Jennifer Sizemore, a marketing professional and current Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at Starbucks, spoke to journalism students on Monday about her experience creating content for nonprofits and corporations. She gave a presentation entitled “Saving Storytelling?” at Studio A in the UNR Reynolds School of Journalism.
Sizemore spoke about the ever-changing and chaotic status of communications from fake news to the President’s tweets, and she said that, while traditional news publications are opaque about how they are funded, corporate storytelling is more transparent about where their money comes from.
She said shows like the Today Show claim to not pay their sources, but license their photos for thousands of dollars.
“That stuff is completely opaque,” said Sizemore. “But, if Starbucks Newsroom is writing a story you know who paid their paycheck.”
She also said that content creators are having a harder time being published in the traditional way and corporate-funded content is a more equitable business model than traditional media.
“With social media and things changing so quickly, we have to keep relearning who we are and what we do in order to stay on top of our ethical compass and remember to tell great, human-forward stories,” she said
Sizemore was invited by journalism professor Caesar Andrews to be the first guest of the year for the “Reynolds School Speaker Series.”
She started her career working for newspapers. Her first job was at the Reno Gazette-Journal as an intern at the copy desk. She worked for various newspapers across the country before settling in at NBC News Digital for seven years.
A pivoting point in her career came at msnbc.com in 2013 when Microsoft sold off their share of the company, and NBC Digital News moved to New York.
“I thought, ‘Well, the thing that gets me out of bed every morning is knowing that I have a job that can make a difference, it can make the world a better place, just a little bit.’ I’m kind of an idealistic geek that way,” she said
That’s when she decided to take her storytelling experience and skills into the strategic communications and marketing field for a non-profit.
Sizemore landed a job at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as Vice President of Communications and Marketing. At Fred Hutch she built a newsroom of 40 people from scratch and marketing for the non-profit was structured around it.
“I had watched corporate-sponsored content, financed but not about the brand, be both wildly successful and a wonderful public service, and I thought we could build that in the medical research space as well as structure ourselves to do every function of communications and marketing and branding,” Sizemore said.
She said she was inspired by Kaiser Health News, a non-profit news service covering health care policy and politics funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Sizemore wanted to take their idea a step further. She created a newsroom and integrated marketing strategies into the content they produced.
“Then Starbucks called and they said ‘We want you to come here and build the global newsroom of the future,’” Sizemore said.
She’s still in her first year at Starbucks and is mostly strategizing at the moment, but she hopes to build a similar structure to her newsroom at Fred Hutch – stories about people impacted by the company, driven by the Starbucks brand.
Ryan Suppe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.