When Warner Bros. pushed back the date of its Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie to July 17, 2009, it posed a problem for Entertainment Weekly, as well as Nancy Valentino, VP of the entertainment communications group for Time Inc. EW had already gone to press with a fall movie preview issue that included Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe on the cover.
“You know what?” Valentino says the day after the news broke. “We're a weekly. News [like this] happens. Now, it's a collector's item.”
Taking things in stride is just one of the traits Valentino displays every day while working with Time Inc. titles like People, People en Español, People Style Watch, InStyle, and EW. But other responsibilities, including working on events like red carpets and negotiating partnerships like the one between People and the Re-cording Academy, demonstrate her focus on the group's long-term brand development.
“The communication department is responsible, at least in the media eye, to reinforce the core values of the brands, which are part of Time Inc.,” she says. “It's integrity; it's journalism. We're the gold standard, and when you are the gold standard in a category, you have to work harder to maintain that.”
Valentino joined Time Inc. about five years ago, after 12 years at Christie's auction house.
“I came from a business where there were two leaders,” she notes. “You woke up every day thinking, ‘How am I going to stay in front today?' People never really had that and then the category changed. It went to three players, it went to five players, it went to eight players. I feel like being in publishing now is exciting.”
Originally only working on People, Valentino eventually began to work on coordinating efforts for several other Time Inc. titles. A rigorous media training program helps editors and publishers get ready for their day in the spotlight. If one brand isn't a perfect fit for a publicity opportunity, one of the other four can step in.
“Both sides of each brand, publishing and editorial, they really trust the communications group and they will seek our advice for many different projects,” Valentino explains. “They trust if we say, ‘I know that you may want to do that segment, but we don't think you should do it.' We do our homework, so we make their jobs easier.”
However, Valentino didn't always know she wanted to be in PR. While working on Wall Street, she started doing “crazy freelance projects, mostly in the arts, where we would make like $200,” with her roommate, the daughter of New York PR man Sy Preston.
“I thought, ‘This is really fun,'” she recalls. “It's part selling. It's creative. There is strategy. When you have that success, it's very gratifying.”
Valentino also attributes her success to taking time away from the grind, something she emphasizes while working with young PR pros. Her method of choice: yoga.
“You need to figure out a way to unplug,” she says. “If I'm working for a bank and I go on vacation, I'm not reminded of my job. But if you're on a pop culture brand, how can you get away? It's so important to step out of it, just really kind of wipe the slate clean, and clear your head.”
VP, comms and brand dev., Time Inc.'s entertainment communications group
Director of corporate comms, People magazine
Various posts at Christie's