Five questions with… Ed Cafasso, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Winn Companies

Ed Cafasso

A leader in corporate communications, Ed leads the Winn Companies’ efforts to captivate and engage stakeholders critical to the company’s continued success and growth; maximize brand recognition; and, support employee engagement. Ed holds a strong background in strategic corporate communications and public relations, both from the in-house and agency side, and specializes in reputation management and corporate communications, issues and crisis management, messaging, media relations, public affairs and citizenship.

Ed served as a panelist for the Publicity Club’s recent Masters’ Institute event covering The Future of PR. Designed for seasoned corporate communications professionals, the discussion focused on how corporate communications and the industry landscape are driving innovation and change.

Following the panel, Ed took a few moments to provide some insight into the communications industry.

What are the biggest challenges that communications professionals face today?

Reaching stakeholders in the right way at the right time in a consistent and compelling way is the number one challenge because the number of channels for news, information and influence has exploded. If you think about your communications world as a deep, wide and extremely long river, you need to figure out when and where your folks are fishing; what kind of fish they want; what kind of bait will work;  and, what you want them to do when they catch your fish. How do you keep that river constantly stocked for a wide variety of consumption preferences and habits?

The industry is evolving faster than ever. What do you think have been the most significant changes over the last 2-3 years?

The first is the continued growth of mobile access. This has been significant for two reasons: More people now access information from mobile devices than through any other means. That means everyone is a publisher; everyone has the power to create content and share it, instantly, any time anywhere. The second most significant change is the emergence of the client as publisher and the disintermediation of the media. Third party validation will always be important, but it’s no longer the primary goal of a modern communications program.

What has been the impact of increased data – big and small – and how are you using it in ways you never had?

Deep data diving used to be the sole domain of marketing. But now all the disciplines are playing in a highly responsive direct-to-audience environment, so it’s even more important and instantaneous. The fundamental value of data has not changed; it can tell you what aspects of your communications are working, when, how and for whom.

What is the next wave of changes that you expect to have the greatest impact?

Video. It’s becoming the most compelling content type and it will only become more popular. Figure it out now or your client or company will be left behind. We have beaten the horse of “storytelling” to glue. Nothing tells a story better than video. Make it happen.

What do PR agencies need to do to adapt and thrive in this new marketplace?

It’s all about establishing a model that transforms the client into an engaging publisher for external and internal stakeholders. That model requires strategists with empathy; strategists who understand how to make the client’s voice and values relevant to different stakeholders. It also requires the right tactical expertise to design and execute the various types of content that needed for success.  Finally, agencies need to get better, stronger relationship managers; personnel who not only can hold a client’s hand in the transition to the self-publishing model but also translate – and enforce – the client’s needs among the agency’s creative and content-producing teams.