Aug 3, 2023 - Economy & Business

Communicator Spotlight: American Express' Jennifer Skyler and Elizabeth Rutledge

Photo illustration of American Express' Jennifer Skyler and Elizabeth Rutledge surrounded by various shapes

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo courtesy of American Express

Warren Buffet gave American Express CEO Stephen Squeri some advice in the lead-up to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Protect two things— protect your customers and protect your brand.”

Why it matters: Jennifer Skyler and Elizabeth Rutledge are tasked with doing just that.

  • As the chief corporate affairs officer and chief marketing officer respectively, it's the brand that binds them together.

📍How they got here: Rutledge has spent most of her career at American Express, serving in various product, marketing and insights roles before becoming CMO. Skyler began as a news producer at CNN, MSNBC and CBS before jumping into the tech sector, leading consumer communications at Facebook and most recently serving as chief communications officer at WeWork.

🏗 How it's structured: Skyler oversees a corporate affairs team of roughly 190 people who manage public affairs and media relations, social media, internal communications, reputational risk management and corporate social responsibility.

  • Rutledge's marketing team of 300 oversee global media, sponsorships, experiences, strategic brand planning and customer insights.

🗣 What they're saying: "We're constantly connecting the dots across our company — and in order to do that, we have to have a really close link between communications and marketing," Rutledge told Axios.

  • Corporate Affairs acts as the narrative thread, says Skyler. "We think about weaving a holistic story across all channels, for all of our constituents — our colleagues, customers and communities — and we work in lockstep with marketing to enhance and protect the American Express brand."

👯 Recent collaborations: Together, their teams make sure consumers and employees are involved in initiatives like Small Business Saturday, foundation endeavors like Leadership Academy, and partnerships like the sponsorship of the Premiere League's Brighton & Hove Albion football club.

  • Rutledge's team oversees the partnership with Brighton by creating experiences and access for card members to enjoy, while Skyler's team augments those partnerships through media coverage and owned content.
  • "We have a TikTok correspondent traveling with the team, creating content for our social channels, and we're reaching a whole new fan base in the United States by ginning up this interest," says Skyler.
  • "And what [Skyler's] team also did is partner closely with my team to create a football club fan experience for our 77,000 employees and get them involved as well," added Rutledge.

🔎 Most overlooked aspect of the job: The importance of reaching new audiences through strategic partnerships, says Rutledge — like American Express' work with the NBA, Coachella and Wimbledon.

  • Skyler emphasizes that corporate affairs is uniquely positioned to see across an entire organization and keep everyone aligned.

📈 Trend spot: How artificial intelligence will disrupt content creation and the addition of new social media channels.

🍽 Content plate: Rutledge recently finished the 700-page book, "The Covenant of Water" by Abraham Verghese, while you can catch Skyler digesting the news through various newsletters and binging the latest season of "Ted Lasso."

☮️ De-stress routine: Rutledge requires gummy bears and long walks to unwind, and Skyler regroups by cheering on her 9-year-old daughter's soccer team.

The bottom line: "At the center of our partnership is the brand," says Rutledge. "We both feel like we're protectors, defenders and innovators of American Express' very special, 173-year-old brand."

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