PR & Media Relations Conference Recap

June 3, 2019

ESPN's Molly Mita [amy jacques]
ESPN's Molly Mita [amy jacques]

Ragan, PR Daily and PRSA presented the PR & Media Relations Conference at New York’s PayPal headquarters on April 16–18. Here are some highlights from the event.

Social Media Insights From IBM, Pfizer, Grubhub, PayPal and Merriam-Webster

Paying attention to data insights and trends, listening and having a clear content strategy are key for social media success. Here’s how five brands “take the social media reins” and drive success online.

Brandi Boatner: IBM uses social to give the company a human voice and connect with our brand. We educate them on what we do while staying true to our conservative 108-year-old brand. “Stick to who you are,” she said. IBM is a tech company at its essence. (“We invented the barcode!”)

We educate people and help them understand Watson, AI and the cloud. We break down tech terms for people to understand. IBM uses social listening tools and takes risks when it makes sense. We want to empower employees to be seen as thought leaders and share their expertise, or blog on LinkedIn Pulse.

Mallorie Rosenbluth: Grubhub uses social media to engage with the community, listen and reply to people who are sharing, “from a 1-star review of a hangry person whose food is late to a 5-star review of a person with a great story where food made their day,” she said. “Listen, reply, synthesize data and create a feedback loop to connect with your community.”

Chad Parizman: Pfizer uses social media to “pull back the curtain” and tell stories of health and wellness, innovation in the company, clinical trial information and interviews with scientists. We have a dedicated data scientist on the social team. 

“Focus on authenticity, find your voice and don’t be tone deaf,” he said.

Amanda Miller: PayPal uses an authentic voice on social media, speaking about what’s real and staying true to our mission and values. Also we focus on what matters most to the brand, our employees and our leaders.

“The richest base you can have is your employee population,” she said. “If you continue mining people who work for you, you will find great content and stories that matter.”

Lisa Schneider: Merriam-Webster uses social media to go behind the scenes and show who we really are. We try to connect the idea of the dictionary to what’s relevant, using trending words, celebrities, public events and news.

We can see what words people look up in real-time and connect with public discourse. (Kylie Jenner’s “sanity” tattoo was a pop-culture moment that sent people to the dictionary.

It’s broadly about language and knowing your audience. We’re not here as a 190-year-old brand to lecture you about writing.
“People have a perception of the dictionary as a dusty book on the shelf; they see it as boring, but they see language as interesting,” she said. “At Merriam-Webster, we have a passion for language and want to share the fun we’re having with it. We want to change the perception and make it fun and current.”

Nailing Fundamentals the Spotify Way 

Spotify’s Dustee Jenkins says the company took a nontraditional route on the way to their IPO and becoming a public company.

“We focused on growing our brand, maintaining our reputation and differentiating our public offering,” she said. “We took the traditional model, disrupted it and amplified it. Be a north star for your communications team.”

You need to tell your own story, Jenkins said. If you don’t, then someone else will. The media is paying attention, so have one cohesive narrative.

“Get in front of every story,” she said. “And look at every risk and say, ‘If this, then that.’ You can also decide that silence is a strategy.”

As a communicator, Jenkins says to ask yourself: “What are you doing to be proactive?” Realize that you have skills, focus on who you are as a person and “learn to ratchet down the tension.”

She added: “Be better read than the person across from you. Show that you are a strategist and a thought leader. It’s the nature of what we do. Communications pros don’t get to control the end result or approve it. Let people understand the risk.”

What matters is what you do with your content, Jenkins said. Connect it to your social channels and audience, and amplify it. “But you don’t want to tell every story boldly and loudly — not all stories deserve the same attention,” she said.

“We’re always on, as it’s a 24/7 cycle. It’s a global world — our actions here can impact there,” she said. “There’s more scrutiny and the microscope has gotten sharper.”

In closing, Jenkins told communications pros to remember the following:

  • Make sure that internal and external communications work together.
  • Create a base of advocates within your company.
  • Talk early and often about both wins and failures.
  • Understand the business; sometimes business decisions come first.
  • Keep an open dialogue. Trust and a relationship with the CEO are critical.
  • Be nimble, be persistent and always tell the best stories imaginable.

Beyond a Press Release: How Content Can Revitalize Your PR Efforts

“Get to know who you’re talking to before you reach out to a journalist; find out what they like and what they’re talking about on social media,” ESPN’s Molly Mita said of pitching. “Don’t be afraid to take some risks. Find ways to be relevant and start a conversation first. Tell them why they should care.”

Mita explained that your query should include strong visuals. At the outset, supply the journalist with multimedia, pictures and creative content they can use.

You have to think of ways to catch people’s attention with your content. Quote cards are another popular choice on social media, she said.

Make sure that it’s shareable (GIFs, moving images) and give people something they’re not used to seeing. Be creative and make the audience feel like they’re in on something special. Utilize word of mouth.

Before pitching, Mita said, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it show a unique way to tell a story?
  • Is this content shareable?
  • Does it have to be a press release format?
  • Can I tell the story through a video instead?

“Get your internal influencers involved,” Mita said. “Change the way you think of your employees. They are brand ambassadors for your company, they are internal influencers and they can be content creators too. It’s good to get things out externally, but also internally within your company.”


  1. Do your research.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take risks. You don’t know unless you try. Be creative.
  3. Include visuals or multimedia. Images mean engagement.
  4. Change the way you think about your employees. They are your best influencers.
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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