Behind the Headlines With Laura Braden Quigley

Your audience cares more about who you are and what you stand for than what your brand does.

Laura Braden Quigley, vice president of communications for the California Medical Association, says brands need to be genuine and focus on telling a compelling brand narrative to better connect with their audience.

In this interview, Laura discusses how to break through the noise and reach your audience, why defining your goals will result in a stronger communication strategy and why successful communication is key to building relationships.

What are you most excited for in your new role as vice president of communications for the California Medical Association?

I’m most excited about the sheer volume of challenges and opportunities facing the organization. The California Medical Association (CMA) represents over 42,000 physicians across all modes of practice. California’s size and level of diversity – in conjunction with the ever-evolving nature of the health care industry – means that CMA works on a wide array of policies and initiatives.

The issues we tackle are complex, so it’s fulfilling to continually brainstorm and strategize ways to protect public health and help Californians receive high quality and affordable care.

What do you see as the biggest communication challenges facing brands today?

There’s no shortage of platforms and publications vying for America’s shrinking attention span, so one of the biggest challenges is breaking through the noise to reach your various audiences. It requires constant refinement, innovation and reinvention to stay ahead of the curve.

How do you create communication that inspires action?

The first step to influencing or compelling someone to act is to define the problem with messaging and context that shows the impact in their life. Everyone is myopic and “busy” so you have to make your call to action clear, concise and insanely easy. Anything that requires two or more steps is going to lose people in the process.

One of my all-time favorite messaging gurus – Frank Luntz – is fond of saying that 80 percent of our life is emotion. If your organization’s messaging and tactics are stale, corporate-speak or robotic, you won’t inspire action.

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What are some of the key components of a successful media relations strategy?

Communications is a means to an end – not the other way around. It’s critical that you determine the overall strategic goals first and the communications strategy second. Avoid conversations that start with “I want us profiled in the New York Times.” Sure thing, who doesn’t? But what’s the strategic imperative driving that want?

Once you’ve identified what success looks like, work backward to determine the targeted audiences, messages and tactics. From there, it’s a matter of constant prioritization of tactics (from tweets to press releases) to ensure everything drives back to your objectives, as well as regular monitoring to pivot and tweak as needed.

What role does social media play in your job? How has social media transformed communication?

Social media has changed the PR game entirely. When I started back in 2002, we were still faxing press releases and op-eds to newsrooms. I remember (many) meetings trying to convince elected officials and businesses the importance of creating and maintaining social media accounts.

Nowadays, social media is an integral piece of your overall communications strategy. It’s also a powerful intelligence tool to better understand what resonates with reporters, targeted audiences, stakeholders and opponents. I monitor social throughout the day to stay on top of breaking news and track issues that matter to CMA.

What is one thing most brands don’t do but should?

The best brands are rooted in truth, and people can always smell crap from a mile away. It’s no longer enough to have a slick logo and website – it’s about developing your internal culture and ethos, knowing your audience(s) and sharing your story in compelling ways. Brands should spend more time on developing who they are – not just what they do.

What is the most important lesson about communication you’ve learned throughout your career?

Who you know gets you in the door – what you know keeps you there. All of my career opportunities have been rooted in relationships with colleagues, mentors, former employers and friends. And that process starts with communications: how you present yourself, defining your “value add” and building a solid network of people that believe in (and actively support) your career.

Rapid Fire Round

1. I always thought I’d be…an attorney.

2. My hobbies outside of work…are pretty rare, but I love yoga/Pilates, swimming, horseback riding, painting, road trips throughout Northern California and exploring new places and cultures.

3. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…a girls’ lunch…scratch that…a power lunch with Oprah, Betty White, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Warren and Elizabeth Gilbert.

4. I laugh most at…myself. The trick to life is to not take it too seriously.

5. My hidden talent is…trivia. My knowledge base is a mile wide and a foot deep – just enough to be dangerous.

6. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…my phone buzzing with news alerts or dogs licking my face – whichever demands my attention first.

Become a Headline Hero

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