Publishing Profiles: Brandy Dawson, VP, Director of Marketing for the Humanities & Social Sciences at Pearson

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This article was contributed by YPG member Dasle Kim. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Tara Powers at

Recently YPG sat down with Brandy Dawson, Vice President and Director of Marketing at Pearson, in her Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, office. We were able to chat about her career path as a senior executive in the publishing industry and get an insider’s perspective on Pearson.

YPG: How did you begin your career? Did you know you wanted to be in publishing right out of college?

Brandy Dawson: When I was in college, I thought I wanted to go to graduate school and become a college history professor. It wasn’t until I saw an ad for a position at Prentice Hall [now part of Pearson] that I learned about the publishing industry, and that I could combine what I love about education and learning.

I started out my career in college publishing as a Prentice Hall Humanities & Social Sciences Sales Representative in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1995. In 1997, I was promoted to Prentice Hall English Sales Director. Then in 1999, we packed up and moved to the big city when I accepted the Prentice Hall English Marketing Manager position. For the past eight years, I have been the Director of Marketing for a variety of humanities and social sciences disciplines across Higher Ed.

YPG: I know there is no “typical” day in marketing, but what does your role as Vice President, Director of Marketing involve?

BD: As the Vice President of Marketing for the Humanities & Social Sciences, I drive all phases of marketing—strategic planning, budgeting, conceptualization, design, messaging, branding, advertising, events, research, analysis, and product launches—for a large division within the Pearson Higher Ed group. I have to make sure that we are setting strategic goals, focusing on the right things, and executing flawlessly—to develop creative and innovative solutions for students and professors.

YPG: What is your favorite part of the job? Your biggest challenges?

BD: I get to work with brilliant people who can make me laugh so hard that it hurts sometimes. I also love seeing people be successful—not just in their current positions but seeing them flourish in new jobs beyond my team, and even beyond the Humanities & Social Sciences division. Biggest challenge? Time! There is not enough time in the day, which is why focus is so important!

YPG: Can you talk a little bit about how marketing fits into the big picture of publishing? What are some of the key responsibilities that the marketing managers and marketing assistants have?

BD: I believe marketing is at the center of what we [publishing houses] do. Someone once said the difference between a good product and a bestseller is marketing. The customers take a chance on you and the people in your organization, and we owe them an amazing learning experience.

The marketing managers are in charge of the campaigns, communication strategies, target tracking, promotion, and research analysis, and the marketing assistants help their managers drive these campaigns. It’s almost like being a campaign manager for an election. And like a campaign manager, you need a team to brainstorm with and to execute your plans.

YPG: Other than your marketing team, who are the other groups and departments within or outside of your company that you work with on a regular basis?

BD: I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best marketing managers, editors, and production miracle workers in the industry. We work very closely with creative—advertising, video, promotions—the people who make our messaging clear and compelling. Other people we work with are authors, faculty, students, and our [Higher Ed] sales team.

YPG: What are some of the general trends and responses that you see from your customers (both professors and students) regarding digital initiatives in educational publishing?

BD: Students are definitely ready to learn online: to read an e-book, take an online quiz, or watch an online video—it’s where they live. We are seeing more and more faculty members making the transition, but they are not where the students are…yet. I actually just asked our intern and Pearson Leadership Development Associate to come up with a video on our student customers, and according to research, 71 percent of students prefer digital over print books.

That night, I asked my nine-year-old if he would like to learn on an iPad or digital device instead of a printed textbook. He said, “That would be AWESOME!” He’s right. And Pearson is among the first Apple partners to develop school iBooks. Take a look:

YPG: What are some of the career opportunities (positions and/or programs) that young professionals can pursue in your field?

BD: Some of the best talent that I’ve seen came to us as our college interns. Educational companies like Pearson look for people who are passionate about education and learning. Marketing assistant and editorial assistant positions are ideal launching places for a career [in higher educational publishing]. If people are attracted to sales, they can look into sales representative positions either right out of college or after spending a year or two in-house.

YPG: If you could choose one book for all young professionals in the publishing industry, what would you recommend?

BD: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath (Crown, 2010). One thing that really stuck with me in this book was that you shouldn’t focus on what’s not working—instead, you need to focus on the bright spots, and what is working.

YPG: What advice do you have for members of the YPG?

BD: In every job you take, be really great at it. Focus on the now and be the best marketing assistant, the best sales rep, the best marketing manager. Don’t worry so much about what you will do five to ten years from now. If you are remarkable in your current role, opportunities will continue to come your way. Find mentors who can support and guide you professionally throughout your career—and more importantly, make sure you pay it forward and support others as well.

When Brandy is not at work, she lives in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband Dennis, her nine-year-old son Eli, and a rescue lab named Lucy.

Dasle Kim is currently an associate talent specialist at Pearson. Previously, she was a marketing intern and marketing assistant for the Humanities & Social Sciences Division at Pearson. You can find her on LinkedIn ( or email her at

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