Women to Watch

Women to Watch: Maryam Banikarim, Gannett

As Storied Publisher Looks to Grow Its Brand, It Calls on Former NBC and Univision Marketer as Its First CMO

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Maryam Banikarim is all about speed. And she needs that speed to keep up with her fast-paced career track, which in the past decade has taken her from chief marketing officer at Univision to senior VP-integrated sales marketing at NBC and, as of March, to the newly created role of senior VP-CMO at Gannett.

Maryam Banikarim
Maryam Banikarim

After almost 90 years without a CMO post at the company, which boasts 82 daily U.S. newspapers including USA Today, as well as digital assets such as CareerBuilder.com, Gannett decided it needed an executive to "weave those brands together" to grow opportunity across the board, said President-Chief Operating Officer Gracia Martore.

Ms. Banikarim is one of three executive hires the company added in the past year. The new hires come at a time of great transformation for Gannett, which has just launched its first national brand campaign, tagged "It's All Within Reach." The campaign, which spans print, digital and TV, includes a revamped website and has added the stamp "a Gannett Company" to all its media outlets.

Gannett, traditionally focused on local brands such as the Des Moines Register, is "not necessarily a company that 's been out there building its corporate brand," said Ms. Banikarim. "Part of what I've been brought in to do is to bring all the pieces together. ... I have a pretty long history of getting different parts of an organization to work as a whole."

Jeff Zucker, her boss at NBC, where Ms. Banikarim contributed to and oversaw initiatives such as "Green Is Universal," Women at NBCU and Healthy at NBCU, agrees. "She made integrated marketing come to life at NBC Universal -- that 's a big deal," said Mr. Zucker.

Ms. Banikarim, whose family fled Iran during the revolution of 1979, has always been on the move and says the thing she's worst at is "sitting still." She plans to grow the Gannett brand both by connecting people internally and by bringing in outside perspectives. One of the first programs she has introduced since arriving at Gannett is a speaker series in which other marketing leaders talk about how they built their business. She's also been busy going on field visits to meet employees and share communication. "People are surprised at how much you actually learn when you listen," Ms. Banikarim said.

As the company known for its rich print history moves into the digital age, Ms. Martore says to stay tuned. "I think you're going to see some wonderful new things coming from Gannett, and they're going to have Maryam's handprint on them."

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