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The Communicator


Alumna honored for her expertise, success at United Airlines

Maggie Schmerin ('06)

Maggie Schmerin illustration
Alumna Maggie Schmerin of United Airlines has been honored by PRWeek among its 40 Under 40 and by Crain's Chicago as a Notable Executive in Marketing.

Fast-paced? Even frenzied? That’s just fine with Penn State alumna Maggie Schmerin.

Schmerin, the managing director of advertising and social media for United Airlines, thrives in that environment.

She leads advertising and digital and social media for the airline — guiding global social media efforts on 11 channels across North America, Europe and Asia. Her responsibilities include advertising, brand and executive social media, analytics, customer and employee influencer marketing, and governance and training.

Schmerin, who earned her bachelor’s degree in advertising/public relations from the University in 2006, was recognized by PRWeek among its 40 Under 40 honorees this year. She was also named by Crain’s Chicago as a Notable Executive in Marketing.

The PRWeek honor was a pleasant surprise amidst all the challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic this year.

“My boss had submitted me probably several months ago. Then I woke up one morning and found myself among the honorees,” she said. “Things are always busy but we’ve never been busier than this year.

“It’s certainly an interesting time to be in the airline industry. We’ve always been focused on safety, but now have a mandate to more specifically communicate about all we are doing to keep customers and employees healthy while traveling with us.”

In a heavily scrutinized industry where customers travel 500 miles per hour to destinations all over the world, and with the media almost always watching, it’s not an easy job.

Still, Schmerin embraces all it entails.

“It’s fast-paced in a way that’s unlike any other industry I’ve worked in,” she said. “You’re constantly checking Google alerts, social media and responding to inquiries from the media. We have a robust group of journalists who regularly report airline news. Every single day it’s not one story, it’s five that need your attention. And we almost never have the luxury of sleeping on a response or spending too much time overthinking how we may want to jump into a trending topic on social media.”

All of that is context, not a complaint. Schmerin, a Pittsburgh native who loves to travel and now lives in Chicago, thrives in the fast-paced environment. She first started collaborating with the airline when she was employed at Edelman, the agency where her career had advanced after starting with a boutique firm in Washington, D.C.

The palpable collegiality and energy that people at United displayed during meetings were appealing. When the chance to move in house arose in 2017, Schmerin could not resist.

“The industry moved at a speed I had never seen before and the people there were clearly caring, collaborative and friendly,” she said. “They liked rolling up their sleeves and getting things done.”

Schmerin has proven to be a perfect fit and a prime example of that approach.