Senior Manager for Media and Content Strategy Monica Clark is obsessed with UFOs–but not the kind you might be thinking of. “We’re always on the look out for UFOs, which is my mantra. That’s a story that has to be Unique, First and Only. These are the types of stories that are really important that we want to get out to employees and the media.”
Clark, who will celebrate 11 years at Whirlpool Corporation in October, had a unique journey to her current role as head of the newsroom in corporate communications. “I spent the first 17 years of my career in television, where I did everything from producing to writing to being an assignment editor. I worked at the Oprah Show as an associate producer where I was responsible for helping to produce one hour of live television each week which can be rewarding and grueling at the same time. I was also one of the creators of WGN Morning News, helping to create that show from the ground up.”
She had a hand in doing everything for the national news program, including hiring the talent, determining the format and booking guests. “I would book celebrities, chefs, authors, live music–you name it and I would book it,” said Clark.
After her 9-year run with WGN, Clark was a victim of mass layoffs that affected many media outlets during the recession of the early 2000s, forcing her to rethink her career. “I took time off and I went to a lot of Cubs games,” she joked. “I also did a lot of networking and happened to get with an awesome recruiter who helped me to think about what I wanted to do next and how my skill set from television transferred to other industries, in particular media relations, public relations and corporate communications.”
That’s when Clark got a call from her recruiter that changed her career path as well as her life. The recruiter told her there was interest in her based off of her resume from Whirlpool. Clark, a Chicago native, then asked: “Where in the world is Whirlpool?” After hearing that the company was based in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Clark agreed to the meeting because she wanted practice interviewing in the corporate setting, but was adamant in explaining to her recruiter that, “I”m not moving.”
That “practice interview” had a profound effect on Clark’s opinion of the corporate world and Whirlpool Corporation in particular. “To my surprise and delight I was really really impressed,” she said. ”From the moment I walked out the door after my interview I was like, ‘it looks like I’m moving to Michigan.’ Here I am almost 11 years later and it’s all worked out really, really well. I absolutely love my job.”
Clark was originally hired onto the corporate communications team as manager of media relations. The objective at the time was to get more proactive in telling stories about the corporation,” she said. We still tended to be a very reserved Midwestern company and we don’t like to brag about ourselves or tell stories about ourselves. At the same time, when I first started we had just acquired Maytag, so there was a lot of reactive and crisis news that I was managing, so the objective of being more proactive fell by the wayside.”
She remained in that role for two and a half years before being tapped to take on a role as the senior manager of brand experience. “I was responsible for the media, public relations and social media for all of our mass brands. At the time I had two public relations agencies that I was responsible for managing across the mass brands portfolio.”
Leveraging her experience in news and journalism helped in that role, but Clark’s skills made her uniquely qualified to take on a new challenge seven years later, when she was brought back to corporate communications to run the newly created corporate newsroom. “It was obvious that there were a lot of stories out there and there were channels we weren’t taking full advantage of,” said Director of Corporate Reputation and Community Relations Deb O’Connor. “Even if we found a story, we didn’t have the bandwidth or the staff to get it done. So, the next person we hired was Monica to manage the newsroom, and her sole focus was to take those topics and push them out to our employees or to the point of pitching them externally.”
“During that time Mr. Fettig felt like we were still being a little bit too quiet and reserved,” said Clark. “The idea was that there would be this team where all we did was tell stories about Whirlpool Corporation to our employees and to our key stakeholders.” At the beginning, the small cross-functional group would get together and talk about what they were working on and share projects so they could decide how to tell stories about it. “Since that time the newsroom has evolved and grown into the ‘do not miss’ meeting of the week,” said Clark “We never cancel the newsroom. It’s every Monday at 10 a.m. and it’s open to any and everyone who would like to attend. The idea is for us to leave that meeting with story ideas that we can begin to track down and share via multiple channels. We’re always on the lookout for those UFOs, but also those smaller stories that need to be told as well. You never know what small m orsel of information will bring us the next big story.”
Through the efforts of this team, the corporate website was revamped into a fluid, storytelling distribution channel, the communications hub was created, and work began on the social sharing tool that is now Whirlpool 360. The Institute of Home Science, which at the time was two separate websites dedicated to laundry and kitchen science, were merged into a single distribution channel. “All of that work on our own channels made it easier for us to share news and for employees to share news with us,” explained Clark.
In addition to getting more news out to employees, the newsroom has had great success getting the word out about the corporation externally as well. “I think one of the things we’ve moved the needle tremendously on outside of the corporation, particularly with media, is that the media are now starting to think of us as thought leaders in the appliance space,” said Clark, “and because they see us as experts the will actively approach us about stories now.”
Just like every other team in the corporation, accomplishments are measured with metrics. The newsroom team is no different in that respect. “I think our numbers tell the story of the success of the newsroom,” Clark explained. “In the first year of the newsroom we created over 1 billion earned media impressions (number of times a story is delivered to a reader or viewer).. Compare that to last year when we achieved over 3.5 billion earned media impressions.”
Those numbers signify a strong rise in the company’s share of voice in the marketplace. “What that means is we had to pitch our stories to get reporters to write about us in top tier publications,” said Clark. “In my opinion that is a tribute to the tremendous success and growth that we’ve had since we first started the newsroom. We couldn’t have told all those stories without people coming to the newsroom and sharing ideas with us that we’ve been able to track down and turn into content that is interesting to reporters and their audiences.”
The future for the corporate newsroom holds great potential, according to Clark. “The team is growing. We’re looking at a content management solution as we strive to take the newsroom global, so we need a tool that will help us see everything that is being created across multiple channels to best utilize our content. I’m really excited about the future and what’s happening inside the company because I think there’s still a lot of great stories for us to uncover and share with the world.”