Anna Escher in the #CommsCorner

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Anna Escher is a social media and audience development analyst for TechCrunch, she has worked as a journalist for the LA Weekly and OC Weekly. She holds a Masters Degree in Arts Journalism and online media from USC Annenberg’s Specialized Arts Journalism program as well as a BA in communication studies from Loyola Marymount University. Her professional interests are in online media, marketing and anything and everything music-related. Anna enjoys writing about all things food and music.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

As an audience development analyst at TechCrunch. I’m responsible for the distribution of content across social channels for the best tech site in the world. I’ve written for weekly magazines and blogs covering tech, music and food. Outside of work, I volunteer with an organization aiming to make percussion and drumming more accessible to young girls. I’m a journalist, drummer, nature enthusiast and California native.

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Tell us about your typical day in communications?

I start my day by reading every TechCrunch story. I strategize the best way to optimize each article and video for social channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I A/B test for language, tone, images and headlines for TechCrunch stories. Then I segue into video editing, breaking down interviews, gadget reviews and product demos to package everything into social videos that take advantage of Facebook’s algorithmic guidelines.

I’m involved in site and social strategy and I report on startups. I also write a weekly tech digest post that functions as a newsletter recapping the week’s hottest tech news.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

I knew I wanted to work in communications the first time I saw my name in print. My work was first published in a weekly magazine for an artist profile I wrote on a female percussionist. The thrill of being the first to break an important story and covering it in a way that became impactful to others on social media was rewarding for me. I see the most value in taking a complicated topic or story and explaining it in a way that makes sense to the average reader. Social media allows us to do this, and gives us the channels to reach massive amounts of people with an important message.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

Brandon Stanton, the journalist who runs the Humans of New York project, and my manager, Travis Bernard.

Which tools can’t you live without?

I would not be able to do my job without data analytics and scheduling tools like Parse.ly, Social Flow and Facebook Insights. Oh, and my iPhone.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Using data to stay ahead in the rapidly innovating digital media landscape. That, and striking the balance of making niche quality content clickable and approachable to the general online audience without watering it down.

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

I’ve enjoyed working on our own Disrupt campaigns, during which TechCrunch gets the word out about our tech conference where we interview the biggest figures in tech, as well as host a startup pitch-off competition. It’s exciting to see young startups come so far on our stage and eventually receive funding.

Which campaign do you most admire?

I’ve recently enjoyed following REI’s #OptOutside social campaign. The outdoor gear company closed their doors on Black Friday (the largest sales day for retailers in the U.S.) and encouraged consumers to spend the day outside with friends and family. The campaign transformed into an ongoing conversation about putting the outdoors at the center of our lives. The company sacrificed the biggest sales day of the year (although they did benefit from a bump in online traffic) in a campaign that encapsulated a bigger message about what they stand for, calling people to action.

What’s been the biggest change to communication since you began your career?

The rise of video as a media platform has affected my career in ways I never imagined when I started out as a journalist. The changing landscape of media distribution and monetization can be big and scary for brands and publishers as they try to stay relevant amidst quick fix news, ever-changing algorithms and shortening attention spans. They key to a successful distributed content strategy is quality content and data-driven social strategy.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

I enjoy using the A/B testing tool Naytev, and I would like to be able to incorporate more video, virtual reality and other media resources into my work in social media and audience development.

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

I like working with ‘yes people.’ These are people who like to experiment and dive into promising new ideas and don’t let the fact that a new creative project or task may be time consuming or require new resources, stop them from going for it.

What’s your favourite brand?

Apple and Taco Bell. They’re always pushing the envelope on social media and make an effort to be less brand-y and more human. After all, we are all just humans talking to other humans.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

I recommend Guy Kawasaki’s “Art of the Start”. Anyone who’s interested in communication should sign up for the Nieman Lab, SmartBrief on Social Business and Social Media Current email newsletters.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

I wish I had known how versatile the field is, and how beneficial it can be to work on all sides of communication, such as PR, advertising, marketing, journalism and social media. I’ve found it is beneficial to have knowledge and some experience in all of these fields.

Finish this sentence: “Communication…” starts with listening.

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