From Politics to Empowerment
Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, BET Networks
By Mandy Carr
Jeanine D. Liburd is currently Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for BET Networks, but she didn’t start out in communications or TV. She started out in policy, but she got frustrated with the “politicalness” of it. “I became acutely aware of how critical the media is in informing people of their rights,” she said, “and also the impact that media and television specifically, at the time, could have on people’s engagements and thus their empowerment.” Liburd was also ready to move back to New York from Washington, D.C. The combination of all that pushed her to make the move. She’s now been at Viacom for 19 years and has seen a lot of changes at the company and has worked in many different roles. We sat down with her to learn more about her career.
WHAT STEPS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO GET WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I worked at a strategic communications firm. They had a lot of people who worked on [political] campaigns who were part of their workforce. What they appreciated about people who worked on campaigns was their ability to do intense problem solving, move quickly, and manage a lot of different inputs to come up with a solution. I was lucky enough to get Oxygen Media as one of my first big clients — the launch of Oxygen Media. That was my first deep dive into this thing we call cable. From there I went to MTV. Those were the two big steps.
WHAT MADE YOU STAY AT VIACOM FOR SO LONG?
It’s the people and having the opportunity to work on such a wide range of initiatives and businesses. I was at MTV Networks corporate. I started in 2000, so right when the CBS merger was happening. We acquired what was TNN, then Spike, now the Paramount Network. Nothing has stayed the same. We’ve been at the nexus of so much of that change. That kept me here. TV is a vastly changing landscape.
‘If you’re spending all of your time in your building, then you’re probably not doing it right.’
WHAT NEW TRENDS ARE YOU ARE EXCITED FOR, AND HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR SKILLS UP TO DATE IN A CHANGING INDUSTRY?
One, you have to stay out in the marketplace. If you’re spending all of your time in your building, then you’re probably not doing it right. I’m always grateful when someone asks me to come speak at a conference, but I’m also happy to go and hear what other people are going through. I love to hear good case studies about what worked and what didn’t work. What’s really interesting right now is this whole influencer world. We always had to build strong press relationships, because that was important, but now it’s important to develop these direct one-to-one relationships with consumers who can either help you or damage you. We’ve all seen death by a tweet. In addition to your work at BET, you sit on the board of many nonprofit organizations.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO DO THAT, AND HOW DO YOU FIND THE TIME TO DO IT?
I don’t know how I find the time to do it. But it goes back to your initial question of what is interesting about the business. One of the organizations I love the most is ColorComm, because it is focused on women who are in the communications field and how they stay on top of their game. But also, and in my mind, much more importantly, how do we get younger people interested in the communications field and have them ready to take on bigger and better opportunities and just to grow? I try to stay working on organizations that feed those personal passions of mine.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN WORK/LIFE BALANCE OR BLENDING, DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU CALL IT? HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN IT?
I like the visual of a seesaw. Even if you are balanced, you’re probably only going to be there for a second. In the end, you’re not comfortable in that space. So, you’re most comfortable when you’re all the way down, or if you’re all the way up. For me, if I’m trying to balance, it only lasts for so long. If I’m at work, I’m at work, I’m doing it. And then when I’m off, I’m with family, then I’m on the other side of the seesaw and then that’s what I’m doing. Sometimes the two balance in the middle. You’ve got to keep powering that seesaw up and down.
Mandy Carr is the Communications Manager for the New York Academy of Sciences. On the side, she runs a TV show blog, Primetime Addiction.
Jeanine D. Liburd’s 2019 Matrix Award will be presented by Bob Bakish.
Jeanine D. Liburd is the Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB) and the leading provider of quality entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture globally. In her role, Liburd oversees all facets of strategic and creative brand development, consumer marketing, corporate communications, corporate social responsibility and a variety of cross-business initiatives. Her deep consumer insights coupled with her innovative marketing strategies have resulted in deeper consumer engagement and consistent ratings growth for five consecutive quarters.
Liburd joined BET Networks in 2007 as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications after working with various divisions under the Viacom banner since 2000. She was Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Viacom, where she oversaw all media relations initiatives and corporate messages for the company’s business units, including MTV Networks, BET Networks and Paramount Pictures. Prior to that, she was Vice President of Corporate Communications for MTV Networks.
Before joining MTV Networks, Liburd was Vice President at Robinson, Lerer and Montgomery (RLM), a strategic communications firm, where she worked with clients such as Oxygen, CNBC, AOL and Showtime. Prior to communications, she worked on urban and family policy within New York Mayor Dinkins’ administration, Donna Shalala and the Department of Health and Human Services and with the Clinton administration.
Affiliated with a number of professional, civic and cultural organizations, Liburd serves on the board of ColorComm, the Corporate Advisory Council for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board for New York Public Radio, the Apollo EmpowHer steering committee and the Board of Directors for the Weeksville Heritage Center.
She is a graduate of Vassar College and holds an M.S. in Urban Policy from The New School University for Social Research.