Kim Martin – Vice President & General Manager of Women's Entertainment Television
The Reformer: Kim Martin knows what makes us laugh and cry – and tune in.
By Rebecca Wetherbee
“I’ve learned that when you’re hired to turn things around, that doesn’t mean cleaning house and firing everybody,” says Kim Martin, executive vice president and general manager of Women’s Entertainment Television (WE tv). Since assuming her position three and a half years ago, Martin has restructured and revamped WE’s programming to suit the desires of her viewers – a vast and diverse demographic of women ranging from ages 18 to 49. Now available in more than 70 million U.S. households, WE tv – home of Bridezilla, The Secret Lives of Women and Baby Borrowers – boasts the fastest-growing viewership among women. Martin, who oversees WE’s programming, marketing, production and scheduling, also has her hands in digital media via the WE website (wetv.com).
The site has recently undergone an extreme makeover. Here, Martin talks to PINK about connecting with women both on TV and online.
PINK: What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
Kim Martin: For two jobs, I was hired to come into an organization that had hit a plateau and turn it into a success. It’s better to clearly communicate with all the existing employees what is expected of them and what the big picture is for the company. So many times you have talented people who just don’t have the resources they need to be successful; they’re never told what they need to do to contribute to the company’s success.
PINK: How do you communicate your vision to people who are used to doing things differently?
K.M.: The key is to do it consistently – and remind them often. You share with them your mission, your vision and the tactics you have for getting there. That way, everyone has a seat at the table, and they all have a voice and a vested interest in the success of the organization. But nobody is a perfect manager, and not every employee is a perfect fit. Occasionally you have employees whose hearts aren’t in it, or they just weren’t right for the organization – and they have to go. At WE, we had to let a couple of people go. But the people who stayed were passionate about our mission and had the tools to do their jobs.
PINK: How have you revamped the content on WE tv?
K.M.: We’ve recognized that women love movies when they have time to watch them. Women today lead such busy lives – juggling work, home life and friends – that sitting down for two hours is a luxury. So we changed our focus from two-hour movies to half-hour and one-hour programs.
PINK: You also pushed for more reality programming. Why?
K.M.: Our goal is to inform and entertain women, and we do it with fascinating stories about women. We are committed to original programming that fits the lifestyle of our viewers. We have a block of all wedding programming called WE Go Bridal, a series of documentaries called WE Reveal and another block called WE Transform, a series that involves either a physical or emotional transformation. Women feel like the reality programs are more relevant to their own lives. And quite frankly, it’s more cost-effective [for the network]. The growth in viewership has been phenomenal for us, particularly with young women. We’ve tripled our viewership with young women over the past three years.
PINK: You’ve recently overhauled your website – something PINK is doing in the next month. What were your main concerns as you designed it?
K.M.: The mission for our site has evolved over the last year. For the past seven years, our goal online was to drive more people to the network, to make people tune in more regularly. In the past year, the goal was to have additional content with behind-the-scenes footage of our shows, which drives more people to watch the shows. But women want to see more than just three-minute clips. Now we see our site as a stand-alone content destination. We divided the site into channels that reflect the life stages women are in: single, engaged, expecting, mom. We’ve got content in each channel that’s relevant for each life stage.
PINK: What’s the biggest career mistake you’ve ever made?
K.M.: I wish I had gotten a management coach early on. I’ve come to recognize that I could’ve gained so much more wisdom earlier in my career if I’d had a coach – someone to bounce ideas off of, to help look over my mission statement and to help me become the best executive I can be. Your peers and the people working below you have a tendency to just tell you what you want to hear. You need somebody who has that unbiased look at your career to give you an honest assessment. I have a coach now. I’ve had her since I took the job as general manager, and it’s great to have someone who doesn’t work for the company who can give you an outside perspective on what you need to do to improve, to become a better executive and a better leader. She talked with each of my direct reports and my boss to receive feedback on me. Then she presented their collective feedback to me. It was some of the best and most valuable feedback I’ve received, highlighting very specific behaviors that I need to be aware of – thoughts I don’t think my team would ever have shared with me directly.
PINK: How do you balance work with family?
K.M.: I’m a devoted wife and mother of two daughters – Madison, who’s 10, and Savannah, who’s 13 – so I have to spend a lot of time with my family. We’re committed to eating dinner together seven nights a week, unless I’m traveling for business. I try to invite my girls or my husband to events at work. I also try to find time for me, to exercise, and that helps me manage the stress.
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