Crystal Barnes, VP of Nielsen, Talks Leadership, Diversity and How Technology Changed the Game
After diligently “matriculating” through the ranks at the Nielsen Company, one of the leading global providers of information and insights, Crystal Barnes is firmly entrenched in its culture. Now, as the newly appointed vice president of industry relations, Barnes is working to make Nielsen a hallmark of American culture of America and the globe.
She is tasked with expanding and transforming Nielsen, which developed the omnipotent and ubiquitious Nielsen ratings, and its position and image in the industry. Barnes spoke briefly with rolling out about her new position, how technological and demographic paradigm shifts have impacted how Nielsen. She also gave advice about leadership and the importance of remaining flexible to get ahead.
Can you explain the ways in which modern technology has altered how Nielsen goes about the business of procuring the data that we have become so familiar with, as well as changes in demographics that have changed how Nielsen goes about its business?
Yes, it’s funny, if you even think about how we are conducting this interview now, no longer are the days where we watch the TV in a traditional fashion and that’s [not] the only place where you can access content. You can get content on your phone, you can get content online or TV, there are all sorts of ways that consumers interact with content on a daily basis, and that’s just on the media side. On the consumer side there are all kinds ways that people shop. People shop online, people shop via their mobile phone, the traditional setting in which people access content and which people shop has changed and altered. Not that one media cannibalizes another, but it’s up to Nielsen to make sure that wherever the consumer goes — in the end we’re there with them.
We help our clients understand the 360 deal of consumers so that they can figure out how to create a relationship with them and how to reach them more effectively. From a consumer perspective, you get what your looking for because you want these companies to target you and target you collectively. So that’s one of the things that we always have to make sure that we are ahead of the curve and that we always have to make sure that we following the consumer in every aspect of their watch and buy habits.
I understand that you are one of the ones who took it from the bottom to the top and wanted to know if you had some advice about how you navigated the corporate terrain and ascended to your present position?
Sure. So it’s one of those things where you enter a company and don’t realize how long it’s going to take you. So I started at Nielsen in 2004, and it was a part of what they now call the “Emerging Leaders Program.” The program took individuals who were in the company or individuals who are out of college under their wing and you are exposed to various industries and various expertise across company. When you complete the program, which is a two-year program, the goal is that you had such a cross company experience that it allows you to understand what the business is about in order to make an informed decision into the department that you want to enter to.
After that program, I entered the public affairs department which at the time was just starting, so it was huge for … for me being apart of a movement was the beginning … it was awesome. One of the things I can say that I learned was that you have to seize the opportunity when it comes, and that was an opportunity that presented itself, it was an opportunity for me to be apart of something that was huge. One of the things I feel blessed about is being at a company that embraces the idea of a movement.
How would you describe your leadership style?
You know what, my leadership style is straight forward. It’s very clear and in my opinion every single day and every single thing we do in our day is a teachable moment. No one day for myself or my team is the same, [and] its a good thing. I’m clear and I know it, but I allow opportunities to learn because at the end of the day, we’re all learning from each other. I think that I am a great manager, and I think that my team appreciates the opportunities that we can learn and grow with [from] the leadership and the guidance coming from the top as well.