20 Women in Entertainment Marketing on the Secret to Their Success

There's no one path to great leadership and creativity

My intro to this article has changed numerous times. For every response, I was filled with delight. I soon realized that everyone's version of success is different, unique, and changes us as time passes. In this regard, there is no one easy answer. To the contrary, for true success, there are many answers, as you will see from the following 20 kick-ass women in entertainment marketing who kindly shared the details of "The Secret to My Success."

Jennifer Weg

Apple TV+
Creative Director
Recent projects: We Crashed, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Shining Girls (coming April 29)

Reminding myself of the mantra "If it's not a hell yes, it's a no" is the secret to my success in all areas of my life. Life is too short to give your energy away; I've found that staying hyper aware about what expands me versus what drains me allows me space to stay present, grateful and creative.

Sarah LaBrache

SVP Operation Strategy & Alignment, Paramount Streaming
Recent projects: Paramount+ launch

Success is so much sweeter when there's deeper meaning underlying it all. For me, it's about keeping two elements at the core of everything I do: gratitude and balance. The thing I appreciate most about working in this industry is the bravery of dreamers who put new ideas out into the world on a regular basis—constantly vulnerable, persistently optimistic. I can't help but be grateful to champion the efforts of these courageous folks, and I do my best to create a safe space for this type of thinking. 

Balance is also a persistent theme. Whether it's a strategic, creative, or operational endeavor, it's about being attached enough to a project to do my best work and also about being able to detach and pivot when notes come through or the scope changes. It's about implementing successful initiatives against aggressive timelines while finding ways to sequester time for risk taking and outside-the-box thinking; it really does take time for an interesting notion to blossom into a well-executed idea.

And it's about balancing the natural tension between ideation and execution. Even a great idea will fall flat if poorly executed. From project creation through to delivery, when timelines are short and the challenge is high, I do my best to remind myself that to succeed, we all need each other.

Katherine Seo

FOX Entertainment
VP, Creative Operations, Marketing
Recent projects: helped launch marketing creative for hit shows such as New Girl, Empire and The Masked Singer

My key to success is remembering the difference between "knowing the right answer" and "finding the best solution." Business, strategy, creativity aren't things that can be defined by a single answer. If the right answer is what you're chasing, you are often chasing a ghost. If you can reframe your perspective to finding the best solution, that's when you can actually make progress to success.

Melissa Irwin

Greenlight Creative
Junior Partner & Art Director
Recent projects: Hulu's Candified, FX Better Things

Determination and discipline—being in an industry that is constantly changing means you need to keep evolving as well. I have a slightly obsessive determination to want to know how to do everything, so I make time to learn new skills whenever possible. It can seem difficult at times, but it's kept this career interesting and helped me continue to grow as a designer and a leader. Choosing a career you're passionate about makes it easy to keep moving forward.

Nicole Singer

Los Angeles Dodgers
VP Communications

If I use one word, I would say "relentless." I've had a lot of people describe me that way! Additionally, I always say that a key to success is to make time for everyone. To me it doesn't matter if you're the president of the company or an intern, I strive to be approachable and helpful to everyone. 

Mikki Bennett

HBO Max Originals
Manager, Creative Marketing
Recent projects: Minx

Setting my eye on something—be it a show, a job title, a company—is my way of navigating through my career. I decide on a goal and I do everything in my power to work towards that, pushing aside any self-doubt or fear to try to accomplish it. Some may call it obsession, I call it motivation. 😉 I'm the type of person who needs to be faced with new challenges regularly and always be able to be learning and growing. But that can only take me so far, and while I attribute it to much of my professional progress, I think the combination of that and the people I've had the fortune of working with has proven to be a recipe for (my) success. I've had some of the most brilliant and kind mentors throughout my professional journey, been surrounded by the most innovative creative colleagues who will be lifelong friends. So I would say that my success is also a direct reflection of the people surrounding me—the bosses, the peers, the talent.

Paula Newstat

Sony Pictures Entertainment
Director of Creative, Global Partnerships
Recent projects: Spider-Man: No Way Home (joined Sony during the height of the final stretch to the release; such a huge successful film for Sony—to contribute even a small amount and experience this phenomenon was incredible and rare), Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Part One

Persistence, perseverance and resilience all come to mind during my endeavor to secure a full-time position. Not long after being laid off during the Fox-Disney merger, the global pandemic hit. I went from having some big opportunities on the final stretch of the hiring process to suddenly receiving emails of postponement in hiring during this uncertain time. My superpower during job hunting was perseverance. I definitely went on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that weighed on me physically and mentally. You go through a tough internal struggle in your mind. Am I good enough? Can I do the job? Will they see me for all my attributes? I am thankful that during that long road of looking, I was distracted by my two young children, who really kept me grounded and in the present. They were my power to keep pushing. I also leaned heavily into the strength of my husband; he weathered the moments of darkness. Along with a very important friend, my sister from another mother who unconditionally supports me. She knows who she is, and I am eternally grateful for all her tough love.

My outlet is creativity. I have a passion for interior design and construction; therefore, updating spaces in my home also helped me through. After taking on several freelance opportunities, I finally saw the light starting to shine as I went through the interview process at Sony Pictures. From the beginning of my journey, it felt right. As a company they hold such value in diversity of culture, thought and experience. It is who I am, I am not a cookie mold, I offer so much variety in my creative experience, and this company and those who interviewed me could see that. In the short time I have been with the team, they have believed in me and empowered me, unleashed my creativity and are allowing me to shine, by just being me.

I don't believe I have a secret to success, plus I am still working towards the best version of me as a career woman. But I do know that as a New Zealander who worked hard to immigrate to the U.S., and pay for her studies as an international adult student at a private art school, graduating as valedictorian with honors, it takes dedication, perseverance and a toughness to weather the storms! One last thing I'd say is that within the interview and hiring process, it takes just one person to believe in you, to give you a chance. At Sony there were three main people who did just that. #grateful

Magin Hall

Seven Bucks
Manager, Digital Strategy

The secret to my success has always been persistence. I knew the career path I wanted to follow and committed myself to expanding my knowledge and developing my skills in the workplace. 

Heidi Strock

See Spot Run
Owner & Creative Lead
Recent projects: The Bachelor franchise and Dancing with the Stars

When those inevitable low points have hit in my career, the first thing I do is look for support from people I trust. Inside, I know the right answers ... that you can't win them all, that this will build character for the future, to keep moving forward every day ... but often, I need to hear them from someone outside myself. This was often enough to snap me out of being a sad-sack and into positive motion.

I also believe big time in visualizing success. I may not have always had a clear picture of what success would look like, but I could imagine what it would feel like to say that I reached my goals and have people around me recognize it. When you start seeing yourself in that way, you move differently through the world. You act in ways that will set yourself up for future success ... like doing one thing every day to work toward your goals and showing respect for your own work while lifting up and giving credit to the work of others as well. And those things pay off down the road, like when a relationship with a beloved former co-worker leads to a key moment in your career or a project you're excited to land.

This tenacity has directly taken me from a production internship at the NBC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, all the way up to owning my own entertainment marketing agency See Spot Run here in Los Angeles. I'm blessed with amazing partners like the Disney Channel and ABC, where I help create marketing content for flagships like The Bachelor franchise and Dancing with the Stars. 

Val Aveni

VP, Social Media & Brand Strategy
Recent projects: MGM Studios branding refresh, and the ongoing content across the MGM Studios social channels

Tess McGill (IYKYK), and having the good fortune to work with incredible friends, colleagues and leaders.

Debi Struzan

Amazon Studios
Creative Director
Recent projects: I Want You Back, Yearly Departed, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

I've had the pleasure of working in entertainment marketing for over 20 years. I'd attribute my success in the industry to always being open to learning new things. I began my career on the agency side focused solely on key art for films, and I'm now a 360 marketer on the studio side working across AV, print and digital for both films and series. I've gone from focusing solely on creative to being a single-threaded owner for entire marketing campaigns; crafting strategy, creative directing trailers, spots and key art, and working cross-functionally with social, PR, partnerships, media, influencer marketing and more. I love what I do. I love the projects I work on. I love the people I work with. I feel fortunate every day, and I'm happy to chat with anyone looking for advice or inspiration. Cheers!

Angela Gervasio-Hewett

Paramount+ / as of April, Hulu
VP, Creative Marketing 
Recent projects: Star Trek: Strange New World, Discovery, Picard; Why Women Kill, For Heaven's Sake

One of the secrets to my success has always been surrounding myself with good people. They've appeared to me in all different ways over the years—as direct reports, colleagues, managers, creative partners, and they always lifted me up and pushed me be better. The entertainment industry is small, and over the years we've become pillars of support for one another, providing encouragement, resources, comfort, opportunity and much more! I'm so thankful to be a small part of it.  

Meagan Doonan

Creative Director

My secret to success: I would not be where I am today without my friends' and co-workers' support and friendship throughout my career.

Vanessa Brandon

Supervising Producer, Creative Marketing
Recent projects: Halo

I'd say the "secret" is using your resources and absorbing as much knowledge you can, even outside the scope of your responsibilities. It's important to have a holistic understanding of your field and how it relates to the larger organization, as opposed to only having a narrowed perspective isolated to your position. This way you can adapt as you grow in your career and can help foster a better environment and collaboration with cross-functional teams. My most favorite project I've worked on in recent years is Halo and I've had to wear many hats in this campaign. By doing so, I've been able to learn and acquire new knowledge at an accelerated pace. 

Nancy Lan

Director, Global Creative Marketing
Upcoming work: Guilliermo Del Toro's Pinocchio, The Sea Beast, and Wendell & Wild (previews here)
Recent work: Netflix Animated Film slate including The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Vivo, Back to the Outback

Running a marathon starts with putting on your shoes. It seems really simple but I remember having a lightbulb moment when I fully realized what this meant. When I'm faced with an important task, instead of just stopping at feeling daunted by the journey ahead, I try to remember this and pair it with small actions that move me forward. Before I realize it, I'm in the race. Especially during these unpredictable times, channeling this thinking has really helped me work through ambiguity and keep me moving forward ... but maybe that's also why I have such a sneaker problem.

Courtney Collins

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director of Integrated Marketing 
Recent projects: Fresh

Success can be a daunting term. I often wonder if I've reached the label of "successful" because my definition of what that means has been evolving throughout my career. Success used to mean company, title, pay. Now I measure it on the strength of my team and the quality of the work. 

The saying "You're not everyone's cup of tea" has always perplexed me because my thought is, "Yes but I am someone's!" When I look back on how I've navigated the ups and downs of my career path, one common word keeps coming back to me: authenticity. My ability to stay authentic to myself in my unconventional leadership style, creative expression and neverending curiosity has always been the driving force that's kept me going.

Kimmy Eder

Design Manager

The secret to my success comes from understanding who I am and what I value and pushing myself to be the best version of myself in hopes of inspiring others. Life is about being able to share ideas, insights and have conversations with others outside your bubble. I honestly believe that we have the ability to achieve anything in life with hard work and the support of people with the same values. When you find yourself in this particular zone, that's when the work turns into passion.

Valerie Madden

Amazon Studios
Senior Creative Director
Projects: Fleabag, Transparent, Good Omens, Catastrophe, The Tick, Heroes, The Office, Parenthood

Success is relative. With that said, my success derives from my career not being about me. 

I have the honor and privilege to create marketing content that launches series and films into the world that their creators have lived, breathed and birthed into fruition. I tap into their vision and find the core essence that will excite the targeted audience to choose to watch. I take this responsibility seriously and am clear that I'm a conduit with unique gifts and talents that others don't have. If a launch requires skills not innate in me, I find the talent to visualize a 360 marketing campaign into reality. Most campaigns are made up of key art, trailer, social, experiential, PR, digital static, motion and AV content. All of the above have passionate highly skilled people leading the charge, with me as a guiding light setting everyone up to deliver desired results for millions (sometimes billions) of people globally. Whether it be mentoring or ramping up new talent to be part of the marketing side of entertainment content or visualizing and communicating the full campaign for internal stakeholders, filmmakers and showrunners to align, this brings me joy.

To sum it up, I view what I do as a service for others, so it feels purposeful. One thing I know for sure after many years of launching 300+ series and films into the world is life can be intense at times for everyone. Escaping into a film or series can elevate a person's awareness, knowledge, mood or simply relax. Whether watching alone or with a group, entertainment content brings people together. All of the above inspires me to do it again and again.

Christina Karaba

Creative Director, Branded Television Creative Marketing

I've been procrastinating writing this because, to be honest, "the secret of my success" is a tough one for me. I'm not sure that I would describe myself as "successful." I will say, every step I've made to get me to the position I'm in right now, I did as my authentic self. I truly believe to do my job well means I must be honest with the team, leadership, partners, collaborators and myself. Sometimes, being honest doesn't make you the most "successful" in one sense of title, but if you're not crafting creative from a place of truth, then you're not making the kind of creative that truly connects.

The campaigns I've been lucky enough to be a part of that really resonated were born from a little part of someone. Either a creative person I'm working with, or sometimes myself, brought a little bit of their insides to the outside and it's real and true and if it makes it through "the process," unharmed, it resonates. But to get there, you have to be honest. I suppose being a part of campaigns that have resonated in that way could be a measure of success, but those are moments. Society moves on, and we move on to the next campaign. But each time I've experienced those moments of success, it came from a place of honesty. 

Jenna Sonenshein

Director, Marketing Strategy & Integrated Planning

What's the secret to success? For me, success has come from creating a foundation of goodwill, honesty and positivity with my team and partners. I feel most successful, and my work has been most successful, when these fundamentals are firmly in place. It all grows from there. I can jokingly call it the "don't be an a-hole" secret to success.

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