Marketing Multiculturalism

Lisa Skriloff ’77 helps companies reach out to underserved communities.

Lisa Skriloff

Skrillof has made it easier for firms to reach African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ consumers. Courtesy of Lisa Skriloff

No one could ever accuse Lisa Skriloff ’77 of being timid. In May 1994, she walked away from a coveted position as director of marketing at the New York Times — and instantly took a $100,000 drop in salary — to launch her business, Multicultural Marketing Resources, Inc. (MMR).

Over the past 26 years, Skriloff has built MMR into an authoritative source of multicultural and diversity experts for marketers, agencies, journalists, research firms, and brands. Through publications like her flagship newsletter, Multicultural Marketing News, and her online Source Book of Multicultural Experts, Skriloff has made it easier for firms to reach African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ consumers. MMR also maintains a directory of speakers from different backgrounds and an online career center with job postings that can be accessed for free.

Skriloff’s interest in different cultures and her embrace of new experiences started at an early age. As the daughter of an engineer and purchasing director who was regularly transferred around the world, Skriloff lived in New York, California, England, and Germany. When she received an invitation to apply to UW–Madison, her first thought was, “I never lived in the Midwest. This could be interesting.”

Away from her family, Skriloff felt free and comfortable in Madison to explore and become more self-reliant. When her wanderlust kicked in after graduation, she landed in Madrid, Spain. For two years, she taught English, wrote for an English-language magazine for expats, and traveled extensively. “I did really like working for myself,” Skriloff says.

Even after she returned to the United States and worked at the Times, she thought like an entrepreneur, proposing new multicultural sections, before leaving to found MMR.

Skriloff’s clients are fiercely loyal. “Her efforts greatly contributed to our brand becoming the first, top-of-mind agency for any client or organization looking for information about or services within the Asian American market,” says Saul Gitlin, a former executive at Kang & Lee Advertising.

Skriloff’s education degree helped her grow her business when she saw the need for teaching marketers about the benefits of reaching out to underserved communities, but learning was a two-way street. When prospective clients asked about a service or product she did not yet have, she learned to come up with it quickly — a skill and attitude this world traveler understands.

“I’ve always been a little too optimistic, but it’s worked out well because I see things as: this will be good; this will be fun,” she says.

Published in the Winter 2020 issue

Tags: Alumni, Business, diversity

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