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Tour de Code: Calling All Women Who Code and Design (Or Want To...)


rosietheriveterI'm part of the founding group of DCFemTech, a collective of 25+ women in technology organizations in the Washington DC/Metro area that formed earlier this year to worktogether to collaborate, support and streamline technology education and events in the community.

The gender gap in tech is real. Women make up only 26% of the computing workforce, which has large technology companies focused on improving their diversity numbers. Big challenges have been identified, from pipeline to retention issues, and the good news is that big opportunities exist as well. There are myriad programs to help women develop their technical skills and determine whether to change careers, advance in their current job, or better understand others working in their tech company.

This coming Thursday night, from 6-8pm at Google (25 Mass Ave., NW), there is going to be a Meet & Mingle to get to know the leaders of the organizations that comprise DCFemTech, and for the community to learn more about more ways to get involved in the growth and support of women in tech in the DC area. The current list of DCFemTech affiliated organizations can be found here:

Post the kick-off on Thursday, there is a full month of "Tour de Code" programs that are planned around the region and will be hosted by organizations in the DCFem Tech collective.

Tour de Code will highlight regional opportunities in an easy-to-consume schedule with tech events ranging in focus from design to CSS to JavaScript. The events are being hosted in October across the DC Metro region by DCFemTech affiliated or supportive organizations such as Women Who Code, Startup Weekend, Code for Progress and more.

Stephanie Nguyen, Co-Founder of Silica Labs and DCFemTech organizer will tell you that when she was looking for opportunities to broaden her technical skills in DC, she was surprised by the fact that these communities were collaborative rather than competitive. Tour de Code is an opportunity to spotlight the numerous support mechanisms in place for women in tech and hopefully give our organizations a bigger voice than they may have on their own.

This promises to be an inspirational October filled with workshops and events to help beginners learn how to code and design! Follow @DCFemTech on Twitter for all of the details.

So, if you are a women interested in coding and design (from beginner to advanced), you have the entire month of October, to get involved. The  schedule can be found here:

Hope to see you at one or many of these awesome events!

How to Promote an Infographic in Eight Easy Steps


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Lately it seems that infographics are on every marketer’s must-do list.  However, creating an infographic is only half the challenge, and many marketers struggle with how best to promote and leverage this content asset for lead generation and awareness building.

We’ve compiled this handy list to help with infographic promotion.  Our tips are organized by category: owned media (properties that you control), earned media (PR) and paid media (sponsored posts or paid content discovery tools).

Owned Media

1. Post the infographic on a landing page on your website.  Allow people to download and embed the infographic to encourage social sharing.

2. Share on social media. Use one frame or data point from the infographic as a teaser to drive downloads.  Create a series of tweets and/or Facebook posts that highlight data from the infographic.

  • Promote the infographic daily for the first week and then 1-2 times per week for a 3-month period.
  • Remember to thank everyone that tweets or shares your infographic.
  • Ask employees to share the infographic on their own LinkedIn pages or personal blogs and retweet the company news.
  • Post your infographic on SlideShare – remember SlideShare accepts formats other than PowerPoint.
  • Write a blog post (or two or three) expanding on some of the themes mentioned in the infographic.
  • Use ClickToTweet in your blog post so readers can easily tweet key data points.
3. Promote the infographic in your newsletter.

Earned Media

4. These days, many companies are issuing news releases to announce infographics. (Here’s an example from SCORE about crowdfunding that was issued today).  It’s not cheap, but if you believe your infographic is really of value, then it’s worth considering.

5. Pitch the infographic to your target media.  Though we’ve gotten feedback from some editors that they won’t run vendor infographics, they are still popular among bloggers.  For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note feature infographic, issued today, has been picked up many, many times.

6. Post the infographic to sharing sites such as: Daily InfographicInfographic Directory and Cool Infographics, though be forewarned that you may open yourself up to negative comments about the design.

Paid Media

7. Consider content discovery services such as OutBrain or Taboola  to maximize the reach of your infographic.

8. Write a sponsored post for an industry blog.  You may have to hunt a bit for these opportunities, but they are definitely out there.

Good luck with your infographic. I hope these tips will help you maximize the ROI of your content projects.  Feel free to share any other suggestions in the comments.

- Katie

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October Networking Events


October may be a record month for networking events this year. I've got eleven on my list and on a few days,  there are a couple to choose from!

Here are the events that are on my radar:

NoVA TechBreakfast
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, October 1
AOL - 22000 AOL Way, Dulles, VA

Throwback Thursday with TandemNSI
6:00PM - 9:00PM, Thursday, October 2
Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 

Tour de Code Kick-off Mix and Mingle
6:00PM - 9:00PM, Thursday, October 2
Google - 25 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

Startup Weekend Washington, D.C. - Women's Edition
Friday, October 3 - Sunday, October 5
1776 and General Assembly, 1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 

DC Tech Meetup
6:30PM - 8:00PM, Monday, October 6
MLK Library, 901 G Street, NW, Washington, DC

Columbia TechBreakfast
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, October 8

Loyola Columbia - 8890 McGaw Rd #130, Columbia, MD 

Startup Grind Washington, DC Hosts Keith Clinkscales (P. Diddy's Revolt TV)
6:00PM - 9:00PM, Tuesday, October 9
R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center at St. Elizabeth's East - 2730 Martin Luther King, Jr Avenue, SW, Upper MarlboroDC

FounderCorps Coffee & Donuts with Jenny Abramson, CEO & President of LiveSafe 
7:30AM - 9:00AM, Wednesday, October 15
Arlington Economic Development, 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1500, Arlington, VA  

DC Tech BreakfastDC Tech Breakfast
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, October 15
Washington, DC Economic Partnership - 1495 F Street, NW, Washington, DC

TandemNSI's Hacking the Government: How to Get Your First Government Customer
7:30AM - 9:00AM, Tuesday, October 21
See Registration for Location

1776's Challenge Cup: Washington, DC
5:30PM - 9:30PM, Tuesday October 21
1776, 1133 15th Street, 12th Floor, NW, Washington, DC

What did I miss? Where will you be networking this month?

Bendgate: Not Bad News for Everyone


Well here it is, the latest tech drama of 2014: Bendgate. I’m sure by now you’ve heard the commotion associated with Apple’s latest launch. When the iPhone 6 was first released two weeks ago, people lined up for hours – only to discover a few days later that the device was unintentionally quite flexible. 

Though it was a serious blow to Apple, Bendgate has become creative marketing fodder for brands across the board, and no one has been shy about calling out the incident on social media.

It seems to me that any time a tech brand has the opportunity to poke fun at a tech giant they jump on it. The Bendgate incident gave brands the chance to casually capitalize on Apple’s unfortunate press. 

A few examples…

LG has gotten 9,436 retweets to date on their Bendgate post, which calls out the LG Flex for bending too…but on purpose.


 Screen shot 2014 09 30 at 10.54.45 AM resized 600


Samsung got in on the conversation without even mentioning Bendgate by posting a tweet of a picture of the Galaxy Note Edge and the simple text, “Curved. Not bent. #GalaxyNoteEdge”

describe the image 

Even consumer brands have gotten in on the Bendgate joke. Heinekin’s “Dear Apple…” post garnered 11,424 retweets 

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Dockers tried to get in on the action as well, with a picture of the “Smartest Khakis Ever Made.”

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Overwhelmingly, the most successful brand to capitalize on Bendgate was Kit Kat. Only two days after the Bendgate story started to brew Kit Kat posted a tweet saying, “We don’t bend, We #break. #bendgate #iPhone6plus”

After being live for only 10 minutes the post was retweeted 100 times, after an hour it had over 1,000 retweets. Now, Kit Kat has surpassed the success of Oreo’s famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout.

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Despite the bendable blunder, Apple proudly announced that more than 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models were sold in 10 countries during the three days following the release.  On September 25th the tech giant released a statement that disputed Bendgate and claimed, “With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare." It’s also worth mentioning that following the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple’s stock has reportedly lost $23 billion in value.

Even if this phenomenon is just the overblowing of an issue that only nine customers reported after the first six days of sale, it goes to show how quickly brands will devise a creative ad or campaign to capitalize on the opportunities that come along with bad press. 



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When should I put a release over the wire? (And other essential PR tips)


Last week, Business Wire came to visit SpeakerBox to present on the newest happenings at the company as well as how to get the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to putting a release over the wire.

While they had a lot of good tips, three in particular resonated the most with me – probably because they either answered a question I am consistently asked by a client or they were a pointer that I knew would actually make a difference when it comes to media coverage.

The first two tips came from a Webinar Business Wire hosted with the Associated Press, with whom they have a partnership. 

  • 1st AP tip: If a release is not huge breaking news then the AP advises that the best time to send out is between 9:30 am - 3:30 pm ET, with :20, :40 and :45 after the hour an optimal time to release.
Since the majority of releases go out on the hour, setting your release during a bit of an “off” time will help reporters to actually see it, as they will not be inundated with news at that moment. While Business Wire didn’t mention specific days to send a release out, unless the news can’t wait, the rule of thumb is to avoid Mondays and Fridays. Just like in your own week, Monday’s are generally the busiest day of the week for reporters and they are less likely to have time to focus on news coming in from the wire. Likewise, Fridays may be slower, but reporters might be heading out early, so hit them up first thing if the news goes out on a Friday.

Most importantly though, make sure you know what is going on in the world. Chances are your news is not going to lose steam if it is not put out the second you planned for it – however you can almost guarantee no coverage if there is a terrorist attack or major hurricane coming. So do a quick scan and make sure there is not a major world event breaking at the time you are planning to put out news and adjust if necessary.
  • 2nd AP tip: Photos increase chances of news getting play, as there are always photo editors scouring around for images to use. Photos should be at least 2,000 pixels on the longest side, 1 - 3 MB in size. There is no max on the number of pixels.
While your release may not necessarily seem photo-worthy, you might be surprised at what you can come up with. If there are any images or screenshots that can be associated with the news you are putting out, it is worth it and worth the extra cost. Almost all articles run with images, and if a reporter doesn’t have to hunt down one, than that is half the battle already towards getting your story told.
  • 3rd Tip: The last tip is not from the AP Webinar, but rather insight that the Business Wire presenters provided that I found particularly interesting: Subheads are essentially worthless. When any reporters receive a wire news feed, they see the headline and the first sentence – and that is it. The irony of that is that subheads usually have more details and information than the actual headline does.
To get around this, Business Wire suggested making the subhead the first sentence of the release and pushing the first sentence second or getting rid of it altogether since it’s typically weirdly-worded and overly-formal. The most important aspect is making sure to catch the reporter’s attention quickly, because unless they are seeing something worthwhile in the small snippet they view, they likely will not bother to click to see anything more. So take out the jargon and buzzwords and make sure that the actual news and information is readily available from the get-go. 

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Entering the PR Workforce: 5 Tips to Help Decide on In-House or Agency


A blog post dedicated to former intern Dan Bowman

As I watch our summer interns leave SpeakerBox to return to school or move on to a new opportunity, it always takes me back to my college days.  How did I choose to major in public relations and how did I end up at an agency, rather than an in-house PR department at a company or association?  It’s been more than 8 years now since I left the hills of Bethany College, but I still feel like I can provide the PR and Comms students of the world with some beneficial advice.  Here are some tips for helping to figure out where you belong in PR/Comm before you leave school (you know, to ensure you’ll have health insurance and a 401K as quickly as possible):

  1. Learn the differences.  There are many ways working at an agency and working for an internal PR/Comms department are different, from day-to-day operations and responsibilities to program goals and what industry knowledge you need to have. There are even personality traits make you a better fit for one over the other. Make sure you know what all of these differences are. There are a ton of resources to find this sort of thing out.  Honestly, a simple Google search will give you a good idea. To get you started, here’s an article from PRWeek…its from 2011, but still relevant.  
  2. Work for free.  OK, so this one only applies if you’ve run out of paid options. But, the truth is that unpaid internships can provide a ton of value if you haven’t been able to secure one of the coveted paid summer gigs. Additionally, since you’re willing to provide help for free, many agencies/companies will be flexible with your schedule, understanding that you might have to be working a second job to stay afloat. By putting in the extra time and hard work, you can learn the ins and outs of both agency and in-house life to give you some direction and an upper hand for post graduation.  Plus, paid or unpaid, internships will beef up your resume and show ambition – a double plus!
  3. Network.  It’s never too early to network.  Join groups and clubs that put you in front of alumni or people in the PR industry.  That’s how I met my first internship boss and scored my first summer job working for a PR agency following my sophomore year.  And, learn as much from them as they’ll let you.  Ask questions; sit in on workshops or lectures from people in the field.  Collect as much information as you can so you aren’t blindsided later.  Also, don’t just listen to someone from an agency or in-house PR firm, get as much information as you can and then evaluate your options and what you think would be best for you. 
  4. Read Up.  There are many free PR-focused newsletters, blogs, magazines and other online resources you can easily take advantage of.  Also, take a look at the PR firms in the area you’d like to work – chances are they have a blog. Take some time to add them to your reading list.  This will help you get a good idea of important issues and news in PR, which can be valuable when you work those internships and networking floors, as well help frame the areas of PR you’re most interested in.  Here are some of the bigger online pubs to start with: PRWeekPR DailyO’Dwyer'sPR News
  5. Get Involved on Campus.  At my college, we had a PR group that acted as the college’s PR firm, a radio station, newspaper, TV station, etc.  Take advantage of that.  There’s nothing better than actually putting real Comms plans into motion around campus and getting real results (or not).  Either way, other groups on campus are usually happy for the help and, if you’re ambitious enough, you can even petition your Comms department to make these activities into a class you could even get credit for.  Additionally, this is a great way to build a portfolio for when you finally decide where you want to apply for jobs. 

So when it comes to figuring out whether you belong at a PR agency or an in-house PR department, its best to collect as much information as you can and assess it against your personality.  And, the only way to do that is to get your hands dirty and really figure out what each position is about.  Is there something specific you are incredibly passionate about?  If so, maybe finding an in-house department might be best for you. If you like a certain industry in general and like to work on many projects at once, maybe it’s an agency atmosphere you’ll thrive in.  By educating yourself, participating in internships, networking, reading up and getting involved on campus you’ll be able to gain the experience you need to make a good decision.  Best of luck!

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How Do We Define Public Relations?


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We’ve all heard the clichés – business is constantly changing, companies need to be agile, technology is rapidly evolving, etc. etc. etc. But there’s a funny thing about clichés – most of them have at least a grain of truth to them.

Just look at the public relations industry as a shining example of those aforementioned truisms. In the not-so-distant past, practicing PR was pretty straightforward – you’d get your messaging together, send out a press release, follow-up with a phone call or email or two, set up interviews, and count and monitor your news clips.

But PR has – dare I say it – evolved. Like many things in today’s social media/smartphone/always connected age, it encompasses so many things it’s become truly hard to easily define.

That didn’t stop writer Jarone Ashkenazi from trying to do so, however. In a piece for Fast Company, Ashkenazi takes a look at the current state of PR, seeks to more clearly define it, and, as a result, draw a picture of what it may look like in the near future.

Ashkenazi touches on some interesting points, including one that’s dear to me: PR as a storytelling medium. It’s no longer enough to simply put out a news announcement and be done with it. In order to gain the attention of the people companies really want to get to – their customers – they need to be able to tell the story of the brand. Like any story, it needs to be unique and compelling. Simply having it read the same way as every other company’s tale is not nearly enough to capture people’s imagination – not in today’s saturated media landscape.

As Ashkenazi points out, that saturation is being fueled by the number of different ways people are getting information. Sure, there’s social media – but there are also devices, including smartphones and tablets, that are encouraging people to consume more information. In short, whereas we once pitched newspaper and TV reporters, we’re now pitching bloggers, posting on Twitter and Facebook, using new media tools like YouTube and Vine, and more.

As our industry evolves, so does SpeakerBox. We’re continually looking for new ways to incorporate various methodologies and tools to connect our clients with stakeholders. We understand that it’s not just about media relations anymore, but telling stories and gaining traction through things like white papers, authored articles, website content development, blog measurement and development, videos, and more.

The news cycle is contracting, offering shorter windows for exposure – but the way we can tell news is greatly expanding. Right now, we have all sorts of different ways to tell stories. While that may make defining PR somewhat difficult, it also opens up many possibilities, for both the present and the future.

Pete Larmey

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Blog Measurement 102: Down the Rabbit Hole


Blog measurement 102In my last post, I laid out the three basic metrics everyone with a blog should be tracking, or at least watching. While those metrics can provide a lot of actionable information, there are many more insights to be gained by tracking some other numbers over time. 

Although there are probably hundreds of possible metrics to track, not all of them will be important for everyone to watch; what you choose to monitor really depends on your overall goal. With that said, here are some specific metrics that could prove to be important in getting your business blog to the next level. 

Social Media Shares

Social media can be a huge driver of traffic. While your social channel effectiveness can also be seen in your traffic sources information, tracking actual shares can provide great insight on the topics that are resonating with your key audiences. There are MANY paid tools out there that help you track when and how your content was shared, but a list of 10 free ones and how to use them can be found here (my suggestion is to check out Hootsuite). Monitoring all of these outlets can take some real time, but once you zero in on where your target audience lives and interacts you can target your resources to that area.   

Inbound Links

Inbound links are the key to high page rank, so tracking (and fostering) them is important if you are focused on SEO. This metric again will also help you determine the content topics and types that are resonating with your target audiences. Additionally, links can provide information on which ads, campaigns, or partnerships you’re running are working (and give you a sense of the ones that are not) and what is effectively bringing people to your site. 


Subscribers are the base readership of any blog. Whether via RSS feed or email, your subscribers have “asked” to see every post you create. This number should trend upward over time but may grow slowly. Having a solid base of subscribers underscores the expertise and credibility of your content. The goal is to have your subscribers be your true target audience and loyal followers, so we’re looking for quality over quantity here. Ultimately, as long as this number doesn’t trend down, it’s nothing to get too worried about. 

Visitor Retention 

You want new visitors to come, click around, stay a while, and read a few things while they’re there. So, high visitor retention and click through rates are the goal. The more time a person spends on your site can signal one of two things - 1. They really like your content and are going to become a subscriber or 2. They can’t find the exact information they are looking for but feel they are close.. Ideally you want each visitor to see two or more pages before they leave your site. 

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the flip side of visitor retention. When a visit lasts less than 10 seconds it’s considered a bounce. It’s possible that a small number of bounces occur because of accidental clicks, but the majority of these visitors weren’t sold on your site in their first 10 seconds there. Taking a look at the content on the pages with high bounce numbers may provide some clues as to why they are leaving. It could also provide some insight to see where these bounces are coming from - social media, inbound links, or search engines - they may have your site described wrong or an errant link. And, looking at flip side of that - the sources with low bounce rates shine some light on where your most engaged readers are coming from. Remember: the magic number (read: industry standard) to try to stay below is a 65 percent bounce rate. 

Comments (… and mentions and feedback)

Obviously, you’ll want to pay attention to the comments to your posts, not just to respond and engage with your readers, but to see which topics are conversation starters and which don’t engage your audience as much. Mentions on other blogs and direct feedback can be helpful for this as well. 

Leads and customers (or conversions) 

Are visitors to your blog actually buying anything, or at least converting from causal reader to lead? A simple way to quantify this (without the use of lead tracking software, which makes this even more simple) is to calculate how many people are purchasing out of everyone coming to your website. You’ll be able to see which offers are working and which aren’t. This information can help you target or word your offers more clearly, to help them appeal to your customers.  

Like I said above, it is not necessary for every blog manager to track all of these metrics. However, being aware that they exist and taking a minute to see if they could help gain followers, increase sales or generally hit the goals of your blog is a good idea. 

One caveat to keep in mind: Blogging is a slow process. You’re trying to reach your exact target audience, so it takes time to tailor your message, build trust, and convey that you are the expert they need to be reading. Don’t expect to see your numbers increase ten-fold every time you look at them or you will be disappointed often. Just take it slow, focus on creating good content, track what you can (and make adjustments when needed), and promote your content to the best of your abilities. Do all of this, and you should see success over time. 

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Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook


Continuing on the theme of my last two blog posts – a beginner’s guide to LinkedIn and a beginner’s guide to Twitter -- this time I’m back to explore Facebook. 

Let’s dive right in.

The basics: Taken from their very own website: “Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”

Demographics: The most up-to-date demographic information appears to come from iStrategyLabs courtesy of a demographic report they compiled in January 2014. The report was compiled from data Facebook provides to those looking to advertise on the site. The nice thing about the report, as you’ll see below, is that it compares demographic data from January 2011 to January 2014. The key takeaway – three million teens left Facebook in three years, indicating a shift towards an older user base.

Facebook Demographic Data

Access: Much like Twitter, Facebook can be accessed either via a mobile app or directly through your web browser. According to Facebook’s own data, released in conjunction with its Q2 earnings in July, of the 1.32 billion people who use Facebook each month, roughly a third only log on from their phones. 

How it’s being used:  Facebook, more than any other social media platform, is largely being used to allow people to easily communicate and stay in touch with others. What started as an exclusive option only for students at Harvard has grown into the largest social media network on the planet.

Over time the platform expanded to allow brands and companies to set up pages, and many have done so. However, Facebook, much to the chagrin of many, is constantly toiling with and altering their algorithms. The changes they make, and very rarely advertise, affect what users see in their newsfeed.  

When it comes to companies and brands, one of the things that sets Facebook apart from other social media platforms is the fact that users are able to interact directly with any brand or company that has a page on the platform. This is a double-edged sword, though. While it can be great if managed properly, it can also be disastrous in the event that someone has a complaint they want to share and end up feeling it is not being handled properly.

Facebook also allows for advertising – which can be hyper-targeted to very specific demographics and groups of value– and allows companies to “boost” their posts. The latter provides the opportunity to have a status update seen by more users (for a fee, of course).

Analytics: Much like LinkedIn, Facebook has done a nice job of building analytics into their back end and providing that data to companies. In fact, when you first click on “Insights,” Facebook offers you a tour of the Insights page and walks you through the information you’ll find there, as well as what’s working and what’s not working.

Some of the information you’ll find includes Page Likes, Post Reach, Engagement, and a break down of how your five most recent posts have performed. This is where you’ll also find recommendations on pages to watch, which compares the performance of your company page and posts with similar pages on Facebook.

Pros: Facebook is without a doubt the largest social network on the planet, and while they may have lost some traction with users ages 13-24, the number of users 25+ has grown tremendously since 2011. The platform allows users the opportunity to interact directly with the brands and companies they like. In turn, this affords those brands and organizations with unique opportunities to reward their followers with special offers or breaking news. Facebook also allows for lots of interaction with users, and the advertising platform lets companies hyper-target news or special offers directly to valuable demographics.

Cons: Much like Twitter, unless you’re paying constant attention to the newsfeed it’s easy to miss something that others put out, or for your audience to miss your news. Additionally, Facebook likes to tinker with their algorithm and control what information actually reaches its users – meaning that just because someone “likes” or “follows” your page they may not actually see any updates unless they actively visit the page. Additionally, that double-edged sword of engagement with users can be the kiss of death if not well managed.

Final thoughts: My thoughts on whether companies should join Facebook is split. It really comes down to what kind of company you are and if the audience you want to reach is really on Facebook. Some would argue that almost every company should be on Facebook if for nothing else than for recruitment purposes. I’m not sold on that argument and I have absolutely advised some of my clients to stay away from Facebook. Facebook is a platform where people have the ability to visit your page and write whatever they want. As a company you have the right to set ground rules and delete any comments you want but that also comes with it’s own baggage and can cause an uproar if people feel (rightly or wrongly) that they are being censored.  If you choose to go down the path of having a Facebook page, it is wise to make sure someone (with authority) is tending to it daily and can handle the inbound messages and comments and not just put out your own company news. 

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Ask the Influencer: Meet Derek Coburn, CADRE!


cadre dc

I am thrilled to be able to interview Derek Coburn, co-founder of an exlusive professional organization: cadre DC, and now a published author of Networking is Not Working, a New York Times bestseller! He has received accolades and reviews from such notable sources as Dan Pink, Marcus Sheridan, Chris Brogan, and Forbes.

I saw Derek speak at a CONNECTpreneur event in the spring, and subsequently read his book. I even refererenced some of his remarks he made CONNECTpreneur in a blog post earlier this year. 

So I asked to interview him, to get a better feel for the man who founded one of the hottest professional organizations in town, while serving the community with his full time position as a financial advisor. And then finding time to write a book! 

So, let's Ask The Influencer....thank you Derek Coburn!

SBX:  Tell me a little more about yourself, how did you get started, how did you get here? 

I am a partner with Washington Financial Group and have been a financial advisor since 1998. In the early years, I grew my client base primarily by cold calling. Eventually, I turned to networking as a way to meet new people. I attended a lot of events and joined a few networking groups, but I wasn't meeting many people who were committed to establishing collaborative, professional relationships. This led me to formulate my own informal “un-networking” group consisting of 20 to 30 individuals, and I began hosting a variety of smaller, more intimate events. I began to learn a lot about what works and does not work when it comes to networking, and felt like these concepts could be applied within a larger group. This led to me co-founding cadre in 2011, along with my wife Melanie.

Derek and Melanie CoburnDerek and Melanie Coburn, founders of cadre DC

SBX: You just wrote a book, entitled Networking is Not Working…what prompted you to write a book on how to think differently about networking?

When I finally realized that attending larger networking events was not a great use of time for a busy professional and began curating my own events, the quality of my business and life improved dramatically. I felt that sharing what worked for me could help create a similar impact for others and their businesses. Every book and article I read about networking focused on how to more effectively network by attending larger events. My definition of networking is any activity that increases the value of your network and/or the value you contribute to it. I’ve found this can be more easily accomplished by (mostly) avoiding traditional events. In my book, I share a number of ideas and strategies that worked well for me.

SBX: Please share a couple of main takeaways from the book that you think are really important?

In my opinion, there are three primary reasons for why most people network. Many people still approach networking from a, “What can you do for me?” perspective, which I call Networking 1.0. Then there’s the more evolved form of networking--Networking  2.0--which is centered around how you can help a person you just met at an event. Finally, there’s what I call Networking 3.0. Unlike networking to directly benefit yourself (1.0), or a someone who was recently a total stranger (2.0), the idea here is to network solely for the benefit of your best existing clients and colleagues, and add value to your relationships with them.

When I network, I'm thinking about my clients/members, and who I can introduce them to too that would be beneficial to them in some way. I’m a part of their business development team, and/or a valuable resource by facilitating meaningful connections for all involved. I think for many professionals our primary competition is indifference. Most people are at least somewhat happy with their existing provider and it's hard to get people to change for something that may only be a little bit better. I think the way to stand out from your competition is to provide something of value that is completely different from your core deliverable. For me, it was something I have coined as The Ultimate Tiebreaker. For most of us, the best thing that can happen on a given day is getting a referral. This is also true of most of our clients. So, I was not only providing high quality financial advice, but was also sending business the way of my clients. 

SBX: You are relatively selective about who becomes cadre members. What do you look for in an a member?

The thing that differentiates cadre from other professional organizations is that we vet for intangibles, specifically those with a pay-it-forward mindset who enjoy helping others. Someone may own a successful business, but that alone does not mean they are wired that way. We do not allow for any direct solicitation, but we fully embrace our members hiring each other. When you know you are in a room with other successful business owners and entrepreneurs who like to help and are not going to pitch you, you let your guard down. This has led to many of our members collaborating and hiring each other much earlier in the relationship cycle than if they had met through a more traditional setting.

We also look for members who think big and enjoy being introduced to new ideas. Getting a referral from time to time is nice, but our biggest success stories—and there are many of them—stem from the ideas and knowledge that are shared by our speakers and amongst our members. For example, we have a number of members whose businesses have experienced multiple seven-figure growth and they attribute this to a strategy they implemented, or conversation they had, via cadre.

SBX: What do you do for fun?

The most fun I have these days occurs while I'm spending time with my family. With a rare exception, I stopped working on weekends entirely about six months ago so I can be fully present when I'm with them. I have two boys and have more fun spending time with them (and Melanie) than I do at any other time.

Derek CoburnDerek and Melanie Coburn together with their sons

SBX: What lessons learned can you share about building a business, and publishing a book? Are there things you would have done differently?

I believe that 95% of the problems faced by most businesses stem from them agreeing to work with a client who is not a good fit. The ancillary benefit of running to businesses at the same time allows me to be more selective in terms of who I work with. I no longer make exceptions if someone is not an ideal client and enable to stick to my guns in a way I was not able to when I had just one business. We could dedicate an entire interview discussing what worked (and what did not) while writing and publishing my first book.

I will say that I am a big fan of self-publishing. Unless your primary goal is to build credibility by landing on the New York Times bestseller list, I cannot think of any other reason why someone should consider using a traditional publisher.

SBX: Who is your role model?

There are a number of authors and marketers I look up to and to influence me, but I'm not sure I consider any of them a role model. Hopefully this will not come across as arrogant, but I would say the vision I have of the best version of myself is my role model (which I have yet to achieve). I am probably too hard on myself sometimes, but I’m always pushing myself to improve in every area of my life. I'm not interested in the following in the footsteps of someone else, as I am in being the best business owner/friend/father/husband I am capable of being.

---Elizabeth Shea, eliz2shea 

P.S. I am planning to attend the next cadre event on October 8, 2014, featuring Sally Hogshead, author of the book: HOW THE WORLD SEES YOU: Discover Your Highest Value through the Science of Fascination, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was named a Top Pick by Come join me!

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