Q&A: Sybille Reitz, senior director of global PR, Dow Jones Indexes and Stoxx

Dow Jones Indexes, a unit of Dow Jones & Company, serve as benchmarking tools for the media and institutional investors that ultimately, both reflect and impact the direction of the economy.

Dow Jones Indexes, a unit of Dow Jones & Company, serve as benchmarking tools that for the media and institutional investors that ultimately, both reflect and impact the direction of the economy. When Sybille Reitz began working with Dow Jones Indexes in 2000, she was the lone PR pro for the division. Today, she manages a staff of six that handles PR for Dow Jones Indexes around the world.

Originally from Germany, where she studied and began her career Reitz talks with PRWeek's Tonya Garcia about the international nature of her work, being a communications point-person in the midst of the economic recession, and the company's approach to social media.

PRWeek: How is Dow Jones Indexes positioned?

Sybille Reitz: It's a global index provider and we are a business unit of Dow Jones. I like to call it a different animal within Dow Jones because we're a media company; Indexes is a financial services business unit. So how does this fit?

For the longest time, more than 100 years, indexes were a media tool. A little bit over 10 years ago, Dow Jones took a look at the brand, the commercial value of Indexes, and made the strategic decision to run Indexes as a commercial business unit. Overall we're certainly, revenue-wise, a small part of Dow Jones the company, but I would say from a branding perspective, we're huge. We stand, as Dow Jones overall, for accuracy, for transparency, for value. And I think that is an important positioning for a media organization.

PRWeek: How does your international background help you with your job?

Reitz: When we started commercializing the index business, we also entered into a joint venture in Europe with Deutsche Boerse, the German exchange, and the Swiss exchange, which is today called Six Swiss Exchange, and formed a joint venture called Stoxx, which is the European index portion of our global index family. They felt having somebody who can communicate in the same language, is familiar with how things work over there, it could be a great advantage. That knowledge helps me in working with, not just in Europe, but in Asia and the Middle East.

PRWeek: You're working with a staff of six. How do you make it work when you have a lean staff?

Reitz: Effectiveness, technology, we're trying to be as well-organized as possible, and it's a question of whether you have the right people who are willing and able to work under pressure. In times of high market volatility, we get hundreds of calls per week. Especially last year, after the Lehman meltdown, our phones for weeks did not stop, e-mails did not stop. You have to have people who are excited by situations like that.

PRWeek: How did you react to the big things that have happened in the past year?

Reitz: [Last year] AIG was quasi-nationalized, which disqualified it from being a member of the Dow. And in June, GM was getting ready for Chapter 11 and there were many calls put into our press office. Everybody was waiting for GM to declare bankruptcy for weeks. We don't react to rumors; we react when it's a done deal. But the media was calling us every day, so we're responding to media calls.

The one thing that gained more importance is broadcast. That doesn't necessarily go only back to the financial crisis, but it goes back to the increasing use of our index products because the Dow is not simply a product that measures markets. It's a product used as a basis for trading products. If you make a change in this product, there are investment managers that have to adjust their portfolios. That triggers a lot of reaction on the trading floor, which means we have to get to these traders quickly. From that perspective, broadcast and wire services are extremely important to us.

We have considered how to use social media. I don't necessarily think that this is a natural for us. I sign up for tweets from financial journalists to see what they're working on. At the same time, we are, as an index provider, in a world where you have data vendors, you have Bloomberg, Reuters, and the people who use our products on the trading floor have access to these data vendors. So they get this information faster than we could tweet them out. So we would have to create new and interesting statistics - and we're looking into this – finding additional angles that we can provide via social media.

PRWeek: How would you characterize the level of social media use here?

Reitz: We had discussions internally; I also talked to some journalists, and I think we all agree you have to add value. It doesn't make sense to take a press release headline and tweet it out. We have a wealth of data, you just have to sort through and find the interesting stories.

PRWeek: In what areas are you proactive?

Reitz: We try to increase the incoming inquiries so we can be more reactive. Not that we don't want to be proactive. At the end of the day, we're communicating a product that is numbers. In order to make our products attractive, we have to create a story around the index.

We realized that journalists are interested in analysis; everyone wants to know where the market is going. We're doing a lot of proactive outreach through events, creating panels, inviting analysts. We also do a lot of personal relationship building.

PRWeek: What are your top priorities going forward?

Reitz: One thing that has been our priority for quite some time is to communicate that we're not only the Dow. We have 130,000 indexes. That is one of my big strategic goals: to communicate that Dow Jones Indexes is more than just one product.

And to establish a greater presence in the Middle East and Asia.

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