Meet the Most Powerful Woman at Condé Nast

It's not who you might think

Bright comes across as warm, but extremely guarded. When Adweek approached her about an interview, Patti Röckenwagner, her new svp of corporate communications, asked whether the talk could begin on background, explaining that Bright prefers not to be in the spotlight. Bright started our conversation by revealing it was her first with a reporter, and during the 45-minute interview, deferred frequently to Röckenwagner.

When asked at one point about her identity as a minority woman at the company (Bright is African-American), she claimed not to think about it, saying, “I don’t think of myself, so I don’t really think other people might think about it. I think I’m very Condé Nast.” Bright seemed to immediately regret her choice of words, commenting, with a glance over at Röckenwagner, “I knew I was going to get in trouble.”

Bright’s lack of forward-facing experience may be a stumbling block as she transitions into a more public role. Her tight-lipped style may have worked in HR, with its requirement of confidentiality, but in communications, people are used to more transparency. She’s known for not returning emails. Shortly after she took over PR, people saw her imprint in a company wide memo from Townsend that took jargon to a new level with phrases like “multiplatform, integrated sales and marketing organization” and “commitment to consumer centricity.” Said the sales-side exec, “She’s really good at understanding the talent piece. The only Achilles heel she has is, she operates in the shadows.”

How Bright’s ascension plays out may depend somewhat on how Bob Sauerberg defines his own role at the company. Sauerberg now oversees HR, along with technology and consumer marketing. (It was he who named Bright’s HR replacement, JoAnn Murray.) Sauerberg is the presumed successor to Townsend, 69. That said, his lack of sales background is seen as limiting, and the jury’s still out on his big initiatives in consumer marketing and digital video. If Sauerberg doesn’t succeed, could Bright be waiting in the wings?

Some thought it telling that at a recent publishers’ meeting, it was Bright who made the rallying speech. When the announcement came that Lou Cona was being promoted to president and CRO of the media group, gossip had it that Bright had her eye on his old CMO title.

Asked about that, Bright responded, with a nod to her boss, “I’m not angling for the job. I like the job I have very much. I think, honestly, Chuck thinks he’s got that title.”

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