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Brandishing the Brand: United Way’s Cynthia Round Becomes Metropolitan Museum’s New Senior VP

Cynthia Round

Cynthia Round

Here’s the announcement that the art scribe tribe has been eagerly awaiting:

Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today the appointment of Cynthia Round to the newly created position of senior vice president, marketing and external relations.  Ms. Round will join the museum on June 3….Reporting to her will be communications and advertising, which will remain under the direction of Elyse Topalian, vice president for communications [who supervises relations with the press, including pesky people like me].

As you may remember, Harold Holzer, the Met’s veteran senior vice president for external affairs, announced last July that he would be relinquishing some of his duties (which Round will now assume). He will concentrate on the Met’s government relations and public affairs, while spending more time pursuing his work as a historian and writer.

Harold’s distinguished experience before coming to the Met had been in journalism, politics and public television. Cynthia (whom I’ve never met) comes to the Met from United Way, where she was executive vice president of brand marketing and strategy. Nothing in her United Way bio suggests any experience in journalism or cultural affairs:

She joined United Way Worldwide (formerly United Way of America) in October 2002 after more than 20 years of building and marketing corporate brands.

Ms. Round began her career in brand management at the Procter & Gamble Company, where she held a variety of marketing positions, including a two-year international assignment in Rome, Italy.  Ms. Round joined Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, where she became senior partner and executive group director.

During her 15 years with O&M New York, Ms. Round helped create, build and renovate domestic and global brands in categories ranging from packaged goods and high tech to fashion and entertainment.

My hope is that she’ll focus more on communicating, less on “branding.” My own recent experience suggests that the Met needs to be more timely and expansive in answering serious journalistic queries.

The luster of the Met’s “brand” is best burnished by highlighting its unparalleled collection and the consummate professionalism of its curatorial staff, not by dreaming up slick (sometimes foolish) branding gambits.

Our preeminent American museum’s everyday excellence is its own best sales pitch.

an ArtsJournal blog