“I was told from day one [at CJP] that whatever interests you, as long as it adds value to the company and for clients, you can do,” says Cleveland, VP of the digital practice. He adds that CJP's client list also includes a number of companies in the tech, consumer, professional service, and other sectors.
“I didn't create the digital practice only to [help] financial companies,” he explains. “This is the digital skill set that any company with a communications plan [will] be needing.”
Cleveland launched CJP's digital practice in 2006, when he says Web 2.0 “started gaining some momentum.” Among the work it has done since its inception are behind-the-scenes video, or “digimentaries,” to use the term CJP coined, that are promoting the best-selling authorized biography The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.
The digimentaries launched September 29, the same day the book did. The three-minute segments, available on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, and other online channels, have received 150,000-plus views.
“The videos deliver on the initial strategy to give audiences the visual look at how the book was written and [author] Alice Schroeder's personality,” says Cleveland. “We thought she was going to be overshadowed by Buffett. [But] people are also asking about her.”
Cleveland got his start in college, promoting a TV show at Boston University. He worked in entertainment PR after college, did communications work at Goldman Sachs, and then returned to the agency side to work with dot-com clients.
“The work at Goldman positioned me as someone who could do entertainment and tech [work] with financial aspects to it,” he says.
When the digital practice launched, it wasn't immediately evident that financial-service clients would see the merits of adding digital elements to their PR program. But they've come around, notes Cleveland.
“Back in 2006, a company like Ed-ward Jones may not [have been] asking us about digital media, but when they [did], we wanted to be ready,” says Cleveland. In April, he went to St. Louis to do a new media seminar for the company. “I have known for many years that this is something that's going to matter.”
A few years ago, CJP sought to differentiate itself by focusing on the entire marketing mix. The digimentaries are one example of how it has brought new PR methods to clients.
“We've been able to open clients' minds to new ways of communicating with new audiences,” says Jennifer Prosek, partner at CJP. “Financial service firms, like every company, need to engage their audience... in unique ways. Digital has offered a new vehicle to companies that weren't thinking of those vehicles before.”
While many might associate video with the absurd fodder that often fills the world's in-boxes, Cleveland says video has an important place in PR and for all of CJP's clients.
“It's important not to associate the... content with its distribution platform,” he says. “I think video, when used by PR as a communications tool, has to have a purpose.”
CJP Communications, VP of digital practice
Clifford PR, AE
Goldman Sachs, comms coordinator