Chief Communications Officer, GLAAD

GLAAD’s, Rich Ferraro, on Celebrity Social Media Channels as Today’s Most Trusted Media Outlet

About This Episode

Another must listen to episode from our Celebrity and Influencers season. For nonprofits looking to elevate their impact through communications and messaging, The Social Change Diaries provides a peek behind the curtain. In this episode, GLAAD’s Chief Communications Officer, Rich Ferraro, shares “aha moments” and first hand experiences, including how GLAAD has evolved with the changing media landscape- partnering with today’s influencers driving change, in a way that allows the org to indirectly mold the news cycle itself.

About Rich Ferraro

Rich Ferraro returned to GLAAD after serving as a Senior Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Viacom. During his time at Viacom he worked on MTV’s 2016 election campaign which drew attention to issues including immigration, LGBTQ equality, and racial justice. He launched Logo’s LGBTQ public affairs department and led press strategy for MTV and Logo documentaries, campaigns and shows. In 2015, he received a Daytime Emmy Award as part of the team behind MTV and Logo documentary “Laverne Cox Presents:  The T Word.” Prior to Viacom, Ferraro spent over six years enhancing and growing GLAAD’s communications and programs departments. He launched GLAAD’s Spirit Day campaign and oversaw media strategy and advocacy for winning work on issues including marriage equality, transgender inclusion in the Miss Universe pageant, the expansion of gender options on Facebook, and the campaign to end the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts. Rich oversees GLAAD’s Communications department as well as GLAAD’s Press, Talent Relations, Digital, Social, and Creative departments. His is an Executive Producer of the GLAAD Media Awards stage show and leads the selection process for the GLAAD Media Award nominees, honorees, and award recipients.

In his words

“We have about 40 staff nationwide at GLAAD who are full time, and that includes everything from IT departments to fundraising staff to operations, so we’re a bit of a smaller organization than people expect in terms of staff. We have a budget of around $12 million per year, an annual operating budget. We’re not one of the larger nonprofits in the space. Our brand really is that of a much larger organization, so that was a little peek behind the curtain, but how we got that brand so visible and how we became what I see as a very trusted resource for pop culture players like celebrities for news journalists, the biggest tip is to be very visible, be very vocal and be fast.”

“GLAAD pumps out so much information and so many reactions to breaking news that over the years I’ve seen our relationships with news outlets and then with other key players like celebrities, like global brands, I’ve seen all of those relationships grow because we have so much information going out from the organization every day. The biggest tip I have is to be very active, be very visible, and be fast and make sure that you’re one of the first out of your gate if there’s a breaking news story that makes sense for you to comment on or to weigh in on, or if you can help move the needle on any issues.”

“We’re living in a politically and culturally divisive time. That’s news to no one, but what I’ve seen sitting in this chair at GLAAD is that there’s a lot of energy from global brands, from celebrities, from media who want to do the right thing and who want to step up.  Our role at GLAAD is to give some of them tools and ideas and a roadmap for how to do that. There are a lot of ways that we help brands, celebrities, media become more active and become more educated on the issues and try and create tailored approaches so that they can have impact.”

“These days, thenews rooms around the country at the national and at the local level are like drinking from a fire hose. There’s so much news for them to report and at the same time we have fewer journalists at their desk, so a number that I often cite for our board and for other GLAAD presentations that over the last 10 years the number of journalists has dropped by 40% around the country, so the number of people who report being journalists. With fewer journalists and more news it’s really difficult to break through if you are a social justice organization and if you have an important issue to break through out there.”

“At the same time, the rise of social media is pervasive and we now approach celebrities and their social media channels as media outlets that we can leverage when there’s important news to share or when an issue is flying under the radar. Oftentimes, those media outlets- celebrities’ Instagram, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, or videos that they produce on their own- are more trusted by the general public than the actual news media. There’s so much controversy around fake news today and can liberal media outlets be trusted? Are they reporting in a fair and accurate way? You can really go around that discussion if you have an important social issue by enlisting a trusted celebrity.”

“Those teachable moments are what we focus on at GLAAD instead of the standard watchdog work that GLAAD did for many years in the ’90s, in the early 2000s. I think we’ve moved on from that call-out culture, and instead we’re looking for teachable moments that can foster understanding and build bridges and celebrities are a really great way to do that if they link arms with you and are going to be able to share info about their journey. We’re living in a world too in a political climate where we have real enemies and an enemy is very different than an imperfect ally.”