If you were watching the flow of news out of NBCUniversal as it switched corporate hands last year, you will have noticed Lauren Zalaznick rapidly ascending to a top spot in the company’s corporate hierarchy without seeming at all flustered or unprepared.
“It’s a challenge to maintain sharpness and effectiveness in each area of business and each area of life, but at the same time, it’s kind of heightened my focus and my sharpness,” she says matter-of-factly. “There’s a reason adrenaline is fun.”
Zalaznick has gone from retooling lifestyle cabler Bravo for major profitability to running a full division at NBCU — Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media.
It’s a mouthful, but it does something both very simple and very difficult: it organizes NBCU’s panoply of brands whenever there’s a job to be done. Zalaznick has opened a whole new sector in advertising over the last couple of years — companies can now buy a specifically tailored package designed to appeal to a specific demo, including, most recently, ads that play simultaneously on all the relevant channels, making literal reality of the old “Simpsons” gag in which Homer hears a different word of the same sentence on every channel.
That kind of synergy is, unsurprisingly, a bear to organize. “There’s no time during the day when folks are kicking back and throwing pencils in the ceiling and wondering what’ll happen in five minutes,” Zalaznick says. “That said, the goal that (exec VP, Comcast and CEO/prexy, NBCUniversal ) Steve Burke set for us is that it’s got to be of value for the entirety of the company, and so each individual area reaps real benefit.”
And with all the new responsibility — Zalaznick now oversees Telemundo and Mun2, as well as the Women at NBCU suite of cablers, among other duties — the division chair is learning the necessity of plain old enjoyment. “I’ve learned that the happier I am, the better I am at having fun at work and delivering results,” she admits. “There’s more of a correlation between fun and results at work than I maybe once thought.”
Title: Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media
Role model: “I have sort of a composite role model that adds up to a person who doesn’t really exist in the world.”
Career mantra: “Don’t be a drag.”
Leisure pursuits: “We’re a family of five, so if we’re not at work or school, there’s some form of cooking or eating.”
Philanthropic passion: “My dad passed away this summer, which was really tough, and we’ve kind of refocused my immediate family’s attention around Alzheimer’s and dementia research.”