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The Communicator's Role in Reputation/Brand Management Campaigns
An ACC Online Chat – November 18, 2010
Download .PDF version of the transcript


Michelle_Butler Welcome to ACC’s latest online chat – The Communicator’s Role in Reputation/Brand Management Campaigns! During the next hour, we will discuss how your peers are designing, managing and participating in reputation/brand management campaigns to achieve the greatest impact for their companies. All are welcome to participate. We only ask that you remember that this is a professional forum and act accordingly.

ACC has lined up three experts to help us dig deeper during this discussion. They are:
Natalie Byrne - coordinator, advocacy and public affairs, Lifetime Television
Kim Gilmore, Ph.D. - historian, director, corporate outreach, History
Stacy Zaja - director, community & media relations, Time Warner Cable - Wisconsin Division

kgilmore Hello- it is a pleasure to be participating in this chat today. Thank you to Michelle and the ACC for putting together this chat. I am Kim Gilmore, Director, Corporate Outreach at A&E Television Networks. In the Corporate Outreach department we help strengthen the on-air appeal of our brands to diverse audiences through a range of public affairs initiatives and campaigns
NatalieByrne Hi this is Natalie, and I currently manage Lifetime Networks’ public affairs initiatives as part of the team advocating on a wide range of issues affecting women and their families. The work includes implementing multi-platform media campaigns surrounding Lifetime’s programming, events and legislative advocacy. These efforts reach women on-air, online and in communities across the country. Great to be here this morning.
stacy_zaja Hi, I’m Stacy Zaja, Director of Community and Media Relations for Time Warner Cable in Wisconsin. I have been with the company for 10 years and I am responsible for community and education outreach partnerships including the company’s new Connect A Million Minds philanthropic initiative. I work closely with our local programming team focusing on ways to connect both Wisconsin on Demand and Sports32 into these relationships. I also manage the company’s media outreach strategy and serve as a company spokesperson.
Michelle_Butler Welcome, everyone, to the chat. Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences with reputation/brand management campaigns.
Goals for Reputation/Brand Management Efforts
Michelle_Butler What are your goals for your reputation/brand management efforts?
kgilmore We have many goals but key for us is to help connect our brands with audiences in an authentic way. Our audiences have a powerful response to what they see on our air, and our outreach initiatives help deepen and also strengthen our brands through meeting audiences where they are. Our cable partners are paramount in helping us do that. Our Intervention Town Hall meetings are a great example- the success of the show Intervention prompted us to bring local conversations about addition to communities across the country. Tonight in fact our group is leading a Town Hall meeting in Long Beach with Charter, helping provide information for people in that area about addiction and intervention. Candy Finnegan, one of the on air Interventionists, will be part of the panel as well.
JMaiella Question for Natalie, and also for Kim - how do you build successful public affairs programs around some of your signature shows, like Army Wives or Intervention. With Army Wives - do you actually develop public affairs programs our outreach to the community you are portraying in the show? Same Q to Kim on Intervention... do you build programs involving treatment, local communities to advance broader goals and also promote the programming?
NatalieByrne The reputation brand efforts my department manages include our Remarkable Women campaign, which we were awarded a Beacon for this year. Lifetime Celebrates Remarkable Women was launched as a way to inspire our audience and provide the tools for them to take action on issues they care about. In-depth surveys have informed us that Lifetime’s audience is seeking empowerment and information from our content. For nine consecutive years we have been rated as the “most trusted” and “most empowering” network by women. We want our programming to reflect our audience and build viewer loyalty as a result.
stacy_zaja For TWC, we are focused on creating positive employee morale and generating buzz in the community about the impact the Time Warner Cable is making with the community at large and our customers. For instance, we just had three successful Global Online Town Hall events yesterday addressing the issues around STEM education. All of these events were well received by the educators and government officials in attendance and we are receiving positive feedback from our employees as well.
kgilmore Hi Jim. Yes, it seems to be a 2 way street. The programs help generate interest in a theme or issue and then our public affairs campaigns help broaden and strenghten that interest. Intervention is a great example- the show was a huge hit which showed a real need to address people’s needs at the local level. Our cable partners have been great at helping us bring the principles of Intervention to communities in a way that has a lot of impact. Thus, the show continues to have appeal. It seems to be a dynamic process that works really well.
Michelle_Butler Stacy, that is very interesting that your reputation/brand management campaigns are also aimed at creating positive employee morale. How do they do that?
NatalieByrne Hi Jim, Yes we build campaigns surrounding Army Wives by partnering with non-profit partners that support military spouses and families.
Steve_J. This question is for Natalie, Kim and Stacy: How are your companies leveraging Facebook, Twitter, flicker and other social media tools for brand management or brand promotion? Are these tools integrated into your more traditional efforts? Do you use any social medial tools for any "on the ground" efforts?
Michelle_Butler Kim, is there a programming tie in with all the Veterans initiatives that History does?
stacy_zaja We focus on ensuring that positive campaigns and events offer opportunities for our employees to volunteer and be at the event first-hand. Also, we spread the word through all of our employee communications tactics. Our employees are the best ambassadors for the company, so we are not shy about letting them know the great work that is going on in the community. We share our media clips with them and everything.
kgilmore Hi Michelle, yes- this year we connected our veterans program with WWII in HD the Air War, and the cable affiliates helped drive tune in by running psas as part of the Take a Vet program which was a great tie-in, particularly helping us reach WWII vets
Michelle_Butler Stacy, I would bet that the campaigns also make employees excited and proud to work for TWC.

Social Media and Reputation/Brand Management

kgilmore Steve, thanks for the question about social media. Those are definitely platforms we rely on more and more to generate buzz about programs and also help audiences participate in a way that is genuine.
NatalieByrne This year we worked closely with the White House and were thrilled to have Dr. Biden appear as herself in an episode and support the ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and their families.
stacy_zaja Yes, absolutely. We want them to promote that TWC is a local company, with local employees committed to the growth of our community.
Michelle_Butler How exciting, Natalie, that Dr. Biden got involved. Can you share how that came about?
NatalieByrne We are currently in the process of developing a facebook page to help support the Remarkable Women's campaign.
JMaiella Eric - we were talking before about how to connect public affairs efforts with programming that has an obvious public affairs tie, like Intervention or even Army Wives. Do you have any experience at Starz! building public affairs efforts around shows that might not be as easy a tie, like Spartacus, or do you need to focus instead on broader corporate public affairs efforts not tied to one piece of content?
Michelle_Butler Kim, what has worked well for you in terms of social media?
kgilmore Facebook, Twitter, and FourSquare have all been important ways for fan communities to develop around our shows. Now we have distinct Facebook pages for series like Pawn Stars, as well as initiatives like The Recovery Project. This is a great way for people not only to get information but also to get involved and feel like they have some ownership of these shows and projects.
Michelle_Butler FourSquare is an up-and-comer. How have you been able to tap into that one, Kim?
stacy_zaja With regards to Social Media, TWC has truly been focused on building its strong social media strategy within the past year. It started at the corporate level and is now being built into the local divisions across the country. Locally, we all have local tabs on the main TWC Facebook page to promote products and upcoming events. In addition, we all have our local Twitter feeds and they are all set up in a similar manner for a uniform look across the country. There are also representatives in the field that are providing stories to the corporate blog. This is becoming a part of our complete media and promotional strategy.
NatalieByrne As we work closely with several non-profit partners that support military families and their spouses, we aim to help garner support for th real families and issues they face. Dr. Biden, who along with First Lady Michelle Obama, is helping to forge an enduring national commitment to support military families, filmed a public service announcement encouraging all Americans to take part that aired with the episode.
JMaiella Natalie - on the Army Wives point - and it's close to home because it's my wife's favorite show - how do you hit a proper balance between show promotion and public affairs efforts?
Steve_J. Kim...How are you all using FourSquare? That generally is geared more to the retail community from a business standpoint.
kgilmore For History related programs Four Square is really cool because it is about place- for instance with America The Story of Us we encouraged people to check in at historic sites they learned about on the show. There was prizing involved too!
Steve_J. Kim...Yes, prizes are always a great way to attract interest!

Challenges and Advantages of Reputation/Brand Management Campaigns

Michelle_Butler Why would you want to do a reputation/brand management campaign? What are the challenges inherent to these campaigns? The advantages?
NatalieByrne Many of the public affairs efforts are "behind the scenes," but at the same time, we continue to support programming and include updates for our partners on pertinent topics covered in our episodes. Many times our partners are the eyes and ears for us in the community, and help to create a dialogue about issues that come up in the show. For example, this season we had a three episode series that touched on the effects of TBI.
kgilmore I'd say the challenges involved in a brand management campaign would be to keep your brand fresh and continually define your audiences and goals. Sometimes brands really want to attract new kinds of audiences, other times they want to strengthen their current audiences. Either way it can be challenging to keep their attention in a busy world. So I think creating really clear, coherent and catchy campaigns is key.
Michelle_Butler That's interesting, Natalie. Do the writers of the show actually meet with the nonprofit partners?
stacy_zaja Our Beacon finalist for reputation/brand management focused on new jobs at Time Warner Cable. In today's economy when many companies are having to cut back, we took the opportunity to announce the expansion of our telemarketing department and that Wisconsin was selected to be the location for this call center in the Midwest Region of TWC. Connecting jobs to our local economy allowed us to bring in government officials and the media to tell the story to the community. It built our employees level of confidence with the company, too.
NatalieByrne Oh and to clarify, TBI is Traumatic brain injury
JMaiella Do you do viewing parties or other activities actually on bases? (Natalie)
JMaiella I know it is not public affairs, but that seems like such a core group and audience "base" ?
kgilmore Stacy, I saw that you guys got a lot of great press for that campaign. It seemed like it really spoke to the feelings people had about wanting to see some improvement in the economy. So it was great practically as well as symbolically!
NatalieByrne No the writers of the show work independent of public affairs, but the natural development process tends to highlight real issues that military families are facing. We can then bring in the non-profit partners to help support the issues brought up in the series.
Michelle_Butler Jim, I know that some of the local cable companies do a fair number of public affairs outreach to bases and the military community? I know that Time Warner Cable in Texas does a fair amount with the Fort Hood near Waco.
ebecker Jim, our corporate affairs and philanthropic support are - candidly - not at a level where I would want them to be. There is much that we do with Make-A-Wish and other industry-based PA that is wonderful and rewarding, but resources are just not at a level for doing much more at this time. For example, my idea in Fall 2009 was to do a screening of Spartacus episode 1 at The Cable Center as a benefit for Colorado’s Bonfils blood center at an event where we would have Spartacus talent in town. Those who made a voluntary blood (or financial) donation would be given admission to the event. Big local press opportunity and had Comcast-Denver support, but literally could not garner any budget. And we would up by pulling the plug on an employee event (which was going to take care of flying out the talent o Denver anyway). Lack of headcount here also just did not give me enough confidence that we were putting ourselves in a position to succeed with the event. So, nothing happened. Other ideas kicking around for this year, but just not something we have done historically so it’s very tough.
stacy_zaja Yes, I think it ended up being one of our best with the media, which certainly helps us bring back the government officials for future events.
NatalieByrne Yes, organizations such as Operation Homefront frequently organize viewing parties
kgilmore Yes, we were with TW at Ft. Hood for Take a Veteran to School Day- together we sponsored a picnic for kids and families.
Michelle_Butler Stacy, were there any particular tactics and strategy that you used to get such great press coverage?

Partnering with Other Departments

Michelle_Butler Do you often work with other departments on your reputation/brand management campaigns? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with other departments?
stacy_zaja We really hit home about us being selected to host this midwest region telemarketing call center and that our Wisconsin employees would be handling for the region. We also tied in all the local companies that helped to build the new call center from the furniture to the electrical. This also helped to hook about our local economic impact. Of course, having the government officials, including the Governor, in attendance also helped.
stacy_zaja We really hit home about us being selected to host this midwest region telemarketing call center and that our Wisconsin employees would be handling for the region. We also tied in all the local companies that helped to build the new call center from the furniture to the electrical. This also helped to hook about our local economic impact. Of course, having the government officials, including the Governor, in attendance also helped.
kgilmore It is essential for us to work with almost every department in the company. Programming determines our on-air presence, Marketing shapes the look of our brand, and PR helps spread the word. All of these groups help guide us as we develop public affairs campaigns and it is a very dynamic process in which we all work together to make our brands resonate with audiences. The only disadvantage of working with other departments is that it can take more time—we are all so busy sometimes our tendency is to want to do things ourselves or commando-style—but our projects and programs are infinitely stronger when we are all working together and in sync on the brand vision and goals.
Michelle_Butler When did this call center open, Stacy?
stacy_zaja Just over a year ago.
Michelle_Butler Kim, does any particular department take a lead role, or is it really a partnership of equals?
stacy_zaja We tend to always partner with other departments. When we opened the new call center, we worked closely with the telemarketing director to truly understand the impact and also with our Human Resources team.
kgilmore One of my professors in college used to say “the aim of good writing is not to be understood, but to make it impossible to be misunderstood.” I think the same is true for brand campaigns. We want our programs to hit home with viewers and audiences in ways that are coherent, powerful, and clear.
Steve_J. Regarding History & Lifetime, every year a lot of shows come and go. How do you integrate new shows and the positioning of these shows with your brand management strategy?
kgilmore All departments need to play a role in determining the brand vision and I think the communicator helps "put it out there" once it is completed- hopefully in the most effective way possible
JMaiella Eric - understand... I was more on the point of whether it's possible (or, I should say, how difficult is it) in theory to do public affairs efforts behind programming that maybe doesn't have an obvious cause or tie associated with it.
NatalieByrne We work with many departments on our Remarkable Women campaign as each spot we create goes on-air and must be filtered through the marketing and scheduling teams whom assist in tagging the spots, scheduling them, etc. Departments regularly updated about the campaign include Sales, Marketing, Distribution/Affiliates, Digital and Programming. Each department has special uses for the vignettes and utilizes them for their department’s function in defining and enhancing Lifetime’s brand.
kgilmore That's a good question Steve and yes that can be a challenge but also an opportunity in the sense that a new series or show helps us say who we are in a new way. For instance on History we have a new series premiering Sunday called Top Gear which we think will be hugely popular with people interested in cars.
Michelle_Butler Natalie - or Stacy or Kim - are there challenges inherent to working so closely with other departments? How do you work around those challenges?
gbd56 Jim, to your point, sometimes it is easier to undertake public affairs initiatives without a formal tie-in. We so this frequently around WWE programming, but our format is more wide open than most programs.
kgilmore I'd say the biggest challenge in working with other departments is that it takes more time, and sometimes we are already behind schedule! but collaboration is always always worth the time
NatalieByrne It can be difficult but also rewarding. You get a chance to better understand the process that other departments face on a daily basis and this opens communication internally. Once a dialogue is built with other departments, you end up enhancing your own skill-set working together for the larger goal of company-wide branding.
NatalieByrne Growth in the struggle!
stacy_zaja There certainly can be challenges. I think it is important when working with a cross-departmental team that first and foremost, together, the team sets the goals, how we expect to reach those goals and who will take the lead on each.

Strong Results Achieved through Reputation/Brand Management Campaigns

Michelle_Butler What are the best results you’ve achieved through reputation/brand management campaigns?
JMaiella Got it, Gary, that makes sense.
ebecker Jim, understood. Well, necessity is the mother of invention. And, since our burgeoning efforts in Originals have tended to be big, grandiose period pieces with edgy content there are not necessarily obvious ties. But, with that said, I do not think it necessarily has to be a hindrance. Spartacus could = blood drive, Party Down could = food bank/feed homeless. Even if the fit was not necessarily a logical one thematically with the show, I think in many respects the need for an obvious tie is not a gating factor. No reason why Camelot could not = say, homeless aid or Habitat for Humanity
JMaiella Like WWE has a public affairs initiative that cuts across everything, rather than focusing in on a specific title/event, etc.
JMaiella Spartacus could do something with American Federation of Loincloths or something.
gbd56 I would support that cause, Jim.
JMaiella Actually you guys could get together on that!
JMaiella Need to get Spandex into the mix.
NatalieByrne With the Remarkable Women’s campaign, the results are most tangible in our ad sales’ team support. Many of the spots have been sponsored by numerous brands, each averaging 2-4 vignettes purchased. This is worth ad sales revenue in the tens of millions cumulatively. Such sales support from corporate sponsors cements Lifetime’s brand recognition among them as the #1 network to reach women and showcase their support of women through cause-marketing efforts.
ebecker Gary, what you guys do at WWE is remarkable - support for the troops, Make-a-Wish, voter registration efforts in the past, etc. Countless more i am sure that i am overlooking.
kgilmore Jim- you make a good point though, creative partnerships are important and sometimes we find connections where we might not have expected them. Case in point, Vet Dogs has been a great partner to us in our veterans outreach to show how one org is really helping Veterans, and kids love them too.
kgilmore The Vet dogs help injured veterans regain strength etc.
NatalieByrne I agree! It's important to think outside of the box when implementing your campaigns, creativity goes a long way.
gbd56 Eric, with your network, you have an option to focus on something that the network supports, and have each show somehow tie into it. You could do PSAs from stars of each of your programs that run on your network. USA has used this approach with its characters welcome initiative.
JMaiella Resonates with the public, too.
Michelle_Butler Kim, there was a really interesting article in the Washington Post recently about how Veterans with PTSD were working to train dogs for other disabled vets, and both communities are benefitting from it.
stacy_zaja The collaboration among departments has been one of our key achievements. It is always more rewarding for the company when multiple players have been instrumental in its success. We recently partnered with our marketing group to unveil their new multi-media campaign featuring Green Bay Packers Donald Driver. We received extensive media coverage and exposure to government officials. They found it priceless and saw the power of our communications
kgilmore Thanks Michelle I will look up that article!
ebecker All spandex kidding aside, I think the novelty of certain partnerships can help with interest and awareness as well.
JMaiella Agree.
kgilmore That’s interesting Stacy. Is Donald Driver an active member of the community in Green Bay or was that campaign about capitalizing on the overall interest in the Packers in your area?
Michelle_Butler Eric, the effectiveness of novelty is an interesting point. Can you think of a great example of that in cable reputation/brand management campaigns?
Michelle_Butler What are the best tactics or tools you’ve used in your reputation/brand management campaigns?
stacy_zaja He is loved in Wisconsin because of his work both on the field and off. So, we couldn't be partnered with a more remarkable human being. For the campaign, we were able use his credibility both on and off. We also have a partnership with the Packers so we were able to host the event at Lambeau Field and get their complete buy in for the event.
Steve_J. Eric, you could have a natural tie in with Italian or Greek antiquities (don't steal or ship out of the country) or historical organizations.
Michelle_Butler I'll admit it. I don't know who Donald Driver is.
stacy_zaja Donald Driver is one of the Packers top Wide Receivers, a long-time Packer.
kgilmore Connected to our earlier conversation about working across departments one of our key tactics is to really have our marketing and vision really sharp before we put something out there. It can be a long process but when we are ready to promote a series or campaign we all hope to feel really confident internally because we put in the collaborative work.
ebecker The PSA point is a valid one. There is at least some historical precedent for it (tolerance initiative post-9/11). Remember, that we are not ad-supported so the paradigm and consumer expectation for our subscribers is different. But, that is not a defense for not doing more. Point well taken and something I really should champion more internally. Save for our Encore Wam network, would be a culture shift here so have got my work cut out for me
Michelle_Butler There are about 10 minutes left to the chat. Please take the opportunity to ask your final questions!
JMaiella Duane Johnson?
gbd56 A rose by any other name...
ebecker Yes Jim, don't you smell what The Rock is cooking?
JMaiella Copyright infringement?
JMaiella So Gary, about the political scene in CT...
JMaiella Sorry, I digress.
gbd56 Yes
JMaiella Oh God, I broke the chat.

Best Tactics for Reputation/Brand Management Campaigns

Michelle_Butler What are the best tactics or tools you’ve used in your reputation/brand management campaigns? Any advice for someone starting to put together a campaign?
NatalieByrne Communication is key. An important part of the campaign is communicating effectively internally and externally. I have also found it incredibly helpful to record your results and progress throughout the process.
kgilmore ::beer
kgilmore Jim is it happy hour at your office?
JMaiella We're happy at any hour.
ebecker Gary, perhaps you can give some perspective on the speak up for WWE campaign? Cynically, this would not have come about if not for Linda’s campaign, correct? Did you view this as a PA campaign in the truest sense. Seems as if it was a hybrid of public affairs and corporate brand management with a dose of consumer marketing and engagement
Steve_J. Jim, did you all implement brand management programs or strategies regarding the CVC - Fox differences with current customers?
kgilmore Yes, I agree with Natalie communication is really important, and also remembering that we need to continually touch base with all departments to see what new things they are working on- to avoid the silo effect
stacy_zaja I agree with Natalie on Communications. Make sure everyone involved is on board from the start and that you all agree on your desired outcomes.
Steve_J. And for that matter, how about up in WI with TWC?
gbd56 It was more a corporate brand management/consumer marking program. WWE wanted to respond to unfair characterizations of our business. We decided to do the Stand Up for WWE campaign as way to highlight what our employees though about working for the company and the many positive community programs we undertake.
JMaiella Not sure what you mean Steve... we absolutely communicated with our customers in a variety of ways but would not consider it brand management per se...
JMaiella Gary will that effort continue?


Reputation/Brand Management Plans for 2011

Michelle_Butler What is something in the reputation/brand management area that you are working on now that you are most excited about?
gbd56 I think we may see it at certain times, but I don't think it will be an ongoing campaign like our literacy or civic engagement efforts. It is another type of marketing campaign and will be used when it makes sense.
kgilmore We are excited about continuing to work on social media platforms and building new campaigns in 2011
Michelle_Butler The effect of social media is fascinating, isn't it?
stacy_zaja Steve, We stay aligned with corporate and use the messaging and reference to the website for Roll over or Get Tough. That is really the place where we are driving customers with questions about programming retrans.
kgilmore Yes. Next year is the 150th anniv of the start of the Civil War so we'll be working a lot on that on the History side.
ebecker Gary, I thought several of the videos and presentations were very well done. Shows how nimble your company can/must be given the visibility of your business under normal circumstances + politicization due to the campaign
Michelle_Butler Kim, the 150th anniversary will be fun to play with. Both the Washington Post and NY Times have had some interesting content. Yes, I am a news nerd/history buff. :)
stacy_zaja We are opening a new retail store in Wisconsin serving our customers in Northeast Wisconsin. We plan to hold many events around the opening of the Store and on-going.
NatalieByrne Kim - I am excited about that too. We are starting to incorporate facebook as a new way to support public affairs initiatives. Also excited for the new slate of shows as we gear up for 2011.
gbd56 Thanks, Eric. One thing we are is nimble.
Michelle_Butler Any final thoughts or questions?
Michelle_Butler Thank you, everyone, for participating in today's chat! Best wishes on your reputation brand management efforts in 2011!
NatalieByrne Thanks everyone for joining!
JMaiella Thanks everyone.
NatalieByrne Good luck in the New Year.
Steve_J. Enjoyed the chat, thanks all!
kgilmore Yes Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Michelle_Butler Thank you for participating in ACC’s latest online chat. ACC offers an e-learning opportunity every month. Check for more details. Please feel free to contact me at or 202-222-2372 if you have any suggestions for future topics, feedback on this chat, questions, etc.
stacy_zaja Thanks everyone!
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