Executive Vice President & General Manager, IFC
Posted on: February 8, 2012 | Go to profile
In addition to juggling day-to-day operations of the Independent Film Channel’s network, Jennifer also serves as executive producer for popular alternative comedies Onion News Network and Portlandia, as well as the channel’s industry-establishing docu-series Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut). Jennifer is responsible for the brand’s transition from a primarily indie film network to an all-things-indie-culture destination, with a specific slant toward comedy. Despite her male-dominated audience, Jennifer has pioneered a new niche in the indie media industry, and was recently named a “Who’s Next” leader by Fast Company.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I was a dancer from the age of 12 and even attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. However, when I got to college, I decided to pursue another passion – media. My first job was in radio but I longed to be in cable television. Cable had such a huge influence and impact on my life. I was the MTV generation. I finally got that break when I was hired as a marketing manager at Food Network. From there I moved to Oxygen and then Court TV as I climbed the marketing ranks. In 2004 I found a home at IFC. During my time here I’ve been fortunate to see the network recognized as a premier indie film brand, and now, as the network’s General Manager, I am leading IFC’s evolution to a destination for all things indie culture and alt comedy. It’s been a fantastic journey.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: As a leader it’s your responsibility to set a course for your business and remind everyone where they are along the journey. Point to the end goal and keep everyone on track. Hire people who have talents and skills different from your own. Own the rights and the wrongs. Celebrate your successes but also own up to your failures and use the experience to correct your course for the future.
Q: If a business has several, viable ways to grow and innovate, how do you pick the best road to take?
A: Do research and speak to your audience – the feedback is invaluable. Look back and study what’s worked and hasn’t worked before: for successful businesses, different industries, the competition. Model out what you aspire to be and when you choose the best road to get there – follow your gut.
Q: What do you believe makes a great brand?
A: A great brand is made when it’s easy to articulate, relatable and it fills a need in your life, whether it’s utility, emotion or loyalty. Some of the greatest brands are ones that evoke loyalty and an emotional connection. Those are the brands that consumers decide they just can’t live without.
Q: Content is still king. When launching or creating new content brands, what special ingredients do you look for?
A: At IFC, we look for alt comedy programming that’s outside the mainstream, but not off the beaten path. It’s what we call “slightly off.” We appreciate content that’s authentic and shares the same sensibilities found in the indie films that viewers have come to know and love us for. Our series are an extension of that mindset.
Q: What do you feel separates your brand from your competitors?
A: There’s a constant competition in the world to fit in and be like everyone else. At IFC we embrace and celebrate what’s off kilter. It’s signified by our tagline and mantra, “Always On. Slightly Off.” And it’s inherent in the tone we use to speak to our audience. It comes through in our programming, our website, our on-air promos, in presentations. We wear the brand and mission of our network like a badge of honor.
ON Letting go
Q: What do you do to unwind or disconnect?
A: It’s difficult to disconnect completely. As a mother of two young boys and with a lot of responsibility at work, my time is divided between family and business leaving very little time for my personal interests. Lucky for me I love what I do for a living. Although I’ve recently made a conscious decisions to carve out time for myself and recently started taking hot yoga classes and joined a gym. I only make it there twice a week… but it’s a start!
ON Taking Risk
Q: Usually reaching something great or grand in life requires taking a risk. What has been your greatest risk so far and how was it rewarding?
A: On a personal level, it was a scary decision to completely change my direction from being a dance major to going into the media industry. I had trained and given up so much of my teenage years for my art. It turns out the decision I made at 18 years old was my best decision ever. Professionally, and much more recently, I took a big risk changing IFC’s business model. We went from a network with sponsorships to a fully advertising supported channel. We took a 15-year old business and reinvigorated it to so we could bring viewers more of the programming they want. I’m proud the shift was a success, and IFC continues to grow because of the chance we took.
ON Time Management
Q: Online calendars, emailing ourselves, post-it notes… I’m still struggling to find the best way to manage my time and to do list? What’s your method?
A: I keep all of my business and personal appointments together so I can see everything on one device and in one place. So my son’s half day at school is listed next to my strategy meeting at IFC followed by a dentist appointment. And, if that means my assistant sees that I have an eyebrow wax appointment at 7:30 am, so be it!
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I infuse my personal style into our corporate dress code so I’ll wear vintage T-shirts sporting my favorite rock bands under my suits, I layer silver bracelets up my arms, I never wear traditional nail polish, and even with jeans, I always, always have on a great pair of heels. It’s my personal brand, which I guess you can say is also “slightly off.”