Chris Heine on Content, Media Strategy and the Changing Relationship Between Brands and Journalists
Our mission is to tell powerful stories. To do that we need exceptional storytellers, which is why our content studio is so vital to everything we do here. The Studio is made up of 14 former journalists, digital marketers, designers and wordsmiths who help our clients communicate with purpose. Content team members help companies forge compelling storylines, weave those into executive thought leadership narratives and distill the ideas into campaigns. They are subject matter experts in everything from cybersecurity to marketing technology and the future of work.
To provide a look into the inner workings of our content studio, I interviewed our Brooklyn-based director of content and media strategy, Chris Heine, who was formerly the technology editor at Adweek. Chris is a marketing and advertising expert and a leader in our “Growth” practice, which includes technologies that put a multiplier effect on business growth. Read on for our edited Q&A.
Tell us about your role.
I work with clients to create content strategies, including op-eds by executives. My teammates and I come up with topics, discuss them with our clients and then hold brainstorm sessions to finalize content plans. At that juncture, we help the client bring the pieces to life. That could mean contributing to an industry publication like Adweek or AdAge, writing for a business/tech audience like Axios or Fast Company, or publishing through other digital channels.
Due to my many years of experience as a reporter and editor, I also guide media strategy for my clients. I am always happy to help with media campaigns and news announcements, but my experience is usually best utilized in this part of my role by reaching out to the journalists I know in the martech and advertising space — though I always try to be thoughtful in my “asks” with former colleagues and peers because I know how busy they are.
What was it like transitioning from a journalism career to one in public relations?
The size of the leap from journalism to PR cannot be understated. In terms of the so-called “white-collar world”—no one really dresses like that anymore, do they?—it’s probably one of the most dramatic professional shifts in identity you can make.
The most surprising thing at first was how hard it was to learn how to do the job. Compared to daily journalism, you have to shift from a pretty ad-hoc, always-pivoting mindset to campaign plans and processes. Trying to adapt to that reality was humbling, too. I pushed through it and by the eighth month, I felt like I knew what I was doing. Since I’ve made the transition, it’s been a great experience.
Contributed content is evolving…the need for true opinion pieces is greater than ever.
How do you think the relationship between brands and journalists will change in the next few years?
Quite suddenly, non-tech brands have gone from corporate behemoths to seeming quaint, especially compared to a decade ago. Who could have guessed in 2009 that journalists would someday be more sympathetic toward a Ford or a Procter & Gamble than any of the tech giants? But that’s where we are at. That said, I think journalists will investigate brands of all types more and more in the future. Whether it’s Johnson & Johnson and the opioid crisis or tech giants putting data gains and product iteration ahead of what’s good for society, there’s a general distrust growing that’s not going to slow down for a while. The future of business journalism will reflect that distrust.
The media landscape is changing rapidly. What’s next for contributed content?
Contributed content is evolving. Fewer and fewer publications are accepting op-eds and the need for true opinion pieces is greater than ever. That doesn’t mean the audience for this content is shrinking, though. This trend just reinforces the need for true thought leadership — and it’s a workable situation as long as the right attitude and strategy are applied.
What technology trend are you most interested in right now?
I think voice AI is still fascinating. What tech companies and our government do around this brand of IoT data is impossible to predict. There’s a lot of good that can come out of it, but it’s the Wild West all over again. I guess that’s why I still find it interesting — even though it’s been a buzz topic for a few years.
What’s your best work habit, and your worst?
My best habit is thinking about news cycles and how op-eds relate to them. It helps with landing content and establishing a readership. My worst habit is keeping too many tabs on my browser open. I always fear I won’t remember in which site or URL I had found this or that piece of information. It’s like I’ve never heard of Google.
What do you love most about living in Brooklyn?
I have a toddler daughter, and there’s plenty of great family activities in Brooklyn that parents actually enjoy, too. Personally, I like to do all the typical NYC things in Brooklyn, including enjoying the great restaurants and bars as well as the rich mix of live sports, music, comedy and theater options. More than anything, when weather permits, I like to walk around and find things to do all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. I love the “walking-around” part of living here.