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How 'Glamour' Publisher Connie Anne Phillips Turns Magazine Brands Around

Her "pushy and charming" approach to working with advertisers at both InStyle and Glamour has made her one of the best in the industry.
'Glamour' publisher Connie Anne Phillips. Photo: Gasper Tringale/Glamour

'Glamour' publisher Connie Anne Phillips. Photo: Gasper Tringale/Glamour

In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.

With over 2 million print subscribers and 8.5 million unique visitors online each month, Glamour reaches more people than any other Conde Nast title except Wired. Leading that audience growth is publisher Connie Anne Phillips, who joined the magazine in July 2013 to reinvigorate its uneven business, which saw ad pages dip 4.2 percent in 2012 and 7.2 percent in 2011, according to WWD. By just the first quarter of 2014, Phillips pushed the magazine's ad pages up 12 percent to its biggest first quarter in five years; the important March 2014 issue saw ad pages up 8.2 percent. By March 2015, the total brand audience had increased 6.8 percent, according to the Association of Magazine Media

But the Philadelphia native, who describes her current role as her dream job, is prioritizing digital growth. Phillips oversaw the development of Glamour's digital spinoff beauty, which contributed to an online traffic increase of 55 percent; as well as the relationships vertical Smitten, which was developed for a love-themed Revlon campaign. Phillips has also removed print and digital specialties across her team. 

Glamour isn't the first brand Phillips has been tasked to turn around. From 2009 to 2013, she held the top job at Time Inc.'s InStyle, where ad pages had been consistently growing for 14 months by the time she returned to Condé Nast, where she had begun her career as an account representative at Vogue in 1995. This January, Condé CEO Chuck Townsend and president Bob Sauerberg honored Phillips for her accomplishments by naming her Chief Revenue Officer of the Year — an annual award that used to be called Publisher of the Year, but was changed to reflect publishers' expanding roles as media executives.

I spoke with Phillips at her office in One World Trade about finding her way to ad sales, her demanding and maternal managerial style and delivering "on steroids" for her marketing partners. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I was an English major and a minor in theology [at Boston College]. I thought about going into sports broadcasting but, like everybody else in the '80s, I ended up on Wall Street. After that I was a commercial real estate broker. And my father actually kept telling me, "You should be in ad sales, all these young women call on me and they remind me of you," he said, "They’re pushy and yet they’re charming." And you know what? I listened to that advice and I’m so lucky because I’m in an industry where it immediately clicked.

Was Vogue your first title?

My first magazine was actually Soap Opera Digest. And I went from Soap Opera Digest to a magazine called Metropolis. I really learned a lot and then was at Vogue for 14 years.

What was your role there?

I was the account director on a fashion list. And it was great — fashion came naturally to me and I was the first Condé Nast Salesperson of the Year actually, two years later. And I decided then that my life's ambition would be to be the Condé Nast Publisher of the Year and I realized that last year. It was the best night of my life.

Were you nervous coming into Vogue that you didn't have connections in the fashion world?

No, it was actually exciting to me. When I came to Vogue, I came with an A-game, 24/7, 365 days a year attitude and work ethic — so I fit right in. Working at Vogue is the Ivy League, it's the Harvard Business School, you leave working there and you know how to do everything perfectly. I think I was promoted five times while I was there. I was constantly challenged, I was constantly learning something new and felt like my career was constantly moving forward.

How would you characterize yourself as a manager?

When I was first got into management, I got a call from HR and they said, 'You’re asking inappropriate questions in job interviews.' And if you know me, there’s nothing about me that’s inappropriate. But you can’t ask people what birth order they fall in in their family and how that effects them professionally or personally [laughing]. I couldn’t believe it and I thought, 'Okay, I have to come up with different questions in my mind and run it by them.' I’m the oldest which means I’m protective and bossy. I think that my management is probably at the intersection of demanding and maternal.

Who were your mentors during that time?

I’ve always considered Anna Wintour to be a mentor — she’s absolutely brilliant. The the best advice anyone ever gave me that I use every day in my career came from my 10th grade English teacher. Mrs. Goppelt taught me to take everything as a molehill and I'll never have to face a mountain. And a few years ago [at InStyle] I probably won one of the biggest wins in my career. We were up against every other magazine and Simon Cowell’s company for a big L'Oréal piece of business and I just used that strategy and we won. I sat down that afternoon and I called Mrs. Goppelt. I said, 'I’m calling to thank you. You taught me this lesson and I use it everyday.' She said that was the best call she ever got and it was the best call to actually make.

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When you went to InStyle, how did you go about turning the brand around in a positive way?

Identify who the consumer is and why that consumer is necessary and vital to a marketer. Understand the white space in a market. How am I going to fill it? We won big during my time there. We put 499 pages on that brand. And then I was able to come home to Condé Nast.

How did that happen?

I was having dinner with [Condé Nast CEO] Chuck Townsend one night — I can tell you what I was wearing, I was wearing a red Oscar de la Renta dress and I had my Texas hair — and he said, 'Enough is enough, it's time to come home.' And I said, 'Well, if I come home, I want to come home to run Glamour.' And he said, 'Great, that's the brand we want you for.' It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

The August issue of 'Glamour.' Photo: Matt Irwin/Glamour

The August issue of 'Glamour.' Photo: Matt Irwin/Glamour

Why did you feel an affinity for the brand?

I grew up reading Glamour. I went to an all-girls school and I always identified with Glamour because it was about women’s empowerment and it was about women feeling chic and powerful every single day. The DNA of Glamour and my DNA, in a mental way, are very much aligned.

How have you gone about turning the Glamour business around?

I think you have to start by identifying who reads it. The great thing about this brand is we have such enormous scale. We reach one in eight American women and now the book looks so amazing. We provide an environment where [marketers] want their message to be told, yet we provide the scale that can actually get your product sold. I always say to my people, you need to know what keeps your advertisers up at night, because whatever is keeping them up at night is what you have to solve.

What keeps the advertisers up at night?

What's going on in brick and mortar, or they might say, 'Am I doing what's right digitally, am I doing social smart enough?' And thats where we come in. It is really my mantra that we are our client's best business partner. Am I your best business partner and if not, who is and why? And what are they doing better? 

How do you approach business online?

Our digital strategy is absolutely our number one priority. Our digital revenue in just the two years that I’ve been here has grown 122 percent. This summer we’ve taken every single one of our sellers and completely integrated them so there is not a print team or a digital team. If you’re a client, the person who is calling on you is calling on you for all of your needs.

How has the print business changed over the course of your career?

Your brand no longer has one iteration, it's not just about print. It is giving the consumer the content she wants where she wants it and when she wants it — on her mobile device in the morning, on her desktop in the afternoon; she’s still curling up with that printed piece in the evening. I would tell young people who are considering getting into this business that absolutely, it is a great business. Think about the menu you can walk into somebody’s office with, meeting all their objectives well.

What is your biggest challenge at this point?

I think that the biggest challenge is how fast-paced change is. You have to prioritize keeping up with it and you have to listen, learn and move on it.