Thought Leaders

  • April 4th Preview: Cannabis Entrepreneur Rob Toof On Leading MA’s Newest Beverage Category

    As co-founder of Altatude Beverage Company, Rob Toof has now traveled the entrepreneurial continuum full-circle with his first investor-supported venture. Rooted in product development and sales, he has worked on the front lines of word of mouth / influencer campaigns (BzzAgent), funding performance (NextGen Venture Partners), building and selling his online education platform to a fortune 500 company (Pearson) and marquee special event planning (The Boston Cup). Just back from an international sales trip, Loring Barnes caught up with him after his latest Logan touchdown to talk about the role of deliberate communications to support the launch of a new cannabis brand and what being a trailblazer requires of a business owner.

    Q. So I’m going to jump right into the deep end: the Wall Street Journal has declared cannabis beverages as “tasting terrible,” with such yummy flavor descriptions as “hints of dirty socks,” a “gross aftertaste” like “dish soap and urine.” Ouch! How do you overcome such caustic critiques to distinguish your brand as being something familiar or appealing and get people to actually track it down and try it? 

    Before I started the business I went from LA to Vancouver with my attorney (him driving), trying and ranking every cannabis beverage we could get our hands; judging them based on taste, dosage, price and packaging. Out of 60 different beverages we tried, for taste five were good, the remaining were undrinkable swill. Why? Beverages are hard to produce and they are at a higher risk of contamination because they’re always wet. It’s highly possible many of the samples we tried were filled with microbials due to lack of preservatives or food science.

    Alta is a line of beverages formulated to mask and accentuate specific cannabis flavors and aromas while also enhancing the effects. With sophisticated flavors that are unique yet familiar, Alta moves beyond beverages to deliver a “reefined” experience for the discriminating cannabis consumer.  Each product is made in small batches and tested by a third party to ensure food safety standards are being met/exceeded.

    Our team bench is deep in beverage experience including: a food scientist, a sommelier, a café owner, a soda company owner, a vermouth maker and a cold brew expert. We feel confident on the flavor front.

     Q. Communicators with IPO-readiness experience understand that an investor-backed start-up needs a strategy that supports a payback end-game, and possibly an acquisition as an exit strategy. You’ve been down this road as an investor. Now you’re the owner accountable to investors. How does this perspective shape how you value and use public relations as a value driver to build revenue?

    I’ve run my own company with a successful exit to a publicly traded Fortune 500 company. Prior to that I ran word-of-mouth campaigns for brands like SC Johnson, Kraft and IBM on launching new products, which worked closely with PR to get the word out. Word of mouth is the most important aspect of our brand strategy. Shortly behind that is traditional PR. Any credible third party, especially for a cannabis product, means the brand name is trustworthy.  There are a lot of bad products out there and in the end, it will come down to brand reputation.

    Q. Is there any aspect of investment performance that risks impatience for your company to mature and achieve its intended potential? How does financial discipline shape your marketing and PR priorities?

    A: Canning equipment is the biggest. So, if you think of us both as a brand and as a platform, we have two main goals. Our first goal is to expand our own brand. Our second goal is to help other brands produce their beverages on our platform when we have latency. We believe this strategy allows for frequent content creation, PR opportunities, and unique brand experiences that we can budget and plan for before a project even begins.

    Altatude is in a unique real-time challenge: defining a new product category and carving out a distinct brand personality within it. That’s a tall order, at a time when you are spending to hit the retail and restaurant marketplace on all cylinders. How much of your messaging is directed to educating the general population versus customers and buyers?

    A: We are a sales organization first and foremost, which means I’m measuring number of store fronts and units moved weekly, not brand awareness mostly right now. That being said, we know patients and budtenders are influencers to their networks, so we are beginning to work more closely with these audiences to help them understand the value of drinkables, nanotechnology, micro-dosing and sipping Alta.

    Q. The role of social media in the media mix has some restrictions for cannabis where marijuana is not yet universally legal. When you look at earned, owned and paid media, which of them is proving most productive for Altatude? How do you look to measure the impact of your overall media strategy, and as the owner, are you willing to pay for measurement as a feature of your overall communications program?

    We use Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, which we update regularly. We are in an interesting spot as we are about to launch our own CBD line, which is hemp derived, which opens up a bunch of legal questions regarding what we can and can’t do from a promotion stand point. At this point, I’m not willing to pay for measurement beyond SEO and CPA for online reservation, delivery and orders/subscriptions.

    Q. PRSA Boston embraces mentoring and is a career gateway to new graduates and early-stage public relations, social media and sales-focused communicators. Does Altatude offer paid internships and if so, how should someone make themselves known to you? Does it go without saying that interns or employees have to be cannabis consumers, in whatever form that is?

    A: We would love to hear from PRSA affiliated interns. Pay is based on a case-by-case basis. If you have interest in working at Altatude please email info@altatude.com. Consumption is not a requirement. 80% of our team consume less than once a month.

    Q. What is the biggest misconception about the cannabis economy that you would like legislators and/or journalists to better understand?

    A: Dosing is very individual and there needs to be more understanding/less restriction within dosing for the recreational market. For example, recreational beverage have limitations in Massachusetts of 5mg per serving/can/beverage. In that same recreational transaction, a consumer can buy a syringe with 850mg of THC, which they are more likely to over medicate with. So long as there are concentrates for sale, drinkables shouldn’t have dosing restrictions as low as they currently do.

    Q. You’ve been traveling, but you likely haven’t found Altatude at an airport bar in between flights. When you’ve got time to kill, what is your beverage of choice?

    A: I don’t drink much alcohol anymore now that I’m drinking cannabis. No hangover and lower calories. Staples though are water and coffee.

    Meet Rob Toof on Thursday, April 4th and hear about beverages as the newest cannabis industry’s  product category (plus sample some Alta Fueganon-infused). He joins an A-lister panel of marijuana business experts and policy influencers. The lively discussion will be lead by Jess Bartlett (@BOSBIZJess), veteran cannabis and craft beer beat journalist for the Boston Business Journal. Click on this LINK to get your ticket.  Special rates for students, young professionals and members. 

    **With special thanks to our generous hosts, Zazil Media Group (@zazilmediagroup). A donation from the program will be made to the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • April 4th Preview: Meet Cannabis Control Commission’s Exec. Dir., Guiding MA’s Hottest Economy

    In 2008, the vote by Massachusetts to decriminalize marijuana set the BayState on its journey to legalizing cannabis by a ballot initiative eight years later. This set into motion the need for a centralized authority whose purpose was to operationalize the law for the opening of medical and recreational retail dispensaries across the state. Enter the Cannabis Control Commission, (CCC) which has handled the dizzying charter of providing host municipalities with guidelines intended to balance community impacts with new revenue opportunity. As its Executive Director since the agency’s found, Shawn Collins brings the most current perspective on this growing industry. He recently shared his insights about how public affairs have been an economic driver with Loring Barnes for a PRSA Boston’s Fast Five… and a few more questions.

    On April 4th, some members of the Cannabis Control Commission’s communications team will be in attendance. Our team includes:

    We draw agency talent from the State PRF60 Contract for advertising, graphic design and public awareness, including this campaign:  “More About Marijuana

    Q: We share the experience of holding elected office in respective hometowns. Interestingly, you were chair of your school committee. As a general statement, schools are a municipal department that will claim new budget needs to fund educational impact or mitigation programs stemming from the arrival of local cannabis cultivation or dispensaries. How has your insight from your elected office tenure factored in decisions as related to deploying state-level marijuana health and safety programs targeting youth, families, staff nurses and educators? What is the delineation of educational resources to be provided through the CCC versus the Department of Public Health?

    A: Public education and awareness, especially during the infancy of this industry, is critical.  Our campaign, “More About Marijuana,” specifically identifies the importance of parents talking with their children about the potential impact of youth access.  It also reminds parents that if they intend to purchase and consume adult-use cannabis, they also have an obligation to keep those products safe and secure within their home.  We have made these public awareness materials, including rack cards, available through the state’s clearinghouse and shared them with superintendents across Massachusetts. Education and awareness are the best tools we have, and we’ll partner with anyone that can help us get those messages out.  That includes other state agencies, as well as local and community partners.

    Q: You’re an attorney. How do you reconcile protection of First Amendment rights with the recent actions taken by Instagram and Facebook to delete social media accounts of early-stage marijuana businesses, to include those newly opened in Massachusetts? For a small business, social media is a key engagement tool used for marketing and education.  Is the CCC taking an advocacy position or providing guidance to these businesses as how to navigate social media?

    A: I’m an attorney, yes, but I’m not in the best position to offer legal advice in this particular area.  The Commission, consistent with our objective to be as available and transparent as possible, does seek to leverage social media as often as possible to get our own message out.  We know that a lot of our key constituency can be found on these platforms. We also know, too, that kids are present and active on these platforms. So, we do expect any of our licensees to be mindful of that when using these tools.  

    Q: A cornerstone of the cannabis industry is social equity, which is a program described as a deliverable by the CCC. How does the CCC advance access to small business investor capital, grants or other benefits for minority or underrepresented business populations if federal lending laws make it so difficult?

    A: This is really the challenge that is facing this industry and these entrepreneurs across the board.  Access to capital limits everyone’s access to this market, but especially hinders those small business owners that aren’t independently wealthy.  Given the federal constraints, the solution may have to be multi-faceted. This could include state-run and supported programs, including grants and loans, as well as private investments targeted specifically to small business, particularly those economic empowerment applicants and social equity program participants.  There is no one, single solution to this.

    Q: Does the CCC hire paid interns for experiences supporting communications, public affairs or outreach functions? Will the CCC be expanding to meet the needs of the growing cannabis industry?

    A: As a start-up agency, our Commission is always looking to add additional resources and support.  We have tried to develop a strategic approach to public awareness and community outreach, and both are two areas of potential growth within the Commission.  We do not currently have any opportunities for internships, but think they are something we will absolutely consider in the future.

    Q: What is the biggest misconception or information gap that the CCC is working to address?

    A: While the Commission has broad regulatory authority, we do not oversee all things cannabis-related.  We rely on other state agencies and scores of local partners to regulate this new industry. Relatedly, residents have a lot of rights with this new law, including the ability to grow plants in their home.  This isn’t something the Commission has the authority to police, but we’d gladly work with residents to understand their rights and limitations, as well as local authorities in a similar manner. Lastly, I think it is important for folks to remember that we’re still a young and growing agency.

    Q: In the morning when you’re enjoying your morning coffee, what are you reading to start your day? Then during your commute, do you listen to podcasts or news stations as might intersect with your need to keep on top of cannabis-related topics?

    A: I rely on local media in the Boston area and other regional outlets in the state to get my news every morning, including the Boston Business Journal and Boston Globe.  I also make a point to scroll through Flipboard, which helps me cast a much wider net for all news – including cannabis.  As for my commute, I’ll admit I’m much more likely to listen to “The Daily” from the New York Times, or “Up First” from NPR, as opposed to cannabis-related podcasts.  Sometimes I need the break.

    Meet Shawn Collins on Thursday, April 4th and hear from the agency tasked with shaping a safe and equitably accessible cannabis industry in Massachusetts.  He joins an A-lister panel of marijuana business experts and policy influencers. The lively discussion will be lead by Jess Bartlett (@BOSBIZJess), veteran cannabis and craft beer beat journalist for the Boston Business Journal. Click on this LINK to get your ticket.  Special rates for students, young professionals and members. 

    **With special thanks to our generous hosts, Zazil Media Group (@zazilmediagroup). A donation from the event will be made to the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance.

     

     

  • Fast Five: Larry Brantley at Chaloner & Associates Wants to Help You Land that Next Job

    Larry Brantley, President of Chaloner & Associates, brings more than 30 years of experience in the communications, marketing and design world to his role at Chaloner.  a national executive search firm specializing in communications, public relations and marketing recruitment. He’s worked with brands such as JCPenny, HP, EDS, Texas Instruments, ConocoPhillips and many others to place executive level talent in the marketing and communications roles.  PRSA Boston recently had the opportunity to ask him for a few insights into the current job market.

    Q: What are some of the key trends you are seeing in the hiring process these days?

    A: Firms are now offering signing bonuses, relocation packages, enhanced benefit plans and increased compensation plans.  It is a candidate market.  Employers are having to compete for talent.  It has not been this kind of employment climate since the late 1990s.

    Q: What skills should PR and Communication professionals be looking to refine / develop as they start a job search?

    A: We all need to be proactive in developing our knowledge in online content creation and management.  Social media is key to all PR professionals.  Whether you create online content or manage crisis communications, it impacts all of us in a world where everyone uses mobile communications on a regular basis.  It is a qualifier in resume screening.

    Q: There was a time when communications and digital marketing jobs were separate.  Is that still the case?  If not, are you seeing employers who are looking for candidates with both sets of skills?

    A: Employers are looking for people who are multi-faceted in their skills and ability to do more for their company.  It is imperative that we, as candidates, are able to multi- task and spin many plates at the same time. Larger firms may separate traditional communications and digital communications to different teams.  However, small to mid-sized companies expect individuals to do both.

    Q: Are employers paying more attention to diversity in the hiring process

    A: Employers are ideally looking to have a balanced approach to life experiences, cultural perspectives and gender views in their business.  We do not have the same constraints that affirmative action required in the 90s, but our customers and clients look to see that our business reflects the market in which we live.  We approach all candidates as “talent”, not male/female, gay or straight, Jewish, Muslim or Christian.  The only consideration for us is who is the best qualified candidate to perform the job function. Our salary range budgeted is the same for all.

    Q: How important is experience vs. an ability to adapt and learn?

    A: Both are critical to the success of a new hire; however, adaptability is a critical component into cultural fit in an organization.  You can have all the experience in the world, but if you are inflexible, you will be out the door.

    Q: What mistakes should a candidate avoid in the interview process? 

    A: We do our best to prepare a candidate for an interview with our clients.  We share a little background on the individuals you may be meeting to help you be relaxed and familiar with who you meet. There are in my opinion some important things to consider-

    • Don’t regurgitate everything listed on your resume.  The resume helped to get you in the door but now they want to get to know you.
    • Let the interviewer lead the conversation. Don’t come in with your own discussion plan.
    • Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not.
    • Thank the contact for their time and opportunity to meet.

    Looking for a new opportunity?  Check out the Chaloner website at http://www.chaloner.com or follow Larry on Twitter at @recruitinglarry

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand or on the go. But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and

    pitch your subject expert!

  • Fast Five with Deirdre Breakenridge, 2018 Social Media Summit Keynote Speaker

    Deirdre K. Breakenridge is Chief Executive Officer at Pure Performance Communications. A veteran in PR, marketing and branding, Breakenridge is the author of six books, including “Answers for Modern Communicators”, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional”, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” and “PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences.

    Deidre teaches online PR and social media courses for the UMASS at Amherst  and for Rutgers University’s PR Certificate course. She is also the host of a podcast program, Women Worldwide, interviewing women around the globe who are encouraged to share their incredible stories, educating, imparting advice and offering insights to show listeners. Women Worldwide has recently joined the C- Suite Radio Network, where Deirdre is recognized as a C-Suite Advisor.

    Deirdre will be the opening keynote speaker at the 2018 Social Media Summit on May 11 at Bentley University.  Join Deirdre and a host of other speakers for an amazing day as we explore how social media is being integrated in communications strategies at some of the region’s most visible brands.  Learn more and get your tickets here

    What prompted you to start PR Expanded?

    I launched PR Expanded (formerly PR 2.0) when I was researching and writing my book PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools and New Audiences. The blog was a way to document my social media journey, share topics covered in the book and gauge community member reactions and thoughts that I would include in my manuscript. Since the launch of PR 2.0, I’ve rebranded my blog as PR Expanded, which represents the many opportunities for PR professionals today. PR Expanded continues to showcase new roles and practices in PR as a result of the changing media landscape, advancing technologies and shifting consumer behaviors.

    What is a recent winning move your social media team has made for a client?

    We work with a digital marketing agency that is taking a stand on Artificial Intelligence and marketing ethics. A recent study of 6,000 consumers in the US, UK and Germany reveals consumer attitudes and concerns about AI. Our team was able to immerse ourselves in the survey data to come up with creative pitch angles. Our pitches have led to more media exposure in the form of byline articles, Q&A guest posts, radio interviews and expert commentary in business, technology and industry trade publications.

    What top deliverables do you look for in your social media team?

    Your social media team must deliver outcomes for your business. Yes, there are communication goals as a result of your campaigns, but you’re also tying what you do to higher-level business goals. A social media team that has a purpose and goals and sets up a measurement program that shows how social media directly relates to sales and lead generation, marketing optimization, customer satisfaction or brand health, is a team that gets the attention of the company leaders.

    What big goals or programs do you want your social media team to accomplish this year?

    Companies need to share stories and share meaningful information with the public, but they also need to create a sharing culture on the inside of the organization. Our social media teams are focused on igniting employee champions within the organization to create more strategic participation and greater momentum and engagement through employee networks. As a rule, good communication (including social media communication) starts on the inside of the company.

    What do you look for in a social media professional when you are hiring?

    A social media professional needs a balance of IQ and Emotional Quotient (EQ). It’s great when a candidate knows the areas of social media management, data and analytics and good writing and communication skills. However, the EQ is important when you’re dealing with a community and any issues or concerns that may arise. Showing EQ means stepping back to evaluate a situation in a social media community and having more empathy for your customer. When you blend the strategic with the empathy, you can solve problems and prevent the escalation of issues for your brand.

    When your clients just don’t get social media, how do you explain it?

    When clients don’t understand social media you have to show them why it matters in their world. Showing them could mean sharing the results of a competitor audit and how the competition uses social media. You might also reveal that the top companies in their industry are using social media to attract the best talent. You can also share how their customers, employees, media, and other important stakeholders are on social media giving them a reason to monitor or to engage directly. For these clients, it could be a crawl, walk run approach to get them comfortable with social media and understanding the meaning and value for their business.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 

  • Fast Five Q&A: Jill Goddard, APR, Director of Public Relations and Social Media at Boston Ballet

    Jill Goddard serves as the Director of Public Relations and Social Media at Boston Ballet. With over ten years of experience in public relations, communications and non-profit development, her work has centered on mission-based organizations primarily in the non-profit sector including Covenant House International, Oxfam America, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. She holds a M.A. in Global Marketing Communications and Advertising from Emerson College and a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

    PRSA Boston recently sat down with Jill to learn more about her career and why she decided to join the Boston Ballet.

    Q: How did you get involved with Boston Ballet?

    A: I have always been a fan and admirer of the talent and artistry of Boston Ballet and an arts enthusiast in general. My former colleague and friend, who serves as the director of individual giving for Boston Ballet, told me about the open position and asked if I was interested in being considered. It was helpful to have someone who I knew and trusted at the organization speak so highly of the vision and people behind Boston Ballet—I couldn’t wait to join the team!

    Q: Do you have a favorite campaign/program you’ve run for Boston Ballet (or a previous company), and what were the results?

    A: I’ve been fortunate to work for organizations close to my heart and campaigns that make a difference in peoples’ lives so it is hard to choose a favorite. Most recently, we finished 44 performances of The Nutcracker, a New England treasure and tradition. We did a lot of advanced press and promotions including having the Nutcracker Bear zipline on the Rose Kennedy Greenway to promote tickets going on sale. The video generated great engagement on our social media channels, was covered by The Boston Globe, Patriot Ledger, NBC Boston, NECN, and Dance Magazine, and helped generate awareness and sales. Later, we did a social media campaign where the mice from The Nutcracker escaped the Boston Opera House and went sightseeing around Boston. It was wonderful to collaborate with other iconic Boston attractions like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Tea Party Ships—and see people’s reactions to these mice walking down the streets of Boston.

    At Boston Ballet, I really enjoy that all of its programs have so many fascinating angles and stories to tell. I love to deep dive into the research, find creative ways to engage with audiences of all ages, and help people enrich their own understanding and experience of ballet, its history, and the people behind it.

    Q: It looks like you have worked with other non-profits and associations, how important is PR to their overall strategies?

    A: Whether a non-profit organization recognizes it or not, public relations is essential to their success. To  inspire generosity, mobilize people and make positive change, you must have public awareness, support and engagement. Fortunately, I think more and more organizations are recognizing this and making the necessary investments in bandwidth and budget to incorporate public relations as an intentional management function which will support strategic goals.

    Q: What advice do you have for others who are interested in a PR career in the arts?

    A: Artist, dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said, “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” The same is true for public relation professionals and that is so important to remember if you want a career in the arts. In addition to best practices and the fundamentals of public relations, bring your passion, creativity, and imagination to the work and you will have great success.

    Q: How has being a PRSA member impacted your career?

    A: There are many ways that being a PRSA member has enriched my career. Often times in a non-profit environment, you are part of a small team or might be the only public relations professional in the entire organization. Being a PRSA member expanded my network of brilliant brains to pick when I have a PR-related issue at work. It also helps me keep up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies in public relations and social media through on-demand webinars, in-person workshops, and articles which I am able to immediately apply to my work.

    I recently finished the APR accreditation process which allowed me to take a step back from the day to day of public relations and look at the broader systems, theories, and techniques behind the craft. As a life-long learner, I’m grateful that PRSA offers these unique and invaluable opportunities. I look forward to all that PRSA continues to offer and all I can offer PRSA in return.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 
  • Fast Five: with Richard Chacón, Executive Director of News Content, WBUR, Boston

    As executive director of news content for WBUR, Richard Chacón oversees all aspects of local radio and digital news content for WBUR, Boston’s leading public radio station.

    Richard’s career includes more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism, public affairs, politics and government. As a journalist, Richard has worked at The Boston Globe, where he covered Boston City Hall and higher education and was the Latin America bureau chief, based in Mexico City. He also served as deputy foreign affairs editor and as ombudsman. In addition, he has worked at New York Newsday, WCVB-TV in Boston and KTSM in his native El Paso, Texas.

    Beyond journalism, Richard also served as director of communications for Deval Patrick’s gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts, and later served in the governor’s office as director of policy and then as executive director of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants. He also served as a speechwriter in the New York City mayor’s office under David Dinkins and later as deputy media director for the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City.

    We caught up with Richard prior to the 2017 PRSA Boston Annual Meeting where he is scheduled to give the keynote address.  We asked him about the future of news and how media platforms like WBUR are evolving.

    What led you to become a journalist and why did you decide to join WBUR?

    Endless curiosity – about how things happen, why and about the people involved. I’ve had this curiosity ever since I was a young boy growing up in the desert in El Paso, TX. My very first job was as a newspaper delivery boy. I’ve been blessed to have had some wonderful experiences in print, broadcast and multimedia newsrooms and working with some talented colleagues along the way. I’m especially pleased and proud to help lead one of the biggest and best newsrooms in public radio. As WBUR grows and becomes more of a primary source of news and information – especially during this transformational time in Boston’s history – we have an opportunity and obligation to help lead the public dialogue on many important issues in our community.

    Will presenting news to audiences continue to evolve or change in 2018? If so, how?

    Newsrooms across Boston and the country are in the midst of rethinking and redefining how they collect and deliver the news – that includes WBUR. We know that over half of our audience experiences our multimedia content through mobile devices, so our content must be mobile friendly. Visual presentations of content – videos, photos, data visualization – are growing in importance for stories, especially those that are shared through social media channels. Although terrestrial radio continues to reach our largest audience, on-demand listening – whether through podcasts or streaming – is growing in popularity for our audience, especially younger listeners and readers. But even amid all of these changes, it is important that we always remain committed to the traditional values of fair, aggressive and transparent journalism.

    PR people continue to see the lines are blurring between advertising and editorial. Is this impacting how you and your team at WBUR report news? If so, how?

    News organizations are also constantly looking for new business and financial models to help sustain the journalism. Increasingly, we’re seeing the development of “sponsored content” which can sometimes look, walk and quack like newsroom editorial content. As a former ombudsman for the Boston Globe, I think it’s very important that news organizations are both very careful and very clear with audiences about what is advertising and what is news coverage. So far, I believe most organizations – including WBUR – has maintained that line between advertising and editorial but it’s an evolving and ongoing discussions (and debates) that we have on these issues.

    Why was it important to develop online niche sites, such as the ARTery and Edify, or podcasts such as Modern Love?

    As WBUR continues to grow as a multimedia destination for news and spoken-word content, we are constantly experimenting with new forms of presentations and platforms. We have national programs that reach millions of listeners across the United States; and we have sound-rich podcasts that share peoples’ personal stories and perspectives. In our local newsroom, we’ve developed a number of multimedia content “verticals” as a way to chronicle many of the dynamic sectors that are part of our knowledge-based economy around Boston. We’re building teams of journalists to bring WBUR’s high-quality storytelling to these sectors: “BostonomiX is how we cover tech and innovation; “CommonHealth” covers health and science; The ARTery is how we capture our increasingly diverse arts and culture scene; “Edify” is how we cover the many facets of teaching, learning and education. The great news is we are developing new ones for 2018!

     Why is hosting events important to WBUR? How will this continue to evolve in 2018?

    WBUR believes it has both an opportunity and responsibility to lead the public conversations on important topics with newsmakers, thought leaders, idea makers and diverse members of our communities. That’s already what we do every day on air and online. We do it through our selection of news stories and topics, our regular use of polling to key issues like the opioid crisis or climate change, and through our growing use of social media and crowd-sourcing. Convening more public events is a natural extension of our role as a public institution. We regularly host public events at WBUR that include many of our journalists. We also sponsor and produce dozens of other events all over the region because we believe strongly in our role of gathering communities together for thoughtful discussion. Sometimes these events can be a source of revenue for us, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to constantly cultivate and grow our public media audience. There will be some more exciting news on this front also in 2018!

     

    Do you have a candidate for a FAST FIVE interview? Email Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and pitch your expert! 

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization.