard to choose any one moment, because I’ve been very fortunate enough to have a lot of good ones and I’ve learned from all of them
‘Recognize when someone gives you an opportunity and know what to do with it. You might think, “I can’t do this,” but if that person believes in you and has your back, you can’t set the bar high enough to achieve.’
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM FACING SOME OF YOUR CAREER’S TOUGHEST CHALLENGES?
How you handle a challenge is as important as how you handle a success. You need to always think about leaving the door open and think about the next time. The other thing you get is perspective; I’m content with who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing. You have to be willing to take a risk sometimes, because great things can come out of risks.
HOW HAS YOUR AGENCY ADJUSTED TO THE CHANGES IN JOURNALISM IN RECENT YEARS?
PR has many more pieces and opportunities than ever before: It’s a new world with a need to adapt a new way of thinking and an entirely new generation. We have to translate [a brand’s] value, and what’s the new way of doing that? Is it experiential? Is it Instagram? Is it through a partnership? Those are really big parts of what PR is now. PR needs to formally broaden the definition of what it really is; it’s a misunderstood field and industry.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I love collecting; I love estate sales! I really don’t want to talk to anyone on early Saturday because I’m out driving on the hunt — a treasure hunt! — for something fabulous. You never know what you might find. I probably picked that habit up from my friend and client Martha Stewart.
DO YOU HAVE A MANTRA THAT YOU FOLLOW?
Determination and hard work always equal achievement. It’s not that I wasn’t told failure isn’t an option, it’s that it just never entered my mind. WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? I think about all the possibilities of tomorrow! What do we have to solve this week? In PR it’s never done! I don’t beat myself up. Instead I think, “What more can we do?”
Gennifer Delman is a New York-based publicist and freelance writer working at Small Girls PR.
Susan Magrino’s 2019 Matrix Award will be presented by Martha Stewart.
Susan Magrino is an accomplished marketing, branding and public relations professional with more than 30 distinguished years of experience. Having founded Susan Magrino Agency in 1992 following a nine-year career at Crown Publishing, Susan has built the company into what is today regarded as one of the premier full-service public relations, marketing and communications firms in the industry. Practicing in both media relations and social media/influencer marketing, their lifestyle divisions include consumer goods, travel, real estate, food, wine, spirits, and special events. Magrino has and continues to work with leading brands worldwide, including Christie’s International Real Estate, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, William Grant & Sons, Moët Hennessy USA, Whispering Angel, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Baccarat Residences, Hästens beds, Hunter Douglas, Martha Stewart, Farrow & Ball, White House interior designer Michael Smith, JW Marriott Nashville, and JW Marriott Turnberry Miami, Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, Literacy Partners, Alzheimer’s Association, The James Beard Foundation Awards, Waldorf Astoria, The Peninsula Hotels, Tishman Speyer, Related Companies and The New York Times, among many others.
Over the course of her career, Susan has been instrumental in building and publicizing some of the world’s most prestigious brands including: Martha Stewart, with whom she has worked since 1983 on all aspects of the brand including television, publishing, digital, retail and events; national retail companies including Macy’s, Dillard’s and Kmart; internationally-renowned hospitality brands Virgin Atlantic Airways, One & Only Resorts and Qatar Airways; the re-launch of the historic Miami Beach hotel Fontainebleau and the re-launch of New York’s legendary Plaza hotel; culinary, wine and spirits leaders ranging from Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot to Lavazza Coffee and illy to chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Gordon Ramsay and The Four Seasons Restaurant; media brands from Harper’s Bazaar to Reader’s Digest; international cosmetics and skincare companies including Dr. Hauschka and many more.
Throughout her international travels Susan has amassed a formidable range of contacts within business, media, travel art and culinary worlds. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she has established a scholarship and is active in alumni events. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Glass House, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additionally, She has served on Boards including Literacy Partners and Manitoga: The Russel Wright Design Center, and is active in supporting charities benefiting food, design and culture. She and her husband James Dunning, Jr. live in Manhattan and in New Canaan, Connecticut.