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TCA Gatekeeper Mary Shaw Enters the Vortex

Local Hero: As liaison for cablers and press at the TV Critics Assn. tour, Shaw says this is the best time of year

OVERVIEW

Mary Shaw never had aspirations to become a juggler. But twice a year, the D.C.-based exec at the Cable & Telecommunications Assn. for Marketing juggles 25 cable networks and 250 press members over three days, with the goal of creating Television Critics Assn. sessions that appear seamless.

For the summer press tour, which kicked off July 24 at the BevHilton, Shaw began planning in mid-March, working with reps from each network to deal with everything from press credentials to hotels to food and beverage. Her goal: “We make it easier for the cable networks. We take anything we can off their hands so that their publicists can be able to do their jobs and just work on whatever that program is.”

PREP TIME

In March, Shaw sends out requests for proposals to the cable networks to find out which shows they plan to feature and the time they feel they need for each one. Once everything comes back by the mid-April deadline, her life becomes all TCA, all the time. While she used to be the primary contact for the press only, she’s now assumed the role as liaison to the cable networks as well, making her skills as a coordinator crucial. “It’s really nuts right now,” Shaw said, “but I love it.” One of the keys is scheduling. The org is the umbrella for 25 cablers, all of which want the right time and date. “CTAM’s responsibility is to support cable, so we obviously want all of our networks to get what they’d like out of this, which is the amount of time they feel (they need) to highlight their new programs,” Shaw said. Because the days are so crowded, she added, the trick is for them to condense their message.

LATE ARRIVALS

Aside from renewing credentials for all existing TCA members, Shaw has to weigh the applications of newcomers, who are frequently members of the fast-growing Internet newsies. And, of course, many people show up at the event without having applied, and it’s Shaw’s job to determine whether they should be admitted. “The networks are busy, and they’re trying to start their session, and somebody’s coming in saying, ‘Oh yeah, I’m with so and so, can I get in?’ And it’s my job to research a little bit.” Shaw said the Johnny-come-latelies can get pretty testy, but declined to mention specifics: “What happens at the TCA, stays at the TCA,” she deadpanned.

OTHER EVENTS

Shaw spends six days in Los Angeles in the summer for the TCA, but the rest of the time, she’s in D.C. working on the org’s other projects, such as its programs that help consumers who are moving residences, as well as those who need help purchasing on-demand movies. She also works to organize January’s smaller, Winter Press tour.

BACKGROUND

Shaw attended George Mason U. and worked in corporate communications at Gannett before joining CTAM. She took over the TCAs two and a half years ago.

FAMILY TIME

Shaw spends most of her time off the job taking care of her 8-year-old twins, who helped her pack her boxes for the press tour and share some of her interests. “They love cable (TV),” she said.

STATS

Name: Mary Shaw
Job Title: Manager of Communications and Media Relations for CTAM
Function at the TCA: Make the process easier for cable networks and the press
Years on the Job: 5 with CTAM; 2½ working on the TCAs
Number of Registered Press She Handles Per TCA: 252
Estimated Press Showing Up Onsite, Without Having Sent Applications: 20-30

(Local Hero is a tribute to the people who are invisible but invaluable: They’re not in the spotlight, but the biz couldn’t function without them.)

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