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Jennifer Matthews of The Bloc: “You can’t ask a team to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself”

Believe in yourself. A lot of women do not give themselves enough credit, or they lack confidence in their abilities. You can’t ask a team to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Matthews. Jennifer is a dynamic leader […]

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Believe in yourself. A lot of women do not give themselves enough credit, or they lack confidence in their abilities. You can’t ask a team to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.


For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Matthews.

Jennifer is a dynamic leader who has the vision to spearhead sea change initiatives and bring them to reality. She joined The Bloc in 2007 to drive its diversification into a full service model that integrates brand strategies and execution across customer segments and channels. In 2010 Jennifer was tapped to lead The Bloc into the future. As a result, the company has grown to be one of the largest full service health creative agencies in the United States. In addition, The Bloc has been recognized as one of the most creatively awarded agency in the health space globally and in the United States.

Jennifer’s past experience spans audiences and channels. She grew up on the general consumer side of branding, CRM and digital leading sophisticated initiatives in the automotive, entertainment, financial services, and telecommunications sectors. She transitioned to healthcare in 2003, establishing Wunderman’s first consumer healthcare practice. In her tenure at The Bloc, Jennifer has led launches for both professional and consumer audiences across a full spectrum of health brands and services, including the pharmaceutical, medical device, health tech and provider spaces. Her passion lies in forging new ground to achieve better outcomes for people.

Jennifer has been recognized as an HBA Rising Star (2009), a PM360 Elite Transformational Leader (2016), a PharmaVoice Top 100 Most Inspiring People (2016) and was inducted into DM News’ Hall of Femme in 2019.


Thank you for joining us Jennifer! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I got into advertising because I was always fascinated by the art of persuasion and the power of a brand. I spent the first half of my career in the general consumer space working in the auto, financial services and telecommunications industries, which was fascinating and fun. Upon return from my third maternity leave I was asked by my boss at the time to take on a healthcare account. I was surprised, as I had never worked in the space, but he was insistent that I was the person for the job. Flash forward to today, and saying yes was the best decision I’ve made. Working in healthcare is truly rewarding.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There are so many! In terms of my own personal growth, certainly participating in the leadership of our global network, The Bloc Partners, has enabled me to partner with leaders from different markets and cultures and immerse in the broader world. Back home, bringing the agency together in one location in downtown Manhattan back in 2015 is a highlight for sure. We had been in multiple locations for a very long time and planning for and bringing our community together was amazing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Learning how to best work with creative people did take me some time to become accustomed to. I’m a pretty straight shooter and it’s not always appreciated. Once, as a junior account person, I approached a creative leader with a reminder of a deadline and he literally threw a chair at me. While not funny and certainly not acceptable behavior, it was a lesson in how to pick a battle and know how and when to engage.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re different in that we are an independent, woman-owned agency with the purpose of Be Great to Do Good. We value diversity, inclusion and believe it makes us stronger.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are further diversifying our service model by starting up a separate division of the company focused on innovation. While we haven’t named it yet, we have already developed and launched a few products and services that are aiming to support healthy outcomes. One of them, SafeCode, was designed to help people disinfect mail packages in their own homes — certainly relevant in today’s world.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Believe in yourself. A lot of women do not give themselves enough credit, or they lack confidence in their abilities. You can’t ask a team to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

If you are fortunate to have a large team, rely on them to get the job done. Set clear goals, delegate and empower them to make decisions. Seek ways to drive greater collaboration amongst team members, connect the dots and check in frequently.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The truth is that I could not have taken some of the risks I took earlier in my career without a bedrock of a nanny for my three children. She was with us for nineteen years and made it possible for me to work the hours and do the travel required without a great deal of worry. She became family and, as the years progressed, took on much of the coordination on the home front. A lifesaver. Our family was truly blessed.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Goodness to the world is a tall order! Of course, my ability to give back financially to causes important to me has increased over the last 20 years. That being said, I’ve most enjoyed meeting young people charting their paths and sharing my experience.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Establish shared purpose. People are motivated far more by contributing to a cause larger than themselves. Identify what that is for your company, your team and ensure it is central to everything you do. Your north star. Our purpose is Be Great to do Good. To strive for excellence in everything that we do, in order to affect a better health outcome.

Be authentic. People have an innate BS meter. Tell the truth and don’t sugarcoat the situation. Treat people like grown ups and with respect.

Listen more. Talk less. It’s so important to dial into what is going on and hear from all corners of the organization. Creating multiple methods for people to provide feedback is essential.

Have grit. Take risks. Failure is a growth opportunity and it’s important to be in that mindspace. We will face setbacks, what can we learn from them? Adopt the view that it is the journey.

Remember that you work for them, not the other way around. You are there to support your team’s success, not lord it over people. In order to lead, you need to support the goals and aspirations of your team and help them eliminate barriers to success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement. that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Inequality and poverty are arguably the biggest issues affecting billions across the planet. Unifying the global community to solve for this AS ONE has been elusive to impossible, given nationalism and many other biases. I’m afraid I don’t have the answer here, but if I did I would dedicate my life to it.

Can you please give us your favorite. “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be kind. We are all dealing with the complexities of life and work, ups and downs, and multiple competing priorities. You never really know what someone has going on in their life, so just be kind.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Without a doubt, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. What an incredible person.

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