Behind the Headlines With Howard Stutz
To communicate effectively with your audience, you not only need to ensure your message is heard, but also understood.
Howard Stutz, vice president of corporate communications at Golden Entertainment, says brands’ messages need to be clear and comprehensible.
In this interview, Howard discusses the challenges facing casino gaming companies, how to deliver an effective message and how to adapt to the immediacy of the media.
How did you get your start in corporate communications?
I oversaw corporate communications for Anchor Gaming – a publicly traded slot machine developer – before the company was sold to International Game Technology in 2001.
I was the gaming reporter for the last 11 years covering the casino industry for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and dealing day-to-day with corporate communications folks from the various gaming companies.
This position with Golden Entertainment allows me to utilize all the skills I’ve developed in the past few decades.
What are some of the biggest communication challenges casino gaming companies face?
Casinos are now located in 40 states. All but two states – Utah and Hawaii – offer some form of legalized gambling. The challenge is to communicate that gaming is a mainstream entertainment business that is responsible for 1.7 million jobs and is an economic contributor in states and communities through taxes.
According to the American Gaming Association, the industry’s economic impact is $240 billion annually. Gaming should be treated as a business story and an economic development story.
Also, as a publicly traded gaming company, a communications professional has to understand fair disclosure laws and other securities issues.
What do you see as the key components of a successful communication strategy?
First, make sure the message you are planning to convey is clear, concise and easy to comprehend. The challenge is communicating to a media audience that might not have an understanding of the gaming industry or the differences between legal regulated gaming and unregulated illegal gaming activities.
As a regulated gaming company that also follows the guidelines of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Golden Entertainment is able to carry a strong message with publicly available financial results.
With so much content saturating the marketplace, how can you ensure your messaging resonates?
The biggest challenge facing my company is making sure our message is understood. Golden is unique in the gaming industry because we operate casinos in Nevada and Maryland, but our fastest growing segment is “distributed gaming,” in which we manage slot machines inside bars, restaurants, taverns, convenience stores and other non-casino locations.
The business model is beginning to grow in the U.S. and our challenge is helping different audiences – media, government, regulators – understand the business.
How has the communication industry changed over the years? What are brands doing differently today that they didn’t do before? What has stayed the same?
The change has been in the news media. Legalized gaming has expanded, but the once typical “mainstream media” has shrunk. Today, there are more online publications than ever before and the challenge for communications professionals is to decipher which outlets are legitimate and which ones are just some type of message board or an individual with an axe to grind.
How do you envision the future of the communication industry?
We have to adapt to the immediacy of the media market. More people get their news from Twitter and other similar resources than ever before. It’s rare nowadays that the morning newspaper or the evening news telecast breaks a story. News is immediate, and that’s an aspect to this business that won’t disappear.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in communication?
Have a good understanding of the media and the immediate nature of the business; develop solid writing skills and be aware of current events, especially news stories from within your particular industry, even if it is about your particular company.
Also, know what has and hasn’t been published. During my journalism career, I can’t count how many times someone in PR pitched me on a story that I had already written or had nothing to do with my beat.
Rapid Fire Round
1. My hobbies outside of work include…watching sports, movies, working out, travel and reading.
2. If I won the lottery, I’d…make sure my wife and daughter were financially secure, purchase a vacation home in San Diego and buy Los Angeles Kings season tickets.
3. My biggest pet peeve is…tardiness. I don’t like to be late, especially for an airline flight.
4. My dream vacation would be…hanging out in Kauai, Hawaii.
5. I laugh most at…goofy stuff, such as comedy shows like “The Big Bang Theory.”
6. One thing most people don’t know about me is…I have large baseball and hockey card collections. Plus, I’m a fan of both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises.
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