2015 was the year of ___ in PR. 8 top communicators fill in the blank

PRWeek asked eight communications chiefs what they focused on in 2015 and what they're looking forward to next year.

2015 was all about…

Frank Shaw, corporate VP of corporate communications at Microsoft
Finding the right balance across big news events, owned stories, traditional media engagement, and investments in new influencers.

Rob Zeiger, VP and global CCO at Royal Caribbean Cruises
Sorting out the triangulation between earned, paid, and self-published. 

Corey duBrowa, SVP of global communications at Starbucks
The democratization of storytelling. With the emergence and acceleration of digital platforms and social networks, stories are coming at us from all directions – you don’t have to be a traditional content player or news organization to capture (mass) attention and galvanize action anymore.

Oscar Suris, EVP and head of corporate comms at Wells Fargo
Storytelling, in all its forms, but especially through Wells Fargo’s brand publishing microsite; our bank, America’s fourth-largest, becoming its most valuable; and hiring Tina McCorkindale as the CEO for the Institute for Public Relations, where the profession promotes research that matters to the practice.

Breeanna Straessle, corporate comms manager at Cracker Barrel
Content marketing and, as a natural result, native advertising. I can't tell you how many times I heard those words this year! With a shrinking media industry, PR pros outnumber journalists in the US by a ratio of 4.6 to 1. That means that getting media coverage is harder than ever, and the PR industry has adjusted its strategy through the proliferation of brand journalism. But what we found is that "if you build it, they will come" may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but it didn't work for our robust content marketing programs. As a result, PR practitioners really got into native advertising in 2015. For the first time, we had advertising budgets and used them to drive traffic to our content.

Carrie Kurlander, VP of PR and public affairs at Chick-fil-A
Exploring meaningful intersections of integrated messaging.

Steve Swasey, SVP and head of global corporate communications at Kabam
Bombastic comments by political demagogues, religious zealots, and immature executives replacing intelligent discourse.

Dan Tarman, SVP and CCO at eBay
We continued to see a trend toward "data journalism," which has become particularly relevant in a digital-first – or in some cases digital-only – media age. At eBay, we also saw how our own employees drove viral-message dissemination and penetration on social media in conjunction with the celebration of our 20th anniversary as an online commerce pioneer.

In 2016, I will be focused on…

Frank Shaw, corporate VP of corporate communications at Microsoft
The simplicity of truly great storytelling.

Rob Zeiger, VP and global CCO at Royal Caribbean Cruises
Giving voices to everyone who cares about our company – guests, employees, fans, and advocates. 

Corey duBrowa, SVP of global communications at Starbucks
It’s clear that trust, transparency, and integrity have become the currency of our time. For a business such as Starbucks, which is so dependent upon the talent and energy of 300,000 partners (employees) wearing the green apron around the world,  this means engaging our partners, their customers, and other stakeholders in new, rapid, and relevant ways, without losing sight of the mission, values, and purpose that have guided us since 1971.


Oscar Suris, EVP and head of corporate comms at Wells Fargo

Continuing to showcase the positive role banking plays in our economy and in the lives of customers, and continuing to invest time and resources into our team’s talent. We’re only as good as our talent, and we are blessed to work with some of the very best our profession has to offer.

Breeanna Straessle, corporate comms manager at Cracker Barrel
Getting back to basics. It's been thoroughly reported that content marketing isn't a long-term PR strategy. We know that people are experiencing "content shock" and are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content available to them online. While producing compelling content will still be a tactic in my PR arsenal, it'll just be one of the many levers I pull. Instead, I think it's key to get back to the basics – one-on-one pitching with highly targeted media and spending the time to develop those relationships months before you even think about a pitch. Yes, creating thoughtful, individualized pitches is exponentially more time consuming, but it's also exponentially more effective. In a time when attention spans are short and reporters are becoming few and far between, focusing on quality over quantity is an absolute must.   

Carrie Kurlander, VP of PR and public affairs, Chick-fil-A
Finding a more meaningful and interactive intersection of messaging that inspires two-way conversations with customers and potential customers.

Steve Swasey, SVP and head of global corporate communications at Kabam
Encouraging those who support the demagogues, zealots, and executives to come to their senses.

Dan Tarman, SVP and CCO at eBay
Generating mindshare for our brand and content by even further synchronizing all communications channels into a tightly integrated communications ecosystem: earned, owned, social, native, and paid.

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