Strategic Communications

Site Visit To Ketchum PR: My Takeaways


In the first semester of my master program in Strategic Communication at Columbia, I took this “Evolving Industry” class. I personally found this class very interesting, since it intertwining the in-class experience and industrial inside-look. We got to visit several companies in communication field, from branding agency, PR agency, to corporates. We called this as Inside Look, and sure we do look inside! 😉

One of the best Inside Look I got was to Ketchum PR Headquarter in 6th avenue. Inside Look session to Ketchum PR office in New York City teaches me one important lesson in Public Relation field: rather than pushing a story, we should build a conversation. A short sharing session with Ketchum team has indeed changed my perspective entirely about Public Relation as professional work.

Ketchum Digital focus on a method they called Story Works. Here, their area of work is content marketing in digital media, which includes social listening. Personally, I found “social listening” as a new term in marketing creative process. It emphasized on observing audience behavior in the digital environment, which could be totally different with their behavior in the real world. It also interesting to know in the digital environment, 1% users create the stories, 9% users share the stories, and 90% users consume the stories. A proportion they called “Rule 1-9-90”.

A case study that Ketchum works on this Story Works method is the “Working Together for Patients” campaign launched for Bristol-Myers Squibb. The campaign uncovers the meaningful stories from employees about their personal life and its connection to the work they do. When an employee tells their stories about patients that inspire them to deliver the best service every day , they actually share a deeply personal reflection of dedication that becomes a company value. The audience would not only see a doctor, a nurse, or a technician, but a whole human. And at the parallel process, the audience also see Bristol-Myers Squibb persona as professional and caring.

I found this campaign interesting, therefore when I went home, I remember myself doing a Google search about it. It brought me to the specific website they created for this project. In this website, there is more than 1,000 photo mosaic of the employees with short story caption about their type of work and the role they play in improving the lives of patients.

These stories create strong employee engagement at Bristol-Myers Squibb, as they are taking a pride of sharing their stories and feeling heard by other people. It also shifts the corporate image and enhances their reputation, as the campaign was highlighted in their corporate annual reports. From employees’ stories that spark conversation in digital media, it becomes the “face of the company” that people remember.

This campaign resonates what I learned in Ketchum about Story Works.  They implement the social listening as the soul of their content creation. In terms of channel distribution, the agency did a very smart job by engaging employees, as they were naturally would belong to the 9% users that share the stories about their coworkers and the place where they work. The channel distribution through YouTube, website and other social media platform is neatly executed. Through this inside look to Ketchum, learned that digital PR also includes the creative, marketing, and branding work. Thus, a broader understanding of strategic communication is paramount to work at the agency at similar business.

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