By Vivianne Martell
In Feb. 2022, Brian Norris, senior vice president, direct to scale & commerce partnerships at NBCUniversal’s Advertising and Partnerships division and a frequent Media Management Association speaker, shared his advice with students for entering the media business. He has more than 20 years of professional experience in advertising and sales, including nearly 15 years in leadership positions.
Norris began the presentation by retracing his own professional journey, which started at Lifetime Television as a sales assistant. A key trigger for his interest in advertising sales occurred when, as a graduating senior at Towson University, he attended a New York City multicultural career workshop hosted by the IRTS Foundation in 1999. At that event, he was able to hear from media executives and meet hiring representatives from various media companies.
On the day Norris graduated from his undergraduate studies, he received a life changing message on his answering machine: Lifetime offered him a job. Norris accepted and quickly learned that he was the first black person hired in the Advertising Sales Department of that company. It was a pivotal moment for him as he discovered a passion for helping young people without access enter, grow, and thrive in the media business. He earned multiple promotions, but, after seven years, he left Lifetime and moved on to Viacom where he stayed for two years.
The next stop on his journey landed him at DISH Media Sales where he was part of an inaugural group that established a media sales team for that company. After seven years, Norris decided to go back to school while working, and he earned an Executive MBA from IEBrown, a joint EMBA degree between Brown University and IE Business School in Madrid.
At DISH Network, he had the opportunity to take part in one of the first live-streaming platforms, Sling TV, and worked there for 10 years. In 2018, Norris made the move to NBCUniversal, which he said has been the highlight of his career. At NBCUniversal Advertising and Partnerships, he uses the power of data and scale to democratize audiences for direct-to-consumer brands across premium video, including Peacock. Specifically, his team develops solutions to “collapse the funnel” for brands. According to Forbes, a marketing funnel is “a type of content strategy that routes new prospects and website visitors into making sales.” Collapsing the funnel refers to the process of accelerating ad-to-purchase conversions by helping advertisers reach the right people and customize the right message with programmatic media.
With this acquired professional experience, Norris considered ways to help people who do not have traditional access (or connections) to a media career gain access to the field. However, he did not imply that contacting him would land applicants jobs; instead, he recommended making sincere connections to mentors and people that applicants admire in the business. He emphasized that any newcomer to the media business must do great work and unlock his or her passion.
While today is an excellent time to enter the media business at the entry level, any interested student should be prepared and proactive. Norris encouraged students to complete several internships to enhance their résumés and set them apart from the competition. He also recommended that students use LinkedIn to the best of their ability and rely on their alumni network to develop relationships.
Finally, according to Norris, applicants who interview for a position should have a good understanding of what a media company does and project their authentic self to the interviewer. He added that candidates should avoid asking questions about opportunities for growth, for fear of sounding too presumptuous, but should instead focus their questions on aspects of the organization such as teamwork or social justice.