Publicity Play: Making an Impact in a Fragmented Media Age

Part of the business of cable here at the Show is a discussion of ways to better serve, and better reach, customers.  The Association of Cable Communicators, an organization of communications and public affairs professionals, this morning hosted Publicity Play: Making an Impact in a Fragmented Media Age – a look at how cable operators and programmers are managing their brand, their promotions, and their customer service through blogs, social networks, and other new media.

Peter Kiley from C-Span moderated the panel which included Chelsye Burrows of Starz Entertainment, Ellen East of Time Warner, Annie Howell of the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green, Jennifer Khoury of Comcast, and Ellen Kroner of Rainbow Media

After brief introductions of the panelists and their company, the conversation turned to ways the companies are using digital media to do their jobs.  Ellen East shared an effort by Time Warner to have staff travel to the front lines and work customer service.  They blogged about the experience so co-workers could understand the challenges faced by both customers and the front line staff.  The blog proved very popular within the company and helped bring the corporate personnel closer to the people interacting with customers every day.

Jennifer Khoury talked about the Comcast Cares program and their use of Twitter and other platforms to monitor customer complaints wherever they popped up and to be proactive about solving them.

While these efforts help improve customer service, cable operators and programmers are also finding more challenges with new media in the marketing of their products, services and programming.  Chelsye Burrows discussed efforts to promote new Starz programming including Hollywood Residential and Head Case.  Extensive outreach was done with blogs covering TV and promotional content was created for the web to engage online audiences.

Similarly, When launching a new music on demand channel, Time Warner in Austin announced the launch events via Facebook and evite events in addition to traditional marketing channels.  They surveyed attendees and found that 46% came from one of the two online efforts – a huge success.  East expressed her belief that online channels were “the way to reach younger audiences”.

Conversation then turned to a discussion of traditional public relations and media relations, and the challenges presented by new media. 

Comcast’s Khoury believes the web has permanently altered the roll of communications personnel.  The media world has changed., she says.  Digital media is forcing changes in customer service, marketing, communications, reporting, deadlines, etc.  It is often a daunting task, she believes, but suggests “you try to work within the new structure and give people what they need.”

One of the most interesting highlights of the discussion was Annie Howell’s discussion of Planet Green’s new electronic press kit.  Not only has Planet Green stopped creating paper press materials and driven them all online, the press sites are developed using green design standards.  The colors are chosen for their lower wattage consumption and the sites use minimal images to draw less power.

The panel bounced back and forth between corporate branding, identity management and promotion of content with some discussion of the blurring line between corporate communications and marketing, but the predominant theme could be summed up by Bob Dylan – The times they are a-changin’.

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