Meet the Departments: Communications
This is the third story in the “Meet the Departments” series. Each story will focus on a different department at USC Shoah Foundation: outlining its responsibilities, introducing its staff and describing how its work fits into the overall mission of the Institute.
Left to right: Josh Grossberg, Deanna Hendrick, Jeffrey Langham, Robin Migdol, Rob Kuznia. Not pictured: Anne Marie Stein
On any given day in the communications department, the staff can be heard exchanging information, assisting each other and, most importantly, laughing and joking in their open office-layout. In fact, it’s almost like a newsroom.
“I come from a newspaper background, and I loved being in a newsroom” said Josh Grossberg, publicist for USC Shoah Foundation. “I loved the noise and the chaos and the anxiety and the stress and the screaming and the joking, and it’s sort of replicated here.”
That’s due in part to the closeness of the six-person team and the close quarters they share as they work to share information about the institute with a wider audience. Among them they include a Pulitzer Prize-winner, a former film studio publicist, and a former newspaper editor.
“We get along very well, and it helps because when you’re presenting a message and you’re on the same page, it’s a huge bonus,” Grossberg said.
The person Grossberg himself works the most closely with is Pulitzer-Prize-winning former journalist Rob Kuznia, external relations coordinator for the Institute. Together the two write press releases, pitch stories to media outlets, create internal communication materials, and field external requests. Kuznia said that though his work isn’t as fast paced as when he was a reporter, he enjoys being able to work for an institution he believes has a positive impact on the globe.
“I think organizations like this move the needle a little bit on just making the world a better place. … I’m happy to be a part of that, even if it’s in just a very modest way,” he said.
Aiding Grossberg and Kuznia in creating content about USC Shoah Foundation is Robin Migdol, who came on board in 2013 to enhance the Institute’s website as the team writer. Previously, the website had only been updated a couple times a month; now, Migdol posts a new story every day highlighting the work done by USC Shoah Foundation.
“What I want to show people [in the Institute] is that it’s really interesting, your work is fascinating, and we need to show that to people,” she said. “You might be kind of modest about what your work is, your day-to-day sitting at your desk, but it’s really important.”
Helping her get the word out about the Institute on a daily basis is Deanna Hendrick, the social media marketing specialist. Hendrick is responsible for the two Twitter accounts, Facebook page, Instagram account, and YouTube channel. But while Migdol is often working within the Institute to find and write stories about what her colleagues are doing, Hendrick often gets to communicate with those outside the Institute — the people who react to the story Migdol writes and Hendrick tweets and posts about.
“My favorite part is just the connection with the teachers and individuals,” she said. “They’ll comment on a YouTube video saying how much that inspired them, or you get to hear those little stories about how the power of testimony can really change people for the better.”
While Hendrick is responsible for the team’s social media accounts, webmaster Jeffrey Langham is in charge of any other web pages the Institute has. After working at a design firm where he helped build multiple websites and then passed them off to their owners, Langham said he enjoys being able to see the continual development of one website, which he calls his “baby.”
“When I started back in 2008, the website was basically like a brochure website,” Langham said. “It wasn’t very deep, and it was more or less sort like, ‘here we are at the Institute.’ I oversaw the first redesign of the site, and this is the second redesign since I’ve been here.”
Grossberg, Kuznia, Migdol, Hendrick and Langham are led by Director of Communications Anne-Marie Stein. Stein was involved in the founding of USC Shoah Foundation after working as the publicist on Schindler's List. Though she left after a couple of years, she came back three years ago to once again lead the communications department.
Sometimes, all six members of the team come together to all work on one project. Most recently, it was working on Auschwitz: The Past is Present - One Year Later. In 2015, USC Shoah Foundation took a trip with many of its administrators, educators and interns to Auschwitz to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the concentration camp. A year after that, the communications team gathered reactions, responses, and educational outcomes from those who participated.
“I got to check in with all the teachers who went and all the students who went and hear from them how it affected them,” Migdol said. “Most of them said it totally changed their teaching and they continue to be inspired by what they learned in Auschwitz and the program, and it made them rethink how they teach about tolerance and the Holocaust.”
Migdol also said taking a moment to reflect on the program also helped the team realize how much it did for USC Shoah Foundation itself, including how the number of people who viewed testimony from the Visual History archived went from 3.6 million in 2014 to 15 million in 2015.
“It just blew up,” she said. “It was an incredible thing for us, and it kind of put us on the map.”
Putting USC Shoah Foundation on the map is just what the communications department aims to do.
“[Our work] centers on three things,” Stein said. “We’re creating awareness about the Institute and the work, we’re presenting our programs and our work in such a way that people want to adopt them … and the third thing is advancement, we show the positive work that we’re doing so we can encourage people to donate.”
Stein said her team makes her job easy for her.
“They do all the heavy work, and I just get to sit back and take praise for all the hard work they do, so I love being leader of this group,” Stein joked. “I think of any of the working environments I’ve had, it’s [the most] collaborative space here.”