Kim Kelleher of AMC Networks on Empathy in Leadership

By Tomorrow Will Be Televised Archives
Cover image for  article: Kim Kelleher of AMC Networks on Empathy in Leadership

When Gene Kelly, playing debonair, swashbuckling silent film actor Don Lockwood in the iconic film musical Singin' in the Rain, is questioned by a gossip columnist for his key to success at a Hollywood movie premiere, he utters one sentence: "Dignity… always dignity." Chances are good that Kim Kelleher (pictured), AMC Networks' President of Commercial Revenue and Partnerships, faced with someone asking the same key to success question these days, will respond with an equally brief answer: empathy, always empathy.

Indeed, during a 15-minute segment of Advertising Week NY last Tuesday, Kelleher was asked to elaborate on her belief that empathy is her main pathway to leading her AMC Networks staff through operating successfully amid the coronavirus pandemic. That ongoing crisis "has changed us in so many ways," she reasoned. "The best leaders are more thoughtful and tuned into these conversations more than ever before. It's more of a balancing act, a real learning curve for me."

In recent months, Kelleher has led her employees to drive success in three important new directions despite the challenges and restrictions imposed by the pandemic. One is the development of programmatic and addressable ad sales on the company's assortment of linear channels. Hotel chain Best Western, Smithfield Foods and Securian Financial were among the national advertisers running programmatic or addressable campaigns on AMC's channels this summer, in partnership with The Trade Desk (a cloud-based platform for advertisers and marketers) and monetization transaction agent Magnite.

Another is growing AMC+, the mega-content service incorporating material from the company's ad-supported networks in commercial-free fashion. In the coming month, AMC+ will debut Ragdoll, the new crime drama series from the producers of Killing Eve, and launch "Friday Movie Streamieres," which will offer the premiere of a new flick each Friday, produced by AMC's RLJE Films subsidiary.

One more outcome is creating The Content Room, an in-house branded content studio now in business with a number of sponsors on various projects.

For Kelleher, empathy in leadership allows the ability to pivot quickly in addressing new business opportunities, from programmatic ad campaigns to The Content Room, with full support from employees at all levels. "One advantage we (cultivated) from the pandemic was generating the tools to communicate better," Kelleher explained. "Better resources to apply in a visual environment. Everything feels very intentional now. There's huge opportunity to make work easier. The employees are getting the desired results."

In return, Kelleher's staff is approaching day-to-day business goals with their own degrees of empathy. "My team has inspired me to keep the activity going," she acknowledged. "We do regular daily sessions, plus a weekly all-hands-on-deck gathering where we go over top priorities. We're helping people innovate and contribute toward where we're trying to go."

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