PAM KAUFMAN ON UNITING PARAMOUNT’S GLOBAL TEAMS
“We are transforming our business for the future, and working together across countries and cultures to bring the full power of Paramount and its content to life across every platform globally."
MARCH 3 2023
By Nicole Bitette
Photos by David Williams
Pam Kaufman remembers the first time she saw SpongeBob SquarePants, in a conference room at work just before the launch of the iconic franchise. Since then, both Kaufman and SpongeBob have thrived by moving across platforms and continents. For Kaufman, it has meant an impressive, wide-spanning career across multiple functions from ad sales and marketing to consumer products and experiences globally.
Last year, Kaufman was promoted to President and CEO of International Markets, Global Consumer Products and Experiences (CP&E) for Paramount. In the months since, she has been laser focused on transforming the business for the future while uniting the team around a global strategy with strong, local execution.
It is a task that leverages her exceptional ability to cultivate strong relationships across countries and cultures—a skill she’s honed during her 24 years at Paramount.
“Collaboration is critical to our personal success and the success of our organization. We have exceptional people in every corner of the world, across every division. We will always do more if we do it together, with a shared vision. The relationships you build with colleagues and partners matter. They are fundamental to our shared success. I truly believe we will only ‘win’ if we move forward as one global team,” says Kaufman.
She spoke to the Paramount Newsroom about her new role and her previous experience across the ad sales and consumer products divisions.
Nicole Bitette: You’re a longtime Paramount employee. What was your internal trajectory?
Pam Kaufman: I was eight months pregnant when I joined the sales team at Nickelodeon. I almost didn’t take the job with that timing, but ultimately, I could not miss out on the opportunity to work at such an iconic brand that continues to be so engaged with its audience. I worked for a few weeks, had my daughter, took three months parental leave, and then jumped back into my new role.
After a few years, I became the brand’s first-ever Chief Marketing Officer. As franchises like SpongeBob and Blue’s Clues became wildly popular with fans, it was also clear that consumer products (CP) were an increasingly important part of our business and a tremendous opportunity for growth. I expanded my role to lead the CP business, with a heavy focus on strategy and franchise planning.
In 2016, we globalized the CP business and extended it across the entire Paramount portfolio, offering fans products and experiences from all of our brands and incredible films and series. We have an amazing team around the world now who unleashes the power of our content in real life, and have so many great products and experiences, from Yellowstone pickup trucks to PAW Patrol toys and apparel, we have something for everyone.
NB: What helped you expand to different areas of the business while rising up the ranks?
PK: I believe in continuous learning by asking questions and remaining clear and transparent. This has been a foundation for cultivating strong relationships, which has enabled me to be agile and to work across borders and lines of business to drive our strategy forward in a very deliberate, intentional way. It is critical to connect with people not only within your team, not only within your division, but across the company and in the industry.
Collaboration is key to everything we do, and we will always achieve more if we do it together. How you show up and communicate to the organization and with your colleagues also matters. In a global role, being in market, meeting teams and our partners, and constantly reinforcing our company’s mission, vision and values ensures alignment.
NB: You were promoted to President and CEO of Paramount’s international markets about six months ago. What are you focused on right now?
PK: I am focused on transforming our business for the future, breaking down silos and working together across countries and cultures to bring the full power of Paramount and its content to life across every platform globally. I am also very focused on our people and our culture. We have outstanding people who love the company and want us to win and really want to show up every day because they love the culture and the brands.
NB: What are the challenges you’ve faced thus far and how have you worked through them?
PK: We are continuing to evolve our global organization. Part of this means evolving from a structure organized by geography to one that is led by global business segments. This is a sizable shift in how we operate, and one that we believe will position us for long-term success. An operational and cultural shift like this does not happen overnight. It is something that takes time, transparency and a thoughtful, deliberate strategy that fosters relationships and new ways of working. I am also very focused on breaking down silos to promote collaboration.
Our vision is to bring the power of Paramount into the everyday lives of fans around the world through our best-in-class content, platforms, and real-life experiences.”
NB: Can you share the organization’s mission, vision, values?
PK: Our vision is to bring the power of Paramount into the everyday lives of fans around the world through our best-in-class content, platforms, and real-life experiences. We will accomplish this through our mission to create, innovate and collaborate across countries and cultures to unleash the power of our global and local content across our multi-platform ecosystem in markets worldwide. Through it all, we are guided by our values, which include the prioritization of our IP, markets and partnerships, creativity and innovation, accountability including decision making and ownership, and organizational and operational efficiency.
NB: How do you manage such a large team, especially with direct reports all over the globe?
PK: Having the right team in place is critical. I immediately identified an incredibly strong leadership team across our International Markets who are working together to drive our business forward globally. I also have an unbelievable leadership team focused on CP&E around the world who continues to drive that business forward.
NB: What do you look for in someone that you're managing when you're hiring someone new?
PK: It is important for people to have experience and knowledge of the media industry, but there is also so much value in looking at how people lead and interact with others. I work to cultivate a strategic, collaborative and transparent work environment, and I expect my team to do the same.
I have been very focused on diversifying the team to ensure we have people from different backgrounds who offer different points of view. I am extremely proud of the work we have done to bring unique perspectives to the table, hiring new talent across cultural and career backgrounds.
NB: With your promotion to president of global consumer products and experiences in 2021, you added themed entertainment to your purview. Can you talk about how that plays into our portfolio?
PK: Within our themed entertainment portfolio is a wide group of organizations, people and businesses spanning hotels, theme parks, live tours, resorts, stage shows, conventions and more.
First and foremost, from a business perspective, we don't build things—we license. It made tremendous sense for us to combine the licensing of our live experiences and our themed entertainment group with the licensing of consumer products. Our consumer products team knows the Paramount portfolio front and back, and there has been a huge benefit in sharing that knowledge of our IP across the themed entertainment team.
We also have an incredibly strong global infrastructure with teams on the ground in markets around the world. The close relationships our teams have built with local hotel operators, etc., have proven to be incredibly helpful in expanding our portfolio.
NB: Are there plans to license more?
PK: The themed entertainment team has done an amazing job in the last year. We have an explosion of deals happening across many brands, including Nickelodeon, MTV Entertainment properties and Paramount Pictures.
NB: Are there any products or brands that had surprising success?
PK: SpongeBob was a show that we never thought would translate well into consumer products. When I was at Nickelodeon, we were able to preview some of the upcoming shows. The first episode of SpongeBob I ever watched was the “Bubble Buddy” episode. We all sat there with pure joy, amazement, and confusion. While I don't believe you can ever truly say, ‘this is going to be a global phenomenon,’ there was definitely a collective acknowledgment that what we just watched was special. Of course, the show emerged as one of the biggest fashion darlings in our entire portfolio. Over 25 of the biggest companies in the world have partnered with SpongeBob since.
SpongeBob was that show that we never thought would translate into consumer products.”
Q: If you could give your post-college self any advice what would it be?
PK: Stay focused on pursuing a job in an industry that you love. Your first role does not have to be the exact one you want. Focus on working for someone you can learn from, staying curious, and volunteering for new opportunities. Remember: it's not always a clear path to what you want to achieve.
Q: What is your current obsession right now?
PK: The harmonica! I am learning how to play.
Q: Your role means that you are always traveling. What’s on your plane playlist?
PK: I have been a huge fan of music for my entire life. A few years ago, I joined the Board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! My music taste spans many genres and I have a playlist for just about any occasion. My favorite playlist is “Chill, Groove, and Reggae.”
Q: If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
PK: I would love to be working as a government representative, such as a Congresswoman. I am incredibly passionate about an array of social issues, especially those that impact women, the environment, and equality.