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My Experience Working Remotely in PR: 365-days of Opportunities and Challenges

  
  
  

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Note: Most of our blogs are about you, dear reader. This one isn’t. It’s about me. More specifically, it’s about SpeakerBox culture and how it accommodates someone in my situation – a remote worker.

Even though this post pertains directly to me, my hope is that my fellow clients who also work remotely will see some of themselves in this.


I remember both discussions – the one with my wife and the other with my boss – very clearly.

The former happened at dinner one evening in May 2012. It was an extension of a discussion that had actually been going on for some time. And it was finally time to make a decision.

 “Why don’t we move back?” she asked.

By “back,” she meant back to Raleigh, North Carolina. It was something that had been in vaguely mentioned for a couple of months. We had family back there, and friendships that had been built over more than a decade. It was familiar, and it was home. And home was calling to us.

One small problem: my job at SpeakerBox was in D.C., and moving back would mean working remotely. Even knowing the very open and accommodating culture at SpeakerBox – and the fact that we have actually had other remote workers before – I thought this might be a fairly big ask.

Which brings me to the second conversation. It took place the very next day. I asked Lisa Throckmorton if she would be comfortable with me doing this. Of course, she was.

Thus began my career as a member of the remote workforce. It’s a career that many other public relations professionals also partake in, including some of my clients. Indeed, PR is often mentioned as one of the top telecommuting fields.

The majority of what I do is actually quite suited for a home office worker. We’ve written quite a bit on The Sounding Board about how PR has changed over the years.  Skills like long-form content writing, social media monitoring, and even search engine optimization have all become integral part of PR campaigns. All of these can effectively be done remotely.

Technology has also allowed me to feel connected to both my clients and teams in the office. I’m on Google IM constantly, and have used Google Hangouts and Facetime quite frequently for a more personal touch to meetings. In fact, I would argue that telecommuting has made me even more connected through use of these various tools. That’s resulted in more iterative and adaptive work processes built on immediate brainstorming, the ability to edit and comment in real-time with other team members, and productivity through frequent, easy touch points throughout the day.

Still, PR is based on relationship building, and nothing takes the place of real, in-person contact. Hence, I travel up to the office every couple of months for quarterly meetings, client get-togethers, and such. And every time I’m glad that I do it; I don’t want to lose those connections.

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Yet most days I’m surrounded by solitude (well, when my kid’s not home and the dog’s not barking). It’s quiet here, but that quietude lends itself well to thoughtfulness. That comes in awful handy when writing an in-depth white paper, for example, or even a blog post suchas this. There are no real distractions in my office, save perhaps for my view of the woods and garden out back.

At the same time, I don’t want to make this seem like a love letter to telecommuting, because there are several real drawbacks. The well-known and obvious ones are all true: it is hard to tell yourself when to turn off work, even if your stuff is housed in a separate room that serves as an office, and it’s easy to feel non-productive if you do not develop a routine.

I find there are also challenges that are specific to PR and marketing professionals. For instance, it’s often not possible to drop everything and attend a local event that some of your co-workers may be able to easily use as a networking opportunity. And it’s sometimes too easy to get used to the comforts of home and eschew the chance to attend an in-person event that might further your relationships with reporters or other industry professionals.

Now that I’ve been doing this full-time for a couple of years, I can honestly say the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, at least for me. Overall, I’m more productive, creative, and, most of all, happy to be back home.

That said, I also acknowledge that telecommuting may not be for everyone. It takes concentration and willpower to focus and not let the distractions of home and family become overwhelming. More so, it takes a willingness to be away from people, and yet continually stay connected to them.

Connections, after all, are the basis of all public relations -- even if they’re made from a distance. 

Pete Larmey

 

The Investor Fast Pitch: Tips/Tricks and Recap of Capital Call

  
  
  

Cooley Capital Call

Last week Cooley, LLP held its semi-annual Capital Call in Washington, D.C. where 13 companies presented their startups to a room full of investors and members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Local reporter Allyson Jacob wrote up a nice article in Elevation DC summarizing the presenting companies and the success of the Capital Call in previous years. 

The presenting companies all did such a nice job; I've attended several of these over the past couple of years, and the companies seem to get better each time! I was involved as a coach the last two sessions, so I thought it might be helpful to encapsulate what to consider when delivering an investor "fast pitch" and how best to prepare. Then, on to the companes who presented, with a quick snapshot of what they do!

1. KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid

The old adage for sales applies to delivering a pitch that needs to be high-impact within 3 minutes. All too often entrepreneurs want to shout from the rooftop everything their product does and they lose their audience by not keeping it simple and easy to understand. 

2. Understand the purpose of the pitch

Just like in networking, the goal of "the pitch" is not to sell the whole idea in 3 minutes, but to pique enough interest to get investors intrigued. You've met those people at networking events who try to "sell you" on the spot, rather than intriguing you just enough to ask for more information. Here, the same applies. Whet the appetitite. Tease out the "big idea" and get the audience on the edge of their seats wanting more. 

3. Always have a monetization plan

I've seen many pitches that didn't actually talk about how a company will make money, or it was not well thought through. The reason investors attend these events to hear your story is just that...they are investors and are looking for the exponential growth, the rapid scale, and the successful exit. You need to have numbers you can get behind and believe in. 

4. Storytell, don't just tell your story

One of the best presentations I saw was when a CEO got up to deliver his pitch and he told a story. No slides, no bar charts, but a story. Why he was building this company, the problem he was trying to solve, and the way he and his investors would make money. Simple, logical, compelling. And more than anything, memorable.  

5. Memorize! 

No matter who you are and regardless of how savvy your public speaking skills are, you should always memorize your pitch! It is very easy to tell who knows their story cold and who is winging it. If you're not willing to take the time to memorize a 3 minute pitch, why should your investors take more than 3 minutes to get to know you?

6. Don't discount the ecosystem

I've had many entrepreneurs get frustrated when approached by service providers, such as law firms, accounting firms, real estate firms, and yes, those pesky PR firms. I've been on both sides, the receiver as well as the firm introducing myself to companies. Well, one thing to consider is that these service providers can actually be your best advocate, and an extended voice for you, whether you engage them or not. Don't diss them too quickly! If you are a "hot" company, the service providers will start a buzz about you, even as they clamor to get to know you. And this can translate into just that..awareness in front of you know who..the investors who will follow who's hot. 

 

Now, on to the companies that presented this fall:

Crowdentials: CEO and co-founder Rich Rodman; uses best-in class-technology to allow all parties involved in the exchange of securities to maintain their compliance.

Alchemy Learning: Win Smith, co-founder and head of operations; a simple way for teachers to adopt digital instruction.

VEEDIMS, LLC: Inventor and chairman Claudio Ballard; creates intelligent Internet of Things solutions with predictive maintenance, remote control and monitoring, system integration, cloud data services.

Bloompop: Shavanna Miller, co-founder and CEO; Bloompop is disrupting the $9 billion cut flower industry through an online marketplace connecting consumers to local florists. Bloompop currently serves 20 states around the country and is on track to be nationwide by the end of the year.

Ostendio: CEO Grant Elliott; developed a SaaS-based compliance management platform; initially targeting SMBs in the health IT space, MyVCM will grow to support other regulated industries such as finance, government, transportation and utilities.

1EQ: Juan Pablo Segura, CFO and founder; bringing the Internet of Things into healthcare to slow the growth of healthcare costs and reinvent the opportunity of remote monitoring for pregnancies. Primary mission: to deliver better pregnancies.

tkout: CEO Adam Roussos; tkout is a meta-search engine for restaurant takeout and delivery—essentially, KAYAK.com for online food ordering.

Amber: Co-founder Kyle Bird; Amber offers mobile phone charging for venues, married with a customer loyalty platform to help serve venues in a way that is convenient, intuitive, and well designed.

ClickMedix: CEO and Founder Ting Shih; a patent pending eHealth software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that enables medical specialists and health organizations to rapidly deploy customized eHealth solutions to serve 10x more patients.

Borrowing Magnolia: Partner Stephanie Olvey; Borrowing Magnolia offers a managed rental service between couture wedding dress owners and future brides in addition to a pre-owned dress sales program.

iDentia: CEO Nick Duan; a technology focused firm specializing in identity and access management (IdAM) and cloud security for extended enterprises.

Admit.me: CEO Kofi Kankam; helps applicants identify, connect with, and gain admission to best-fit global universities (undergrad and grad) while providing schools with an efficient and cost-effective way to identify, connect, and convert global applicants.

Latinum Networks: Co-founder and CEO David Wellisch; helps brands develop strategy for reaching Hispanic and other multicultural consumers, the major growth drivers in the mature U.S. economy.

Looking forward to the next Capital Call in Reston in the spring, good luck to all presenting companies!

Cooley Mike Lincoln

--Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea

You will get hacked. So have a strategy in place.

  
  
  

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Image from TechCrunch

It’s doubtful that any of the companies we work with use Snapchat for business purposes. While Snapchat has its place in business, and can be used by organizations for marketing and advertising purposes – those companies tend to be more consumer focused and unsurprisingly, not B2B or B2G.

That said, the recent Snapchat breach likely did not have a major effect on businesses in general. What it did bring to light however, is that it is no longer an issue of IF an online platform or application will be hacked – but WHEN. And how your business can be prepared and by avoiding scandal all together when a hacking occurs.

We live in a time when everything put online (both private and public facing) needs to have a strategy associated with it and cannot be just “thrown up there.” It should be thought through and double-checked for accuracy, grammar and potential reactions.

As Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said, “the internet needs a delete button," and that sometimes erasure is the right thing to do. 

Unfortunately, that button doesn't exist. We are all familiar with stories of people or organizations tweeting things they shouldn't have or private email messages and inside jokes being published without the sender’s knowledge or permission. Even if it was deleted, the damage is done because of the Internet's permanent memory.

Because of the nature of the beast, something posted online that originated as a private message, and was never intended to be seen by the general public, could eventually be released to the world thanks to hackers. Just ask Jennifer Lawrence about that. Everything said on the Internet is archived and regardless of your attempts to control or delete it – once it has been sent into cyberspace there is always that chance it will be dug up if people have enough motive to do so.

Online behavior policies aren’t just limited to corporate accounts either. No longer are companies’ faceless entities that go down as a whole. Now, with a few clicks of a mouse, anyone can find out who the executives are at any given company – and find out a good bit about their personal lives without so much as batting an eye. Businesses can be held culpable for the information that people put online personally – upping the pressure to make sure social media policies are put in place and followed by each and every employee. An executive’s personal Snapchat can have extremely damaging effects on a company if it is hacked and the content is not what would be deemed appropriate. 

One rule of thumb both for personal and business accounts is to make sure everything put online passes the “New York Times test.” If you are considering posting an item online – whether it is a Facebook Post, Tweet, blog post or press release – ask yourself how you would feel if it were published in the New York Times that day. If you wouldn’t feel confortable with it, don’t post. That’s not to say that controversial posts should always be avoided, but just spend the extra time thinking about what the possible reaction and backlash could be from the opposition.

Finally, develop a reaction plan. Inevitably, a hack or mistake will happen that will affect your company’s online presence. The key is to be prepared for it. Ideally, if you are strategic about what is put online, the damage will be minimal. But when the issue does arise, the quicker a company is able to get in front of it, the less damage will be done. While discussing potential situations may be futile given the vast range of issues that could occur, companies should at very least have a plan of attack around which executive, legal team members and public relations professionals will be brought in the loop to mitigate the situation. 

While it is less than ideal, to say the least, that even the most private of emails could potentially be made public – it is something that needs to be thought about. While no one can completely censor their online activity, the damage can be far less if precautions are taken and strategies are thought through. The reality is, hackers are moving faster that safeguards in many cases, and the best way to avoid embarrassment is to not have anything worth hacking.  

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8 (Somewhat) Easy Ways to Promote Blog Content

  
  
  

Screen Shot 2014 10 22 at 12.42.00 PMI don’t think there is a blog in existence that is totally satisfied with the amount of traffic, social shares and engagement it receives.   

We’d all like to think it’s as easy as “if we write it, they will come,” but it doesn’t always work that way. Yes, some traffic is gained just by creating awesome content that’s found by readers through organic search. But in order to achieve the kind of traffic you think your content deserves, blog posts need promotion. 

There are MANY different strategies regarding blog promotion, some paid, some unpaid, and some more difficult than others. For this post, I’m going to assume that you don’t have a budget and that running a blog isn’t your full time job. So below are a handful of not terribly time consuming (or easily automated) promotional activities that can help take your content to the next level. 

Internal Promotion

  • Guest posts - Build authority for your blog by inviting experts to guest post or participate in Q&As. This tactic not only provides new and interesting content for your blog, but it can open you up to a whole new audience when your guest blogger promotes the post for him/herself. 
  • SEO - Paying attention to keywords and making sure to use them in headlines, tags, and throughout your content should be imperative for everyone. Getting found by the right audiences, via the right searches, is always a primary goal. 
  • Set up your site for success
    • Encourage site crawl - Include call-to-action buttons, links to other content, and a side bar of links to popular and recent posts is a great way to encourage lengthy and repeat visits.
    • Social Sharing - Make it easy for readers to share your content across their social channels while they’re consuming it. They easier you make it, the more likely they’ll share it.
    • Create an army - Make sure your company is aware of the content you’re producing and using it to the best advantage. For instance, sales teams can share content with potential customers, executives can use it to raise their individual profiles, PR teams can use it as thought leadership pitch topics, and so on. Don’t forget: All employees should have blog links in their email signatures. 

 

External Promotion

  • Guest posting - Build authority for your experts by finding opportunities to guest post or participate in Q&As on blogs that hit the readers you’re looking for. This tactic can open you up to a whole new audience and create authority for your experts. Additionally, many industries have newsletters and other publications that take contributed content, even if it’s been posted elsewhere. Seek these out and submit your best content for syndication. 
  • Social channels- This one is a no brainer. Most bloggers are already using their social channels to re-post their content, but there is always more that could be done. Here are some helpful hints on a few social channels:
    • LinkedIn - Blog posts can be shared in personal status updates, on company pages, as full posts using the publishing platform, and/or within specific niche or industry groups.
    • Twitter - By now most bloggers are at least posting their latest content on Twitter when it goes live, usually in an automated fashion. But this tactic alone isn’t going to get your blog to the next level. First, take the time to engage, share content other than your own blog posts, and become an influencer yourself. Additionally, taking advantage of prepping automated posts to go live at later times (weeks, even months later) can give your content a longer shelf life and hit potential readers that may have missed it the first time. 
    • Facebook - Similar to Twitter content, Facebook content can be re-posted multiple times and in different formats, including images and video.  
    • Google+ - As Jennifer explains here, Google+ may not be where you spend a ton of time, but Google OWNS search - so put your content here to get it indexed. 
    • Bookmarking sites - This may seem ridiculously old school, but it does still work! Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Scoop.it, and Delicious all provide easy ways to bookmark and tag content so it can be easily found and shared with readers. 
    • Commenting - Commenting on relevant blogs is a great way to create relationships with other bloggers and readers. This may not be practical for all business bloggers, but it could connect you with influencers you didn’t even know existed. However, make sure you are on-topic and not overly self-promotional or you can do more harm than good.

One final piece of advice here: When you’re knee-deep in analytics, it’s easy to get frustrated by underwhelming blog performance. But sometimes a simple change of mindset makes a huge difference. Taking the time to really think about your visitors as human beings can help you analyze their needs more effectively and decipher what they’re telling you through their visits, searches, and clicks. 

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Takeaways from AUSA

  
  
  

Last week, thanks to our client Rapiscan Systems, I had the opportunity to attend the AUSA 2014 Annual Meeting and Exposition. If you’ve never attended AUSA, let me paint a picture for you. This event is massive. Every area of the convention center in DC was packed with 30,000 attendees including senior members of the US and foreign militaries, DoD officials, congressmen, and representatives from companies with the latest in defense technology.

The three-day event featured more than 500 industry and military exhibits showcasing the latest and greatest technology in the defense industry. I was in awe considering the logistics around filling the room with helicopters, tanks, machine guns, and (shameless plug) powerful dense cargo screening solutions.

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AUSA really got me thinking about trade-show preparation in general. So frequently we see big tech companies spend thousands of dollars on trade-shows to maximize the reach of product news and to interact directly with their consumer base. The question is, are these companies really getting everything they can from the experience? Here are a few tips to consider that will make that $50 per square foot booth worth it:

Plan as early as possible: Planning for the big trade-shows often begins a year before the event and can be fiercely competitive. Events like AUSA are so popular that a set number of factors, such as how long you’ve been an AUSA member, are considered in determining booth placement. Walking into an event organized and ready to commit to the next year will often ensure that you get a better deal and better placement in the show. After you have a spot secured you should start to plan your announcements for the year. Being able to make a big announcement or demo an exciting new product at the show will significantly increase traffic to your booth. 

Write a good pitch: If your trade-show pitch strategy involves sending reporters a boilerplate and booth number, it’s really time to reevaluate. Consider this: each of the other 500 exhibitors is fighting for the same column inches from the same reporters you’re talking to. Unfortunately, unless you can offer up an interesting product announcement or a genuine story to care about there’s a good chance your email is going straight to the trash. Take the time to research the reporters who are most likely to be interested in what you’re showing off. Writing a short but tailored pitch just to reporters who might cover your news will usually garner better results than sending off a boilerplate to the 80 attending reporters. 

Twitter is your friend:  I cannot stress how important social media (especially Twitter) has become, not just at trade-shows but at every event your company attends. Being able to post live updates of where you are and what you’re doing has become an invaluable tool, not to mention a free way to gain exposure to everyone paying attention to the event hashtag. Before the show, make sure you follow the attending reporters (that you have already researched and pitched) and pay attention to what they’re talking about. Don’t be shy about interacting with reporters if you have something intelligent or interesting to respond to one of their tweets. Additionally, follow any influencers or potential customers that you want to visit your booth so your name is on their mind. During the show:  Update and monitor constantly. Post pictures, post where you are, post your news, post your booth number, post frequently but most importantly post with the event hashtag. Trade-shows and events are very good about live-streaming tweets with projectors in showrooms and even on TV’s in meeting areas, and you want your name on that screen. The difference between tweeting "AUSA" and "#AUSA2014" is the difference between hundreds and thousands of people seeing your post.

 

Visiting AUSA and getting a behind the scenes look at what goes into preparing for a trade-show gave me much better insight as to why companies are willing to invest so much time, energy, and money into participating. My biggest takeaways were that A) organization and preparation are king and B) whoever figured out how to get the tank and helicopter into the convention center deserves a medal.

So what do you think? Have you participated in a trade-show recently? Share your thoughts and tips with us in the comments! 

Direction for the New Cision/Vocus Merger Revealed

  
  
  

Back in June, I wrote a post about the merger of two of the most well known and rivaling toolsin the PR industry: Vocus and Cision. In the post, I offered up my advice to Cision chief Peter Granat, VoCision’s now CEO, on what he should keep in mind as he established a new direction for the company.  In case you missed it you can read it here: VoCision: The Merger of Two Well-Known PR Tools

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Even though the merger is still in the very infant stages, we are learning more about plans for how the new company will operate and have been given some clues about what the new powerhouse tool might look like.  In fact, within a timespan of about a month, Washington Business Journal reporter Bill Flook published two articles titled “Vocus' new focus: CEO Peter Granat maps out a post-merger future for the PR software powerhouse,” and “Goodbye, Vocus: Merger Claims a Venerable DC Brand,” both providing details straight from Granat about where things are headed.

Here’s a recap: 

  • The company will take on the Cision name (Granat was former CEO at Cision)    
  • The company will be headquartered in Chicago. 
  • The company, post Vocus layoffs, is sitting at about 1,500 employees and Granat said he could not infer about future layoffs at this point
  • In September, Vocus and Cision announced they will acquire Seattle-based Visible Technologies, a social analytics platform and consultancy
  • Granat said the main focus of the business “will be around the top of the marketing funnel…where brand, reputation, awareness, buzz are built, and really all of those attributes around the brand.” (Taking them further from the former lead gen/ sales focus of Vocus)

The announcement from Granat focused mostly on the organizational structure, rather than the capabilities to assist with PR efforts I was hoping for.  However, Flook did mention that the company hopes expand and see growth in additional services like content marketing and social to address the evolving PR landscape.

Either way, once the plans are even further unveiled, they will surely impact how we provide valuable editorial information to our clients.  Now, having less diversity in choosing between two big players in the space, most agencies will at least be trying out the new Cision.  This means there will be a unification of data so more agencies will work with the same data.

Additionally, with a monopoly in the space, will this lead to higher costs and lower quality? It will be interested to see if other options emerge in this space, but for now the only big alternative seems to be Meltwater. 

 

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

  
  
  

My quest to break down the top social media platforms continues this month with Google+. In case you missed any of my past posts, I’ve already taken a look at LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  

Now, let’s focus on Google+. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride.

The basics: Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook. Per Wikipedia, “Google has described Google+ as a ‘social layer’ that enhances many of its online properties, and that it is not simply a social networking website, but also an authorship tool that associates web-content directly with its owner/author.”

Demographics: According to this blog post from Jeff Bullas, getting exact user demographic data from Google+ is nearly impossible, yet he still managed to pull the following numbers together:

 

  • There are now over 1 billion users with Google+ enabled accounts
  • It has reached 359 million monthly active users
  • Google+ is growing at 33% per annum.
  • The 45 to 54 year old bracket increased its usage on Google+ by 56% since 2012  

While Google may not release their numbers, globalwebindex recently completed a survey of more than 42,000 adults aged 16-64 in 32 countries and compiled this infographic of the results:

Google+ Users

One thing to watch out for with Google+ is that since it is basically now built into all of Google’s properties, the 540 million monthly active user number could be inflated. So what constitutes a Google property? Per this Marketing Land article from Oct. 2013, it “could include leaving a comment on a blog or website that has Google+ comments embedded, commenting on YouTube, or clicking the +1 button on an article or some other web content.”

Access: As with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, Google+ can be accessed either via a mobile app or directly through your web browser. While this data is a bit old, per engadget, in June 2012 Google+ was touting that it had more mobile users than desktop. However, according to this Digital Trends article from November 2013, Google+ user numbers tell an incomplete story. Remember that caveat above about Google’s numbers being a bit inflated because they take in to account all the different properties that Google owns and operates? The same is true for calculating the number of people who access Google+ on a mobile device.

How it’s being used: In theory Google+ is being used in a similar manner to Facebook. Its users (whether individuals or enterprise) are using the service to share status updates, news, and photos.

One differentiator between Google+ and other platforms, namely Facebook, is the use of Circles. Circles allow users to organize people into groups or lists for sharing information. And, unlike on Facebook, you don’t have to be “friends” with someone to add them to a Circle. I’d say that Google+ Circles are where Twitter followers and Facebook lists intersect. An added benefit of Circles over Facebook lists is that once you’ve added someone to a Circle you can participate in Hangouts with that person. Google+ users can create Circles of other users based on vertical, industry, content, etc.

Like Facebook, Google+ users are able to interact directly with any brand or company that has a page on the platform. Also like Facebook, this access is a double-edged sword. 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 ends up feeling it is not being handled properly.  

Where Google+ really trumps the competition is that it is “such an inherent part of the Google algorithm,” meaning that content that gets posted there gets indexed by Google much quicker than content from other social networks. In fact, due to the privacy restrictions on other social networks it’s entirely possible that what you post there will never get indexed – meaning it will never show up in a Google search.

Analytics: From what I can see, Google+ analytics are somewhat lacking. On a basic level you can see who is following you and who has +1’d your posts. Another measurement is to see who has added you to Circles as users can only see your posts after they’ve added you to a Circle. Truthfully, I don’t have much access to what other kind of analytics information is available in Google+ for companies, but this post from Jeffalytics has a good breakdown of how to measure activity within Google+.

Pros: Due to its integration with the rest of Google’s properties, creating and maintaining a Google+ account can be beneficial for your business – allowing the content you post there to be rapidly indexed and easily found when someone searches for your company (assuming they are using Google Search). This is actually a really big pro for Google+ and one of the main reasons I would advocate for why you need to use it. Additionally, Google+ Hangouts are a free alternative to hosting a webinar and make it possible to connect with up to 10 others on an active video stream.

Cons: Despite its own reports that it’s thriving, actual user numbers haven’t been updated in almost a year and even when numbers are provided, many question how accurate they really are since practically every person who uses Gmail could be considered part of the Google+ Stream. There has also been a lot of chatter about Google doing away with Google+ since Vic Gundotra, the founding father of the social channel, left the company earlier this year.  

Final thoughts: I think like all social networks you have to take the good with the bad. In the case of Google+ the good is the rapid indexing of posts while the bad is that it’s not nearly as thriving as other platforms. Personally, I have an account and Google does force all of the photos I upload into their cloud over to the Google+ platform, but I don’t think I personally know anyone who is actively using the service. However, despite my lack of enthusiasm for the platform, I do believe that if your company maintains a Facebook page it should also maintain a Google+ account, if for no other reason than its ability to integrate easily into Google’s portfolio of properties and into Google Search. If you’re actively posting comments and content to Facebook it will only take an additional few minutes to post the same content to Google+ and what you may lack in active engagement you will likely make up for with the indexing that Google provides. 

Bisnow Honors Local Women in the 2014 Power Women in DC Tech Awards

  
  
  

67284 1413458655 PowerWomen groupshot medium Last night, I attended Bisnow Ventures’ first-ever Trending40 event, honoring and celebrating local women in technology who are launching or running innovative tech firms.  The company featured forty of these women in their online tech newsletter leading up to the event that was held at Disruption Corporation’s office in Crystal City, VA.

 Amazon’s Teresa Carlson was on hand to welcome the women and the nominees were each presented with a plaque naming them as a 2014 Power Woman in DC Tech. The turnout was fantastic; in fact there were so many attendees that it was hard to hear each other while networking and chatting!

 At the event I got to talk with Lucie Leblois, co-founder and CEO of Crumbdrop, she said: "Tonight's nominees are an impressive group of women and I'm flattered to be recognized among them. Events like this are important for the next generation of women to see what a career in technology is like or where the entrepreneurial mindset can take them."

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 Women in technology has been a hot topic for some time with the conversations ranging from women deserving more respect to pay discrepancies and also a little more positive - how to help women succeed in today’s tech world.  It’s no secret that women are lagging behind men in technology jobs.  According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s recent statistics, women held 56% of professional occupations in the 2013 U.S. workforce, but filled just 26% of the U.S. computing jobs.

 History shows that not enough was being done to encourage women at a young age to engage with computer science and technology. The Bureau for Labor Statistics reports that by 2020, there will be 1.4-billion computer science jobs available and not nearly enough people to fill them.  Companies like Google and Yahoo! and  organizations like and Code.org are now launching initiatives to further promote computer science education.

 The Washington region is at the forefront some of those initiatives with programs like TechWomen.org (a U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program) and Women in Technology (WiT) offering support of programs and resources for women in the technology industry.

"Bisnow's Trending 40 is a great way to recognize many of the women who are paving the way in technology and entrepreneurship," said Shana Glenzer – Social Marketing VP, SocialRadar.  "I'm honored to be among the nominees and thrilled to see the Washington area embrace and support women in tech through events like these. Together I’m hopeful we can lower barriers to entry and provide opportunities for all women interested in technology."

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 As a woman who has worked for technology companies, now working for a woman-owned firm that represents many technology companies (a few of the nominees, in fact), I was really excited to see this event pulled together.  I’ve had my eyes and ears glued to the DC tech scene for the past few years and enjoy learning about how these women are pushing the boundaries and giving new light to a predominately-male industry.  Here at SpeakerBox, we are constantly looking to build relationships with companies that are changing the industry for the better and are thrilled to see so many of our peers recognized for their incredible minds and dedication to their passion.

 As mentioned before, Bisnow profiled each of these women and I encourage you to click through the profiles (linked below) to learn more about these rock-star women.

 Here are the 2014 Bisnow Trending40 nominees:

 

Insights from the 2015 Content Marketing Report

  
  
  

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Fall must be here.  There’s a slight nip in the air and MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute just released the 2015 Content Marketing Report, the fifth version of this annual research project.  This year, more than 5,000 global B2B marketers were surveyed.

They’ve modified some of the questions in this year’s report – but the insights are just as interesting as in previous years.

I. Content Marketing and Effectiveness

86% of B2B marketers use content marketing.  This is down from last year’s 93%, but the researchers have changed the definition to reflect the maturity of the discipline.  Last year’s definition focused on the creation and distribution of content to attract/retain customers.  This year’s definition is, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

83% of respondents have a content marketing strategy, but only 35% document their strategy.  And despite the popularity of content marketing, only 38% of content marketers consider their program to be effective, down from 42% in 2014.

One of the big findings of this year’s survey is that the 35% of marketers who document their strategy have more effective content marketing programs than those who don’t.  That rings true to me.  We at SpeakerBox are in the middle of updating our documented content marketing strategy (thanks Ali Robinson) to focus on fewer but higher quality pieces.  Our company goals align with that strategy and so far, everyone feels accountable and is excited for our new marketing challenge. Stay tuned for some surprises in 2015.

How exactly do marketers determine the effectiveness of their content marketing programs?  63% of marketers rely on website traffic as their top metric followed by sales lead quality and higher conversion rates.  Though web traffic may be a key indicator for some companies that are able to quantitatively tie web traffic to demos and downloads – others may be using web traffic as a generic catch-all. And if that’s true, then it’s not surprising that only 21% of marketers are successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing program. (These numbers increase to 35% for those with a documented content marketing strategy.)

II. Content Execution

In spite of these concerns about ROI, marketers are spending more money to produce more content than ever before.  In fact:

  • 70% of marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago. 
  • 42% of content marketers publish new content daily or several times a week to support their content marketing program. 
  • The average organization spends 28% of its overall marketing budget (not including salaries) on content marketing
  • 55% plan to increase content marketing spending in the next 12 months.
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A lot of energy and time are going toward these initiatives, which brings me to my next point.  The only way to achieve this frantic pace is to create a dedicated content marketing group – and 47% of organizations have done just that.  The rise of these dedicated groups may also be due to the popularity of marketing automation tools and the need for content to feed the marketing automation beast.

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In terms of content distribution, the average marketer uses 13 content marketing tactics.  The four most popular tactics are: social media, e-newsletters, articles on a company website and blogs.  Infographics had the biggest jump in usage from 51% to 62%, but ranked 11th overall.  Illustrations/Photos, a new choice this year, were leveraged by 69% of content marketers.  I’ve written before about the importance of visuals in the PR process, so I’m heartened to see that marketers are taking big steps to create visual content that can stand alone or accompany text-heavy content.

When asked which marketing tactics are the most effective, the number one response for the fifth year in a row is in-person events (69%).  The next three are webinars (64%), videos (60%) and blogs (60%). 

III. How Content Marketing is Changing

Though marketers struggle to produce engaging content on a consistent basis, many marketers are trying to up their game.  It’s not enough to simply produce and distribute content, today’s marketers are also focused on: creating higher quality content (69%), repurposing content (63%), creating visual content (60%), better understanding what content is most effective (55%), organizing content on their site (62%) and creating a greater variety of content (54%).

Clearly, there’s no rest for the weary content marketer, which may be why the challenge of finding a trained (and willing) content marketer jumped from 10% to 32% in 2015.

Take a look at the full report for additional thoughts on social media that aren’t covered here.  Also, be sure to check out the “Profile of a Best in Class B2B Content Marketer.”  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the full report.

- Katie

Katie Hanusik Celebrates 10 Years at SpeakerBox Communications!

  
  
  

081Our own Katie Hanusik reached her 10-year milestone at SpeakerBox this past weekend. To commemorate the occassion, the Washington Nationals tried to top her by playing the longest baseball game in Major League Baseball post-season history :)

I've had the pleasure of working with Katie since she started October 4, 2004. She started in a business development role for her first few years with us and then made the transition to the account oversight side of our business in the Fall of 2008. She knew our clients and team like the back of her hand, so it was a natural fit and she's embraced and been wildly successful in the role ever since.

Katie is probably one of the most likeable people you will ever meet. She is a really unique combination of practical, straight-forward, honest, kind, thoughful, and caring and also has a great sense of humor. Her approach to work and life is one that inspires the best in everyone. We've shared a wide range of successes and challenges, and through it all she's been a dedicated cheerleader and teammate.

The inside scoop is that she's most driven by clients and technologies that would cause most people to run scared in the other direction. She loves a good challenge, and our team and our clients are all stronger for her tenacity and drive toward results. Oh, she also makes a mean quinoa salad.

She's so great that I've long since looked past her allegiance to Duke basketball. Even the best people have their flaws, right? ;)

Happy 10th Anniversary, Katie! Thanks for everything! We are so grateful to have you on our team.

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