Some people go on a journey of exploration before discovering their passion and purpose. For Jenny Rooney, all it took was her mom’s ever-present basket of magazines, filled with titles such as Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping.

For 5-year-old Jenny, the basket of publications gave her a sense of wonder, even if they left her a bit tongue-tied.

“I remember I couldn’t pronounce it right,” Rooney tells Quad Chief Marketing Officer Josh Golden in the latest episode of Quad’s “Building Blocks” video series. “When I was little, I would say to my parents, ‘I want to work for a mazagine.’ I just somehow always gravitated toward magazines… It committed me.”

That pull never left, guiding her into and through a 25-year career as a journalist for some of the nation’s best-known business and industry trade publications, including Forbes, Ad Age and, as of September 2022, Adweek.

Rooney tells Golden that her move to Adweek as Chief Experience Officer, a role she describes as “not unlike a chief marketing officer,” was self-initiated. At the time, she was serving as Managing Director and Co-Founder of the CMO House at Black Glass, a marketing consultancy.

Broadly speaking, as Adweek’s Chief Experience Officer, Rooney leads the creation of new initiatives, resources and experiences that address the needs of marketing industry decision-makers.

“To me, ‘experience’ is how we as Adweek engage with our community,” she says in the interview. “One of the things I’ve said is, ‘We have to think like a marketer.’ We have to be so deeply understanding of our community, of our audience, so we can be as relevant, essential and as needed as possible. The best marketers do that.”

Rooney says her fascination with marketing grew steadily through a confluence of events, including the dot-com boom and bust in the late 1990s and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“The unpredictability of our industry, and, frankly, our world, and how the two connect was something I learned early on in my career,” Rooney said. “I started to understand the story of this industry…. I ended up getting to a place where I had such appreciation for the challenges [marketers] work under and the way they are able to execute in spite of those challenges.”

Highlights from the episode:

On how journalists build trusted relationships with sources

“It’s not rocket science. It’s just being human. I was always able to walk that line as a journalist [and] maintain editorial integrity. If anything, building and forging those relationships with people at a human level, that engenders trust because you know you obviously create that construct where you’re like, ‘This is off the record, but let’s just have a conversation.’ You literally just have to spend time with people you are writing about, otherwise you won’t really understand who they are, what makes them tick, what keeps them up and night, what they are challenged with.”

On measuring success in reaching marketing decision-makers

“We know we only have a few minutes of everybody’s time at the top of every day. We have to own that. We have to be part of this industry’s essential diet of media download in that critical time. If we can be something everybody relies on and can’t live without, and we become truly that trusted and essential resource that powers people to do their jobs better — and that in turn helps their companies perform better — then we will have been successful.”

On what makes a great journalist

“The ability to synthesize trends. Connecting the dots. … I think curiosity is huge: Never being satisfied with just reporting the ‘what’ [but] having to dig deeper and think about, well, what does that mean? What’s the ‘so what?’”

On how she finds her Zen and other matters

“Marketers need to keep their eyes on macroeconomic trends. And it’s an election year. Those things have a massive impact on marketers.”