Q & A

Time Inc.'s West Coast Post

From her L.A. office, Cyd Wilson directs event strategy for two of New York's biggest celebrity magazines.

November 7, 2006, 12:00 AM EST

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Cyd Wilson
Title: Director of creative development for In Style and People
What She Plans: Wilson throws two dozen events a year around the world. “I am responsible for all the branding events that involve the Hollywood community. I do events internationally for our international publications, anything that’s entertainment-industry related. The events are about a quarter of my responsibilities. I do all of our cause-related marketing between our advertisers and Hollywood charities, as well as all of our philanthropic giving for both of the magazines. I’m also responsible for our larger relationships—like maintaining partnerships in the entertainment industry, such as In Style’s marketing partnership with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.”
Staff: An L.A.-based manager and coordinator
Age: 54
Career Path: Wilson graduated from CSUN with a B.A. in business administration, and then worked in psychiatric hospital administration for 10 years. After taking a decade off to raise her kids, she volunteered with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. From there, she became development director and helped create the Time for Heroes event. Sponsors included People, whose then-president, Ann Moore, recruited her as a liaison between Time Inc. magazines and charities. Wilson began as a consultant in 1995 and moved to In Style when it launched. When its founding editor, Martha Nelson, moved to People, Wilson agreed to work with the weekly as well.
Where She Lives: Brentwood
Where She Grew Up: Born in Hollywood, raised in Van Nuys
Favorite Event Designers: Stanley Gatti, Thomas Ford
Favorite Song: “I Will Survive”

With nearly all of Time Inc.’s staff in New York, why are you based in Los Angeles and how do you coordinate with people there?
We’re in Los Angeles because the entertainment industry primarily ishere. And even though the majority of both magazines’ editorial staffis in New York, there is still the need to have someone here on theground interfacing with the Hollywood community. There is a team ofevents people in the New York offices of In Style and Peoplethat primarily do in-store events, events related to their advertisers.If there’s no Hollywood connection to it, I’m not involved. The eventsI coordinate and am responsible for only have to do with charitableentities that we’re involved with and/or the entertainment industry. Iinterface with our New York teams primarily when I’m working on acharity event and I want to bring one of our advertisers in as asponsor.

Do you take a different approach to the two magazines?
In Style is about entertaining, so we try to bring the pages to life when we entertain. When you go to an In Style event, there’s a certain feel to it. Not that People doesn’t want to be gracious to its guests as well. People magazine is more about their relationships than it is about entertaining, so I do take a little bit of a different tack. The [People] SAG awards party was produced very similarly to the way we produce In Style events. People has had a relationship with the Screen Actors Guild for eight or nine years. That event and that relationship were createdto give our advertisers an opportunity to sponsor things in theHollywood community. When Martha Nelson, the founding editor of In Style magazine, moved to Peopleand saw this was a Hollywood community event that was very important tothe editorial brand, she made the conscious decision to say that thisis an event that we will no longer have our advertisers involved in.This is more about us celebrating the Screen Actors Guild. With that alarge donation is made to the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, $100,000.

How do you decide whom to partner with?
Sometimes it’s somebody who’s already being featured in the magazine.We may say to them, “We want to thank you for being on the cover andwe’d like to host something for you.” Many years ago, Jennifer Anistonwas on the cover [of In Style]and she had a friend who was a photographer who was struggling to makeit. She said she wanted to host an exhibit for him, and so we did. Itwas also in our magazine because a celebrity had purchased some of hisphotography and hung it in their home, and we shot it. So there wasreason behind all of it. Everything is strategic that way. We don’tusually say, let’s have a party just to have a party. There’s form andfunction to these parties, and it’s based on the content of themagazine. The competition for celebrity magazine parties has been getting more intense in recent years.

How do you continue to reinvent yourself in such a competitive atmosphere?
In Style doesn’t talk about [celebrities’] work, we don’treview their clothing. I think because we’re not critiquing them,they’re much more comfortable with us. They know we’re not going totake pictures of them drinking and smoking, because that’s not whatgoes into our magazine.

So do you think it’s easier for you to get A-list people to your events?
Here’s the thing that’s so fickle about Hollywood. This week somebody’sA-list, and next week, they’re not. What we try to develop arelong-standing relationships that will ride the ups and the downs ofeverybody’s career. We love people before they’re anybody. I was havinglunch with J. J. Harris, Charlize Theron’smanager. She said she loves the dinners we host and asked if we wouldconsider doing one for Theron. Before anybody knew anything about Monster, I said, “We’d love to host a dinner for her.” And Charlize will say again and again, In Style was there for her before she got her Golden Globe, before she got her Academy Award.

How do you manage to avoid repeating yourself and come up with something fresh every time?
I have been fortunate to work with some fabulously creative and funpeople. I choose not to work with designers and vendors that are primadonnas. [For] the designers that I use for our events, this is notabout their PR. I’ve worked with people before like that, [where] firston the designer’s list is, “How many PR spots am I going to get? I’mgoing to get my hair and makeup done and walk the red carpet.” Becausewe work in a very fun environment, I have designers working on theevent for next year the day after they finish the event.

One of the signatures of In Style parties is your nuclear-strength gift bags. How does that fit into your branding strategy?
It was born from the fact that we have a lot of luxury advertisers thatwould like to have their products in the hands of the Hollywoodcommunity— agents and managers, people who are the movers and shakers.We go out to our advertisers and PR firms and we try to put togetherthe best bag we possibly can, but it’s an opportunity for ouradvertisers.

Are you steering a steady course or is your strategy evolving?
It evolves because there is no real course. I’m given a set budgetevery year. We know a year ahead of time whether we’re going to do anOscar or a Golden Globes party.But the rest of my budget is ever evolving. I may say, I’m going to dothree cover parties, a book party, and a couple of small dinners, butit changes every month. When In Style started, we were goingto do one big event a year and ten that were 100 to 200 people. Thatstrategy has changed completely. We do a couple of the big events, butprimarily we try to do many smaller events. We sponsored Elton [John]’s Oscar partyfor nine years. We haven’t sponsored it for two years, and we will notsponsor it again. It doesn’t mean we don’t support him, but theorganization is so big and so healthy that they easily can get othersponsors on board. For six years, we’ve done a small viewing party forthe Oscars—small being 150 to 200 people—because Elton’s party was afund-raiser and we were limited to two tables at the event and 15 to 20people at the after-party. It was branding for us at an important time,during the Oscars, but we also felt that there was a need for oureditors to do some entertaining. That party continues and I think thatwill continue forever for us. I can’t say that budget cuts didn’t havea lot to do with [pulling out of the foundation fund-raiser]. Timeshave changed at Time Inc. On a night when Elton can garner $25,000 atable [for charity], for us to underwrite the event and then on top ofthat buy extra seats—we didn’t feel that was something we could do.

Irene Lacher

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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