PR School: Blog from new Ogilvy NYU Professor

NYU Strategic Communications

Blog #1

On January 29, 2015, Managing Director, Ogilvy Media Influence; Head of Media Relations, North America, Jennifer Risi, added a new title to her name—NYU professor of strategic communications. As part of her role at Ogilvy PR, she is responsible for building and driving earned media relations and reputation management for the agency. For the next three months (14 courses) we will be publishing a series of six “PR School” series blogs from Jen as she shares the teachings from her class with our ogilvydo readers.


The Master of Science Public Relations and Corporate Communications course focuses on the interdisciplinary activities including strategic communications planning, media relations, crisis communications planning, and an overview of integrated marketing communications. Her students will learn how to approach one of the most difficult tasks facing corporate communicators today: how to pull together all of the internal and external communications initiatives from press releases to advertising, that impact various constituencies in terms of their awareness, attitudes and behavior.

We hope you find these blogs not only informative but entertaining. They are an opportunity to learn more about the practice of strategic communications, taught by a true expert in the field of public relations and media relations.

Introduction to Integrated Communications – intersection of earned, owned and paid media


Welcome to NYU Strategic Communications. My name is Jennifer Risi and my team performs the role of what has been traditionally known as media relations and collaborate with Ogilvy PR specialist groups around the country providing high-level global media counsel and strategic direction to some of Ogilvy’s largest national and global clients.

In a nutshell, we help our clients tell their stories through the media. We land our clients’ CEO’s interviews on TV and persuade journalists to write flattering headlines about the features and benefits of our clients’ products, services and programs. In media relations, we don’t buy media coverage and rarely write stories for reporters but rather persuade journalists to write the stories and provide the background information necessary for coverage.

We are focused on creating a sphere of influence by working with the most influential reporters regardless of their medium, to shape reputation today. By creating integrated campaigns that focus on a strategic mix of what we refer to as earned media, social media and content, we zero in on building the business of our clients – making our clients industry leaders, driving consumer engagement and ultimately increasing market share.

Much of what we do in public relations involves managing personal or brand reputations. It was originally coined as a public relations term, but the advancement in the internet and social media has increasingly made it an issue of search results as well. Based on how a public views and understands an organization, reputation is really the fundamental impression of an organization and the social evaluation that people make of it.

In my opinion, earned media should be the cornerstone of driving reputation. Earned media makes up one of the three pillars of today’s integrated (or converged) media model, which consists of earned, owned and paid media.

For example, since 2013 Ogilvy Media Influence has worked to tell Citizen Financial Group, Inc.’s transformation story by building confidence in the bank, elevating its visibility nationally, and ultimately increasing consumer and commercial business. We created a strategic campaign that highlighted the bank’s improved customer experience, technology investment, the launch of two major student lending products, growth of the commercial bank, a rebranding campaign, and talent acquisition.

As a result, Citizens experienced a 620% surge in applications to its private Education Refinance Loan program due entirely to our PR-driven campaign. Moreover, Citizens gained significant share of voice on a national level against a backdrop of top U.S. banks.


While earned media is the most risky, it’s also the most authentic, can mean the most and be very successful; and that’s why our model of late is working so well here at Ogilvy & Mather—the mastery and implementation of providing our clients with a convergence of media that is made up of earned, owned and paid advertising that is working together to drive reputation.

So, what’s important to understand is, earned media cannot be bought or owned. It can only be gained organically, hence the term ‘earned’, and that is what makes it so valuable. A Nielsen study in 2013 found that earned media is the most trusted source of information in all countries it surveyed—worldwide.

It also found that earned media is the channel most likely to stimulate the consumer to action. Earned media is unpredictable, the most challenging to control and never guaranteed like advertising. But its weakness is also its strength, offering unparalleled credibility, third party validation and its uncertainty is the crucial price we pay for gaining glowing publicity!

This convergence of marketing and media boils down to one thing—content that is trusted. Statistics show that consumers need to see, hear and interact with a message five times before they start to believe in it. Advertising has reach, yet if you pair it with earned media – consumers trust the message more. Leveraging earned media and displaying it on owned media channels enables more brand support; consumers love to tell your brand story and serve as your brand ambassador.

The bottom line is, if you don’t start integrating paid, owned and earned media you will be at a disadvantage – both as an agency and even worse, as a brand.

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