Judy Johnson, an adjunct professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, was appointed this past week as the chief marketing and communications officer for Caruso Affiliated, a Los Angeles-based company that is one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the United States.
Johnson brings a wide range of industry experience to her new appointment. She previously served as president of operations west of Chicago of GolinHarris, a communications firm with an office in Los Angeles.
“A 30-year veteran of the communications and marketing industry, Johnson was honored as PR Professional of the Year by the Public Relations Society of America Los Angeles Chapter in 2012,” said a press release from Caruso Affiliated.
A California native, Johnson received her bachelor’s of arts degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she wrote for the Daily Bruin newspaper and was also involved in the school’s radio station.
“Although I’m a Bruin by education, I’m a Trojan by heart,” she said.
Since 2012, Johnson has been an adjunct professor at the Annenberg school, where she teaches a master’s-level course in case studies. Johnson stressed the importance of teaching skills applicable to the professional world.
“What I try to provide to students is really a couple of things,” Johnson said. “Number one is real-world examples of how companies and brands are changing their tactics to try to resonate with consumers in a way that is appropriate for those particular audiences. I also try to introduce them to very high-level professionals, so they get real-world career advice and access to influencers.”
Johnson noted that when she began her career in marketing, Los Angeles did not have many opportunities for communications and marketing careers.
“I think that Los Angeles is an anomaly,” she said. “For such a large city, it is a difficult communications agency environment. Many of the international and national firms are very small in Los Angeles.”
In recent years, however, the industry has evolved to encompass a wider variety of roles, including specializations in social media and other forms of digital content. Johnson stated that the Annenberg School has been capable of keeping up with new media as it continues to evolve.
“Annenberg is always committed to evolving to educate students for the here and now,” she said. “I can tell you that some other nearby universities do not have the ability to change and adapt as quickly.”
Johnson herself has also been adaptive in her different roles. In her previous work, she has developed brands for companies such as Amazon, Cold Stone Creamery and Disney among others. Her position at Caruso Affiliated, however, involves development and real estate. Caruso Affiliated “is best known for its first-class retail, dining and entertainment centers, such as The Grove and The Americana at Brand in Southern California,” according to the company’s press release, and was founded by USC alumnus and benefactor Rick J. Caruso.
She noted that her work at Caruso Affiliated is not much different from her past experiences in marketing.
“I look at it this way: Every company is a brand, and a brand is an amalgamation of all the experiences, of all the touchpoints,” she said. “Whether I was working for Toyota or Farmer John or Nestlé, it was to build engagement and build rich, positive experiences at the touchpoints that we were responsible for.”
Johnson views her forthcoming work, which ranges from the redevelopment of downtown Pacific Palisades, Calif. to the planning of a five-star resort in Montecito as well as new luxury apartments in Los Angeles, with excitement.
“We are in the real estate, retail and development business,” Johnson said. “Through innovation and continued hard work, we will hopefully get things to the next level as we expand our footprint here in Southern California and beyond.”