Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Gwydion Suilebhan. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Gwydion, please provide us a short bio.
I’m an odd duck in that I’ve always maintained two separate careers: one in arts administration and one as a writer. I’m currently working as the Executive Director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Before that, I was the Director of Brand and Marketing for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. As a playwright, I’m represented by Amy Wagner at Abrams Artists Agency.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
What are the things you are most proud of?
I’ve got great stories from my early days consulting for the Peace Corps, Zipcar, Discovery Channel, the Department of State, the National Wildlife Federation and dozens of other similar clients; I lived through the birth and explosion of the internet, when nobody quite knew how to position brands in the digital world and you could try almost anything, and I’ll never forget any of it. But the work I’m most proud of in the recent past is the re-launch of the Woolly Mammoth website and the poster campaigns we created to support our last few seasons of work. Woolly’s audiences really gets the theater now in this immediate, visceral way.
Who are your personal role models?
I’ve got two role models. First, Debra Rubino, the vice president for strategic communications at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, who taught me how to communicate with designers and photographers in order to elicit their best work. She has a way of helping people flourish creatively that I really admire. Second, David Belman, an old friend and one of the founders of Threespot, the agency I spent almost a dozen years consulting for. David is intellectually rapacious, and he never settles for an easy answer when there are tough questions that need to be asked. I admire him tremendously.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Everyone talks about how quickly the marketing world changes. There are always new platforms on which to tell stories, new ways to engage people, etc. But I think there’s really only been one significant change in the last, oh, quarter-century, and that’s a seismic shift from marketing as a one-to-many broadcast-like endeavor to marketing as engagement and empowerment. Brands that used to put themselves at the center of their marketing stories are now putting their customers at the center. If you can wrap your head around that one thing, you’ll do fine.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Jazz. Always jazz. Coltrane, Oliver Nelson, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis. The list is long.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
I’m an absolute sucker for Korean food. There’s more comfort, for me, in a hot pot of kim chi jigue than in anything else I might eat. My favorite Korean restaurant is a place called Nam Kang in Baltimore; sadly, now that I’ve got a picky-eating seven-year-old son, it might be awhile before I get to go up there again.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’m currently writing and co-producing a web series called ALL SOULS about an Episcopal priest who loses his belief in God, but keeps his lack of faith a secret so that he doesn’t have to leave his congregation. Look for its world premiere in 2020!