“I spent many conference calls changing a diaper and burping a baby,” she notes, “I felt so invested in the company... I couldn't imagine not participating.”
A nine-year Mattel veteran, Bongiovanni has oversight of stakeholder relations and the Mattel Children's Foundation, in addition to the tasks her title represents.
“I really like working in corporate communications when we have issues or sensitive topics,” she says. “[I am] able to see it from different viewpoints and put together a strong program.”
Bongiovanni does not handle traditional brand communications, but does “get involved when we're having an issue or crisis that has bigger implications for the organization,” such as the recent copyright infringement lawsuit between Barbie and Bratz.
Interestingly, she was initially hired at Mattel to handle product PR for Disney items, in line with her previous experience in consumer PR at GCI Group and Sebastian International. But when Bongiovanni began work in 2000, she was given corporate assignments.
“There was a lot of change at the company,” she recalls. “There was a CEO search, share prices had dropped, and we were losing a million dollars a day... I was willing to... come to the company because I knew I'd learn so much.”
Bongiovanni was fully prepared for this shift, having started crisis communications work early in her career as manager of PR for Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios, where a much-publicized double homicide had occurred.
“The media was relentless,” she notes. “It was so sad, and separating emotions from that was difficult.”
Bongiovanni's natural ability to clarify difficult issues has helped her to excel , says Julia Jensen, VP of worldwide PR at Mattel. “She's incredibly organized and [can] sort through a lot of complex issues and distill what needs to get done.”
Both of the women were on maternity leave during the 2007 recall, and Jensen remembers, “She helped manage a difficult situation by being professional and polished.”
David Shane, Hewlett-Packard's VP of corporate external communications, worked with Bongiovanni when he led Weber Shandwick's corporate issues and entertainment practice in Los Angeles, representing Mattel.
“She is the full combination of excellent PR skills, good instincts, and the ability to earn the trust of [the] C-Suite quickly,” he says of Bongiovanni. “Not only does she know the business, but she has an excellent command of the issues.”
If you ask Bongiovanni, however, her representation of the company can be partly attributed to her own experience with its products.
“I can talk from the heart about my belief in this company because I probably have more Mattel toys than most,” says Bongiovanni, who adds her three kids will have a “hook-up” come Christmas.
Mattel, VP of corporate comms and govt. affairs
April 1996-Dec. 1999
Sebastian Intl., PR director
Feb. 1994-Jan. 1996
Universal Studios, PR manager for Universal CityWalk