Today we’d like to introduce you to Siria Contreras.
Siria, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My professional career has been centered in the fields of Entertainment and Digital Marketing.
I actually got my start at Variety magazine, I was recruited by them in my early 20s and was lucky enough to be there at a time where there were a lot of great things happening. We helped develop early iterations of what is now known as the Variety Studio and Actors on Actors awards-season staples, the Variety Careers brand, as well as a major digital evolution of brand’s digital presence (Variety.com). What I loved about Variety was that it is a bit of a family, people stay a long time. In fact, some of those that I would say I learned a lot from while there are now actually the folks running the brand/magazine including Dea Lawrence (current CMO) and Michelle Sobrino-Stearns (current Publisher & CRO). I also met some of my long-time collaborators while working there, a couple of which are a part of Consciously Studio. Friends would always ask about what it was like to be around so much talent while there, but in all honesty, working at Variety also gave me immunity to the celebrity factor, as when you deal with so much of the behind-the-scenes, the glitz and glamour of awards and festival season has little effect on you.
After Variety, I went on to NBC Universal to work under the NBCSkycastle brand, under entertainment veterans and founders of the Skycastle brand, David Warshawsky, Joe & Kevin Candido, and the late Robert Noonoo. Aside from working on marketing and tie-ins with the great shows at the time (The Tonight Shows, The Office, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock), we were pioneering what is now known as integrated marketing. I actually credit David & Joe with coming up with that concept. We also developed the concept of OOH marketing, which includes the “at the gas pump” content that is now a part of our everyday lives. I was also there during the Leno and O’Brien Tonight Show debacle, an interesting time to say the least.
My next stop was at CBS/CBS Interactive for a number of years. This was the beginning of the shift to SVOD, Apps/Mobile First, OTT, and Social Media dominance. We started out a small team building out all of the digital presence and original content for all of the CBS shows, growing the CBS.com website to include more than just show previews and promos to make it a destination. I was encouraged to test new things and be creative, for a long time we were a team of two and eventually three marketers owning the entire digital brand, promoting existing shows, and launching all of the new shows season after season–including the new late nights with Stephen Colbert and James Corden. I became an expert at audience-building. So much of what you see now, we built and grew in partnership with the video, publicity, and network teams. I also oversaw all of the events and activations while there. I had great success also leading our CRM programs, which added another source of revenue and traffic to the business. All of these efforts eventually led to a small team (seriously less than 10 people) working on the launch of CBS All Access. Three of the Consciously Studio team members also came from CBS–Mike Myles, Madison Medeiros, and Nick Golding. Having built so much from scratch for that brand was a bit comparable to going to war together, so I remain super-close to just about everyone I worked with here.
Eventually, AT&T’s Entertainment Group convinced me to join their team right before their Turner/Warner Bros merger. Shifting over to AT&T, I faced for the first time in my career the reverse problem of what I’d dealt with in prior roles. At AT&T, I had the audiences–millions and millions of consumers of every demo and sociographic but lacked the content. Kind of a marketer’s dreams really. Aside from Audience Network originals (Mr. Mercedes, Condor, numerous documentaries), Sports (NFL Sunday Ticket, FIFA World Cup, The Masters) Awards Season (IFC Independent Spirit Awards, Tribeca), Music (iHeart Radio, Audience Sessions, Governor’s Ball NYC) and Social Responsibility, DirecTV and DirecTV NOW (now known as AT&T’s TV Now).
As I was at AT&T, our world really changed in a way that most of us couldn’t really ignore anymore. I decided it was time to use some of the same knowledge and expertise that I’d developed in my 15+ years in marketing and apply it to ways that could help us tackle some of our world’s issues.
From an early age, I’ve always been pretty philanthropical, and try to give back in as many ways as I can. These days, I focus my efforts around areas/causes I believe in which are the Arts, People, and Planet. I am a founding and executive team member of Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, co-founder of Austin based The Nourish Foundation. I also support other organizations like the ACLU, Carry the Earth, and Beyond Baroque Literary and Arts Center, as well as the Wonder Women group started by my lovely friend, the NYC Tech maven Yao Huang.
With as much as I do in my personal time, professionally while at AT&T, I felt more and more compelled to do more to make the world a little better and in the Spring of this year, I launched Consciously Studio.
Consciously Studio is a content, strategy, and marketing studio, engaging audiences to empower social and corporate change. Our focus is primarily on Gen Z.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Launching Consciously Studio was actually not very hard. I had a pretty clear sense of what I wanted it to be, obviously as with any start-up there’s a lot of testing, fine-tuning, and re-prioritization that happens.
The easiest part was likely building the team, as I knew exactly who I wanted to be a part of it. If you read the team bios, you will find that most of them are former colleagues of mine from my world of entertainment as I’d mentioned primarily CBS and Variety. I also used to put on music nights in L.A. (there’s actually a documentary on one of them, which was highly popular in the mid-to-late 2000s), fashion shows, and had an online lifestyle mag and radio station, so a couple of others came from that creative part of my world.
One of the biggest challenges, I think for anyone leading any team or project is choosing just a few things to work on and also to delegate. At some point, you have to realize that you are only one person or only one team. I try to stay cognizant of that and definitely still make sure that I have a good work/life balance. I tend to always be pretty busy but always make time for fun. It’s important to do that, otherwise, you’ll burn out before you reach your destination.
Another challenge is that with a start-up, there is a lot to do to build the company that even your team doesn’t realize that you’re doing. All of the “boring” back-end, behind-the-scenes work that needs to get done. So balancing is something you learn to master. If you can’t, then you should pull in the right experts to help you. As Founder & CEO, this is my company and obviously I feel a sense of responsibility to do the bulk of the work but an important lesson is to learn to ask for help when and if you need it.
Time management is also something that each person needs to monitor. I tend to let our teamwork pretty autonomously but recognize that some members like to work in groups or more collaboratively so I try to make time for that. I get approached a lot by potential partners, collaborators and definitely also try to make the time to meet with those that make sense. When I worked at some of the entertainment companies, I felt like I was in meetings all day long–I’m still unsure how I accomplished so much work as I really was in meetings what felt like 60-70% of my work-weeks. I’m trying to not carry that culture over into Consciously Studio. However, I do reserve at least one day per week to have “discovery” or “explorative” meetings with new potential collaborators.
Lastly, I’ve also tried to be very smart about not absorbing too much overhead in this early stage of our company. I think that is a huge mistake that too many companies make, scaling too fast in a way that they can’t sustain. Our mission of “empowering the world to take positive action” is a big one, so I want to make sure that we’re around long enough to truly see a change in some of the areas that we’re focused on.
As a joke, I say that L.A. traffic is sometimes the biggest hindrance and blocker for companies based here.
Please tell us about Consciously Studio.
Consciously Studio, as I’d mentioned, is a content, strategy, and marketing studio, engaging audiences
to empower social and corporate change.
What this means is that we are working on campaigns, content, and solutions that impact our people and planet.
We specialize in helping companies and organizations of all kinds in developing authentic and impactful campaigns that resonate with their audiences, who are growing more and more socially responsible by the day.
Our big focus is on Gen Z and the issues that they care about, which also happen to be the biggest issues plaguing our country and world at this current moment. Our entire team is so proud and in admiration of this next generation and are working to empower them and provide them with opportunities and platforms to make a difference.
Most of our team comes from a background in entertainment. We know how to build audiences, experiences, and products for successful Fortune 500 and Fortune 10 brands and have decided to apply this to cause marketing.
What sets us apart from others in this space is that if we’re working on campaigns, say for example, if we’re working on one targeted towards Gen Z, we actually bring Gen Z onto our team to ensure that the voice and initiative is authentic and to increase. If we are working on a campaign around a certain issue, we bring in experts (everyone from scientists to non-profit organizations) who work in that space or that issue every day.
I’m most proud of the individuals on our team and how not only smart and talented they are, but also how much they really do care about making a difference in the world. We each could easily go back to taking on Sr. roles in our respective fields and industries, but we choose to unite and work on tackling some of these bigger issues.
We’re about to announce a big Gen Z campaign focused around voter registration and engagement that we’ve been working on for a bit, which brings together many of our worlds–music, lifestyle, fashion, and entertainment. Super-excited about that and a few other things that we’re working on soon.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I have many great memories from childhood, I thankfully had great parents and a good upbringing.
I think a general over-arching memory was just how encouraging my parents were overall in supporting my creativity. They didn’t necessarily foster it, but they never chastised me for it. I went through a painting phase, a writing phase, a “fashion design” phase (I’m sure my mom didn’t appreciate me using her curtains or table cloths to create new outfits for my dolls because I wanted more options than what the stores sold). Music was always on in my household too. The only thing I never really tried was theater or acting as I really much prefer behind-the-scenes, although I appreciate what actors do.
As long as I got good grades, which came fairly easy for me, they were pretty ok with my dabbling in those things. I’m still fairly social, so of course I also still went outside and played with friends and also played Volleyball and Soccer for school through the end of jr. high, but I was happiest when I was being creative or reading (I love books). In high school, I was too involved in student leadership and founding our school newspaper, which gave me my first dose of hands-on publishing.
Somewhat related, I just actually had a conversation with a friend not too long ago about awards and trophies as we had to order a trophy for something and were joking that sports trophies are always much larger than arts or academic awards. I can attest to the fact that this is true, as all of my brother’s sports awards definitely took up more real estate than the plaques or trophies and certificates I got for academics and writing and art awards. Thank goodness, my brother and I are not competitive with each other–quite the contrary.
Anyhow, I am sure that this sort of support from my parents may have something to do with the fact that I’m still pretty creative to this day–although being creative is such a part of me that I’m sure I would’ve continued it somehow. I still love fashion, mostly dresses (my love of dresses is pretty well-known in my circle of friends). I’m not too high-maintenance, but I do love being a girl. I still write sometimes, not with any regularity mostly when inspiration hits me. I’m toying with the idea of writing a book or series next year, but we’ll see. I sadly haven’t really painted in a while, unless we need something impromptu–maybe one day, I’ll make time to pick it up again until then, I’ll just keep visiting museums and appreciate the work of others.
- Website: www.consciouslystudio.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/consciously_studio/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/consciouslystudio
photos by Andie Mills and Yao Huang