Natalia Gamero del Castillo received her best ever career advice during a meal. “I was lucky enough to have lunch with Mr. Leonard Lauder, Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies,” she recalls. “He told me: ‘Listen to the people, let them know that you care about them and don’t forget who you are.’ I keep this advice very close to my heart.”
Gamero del Castillo’s ability to connect with people – both colleagues and readers – has seen her march up the ranks in the media industry. After 20 years at Condé Nast working in several senior positions, she was promoted to managing director of Europe in December last year, with CEO Roger Lynch lauding Gamero del Castillo as a “rare leader who excels in building passionate teams that have developed some of the best relationships with our audiences and our partners”.
For Gamero del Castillo, who will be based in London and is charged with growing the reach and influence of Condé Nast’s brands across Europe, success starts with creating an environment where there is a free flow of ideas.
“I’ve always thought that you arrive at the best solutions when different people with different perspectives and areas of expertise work together,” she points out. “It’s been a learning process until I understood that sometimes you just have to facilitate this communication instead of influencing the result.”
Gamero del Castillo arrives in the position battle hardedened, having had to manage teams and clients at Condé Nast during uncertain times after the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“Managing in tough times, what worked for me has been supporting the teams, listening to them, and communicating with them more frequently and creatively,” she says. “I believe in a combination of transparency and empathy. As a manager, you might have to make difficult decisions but there’s a huge difference in the outcome depending on how you address them.
“It’s similar for our partners too. At the moment, every company is having to find ways to reinvent itself and it is fundamental to create a trusting relationship, to evolve together and learn from each other.”
Leading the digital revolution
Before taking up the position of Europe managing director, Gamero del Castillo played a leading role in the digital transformation of Condé Nast. As the digital managing director of Condé Nast Spain she led the local market through its digital pivot and promoted editorial innovation to expand audience reach. On her watch, the audience in Spain grew to 30 million unique users across platforms.
“Over the past years, we have developed new skills, implemented new workflows, and hired new talent, but most importantly, we have challenged old ways of thinking and established new concepts,” Gamero del Castillo explains.
“As with every transformation, it has to be promoted from the top of the organisation. We’ve introduced new skills and roles across the company such as project managers, audience growth, product development, and data, which complemented our existing talent.
‘There is no secret formula, but it is vital to set the right KPIs, monitor performance, and quickly make the necessary adjustments. This is exactly the approach we have taken since the outbreak of Covid-19, which has accelerated change to an extent that we couldn’t have imagined.”
In her new role, Gamero del Castillo will very much keep her foot on the accelerator when it comes to digital transformation.
“Over the next four years, we will be investing 25 per cent more in our content efforts to build new digital capabilities, especially with video,” she says. “Ultimately, this is all because we know that today, our audiences have many choices regarding the information and entertainment they consume, and we want to be the best and the most important media company for them.”
Magazines have not lost their gloss
With Condé Nast home to iconic magazines like Vogue and GQ, Gamero del Castillo has some powerful brands to work with in her efforts to increase audience numbers. And while there’s a lot of focus on going digital, print will continue to be crucial, especially when dovetailing with social media platforms.
“Today, we publish our content across every possible platform, and print still play a part within that mix,” says Gamero del Castillo, pointing out that recent studies show younger generations are engaging more with print magazines. “I remember when Vogue Spain celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, and the models shared the covers on their social media platforms, which generated a reach of more than 175 million.
“British Vogue’s September 2019 issue celebrating the launch of Forces for Change with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was the fastest-selling print issue ever in the title’s 105-year history. This success is a paradigmatic example of a print origin story’s worldwide digital projection – the issue received around 300,000 Instagram engagements, making British Vogue’s Instagram account double its usual rate.
“Vogue Italia’s September 2020 issue featuring 100 covers dedicated to 100 different women from different ages, ethnicities, lifestyles, and industries generated an impressive performance on social media too, with a reach of over 21 million; Vogue Germany’s cover with Heidi Klum and her daughter shattered audience records on YouTube, reaching more than 4 million views; and Vogue Paris featuring French actress Léa Seydoux had a global impact and a huge success on social media with a video of her dancing like a pro.”
Breaking the glass ceiling
As a woman who has reached the top of her profession, Gamero del Castillo has much to add to the debate over equality in the workplace that has been reignited in recent months. Ask her how she feels about being a role model and she calls it “such an honour and responsibility” and praises Condé Nast for taking the lead when it comes to female leadership.
“I grew professionally in a company with an essential and natural commitment to women in leadership, which has inspired everything we do,” Gamero del Castillo says. “Our brands contribute to accelerating women’s progress, giving visibility to female role models and breaking down gender stereotypes.”
Condé Nast’s first ever global Diversity & Inclusion report – released in September last year – showed that 68 per cent of its workforce is made up of women, one of the largest female-identifying workforces in all of media. Since 2019 the company has doubled the number of women in its Executive Leadership Team to 60 per cent.
While the gender equality battle is being won at Condé Nast, the wider war is still raging, says Gamero del Castillo.
“I see there is still work to do at a social level, and as a media company, we have a crucial role to play in this,” she points out. “More women are needed in positions of responsibility in society and technical and scientific careers, for instance. I want to encourage young women to lead the future through being themselves and challenging preconceived notions of what it means to be a leader.”
The drive for more diversity
Over the past year, Condé Nast has also carried out a significant amount of work around diversity, adopting a strategy centered around company values, people and content, led by its first Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Yashica Olden.
“At the core of this, we are committed to greater representation and inclusion among our teams and across all our content platforms,” says Gamero del Castillo. “As Condé Nast operates in 32 markets worldwide and publishes content in 26 languages, we are an inherently multicultural organisation. Equality and inclusion are part of this DNA. It’s our mission not only to reflect the culture in which we live but also to help shape it to be fair, inclusive, and moving the world forward.”
An important step towards achieving this is for Condé Nast to tell stories that promote social progress – something that is a top priority for Gamero del Castillo.
“Our brands are focused on using their influence, trust, and reach to drive positive change and create an understanding of key social and cultural topics,” she says, citing as an example the British Vogue September 2020 issue, which featured 20 remarkable activists on its cover. “That is part of the mission of quality journalism, which Condé Nast and our colleagues are an essential part of.”
Up to the challenge
A key factor in Gamero del Castillo’s rise in the industry has been an insatiable thirst for knowledge. “I feel an enormous curiosity for life,” she says. “I’m not a person of a single idea or mission but I think we are in the world to evolve and understand better what surrounds us.”
Gamero del Castillo’s attitude will be crucial in her new position as Condé Nast, like all publishers, adapts to a post-Covid landscape.
“I would say that I am a person of challenges,” she says. “And Condé Nast is synonymous with what’s challenging, as we never settle with just the obvious. We are continuously searching for the extraordinary – that defines us as a company, something our audience recognises and seeks.
“I always try to transmit that passion to the people I work with because we are doing something meaningful and relevant for the future. We live in challenging times, but we are a force of change for better things.”