Public Relations Tactics

Record-Setting Communications: Keith Green, APR, of Guinness World Records on Strategic Storytelling

December 1, 2016

As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, Keith Green, APR, always had a passion for sports and entertainment, and hoped to make a career in one of those fields.

Today, he has “one of the most fun and dynamic jobs around” as the vice president of marketing and commercial sales at Guinness World Records. Green oversees three key areas out of the company’s New York City office: consumer marketing for the best-selling, annual book; commercial sales surrounding the company’s adjudication and licensing products, and B2B marketing to companies of all types and sizes that want to harness the power of record breaking to advance their business objectives.

He launched his career in Philadelphia and while working for Gift of Life’s Olympic-style U.S. Transplant games after college, he found himself side-by-side with Jimmy Lynam, GM of the Philadelphia 76ers. Green credits the generosity of Lynam, whose brother had a kidney transplant, in helping shape his career. Within a short span of time, he was working with the 76ers. He stayed with the franchise for nearly six years, working in the ticketing and community relations departments.

Green then served as director of public relations for Nazareth Speedway and later, Richmond International Raceway, where his strategic planning and promotional ideas helped break NASCAR and IndyCar attendance marks.

Green received a B.A. in journalism and a M.Ed. in sports administration from Temple University. He is a longtime PRSA member and served on the New York Chapter board for three years. He lives in Little Silver, N.J., with his wife Donna and their young son. When he’s not cheering on his favorite Philly sport teams, including his beloved Temple Owls, Green can be found playing golf, cooking, spending time with his family on the New Jersey beaches, and educating others about autism through the nonprofit he formed in 2015, the Autism MVP Foundation.

How did you first become interested in communications and get your start?

As a kid, I enjoyed reading the newspaper — and specifically, the sports page — and feel that activity strongly influenced my writing and editing skills. I majored in journalism and thought I wanted to be a sports writer. But I quickly realized that my preferred path to being a beat writer for a pro sports team would likely mean starting by covering high-school sports, and that wasn’t appealing. I didn’t have a great idea what public relations was, but it was offered as a sequence at Temple University. The more I learned about it, the more I thought I would love it; and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

What are some challenges of your day-to-day job?

The main challenge and the beauty of record breaking is that it works for just about any kind of company. So, from a marketing perspective, it’s a challenge to reach all of those different groups. It doesn’t matter if it’s a nonprofit, a Fortune 1000 brand, a PR agency or an educational institution. We work very closely with all of those types of businesses and we can reach them at events like the PRSA International Conference. Trying to reach just about every type of business is a challenge. So we have to be smart about our resources and the way we try to reach those people in different ways.

What tools and skills are most important for you to succeed as a professional?

This answer has never changed in my 25-plus years of working: I tell students, colleagues and anyone who will listen that if you can write well, you are ahead of 90 percent of the workforce. Whether it’s crafting a speech, writing a blog post, editing a piece of marketing collateral or emailing a pitch, writing is a critical, fundamental skill.

What trends do you see on the horizon for communications?

Something that we’re seeing more of with our clients, and overall, is: How is virtual reality going to work for different companies and businesses? And we’re seeing that at Guinness World Records as well. Increasingly, companies want ideas around us. We just had a company set a record a couple of weeks ago overseas — it was the most people riding a roller coaster virtually at one time. So this is sort of a new category for us and for our potential and current clients who want to utilize that platform as a way to try to break a Guinness World Records title.

What are some keys to implementing strong, strategic storytelling?

We tell our clients not to think about the event that day in and of itself; think about it from a campaign perspective. What is the story behind the story that makes the Guinness World Records title hopefully successful?

For example, the City of Huntington Beach wanted to promote the fact that they are a world-renowned surfing destination, so they came up with the idea for creating the world’s largest surfboard and the most people surfing simultaneously. So they actually had two records in one on the same day. Somebody had to create a 42-foot surfboard. You can’t go down to your local surf shop and buy that. So, what’s the story? How is that made? How is it built? You have to think about those kinds of things — not just what that moment in time is and the big reveal that you are a new Guinness World Records title holder.

What are some best practices for reaching people through social media, with so many different platforms and 24/7 news?

Increasingly, we’re becoming more of a digital brand. And it’s important to us to engage people on social media and our platform so they have access to our content, 24/7. Our Facebook page following is strong with more than 10 million fans, our YouTube channel has over one million subscribers and our website has 14 million unique visitors.

When clients or individuals come to us after they break Guinness World Records titles, we encourage them to share that content with us so we can leverage our social channels, which also helps them. Knowing how you’re going to frame it and what that video or still shot is going to look like is extremely important, so we can share it.

What are some best practices for influencer outreach and brand communication?

It’s critical for an influencer to have an authentic connection to your brand to maximize impact, regardless if that’s a paid or unpaid approach. It’s important for us to work with Guinness World Records titleholders so they can share the passion they have for their achievement of being officially recognized as the world’s best at something.  

How do you protect such a storied brand like Guinness and what role does public relations play in protecting that brand?

It’s simple things like conveying to the public and potential clients that we are more than the book we all loved as kids. You’ll never see in writing or hear us say “Guinness” or “Guinness Book of World Records.” It’s “Guinness World Records.”

We go far beyond the book with our digital platforms, and the commercial side of our business entails companies of all types and sizes to work with us around the power of record breaking to advance their business objectives.

That includes having one of our media-trained judges (we call them “adjudicators”) attend a brand or company’s record attempt and the opportunity to use our marks to promote their attempt. It’s up to us to protect the integrity of our brand and be vigilant about how our marks are used. Policing that logo usage can be challenging since so many individuals and brands want to be affiliated with such a respected brand.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is these daily creative sessions that we have where we have potential clients that come to us that want to leverage the power of record breaking to advance their business objectives. So, it doesn’t matter what kind of business it is, and that’s sort of the beauty of it — we’ll come up with a creative solution that we think will fit and aligns with their business objective. 

Getting to Know… Keith Green, APR

Any three dinner guests — past or present?

Temple Grandin, Neil Armstrong and my father-in-law, who unfortunately passed away long before I met my wife

Favorite movie?

“Caddyshack”

Best place to travel?

San Francisco

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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