As a girl summering in Orient, Susan Magrino learned to love the water. “I was fearless,” she said recently, recalling days spent crabbing on a small dinghy. Until one day, after loaning the boat to a neighbor, she discovered the motor broken.
“My father said, ‘Well, it’s your boat, it’s your responsibility,’ and I never forgot that lesson. It taught me that if something is given to you, it’s your responsibility. No one’s going to bail you out.”
It’s a lesson that stuck with Ms. Magrino, 57, through life’s mishaps and in her professional life as the CEO of her eponymous public relations agency in Manhattan. “If I’m going to get involved with something, I’m going to be responsible for it,” she said.
The part-time Orient resident was honored May 6 at the 2019 Matrix Awards, an annual ceremony held by New York Women in Communications, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower women in the communications field throughout their careers. The awards, first held in 1970, honor women in media, advertising, entertainment, film, television, theater, broadcasting, magazines, newspapers, public relations and new media.
As she accepted her award, Ms. Magrino was introduced by her close friend and one of her first clients, Martha Stewart. Though she had attended the prestigious event in the past, it was exciting to receive one, Ms. Magrino said.
“Public relations is typically in the background, not always in the foreground. Usually I’m accompanying the people who are being awarded,” she said. “It was different for me.”
Ms. Magrino joined fellow honorees, including Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef, CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell, Hearst Magazines chief content officer Kate Lewis, Starcom USA CEO Kathy Ring, The Ad Council president & CEO Lisa Sherman, and Pfizer executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer Sally Susman at the ceremony. Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a 2018 Matrix Award winner, emceed the ceremony.
“We are proud to honor Susan Magrino for her talents and for her impact on our industry and beyond,” said New York Women in Communications president Judith Harrison.
Receiving the honor allowed Ms. Magrino a moment to reflect on her 30-year career in the industry.
After graduating with degrees in English and art from Skidmore College, she began her career at The Crown Publishing Group and stayed there for nine years. “On the eve of turning 30, I didn’t want to look back with regret. I wanted to start my own business,” she said.
With a $10,000 loan from her father and the support of her sister, Allyn, who left her job to work with Ms. Magrino, the agency was founded in 1992.
“I bet my dad thought, wow, I’m going to have two kids back in Orient. But we paid him back in six months and the rest is history,” Ms. Magrino said.
Since then, the business has grown into a powerhouse, representing well-known travel, real estate, food, wine, spirits and special event brands worldwide. Her long list of clients include Martha Stewart, Moët Hennessy USA, Miami’s Fontainebleau and The James Beard Foundation Awards.
The firm perennially appears on the New York Observer’s ranking of the nation’s 50 most powerful PR firms in the country.
Ms. Magrino said the industry has changed at breakneck pace in the age of social media. “We do a lot of work with influencers on Instagram,” she said. Though many brands see social media as more attractive over traditional public relations, Ms. Magrino said a PR identity is more important than ever. “You need to know how to manage things and have a strategy. PR has a place at the table.”
Twenty-seven years after launching her own firm, the entrepreneur encourages other young women to pursue their dreams. “You have to be willing to take a risk sometimes, because great things can come out of risks.”
Photo caption: Longtime friend and client Martha Stewart introduced Ms. Magrino at the Matrix Awards last week. ( Matrix Awards courtesy photo)