Behind the Headlines With Anna Yukhananov

Just two months ago, Anna Yukhananov made the jump from Reuters, where she had been a Mexico City based correspondent, to the media research analysis organization, Morning Consult. She brought with her experience covering a variety of topics, including the Affordable Care Act and the FDA. This background will serve her well, as she takes on the role of editor responsible for Morning Consult’s health and energy coverage, as well as the section’s newsletters.

So, how do you jump around in the journalism field at a time when everyone and anyone seems to have an opinion they want to put into print? This week Yukhananov sat down with me to discuss her new position, the significance of communicating feedback quickly and clearly, and the importance of having a clear focus and skill set in a specific subject to set yourself apart.

What are you most excited for in your new role as ­­­­­­an editor with Morning Consult?

I love helping reporters grow and produce their best work, and I look forward to developing their skills in breaking news and landing great enterprise stories. I’m also excited to experience the enthusiasm and energy of a company that is growing so quickly.

What is the most important lesson about communication you’ve learned throughout your career? How will you apply that lesson to your new position?

I’ve learned it’s important to communicate feedback early and often to make sure everyone is on the same page. I plan to follow the same model when giving reporters feedback, both positive and negative, which ensures they’re set up to learn and succeed.

How does social media affect affect health and energy focused journalism? What benefits does it provide for communication strategies?

Social media is an indispensable part of reporting these days — to collect information, track breaking news and stay part of the conversation with sources and readers. While it’s a struggle to stay up to speed with all the various forms of social media, they also provide a great platform to build an audience and share our successes. Like with any new technology, there are always positives and negatives — but the positive side continues to grow.

What are some of the biggest communication challenges organizations which cover health and energy tend to face?

I don’t think this is unique to coverage of health and energy, but any organization that is expanding needs to do a good job of communicating its mission to all staff, and get creative at how to do that well as more people come on board. Also, in both health and energy, these is so much reform and shifting priorities, it’s important to step back from the hum of daily news and think about the biggest stories that matter each month and longer-term.

What are some of the ways brands can improve their relationships with the media?

The same way reporters are expected to do their research before interviewing a senior official, brands should do their research to understand a news organization’s priorities, audience and past coverage. Any pitch is likely to be more successful when it already fits in with what we are covering — and comes at a timely point.

With so much content saturating the marketplace, as a journalist, how can you ensure your messaging resonates?

Journalists aren’t trying to create a message, but rather share information. In the age of proliferating opinions on any topic under the sun, there’s even more of a need for quality outlets that provide the facts and analysis on the people and institutions who create and shape policy.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in journalism?

Make sure you really want it! With journalism’s business model in flux, it is challenging to break in. At the same time, there is a lot of innovation happening, new outlets forming, and many opportunities to try new ways of telling stories, conveying information, and holding decision-makers accountable. I think it also helps to have a clear focus and skill set in a specific subject — such as health or energy! — to stand out from the crowd.

Rapid Fire Round:

  1. My favorite holiday is… Thanksgiving, because every opportunity to be grateful reminds me of the things that truly matter. On the less cheesy side, I love experimenting with cranberry sauce recipes.
  2. If I had a billion dollars, I would… donate money to research where more funds could make a difference, such as developing and expanding vaccines for malaria and cholera, fortifying food to be more nutritious, and looking into the causes of chronic pain. I would also give to programs that send money directly to poor individuals in developing countries — a dollar can go a lot further in places outside the United States. If there’s anything left over, a trip to the far side of the moon would be nice!
  3. My ideal day off would include…  visiting a beautiful library, going on a long walk with friends, and discovering something new in the city. Also some chocolate.
  4. My favorite family tradition is…  loud drums, clapping and cheers to wake you up on your birthday.
  5. If I could join any music group, it would be… hmm, either a jazz pianist or a drummer in a rock and roll band.
  6. My proudest accomplishment is…. learning Mexican slang well enough to do interviews on the outskirts of Mexico City.