Jul 12, 2016 / by Maria Materise

Your audience is no longer consuming content in the same ways they once did. So how can you ensure you reach them?

Joanna Brahim, vice president of communications at the Smithsonian Channel, says brands need to adapt by promoting their content in new ways.

In this interview, Joanna discusses the ways television and entertainment brands have adapted to new audience consumption habits, what to do when a crisis hits and how to get started in the communication industry.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new role as vice president of communications at Smithsonian Channel?

Smithsonian Channel is already such a reputable and credible brand with award-winning content, but it’s exciting to come into a role and find new ways to elevate the channel and its platforms.

Between continuing to push strong publicity campaigns around our programming and digital/OTT efforts and getting our executives even more visibility within the industry, the goal is to keep our core viewer engaged while evolving and appealing to a broader audience.

What are some of the biggest PR challenges television and entertainment brands face?

I think there’s just so much content out there for viewers to consume, and so many ways to consume it, that for a PR professional we have to make sure that our brands are breaking through the clutter more than ever.

It’s competitive and everyone is vying for placement in the top tier electronic, digital and print outlets. It’s always a balance of trying to get as much attention and awareness while simultaneously protecting your brand.

How has the transition from “appointment television” to “on-demand television” affected the way television brands communicate with their audience?


Most networks are following L+3 data vs live day, so it helps to realistically measure what audiences are watching and when they’re watching it.

I think the goal for most brands (and of course advertisers) is to have viewers tune in live, and for some brands it’s about promoting the content as appointment television. But the landscape is changing, and television brands have to promote their content in many different ways now.

Have you ever had to deal with a major brand crisis? How did you handle it?

I’ve certainly dealt with my fair share of crisis management, and each situation is unique. When a crisis surfaces, I think the first thing to do is take a step back, take a deep breath and not panic.

It’s crucial to communicate with your executives and the appropriate people internally first, so no one is blindsided. Open communication is key. And depending on the severity of the situation, it really just boils down to how the network – from production and talent to network/corporate executives – wants to address the crisis.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of determining the right strategy to protect your brand, always being prepared and acting swiftly.

You’ve worked with several major television networks, including TLC, CBS and now the Smithsonian Channel. What’s your secret to communication success?

I think it’s about networking, establishing and sustaining strong relationships, and expanding your skill set as much as possible. If you aren’t learning something new every day, whether you are an assistant or CEO, then what’s the point?

It’s about being challenged, learning from that, and not only continuing to master your own craft, but really learning about the other parts of your business. I’ve always been a curious person, and when you are curious and hungry for more knowledge and experience, it often leads to exciting things. Timing is everything, and I have been lucky to work for some great companies!

What has been the proudest moment of your career?


I hope I have yet to see that moment! BUT I have had a few moments that I’ve been particularly proud of: being one of the youngest department heads ever when I was at WCBS-TV, launching “Long Island Medium” at TLC with unprecedented press coverage, and handling some of the biggest crises in unscripted television.

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

Start off with one or two strong internships, lay down the ground work and just start networking. Learn about the brand you’ll be working with before you even walk through the door, and get a good understanding of what’s happening in the industry (read the trades, key websites, etc).

Also set up as many informational interviews and meetings as possible! The best thing you can do is expand your network and leave a good impression. They will remember your name when job openings pop up!

Rapid Fire Round

1. I always thought I’d be…in the entertainment industry in some fashion, and here I am!

2. My guiltiest pleasure is…binge watching mindless television. And sweets.

3. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…Oprah. I just feel like she always has the right thing to say in any situation.

4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…the determination to conquer the day. You just never know what will happen or what you can accomplish throughout the day. That… and coffee.

5. My hobbies outside of work include…cooking/baking, traveling, spending time outside (love the beach), decorating and spending quality time with my loved ones.

6. My biggest pet peeve is…heavy nasal breathing!


Image via John Paul Filo/CBS ©2016 Smithsonian Channel. All Rights Reserved.

Images via Pixabay: 1, 2, 3

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About Maria Materise

Maria Materise is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Formerly a copywriter, she enjoys creating content that excites and inspires audiences. She is an avid reader, movie trivia geek, Harry Potter fanatic and makeup junkie..