Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2002Kellogg School of Management
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  Molly Battin '98
Molly Battin is helping make the news and make it more appealing to CNN viewers.
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Molly Battin ’98 has helped rebrand CNN

When Molly Battin ’98 left Kellogg, she hit the ground running. Having completed a Half Ironman triathlon — a grueling 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run — with fellow Kellogg School classmates two weeks before graduation, Battin ran full speed into a marketing career that has included stints at Coca-Cola Co., EzGov Inc. and most recently, CNN, where as vice president of strategic marketing she has orchestrated a hugely successful rebranding of the company’s news networks.

Battin joined CNN in November 2000 as director of strategic marketing for the company’s three domestic networks, CNN, CNN Headline News and CNNfn. Her charge was to refresh the cable news channels’ struggling brands — a considerable task, given that the company didn’t have much of a marketing department and was rapidly losing viewers to competitors Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

Though the CNN networks had a well-established reputation for delivering high-quality journalism, viewers were only tuning in to breaking news. “People called [CNN] their ‘spare tire,’” Battin says. “If there was a problem or emergency, people knew they could turn to it and count on it, but they didn’t need it on a daily basis.”

For many years, the management at CNN was comprised primarily of journalists who discounted most of the company’s competition, and who didn’t believe the organization needed a strategic marketing steward, Battin explains. As a result, because the CNN brand had been neglected for a while, it “really needed to be dusted off,” she says.

Battin and her team started with CNN Headline News, redefining its target audience as the baby boomer generation, a younger group than had been tuning in previously. They also revamped the way the network reported the news, making most of the day’s programming live and hiring new talent. They created a multi-element screen and added a news “wheel,” allowing viewers to know what segment of the news was coming up and when.

The changes have been a big success, Battin says. Since last August, Headline News has seen almost 100 percent growth among the target audience.

The next project on Battin’s branding to-do list involved revamping CNN’s flagship network, whose overhaul will include bringing in new talent such as Connie Chung, scheduled to join with a prime time show in the second quarter of 2002. For the financial news network, CNNfn, Battin’s team is working on plans to partner with Money magazine and expand coverage of personal finance issues.

Battin’s previous work experience and love of a good challenge — she’s run five marathons, to date — have prepared her well for her current responsibilities. Prior to joining CNN, she was VP of marketing at EzGov Inc., an e-government Internet company based in Atlanta. Before that, she served as an associate brand manager at Coca-Cola Co.

Battin says she often calls on the strategic thinking and problem solving abilities she honed at Kellogg. She also credits the school’s oft-acclaimed focus on teamwork, which has been particularly useful in managing cross-functional teams in the frenzied, deadline-driven atmosphere of a news organization. “A lot of people that you work with start in the weeds and it’s very hard for them to take a step back and look at the broader picture, and I think that’s a skill that Kellogg taught,” she explains.

Battin says her favorite part of her job is the passion that the people at CNN have. “There’s a sense that we’re doing something good,” she says. “Not only do we love our jobs, but at the end of the day, we’re keeping America and the world informed. That’s a neat feeling — to come to work everyday and know that you’re contributing to that.”

— Mary E. Morrison

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University