While you could easily find Ian Cohen’s LinkedIn profile, I want to start this recap like he did his presentation and give you a quick summary of his background, as I think it’s definitely fascinating enough to be noted. After starting a journalism career in sports, he got picked up by a CA CNN affiliate where he was able to expand his news abilities, even getting to interview Governor Schwarzenegger.
He then pivoted to working with Martha Stewart, becoming a field producer on her show. He then stayed in the household management sphere and turned to being a field producer for Rachel Ray, where he won 2 Emmy’s. But since daytime broadcast sometimes has break weeks, he filled in his time putting his video skills to good use as a freelancer. He eventually started working to activate YouTube stars for Pepsi, which caught the attention of Weber Shandwick where he now leads a team of 75 content producers worldwide. In 2014, he was on PR Week’s 40 under 40 list.
After hearing his wide array of experience, the audience was hooked and ready to listen.
A quote that immediately stood out to me was, “Public relations is shifting from pitching publishers to pitching platforms.” He expanded upon this by saying that while traditional PR means crafting a message that would appeal to news outlets, PR professionals are now having to create content that would appeal to users on each of their social media platforms. His team finds that the best results on social come from video.
Cohen then dipped into evolutionary psychology by saying that our brains were never designed to read words as all of written language is only a human construct. Instead, it is only natural for us to process visual and auditory information. Because of this, we can consume information 60,000 times faster via video than by reading. This keeps in line with the thought that it’s better to show than tell.
Another quote of his that struck me was that “we’re switching from media for the masses to media by the masses.” Cohen elaborates by saying that while his team executes content creation at a professional level, brands and individual users also have the propensity to post quality content for themselves. With all of this being produced both for and by consumers, Cohen says that a digital trade-post of ideas is formed within markets, so he directs his team to produce videos that not only increase a brand’s ROI but makes them stand out in terms of thought leadership.
Cohen then takes us even more into the weeds by bulleting out the 4 main points that he is guided by when making videos:
-Trustworthiness: Cohen stresses that the account the content is coming from has to have authority on the topic.
-High Quality: Make sure that the content can be seen at a consistent high resolution across all platforms. He notes though that this still can be achieved on smartphones, especially if content creators invest in the fancy type of lenses.
-Make a news cycle: Cohen advises to have an editorial calendar that keeps track of the frequency of how much you post.
-Experiment: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Take risks, and explore different strategies you can take to communicate with your followers. Video is just the tip of the iceberg.
Though I thought “Video is just the tip of the iceberg,” to be a powerful way to end his presentation, Cohen left us with one final idea. He said, “Journalists shouldn’t be pitched to write a story, they should instead see it coming alive online and feel compelled to do so.” Content does not have to go viral to do this. Content could just bring people to click through a brand’s website. It could instead have high rates of engagement and spark an online discourse. These are all KPI’s Cohen judges his work by to predict the media clips that can come of it. As students, since we probably aren’t with an agency and producing client-facing content (Unless that’s or internship or you’re with EagleComm!), that we can take these tools as well and apply them to our personal brands as well. I left his presentation not just motivated to work in this evolving industry, but excited to do so.