My Work: Stephen Croncota

Portrait of Stephen Croncota

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Portrait: Nikola Borissov for Fashion We Like

Could you please describe your role?

Generally speaking, I oversee the brand’s communications with current and prospective clients. The marketing role differs from company to company; at Versace it includes media, PR, eCommerce, CRM, events and several other disciplines.

What is your typical day at the office like?

I have a somewhat unique position in that I have equal — and, I hope, equally good — relationships with both our Creative Director, Donatella Versace, and our CEO. It’s a right-brain / left-brain job, and one must be able to comfortably move between strategic or fiscal discussions and conceptual or creative ones. It’s what I like most about this role. When I’m not with one of those two, I’m typically meeting with one or more of my direct reports, discussing issues of the day and planning for the future.

You deal with a lot of people on a global level. What are the skills that one needs to have in order to be successful in a role like yours?

It’s best to leave your nationality at home and become a citizen of the world when you walk through the office door. I’m an American (dual US / EU citizenship, actually) living and working in the European headquarters of a company of which many of our clients are Asian. If your attitude is, “Well, let me tell you how we do it in New York…” or your attention is devoted to the fashion capitals of London, Paris or Milan, you’re going to miss huge opportunities, misread market dynamics and quite possibly alienate your teammates in Tokyo, Munich, Delhi and Guangzhou. None of us is completely free of our innate cultural biases, but you should try to be aware of them and diligent in striving for a global consciousness.

What kind of manager are you? Do you prefer to be liked or respected?

I try very hard to be a good mentor. I’ve been in business for a while and have been lucky enough to work for some great companies and some excellent bosses, so I hope I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. The fact that a number of people have worked for me at multiple companies may indicate that I’m succeeding in those efforts. I pay a lot of attention to whom I hire for my team, since the difference between a great hire and a not-great hire can be profound in net results. If we’ve hired correctly, everything is possible.

How do you hire the people in your team?

Positive attitude and energy mean a lot to me. Versace is an amazing brand and a world-class company, so I should feel that you’d be thrilled to work here. If, instead, it seems that this is just another stop on your interview circuit, well, let’s just say it would take an awful lot to overcome that first impression.

Christopher Bailey said, “Burberry is now as much a media-content company as we are a design company”. How important is content to you? Do you believe that luxury brands need to act as publishers?

Burberry has for years been a leader in this area, and it’s served them well. All of us are determining what the right amount of content creation and sharing is. It’s of course a change from luxury brands historically, where maintaining mystique and allure was paramount. Now companies are asking themselves, ‘If we’re posting photos and updates every few hours, do we still feel exclusive, unique, rare?’ The other thing to realise is that an awful lot of those people who are liking your photos and videos can’t afford your products, so the return on investment on some of this activity is still being analysed. In general, we’re doing more and more of it, and as long as it feels compelling, authentic and on brand, I think it’s a good thing.

Which channels do you find most effective / efficient when it comes to distributing your company's messages?

We’re on all the major platforms, and this year Donatella launched her own Instagram page. She just passed 600,000 followers, and she loves the connection to fans and customers it gives her. Donatella had sat next to the CEO of Instagram at a dinner in Paris, and that same night she called me and said, “He invited us to their headquarters, let’s go. I want to see what they’re doing out there.” And we went. That’s how interested she is about what’s new and what’s next; it’s an obsession. After the meetings, we stopped at a Chipotle in Silicon Valley to grab something to eat. I think the people who were there that day are still trying to process seeing Donatella Versace in a Chipotle. But it happened.

What is the most useful thing you learned while working for brands like Warner Bros. and Condé Nast?

My career is a bit different from a lot of people in this industry, in that I haven’t spent my entire career here. Another love of mine is media and entertainment, and I was fortunate enough to work for Condé Nast, Warner Bros., E! and Ted Turner. Television in particular is such a great place to learn about creating a connection with an audience and achieving a desired result. In TV, you get your report card the next day — the ratings. You see if what you did worked or didn’t, and you try to figure out why or why not. It’s a cluttered, competitive environment, so it’s a good proving ground for your powers of persuasion. You carry those skills with you wherever you go.

What's the most solid, specific piece of advice you have for anyone wishing to work in fashion PR and marketing?

Pay attention to how people are living their lives today, what they value, how they make decisions, and how their behaviours are changing. Be able to talk about some of that. This job is a bit of sociology and a bit of psychology. In general, nobody needs anything we make, so it’s our job to make them desire it. How do you do that? There’s no right or wrong answer to any of this, but demonstrating that you’re a good student of society can help set you apart. And, contrary to the impressions that some people have, saying “I love to shop!” will probably not give you a leg up.

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