It’s safe to say whether it’s through her years of work in journalism or talking to me about her latest project, Mary Kate McGrath has a knack for storytelling.
And as the chief content officer at Gallery Media Group, the home of PureWow, One37PM and more, McGrath is keeping her finger on the pulse of what’s new, innovative and necessary for her readers. What got McGrath to where she is now? It was her tenacity, which went into overdrive when she received her first no after she bombed an edit test at her dream publication.
Mother, wife and mentor to many, McGrath takes us on a journey from the start to her journalism career to the current direction Gallery Media Group is currently going. She reminds us that creativity is a muscle that not only needs pushed, but exercised. She also reminds me that hearing the word no, should fuel you into your next opportunity, not deter.
Her Agenda: Being the head woman in charge for Gallery Media Group, what is your day to day like?
Mary Kate McGrath: It’s nuts and fabulously chaotic. I’m in charge of overseeing the content and creative for Gallery Media Group, which means I oversee the creatives for PureWow, our women’s lifestyle destination as well as One37 PM. So my day is really comprised of almost anything. Most of that is spent in meetings with editors, designers, freelancers, sales team, potential or existing clients.
The role I play is trying to bring on creatives who push boundaries. Overall my role is to oversee the content that goes out of our doors. One of our taglines are ‘We make positivity louder.’ We are lifestyle brands, not news. So, we have the fun task of telling a woman how to wear her jeans, telling a guy what sneakers the cop, telling both of them what to read, eat, and how to make their lives better.
Her Agenda: How do you find the pulse of all things that are new and innovative?
Mary Kate McGrath: I pride myself on being a very curious person. My husband says it looks like I’m flirting with the world because I interview everyone. Because I’m an open person to interview, I’m constantly asking people questions. And then the other way is that I hire very smart, equally curious people who have great networks and can feel trends rising.
Her Agenda: Tell me a little bit about your start in journalism?
Mary Kate McGrath: My first job was at American Express for a magazine that’s now defunct. It was called Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine. I was not in the demographic at all, but the reason why I got the job was because I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to have a job when I graduated college. Then a few years later, I got an interview at InStyle, which was like the mothership calling me home. I’ve always loved InStyle. I bombed my first edit test and they politely told me that they were going to look elsewhere for a candidate and I just wasn’t going to have that. I was like ‘No, you don’t understand like I’m supposed to have this job.’ So I did another edit test.
I asked everyone around me to help with the design so it looked picture perfect. I copied their pages exactly. But put my own spin on it, and I got the job and that was the best job. That was so fun. I didn’t know growing up all of the things I love to do personally could translate to a job. I was always a shopper. I love nothing more than poking around stores. My mom and I, when I was very little, would sit in her king size bed and flip through catalogs together. When I became a market editor at InStyle, I was charged with finding trends out in the market or out in the world, and it was those past experiences came to life and that was the first example I ever had of where you can really find a job in the world that matches your passion and then it’s not work.
So, I was at InStyle for a long time. Then I had an opportunity to go over to Food Network Magazine to help launch that. Then I went and came back to Time Inc. for Real Simple, which was fabulous, and amazing. That magazine is run just by absolutely the smarty pants of all smarty pants and I was there when someone told me to take a meeting with this guy Ryan, who was running this company called PureWow, which I had never heard of, that was a career changing moment.
Her Agenda: Where does your creativity comes from?
Mary Kate McGrath: I think I’m easily impressed. When you’re excited about your day to day, creativity is kind of everywhere. I was in a cab going downtown to a meeting and I looked up and just snapped this awesome billboard that had this cool neon outline font that we are using now as an inspiration for one of the One37 PM fonts.
I was in France this summer and saw a napkin and from the layout of the bar napkin to the text and design was just so chic. I notice everything. When you notice, your creativity kind of explodes. Neurons are constantly firing and connecting and I’m like that would work so cool for this over here. And also because of my position and needing to fill content and needing to be always on as a publisher, I need to be creative. I’m constantly on the lookout. I’m blessed that the world is filled with smarter people than I because they inspire me left and right and it allows me to do my job.
Her Agenda: Being the Chief Content Officer, you’re always moving the needle, what’s your direction for PureWow and One37PM this year?
Mary Kate McGrath: One37 PM is all about lifestyle entrepreneurship. There’s four pillars that we focus content on. Strength, which means personal wellness as well as professional sports, so it can be everything from how you take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Also, how professional athletes are some of the new biggest entrepreneurs today. We champion people’s side hustles. So I’m helping that team get that all off the ground, which was so fun. Watching a brand grow is the most fun. What did it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? We have a podcast. We have style, which is everything from street style inspiration, what shoes you want a cop to different collabs as well as the whole amazing startup culture and fashion. Then we have culture which is everything you just want to have binge on.
Then there’s PureWow, where we are dedicated to making a woman’s life, in her thirties, early forties, late twenties better, more manageable and more beautiful every day. People call PureWow their digital best friend, so they often look to us to advise them on how to spend their precious time.
Her Agenda: What advice would you give your younger self about getting into digital media?
Mary Kate McGrath: Self realization. Know what your strengths are. Your strengths might seem silly to you. For instance, me wanting to shop or you loving Instagram might seem silly to you until you find that there’s a market editor position at Vogue open or there’s a social media account manager open for Casper Mattresses.
So knowing yourself is really important and if you don’t know that, then ask some friends to help you in an exercise, but that’s super important. Also be open to hearing what’s not so awesome. Like, ‘Mary Kate, you know, a lot of times in meetings you get excited about an idea and you don’t always listen to everybody else.’ Okay, great. I’ve got to work on that. You know what I mean? Be open to feedback and to knowing yourself because that’s the greatest asset. Also, when you don’t know something, say you don’t know.
Also, people think they need mentors or successful ones. Like you can have mentors who are your age. You can have a network of five friends. Networking can be a little bit more intimate and a little bit more sincere.
Her Agenda: What’s your go-to quote?
Mary Kate McGrath: Our motto here at Gallery Media Group, because it encapsulates it best, “make positivity louder.”
Her Agenda: What are some productivity hacks that help you power through the day?
Mary Kate McGrath: My Google calendar. It has everything from meetings to attend, to carved out time for work due, travel time and on the busiest days – gummies.
[Editor’s note: This interview was published on July 23rd, 2018. It has been edited for length and clarity.]