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Pandora’s Susan Panico: “I pay attention to brands that ‘get me’”

Posted May 12, 2017

Working mothers in the advertising field can face many challenges. In honor of Mother’s Day , DIVERGE is highlighting Pandora’s Susan Panico, SVP of Strategic Solutions to see how the mother of three, with a full time senior leadership role, balances her professional and personal life.

Can you describe your typical day as a working mother?

Crazy!  I have three children (four if you count my hubby) – 12 year old daughter, 9 year old son and an 8 year old daughter, plus a 7 month old puppy (almost more work than the kids).  Each morning starts with at least one fight between the kids, misplaced clothing, the dog running around and an inbox full of emails from the East Coast.  If I’m not traveling, I take the kids to school every day, then hit the office.  Most days are full with back-to-back meetings and I rarely see my desk. At home, I turn off all electronics and give my kids my full attention. We try to have dinner together as a family as much as possible, then get ready for bed – which is similar to our morning chaos.  My favorite time is spending 20-30 minutes individually with each child reading together and talking about their day to stay in the know about their daily lives. I play catch-up with my husband on the weekends.

How do you navigate through your workday, eliminating and/avoiding stressors or anxieties that come along with the job?

The beauty of having three kids is not much at work can stress me out. Nothing is more stressful than caring and shaping three human beings. I believe in the sphere of control.  I focus my energy on the things I can control and influence.  I learned not to waste energy and let go of the things that are out of my control.

How do you balance career and family time? Do you have any tips or advice for other working mothers out there?

I don’t think there is such a thing as work-life balance in a connected, always-on world.  I think of it more as work-life juggle.  There are days I suck at being a mom (missed their Spring concert) and days I’m not operating 100% in my job (don’t tell my boss). There are a lot of balls in the air, and I try not to beat myself up when one falls. I’ve realized my kids get the best version of me because I work.  My work gets the best version of me because I have kids – I’m more efficient, compassionate and objective.

What do your kids think about your job?

They love that I work at Pandora.  Listening to music together, dance parties in the kitchen, sing-alongs in the car are all central to our “we time.”

More and more companies are offering extended perks for working mothers (extended maternity leave, onsite daycares and more). What do you wish existed at Pandora?

Given my children’s ages, the best gift I can get is flexibility and I get that in spades at Pandora.  We have a supportive culture for working parents.  When someone leaves to go coach their kid’s baseball game, dance recital or parent-teacher conference, there are no dirty looks, snarky remarks or ill thoughts.  In fact, people are so supportive, they ask how it went the next day.

How should brands think about targeting mothers?

Brands should think about the “three M’s”:  Mom, Mobile & Music.  80% of US mothers own smartphones.  These devices act as part personal assistant, entertainer, personal shopper and dare we say, sometimes babysitter.  To reach moms, you need a mobile strategy and what moms are doing most on mobile is listening to music. Music accompanies mom throughout her day whether working out, cooking, commuting, getting ready- just about everything. Well over half of moms on Pandora co-listen with their children throughout the day for “we time.”  It’s important to know the difference in how mom listens, where she listens, and who she listens with, to tailor your message for the right context at the right time.

What kinds of brands–and brand messages–do you pay most attention to and why?

I pay attention to brands that “get me.”  At Pandora, we believe brands need to “show me you know me.” Personalization and understanding your audience are key. I think of P&G’s “Thank you, Mom” campaign which brilliantly showed how behind every athlete is a mom who believed in her child.  Personally, humor is always the best.  Moms need a good laugh. Kraft’s Mac and Cheese current campaign #SwearLikeAMother is very clever.  It embraces how no mom is perfect and dropping an f-bomb in front of your kids can happen when sh*t happens. This campaign did a great job of showing a human truth…a mom truth.

Tell us about the role music plays in your family?

Music connects us as a family. It’s at the center of everything we do from cooking, road trips, dance parties in the kitchen or the ride to school.  My kids have learned to love Michael Jackson, Prince and The Police – artists they refer to as “mommy’s music.”  I’ve even gained an appreciation for Bieber, T-Swift and Noah Cyrus. I admit it- I’m now a Bieleber.  Music is universal and transcends age and culture to bring us together.

What are you most excited about as a mother?

Watching day by day who my children are becoming as individuals – their personalities, their inquisitiveness, their views on the world.

What do you hope to pass down to your children? 

I grew up with a single, working mother who put herself through a Masters program to become a school principal and give me a better life. My mother’s work ethic and dedication to education was unwavering. She is the kindest, most positive human being I’ve ever known.  I get my work ethic and fierce independence from her. I want my children to love what they do and do the best they can do.  I believe effort is as important as results and you can achieve both and still do it with kindness and positivity.