First Managing Director of Runner’s World Discusses the Brand Ahead of NYC Marathon

Jessica Murphy is defining the role


Current gig Managing director, Runner's World

Previous gig North America digital brand director, Nike

Age 34

Twitter @jnimurph

Adweek: What's your role as Runner's World's first managing director?

Jessica Murphy: The managing director role is a role that [focuses on evolving and expanding] the Runner's World footprint—to think through how the brand becomes more than the magazine and the website, becomes a brand in and of itself. Part of that is evolving a lot of the current efforts we're doing from a content perspective, and rethinking what content means. And also evaluating partnerships—the running industry is huge and it's grown so immensely in the past couple of years, and the role of Runner's World as the authoritative brand in running needs to evolve as well. The company and the brand have tested out a few different partnerships and haven't been quite sure where to fully invest our time and dollars, so that will be my role thinking about how as a brand we help the sport, how we evolve what we're doing from a content standpoint and how we create new things that ultimately help our runners become better.

You recently came from Nike and have been at Runner's World for about two months. What are you bringing from the brand perspective that adds value to a publisher?

We're starting to treat Runner's World like a brand because it is a brand. As traditional magazine companies have entered the digital space and expanded across platforms, you have to really think about [the publisher] as a brand and not just a magazine extended across platforms. In many cases we need to do new things on some of these social platforms that are digital first, that are things you wouldn't experience in the magazine. [We're] spending a lot of time thinking through the needs of the runner—what they are trying to achieve and what is getting in the way—and how we can potentially solve some of those problems. My experience working at Nike and from a brand perspective can help us approach it the way a true brand would and not the way a traditional magazine publication would.

Are you working with any partners right now?

From an events perspective, that is a big area that we've been focusing on. It's an extremely crowded marketplace and we don't necessarily need to get involved in a competitive marketplace where there are plenty of other [brands] serving that purpose. But again, it's defining our role when we partner with a race.

A good example is the Marine Corps Marathon [in D.C.], which we have partnered with for a couple of years. We provide a VIP experience. A couple of our editors go and run, we invite other runners to join us and we give them a training journey before the race. At the event they get an elevated hospitality experience. We show them that we as a brand understand what their needs are throughout training and on race day.

Where do you see Runner's World in a year?

I see us having a more defined role in the entire runner journey. Right now, we do a really great job doing informational content, but there are new and exciting ways to deliver that inspiration or information that make running and training easier. We're half way there because we have all of the right information, but the delivery mechanism could be more interesting and exciting. That's where, either through existing content channels or through partnerships, we will see the brand come to life in some new and exciting ways.

What about the magazine? 

I have a lot of passion for what can be delivered in the print medium that can't be anywhere else. We can really celebrate print in a new way, thinking through what experience you can get flipping through a magazine that you can't get online, so you feel like you can't wait to get the magazine every month and can't wait to read it.

Are you running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6? 

I'm not. It's still on my bucket list, but [I just ran the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30] and I just ran Chicago [on Oct. 9].

This story first appeared in the October 31, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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