Arianna Imperato: The Media is the Message

Arianna Imperato is a corporate communications manager for Dow Jones. In her nearly three years at the organization, whose products include The Wall Street Journal, she has helped create an internal digital magazine, rebrand digital corporate communications, and manage PR for WSJ. magazine.

Prior to working for the global media organization, she completed the M.S. in Communications Practice program at Columbia University (now known as the M.S. in Strategic Communication). She credits the graduate program for improving her pitching and presentation skills, as well as connecting her with Dow Jones in the first place. Among the many takeaways from the program, she often refers to a particular assignment in which she had to deliver a “paragraph of gold,” a phrase that remains relevant in a media landscape that shifts more quickly than ever.

We visited her at the sleek offices of Dow Jones in Manhattan. Throughout our conversation, she remained poised despite the flurry of activity in the open newsroom next to us.

I'm curious what brought you to the program. What were you doing right before you entered?

I've tried to stay as close to writing as I can because it was always my strength. [During my undergraduate years,] I was an English major, and I also minored in journalism. I interned for a nonconsecutive year at a full-service lifestyle PR agency. They had some fantastic clients: smartwater, Thompson Hotels, and Victoria's Secret Beauty. It was a really hands-on experience that I credit with helping me define a career path. It also made me realize that I wanted to continue my education in this field and beyond.

On a rainy day the summer before I started my last year of undergrad, I literally Googled "graduate program communications Columbia University." I looked at the curriculum for Columbia, and I didn't even look anywhere else. I was totally sold. [After earning a B.A.,] I started immediately.

I wonder what you expected to get out of the program and how it prepared you for your career.

The program truly does prepare students to hit the ground running. The Columbia name certainly helps open doors, but once you get in, you need to prove yourself, and the curriculum conditions you to not only meet employers’ expectations, but exceed them. Each and every class description just resonated with me, from The Dynamics of Persuasion to The Strategic Storyteller. Even classes that I didn’t anticipate I would use as much in my career wound up being some of the most helpful. The program really lived up to my expectations.

I'm curious about what you do now, and I wonder if the program helped connect you with this role at all?

When I finished the program, I landed a marketing role at ABC on Katie Couric’s team when she was launching her daytime talk show "Katie." I learned a great deal working for the show’s creative director, and it was a fantastic experience. After six months at ABC, an opportunity arose to join the corporate communications team at Dow Jones because my former professor, Tracy David -- who was the chief marketing officer there at the time -- made an introduction for me. I would not be at Dow Jones if it were not for my connection at Columbia.

What do you do here at Dow Jones?

I have a hybrid role comprised of both internal and external communications responsibilities. I’m grateful to have this combination of work. If you want to run a Communications department one day, you need to know how to execute on both.

The internal communications work has been exciting and entrepreneurial from the beginning. We were a small team that had the freedom to create an engaging program from scratch. Every company should want their employees, their greatest brand ambassadors, to feel informed and inspired about what’s happening in the business. To do this, we developed a “voice” for all of our communications that would not only be clever, but also concise. Then we launched a new email system, Intranet, and digital magazine all within six months. For our efforts, we won the 2014 PRWeek award for Internal Communications Campaign of the Year. It was one of the proudest days of my life, next to getting admitted to Columbia.

That's amazing!

About nine months into the job, I saw an opportunity to do media relations work for WSJ., The Wall Street Journal’s luxury lifestyle magazine that puts out 12 issues a year. As the publicist for WSJ., I’m responsible for securing press coverage about our monthly content, special events, business growth and talented staff. All of the buzz generated in the media ultimately contributes to our bottom line, helping to bring in new subscribers and advertisers. While there are many, many elements that go into this, I’m proud that my work plays a part in it.

WSJ. magazine, June 2015

Is there anything else you wanted to mention about the program?

I think the program's curriculum is terrific. It's a mix of the theoretical and the practical. I also made so many friends from all over the world. The program is intimate enough that you feel like you get guidance and that your success matters. I really feel like the program changed the course of my life.