Fleishman Hillard’s Jennifer Kohanim: Bridging the Gap Between Media Relations and Social
We tend to talk about digital innovation and social media separately from traditional media relations. There’s the world of branded status updates and then there’s the world of the press release.
As we sat down to speak with Jennifer Kohanim – PR professional at Fleishman-Hillard – we uncovered creative points of intersections and discussed the importance of bridging the gap by striving to become knowledgeable and well-versed in a broad spectrum of media channels.
Muck Rack: Can you tell us about your role at Fleishman-Hillard?
Jennifer Kohanim: My role here is two-fold and encompasses both traditional media relations as well as social media/community management work. That means that half my energy is devoted to building media strategy, working with my team to identify media targets and opportunities and straight-up pitching. The other half of what I do here is developing social media content, community management and social media metrics. It’s a little atypical to be straddling both the social role with the traditional media relations role, but that’s where I found myself here at FH and I feel very grateful for it.
MR: Can you tell us a bit more about your background?
JK: I guess I’ll start by saying that I’m a digital gal at the core. I first learned about marketing from a digital perspective (I started in the digital group at FH) and only after learned the intricacies of PR about a year or two into my job (when I moved into the marketing communications/consumer PR group). I think this almost backward learning is pretty cool and makes me approach my projects with a unique lens. I also studied in a music business program for my undergrad, which means I learned about marketing from the lens of promoting a musician – which means I spent a lot of time analyzing the artist-audience relationship, what made certain artists have such passionate and loyal followings and most importantly looked at a brand as a human (which is inherently the case in music – the brand is the musician who is a human being as opposed to a product of service).
MR: What kinds of projects are you working on?
JK: My two main accounts right now are Citibank and the State of Connecticut’s Office of Tourism. Yes, very different! That’s the agency lifestyle! Both accounts are very interesting. On the Citi front, I’m focused on their digital partnerships, specifically Women & Co. (their personal finance resource for women) and Connect: Professional Women’s Network (their networking group for professional women on LinkedIn, made up of 100k+ members). Both channels are meant to build communities where women can openly discuss the money and career issues that matter most to them – it’s pretty incredible how much there is a need for this information and dialogue and it’s amazing how Citi has devoted such resources to it. Definitely recommend you checking out both sites!
On the Connecticut front, our team is charged to bring awareness to everything the state has to offer from a tourism perspective – from its incredible history, to its quaint small towns with perfect New England charm, to its shoreline cities and wonderful beaches. There’s really so much to do in Connecticut – and you’d be surprised to see how many local residents don’t even know what’s in their own backyard! It’s our job to bring visibility to all the wonderful destinations and attractions. It’s been a real blast. It’s always great when you have a brand with such richness that has endless amounts of stories to tell.
MR: What tactics do you use when reaching out to reporters?
JK: There are the conventional ways to connect with reporters and then there are the unconventional ways and it’s important (and more interesting) to mix it up. I’ve reached out to reporters via email with a story idea/expert that I thought they would be interested in given past coverage. I’ve reached out to reporters just to say hello after reading an article of theirs that I really liked. And then I’ve reached out to reporters after seeing a tweet of theirs seeking help.
One fun story I have about a social media-inspired pitch, happened when I struck a conversation with a New York Times columnist after reading one of his Facebook status updates (I subscribe to his updates). Now this is a reporter that wouldn’t normally cover Connecticut because travel is not his beat, but it happened to be that he lived in Connecticut and was crowd-sourcing vacation ideas for himself and his two young boys – vacation ideas that were within driving distance. So I quickly put together an email telling him how much was in his own backyard and made a couple of suggestions of destinations that I loved and thought were perfect for his elementary school kids (Pez Visitor Center, New England Air Museum, etc). He wrote back thrilled and very appreciative for the suggestions – the hope is that this is a relationship we can build and an opportunity for us to show an influencer around Connecticut. This is just one example of social and media relations coming together – I love when this happens. This is the new media relations.
MR: What are your thoughts on press releases?
JK: When I started here I was very digital-focused and I was pretty dismissive of press releases – they were too long considering the 140 character world we lived in. People have very small attention spans for text, and a press release is usually all text. I am a huge fan of brands that have strong corporate blogs that use their blog as a form of a press release (the best example is Google) – and of course, I absolutely love it when brands create a video to introduce their new product offering or service. Video is without a doubt the most powerful medium and when done right – it’s just so effective.
MR: What’s more important these days, being traditionally or digitally knowledgeable? What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?
JK: More of our generation will be digitally-oriented, but I think there is a lot of value in learning traditional media relations and learning the skills of constructing a story and thinking about it from a media perspective (asking yourself – what would the headline look like? How would a journalist cover it?) That kind of thinking is invaluable and it just helps you broaden your vision of the whole media landscape. Everything at the end of the day is connected and tying yourself down to one medium, one or two channels, is not going to get you far.