Chrysler's pioneering approach to corporate journalism

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What You’ll Learn:: 

Chrysler and Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne was at the company's Belvidere, Ill., plant, which assembles the Dodge Dart, when he saw a familiar face in the crowd.

Ed Garsten, a former CNN correspondent and bureau chief who heads Chrysler Digital Media, had brought a crew to shoot stills and video, and produce stories.

Marchionne told Garsten with a smile, "You're everywhere, just like the reporters that hound me.'"

It was an emblematic moment in what Chrysler calls "corporate journalism." The team looked more like journalists covering a story than PR guys staging an event.

During this session you'll learn how to:

  • Evolve from traditional PR story sellers to storytellers
  • Establish an in-house reporting staff to break news
  • Hire and train the right people
  • Create editorial workflow
  • Effectively use video (it's not for every story)
  • Invest in the infrastructure: Share the ROI with your senior leaders

Starting in 2006, Chrysler abandoned video news releases for more journalistic video stories spread across social media and Chrysler's website.

Learn how Garsten’s team's work is shared on Chrysler's blog, the YouTube channel, its Livestream pages, and across its social media. Chrysler produces a weekly news recap, "Under the Pentastar," which has won multiple awards, as has the media website, Garsten says.

The brand journalism approach seems to be playing well in Chrysler's social media. Its Twitter followers have risen to 150,000, and it doubled its YouTube subscribers.

The weekly recap seeks to interest the media in both major news and under-covered stories. A recent recap discusses a reorganization of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, 2013 financial results, a Viper racing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, and Dodge's sponsorship of what Motley Crue is calling its final tour. (The band members even signed a vow that they would stop touring.)

Many in communications have noted how media outlets with declining staffs are increasingly interested in picking up B-roll, and Chrysler makes it easy to download HD video. The stories help TV reporters, in particular, decide whether the visuals are sufficient "to cover stories or, frankly, cannibalize what we've done, and pull a video or some sound bite or whatever."

Because Garsten himself was a journalist, he senses a strong continuity between his former career and his job at Chrysler. His team considers itself to be a news bureau. It adheres to journalistic tenets, even if they are part of a corporate PR department whose goal is to show the company in the best light, Garsten says.

Find out how to launch your own newsroom. Start with Ragan Training.

June 2014

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Presenter bio: 

Ed Garsten

Ed Garsten, head of Chrysler Digital Media since 2005, is a native New Yorker. Garsten came to Chrysler in 2005 to launch its first blog after a 32-year career in broadcast and print journalism.