It might sound simple, but the sage piece of advice Melissa Liebling-Goldberg, the VP of Editorial at Spring, offers up during our recent interview is simply to “be nice and respectful to everyone.” We all know the old adage that you should always be kind to those on the way up as you don’t know who you’ll meet on the way down, yet we’re all guilty (me at least) of thinking one way and acting the opposite. My inauthentic self has a funny way of rearing its head in the moments that should really be killed with kindness. “Your reputation will precede you wherever you go, and if you are kind to those around you, it will come back to you,” Melissa says. “I find that if you reach out to people in a straightforward and thoughtful way, you’ll hear back from them.” It’s a sound philosophy that we could all take heed of—please, more Mr Nice Guy.
Melissa spent over five years climbing the ranks to Style Director at People, before e-commerce outfit Gilt coaxed her to join its creative team as its first Editorial Director. “The major upside to me of originating a role is that you truly get to make it your own. But, you have to want to do things without a roadmap and be OK with making some mistakes along the way,” she explains. Building is where Melissa is most enthused—she seeks out opportunities that allow her to innovate and develop rather than holding the status quo. “I would say I’m a pragmatist at heart, which grounds me as I push myself to try new things.” From her constant invitation for feedback to why travel is such a big part of her life, Melissa talks to The Lifestyle Edit about her path to the top and the things she both overcome and embraced to get there.
ON THE ROLES THAT HAVE SHAPED HER: I love being a part of something cutting-edge and exciting – whether it was launching the style section on PEOPLE.com or being at startups like Gilt. That always attracts me initially, but it’s the people and the work that keep me there. I love that my roles always include a mix of strategy and execution, not only within my team but across teams. For example, working with the product team is always fun for me, since we’re all focused on the user’s journey and experience – just in different ways. But at the root of all my roles is a love for fashion, photography, writing, and the role that it all plays within the broader culture. I was incredibly fortunate to connect with Gilt at a moment when I was really interested in moving into e-commerce and they were looking to build out their editorial team. I realized recently that I have been the first person to hold the role for all my positions since 2006! The major upside to me of originating a role is that you truly get to make it your own. But you have to want to do things without a roadmap and be ok with making some mistakes along the way.
VENTURING INTO UNCHARTED TERRITORY: For better or worse, I do really love a challenge! Building something from the ground up is hard, frustrating, overwhelming, and the most fun thing possible for me. I’d always rather do the heavy lifting of building something – a strategy, a product, a site – than maintain something that’s already a full-blown success, where you can’t afford to try new ideas. I love getting the opportunity to test tons of different ideas and see what works, and it’s deeply satisfying to watch something you’ve developed take flight. I do think there is a difference between a calculated risk and throwing caution to the wind – I would say I’m a pragmatist at heart, which grounds me as I push myself to try new things. Being in digital for the past 10+ plus years has ensured there is always something new to try!
TRANSITIONING FROM TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING TO E-COMMERCE: For me, the end user is always at the core of what I do, whether it’s a shopper or a reader. If you are constantly focused on what they want and need from you, then it’s a very similar approach to your work. Getting constant feedback through data is one of my favorite things about working in digital, and that really carries across both industries. I love the challenge of checkout being added to the focus on great storytelling – how do you help someone to purchase something they will truly love? On the retailer side, we create our own news instead of reporting on others, and that’s a really fun difference for me. I think that if you can create content that people love to consume, that fulfills their needs, entertains them, gives them helpful service and takes into account what your business needs, then you’re doing it right. I’ve never felt that commercial considerations needed to be a negative to content. To me, the key is to be a part of the business, not hold editorial outside of it.
WHAT HER ROLE AS VP OF EDITORIAL AT SPRING ENTAILS: The greatest part of my role is how many different facets it has and how it keeps evolving with the company. I like to say that my team is the storytellers, and we own that experience from ideation to execution through copy, design, photography, and visual merchandising. We have 1,500+ brands on Spring, and working with our incredible brand partners is definitely one of my favorite parts of the role. What attracted me to Spring is still what engages me every day – our brand mix is so unique and offers something truly different in the market to consumers. And the challenge of messaging Spring as its own brand while still communicating for all the brands on our platform is fascinating to work on. From an editorial standpoint, you always want to keep pushing yourself to create the most engaging content possible for the consumer – whether that’s on-site, in app, or on social media. You can never rest on your laurels.
SPRING ISN’T YOUR AVERAGE E-COMMERCE PLATFORM: Spring is a curated digital marketplace (an app and and an e-commerce site) where you can shop the best brands for men, women, kids, lifestyle and beauty all in one place. It is truly a unique mix of brands, and we love nothing more than bringing exclusives to our customers as well. And of course, we also bring you the latest trends, great sales, and curations from editors and influencers. My favorite way to explain why Spring is awesome is if you are planning a trip, you can get everything you need from the Tumi luggage to a Solid & Striped bathing suit for yourself and Onia trunks for your husband to the SuperGoop sunblock and Haiavanas flip flops for the kids. And the headphones, iPad cover, cashmere travel blanket, and any clothing you could possibly need. It’s an amazingly convenient way to shop, and our customer service team is incredible if you ever need help.
ON STAYING CURIOUS & CONTINUING TO INNOVATE: Luckily, I love shopping and I love consuming content, so keeping up to date on the competitive landscape isn’t too hard. But more seriously, I think it’s incredibly valuable to spend time outside of the immediate e-commerce world and take in the rest of culture to understand truly where things are heading. I’m lucky enough to live walking distance from some of the best museums in the world, and I try to go as often as possible. Travel is a huge priority for me – as incredibly inspiring as the streets of NYC are, getting to experience other cultures gives me an entirely different lens to view my own world through. Read as much as you can, surround yourself with open-minded, curious people, and you’ll never be bored!
HER EDITORIAL STRATEGY? CONNECTION IS KEY: I want our content to combine service and inspiration in a real way – how do we give you the confidence to try that trend you thought wouldn’t work for you? How do we help you discover a brand you didn’t know before but you’ll love? How do we bring the stories behind the brands to life in a way where you felt an emotional connection to them after you read it? I want to help make you into a better, smarter, more empowered consumer. Our team is amazing at constantly generating new ideas that just keep getting bigger and better, so I really depend on them to keep pushing us forward. It’s also critical to stay on top of your performance data – you have to pay attention to when your customers are raising their hands to tell you they do or do not like the content put in front of them. And then we keep constantly iterating to make it better.
THE CHALLENGE OF SWITCHING OFF WHEN YOUR WORK IS ONLINE: It’s definitely tough when you’re a digital native to untether from technology, but that’s one of the reasons I really love traveling. Taking myself out of the normal day to day always pushes me to spend less time on my phone and way more time taking in the world around me. And I don’t keep my phone on the table at dinners out with friends and family as much as possible (although sometimes the food is so pretty I have to photograph it!).
ON NETWORKING & NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS: I have been beyond fortunate to have met and worked with the most talented, wonderful people. Social media and email have definitely helped with keeping in touch, and Fashion Week is almost like a bi-annual high school reunion where you get to see everyone you don’t regularly see all at once. But I think nothing is more important than spending time with people – make breakfast, lunch, coffee, drinks, dinner plans and keep them! Be nice and respectful to everyone. You never know who the intern is going to become (take it from someone who has watched former interns become industry leaders!). Your reputation will precede you wherever you go, and if you are kind to those around you, it will come back to you. I find that if you reach out to people in a straightforward and thoughtful way, you’ll hear back from them. And handwritten thank you notes go a really long way.
THE BIGGEST CHANGES SHE’S WITNESSED OVER THE COURSE OF HER CAREER: I started in print magazines before the real rise of digital, so it feels like practically everything has changed since then. But I am still a true believer in the power of a photograph, a headline, a story to be transformative. I don’t believe that has ever changed, nor do I think it will.