Susan Magrino Dunning and Allyn Magrino Holmberg
of Magrino Agency have over 20 years experience in luxury wine and spirits,
travel, and lifestyle PR, representing brands such as Nicolas Feuillatte,
Hendricks, Hyatt, Sri Panwa, Hilton, Chandon, Martha Stewart and many more.
What does your company do?
Magrino is an award-winning, preeminent lifestyle public relations and marketing agency with more than 20 years of experience and success. The agency specializes in public relations, marketing, brand development, digital marketing and communications for the world’s most revered luxury brands in travel, real estate, food, wine & spirits, fashion, beauty, health & wellness, home furnishings & design, and consumer goods. The agency combines breakthrough creative ideas, unparalleled strategic insights and intelligence to achieve marketing and business goals for every client.
How did you start the agency? What were you doing at the time?
We opened the agency on May 1, 1992. Susan had been in book publicity at Crown Publishing where she directed media campaigns for authors including Martha Stewart, Dominick Dunne, Tama Janowitz and other interesting writers who allowed Susan to seek publicity in a wide range of media outlets and helped hone her signature “lifestyle” focus. She took her authors beyond just getting book reviews and was an early practitioner of turning them in to personalities and tastemakers. Allyn worked for an agency who was handling publicity for the French West Indies (St. Bart’s, St. Martin, Martinique and Guadeloupe), allowing her to combine her love of France/the French language with her other passion of travel.
In early 1992, after having been approached by many people outside of the publishing world who wanted to hire her to represent them, Susan decided to open an independent agency that would allow her to explore her other passions beyond books, including food, travel, media, fashion, beauty and other “lifestyle” areas. She convinced Allyn to leave her job with the French West Indies and partner with her in starting the agency.
Tell us about some of the highlights of your career thus far.
We have been fortunate to have had many and it is hard to name just a few. We’ve been lucky to be involved in a front row seat with many of our clients in helping direct strategy for brand growth. One stand out is having been with Martha Stewart from the beginning and being on the team that created America’s first lifestyle brand – from her books to her media business (including magazines, television, radio, and digital), to her IPO and her ever-expanding empire of merchandise.
We have launched and re-launched some of the best known names in hospitality, including One & Only Resorts, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Ranch at Live Oak Malibu, and most recently the new Hilton lifestyle brand Canopy by Hilton.
In the food world we have worked with the James Beard Foundation on their annual awards for the past eight years, taking the event from a food industry staple to a national “Oscar-like” event attracting attendees and sponsorships beyond the industry and garnering national and international coverage. Working with the people who are the best at what they do is another privilege we’ve had, including Frederic Fekkai, Charlie Rose, Oprah Winfrey, Bobby Flay, and Alain Ducasse. We are particularly proud that esteemed national and international brands such as Virgin Atlantic, Ann Taylor, Coty, Coach, the Michelin Guide, Baccarat, St. Louis, Puiforcat, and Dom Pérignon have turned to Magrino to help them with their press strategy and overall brand positioning.
What are some of your current projects that you’re excited about?
In the travel and hospitality space we are launching Hilton’s new lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton, with the first ones opening within the next year, and it has been great to be on the ground floor of the launch of an international hospitality brand. We’re also working with Hampshire Hotels on their new Debut collection of properties, with a very healthy pipeline of openings coming up. In the luxury real estate space we are working on two projects in Manhattan currently, including the Baccarat Hotel & Residences on 53rd Street, and 30 Park Place in Tribeca which will be the first Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences downtown.
Food, Wine & Spirits is another specialty area of the agency. We have been working with the William Grant & Sons portfolio of spirits for the past several years and are always energized by the initiatives we undertake for the brands ranging from The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky to Hendrick’s Gin to Milagro Tequila and more. Chandon sparkling wine from Moet Hennessey is an exciting brand, growing exponentially and their team really allows us to be part of the creative process in terms of developing events and strategic alliances and we find that very rewarding. Another client with a strong expansion plan is the Italian coffee brand Lavazza, which is rapidly increasing their footprint in the US and we’re having fun with a lot of creative initiatives (and who doesn’t love coffee!).
Home Design & Furnishings is also an exciting and strong pillar within the agency. Magrino currently represents Farrow & Ball, the UK-based fine paint and wallpaper brand that continues to expand its reach in the US market with store openings, new product launches, and strategic alliances. Another home design client is the annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Manhattan, which raises funds and awareness for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club.
It’s an intense, competitive industry and city – how do you stay calm and centered?
We have a fabulous team of 45 employees who deliver for our clients on a daily basis, and knowing we’ve got such a committed group who do whatever it takes to get the job done helps enormously in being able to keep focused on growing the business.
Highlight a few key pitfalls you’d advise against when creating a thriving business, and your tips for success.
Figure out what you are really passionate about and focus on that for your client base – the best results will come from working with clients that you truly believe in. Don’t just chase big retainers or clients you think will look good on your client list. If you don’t have the expertise required or are not passionate about the project, you won’t be able to get results and it will be harmful in the long run. Work with people who are the best at what they do and who have created a unique product or idea, not who are trying to mimic someone else’s success. Also, don’t spend so much time worrying about what your competitors are doing that you neglect growing your own business – while we are aware of other agencies in our space, we’ve never looked at them as impediments to our own growth and success.
What are some of the biggest changes you predict for the industry in the next 5-10 years?
Digital fluency is going to be key. As important as it is to have a focus for your practice, clients are again going to be looking for a seamless integration of services. The more that PR agencies can figure out how to grow or partner in these areas the bigger they will be. What won’t change is that you will need to put valuable face time into maintaining and growing clients. The best client is an existing one, so we always try to figure out how we can grow together.
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