New Strategies to Get Results in the Age of Digital Disruption: Insights from JetBlue, CNN Digital, The New York Times, MuckRack and More

June 1, 2016

The 2016 PR & Media Relations Summit took place on April 6-8 at the Con Edison headquarters in New York City. PRSA and Ragan Communications presented the conference.

Here are some highlights from the event:

Soar With CSR: Take Action to See Coverage and Reputation Take Flight

“CSR is the premise of what we do every day,” said Irma Arizmendi, manager of corporate social responsibility, JetBlue Airways. “Everything begins and ends with the role that business plays in society. It’s transparency, inspiring humanity and being a good citizen.”

Arizmendi discussed corporate culture, and said that some of its key tenets are: neighbors helping neighbors, top customer service, a focus on CSR and a culture of goodwill.

“From the leaders to the frontline crew members, somebody is doing something in corporate service,” she said. “Make sure that the program you’re working on is authentic and genuine to your company goals with a clear message and internal collaboration.”

Arizmendi said that when JetBlue goes into a new city, the company tries to make a CSR impact immediately and be a good corporate citizen.

“Look at what your people are doing, and engage and listen on social media. It starts with grassroots ideas, corporate social responsibility and supporting your local community.

The key to a great marketing campaign is social media, she said. So find your influencers — social media is a cost-effective listening tool to reach audiences in their own space.

Arizmendi also noted three corporate citizenship mistakes that everyone should avoid:

  1. Cause washing
  2. A focus on company instead of community
  3. Not acknowledging people’s concerns

“Always be willing to learn, grow, engage with your community and meet customer needs,” she said. “Be recognized, referenced and reverenced.” — Amy Jacques


The Future of News: Thriving in a 24/7 News Cycle

Storytelling is changing, said Meredith Artley, editor-in-chief and vice president, CNN Digital, during the conference’s opening keynote address. The lines are starting to blur as traditional journalists are going digital, and digital journalists are moving into television.

Artley encouraged using “evergreen explainers,” or stories that you can revisit time and again, which have “long legs, usability and reusability,” she said.

“Journalists are rising to the challenge. It’s not just an article or TV package — it’s bigger and more complicated.”

She also discussed how desktop platforms are declining and destination sites are going away. “We need to be where the audiences are: on mobile, in news feeds and in apps,” she said.

“Journalism is not a solo act. It is a team sport,” she added. “We need to constantly be asking ourselves and each other, ‘Who’s reading and watching this?’”

And remember: “Don’t just pitch a ‘story.’ It’s multiplatform, multiform. Get creative.” — Renée Ruggeri


Social Media Relations Survey Reveals Keys to More Press

“Personalize your pitch, send it at the right time, keep it short, email it, provide images and follow up,” said Greg Galant, CEO of MuckRack.

He also recommended using the Boomerang feature on Gmail, which alerts you two days after sending out an email, to keep tabs on your follow-up correspondence.

The company recently conducted a media relations survey and found that 93 percent of journalists prefer to be contacted by email, and 87 percent would respond to a pitch from someone they didn’t know, Galant said. Fifty-three percent of journalists said the ideal pitch length is two to three paragraphs and 28 percent said they would reject one if it wasn’t personalized.

Before sending an email to a reporter, Galant advised PR pros to complete a pre-pitch checklist to ensure that they will appear credible, which included checking your bio and updating your photo on social media.

Eighty-four percent of journalists track their stories on social media, and 82 percent said a story is shareable if it contains an image, Galant said. So remember to make use of employees, customers, vendors, sponsored events and groups, friends and paid distribution to help share your content. — R.R.


How to Get Stellar Visual Content Out Quickly

Visual content and video allow Goodwill to put a human face on its mission, highlight success stories and expand what people know about the brand, explained Charlene Sarmiento, PR program manager, Goodwill Industries International.

“Bring everyone to the table early on to agree on goals, objectives and audiences,” she said of the approval process. Create a safe space for sharing and providing feedback, but remind everyone that not all of the edits will make it into the final project.

In addition, Sarmiento suggested requesting that all video and content edits include a possible solution. So instead of simply saying, “I don’t like this music,” say, “I would prefer more upbeat music to match the tone of the narrator.” Expect disagreements and difficult conversations; separate the feedback from the person.

Sarmiento also offered the following video storytelling tips:

  • Choose the right subject, someone who can truly connect with the audience. This is not necessarily the loudest or most outgoing person.
  • Producing video in-house will save you money but not time.
  • Take a hybrid approach: If you can film the video, then it’s cheaper to hire an editor rather than a crew to shoot it. — R.R.

2 Pros Sound Off: Reinvent Public Relations With Inspiring Experiences

Bonin Bough, chief media and e-commerce director, Mondelez International:

  • People consume 23 percent of media on mobile devices, but marketers aren’t utilizing it.
  • Our society is distracted. Mobile affects personal relationships and space. We need mobile strategy and fearless marketing.
  • Globally, there are 4 billion active users on messaging apps. We need to be relevant and use mobile phones to unlock new ways of engagement.
  • We need to be disruptors in our organizations and launch big new ideas — hatch the egg of a dragon (the idea), raise it and ride it to success.
  • Identify a new piece of technology or a business model, then cultivate it. It’s a point where disruption and wonder meet on the communications landscape.
  • The goal isn’t to be an icon, but to be iconic. 

Ruthie Schulder, strategy and business development, The Participation Agency:

  • Take risks, move quickly, give people a reason to cut through the clutter — we all want early adopters so the buzz trickles down to the masses.
  • Make it personal — the one-size-fits-all event is on its way out. How do you create unique experiences for everyone in the room?
  • Reach people where they are. Make it personal, tailor experiences, generate conversations, breed loyalists and follow through.
  • You must be buzzworthy in order to generate buzz. Rally a crowd around a bold movement with crazy but digestible ideas. Create jumping off points. — A.J.

Create Powerful Images That Your Audience Will Crave

“Use relevant and immersive images,” said Graham Roberts, senior editor of graphics, The New York Times, as he discussed how powerful images are the key to good storytelling.

Visual journalists use data and images to depict the power of words via storytelling, he said. “We have to inform and engage people, via a message, with visual design that makes that data more interesting.”

Roberts said that many people often say: “Here is some data. I hope you find something interesting,” but that isn’t enough. “Data is a story,” he said, adding that motion and 3-D graphics are usually very compelling to audiences.

“We have the opportunity to define virtual reality and 360-content creation for mobile. So learn a new immersive, virtual medium and move into the future.”

He said that successful visual content is when someone can enjoy the content, even if he or she may not like the subject matter. 

Roberts also provided several important tips to remember when creating your own visual story:

  • Be transparent and honest.
  • Make sure the data is accurate, relevant, engaging.
  • Experiment.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new ideas.

“It’s important to show in your graphics what you know and what you don’t know,” Roberts said. “Honesty is key, but can be a design challenge.” — A.J.

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