“Take time to read together.” with Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Lisa Boyars

Take time to read together. There is nothing more special than reading to my kids (or having them start to read to me!). Getting lost in a story together is one of my all time favorite family activities. Lisa Boyars is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at The Week and The Week Junior — […]

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Credit: Jamie Meier
Credit: Jamie Meier

Take time to read together. There is nothing more special than reading to my kids (or having them start to read to me!). Getting lost in a story together is one of my all time favorite family activities.

Lisa Boyars is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at The Week and The Week Junior — a new news weekly magazine launching in March for children aged 8 to 14 to help them make sense of the world. Boyars is responsible for spearheading fresh brand partnerships and branded content strategies as well as developing new trade and consumer experiences that unite the global influence of the Dennis Publishing enterprise portfolio. She is currently overseeing all marketing efforts around The Week Junior which is the first news weekly magazine to launch in the US in nearly 20 years.

Boyars has a proven track record of success driving dynamic growth and new business across premium media organizations through connected content and experiences. At Condé Nast, she served as Vice President of Marketing and Brand Development, building omnichannel initiatives across their media portfolio, including Vogue, Wired, and Vanity Fair, and leveraging the organization’s collective cultural influence on behalf of advertising and marketing partners. Prior, she was the lead marketing executive for The New Yorker, in the role of Associate Publisher, Integrated Marketing. At Hearst, she built an enthusiast-led branded content studio as Executive Director, Group Marketing for Hearst Men’s Group.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Thank you for having me. I grew up in Brooklyn (before it was trendy!). As an only child — and the daughter of a reading teacher — I was often included in everyday “grown-up” conversations about news and culture.

I am a proud product of NYC public schools — choosing to attend specialized programs that empowered me to pursue interests in “visual media” and serve as editor of my high school yearbook. I was even able to intern for Congressman (now Senator) Chuck Schumer and work for the Superintendent of Brooklyn High Schools.

Summers were all about sleepaway camp, where I learned foundational lessons about teamwork, leadership, and how hard work pays off in ways you never expect. When a friend at camp suggested we take a lifeguarding certification class together, I never knew that would one day be my ticket to the Walt Disney World College Program where for a summer I traded lifeguard duties for the opportunity to attend Disney University (yes, I earned my “Mousters Degree!”).

I studied at Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, had the chance to live in LA and intern for an entertainment PR firm (growing impact and influence before social media), was a teaching assistant for Media & Politics, worked at the student newspaper, and spent senior year leading a winning team in the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

Myentire career has been driven by the belief that brands have the potential to shape the culture in profound ways.

For the better part of two decades, my home base has been on the revenue side of premium media companies, Condé Nast and Hearst. I’ve led marketing groups, crafted brand strategies and voices, developed innovative ideas that both hyper-target and scale, built content studios (and great content), and activated cultural moments and movements, including The New Yorker Festival.

Along the way, I’ve collaborated with creators, editors, and other generally notable individuals with an outsized impact on the culture. Together, we made big ideas bigger and turned market trends into tangible concepts. I’ve enabled auto manufacturers to substantively connect with women, used humor to convince millennials to plan for retirement, and commissioned editorial voices to transform mass retailers into beauty authorities.

Today I sit as SVP, Marketing at The Week, working with brands to navigate an ever-changing consumer news culture. And now, I couldn’t be more excited to launch The Week Junior — empowering kids (8–14) to make sense of the world and take real-time action.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

During the week, every moment counts. From getting ready before the kids wake up to stealing 15 minutes to communicate with my London colleagues (who are already mid-afternoon) to having breakfast and backpacks ready-to-go. Right now, our two kids — Aaron (5-years-old) and Hannah (4-years-old) — are in different schools, so it’s a bit of a dance, but thankfully our (awesome) town of South Orange, New Jersey, has a midtown direct train to NYC that makes it all possible (unless New Jersey Transit is having one of their infamous meltdowns, but that’s a different interview altogether). It also means that if there’s a morning activity at someone’s school, my husband or I can usually attend and still make it to the office at a reasonable hour.

By the time Aaron and Hannah are where they’re supposed to be, it can already feel like half the day has happened, but I try to use the commute to re-focus on work, jump back on email and Slack, and review my calendar to ensure meetings are a balance of internal priorities and client interactions. I encourage our teams to prioritize creative brainstorms for the first half of the day when their thinking is fresh, and have lately been focusing on how to level-up our thinking on the daily so that most projects we work on can realize broader revenue than the task at hand. We operate like a startup in the larger organization of Dennis Publishing, so being mindful of how we work has an outsized impact on what we deliver.

I’m usually home first — around 6:45 — and join my kids at dinner in progress. We have something I made up to structure dinner-table conversation called ‘The Kindness Contest’, where we each share one kind thing we have done that day — whether it’s recognizing when someone needed a hug or a toy, or simply holding a door open. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll get a kindness story that also gives me a window into a meaningful feeling or event that happened that day.

Bedtime routine centers on reading — now that my kindergartener, Aaron, is just learning how — he’s starting to read to us, too. My husband is a writer and we both are passionate about cultivating a love of reading from the start. Right now, my 4-year-old preschool daughter is princess and Barbie obsessed and can recite from memory dozens of Little Golden books while Aaron loves the “Bad Guys” franchise and “Captain Underpants.”

The Week Junior prototype issues are making their way into the rotation quite naturally and I see signs of Aaron starting to independently spend time with his weekly subscription, learning about the world and discovering where his place in it may be.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Ofcourse. Kids change and grow way faster than my pre-parent mind could ever understand. I think this is why children crave consistency so much, and when that gets disrupted, it stands to reason that their minds struggle to stay focused on growing and learning. So with that, I do everything I can to be a constant in Aaron and Hannah’s daily routine, encouraging their little minds to stay on-course and keep their eye on the prize.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Most parents know — little kids/little problems, big kids/big problems. I know that these early years are crucial to developing a trusting and supportive relationship that will scale as they grow and provide the foundation for communication as things in their lives get complicated. That is most successfully realized by just literally being there in the everyday moments as much as possible. That doesn’t mean every day and every moment, but enough to keep the momentum going.

I also believe strongly in family vacations. It seems concentrated time together yields exponentially stronger memories. An example that rings clear — we went to Disney World in December and they’re still introducing new thoughts and moments from those 5 days. (Side note: Disney when you’re working there in college and Disney with two young kids — very different!!)

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Pipe cleaners. Seriously. I swear there is a direct correlation between the quantity and variety of pipe cleaners I have stocked in the arts & crafts cabinet, and the amount of positive, peaceful, quality time we spend together on weekends. By the time Sunday night arrives, my kids have both stacked my wrists with bracelets, and turned empty Amazon boxes into webbed fortresses. Note, when pipe cleaner inventory is low, I’ve substituted cupcake decorating with funky color icing and eyeball shaped sprinkles. Same general result! (Come to think of it, I think I’m going to suggest a weekly pipe-cleaner project to the editors of The Week Junior…)

A couple more interpersonal examples:

Our town sits on one of the Northeast’s most beautiful nature reservations, and we try to take advantage of it as much as we can. Aaron loves to hike and I found he really enjoys (and thrives) during the one-on-one time we get to have together. When we are wandering around outdoors, he’ll pivot between hunting for treasure and asking existential questions.

Hannah takes gymnastics on Saturdays and it’s a little bit of a drive. So we have turned that time into a fun part of the experience, including agreeing on a movie soundtrack that we can belt the whole way. She has been on a huge Frozen 2 kick lately (shocker) and in between songs, she’s been asking complex questions about the movie’s themes. You can tell these are topics she’s been turning over in her own mind, and it’s cool when she already has a perspective ready to share. The other day, we got into a whole conversation about the notion of “transformation” — way to go, Hannah.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

Ask questions. No matter how many times my kids tell me they did “nothing” at school, I will never stop asking. I’ve learned to tweak my line of questioning to be more specific and have also realized it’s less about the answers they give me and more about my kids knowing that I will always ask — and listen.

Be spontaneous. My kids love feeling like we’re in cahoots — especially if it means bonus one-on-one time. It’s never anything big or taxing — more like randomly deciding to take the dog for a long walk or pulling the bikes out of the garage or going for a morning bagel run in our pajamas.

Probably the most obvious for our world today — balance that screen-time. My husband reminds me that when our kids see us on our phones, they have no idea what we’re doing — to them, there’s no difference between us mindlessly scrolling on social media, sending an important work email, or reading an opinion piece on The Week. So, while I’m still sometimes going to choose to do those things, I also notice that if I’m reading a book or magazine, or writing in a notebook, my kids tend to engage with me more positively — and sometimes even emulate my behavior.

Take time to read together. There is nothing more special than reading to my kids (or having them start to read to me!). Getting lost in a story together is one of my all time favorite family activities.

Talk about what’s happening in the world. Like my parents did, I like to involve my kids in discussions about current events. Their perspectives are enlightening, the conversations can end up in more interesting directions, and, sometimes, just taking a step back to explain things in a simple and clear way gives me clarity, too!

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

Being a good parent means taking all of the characteristics that make you a good human to the rest of the world — and applying them to raising your kids.

For example, my husband, Dave, is an SVP, Group Creative Director in healthcare advertising, meaning he does quite a bit of writing — and the kids know that Daddy creates stories for work. One day, I found the three of them cracking up over a character they had invented, and all of the different original stories that came out of the world they had created for him to live in. Well, that character and those stories have turned into a series of handmade books that Aaron and Hannah keep contributing to through new ideas, illustrations, or writing of actual words. I think they have more fun reading the stories they made with their dad, than anything off the shelf. In doing so, Dave has used his own talents to show Aaron and Hannah how to have pride in their work, and their imaginations.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

In my house, it’s less about inspiring kids to dream big — they do that really well on their own — and more about how, as a parent, how I can best celebrate and support their infinite imaginations. I think this boils down to exposing your children to more of the world and giving them an ever-growing toolbox to make sense of it all.

For example, on Super Tuesday, Aaron actually watched some of the election results coverage with us and we got into a conversation about how he could run for President of his student council one day. He asked some questions about what that meant, and definitively responded that it was of no interest to him and that he would rather focus his efforts on inventing things. We then started talking about some of the most famous inventors that ever lived, he came back the next day with a list of inventions that he thought should exist, and asked for help investigating how to make them happen — immediately. Off to the library and Home Depot, we go.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success is when you’re confident enough to be proud of yourself — to give yourself credit for all that you’re already accomplishing. There are always going to be more professional goals to achieve, another round of kid sign-up deadlines not to miss, an unexpected expense to account for, a pilates class to make, and cancelled plans with girlfriends to reschedule. Sometimes I have to remind myself that getting to the point where these are my challenges has been really hard work, and I should be proud of the things I’m getting done in the meantime.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

Being a mom influences the lens I have on all the content I consume — parenting-related and otherwise. Beyond The Week’s new parenting vertical, Motherly was a favorite when my kids were still in diapers, and now I tend to rely on my local mom hives and my personal network of powerful and multidimensional women (who keep it real on the socials).

I’m also currently re-reading Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” as it’s providing lots of insights into some of the characteristics I love most about my son.

I obviously can’t wait for the launch of The Week Junior — as I think it will also serve as a guide for how I can help my kids make sense of the world.

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

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” — Amelia Earhart

This one speaks for itself! I put an emphasis on spending my time productively, accomplishing things big and small in ways that move culture, business, and my family forward. It means having an always-on radar for what’s happening in the world, a filter for how that applies to goals at-hand, and the discipline to translate them into tangible outcomes. With my clients and in my personal life, I try to do this proactively and behind-the-scenes so everyone, including me, can enjoy the moments that matter.

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. 🙂

I believe that in our culture there is an unrealized impact at the crossroads of kindness and ambition. My most remarkable career achievements have been in collaboration with smart and savvy people who I consider to be “good humans.” As we empower children today to be high achievers in whatever passions they choose to pursue, it’s also on us to ensure their humanity and inherent good travels along with them. I feel confident that The Week Junior will play an important role in that process — and is exactly what our kids need in 2020.

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