Behind the Headlines With Jeff Monford
Jeff Monford, managing director at The Pollack PR Marketing Group, says successful communication starts with understanding your organization, why it is unique and how it can help solve your audience’s problems.
In this interview, Jeff discusses how to engage your audience, why it’s important to be honest and open during a crisis and how a third-party advocate can benefit your brand.
What was it like working at the economic think tank Milken Institute? What did you learn from that experience?
What rewarding experiences I had in my years at the Milken Institute! To have one’s days filled with interactions with experts in the world’s most pressing challenges and opportunities was like getting a graduate school education.
I used Cision’s resources to reach hundreds of interested journalists with information about the Institute’s impactful publications and signature events, especially the annual Global Conference.
What are you most excited for in your new role as managing director at The Pollack PR Marketing Group?
Joining The Pollack PR Marketing Group allowed me to become part of an insightful, engaging and successful team and to have the wonderful opportunity to expand our work on the East Coast, from our New York office.
New York is such a thrilling place to work and to live in, and we are excited about our growth here and the abundant opportunities that surround us.
What are some of the key components of a successful communication strategy?
A successful communication strategy requires a thorough understanding of the inherent value of the organization, individual, service or product the strategy will serve. What is unique here, who appreciates this, and who should come to appreciate it based on our work to enlighten them?
Communicators must realize that their tasks will often start with helping stakeholders understand the context in which the offering exists: what problem does this solve? Why does this matter?
Starting there will help communicators connect not only with their clients, be those internal or external, but also tell stories that engage investors, customers, readers and policy-makers.
How do you approach communication for a large enterprise company versus a small startup?
While large companies often have professional communicators on staff, startups often don’t. This means strategic communications consultancies often have the founder(s) as their day-to-day clients.
We then get to learn details of the company’s offerings from those who developed them, which helps in gaining the crucial depth of knowledge needed to create effective stakeholder relations programs. It also means that we get to go beyond merely establishing rapport and make ourselves integrated team members.
What are some of the biggest communication mistakes brands make?
Brands get into trouble when they forget to communicate directly and honestly. When a brand is in trouble, too many times company leaders become defensive and silent—at the time when they’d be best served by communicating openly, even if to say, “We recognize the importance of this problem, we are working diligently to solve it, and we will communicate regularly and often, even if only to give you status updates.”
There are countless examples of companies remaining silent in the face of a brand challenge, and that only allows detractors to monopolize the microphone.
With so much noise, how can a brand ensure their voice is heard?
Instead of relying solely on their own efforts to spread messages, brands are well served by engaging external validators—experts who will discuss their value and advantages.
Credible experts often communicate on platforms beyond those available directly to the brand, spreading messages in a natural way.
What advice do you have for brands looking to improve their communication?
My advice to brands: embrace the new and be willing to fail. For example, marketers are moving quickly into creating virtual reality content, even though VR is able to reach a relatively tiny base of consumers.
Whether the VR efforts succeed, there’s value in pursuing innovation if for no other reason than gaining a fresh perspective on what you’re offering.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…happily living and working in a bustling city like New York!
2. My hobbies outside of work include…seeing plays, going to kundalini yoga and jogging along the Hudson River.
3. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…my nieces and nephews! They live in other states, and I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.
4. My biggest pet peeve is…I don’t have one! I make sure to release any grievances before they take hold.
5. One thing most people don’t know about me is…I look like a very serious guy, but I can be hilarious – a result of being irreverent.
6. My guiltiest pleasure is…I will NOT eat that croissant. I will NOT eat that croissant.
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