High10 Questions With…

Digital Content Next (DCN) is the only trade organization dedicated to serving the unique and diverse needs of high-quality digital content companies that manage trusted, direct relationships with consumers and marketers. A long-time H10 client, DCN recently released new research on data practices and consumer expectation. H10 spoke with Rande Price, DCN’s Research Director, on the report and what’s next for the industry.  

DCN explores key issues and looks to guide the industry, what made this particular research set something you wanted to explore now?

In light of new consumer data policies – General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the European Union and the U.S.’ California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA – it’s important to understand the various expectations around current online data collection practices. These new data privacy and security laws speak to the need to reassess the collection and use of personal information in the digital media ecosystem. 

This research shows that overall, consumers do expect websites and apps to collect data about them in order to personalize, protect, and improve their experience. In sharp contrast, though, consumers do not expect outside vendors to collect data about them for reuse or sale. 

Over the past few years, we’ve also conducted research to better understand consumer expectations for Google and Facebook, particularly as tracking by major tech platforms increased and became a critical focus. It’s important to understand that trust is a result of delivering on expectations. It can be diminished when consumer data is collected and used without transparency.

Do you anticipate additional industry changes and guidelines to emerge as more consumers begin to understand data collection practices, and want to ensure privacy?

While the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became the law on January 1, 2020, the Attorney General will not begin to enforce it until July 1, 2020. The AG recently confirmed there will be no delay in the enforcement date due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

When you began to mine the data for this report, was there a particular point that surprised you?

Consumers report a limited understanding of what it means to “opt out” or how to opt out of online data collection. It was surprising to see that fewer consumers stated they opted out of online data collection or will in the next 30 days (40% combined) than those who do not know how to or do not understand what it means to opt out (44% combined).

To complicate matters, the top consumer actions for opting out of online data collection are quite ineffective. Deleting cookies or turning them off often results in turning off both 1st and 3rd party cookies. First-party cookies offer consumers a seamless log-in and authentications process for subscriptions and memberships. Removing these cookies, can actually lead to a frustrating user experience. Regrettably, the “Do Not Track” signal is ignored by many tech companies. Also, consumer use of ad blockers penalizes the entire media ecosystem including the publishers and their advertisers.

Does DCN believe in a particular guideline for the industry?

With the California Consumer Privacy Act now the law, digital media companies are reevaluating their online data collection policies and the procedures they use to ensure compliance. Many in the industry see the CCPA as the most comprehensive consumer privacy law and a benchmark for other states to follow. It’s a call to reassess the collection and use of personal information in the digital media ecosystem. It’s a key reason why it’s important to review how consumer expectations align or don’t with current online data collection practices. We believe raising the bar on consumer (and advertiser) trust with our publisher brands is critical to their economic interests.

Why do you think the ‘opt out’ terms are so ambiguous for consumers? Should there be an industry standard when it comes to data and privacy verbiage? 

Consumers report a limited understanding of what it means to “opt out” or how to opt out of online data collection. Sadly, for those opting out of online data collection, the top consumer actions remain cookie-related: deleting browser cookies on a regular basis or turning them off followed by turning on “Do Not Track” and installing an ad blocker. Unfortunately, deleting cookies or turning on “Do Not Track” doesn’t completely remove the consumer from online data collection.

In your experience, is there a platform/outlet/brand/publisher out there doing it right?

Most premium publishers get it right. Their data collection practices tend to meet consumer expectations since there is a direct benefit to the consumer experience and because the consumer’s data is collected and used transparently within the same context. Premium publishers recognize consumer trust as a critical foundation in building a strong relationship with their end-users.

For those that need a better handle on what their consumers need and want, what does DCN suggest? 

When consumers are asked specifically about their expectations about the data practices of outside vendors, fewer say they expect the future reuse (38 percent) or selling (24 percent) of their personal data. Interestingly, when they are given a clear explanation of how their data will be used and the benefit — for example, collecting online data to identify consumers across devices — their expectations are more aligned with the practice (47 percent). It’s important to distinguish whether a company is operating as an outside vendor or third party or whether it’s making a specious claim to operate as a first party due to tags they place on a website or app.

DCN has spent time over the years digging into consumer expectations and experience. What do you anticipate being the next big conversation in that world?

Publishers need to continue to differentiate and add value to the consumer experience. With a collection of subscriptions and, therefore, first-party relationships with publishers, there will there be a need for publishers to continue to add value to their offerings in order to delight and retain their audiences.

Looking ahead, does DCN have other research planned for this year?

Revenue diversification continues to be an important focus for publishers and more so now with the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On another note, DCN frequently hosts in-person member events and other conferences. Are you shifting any key days to streaming? 

Yes, we have shifted our upcoming events for 2020 to virtual events. We’ll reevaluate our roster in the Fall.

We at High10 Media are most grateful for your time and for sharing your insights with us, Rande. Thank you!

5 Dos and Don’ts for Messaging During the Coronavirus Crisis

Messaging during the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has erased all sense of normalcy and, to an even greater degree, certainty. That presents a significant challenge for businesses and organizations looking to speak to their audiences. You have to re-think everything from topic to tone to timing. There are no textbook answers for this situation. But here are some guidelines that will help you achieve the most important aspect of being able to speak as a brand, company or organization.

1. They DO Want to Hear From You. 

You might be wondering, quite understandably, if your audiences—be they customers, members, employees, etc—want to hear from you at all. We can be emphatic on this point: they need to hear from you. People still very much need to remember that they’re members of “tribes.” So, yes, talk to them. And, just as importantly, listen.

2. You DON’T Have to be a Prognosticator

Your audiences will be looking for reassurance—and that means a calm, collected voice offering a clear message. It doesn’t mean you need to provide certainty, which (as we’re sure you’re aware) you don’t have and can’t provide. Approaching these interactions with a cool, collected state of mind, and delivering a well considered message, will go far in helping your audiences orient a little bit more during a very disorienting period. 

3. DO Speak to Your Industry & Shared Business

People care about the industry they’re in. This goes beyond sales and revenue; rather, it’s about their lives. The people you’re speaking to are emotionally invested in the work they do and, by extension, the industry groups they’re members of. It’s okay to speak to this—to acknowledge concerns about losses, to express optimism for the future, and to provide tips or ideas for weathering the storm.

4. DO Open Lines of Communications

It’s important you open lines of communications with your clients and teams. That may feel difficult. You don’t want to say the wrong thing. Or, maybe, you don’t know what to say at all. But that shouldn’t stop you from checking in. Everyone is in this same, very challenging situation and that’s enough to bring people together to talk, even if it’s just to ask how others are doing.

5. DON’T Make Promises You Can’t Keep

While you might be tempted to do everything and anything to help clients at this moment, you should also keep in mind that the crisis will end. That means you don’t want to be left on the hook for promises you won’t be able to keep in the long term. This is about being up front and honest with clients every step of the way, even as you go into overdrive working to serve them.

High10 Questions With…

Muck Rack COO Natan Edelsburg

With High10 Media’s 10th Anniversary approaching, we’ve asked some of the most dynamic people in media a few key questions to get their take on the industry and beyond. We kick off with someone who’s got his pulse on PR and the media, Muck Rack COO Natan Edelsburg.

1. Based on the studies you undertook this year, are you anticipating updates or changes to the platform?

Definitely, our State of Journalism survey and State of PR survey give us lots of insights into what tools we should build for both journalists and PR pros. For example, we launched Trends recently as both a tool for PR people (see PRWeek coverage) and journalists (see Poynter coverage) because of the interest we saw in the need for faster and easier to navigate analytics. 

2. For PR pros engaging with reporters on your platform, what are the top tips you suggest for better results?

The number one reason journalists reject otherwise relevant pitches is because of the lack of personalization. We highly recommend always researching a journalist’s past coverage and tweets, searching for specific keywords they write about often and making sure they haven’t covered a topic already.

We also recommend using our email productivity tool to better customize messages. When you have a longer list of journalists to pitch, it’s still important to customize each message. Our Pitching tool helps make it easier to customize and even calls you out if you haven’t customized enough of your emails! 

3. What do you see as the biggest areas/opportunities for growth on the platform in 2020? (Global, social, etc.)

There are two major areas we plan on growing in 2020. Number one is to deliver easier to use insights and analytics for our customers and users. We’ve already had great coverage reporting and analysis and with our new Trends product we’re making it easier than ever to search across our entire database and system of articles.

We are also going to help PR teams collaborate better than ever before. There are now 6 PR pros to every 1 journalist so it’s more important than ever not to overlap. Muck Rack is developing our CRM-style features so you can assign owners to journalists, share media lists like Google Docs and collaborate on notes and pitches. Here’s a piece we wrote on why PR pros need CRMs too.

4. Digging deeper into the types of stories/storylines most frequently placed by PR pros, do you anticipate a study on themes that are most useful for reporters to receive?

Definitely, especially with our new Trends tool in place. For example we are easily able to understand what the journalism community thinks about any topic, within seconds. Here’s a Trends report for which of the Best Supporting Actress nominees for the Oscars had more buzz from journalists.

5. How can PR pros help the platform and in turn help themselves? Are you asking for greater engagement for suggestions to beats/reporters/contact updates that you aren’t already getting?

We love being asked this question! Every conversation we have with a customer or user of Muck Rack is extremely helpful. Most of the tools we have built have been because of ideas we’ve received from our users. 

One of the biggest ways PR pros can help is by sharing their ideas, suggestions and issues with us. Besides engaging with us on social media, on Muck Rack you message us anytime with your ideas and suggestions. Our customer success and editorial teams will be there to listen, respond and improve! 

Thanks Natan! Readers can check out Muck Rack here!

How We Did It: NYSPCC

Aiding Victims of Abuse

by Megan Kernan, Account Director

The Mission

There are few organizations out there like The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. NYSPCC is one of the oldest organizations in the world dedicated to protecting kids from abuse and helping child victims of it on the long road to recovery. It’s an honor to help the foundation get the word out about their crucially important mission.

In spring 2019, NYSPCC was brought on board to support the Athlete Assistance Fund, an NGO that makes counseling services available to any current or former USAG member gymnast who’s suffered sexual abuse within the sport.

In the wake of Larry Nassar’s systematic abuse of gymnasts, the AAF turned to NYSPCC as an impartial, expert third party to perform a full-program needs assessment. AAF also wanted to provide sexual abuse prevention training to athletes, coaches, and parents to ensure that teen and child athletes know how to protect themselves.

NYSPCC’s announcement of the partnership was to be made during a time of extraordinary mistrust of the sport of gymnastics. Accusations of corruption at USAG were rampant. There was a lot of anger that this could go on for so long without official action.

In this context, our challenge was significant. We wanted to ensure NYSPCC had the right platform to start a conversation about how its expertise in child protection and sex abuse prevention could bring real and much needed change. But we also had to make sure that the AAF and NYSPCC were viewed as the independent parties they are. We had to make sure their reputations were protected as they set out to help correct a deep injustice.

Setting Out

We knew that achieving this mission would depend on doing great prep work. In fact, we started prepping two months out, navigating the issues and coordinating with comms teams from multiple organizations, each of which had a significant stake in the announcement. For NYSPCC, this moment was akin to a national debut, so we focused intensely on preparation for national media and the interview requests we expected to come.

At the same time, we worked alongside Board members from both NYSPCC and AAF to get announcement materials completed and interviews booked, including with Alicia Sacramone Quinn, one of the most decorated Olympic gymnasts of all time.

Making sure our press lists were accurate, inclusive and robust was also key, so we included reporters covering the USAG scandal and sex abuse, along with culture reporters, philanthropy publications, and of course, sports reporters. While the coverage of the scandal allowed for us to communicate with many reporters that were already aware of the climate, we needed to make sure NYSPCC’s long-time expertise was rightly communicated.

The Results

Given that this was only an announcement of the actual work (which was yet to come), the response was considerable. People.com, Reuters, ESPN.com, Bustle and IndyStar (hugely important given that Indianapolis is a major center for the sport), all covered the partnerships. Crucially, the partnership and the work it aimed to produced was received in a positive light.

Just as importantly, we had a chance to introduce NYSPCC to media outlets and reporters as a true expert. That positioning, which reflects the very core of what NYSPCC is all about, would be significant to the success of this effort. NYSPCC was seen an authority stepping in to promote healing after a major scandal. The organization became a national expert source on these topics and will continue to do the work that made it such an essential partner for New York communities.

5 Major Media Trends for the New Decade

Working on the frontlines of media, High10 has a unique vantage point on an industry undergoing a massive shift. As we step into the new decade, we’ve identified five major media trends that we think will have long-term impact on the way media is produced, perceived and consumed.

1. Nonprofit Models + Impact-Based Work Debuts

More and more for-profit media companies are launching philanthropic arms or pursuing impact-based missions. The underlying aim is charitable giving and creating a more purpose-driven company (something that ticks major boxes for workers, especially millennials), but there is also a benefit to the company. Aside from the standard donation, companies will double-down on investments, which is another major benefit. And of course, there’s the PR factor – charitable giving can result in positive storylines, reviews and recruitment.

Secondly, the shift to nonprofit models will continue as journalism seeks innovative and diverse ways of moving forward. In November of last year, Salt Lake Tribune became one of the newest publications to announce its nonprofit status. We anticipate more stories like this in 2020. It’s a not the newest trend, with companies like ProPublica and Grist, an environmental news nonprofit (and High10 client) already leading the charge. This is a trend that is going to grow in leaps and bounds in coming years.

2. Revenue Diversification Rules the Roost

It may be nonprofit status for some but for others it’s a continued reliance on awards, events and e-commerce as publishers and media brands seek a greater hold on the market and audience growth. Whether that comes in the form of paywall experimentation or live events, content is no longer the sole king of media.

For publishers navigating ecommerce, organizations like Whatsnewsinpublishing are breaking down a need to know and offering a guide for publishers making the leap, as explained by Digital Content Next.

The emergence of this page-to-stage trend will precipitate a marked shift, with live events emerge as not just a revenue-driver but a forum for breaking stories and creating content. High10 client Yahoo! Finance is already in the mix with its All Markets Summit.

3. Streaming Journalism

Streaming launches, snafus, subscription debates, and content hits and misses will dominate the media landscape this year. We anticipate news and media partnerships to become part of the conversation as platforms seek to pull in (and keep) new audiences. Quibi jumped on this trend early with an already-announced partnership with NBC News.

4. Immersive Storytelling

Immersive storytelling is about to take center stage. While already a continuing trend, we will see the full impact throughout 2020. Film, gaming and TV already use XR for engaging and entertaining experiences, and this year, traditional news reporting will continue to adopt it.

News organizations will amplify original journalism through innovative formats to create deeper empathy and understanding and bring readers closer than ever to news stories around the world. Instead of skimming over articles on immigration reform, for instance, with XR, readers will stand with the reporters at the border, see what they see and experience the story firsthand.

In 2019, top news outlets like Yahoo! News and TIME Magazine launched new XR initiatives to showcase groundbreaking visual journalism, and we expect to see more news outlets adopt XR to be at the forefront of immersive, visual storytelling.

5. Climate Change Coverage Heats Up

2020 will see a continued increase in climate change coverage, and the importance of it, from media brands worldwide. The New Republic, a High10 client, is already well invested in cataloguing and investigating the most important need to know information for readers.

With the 2020 election looming, the climate change conversation will continue to dominate and become a major factor as we head toward November. The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation joined forces in 2019 for Covering Climate Now, a project “aimed at strengthening the media’s focus on the climate crisis.” In the summer of 2019, more than 170 news outlets were involved, and we expect that number to continue to climb. Publications need to develop a strategy now to authentically join the conversation already in progress this year.

19 Successes HIGH10 Celebrated in 2019

2019 has been an exciting, fast-paced year for High10 Media. We’re grateful for all of our excellent clients, the relationships with the wonderful journalists we work with, client successes we achieved,  and —of course—for the team members who are the heart of High10.

Below, we share (in no particular order) 19 of the successes that made 2019 a great one.

1. High10 was named to the Observer’s 50 Most Powerful PR Firms list, rising four spots from last year to rank #21 on the list.

2. We welcomed 5 talented and dedicated team members to our already incredible team.

3. Yahoo! Finance signed High10 as agency of record, in addition to our two existing Verizon Media powerhouse media clients, Yahoo! News and HuffPost.

4. We had the privilege of working with disability rights pioneer Judy Heumann and the Ford Foundation, where Judy was a senior fellow, to spread the word about a critical new report on representation of disability in media.

5. High10 represented one of the most impactful books of the year, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, working closely with publisher Penguin Random House and the two brilliant authors of the book, New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly.

6. Smithsonian Institution tapped High10 to help launch its newest museum, the Asian Pacific American Center, with a bash featuring Harry Shum Jr. and performances by hip-hop phenom Jay Park and iconic jazz band Hiroshima.

7. We worked closely with Edwards Pottinger, the law firm representing many of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, to help the victims tell their stories to the press.

8. Trusted Media Brands, the media group that includes iconic outlets like Reader’s Digest signed High10 as agency of record, expanding our media portfolio.

9. We began repping Capitol Records COO and music industry mainstay Michelle Jubelirer to help bring the story of her game-changing leadership to broader audiences.

10. National Geographic Channel, a longtime High10 client, expanded its scope to include NatGeo Wild.

11. We made sure David Copperfield’s latest bit of magic–finding the 15th star on Smithsonian’s 205-year-old flag at a naturalization ceremony—got the coverage the event deserved.

12. We began working with Sanford Greenberg, the founder of End Blindness by 2020, and his campaign to find a cure for all forms of blindness.

13. Mission Resolve, the rescue mission to assist victims of Hurricane Dorian, turned to High10 to help get the message out about their important work.

14. High10 worked to maximize the impact of The Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 Event, a landmark on entertainment media’s annual calendar.

15. After supporting the Broadway Dream Foundation’s end of year Gala for the past few years, Broadway Dreams and High10 officially joined forces for their event.

16. We embarked on a comprehensive campaign to promote Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction by Dr. Kim Bergman, the go-to expert on the subject. The book was mentioned across media from People to Popsugar.

17. Super League Gaming announced its IPO this year. With our help, outlets including CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business covered the major step forward for the business.

18. We began working with Grist, the nonprofit media organization known for its climate news and commentary.

19. We were introduced to Scarlett Lewis of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, who lost her son in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. We were proud to work with Scarlett and others for the ‘2018 Yearbook’ project, which memorializes 37 people killed in mass shootings that year.

How We Did It: Ford Foundation

A study in empathy

by Kaitlyn Kurosky, Sr. Director @ High10 Media

The Mission

Our work with The Ford Foundation first kicked off around strategy for a white paper on disability inclusion in media and entertainment from disability rights pioneer and Ford Foundation Senior Fellow Judith Heumann.

If you haven’t heard of Judy, it’s worth taking the time to learn a bit more about her story. Over decades, she’s played a major role in developing some of the most important thinking about disability activism and has helped shape some of the defining legislation on the topic. Her great TED talk is here.

Creating our strategy for the report, we knew we’d have to lean into Judy’s own experience. After all, this wasn’t some dry policy paper but a deep dive into the critically important issue of how we portray—and consume portrayals of—disability in the media. 

We also had to make sure the report would be placed in front of the right audiences—namely, influencers, decision makers, and people interested in the ongoing conversation about equality, civic justice, and accessibility.

Given High10’s specialization in representing media clients, we knew we had all the tools we needed to get the report the attention it deserved.

Setting Out

Right away, we began to map out both the immediate press opportunities and the strategy around the launch of the paper. Given there would be multiple opportunities to engage with recent news and ongoing industry-wide conversations, we interviewed Judy extensively about her personal story, her experience as a disability rights activist, her views on the topic of media representation, and her vision for the future. 

To make sure we had a lay of the land, we mapped out conversations unfolding in the media about the topic and created tailored media lists that are essential to any outreach effort. 

The Result  

After initial conversations with key reporters and outlets focused on this type of coverage, we found the right home at HuffPost, with the outlet exclusively breaking the report. 

This gave us the jump start we needed to share Judy’s report with a wider industry audience. Working with Judy, we set up interviews with reporters to explain and further detail her life’s work. Judy was ultimately featured in other outlets including The Chicago TribuneNew York magazine, CNN.com and Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter, both in relation to the report and her reaction to industry news at the time. Taking the outreach a step further, Judy also filmed an appearance on Bloomberg TV’s Equality Series.

Our initial interview with Judy also came into play as we helped her craft and place an opinion piece toward the end of our engagement. Responding to a major moment for the disability community, Ali Stroker’s Tony Award win, Judy’s response was featured in The Hollywood Reporter. You can read “What Ali Stroker’s Historic Win Means for Wheelchair Users Like Me” here

Another key aspect of this work was pursuing speaking opportunities and appearances for Judy. She already was well known on the speaking circuit, but the report allowed us to re-introduce her and offer a timely topic to organizers. As our work wrapped up in the spring of 2019, opportunities on the table included the ReelAbilities Film Festival in Los Angeles and New York, as well as a collaboration with Temple University in Philadelphia.

HIGH10 Welcomes New Team Member

High10 Welcomes Sarah Van Cleve! 

High10’s latest addition has officially joined our New York City office. Sarah Van Cleve is our newest Account Executive and is already up and running on accounts. She comes to us from Alissa Neil PR. Sarah graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Fun fact, Sarah is High10’s first German speaker! We chatted with her to find out what she loves most about PR and her love of NYC! 

High10: What do you love most about your job?

Sarah: I’ve always loved writing and making connections with new people, and PR is such a great way to bridge those two areas. With an ever-changing media landscape, I love that PR is truly always evolving. No two days are ever the same, and I love how that gives me the opportunity to be creative and see new ideas come to life. 

High10: Tell us About NYC! 

Sarah: There’s so much I love about NYC – I’ve dreamed of living here all my life. But if I had to choose, I think my favorite thing is the wealth of food options. I love trying out new restaurants in different neighborhoods, and that no matter what type of cuisine you’re looking for, there’s always a plethora of options at your fingertips. 

High10: We couldn’t agree more! An office favorite is Sophie’s Cuban, which happens to be right across the street. 

Welcome Sarah! We’re excited to have you join the team. 

“We Are Media”

This post is part of a What Is Media series. We’ll be unpacking this idea in more depth and detail in coming posts.

For the last 10 years, High10 Media’s unofficial tagline has been “We are media.” While we never defined it formally, everyone who ever worked at High10 knew what it meant. 

Representing so many of today’s greatest media brands and companies—from agenda-setting news organizations, to transformative industry outlets, to format-breaking entertainment companies, movie studios and more—we’ve become stitched into the very fabric of the media. We’ve learned to think and act like a media company, and even model the way we work after the fast-paced, ideas-driven world of the newsroom.

But as we’ve grown and developed, the idea that “We are media” has evolved in an incredibly powerful way.

In the past, when you’d speak about “the media” you’d generally mean the news and entertainment media. But those boundaries have been exploded by the digital revolution and the rise of the connection economy. Media is no longer defined by who communicates, but how they communicate.

Lifestyle brands now provide their audiences with rich content related to their lives. Forward-thinking retailers are no longer just advertising but telling stories their audiences want to be a part of. Aid organizations, artists, musicians, trade associations, governments and virtually everyone in between no longer connect to audiences through the media. Instead, they have become their own medium of connectivity. 

High10’s evolution reflects this shift. In addition to our core role of connecting clients with the news and entertainment media (a role that’s still crucially important), we’ve also become a means for clients to connect directly with audiences. 

We help them do the creative, thinking-heavy, problem-solving work of finding the stories that resonate, ordering them into effective narratives, packaging them into formats, and delivering them to audiences. This is exactly the description of what the media has always done, and still does. 

With this still-unfolding transformation we’re discovering new opportunities and facing a diverse set of challenges. That’s what makes communications endlessly fascinating. Where once we were coaches strategizing behind the scenes and on the sidelines, today  we are squarely on the playing field, where we’re moving the game forward.

Gearing Up for Crisis:

How to Mobilize Your Comms Team When It Counts

A communications crisis may be many things, but it’s always unpredictable — and consequential. The Economist estimates that the eight corporations which suffered a major crisis since 2010 saw a 30% drop in their value, compared to their peer groups who didn’t see a crisis of similar magnitude.

While planning and preparation are essential — for example, getting your messaging in order, mapping a clear work structure and getting a response in place — there will also be plenty of in-the-moment decisions you’ll need to make. 

Chief among these decisions is team structure. By definition, a crisis isn’t business as usual so you and your team can’t continue to work as if it is. Even when using an outside agency (usually a good idea), you still need to be able to mobilize your existing comms team to manage the crisis. 

Because of this, it’s worth investing early in a team structure that can help mitigate the effects of a potential crisis before it arrives. 

Here are four ways to make sure everyone is prepped and ready to manage a crisis situation, along with some hands-on insight from High10 Media Vice President Amanda 

1. Use the experts on hand 

As we’ve written about before [link to our piece], your first step in a communications crisis is about getting oriented, and that means understanding the root of the crisis. For example, does the crisis stem from an executive’s decision making? Or is it a content issue related to your brand or publication? Have you touched a nerve in public culture, or maybe stepped on a political tripwire?

“By unpacking core themes, you can also make quick but accurate decisions on who you need to bring on board,” says Alix. It’s generally worth taking the time up front to make those important early calls.”

2. Build out ‘reaction’ teams in advance

Danish research team Johansen, Aggerholm and Frandsen discovered that when a crisis management team was appointed, internal morale was higher. Organizations experienced “loss of motivation and engagement to a lesser extent than organizations without this strategic instrument.” Additionally, “employees are perceived to be less frustrated, they feel less insecure, and are less afraid in a crisis,” the researchers found. For example, your Crisis Team A might be a mix of colleagues primed on consumer insights, brand launches and public reaction; whereas Team B might include content strategists and social media experts. 

“If you’re working within a larger organization, it may be difficult to pick and choose the best colleagues to tap for a crisis at a moment’s notice,” Alix says. “By doing the prep work in advance, you can set up different ‘crisis response’ teams before it’s crunch time.”

3. Be flexible, dynamic and open-minded 

Your crisis response team member doesn’t need to include benighted ‘crisis experts’ to be effective. In fact, the opposite is often true. Rather than trying to find team members with deep experience in crisis, look for the people who can lead each tactic effectively, freeing senior members up to lead the strategic charge.

As an example, your in-house writer or social media lead could be the person that can work with you on clear, concise talking points, and your media relations teams could be ready to build lists and do some fast outreach.

“A colleague who doesn’t typically work on this type of account or brand, but is well-versed in corporate communication techniques, could be the right person to staff up a crisis team,” Alix adds.

4. Have a plan for reaction protocol

Once your teams are in place, have a plan for engagement. Given the time crunch and pressure, it’s important that your teams know what to expect once they’re called upon. Whether that’s conducting research, delving into talking points or having a step one messaging meeting, the way in which you’ll tackle the crisis shouldn’t come as a surprise. Of course, you may need to change up the way you engage with the public or press on a certain manner, but what you ask from your teams is what you can predict.

By relying on your internal team, and those that know your business, organization or brand best, you are already one step closer to coming out ahead of a crisis situation. Having the right mix of people and a reaction plan in place will ensure you can respond quickly and efficiently to the matter at hand. 

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Mind Over Matter Matters When It Comes to Your Communications Needs

We live in a society that so often tells us that size matters, and bigger or more is better. It may be, but it may not be, ultimately it’s irrelevant when your goal is to communicate with those who matter to you, and when it comes to choosing your communications agency, it’s the thinking, the creativity, insight, contacts and relationships that really matter.

If you’ve done an internet search for a small agency, you’ve likely run across the word “boutique.” Today, a boutique agency can be anything from a one-person operation to a company with 100 employees. But why seek either a boutique agency or a large agency? The assumption that you’ll be getting the attention of the executive with a boutique agency is just an assumption. With a large agency the assumption tends to be that the results will be more exposure. 

In our experience, what people really want is a dedicated team of smart individuals who can help a company take the next step and better achieve its goals. Determine whether or not your objectives and your brand have been fully understood and the strategy put before you will likely be one you instantly recognize as the right way to go. When you sign with an agency for its thinking, insight and press contacts you become a core part of their business, and your account team is going to work tirelessly to provide consistently excellent service. 

When you meet with a potential new agency – big or small – you should always ask who your account team will be. Too often, the agency executive you’re meeting with will disappear and you may find yourself interfacing with more junior team members when it comes time to do the work. Junior team members are often diligent, intelligent professionals who strive for excellence on behalf of their clients, but if you want the executive to collaborate with you, it must be clarified at the outset.

The quality of your account team is a critical factor. Make sure that each team member is a highly organized, professional, articulate, results-oriented individual with a predisposition for intellectual curiosity. Together, a team with these qualities, combined with a stable of mutually beneficial professional relationships with journalists, are sure to lead you on a path to success. 

Ultimately, the search for the right communications agency is an individual one – only you know what your business truly needs, and regardless of whether you choose a big agency or a small one, you should ask yourself: Do you trust the team you’re working with? Have they thoroughly understood your brand, your needs and objectives? Do you know that they have heard you? Do you believe they can get the job done? And after a several months, are you seeing progress? We hope that, whomever you work with, they deliver for and with you!

High10 Welcomes New Team Members!

In the last month, two new colleagues have joined High10’s New York City office. Lauren Seewald has come on board as an Executive Assistant, and Paul Chronister joins as a Senior Account Executive from Kite Hill PR. We chatted with both Lauren and Paul to find out what they love about their job and this industry. We also talked all things NYC and found out about some of their favorite things to do in the city.

What do you love most about your job?

Paul: I love to tell stories, and I also love to promote the things I’m passionate about. I found PR to be an avenue where I can do both. I can help clients tell their unique stories and promote the work they’re doing to illustrate how they’re impacting the world around them. 

Lauren: Growing up I always wanted a career that aligned directly with my personality and my passions. I’m a huge people person, and I love to write and communicate. I wanted to make sure that when I entered the working world I would be in a field that enabled me to do both of those things. I love that when following this career path, every day is different and you never know what to expect. 

Tell us About NYC! Any favorite spots? 

Paul: I love catching live shows of my favorite bands in the park, hitting up Smalls Jazz club in The Village, getting lost amongst the stacks at The Strand Bookstore, seeing the latest exhibit at The Met and just simply walking the streets of NYC, because there’s always something new to explore wherever you go. 

Lauren: There are so many things I love about NYC. I love how everyone who lives here is so diverse, and I also love the whole aspect that there is always something to do. That would definitely be my favorite part. Whether you want to go to a concert, go to Central Park, see a Broadway show, enjoy delicious pizza, there genuinely is something for everyone every day of the week. It really is the greatest city in the world, and I’m so happy that I was able to have the opportunity to move here.

Welcome Paul and Lauren! We’re happy to have you on board.

How ‘Communications’ Became the New PR and Why it Matters

There’s an interesting but subtle change occurring in the way public relations speaks about itself and, therefore, thinks about what it does. Companies, like High10 Media, which once defined themselves as PR agencies now locate themselves in the field of communications. 

This shift might seem academic to most clients but the truth is that the change in nomenclature reflects currents that go deep below the surface. 

This change began to manifest around the time of the Great Recession, not coincidentally, the same time High10 was founded. It was then that we saw the convergence of two enormous forces of pressure: major budgetary constraints on the part of cash-strapped clients dealing    with the effects of the recession and, simultaneously, the emergence of incredibly powerful digital tools and practices. 

The result was, on the client side, much higher expectations as PR firms were being asked to achieve outcomes that marketing agencies (which many companies couldn’t afford to pay at the time) were once responsible for. On the other side of the client-agency equation, PR firms found that, with digital and social media coming into their own, they were able to offer a range of new services to meet and lead the increase in a new set of challenges.

What this meant is that public relations agencies which once specialized primarily (and, in many cases, solely) in speaking to the media became adept at speaking to a diverse range of audiences. We could use social media to communicate more broadly; and now empowered with digital publishing tools to delve into a client’s brand message with a level of nuance and effectiveness; communications teams could help clients publish op-eds on open platforms where they’d be fully in control of, and responsible for, their own message. The possibilities were endless.

Nearly a decade later, communications has emerged as a kind of super-set of marketing, advertising, and PR disciplines and practices. Although the field, like so many areas touched by the power of digital, has leapt forward, it’s still rooted in the same core principle that rooted its PR predecessor: finding original and effective ways to bring an authentic and compelling message to a target audience.

Far from having achieved any kind of stasis, the field is nascent and quickly evolving. The power of online tools—used to do everything from improve efficiencies to discover new audiences to engage them in fascinating ways—is staggering. And while we’ve made enormous progress, we still have yet to uncover miles of uncharted territory in this ongoing journey.

What is Crisis PR?

You might call it Murphy’s Law (as we do in the US), or sod’s law (as they do in the UK), or any other moniker, but, where PR is concerned, the real question is what do you do when things go wrong?

Crisis PR is the well-honed communications practice designed to help an organization or individual navigate the rough waters of a event that can have a significantly and lasting negative impact.

When done successfully, crisis PR is about creating and implementing a nuanced, deliberate and thoughtful process that:

  • Provides adequate, effective and candid responses to media and core audiences
  • Develops a message that helps audiences understand what’s going on
  • Offers a way forward that keeps the brand narrative on track

Doing this is difficult. It requires intensive, collaborative work with client-side teams, and a lot of creativity and decisive action on the agency side. So, how can you be prepared for a crisis situation?

There should be, at every organization, a framework or at least a plan to manage a crisis, which consists of (a) pre-crisis preparedness, (b) a crisis response and (c) post-crisis communications. 


  • Get Media Training Now – A  designated spokesperson with Media Training can play a pivotal role in successfully addressing the media with poise and a clear control of the message.
  • Get Your Messaging In Order – Solid brand messaging will play a significant role in helping you ground your response in core brand values. Be prepared with a messaging document that includes these elements, as well as talking points.
  • Get Media Training Now – A  designated spokesperson with Media Training can play a pivotal role in successfully addressing the media with poise and a clear control of the message.


When you’re in the thick of a crisis, even with the phones ringing, emails dropping, and social media lighting up, the first and most important principle is this: Stay calm. 

In practice, this means resisting the temptation to “put out the fire” with an off the cuff response. Rather, it’s time to take a breath, make a plan and, if you’re able, consult with professionals well versed in managing crisis situations.

That said, best practices include:

  • Get management on the same page, so everyone knows who’s doing—and, just as importantly, saying—what.
  • Communicate honestly to your teams, which sometimes means admitting you don’t know the answers at the moment.
  • Gather information so your communications team will have everything they need to respond to media, stakeholders and other constituencies.
  • Refer media requests to your communications team. If you don’t have a comms team on board yet, let reporters know you’ll return to them as soon as possible.
  • Maintain perspective and stay cognizant of the fact that the crisis will pass.


As the crisis ebbs, there’s always a temptation to return as quickly as possible to business as usual. But, especially in the period immediately following the crisis, it’s important to keep in mind there will be residual awareness of the crisis. 

That means you need to be thoughtful about your marketing and communications so you don’t stumble across a tripwire. 

Just as importantly, integrating what you’ve learned from the crisis into your communications and marketing programming will help strengthen both in the long term.

The First Three Months with Your PR Agency: Stay The Course!


Patience, it’s been said, is a virtue. And though it might be relatively easy to be virtuous while alone on a mountaintop, while you endeavor to grow your brand’s awareness and connect your message to relevant audiences, patience might seem like the least of your priorities.

Despite this, the ability to patiently stay the course with a reputable and skilled communications agency, especially in the first three months of the engagement, will go far in seeing you through to the results you need. The question is how to discern whether you’re being intelligently patient or foolishly naive as you wait for results to show—and what you can do to keep the process smoothly and effectively moving ahead.

To help understand this, let’s start with a breakdown of these three crucial initial three months.

Month 1

Your first month will be all-important in establishing a solid foundation for the engagement. This is when you get to know the agency and, more importantly, when the agency gets to know you and your goals, your brand, company or organization.

By the end of your first month you should feel confident your agency understands your company and brand, knows your mission and vision, and has a precise understanding of the objectives and benchmarks for your work together.

On your side, you should be sure senior management understands and agrees to the strategy, objectives, and expectations of the engagement. And it is critical that your team share information that your agency needs to succeed. Keep them informed – not in the dark.

Month 1 Tip:

One way of making sure all of this happens is asking for a communications plan from your agency to outline the first three or six months of the engagement.

Month 2

The second month of the engagement is where frustration can arise. The bloom is off the rose, results this early in the process might not be completely visible, and anxieties can sometimes spike.

But that doesn’t mean work isn’t being done or that progress isn’t being made. In fact, an experienced agency will by this point be deep in its process, making headway with pitches, further planning, outreach to journalists and fresh ideas for story angles.

What you should be looking for here is a coordinated and wide-ranging communications effort that’s pushing on all fronts. While landing a piece in a top-tier national outlet is always a challenge—albeit a challenge good agencies are remarkably skilled at overcoming—doing so after eight weeks of less of work makes that challenge even more pronounced. So agencies will often use this time to build a media foundation with items in more niche or specialized outlets. In addition to seeking out this “lower-hanging” fruit, these kind of efforts give your agency a chance to test, calibrate and improve the message.

In spite of such a good foundation, it is common for an organization to become restless and frustrated within the second month should media outlets not become evangelists for your message.

Month 2 Tip:

At this point the more you communicate about the engagement, the more you’ll learn about what’s going on. Ask to be part of the process to whatever extent possible; a good agency will eagerly welcome your input and feedback. Weekly calls, status reports, and in-person meetings are an excellent way to make sure this happens.

Month 3

By month three you’ve ramped up, seen some first efforts in action, and (hopefully) kept lines of communications with your agency wide open. You’ve done everything right but still you might find yourself wondering if there’s any real chance the key objectives you laid out at the beginning of the engagement will be met.

In the meantime, you could be facing some internal pressure to get things moving. This is the moment where patience will play the greatest role. If you’ve gone through the steps outlined above, assuring yourself your agency is earnest, intelligent and working doggedly on your behalf, then it’s a matter of time before you see some serious results.

It’s important to bear in mind that, unlike with advertising, where billboards or air time can be bought at will, the news cycle is a wild and unpredictable beast. Editors, for example, might love items pitched about your company but their editorial calendars could call for that topic to appear only weeks or months down the line.

A major national scandal could knock a planned item about your company, and it might take weeks, or longer, to find another opportunity to place the story. This is the nature of the above-mentioned beast. We grapple with it because when things fall into place, as they always do, earned media offers advantages—like exposure, reach and credibility— that literally cannot be bought.

Month 3 Tip:

Rather than withdraw from the process, it’s time to double down on all the above: review your communications plan with your agency; speak openly about your concerns; ask questions and suggest ideas of your own. Even if you are seeing some great results, it’s still a good idea to lean into the process at this point so you can tee up the next quarter of collaboration with your agency.