I recently had the chance to speak with AAA’s Janie Graziani. Janie is a part of AAA’s national public relations team and the person in charge of the organization’s online newsroom, as well as all social media and web-based communications. In this brief Q&A, she shares her thoughts on how to keep the online information flow going within such a large organization.
Voce: Over the years AAA has changed from a non-profit organization that provides primarily roadside assistance to one that also offers a range of financial and travel-arrangement services with over 50 million members in the U.S. and Canada. It has an online newsroom and a public service website, AAA Exchange. How do you coordinate the information provided on both sites and decide what appears where?
J. Graziani: The AAA website is primarily a media website. It’s designed for the media to learn more about AAA and who the national and local media contacts are. The Exchange site is designed for consumers and provides public affairs and public information services.
Voce: What are some of your challenges in managing the newsroom?
J. Graziani: There are several challenges. One is just keeping the newsroom up-to-date and fresh. AAA is a large organization, and trying to make sure that the newsroom has all the latest information is a challenge; the public relations staff helps keep it updated and provides new information almost every day, and just making sure that we are providing the right kind of information that the media and their readers and viewers want is a big challenge. Another challenge is getting sufficient bandwidth and space on the servers for all the podcasts and videos we’re offering the public.
Voce: You mentioned the videos and podcasts. Who should be listening to them and why?
J. Graziani: Media and consumers both can listen to the podcasts since they provide a lot of information about what AAA is doing such as its involvement with motor sports and our sponsorship of NASCAR. We also have information there about safety, for example how kids can ride their bikes or walk to school safely — so parents and children, teachers and school administrators and anyone else who is interested in safety can listen to them.
Voce: Accessing some of your information, such as the video releases, requires prior registration. Who is the audience for the online newsroom – the media and the public?
J. Graziani: We’re interested in learning who among the media is logging on and downloading what video, we want to track what information is being used and who is using it. All the video in the newsroom is downloadable in broadcast quality and is designed for the media so they don’t have to contact us to send them material – all they have to do is download it, it’s very turn-key, very simple.
Voce: What’s your definition of media? Does it include online, offline, and even citizen media and citizen journalism?
J. Graziani: We’re very interested in being in contact with citizen journalists and bloggers of all types. We’ve actually recently changed the vendor we use that provides us lists of journalists, and one of the criteria we used in choosing the vendor is that they include bloggers within their media lists.
Voce: How does the information provided online coordinate with other membership materials?
J. Graziani: When we launch something new, we put the new information up on the main pages of the newsroom and also try to provide additional links and information on the Exchange or on AAA.com.
Voce: So would you say that AAA’s social media efforts help people become better informed about your services? For example, have you noticed an increase in the number of readers/viewers or listeners since going multimedia, or an increase in interest?
J. Graziani: We get a huge number of hits through the newsroom. We recently got more into social media where we are trying to push information out through different social media tools, although we don’t have any hard numbers to share yet.
Voce: How are you promoting AAA’s social media efforts to the organization’s core members and those who aren’t members yet?
J. Graziani: We have plans to do several things with social media that would be of interest to different targeted groups. For example, we have the AAA school safety patrol and we’ve begun a page on MySpace.com that features the school safety patrol.
Voce: What are some tips you can offer other organizations with a diverse and large customer base regarding how to effectively conduct social media outreach?
J. Graziani: One tip is to just get online and start doing it do it. You just log onto a site like Twitter and LinkedIn and then look at the site and see where it fits into your publicity plan and then actually work it into the plan. But the very first thing you need to do is create an account and build a profile. Another tip is that before you actually build a profile on these sites, determine what the three or five things are that you want to get across, what your main message is, and figure out what you want to have on that page. Nothing is set in stone, you can always change a picture or a headline.
Voce: How can people get in touch with you if they have any questions?
J. Graziani: They can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org