Cici Ghattas from Discovery Inc. on how she took advantage of their diverse portfolio of brands to overhaul their corporate social channels

We went from posting releases and just promoting network news to using our entire content powerhouse. Cici Ghattas
When Corporate Communications Manager Cici Ghattas came to Discovery Inc., there wasn't a lot of interest in social media beyond business-related news from a corporate perspective — because most of their audience opted to follow individual network brands like their flagship brand Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet instead.

But in 2017, Cici saw an opportunity to change that and better leverage social media in their corporate strategy beyond corporate news, network announcements, and monitoring conversations around their brands and executives.

She came up with a plan for where they could grow their platforms while still making sure they had a consistent brand voice.

With a diverse portfolio of premium brands including Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and more, Cici wanted to make sure the story they were telling on their corporate channel was cohesive and representative of brand priorities.

First, she identified their goals: highlighting corporate initiatives (which they were already doing) and supporting network initiatives.

“We have an incredible library from our 8,000 hours of programming a year across our networks,” said Cici.

“We were under-utilizing the assets we already had on social media.”

She said it was also important to use their corporate social media channels to amplify their animal and natural wildlife priorities — like their tiger conservation “Social Good” effort, Project CAT — and employee culture stories.

Some of them turn into followers over time, because we gained their trust as the parent company behind these brands they love. Cici Ghattas
But first, she had to identify what audiences they wanted to reach through these channels.

“We had already established that media, shareholders, and analysts would be part of our target audience because we're a publicly traded company,” Cici explained. “But we decided we wanted to expand that to industry partners, digital influencers, network and brand super fans, our own talent, and potential hires.”

Once they established their goals and audiences, they started looking at how to build their content and what to measure.

“We decided it's based on three things: content, follower growth, and engagement. And those things are equally important,” said Cici. “We went from posting releases and just promoting network news to using our entire content powerhouse.”

According to Cici, this strategy was embraced by leadership because it built their corporate brand while amplifying their networks on social media – which Cici said is a great fit for them because of their consumer-driven and digital corporate priorities.

“It's building a stronger case for who we are as a corporation,” explained Cici. “And while we still kept earnings, acquisitions, leadership changes, and awards as a part of our strategy, we’re now better able to plan ahead to make that content more interesting.”

With this foundational social media strategy, Discovery Inc. was able to capitalize on their merger with Scripps Network in 2018.

According to Cici, that merger was successful from a social media perspective, because they planned to include their talent and networks as part of the announcement. That announcement included launching the new @DiscoveryIncTV handle across their channels and pushing out a video to amplify their diverse portfolio of brands.

They used a ‘road trip' strategy where Discovery tweeted out that they were excited to go on this journey as a combined company, and Cici and her team prepared a toolkit for their talent and networks to activate the announcement and respond back to the tweet.

“That was really successful because it was a creative way of announcing the merger with all of our talent and show pages jump in,” said Cici.

Cici said that kind of content has led to more engagement from people who didn’t follow their corporate page.

“Some of them turn into followers over time, because we gained their trust as the parent company behind these brands they love,” she explained.

We allow ourselves to be nimble when we notice something isn’t working and try to change our strategy quickly. Cici Ghattas
She said another factor in their channel success is that they used each platform for something different and tried to avoid over-generalized content.

“That's something we've learned from trial and error from going through the merger and combining brands,” said Cici. “We use Twitter for announcements, then on LinkedIn we highlight employee culture and behind-the-scenes work. But we also allow ourselves to be nimble when we notice something isn’t working and try to change our strategy quickly.”

As far as getting the content to support this strategy, Cici said her role in corporate communications has been instrumental.

“I have a comprehensive view of the company's activities,” she explained. “Whenever we send out press releases, I oversee that as well as our internal executive newsletter that features the best stories from each network each day. So I see the news that goes out each day and know which networks I should reach out to for social assets.”

She said they also use the newsletter as the lead up to help promote new shows. Before the show launches, they use the network’s assets and language to support them.

Cici emphasized that working with the network PR teams and their social leads directly to get the information they need at the corporate level has been instrumental.

But the decentralized structure of their networks has also led to some challenges as a corporate presence on social media.

One challenge is identifying the audience and what works, because we have niche brands and so much content available, but we want to tell that one cohesive story. Cici Ghattas
“One challenge is identifying the audience and what works, because we have niche brands and so much content available, but we want to tell that one cohesive story,” Cici explained. “That balance comes from identifying the top network priorities. Everything we do has to be something that continues building that brand we're striving to build on social.”

To achieve that, Cici talks to the people managing PR and social at each network on a weekly basis to find out the best content they have, and what's important to them at any given moment.

“We don't promise we're going to push anything, but we try to be really good partners and maintain that strong relationship with our decentralized model,” she said. “That means sometimes networks are jumping on corporate priorities and vice versa.”

An example of a relationship Cici is particularly proud of is their work with Project CAT.

Project CAT stands for “conserving acres for tigers,” and Discovery bought land to increase wild tiger numbers. As part of this initiative, around Global Tiger Day or World Wildlife Day, they want to push Project CAT as much as possible and partner with their networks on sharing the message.

This past year, their corporate social responsibility team worked with Rag & Bone to create a shirt that was given to influencers for them to wear and share across social media.

“There were so many celebrities who wore that shirt, and we ended up with major engagement that day,” said Cici. “And that was also in-part to our network brands who helped amplify what we’re doing.”

That campaign received 1.4 million likes across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, over 5,000 retweets on Twitter, and had a total social reach of over 408 million.

Through this strategy shift, Cici said the language and the way people engage with Discovery has changed dramatically.

“There's more authenticity because our talent is more interested in tagging us and creating an organic conversation with us,” she explained. “Even though it's not quantifiable, we're seeing it on a day-to-day basis where we're getting engaged with by our audience.”

She also said, through this channel overhaul, they’ve been able to grow their international reach. “We own Eurosport, which owns the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games in Europe, and now we're supporting that,” said Cici.

“They're looping us in now and asking us to put things out on social. Before we had the last seat at the table, and now corporate has an important voice.”

Now, Cici and her team are looking to experiment more with paid social across their channels.

If you have smaller brands, you should definitely amplify them. Cici Ghattas
“From a corporate perspective, we have a paid media branch that is pushing network shows from their brand page, but we hadn’t dabbled much in paid social from our corporate channels,” she said. “Now we're running ads to see if we can grow certain audiences and continue to strengthen our international presence.”

According to Cici, Instagram is also becoming more of a priority for their corporate channels.

“We only have 35,000 followers on there right now, but our story strategy really works,” she said. “So, we want to pursue more real-time events and continue humanizing our voice.”

Though, in that work, she emphasized the most important thing is to keep up with their consistent tone and the authority they’ve established these past couple of years.

For anyone looking to make a similar strategy shift, Cici said the most important thing is amplifying your brands.

“The biggest advice is something I’ve seen a lot of companies not do, and that’s not promoting brand campaigns on their corporate social,” she said.

“If you have smaller brands, you should definitely amplify them. Be wise about the content you're choosing and make sure it's the best of the best, but really pursue supporting brands rather than just sticking to one corporate voice.”

Cici Ghattas has been a member of since 2017. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.