After spending two years teaching journalism and public relations, Will Sutton has been appointed Grambling State University’s Director of Communications.
Sutton had previously served as Grambling’s director of media relations in 2012, soon after he was hired to teach business journalism at the historically black Louisiana university.
A past president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Sutton is also a former deputy managing editor of The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina; managing editor and editor and vice president of the Post-Tribune in Gary, Indiana, and a former journalism professor at Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.
Grambling State University President Richard “Rick”Gallot Jr. said he chose Sutton to be communications director because of his portfolio of experience and connections with the world of media.
“Grambling is a national and international brand so we have to have professionals handling our message who understand the global implications of the Grambling brand,” said Gallot. “When you have someone who can appreciate and understand when something is reported about Grambling it doesn’t just appear in the local media, it can be in the San Francisco Chronicle or The New York Times, the message must be conveyed well enough to be read from coast to coast and even around the world.”
Tosha Whitten-Griggs has been named senior vice president of TV One.
“Tosha joins TV One as an award-winning and accomplished communications executive with more than 20 years of experience in her field,” said Brad Siegel, president of TV One. “Her background, which includes major awards shows, television and film publicity, as well as extensive relationships inside the most sought-after national consumer and trade media outlets, makes her best suited to increase the profile and perception of TV One within the media, industry, and public.”
Most recently, Whitten-Griggs served as the President/CEO of The FrontPage Firm, a boutique publicity firm with notable clients and projects that include OWN, Sony Pictures Television, USA Network/Characters Unite, Netflix, TV Land, Bounce TV, The SAG Foundation, Interscope Records, Vivendi Entertainment, TD Jakes Enterprises, Central City Productions/The Stellar Gospel Music Awards, Entertainment Tonight host Kevin Frazier, singers Lalah Hathaway and Faith Evans, film executive and author DeVon Franklin, television personality and celebrity stylist Kimberly Kimble, veteran television producer Ralph Farquhar, and TV One’s News One Now host and managing editor Roland S. Martin among others.
Whitten-Griggs also served in positions of increasing responsibility at the Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards for eight years where she was most recently publicity director (2009-2016). She has also offered expertise to other major television and entertainment industry events, serving as executive-in-charge of publicity for The Stellar Gospel Music Awards (2010 – 2016), as well as contributing to publicity efforts on The American Music Awards, The ASCAP Pop Awards, The ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards and The Trumpet Awards.
Whitten-Griggs’ portfolio includes major feature placements in high-profile, national outlets, such as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Essence, Variety, Black Enterprise and Ebony, to name a few.
As TV One’s senior vice president of public relations, Whitten-Griggs will oversee the full scope of the network’s communications and public relations strategies, including corporate communications, media relations, public affairs, and program publicity. Based in Los Angeles, she serves as TV One’s primary spokesperson and chief press contact. She will report directly to Siegel.
Shanté Bacon, founder of marketing and communications firm 135th Street Agency, and Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, have been named Ad Age’s 2016 Women to Watch list.
The list recognizes the top women influencers in media and marketing. Dungey and Bacon are the only two African Americans to appear on this year’s list of 23 women.
Bacon’s 135th Street Agency provides public relations services for some of the top studios in Hollywood. Most recently, the company supported the release of Paramount Pictures’ “Daddy’s Home,” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and Warner Bros.’ “Keanu” with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. “Next up, Ms. Bacon, who served as senior director of marketing at Island Def Jam Music Group prior to creating 135th, said she wants to ‘make more headway into the tech industry.’ Ad Age reports. The 135th Street Agency won Google as a client at the end of March, and one of its first initiatives was to host a roundtable in early May connecting the tech giant with key media influencers and thought leaders.
Dungey became the first African American to lead programming at a major broadcaster in February, when she was named president of ABC Entertainment. Since joining the network in 2009, Dungey has quickly climbed the ranks, most recently overseeing some of the most successful prime time programming on network television. She touts among her successes: “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “American Crime” and “Quantico.”
Imprenta Communications Group and its CEO, Ronald W. Wong, received several awards at the annual PR News – Diversity in PR Awards. The awards honor leaders and organizations who took chances, made incredible strides and understand the power of diversity in communications.
Wong was honored as an “Individual of the Year,” while his company was recognized for its “Wage Theft” campaign. The historic, first-of-its-kind media and public education campaign educated vulnerable – primarily Latino – workers on their rights, and helped them determine whether they were a victim of wage theft, and how to file a claim.
Imprenta was also recognized for work in a number of other areas, including social responsibility, branding/rebranding and public service.
“We make a difference for communities of color by providing a voice that speaks to them in a way that recognizes and celebrates their diversity,” Wong said in accepting the awards. “I am particularly proud that our clients such as Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the Southern California Gas Company and others have given us the opportunity to work with them in meaningful and significant ways.
“The bulk of our work is what is called social marketing—marketing a social good like decreased smoking or the Affordable Care Act,” Wong continued. “That’s where community groups as well as local elected officials come into play. When we reach out to a community, we need to know who the pastors and priests are, and what the infrastructure is. Recent immigrants have a challenge in knowing what the country offers. Marketing to them is an extension of my political work. It’s just a different way to help empower these groups.”
A former senior staffer for California governor Gray Davis and a former appointee in the Clinton Administration, Wong’s California-based public affairs, campaign and ethnic marketing firm, Imprenta Communications Group, is leverages his experience in order to help businesses, utilities, elected officials, political candidates, and non-profit organizations reach the growing number of consumers of color in the U.S.
By HUGO BALTA
Like many of us this spring, I went to see “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” As I was sitting in the theater watching 20 minutes of trailers, downing a soft drink and passing the overpriced bucket of popcorn around with my wife and children, all I could think was: “I hope this movie delivers on the nearly $100 outing that this is costing me.”
It didn’t disappoint, of course. How could it? The movie was filled with many incredible action sequences, special effects and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Actor Robert Downey Jr. is just cool. He brings sexy back for us 40-something guys with graying facial hair. But I digress. Middle-aged billionaires in formidable flying armor are a story for another time.
After the movie, my family and I engaged in our usual post-movie conversations. We break down every second of every scene: the acting, the plot, the fighting sequences, the new characters, and so on. Positing about superhero flicks is an especially entertaining ritual with my 9-year-old son because it usually concludes with a debate about which is the best. I favor the ingenuity of the terrestrial kind. He leans on the otherworldly costumed defender. It’s tough to argue against a Norse god.
We ended this latest movie bout in the same way we usually do: agreeing to disagree. But just before I thought we had put a period to the contest, my son told me something that not only ignited another conversation, but also inspired this article. He said, “The Avengers are one awesome family.”
A family? As a content developer, I found this fascinating.
The secret sauce
It had not occurred to me that Marvel’s secret sauce was familism. The Avengers’ social structure mirrors that of many Latino families, where the needs of the group are more important than any individual member — a framework, which resonates with the community and whose culture foundation is in helping family realize their potential and offering support in trying times.
A study by the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences measuring the effects of acculturation in the Latino community found three basic depths of familism: obligation, support and nationality.
La familia is something that all Latinos can agree on, despite tracing their roots or self-identifying from different countries. Familism is a core characteristic of all Latinos and, regardless of acculturation, family support remains. The obligation they have for one another is born from the overwhelming feeling of “We’re in this together.”
When applied to storytelling, familism was one of the factors driving Latinos to the movies this past summer and boosting sales at the box office. (“Avengers: Age of Ultron” made $191.3 million in its domestic debut.)
A 2013 study by the Motion Picture Association of America found that Latinos are more frequent moviegoers than other ethnic groups. Repeat business is important. It not only increases ticket sales revenue, but it also increases the revenue of the theater concession stands. On behalf of my wallet, you’re welcome, AMC Theaters.
I relate to Iron Man, and my son relates to Thor. I coquettishly look at my wife as Black Widow and, given all of the mood swings that my preteen daughter is demonstrating, well… she’s the Hulk. At the center of the story are men and women of different ages and backgrounds committed to one another despite their differences. They work together defying the odds, which they couldn’t possibly do alone.
An authentic setting
It’s not just a movie of an adopted family of heroes that’s reverberating with Latinos this year. The latest edition of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, “Furious 7,” made more than $143 million out of the gate. The diverse cast, portraying a family-like group of friends, is credited with genuinely connecting with Latinos.
The two or two-and-a-half hours of a movie aren’t necessary to establish familism in storytelling. Companies like Wells Fargo are applying it to their total U.S. Hispanic marketing strategies. Additionally, the commercial “First Paycheck” features a young woman celebrating her economic milestone with family in an authentic setting — the home.
In order to produce content that is relevant with Latinos, it must be familiar, focusing on the community’s core values and centered on family. The key to success is in designing messages that promote a strong work ethic, the value of education, a celebration of achievement and responsibility to one another.
In other words, make sure to keep it all in the familism.
Hugo Balta is the senior director of multicultural content, ESPN Digital & Print Media. Balta leads initiatives in raising the quality, profile and delivery of diverse newsgathering and storytelling. He is the immediate past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). Twitter: @HugoBalta.
From professional athletes including Michael Vick, entertainers including T.I. and upscale brands like Bentley Motors, The Barjon Group works with some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment and high-end brands
Founder of the Barjon Group, a public relations firm based in Atlanta, she has had clientele ranging from lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, rapper T.I, football player Michael Vick and Martin Luther King III, son of the late civil rights leader. During her career she has also lead the PR and communications work for major networks covering shows such as Jeopardy Wheel of Fortune, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Inside Edition.
With hopes to inspire public relations students to “follow their passions,” Barjon spoke about the truth in the business and her path to success.
Barjon originally majored in psychology in college, and although she says she had no idea that public relations was her dream when she first started (actually Barjon thought “PR” was short for “people relations”), she has been a trailblazer in the industry since very early on. She was engaging and challenged attendees to become more involved in the lecture, handing out sticky notes with statements for her to address.
Here are some of the things we learned from Barjon’s sticky notes:
“Social media is NOT a career”- Barjon spoke on the importance of understanding social media and how it can affect a client negatively if not used appropriately or if you don’t understand the art of branding. Saying “I have a problem with the word ‘expert’ anyway” she admitted to challenging people guilty of this to explain how they can truly know or measure the extent of their knowledge, or expertise. Instead, she insisted that duplicating someone respected and admired in the industry was the best way to become great at something until you could add more of yourself into it.
“Addressing your ‘back road’ mentality”- Admitting that she came from a family of “back road” mentalities, Barjon described it as a term for people who focus on the not so smart things people do. In PR, the job entails representing all kinds of people that have possibly done crazy things. She chuckled as she told UGA students about a point in her career where possible clients thought they needed a prison background to be represented by her because most of her clients–she’s represented domestic doyenne Martha Stewart, rapper/actor T.I. and football player Michael Vick–had been in prison at some point. While you don’t have to agree with the choice’s someone has made in the past, as long as they are willing to grow, you should help.“I am a person that believes in second chances,” she said.
“You’re talented, but ‘talented’ is overrated” – Talent alone is not enough. The difference between a talented person, and a hard worker, from her experiences, is a job and a successful career. A real “talent” is an added bonus. The competition is real, and its tough. “Talent won’t cut it. Hard work will.”
“You are raising a generation of s*** talkers”- “Started from the bottom… you’re STILL at the bottom” Barjon joked twisting Drake’s song. The hard work never ends. The PR life can get to people easily and make them think they’ve reached the top thank to the parties, the celebs, the lifestyle- but they forget the work. Students laughed when Barjon asked what the most common phrase on everyone’s resume was, only to result in the very ordinary “proficient in Microsoft word”. As common as it is, she was adamant in explaining that no one looks at a resume and reads “proficient in Microsoft Word” and thinks that’s their hire. So when asked what would impress her, Barjon told All Digitocracy that it would be someone expanding their knowledge and skills. This could be achieved by taking classes outside of school, or playing around with Adobe so that she “can get [you] to support the brand in other ways than just coming up with good ideas.”
“You should be getting your butt kicked“- Finally, Barjon seemed a firm believer in “tough love”. She admitted, “I’m brutal with my staff; they get their butts kicked everyday! But I do it with love, I really do.” Wanting to improve her own work as well as theirs, Barjon pushes and challenges her staff to look past their limitations and go beyond their expectations to polish those diamonds in the rough. She ended the lecture saying, “I’m saying a lot of things, I’m throwing a lot of things out there saying talent is not enough, and having passion is not enough. I’m giving you all the keys to what I do everyday, and still do today to make it. Because you can’t do it on your own. You can’t do it with just talent. You can’t do it with just hard work. You really need ALL of the things that I am talking about in order to really make it.”
Not only does Barjon challenge and expect a lot from her team on a day-to-day basis, she is one to “walk the walk and talk the talk”. UGA students were captivated by Barjon’s words and were easily inspired by her successes during the lecture. She exuded confidence and pride in her work, not solely based on her “talent” but thanks to her dedication to work hard and always pursue her passions.
Celebrating its fifth year, Hispanicize is the second largest Latino event uniting those in the journalism, marketing and entertainment fields and that provides daily education sessions, networking events and support to Latinos looking to advance their media skills.
Hispanicize chairman and founder Manny Ruiz started the event after selling his company Hispanic Wire and other properties to PR Wire for $5.5 million in 2008.
“It really started as an experiment…,” Ruiz said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next because I had been an entrepreneur for so long. I wanted to unite the multicultural diversity of public relations because I hadn’t seen that before.”
Hispanics comprise 17 percent of the U.S. population, but only 20 media outlets – 13 local and seven nationally – directly serve the community, according to the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which tracks how Hispanics are covered in the media. One of the themes of this year’s Hispanicize is how content providers can more effectively communicate to bilingual audiences and deliver multi-generational content.
What began as one of small five ventures for Ruiz morphed into one large celebration of Latino culture and networking event for marketing, film and journalism industry professionals.
“Selfishly, I wanted to do it because I wanted to build a platform that would service my interest in being a film maker,” Ruiz said. “One of the biggest costs filmmakers have is marketing. So, I did see opportunity in creating a mass media and social media event. I realized after the first one there was an incredible appetite for the vision that we had.”
The journalism component is an integral part of Hispanicize as it speaks to the inclusiveness of the Latino community, said Hugo Balta, senior director of multicultural content at ESPN and Hispanicize board member.
“In telling the story of U.S. Hispanics, it is imperative that who is empowered to produce those stories are reflective and inclusive of that community,” Balta said. “As Hispanicize seeks to inform and educate the marketplace about the diversity opportunity, journalists are key in delivering that content to English and Spanish speaking audiences.”
“There isn’t any city in the U.S. where the general audience isn’t going to be exposed to Latinos,” said Balta, who will host a Hispanicize session on media outlets delivering bilingual content to multigenerational Latinos. “Hispanicize provides an important voice and fills a need, not just in the Latino community but in the American community at large, so (content providers) have a better understanding in reaching underserved communities.”
Recap of Hispanicize 2014:
This morning I read a column by Dallas Morning News‘ aviation writer Terry Maxon. Maxon didn’t take kindly to an oped written by a disgruntled retired airlines employee because neither of the region’s two local newspapers, the News or The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, covered a protest march over retiree travel benefits.
First world problem to be sure and I’ve probably felt the same way a time or two about a not-so-nice letter to the editor, but that still doesn’t mean Maxon should have penned his rather mean-spirited column, “We offer free PR advice for readers.”
So in the same spirit as Maxon exercised, here’s my free PR advice to him and The Dallas Morning News:
1. You can’t afford to condescend to or alienate readers, even retired ones. It’s just not good business, and there was a better way to explain to readers how to get a reporter’s attention.
2. I completely understand your predicament, there are fewer bodies to cover things like protest marches, especially protests over travel benefits when many other people can’t earn a living wage. But instead of antagonizing readers, maybe suggest that one of the retirees write an oped including an image or video of their march. Not only does that show that the newspaper is engaged with the community it serves (not just the corporations), it allows the newspaper to expand its news coverage by accepting and publishing user generated content.
3. Linking to or tweeting 140 characters about the protest march may have provided context to your “earnings” reports, and is not labor intensive. Social media provides a cheap, fast opportunity to “cover” both events and to connect with readers, making them fill just as valuable as Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and other corporations you cover.
4. No, the retirees should not have insulted the reporters, but the reporters should not now respond in kind. Rise above. My mother used to say, “two wrongs don’t make it right.”
5. It’s just not a very good column anyway. People/readers are looking for solution-driven journalism these days, ways to help solve their problems. They don’t want to read your whining nor do they want to be talked at or down to. Besides, if the reporter had time to write this column, he had time to link to coverage of this last march, or at least the previous one.
The line between journalism and branded content gets blurrier
I was invited to speak at the National Association of Black Journalists’ Media Institute for Media Professionals and Entrepreneurs conference on Oct. 3. The topic was “BuzzFeed, Advertorials, & Vine, Oh My! What’s Up Next on the Media Horizon?” Due to circumstances, I was unable to attend, but I still wanted to share my presentation. So here’s what I wanted to say about the new media horizon.
One of the biggest issues currently confronting news organizations is how online advertising is changing the shape and feel of modern journalism.
In my first example, I feel the first shot across the digital media bow was fired in a July 4, 2009, New York Times article entitled, “Spinning the Web: P.R. in Silicon Valley.” The article was about the marketing and PR efforts for a new website, Wordnik. What struck me was the attitude of publicist Brooke Hammerling. She originally pitched a media blitz — courting publications including TechCrunch, All Things Digital and GigaOM — for Wordnik to Roger McNamee, an investor who was backing the website.
But when McNamee balked at pitching Wordnik to the “cynical” media, Hammerling changed course immediately. “I love you for that,” she intones in the article. “I’ll leave the tech blogs out. Let them come to me.” From there, the strategy was to “whisper in the ear” of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs including Digg’s Jay Adelson and Twitter’s Biz Stone.
The article noted the blurring of lines between journalists and public relations, where, as the article said, “the number of followers a pundit has on Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than old metrics like the circulation of a newspaper.” Publicists like Hammerling are bypassing journalists and their publications and going to social media influencers to endorse new efforts, “a transformation that analysts and practitioners say is likely to permanently change the role of P.R. in the business world, and particularly in Silicon Valley,” the Times article reads.
Next up in my presentation was what Yankees icon Derek Jeter announced he was going to do next, two days after his last baseball game. A story in Capital New York, entitled “Derek Jeter launches digital news site for athletes,” wrote about how the star baseball player had set up a new website, The Players’ Tribune. In it was a revealing quote: “We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.” Guess who the filter is? Athletes who have already contributed to Jeter’s effort include Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (who admitted to being a bully as a teen) and NASCAR racer Danica Patrick (who discusses her relationship with fellow racer Ricky Stenhouse Jr.).
Exhibit three was one of those addictive BuzzFeed listcicles. The list, “10 Signs You Might Be An AvGeek,” is a topic near and dear to my heart. It was created by Airlines For America, the trade association that represents the nation’s large carriers, which was identified on the list as a Brand Publisher.
The list has the association’s logo at the top and BuzzFeed notes “This post was created by a user and has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed’s editorial staff. It is also not paid advertising. BuzzFeed Community is a place where anyone can post awesome lists and creations. Learn more or post your buzz!” I don’t know the analytics on the list, but I know it went viral in the large and growing aviation community. I saw it show up repeatedly on my @AvQueenBenet Twitter feed and on my Facebook page. It was a subtle and effective way for Airlines For America to promote the efforts of its member airlines.
My next example was the case of Tesla Motors versus the New York Times. Founder Elon Musk took exception with a review written by a Times reporter who was not excited about his test drive of the Model S sedan and wrote “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway.” Musk took exception and used data from the car to disprove the reporter’s assertions about the sedan, then posted his findings on his own blog, which went viral. In the past, companies would have had no way to respond to a Times story outside of sending off a press release.
My last slide covered the latest weapon in the PR/communications arsenal: branded content. Companies including the New York Times and the Associated Press have started publishing branded content as a way to bring in new revenue. According to an article in Contently, a United Airlines interactive graphic, produced with the Times, generated more than 200,000 clicks, more than the newspaper’s average editorial article. You can see that it’s marked “Paid for and Posted by United,” but it’s small, and what catches your eye more is the New York Times logo at the top of the page and the infographic title.
Studio@Gawker has become the go-to place for lively and clicky branded content. It represents strong brands including Gawker, Kinja, Deadspin, Jezebel, Jalopnik, Lifehacker and Gizmodo. Check out this branded content posted on the Kinja site, “Navigate the Airport Like a Boss (And Have Fun While You’re At It).” It’s a fun post that has the Gawker feel and is informative. There’s a small logo from the sponsor, Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott brand, and the word “sponsored” after the writer’s name. There are great tips and links, and a mention of the sponsor in the post (For the record, I have written a sponsored post for Studio@Gawker).
So what does this all mean? It means that companies and their brands are increasingly taking control of their messages. While they still reach out to the media, they are also creating spaces — like blogs, Instagram accounts, their own publications and even YouTube channels — to get their messages out directly to the audiences and consumers they want to attract. In doing this, they can bypass what has traditionally been the media filter. They don’t have to depend on the media as much to grab those all-important eyeballs. It also means that journalists will have to work that much harder to show readers – being inundated with content from all sides – why a well-crafted and researched story is still worth their time to read.