ANALYSIS: Profile - Estee Lauder: all made up, and plenty of placesto go - Getting a brand noticed in one country is an entirely differentendeavor somewhere else. Sally Susman is the PR brains behind EsteeLauder's international beauty products.

Elizabeth Hurley may be the current face of Estee Lauder, but to

the beauty media at least, Sally Susman is the company's voice. As

senior vice president of global communications, she's in charge of the

creative PR teams behind brands such as Clinique, Mac, Aveda, and

Aramis.



Some of the firm's PR programs evolve more organically than others. Take

one of the company's best-selling product lines, Bumble & Bumble's Surf

Spray, a favorite of Susman's. The hair-care product was featured in a

story by The Wall Street Journal in July about the current craze for

"beach hair," the wild and woolly look that has replaced the sleek manes

of 2000.



As Susman reports, a third of the company's revenues come from products

launched in the last three years. "There is a huge emphasis on newness,"

she says.



Susman's latest task, however, is launching the fragrance Intuition in

the US. The ad campaign, starring Hurley, is already running. But

strangely, this American product has been available to French women for

the past 14 months. "We launched it in the world's toughest market

first, as opposed to the US, so that it didn't seem like a second

thought," says Susman, well aware of the Gallic sensitivity to all

things foreign. "When we launch products in Europe, we stress the

science and technology. Europeans are very knowledgeable, and take a

serious approach to protecting their skin, so we'll take a scientist on

a tour to lead a symposium."



In a few months, Susman will be headed to another tough market:

China.



She's set to accompany chairman Leonard Lauder on a trip aimed at

opening new stores in the country, and they'll be meeting with

government officials and local media. "What is required here is

patience; things happen on a different orientation," she says.



Susman has used her knowledge of overseas markets to rearrange the way

the firm handles its PR. "In the past, it used to be a domestic

operation organized by brand. Now we are reorganized globally." Susman

brought in two new global VPs in March: Hill & Knowlton's Janet Bartucci

and Bari Seiden from agency M. Booth and Associates. A third person,

Jennifer Mann, was hired from Saks Fifth Avenue to work as executive

director of global communications. Susman describes her new staff's

mission: "The goal is to help communicate the strengths we have as a

growth company - that we are global, and that we have multiple

distribution channels, not just the 500 retail stores."



As well as dealing with the media, consumer relations sits within

Susman's remit. "It was the genius idea of Leonard Lauder to combine the

two functions: consumer and PR. They report directly to him so that the

company will always have its finger on the pulse."



According to Susman, Estee Lauder has never had a product recall, but

she faced a tough situation with mad cow disease hitting the headlines

earlier this year. Some cosmetics use beef by-products in their

ingredients.



Susman was part of an industry-wide round table on the subject. "We felt

it was honest to do a thorough review, product by product, to make sure

they had no beef-derived input. It was important to move quickly to

eradicate the problem. Potential formulations had to be changed in a few

cases."



Former American Express colleague Gail Wasserman, now with The Maloney

Group, says of Susman, "Whether she's with her own staff or managing a

meeting for the board of directors in China, she is able to engender

loyalty." Wasserman tells how Susman, on vacation last month, spent a

good part of her time off writing staff reviews. "She is someone who has

worked for everything and earned everything she's got. She remembers

what it's like to be working your way up."



Susman started her career in government in the early '80s as a

legislative assistant on a Senate commerce committee, working for

congressional representatives such as Al Gore. Ten years later, she

found herself working for commerce secretary Ron Brown as deputy

assistant secretary for legislative affairs.



Then American Express called, asking if she'd like to return to lead

corporate communications in Europe.



Susan Koshak, American Express VP of public affairs, says that Susman

created an environment that helped turn people's small ideas into major

projects by throwing the weight of her enthusiasm behind them.



Susman spent three years at American Express in London, which gave her a

wider view of the world. "I strongly believe that all wisdom does not

reside in the US. For a US company, it is really important to appreciate

idea generation."



A modern art enthusiast, Susman can certainly lay claim to supporting

new ideas. She has a video installation in her office overlooking

Central Park's ice rink. The screen looks like a mirror at first, but

then shows someone applying lipstick, looking back at you. Ask Susman

about her own beauty routine, and she'll tell you there's nothing better

than getting in the bath at the end of a long day.



SALLY SUSMAN

1984-1990: Legislative assistant on Capitol Hill for Senate Committee on

Commerce, Science and Transportation

1990: Joins American Express as manager, leaves as VP of corporate comms

1993: Joins Commerce Department as deputy assistant secretary for

legislative and intergovernmental affairs

1995-1998: VP, then head of international PR, American Express Europe

2000: SVP for global communications, Estee Lauder.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.