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Eight Top NYC Marketers Give Thanks With This Valuable Life Advice


Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

By Samantha Rideout, MPR

The aroma of pumpkin spice is in the air. Cozy flannel is everywhere. Letterboards are commanding us to give thanks.

As it turns out, giving thanks is surprisingly productive. Research shows focusing on the good in our lives increases happiness, drops blood pressure, and decreases heart rate. Harvard Medical School underscores this phenomenon in an article titled, Giving thanks can make you happier. 

People who yawn at the thought of statistics and peer-reviewed research can consider it through a more entertaining lens. Jimmy Fallon anchors his brand in happiness, and he is the only late-night talk show host with a regular segment devoted to thank you notes. His gratitude-focused segment could be fuelling the hallmark happiness of his brand identity.

Families tally up their gratitude lists around the dinner table before enjoying a Thanksgiving meal, but let’s turn the table (or swap out the dinner table for a conference table). Eight of NYC’s top marketers shared the advice they are thankful to have learned during their storied careers.

It’s not Thanksgiving until the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade rolls through Manhattan. In an article cataloging thankfulness, there is no more appropriate place to start than with a brand that is vigorously aligned with Thanksgiving.

Jordan Dabby
Vice President, Partnership Marketing & Media
Macy’s Branded Entertainment

Jordan Dabby has learned that building relationships requires strong communication skills.

“Know your audience. It sounds so simple, but what you say may be interpreted completely differently by two different people. Everyone has their own personal filter, so your intent may not be received the way you mean.”

“Take the time to listen to feedback when building relationships. It will tell you so much about each person and help guide the way you communicate. That active participation on my part has enabled me to foster meaningful, long-lasting relationships with my colleagues and business partners.”

New Yorkers did not wait for thanksgiving to display gratitude for the heroic healthcare workers in the pulsing heart of America’s first pandemic epicenter. People congregated on their balconies night after night at seven pm to voice support for NYC’s frontline healthcare workers.

New Yorkers are thankful for our hospitals, so Northwell Health is the right place to turn for perspective on thankfulness.

Robin Wyatt
Vice President, Marketing
Northwell Health

Robin Wyatt shares a disarmingly simple sentiment about instincts.

“My answer is quite simple: Trust your instincts.”

“I pass this advice along regularly when I see people doubting themselves or second-guessing their actions.”

Staying in the healthcare thread, for the 6.1 million women in the US struggling with fertility, there is thankfully hope via innovations in women’s health and fertility from companies like Oova.

Melissa J. Dowling
Head of Brand and Growth Marketing

Melissa J. Dowling focuses on giving, collaboration, and not keeping score. 

“My advice is, ironically, be as giving as possible. Be as giving with your ideas, advice, mentorship, and with partners, colleagues, and clients.”

“Don’t worry about sharing those ideas or if you will get credit or paid. People will remember you, and your support will come back to reward you two-fold.”

Health and wellness have become increasingly important as we navigate unimaginable public health hurdles. People striving to improve their fitness are likely familiar with ClassPass, where they can track down and try their next fitness experience.

Mandy Menaker
Global Head of PR

Mandy Menaker understands the strength of measuring impact and quality over quantity.

“Marketing and PR work is measured by impact, not by the hours you keep, and you can have greater impact when you give yourself breaks. When you stop being productive, put down the computer and go for a walk or a bike ride. Treat yourself to a nice coffee. Call your Mom and say hello!”

“There is no point in sitting behind a computer when the work isn’t getting done. By stepping away, you come back with renewed energy and a fresh perspective.”

For a fresh perspective, consider SHE Media. This brand coined the term “femvertising,” which is something to be thankful for all on its own. SHE Media’s creative director has a shortlist of the advice everyone needs to hear.

Sheila Patel
Creative Director
SHE Media

Sheila Patel believes that a voice is better used for confident advocacy rather than needless apologies.

“The best advice I ever received and still grateful for to this day:

  • Stop saying “sorry,” especially when you have nothing to be sorry for. Be assertive and stand by your statements!
  • Don’t be afraid to push back and defend your decisions.
  • Speak up and advocate for yourself because no one will do that for you.
  • Be genuine, respectful, and honest, and you will build stronger relationships.
  • Control your controllables. Get worked up over the things that actually matter.”

Culture is certainly one of those “things that matter” and from The Metropolitan Opera to Dancing with the Stars, let’s turn to an agency that has run with some pretty impressive brands. Yet the best advice their strategy director received was established before any of those brands were born.

Mike Woronuk
Strategy Director
Bartley & Dick Brand Communications

Mike Woronuk found the best advice was shared hundreds of years ago. 

“You always have the option of not having an opinion.”

“This quote comes from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in ‘Meditations,’ he wrote it over 1,800 years ago. It applies well to many aspects of modern life, but in business and as a marketer, it applies so clearly.”

“As a human who suffers from perfectionism, the advice is as freeing as it is helpful—often the most important thing is to ship. This also means trusting your partners, copywriters, designers, web developers that ‘this’ solution is the best suited for the time/scope/budget we set. So, when your next project is ready to launch, and you want to make last-minute changes, ask yourself—do I need to have an opinion on this? You’re likely to find better flow, less stress, and more success when you just ship!”

NYC cultural behemoth, Carnegie Hall, doesn’t quite go back 1,800 years, but its storied 130-year legacy comes alive during the holidays. The experience of Carnegie Hall is something every New Yorker can be thankful for, whether being charmed by the building’s tasteful decorations while walking through midtown or attending Handel’s Messiah as an annual holiday tradition. The CMO of Carnegie Hall provided heartfelt insight into the importance of mentorship and takes us back to thank you notes.

Sara​ Villagio
Chief Marketing Officer
Carnegie Hall

Sara Villagio reminds us that marketing is all about the people.

“When I think about a mentor who makes me feel thankful, my high school band director, Gerald (Gerry) Zaffuts, immediately comes to mind. He remains in my life today as a close friend, source of support, and mentor.”

“I think of Gerry as a foundational mentor. When we met, I was a young person finding my way in the world and exploring what role music could play in my life – laying the foundation for a professional life that has brought me all the way to Carnegie Hall. While, of course, practicing was a big part of making it here, Gerry imparted some early wisdom.”

“While our commitment to music was consistently top of mind, Gerry always told us that it was “all about the people” and expressed how critical it was how we, as individuals, engaged with those around us. I remember him imparting this to us (along with my fellow high school bandmates) in the form of a written letter – actually, a thank you note, after a weekend-long trip where we had performed and met with professional musicians and adjudicators. That letter was a thank you note to us for showing up professionally, for participating with kindness and integrity.”

“Gerry didn’t have to send us a thank you note, but it was a welcome surprise. It was a clear example of the importance of expressing gratitude to those around you. In that way, to me, marketing, like most things, really is all about the people. The fundamentals of marketing rely on how we (as brand managers and marketing leaders) engage with people, as humans, on behalf of the organizations and brands that we support. I’ll be forever grateful to Gerry for instilling that value in me and still have the letter saved to this very day!”

Sara reminds us of the commonality between marketing and Thanksgiving. Both are all about the people: family, friends, and other special characters who we are simply thankful to have in our lives.

Jordan Dabby started us off with how to build strong relationships, and rounding out the list is an insight into why those relationships augment more than our careers. The mentors we encounter help shape who we become.

Grace Leong
CEO & Partner

Grace Leong understands the value of mentorship.

“I am most thankful for my mentor, Barbara Way Hunter, who taught me the importance of hard work and the benefits of being in service to others.  Through her example, I learned that you don’t have to be the smartest or most clever marketer, but being the most curious, invested, and attentive partner allows you to succeed and deliver the results for your marketing clients. At 94 years old, she is still teaching me how to keep calm and carry on!”

Who are you thankful to have as a mentor? What advice has shaped your career? As you celebrate Thanksgiving, reflect on these questions and comment below or reach out to thank someone for their influence on your career.

Samantha Rideout is the Marketing Director at a four-time Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company, Pharmaceutical Strategies Group. Samantha has been published by PR News, the University of Edinburgh Press, PR Daily, and more. She has a master’s degree in public relations. Samantha volunteers with the American Marketing Association. Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn.