Steve Yaeger, CMO of The Star Tribune, Discusses Fake News and PR

“You have to radiate fun. You and everybody on your team. You have to in your demeanor, in your talking points, in your pitches, you have to make it infectious. You’re forcing other people to come to the party,” said Steve Yaeger, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune Media Company. Yeager was describing his number one priority as a professional in the public relations industry.

Yaeger was a guest lecturer for Professor Amy Shanler’s and Professor Michael Dowding’s classes. Yaeger’s goal was to give PR students a real-world perspective as well as advice on the industry.

“Public relations is about moments. It’s about responding to things that happen in a moment, and it’s about creating moments in service to your mission or business objective.”

Yaeger emphasized that PR professionals need to stay relevant and keep up with the “pulse” of the world. He discussed a popular topic as of late: fake news. Fake news, or as Yaeger says, “misinformation,” is a problem for newspapers because of the negative PR it generates for them. Though fake news is a PR problem for newspapers, Yaeger asked, is it only a PR problem for the Star Tribune?

Yaeger acknowledged that the best thing to do to combat the “fake news” PR dilemma is to first look at the data and then to scope out the problem.

“People subscribe and unsubscribe all of the time, and we track the reasons why they unsubscribe,” Yaeger said. “In the four weeks following the Inauguration, cancellations due to content doubled from fifteen to thirty. We process 9,000 cancellations a month.” Because cancellations, due to controversial topics and opinions, did not increase drastically following the “fake news” epidemic, Yaeger concluded that Star Tribune did not need to do any PR addressing “fake news.”

“The best thing you can do, in this profession, is be the slowest moving person,” Yaeger said. “Listen, acknowledge, empathize, but then slow down and think, and try to really scope the problem. And then you can scope your response so it’s proportional.”

Inside the COM 101 lecture hall: Steve Yaeger, CMO of The Star Tribune, speaks to students about PR and marketing strategies for a media company.

Yaeger also spoke about running PR for the Star Tribune. To describe his daily responsibilities, he walked through a case study of Star Tribune’s 150th anniversary as a media company. He outlined the statement of purpose, target audience, assets and liabilities, plan, timeline and examples of marketing activities.

“We’re taking all of our existing marketing activities that we were going to do anyway, and we’re going to cast them in the context of our 150th,” Yaeger said.

Yaeger goes on to explain that the marketing plan is all about maximizing and capitalizing on every opportunity. It is important to have as many of these activities, or “moments,” for the message to reach as many people as possible.

“Public relations is about moments. It’s about responding to things that happen in a moment, and it’s about creating moments in service to your mission or business objective,” Yaeger said. “And I like the word moment because it’s a word that has a little bit of an emotional nuance to it, but more importantly, it speaks a little bit to attention span.”



Amelia Henning, Staff Writer

Amelia Henning is a sophomore in COM studying advertising. Her passions include travel and volunteering. Her goal in life is to have visited all seven continents before she retires as the CEO of an ad agency.

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