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Integrating Cable Communications: Partnering Internally for Success
An ACC Online Chat – March 24, 2010
Download .PDF version of the transcript


Michelle_Butler Welcome to ACC’s latest online chat – Integrating Cable Communications! During the next hour, we will discuss how you can improve your integrated communications efforts and partner internally for success.
Michelle_Butler All are welcome to participate. We only ask that you remember that this is a professional forum and act accordingly.
Michelle_Butler ACC has lined up three experts to help us dig deeper during this discussion. They are: Amy Pempel – Director of Media Relations, FOX Sports Florida & Sun Sports Ann Shrewsbury – Vice President, Communications, Time Warner Cable – National Brian Craven – Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Bright House Networks, Central Florida
Amy_Pempel Glad to join you all. My name is Amy Pempel and I am the Director of Media Relations at FOX Sports Florida & Sun Sports, the two Fox-owned regional sports networks serving the state of Florida. I have been in the sports television communications field for over 20 years. My role here involves overseeing strategic media relations/communications, PR and social media initiatives for our two networks, which together televise year-round coverage of 8 professional and collegiate teams – the Marlins, Rays, Lightning, Panthers, Magic, Heat, Florida Gators & FSU Seminoles.


Brian Craven, Director-Public Affairs & Communications, Central Florida Division based in Orlando. Serve as primary media spokesperson, and also direct the company’s public affairs efforts in conjunction with other departments including Marketing, Government Affairs and HR, etc.


Hi everyone. This is Ann Shrewsbury. I’m VP of Communications for Time Warner Cable, serving systems in Kansas City, Nebraska, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana. I’m responsible for internal and external communications, community relations, and in Nebraska – local programming. Coming from a smaller system where the communications staff wears lots of different hats, I’ve had great opportunities to integrate our work with other departments to help us reach our business objectives.

Goals for Integrated Communications


What are your goals for your integrated communications efforts?
Amy_Pempel As FOX Sports’ David Hill has said, “sports are tribal” and we recognize our role as regional sports networks to connect fans with their hometown teams. If our business goals are to be met, we must celebrate that passion fans have for their teams and part of that is making sure we’re communicating that passion across all of our media assets, both externally and internally. With 8 team partners, we have literally dozens of balls in the air on any given day. So the goals are to insure those balls don’t hit the ground – that everyone working in and alongside our two regional sports networks has the information and tools they need to achieve success.
Michelle_Butler Welcome, everyone! Please feel free to ask questions at anytime.
Ann_Shrewsbury To align our communications strategies with our local systems' business objectives and figure out creative ways public affairs/communications can help impact the bottom line.
Brian_Craven At the risk of using an old millennium term, we look for "synergy" in combining efforts of the different departments that are working on a common project or mission. By that, I mean that each department brings its specialty, and each makes its contribution, so that the whole is stronger than the parts, and achieves greater success when the project is completed.
Michelle_Butler Are there particular departments that you work with the most?
Amy_Pempel Yes, production, programming, OAP, marketing & digital media
Michelle_Butler What is OAP?
Amy_Pempel on-air promotions, sorry
Brian_Craven Marketing, HR/Training, customer Care, and Engineering are the main teammates, but we also work with Operations and Ad Sales.
Ann_Shrewsbury Marketing and ad sales, for sure. I've found myself working with engineering more and more. Having a clear understanding/knowledge of our cable systems and how they operate has helped me a lot.
Michelle_Butler Why would you work with these departments? Why would you want to do an integrated communications campaign? What are the challenges inherent to integration? The advantages?
Amy_Pempel Oops, forgot ad sales - definitely important
Amy_Pempel The advantages are measurable as with a strong integrated communications plan, everyone involved in the event, effort, program or campaign will be fully prepared and informed, which leads to success.
Ann_Shrewsbury For instance, last year, I was able to work with our engineers to locate areas of our plant where customers were not able to access on demand content because of over usage.
Amy_Pempel There is a risk of ineffective communications or over-communicating, which can be a serious casualty and stifle success. So the challenges are crystallizing all the information into a manageable plan and insuring your plan stays on track.
Ann_Shrewsbury Then, we were able to go back and break up some of those service groups so that fewer buy attempts were dropped.
Brian_Craven You get the best from everyone when you involve everyone in a project. The feeling of team accomplishment is a great internal benefit, and a stronger presence/end product definitely comes from having more involvement.
Ann_Shrewsbury That increased our local on demand viewership as well as PPV buys.
Michelle_Butler These efforts sound great. How are you using integrated communications to achieve your company’s communications and business goals? I see Ann is increasing sales.
Ann_Shrewsbury It helps us educate customers, as well.
Brian_Craven HD channel launches are ideal for integration. To get max attention, we focused on each channel audience--such as Gospel Music Channel--and then used both traditional and new media to get the word out, with Marketing's help. For example, we hired a gospel music group to sing on a street corner during rush hour in Orlando (got attention but some people thought it was a protest), and then the same group went to a Gospel radio station and did a live interview. We had never involved Gospel in media outreach, so that was a fun and effective first. We got more media attention from the HD channel launches than anything previous, by focusing on each channel's demographic. We also tweeted what we were doing throughout the two-week campaign.
Michelle_Butler What are the best results you’ve achieved through integrated communications campaigns? Any examples?
Amy_Pempel We’ve seen measurable results – ratings, client retention, strengthening of affiliate partnerships.
Ann_Shrewsbury By working with marketing, customer care, and engineering, we've been able to significantly increase purchases of Nebraska football games on pay per view (with a little help from a new coach and a better team). :)
Amy_Pempel With the tent poles of our business tied to live sports, we’re always aware that things can change very quickly – a game goes into overtime, a team advances to the post-season, a player sets a record – so communications is critical to our success and that of our advertisers and distributors. We’ve adopted a “bull pen” process, where we outline initiatives we can predict and communicate departmental plans on a daily basis, as well as laying out the “what-ifs” and communicating what those would require.

Software for Your Integrated Communications

DBradley Question for anyone on the chat: When working with multiple teams to develop a communication, there is a lot of input being incorporated... does anyone here recommend any "version control" software that helps your team through the process of draft to final version and incorporating feedback from all teams?
Amy_Pempel Funny you should ask, as with our new "bull pen" process, an effective software program is something we're looking for as well.
DBradley HELP AMY lol
Michelle_Butler DBradley, I have seen networks use wikis and other project management software for these kinds of campaigns.
Brian_Craven That's a great question, DBradley. One method of keeping on the same page is the use of a common platform like Outlook--something as simple as that--to make sure everyone keeps step in timing. Beyond that, the best way to keep everyone engaged and involved is to have regular interaction through either traditional meetings or to use IM to send messages as they arise during a project.
DBradley Very good, thanks Michele!
DBradley Thanks Brian
Len_Grace What kind of issues would ACC like to see Industry News/Analysis Blogs cover as important and relevant topics?
Michelle_Butler DBradley, I've heard of folks using Sharepoint as well.
DBradley we are looking into SharePoint as an option as well
Amy_Pempel DBradely - we're looking to contact Fox b'cast stations to see what software they use for newsgathering/editorial planning
DBradley Very good, thanks Amy.
Brian_Craven I would also recommend SharePoint--it can handle the bigger details, i.e., the master plan--and is real time in that anyone on the team can input when they want or need to. You just have to make sure everyone is comfortable/trained on SharePoint.

Best Tactics and Tools for Integrated Communications

Michelle_Butler DBradley started this conversation. To follow up: What are the best tactics or tools you’ve used in your integrated communications campaigns?
Amy_Pempel Daily briefings, multi-department conference calls, updated spreadsheets posted on centralized server – those are effective tools for us. But honestly, you can have all the technical bells and whistles you want, but there are times when a good old-fashioned, one on one conversation with someone becomes your most effective tool. I’ve found that when various tools & tactics come together across multiple divisions/departments, the result can lead to a much more streamlined campaign.
Michelle_Butler Len, it seems like any blog that has a good handle of the cutting edge/latest news and can explain it in an interesting way will do well.
Ann_Shrewsbury There are lots of software tools/systems that can be used, but I also don't want to underestimate the significance of meeting one on one with other department leaders, understanding their roles and key objectives and developing those relationships.
Michelle_Butler Amy, I love the reminder that face-to-face conversations are still so important!
Michelle_Butler Ann, it seems like great minds think alike.
Michelle_Butler Other tactics or tools that you recommend?
Ann_Shrewsbury I have a rule -- if it takes more than 3 emails back and forth, I pick up the phone or walk to someone's office.
Brian_Craven To add to Ann's point about meeting with other department leaders, the best way to get an integrated campaign on a solid foundation from the start is to get with the various departments and explain the goal and get their buy-in--from the top. That way everyone in each departmental team has confidence about proceeding.
Michelle_Butler How do you obtain buy-in for your integrated communications efforts from senior management? From employees? From front-line employees such as CSRs or techs on the road? Face to face conversations still the best? Are there good messaging strategies?
Amy_Pempel Internal newsletters can be effective tool. But we all get so many, you have to make them interesting or they'll hit the trash bin.
Ann_Shrewsbury I think it's important to show other departments what's in it for them.
Amy_Pempel Fox has always embraced communications. PR and communications are always at the table for any initiative. As communications professionals, it’s our job to show them the benefits, how it can result in significant growth and even revenue. Then the buy-in comes quickly.
Ann_Shrewsbury For instance, when asked marketing and care to help with our PPV content on local on demand, I showed them how our efforts would help reduce phone calls and increase buy rates.
Michelle_Butler What's in it for them is always a good mantra for communicators to keep in mind, right?
Ann_Shrewsbury Absolutely, Michelle.
Brian_Craven the best campaigns will always involve every level--our president does a "Road Show" each quarter where he goes out and explains projects that are under way, which departments are involved, the goal, and then what each tech and CSR can do to promote/contribute to the goal.
Michelle_Butler How are integrated communications efforts governed? In other words, who makes the important decisions, sets the overall goals, provides the budget, etc.
Amy_Pempel We have a senior management team with representatives from PR, marketing/promotions, production, finance, affiliate relations, ad sales and programming. Under the leadership of our Sr VP/GM, we collaborate on initiative planning, goal setting, budgets, etc. We rank them, assign departmental responsibilities and come back and assess results at the end. This is both a formal and an informal process. As the PR and communications director, it’s my job to recommend and set goals as well as oversee execution of any and all communications plans.
Ann_Shrewsbury Local/regional leadership teams.
Amy_Pempel Sometimes getting the "budget" part is the most challenging for communications plans, so that's why it's so important to think creatively.
Michelle_Butler Any creative tactics or plans you'd like to brag about, Amy?
Brian_Craven If it involves a new product or service, it's likely to be governed by the launch so Engineering has to be at the lead to explain how it works/who it’s for, and then Marketing and PA are close behind in fashioning the communications and marketing messages. Then, those messages must be shared with everyone who has customer contact for an integrated campaign to work properly. By that, I mean if a customer calls in to ask about something they've heard the company is doing, the CSR needs to be able to refer to the same core messages as PR in answering that. We use our intranet database to post the FAQs and core messages for CSRs and techs
Amy_Pempel Case in point, our Beacon Award winning Tobacco Free Florida Week campaign, where we brought our sports networks and our team partners together for a weeklong event to encourage Floridians to live tobacco free – integrated communications was critical to the success of that campaign last year and it paid off – the Fla. Dept. of Health was so pleased with the results, they came back to us this year to do it again.

Social Media and Integrated Communications

Michelle_Butler We've discussed the use of software for project management. Have you used social media for integrated communications? If so, why and how? How did they help?
Brian_Craven We tweeted international channel launches in December before we sent out the news releases to media, and the response was amazing--hundreds of replies and retweets the first day alone
Ann_Shrewsbury We are using Facebook to engage customers who are fans of our sports channel, Metro Sports in KC.
Amy_Pempel Yes. We use it both internally and of course externally. Tobacco Free Florida Week is a good example as we’re integrating elements onto our Facebook page, our website, Twitter, and we’re inviting viewers/fans to interact with us – share their stories and tell us how and why they plan to encourage a friend or loved one to call the Quitline and start on the path of living tobacco free. This helped reach wider demographics and we could measure the impact.
Michelle_Butler Who is in charge of these social media channels? Communications? Marketing?
Ann_Shrewsbury Good way to get the word out about new programming, what's on, and generate conversations about local sporting news.
Ann_Shrewsbury Communications.
Amy_Pempel Communications, primarily
Brian_Craven Right now, there are several departments that receive emails or other contacts (phone, tweets), and they are shared with responders in PA and Marketing and Customer Care to see who can give the best/most complete answer. It's something that is happening more and more.
Michelle_Butler Are you using social media mostly as a way to increase customer engagement? For customer service purposes? For media relations purposes?
Michelle_Butler Very interesting, Brian. How do you guys manage to turn that around quickly?
Amy_Pempel We also empower our on-air sports announcers to send tweets with observations on the teams they cover. This direct engagement with the viewers/fans is very popular.
Michelle_Butler Is there an approval process for these tweets or facebook messages before they go out?
Ann_Shrewsbury We have a rotating schedule to make sure someone is keeping everything up to date each day. Either one of our Metro Sports producers or someone from communications is "on call."
Brian_Craven Timing's tricky. New media involves rapid turnaround, so needless to say, the half dozen of us who review input from company communications channels open to customers must decide who should answer a question, and then what to say, as quickly as possible.
Amy_Pempel There are guidelines we use - the primary being "if you wouldn't say it on the air, don't tweet it!"
Michelle_Butler Common sense is always helpful. :)
Ann_Shrewsbury We have consistent guidelines that we all use.
Michelle_Butler Do you find that social media helps you achieve your goals more effectively? Enough to counteract the increase demands on your time?
Ann_Shrewsbury I think just being able to quickly respond to customers/media is worth it.
Brian_Craven Tweeting for Bright House is still mostly about the things we are doing at that moment, but this week our Twitter person has started specifically taking customer service calls and refers them to the Call Center. It is working well.
Michelle_Butler That's great to hear. It does seem like social media is still the hottest thing out there.
Brian_Craven Social media is maddening sometimes in that it seems there are just so many platforms and so many levels, but you start to realize that in the end, it's still all about getting an answer to a question.
Amy_Pempel Yes, the demands are expanding, and I'm sure all of us would welcome additional staff to help with the added content we must push out, but as I've been learning, adapting and finding programs like HootSuite and UberTwitter to provide shortcuts, that's helping.
Len_Grace Do you find that customers would rather contact you online rather than at a Call-Center?
ann.ruble How do you balance the on-going desire to get traditional media coverage with the desire to also garner social media attention?
Ann_Shrewsbury So, how are you responding to social media inquiries?
Brian_Craven Len, that is happening more and more, since people live more and more in their social media environments/communities. Learning how to connect/respond directly to an individual within a social media community such as facebook is going to become much more the norm in the future.
Len_Grace Thanks Brian!
Ann_Shrewsbury Ann Ruble - I am integrating more and more video elements with traditional media alerts. For instance, instead of just emailing a press release like we have in the past, I also attach a short video clip of the new product/event that a news organization can also use online.
Brian_Craven Ann Ruble: that's a great question--we definitely still rely on our community newspapers to get the word out on things happening locally, but we recognize that the online new media world is going to become increasingly important, too, so we make sure both bases are covered.
Ann_Shrewsbury Newspapers today are posting more and more content online and need our resources.
Amy_Pempel Ann - we're expanding our media relations efforts to cross into non-traditional media outlets and this means we are more selective, more focused and doing more one-on-one story pitches to traditional media - less formal press releases. We too are integrating video links to clips of new programming from our website instead of sending DVDs, etc.
Brian_Craven So Ann, does that mean you are attaching Wave files with video to your news release? I used to be reluctant to do that because I didn't think they had the capacity or player to handle video
Ann_Shrewsbury We compress the videos and post them to a Mobile Me site. The media outlet can grab the video from that site and load it to their website with ease.
Amy_Pempel For us, as networks covering the sports teams like the newspapers and other media outlets are doing, we want to keep our video content exclusive to us, so we push both media and viewers/fans to watch it there. We use social media to push to our website as well.

Changing Best Practices for Media Relations

Michelle_Butler Amy, that's very interesting that you are moving away from formal press releases. Ann or Brian - are you seeing more of that as well? A different way to pitch to reporters?
Ann_Shrewsbury Almost everything I send to media is done electronically or in person.
Amy_Pempel We've found that press releases are less effective in this age of new media, social media. The demands on reporters/writers' time is increasing, they don't have time or need to read lengthy releases, quotes. And the approval process could be time-constraining.
Ann_Shrewsbury Last week, we delivered a media alert kit for a Connect a Million Minds event and got a great response. Sometime, just packaging your alert to make it look REALLY important helps get the media to cover the story.
Brian_Craven Press releases are becoming a new type of contact--when I send them now I strip them down and copy them into an email. That way the reporter does not have to open an attachment and can just see the main content. Then, if there is a website, which there usually is, you point the reporter to that for more info.
Amy_Pempel Sports depts. at newspapers are getting smaller and smaller so the staff is covering more and more teams. So getting them bullet points, links, photos and streamlined tools to help shape the story they're working on has been working for us in some cases.
Len_Grace I'm certainly interested in news releases from companies or the industry as a whole. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested. (The Cable Pipeline)
Ann_Shrewsbury With most newspapers posting much of their content online, they often use links to related websites/stories, so I include those as well.
Michelle_Butler Any other trends you are noticing in media relations?
Amy_Pempel The 24-hour news cycle is dead. Everything is instantaneous now, so media relations professionals must adapt to that.
Ann_Shrewsbury I see the media covering more issues that have national relevance but giving them a local spin.
Michelle_Butler Is this all social media driven, Amy? The cable news channels?
Brian_Craven Bloggers at newspapers are becoming an effective way to "break" news--we feed a steady diet of programming news to the TV Guy blogger at the Orlando Sentinel, for example. He may not use all of it, but I know he appreciates knowing about it. That has resulted in some very good coverage that did not appear in the print edition.
Ann_Shrewsbury Amy is right -- AP stories are old news in 24 hours, so print media especially is trying more and more to cover local news.
Amy_Pempel It's driven by the web primarily. Think TMZ :) And yes. Social media is a component of that.
Michelle_Butler It does seem like the news media is changing all the time - faster, more local and yet at the same time local newspapers are struggling to survive.
Michelle_Butler TMZ? :)
Brian_Craven We are finding that radio--even local AM talk stations--can also be a fast way to get things out, if you get them the info before morning or evening drive time. Also, radio stations often have websites too where they put expanded info and even some of the photos we might send.
ann.ruble Moving away from the traditional role of media relations, what are your experiences with partnering for business development? Our local public affairs team is being challenged to help with lead generation for our business group and media/ad sales group. Any best practices anyone can share?
Michelle_Butler I need to say that I do know what TMZ is. I'm not that out of touch. :)
Ann_Shrewsbury We are working closely with Business Class in Nebraska and KC.
Ann_Shrewsbury Trying to tell their story and let potential customers know what new products are available in ways that are simple and easy to understand.
Brian_Craven Ann Ruble: That's a great question. We have a Business Solutions division, and we try to involve them in any chamber outreach, economic development meeting, or community event where small and medium business will be involved. We have had surprising success by having the Business Solutions team present as a partner.
Ann_Shrewsbury We've had great success partnering with Commercial Sales to audit our Chamber of Commerce memberships and find ways take advantage of those resources.
Amy_Pempel We are using Facebook and Twitter to link to our sponsors’ sweepstakes and other offerings and showing our ad sales teams how our media assets - our website, social media - can benefit their client and potential clients.
Michelle_Butler Really interesting, Brian. That's great that the presentations are going well.

Tips for Entering the 2010 Beacon Awards

Michelle_Butler All three of you are past Beacon Award finalists and winners. The deadlines are next month. Do you have any advice for people who are considering entering?
Ann_Shrewsbury Just do it.
Michelle_Butler Love that, Ann. :)
Ann_Shrewsbury Just pulling all the information together and really looking at results has many benefits.
Brian_Craven The best advice I have is that if it really seems like a unique and worthwhile project, consider it for a Beacon award. If you tell the story effectively in the summary, and provide solid backup to show what occurred, a great project always has a good chance at being a Finalist/Beacon winner
Amy_Pempel When you've put it all together - go back and look at it with clear eyes and ask yourself if it tells the story you intended it to.
Michelle_Butler There's about five minutes left to the session. Please feel free to ask any remaining questions!
Brian_Craven The best thing about this year's Beacons is the addition of all the new categories. Take a look at each one and see if you have a project that stands out/would be competitive in that category.
Michelle_Butler I'm glad you like the new categories, Brian!

Final Advice on Integrated Communications

Michelle_Butler Any remaining advice on integrated communications as well?
Amy_Pempel In integrated communications, there's no such thing as TMI. Keep it simple, but keep it flowing.
Len_Grace I think you have to use the 360 degree feedback principle. Does is make sense to everyone involved.
Ann_Shrewsbury Get to know your engineers/product developers and become their best friends. You will need their help someday.
Amy_Pempel Len, totally agree
Michelle_Butler Any suggestions on how to do that best, Ann?
Ann_Shrewsbury Ask to sit in on their department meetings.
Ann_Shrewsbury They love to have others interested in what they do.
Ann_Shrewsbury And bring donuts.
Michelle_Butler Food/bearing gifts always makes you welcome.
Len_Grace Food always compliments collaboration.
Brian_Craven Ann is so right--I ask to be a part of the Engineering meetings--I may not understand it when they first describe it, but it gives me a head start...
Michelle_Butler Any last second questions?
Len_Grace Thanks for a great Chat Session, Michelle!
Michelle_Butler Thank you to all of you for participating.
Michelle_Butler Thank you for participating in ACC’s latest online chat. ACC offers an e-learning opportunity every month. The next event is: April 8, 2010 – Social Media for Social Change: How MTV Used Viral Videos to Increase Youth STD Testing – an ACC Webinar Check for more details.
Michelle_Butler 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.
Brian_Craven Thanks to everyone who participated. It's always great to network.
Ann_Shrewsbury Thanks for the opportunity to share.
Amy_Pempel Thanks everyone. Enjoyed this very much. Ann - come see us in Florida, but you must bring donuts!
Ann_Shrewsbury Will do.
Michelle_Butler Thanks, again!
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