The other Melani Griffith

Jun 18, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The name may sound familiar, but rest assured there is no relation. This Melani Griffith (spelled without an “e”) does work in the entertainment business, however. As AMC Networks’ vice president/Eastern region, she directs the sales and affiliate marketing efforts of American Movie Classics and WE: Woman’s Entertainment. But she is not a movie star, nor is she married to Antonio Banderas.
But the confusion is common-and not always a bad thing. “People never forget my name, and I get the best hotel rooms and the best tables at restaurants,” Ms. Griffith says.
When AMC held a promotional screening in Sarasota, Fla., of “The Birds,” the classic Hitchcock thriller starring Tippi Hedren, movie star Melanie’s mom, the hotel management saw Melani Griffith’s name on the reservation list and got excited. The hotel called the local media and moved Ms. Griffith into a special suite filled with beautiful flowers courtesy of the general manager. When the truth came out, a clearly disappointed newspaper gossip columnist wrote: “Turns out, it was merely an AMC worker.”
But people in the industry know that “merely” is not the right word to describe this Ms. Griffith. At 29, she’s already an entertainment sales veteran, having served as the director of the Southeast region at Discovery Networks. After taking a two-year break to earn an MBA from Columbia University, Ms. Griffith joined AMC a year ago.
The television business, she said, is changing and consolidating, and sales is a much tougher field than it was even four years ago. “Honestly, the biggest challenge is getting people to focus on networks. It used to be my biggest competition was other networks; now it is different parts of the business. With so much going on with video on demand and dish buy-backs and high-speed data, people need to be reminded that programming is what really draws customers in.”
Ms. Griffith, who grew up in Washington, started out wanting to be the next Barbara Walters. But while she was a communications student at UCLA, she changed her mind, deciding that the business side held greater rewards and challenges. Building relationships, she believes, is her greatest strength. “I take it as a personal victory when clients invite me to their weddings.”
But Ms. Griffith is quick to point out those personal relationships alone are not enough. “I work really hard to earn a person’s respect, because you don’t get it just by walking in the door. If I can’t bring to the table a compelling business reason for them to launch my service, then it doesn’t matter how funny I am or how many dinners I buy them-they aren’t willing to buy.”
Ms. Griffith, who lives in Manhattan but spends more than half her time traveling, works hard to achieve balance in her life. Besides running 4 to 6 miles five days a week as she prepares to run a half-marathon this summer, she is also striving to improve her golf game.
“It’s good to engage in activities that clear my mind. It makes me a better employee and keeps me from getting burned out.”
These days, learning how to be a sales supervisor rather than a salesperson is her biggest challenge. As Ms. Griffith said, “Closing your mouth and letting someone else sell is hard when you like to talk as much as I do.”