As we await the announcement on February 2nd of the official nominations for this year's 82nd Academy Awards
, we can also look to this regional area, where we are awash with own awards circuit recognizing excellence in business, growth, leadership, employee development and more.
The awards season started out strong last week, with two of the hottest award celebrations in town, which (unfortunately) were on the same night, but both attracted sold out crowds. SmartCEO
held its annual SmartCEO Future 50 Gala
, recognizing the fastest growing companies in the Washington, DC region over a three year period, and the Washington Business Journal
held its annual Book of Lists party, recognizing all of the businesses, organizations and associations that claimed a spot on the top of each of their respective lists throughout the year.
In case you missed these two "See and Be Seen" galas, here are a few more hot tickets to explore that are right around the corner. It's not too late to nominate and be nominated...you can't win if you don't enter! I've been to each of these in past years, and they are not to be missed. Here are the ones top of mind, listed in order of when nominations are due:
Deadline: February 19, 2010
The Apollo Awards has raised the bar in its annual recognition of a company's effort toward employee development and retention. Particularly in these troubled times, taking care of your company's biggest asset--people--never goes out of style. We entered this program last year and were proud to emerge as a finalist. This is a nomination
process that enables one to truly your own practices of employee development and its importance in building great companies. Awards Gala: June 3, 2010.
Deadline: February 19, 2010
Women in Technology (WIT) is holding its Annual Leadership Awards Gala in May which recognizes women in leadership in the categories of entrepreneurship, global impact, corporate excellence, government accomplishments and more. Last year, this Awards Gala inspired the book, No One Path
, released last year with a special forward from Maureen Bunyan
, co-anchor at WJLA-TV. The book highlights previous winners from over the past decade, sharing their leadership stories. Awards Gala: May 20, 2010.
Deadline: February 26, 2010
This award is cool to enter, not only for the accolades and bragging rights for finalists, but also because regardless of how you finish, you will receive a complementary employee survey administered by third-party Quantum Research, which can provide insight into your company's morale, retention, leadership, trust, alignment, etc. You need to apply online, and ask your employees to submit an anonymous online evaluation to augment your nomination. The WBJ is hosting a nominations "how to"
webinar on 2/2/10. Awards Gala: TBD.
Deadline: February 28, 2010
SECAF held its Inaugural Awards Gala last year, as a way to recognize the often overlooked marketplace of small, growing and emerging government contractors. Companies will be recognized in the categories of $0-$6M, $6-$12M and $12-$25M, and a special award will be given to a Small Business Partner of the Year (greater than $25M) and a Government Advocate of the Year. Last year's Gala was a sellout, so mark your calendars! Awards Gala: April 29, 2010.
I am certain there are more out there that aren't on this succinct list, so please share and we'll keep you updated on deadlines!
I took a trip to Best Buy this weekend to stock up on some Blu-rays. I figured hunkering down with some movies would be a great way to pass the time during the weekend snowfall. Always spending more time (and money) than necessary inside the store, I can usually count on Best Buy to supply the movies I’m looking for. While this is good news for me, this is probably also music to Best Buy’s ears. (Or maybe their pocketbook?)
It turns out, according to “Get Content. Get Customers.”, that Best Buy has lately been focusing much of its attention on me. Well, not me per se, but loyal, highly targeted customers. According to the case study presented in the book, Best Buy has taken a lot of time to identify their elite customer demographic and in turn, has focused their efforts on keeping them “in the know” and returning to Best Buy stores.
How do they do this? Simple. By creating a publication suited exactly for their consumers’ needs. Best Magazine is a print and online publication that highlights what’s “best” in terms of products, from cameras, to cars to televisions. What’s great about it is that an unfamiliar reader would have no immediate idea of the magazine’s connection to Best Buy. So, while you can read about products and technologies that are sold at Best Buy, readers won’t simultaneously be overwhelmed with their company jargon and “purchase pressure”.
According to Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO, it’s critical for the magazine “to build credibility from a trusted perspective by making it clear that there is no obvious way Best Buy will benefit.” In other words, the key is to quietly entice loyal readers to buy something, and then cross your fingers that they will swipe their credit card at your store. Successfully do this a few times, and Best Buy will reinforce their image and keep happy customers coming back for more.
It sounds like such a simple concept, but I can think of countless marketers who haven’t cashed in on this technique. The great thing about it is that it can be used in practically all industries, not just retail. Think about your content offerings, for example. Have you identified your top tier customers, and if so, are you going above and beyond to build trusted relationships with them? Consider their lives and how you can help make their job and decision making responsibilities easier. Where can you step in and help?
Already on top of this idea? Share with us your techniques and how you keep in touch with your audience.
- Mary Evans
Inbound marketing - the term used to describe how companies are using Google, blogs and social media to get found - is becoming an increasingly central focus of the work we do at SpeakerBox
. Perhaps obviously, "inbound" marketing is the opposite of "outbound" marketing, where marketers use things like advertising, direct mail, email blasts and cold-calling prospects to reach prospects. If you think of how you personally find information on new products, services and companies, are you more likely to be receptive to material that was pushed to you, or do you rely on search results to gather information? Overwhelmingly, people are relying on the latter.
I sat down with some of my SBX colleagues last week to watch video of Rick Burnes
from a talk he gave at an event hosted by Red Shoes PR
in Appleton, WI**. Rick gave a great "Inbound Marketing 101" presentation, which I recommend every marketer or communications professional watch.
There's a lot of great stuff in the video, covering SEO, content creation, social media and measurement, but here were a couple of my favorite takeaways:
- Marketing has evolved in a way that now helps people. Today's best marketers pull people into their web site as opposed to going out and interrupting people or hitting them over the head with their message.
- Inbound marketing is significantly cheaper and more efficient than traditional outbound channels (trade shows, pay-per-click advertising), and results in higher quality leads.
- Marketing is about more than bringing people to your web site. Once you get them there, you have to offer more reason to have them stay or return, and which helps convert them to leads and then into customers.
- Focus on turning your site into a content library - the longer you are publishing articles / blog posts, the longer you'll have a huge archive of assets which will continue to pull people into your site over time through search.
- You can't just focus on one piece of inbound marketing - all of this (SEO, blogs, social media) fits together like an ecosystem, and your business has to become part of that ecosystem.
- With SEO, be specific about the words you are trying to rank for.
- When it comes to content creation (including blog writing), is quality or quantity best? The answer is BOTH! You need to produce good stuff, but also a lot of it. Write about the content that your customers are thinking about. People want to talk about the issues they are facing, not the software, products or services you are selling.
- Think of yourself as a publisher, and create content that will travel across the web and be useful to people. Above all else, be a resource on your industry!
- What kind of content should you create? Try everything, and don't be afraid to experiment. Burnes recommends starting with a blog ("ground zero"). Your blog is where all of the content you create other places (podcasts, videos, etc.) should live.
- Host your company's blog on your company's domain! Hosting it on a site like Wordpress.com or Blogspot.com doesn't help your site with SEO.
- Free HubSpot tool Rick mentioned: website.grader.com
Rick's presentation was full of actionable advice like this. I've embedded both parts of his presentation below, and highly recommend watching both them.
**Observant Sounding Board readers will catch that this is my 2nd consecutive post
with a home state reference. Viva Wisconsin! I'll work on extending the streak...
As a frequent event attendee, I'm always on the lookout for great upcoming events, and LinkedIn offers lots of ways to stay in the loop. One of the best places to start is by downloading the Events application to your LinkedIn profile. Once downloaded, popular events and those events recommended by your contacts are available. Step by step instructions can be found here
When LinkedIn events were first announced at the end of 2008, it was designed to recommend events that might be of interest based on your profile. These events come from user recommendations and sources such as EventBrite
. This feature was further enhanced in the middle of 2009 to make it easier to see what events your contacts are attending and improve the interface. As of today, there are almost 25,000 events listed on LinkedIn, including 467 in the Washington, DC area -- and about 75 of those are on marketing topics.
Other features include the ability to search, RSVP and promote events to your network. Because this service is free, it seems like a no-brainer for those that regularly attend or promote events.
The event application becomes even more powerful when combined with LinkedIn Groups. Group managers can send emails alerting their members of new events (this is especially valuable for members that don't frequently login to LinkedIn), or members can post events to the group's discussion board.
If you're interested in enhancing your personal profile using LinkedIn, check out this earlier post
And if you're specifically interested in public sector events, be sure to check out SpeakerBox client GovEvents
See you around town.
-- Katie Hanusik
This week The Washington Post began testing out the possibility of a subscription-based weekly business publication (similar to the Washington Business Journal). Special Post subscribers were treated to an advance copy and asked to fill out a survey on how they like the publication. Results from the poll are likely to be on the negative side since they asked readers to disregard that the articles included in the prototype are old and out of date. I guess they are just gauging the interest in a publication of this nature and the design that they have produced, since readers cant gauge on content. I agree that there is something missing since the Post did away with its business section but Im not sure that this weekly publication will fill the void. Although, Id love to see more coverage of local business since Greater Washington boast some of the nations most recession proof areas. Have you seen Capital Business? At $1.99 per week would you subscribe? Wed like to hear your thoughts on it since its you, the reader, who will determine its fate
This month my Middle School Marketing
group had a discussion on saying “no” to clients. It was an interesting time to have the discussion - the start of a new year and on the heels of financially challenging times, which have impacted all of our companies in one way or another.
The concept of “no” or maybe more often times, getting a client to say “yes” is complex in the marketing/design arena for myriad reasons, so I was thrilled to guest blog
about the big points of discussion/takeaways on Viget Labs'
marketing blog, Engage
- and took some queues from the Beatles
in the writing process.
"Yes," "no," "maybe so?" What are your thoughts and strategies here? Would love to hear perspectives from both our communications colleagues and clients on the topic.
- Lisa Throckmorton
The beginning of January marked my first trip to geek nirvana (not to mention Vegas), as I attended CES 2010
to help SpeakerBox client Cernium launch their newest consumer product: Archerfish Solo
, the worlds first Thinking Camera. Being a CES virgin, I was completely blown away by the scale and the lengths that many companies go to just to drive booth traffic. Never mind the nearly naked models hawking Ed Hardy
gadget accessories Marvell
, a semiconductor company, had Stan Lee
at their booth
because nothing screams semiconductors like the father of Marvel
At any rate, the show was successful from Cerniums perspective: The overall response to Archerfish Solo was positive and came with a lot of media interest. Walt Mossberg
and Katie Boehret
from the Wall Street Journal even stopped by the booth for a demonstration from Cerniums CEO, Craig Chambers!
Being that this was my initial experience with the technology wonderland that is CES, I have some thoughts for PR folks and their client companies looking to get through the noise that surrounds the event.
- Press events are your friend. Seriously. Even though this pre-show activities cost extra (and some arent even produced by CES, like ShowStoppers), they are well worth the price from the exposure alone. Events like Unveiled and ShowStoppers are press-only, so you are ensuring that youre getting your product in front of the media you care about. And theyre more intimate (Unveiled was about 50 companies this year), so the odds of a high-profile journalist stopping by for a chat are much greater than during CES itself.
- Treat everyone who comes to your booth as important. I always stress this in every post I write, but its never more important than at CES. Often attendee badges, particularly for the media, dont reflect who they actually work or write for. Someone registered as press for their own, low-profile blog might actually be a columnist for CNET, so give all visitors respect, no matter who they are.
- Make time to see the floor. Its important for both you and your client to get out to the show floor to see what other vendors (and competitors) are doing. Maybe it will give you ideas for next year or you might even run into some key press or industry contacts at an unrelated demo. At the very least it gives you some insight as to what the rest of your industry and your competitors are up to.
2010 is off to a great start at SpeakerBox! We're hiring and looking for smart, happy people to join what we consider a powerhouse team. If you are a senior to mid-level communications expert, we'd love to meet you or anyone you know that might fit the bill.
I'm approaching 8 years here (February 18), so can personally vouch for a great workplace, inclusive of talented and fun people and amazing opportunities to contribute to our dynamic client base and SpeakerBox as a whole.
We look forward to meeting you and your friends!
Women in Technology
has opened their nominations for the 2010 WIT Leadership Awards
. These annual awards honor DC-area women who have exemplified the core WIT values of Connect. Lead. Succeed. through their professional lives.
The first ten years of award winners were chronicled in No One Path, a book produced by a tenacious team of over 50 WIT volunteers. The book, featuring the story of over 40 award winners (including our own Lisa Throckmorton
and Elizabeth Shea
), has enjoyed brisk sales
since the October launch.
The next decade of Leadership Awards ushers in some changes with new categories, opening the award to even more deserving women. Categories include: Corporate Commercial Small Business, Corporate Commercial Large Business, Corporate Public Sector Small Business, Corporate Public Sector Large Business, Entrepreneur, Government, Health IT, Global Impact, Unsung Hero, and Rising Star.
Nominations are due February 19th. Winners will be honored at the Awards dinner on May 20, 2010 at the Ritz Carlton Tysons.
Yesterday's Women in Technology
event on Green Energy and Green IT featured three knowledgeable local speakers:
Hank Dearden of Virsant
Bill Lyons of Seneca Creek Partners
Marco Luzuriaga of Limeleap
The come from different perspectives, but all three agreed that we can't rely on social responsibility alone to drive environmental policies and change.
Bill set the stage by explaining the macro factors that are driving interest in green energy:
- Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and increasingly difficult and expensive to extract. Many experts predict that we'll run out of oil in 30-50 years if we continue consumption at the current rates.
- Global interest in energy security and independence -- especially given the locations of the world's remaining oil reserves
- Cost savings
- Global mandates for clean/renewable energy and fuel efficiency
- And the environmental impact of current practices
Marco and Hank turned the conversation to Green I.T. The first strategies many people think of are cloud computing and virtualization, though Marco pointed out that Green I.T. also means decreasing the hazardous materials in computer equipment, increasing energy efficiency and designing for recyclability and biodegradability.
Hank was quick to point out that though cloud computing is a green I.T. strategy because resources can be shared -- there are many social networks that are only available because of cloud computing that are tremendous energy hogs. Facebook has 30,000 servers supporting its operations, the equivalent of five power plants. In Hank's words, "every time you tweet, you kill a butterfly," which helps remind us all of the delicate balancing act between the habits of the modern day world and environmental stewardship.
On the topic of virtualization, Hank explained that there are five to six reasons to virtualize a data center or desktop -- only one of them is green; "virtualization is good I.T., and you essentially get the green for free."
The speakers agreed that a paradigm shift is necessary and inevitable, and that we'll see increased technology innovation over the next decade. The cost savings are just too significant to ignore, which should keep everyone seeing green.
- Katie HanusikPhoto 1: Speakers - Hank Dearden, Virsant; Bill Lyons, Seneca Creek Partners; Marco Luzuriaga of LimeLeapPhoto 2: Event Attendees - Royela Kim, Boscobel; Toni Townes-Whitley, Unisys and WIT President; Gina Pagliaro, Boscobel
Almost everything we do here at SpeakerBox comes down to words - picking the right word to describe a company or new technology, or generating words (either on our own through various content generation activities, or through through the words of influencers) - which is why I had a keen interest as the various "word of the year" accolades rolled out for 2009.
The 'winners' will likely not shock you, and most are a reflection of the explosion of social networking. From a PR and marketing point of view, these designations are reminders of the trends, moments and evolutions that shaped our respective years, and which will continue to shape the future of communications - including the undeniable ubiquitousness of social media. I thought Zeenat Rasheed said it well on her blog
when she reflected that these individual words and lists "provide a candid snapshot of the national consumer psyche and help us hone in on major trends, and force us to reflect on what these changes -- such as the increasing penetration of social media, acceptance of changing technology, and the development of online social mores that differ from in-person communication -- mean for consumers, brands and marketers."
So without further ado, what were 2009's honorees? [Insert drumroll sound here.....]
The New Oxford American Dictionary tells us the word of the year was "unfriend."
Sorry, one-time Facebook friends.
The American Dialect Society
gave the word of the year nod to "tweet," and the word of the decade
honors to "google." Grant Barrett, chair of the American Dialect Society's New Words Committee and editorial director of the online dictionary Wordnik.com
explained the decisions:
"Both words are, in the end, products of the Information Age, where every person has the ability to satisfy curiosity and to broadcast to a select following, both via the Internet," Barrett said. "I really thought blog would take the honors in the word of the decade category, but more people google than blog, don't they? Plus, many people thing 'blog' just sounds ugly. Maybe Google's trademark lawyers would have preferred it, anyway."
But, not every dictionary felt compelled to give the honors to a term from the 'Information Age.' Dictionary heavyweight Merriam-Webster named "admonish"
as 2009's word of the year based on search volume on the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
and its Online Thesaurus
says the honor goes to "distracted driving."
While Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation seems happy
to see the phrase get additional attention, I can see where plenty of lexicographers might be calling for a recount, since that seems more like two words. In this video, Webster's New World Editor-in-Chief Mike Agnes gives more insight into their selection:
The Global Language Monitor
and "global warming
" as its words of the year and decade, respectively. And following tradition, the "word "czars" at Lake Superior State University
"unfriended" 15 words and phrases and declared them "shovel-ready" for inclusion on the university's 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness
My home state even got in on action when CityDictionary.com
named "Sconnie" (anything relating to Wisconsin, or - when capitalized - "Sconnie" can refer to a person from Wisconsin) as its local word of the year
. Viva Wisconsin!
What word (or words) would have been on your "word of the year" lists? Any early favorites for 2010?-Stephanie Wonderlick
(Photo credit: jovike
Yesterday I attended Helios HRs 2010 Apollo Awards nominations workshop, along with nearly 100 local area business leaders, to get some inside tips from previous winners about drafting a winning award submission. For those of you who arent familiar, Helios HR is an HR services provider that developed the Apollo Awards in 2007 to recognize Washington-area employers that promote employee development initiatives. SpeakerBox is proud to say that it was a finalist last year, having been recognized for its learning opportunities and cross-training offerings for employees. Having experienced much success from being named a finalist, this year SpeakerBox is teaming up with Helios HR to spread the word about the awards and encourage companies to share their best practices with the greater metropolitan area.
If you werent able to attend the workshop, then I must say, you missed out on some great insight. Attendees heard from a handful of 2009 winners about the ways in which they went about compiling their award submission and what, in their opinions, set them apart from their competition. Here are a few suggestions that were shared:
- Get various people within your company involved in the nomination process. Ask those who are excited and passionate about the corporate initiatives to take a stab at drafting or editing the submission this could potentially highlight new ideas never before considered.
- Exemplify how your business is all about your people. In other words, illustrate the ways in which your company makes its employees feel like theyre a part of something meaningful, rather than just another job. Explain how your environment encourages personal well-being and overall happiness.
- Go heavy on the results language. Dont just explain the initiatives in place, but prove in words the kind of impact they have had or are having on employees and the business itself.
While the call for nominations doesnt open until Tuesday, January 19, I encourage interested applicants to visit Helios HRs website today to learn more about the Apollo Awards and begin thinking about their companys learning, training and employee development initiatives. Be sure to stay connected to Helios HR on Facebook and Twitter for updates and dont forget to mark your calendar for Tuesday!
The full story is on President Obamas quick response to dismal unemployment numbers with $2.3 billion in new tax incentives for companies promoting clean energy technology jobs. Elizabeth explains that she is very hopeful that we are almost through the downturn and that this stimulus will help, citing some of our clients growth in Q4 09 as proof.
Appreciate the recognition that I have influential friends (and appreciate them too). :) It's also worth mentioning that the accuracy of services like Compete devolves significantly with smaller sites, say under a mil uniques or so. For example, I just took a quick look at the last few months - it's best estimate was off by ~100%.
In the old days (read: three years ago), we judged the pull and timbre of a given media outlet based on subscribers. The magic number? 100,000. Any publication with over 100,000 readers was obviously doing something right, and clients clambered to get their voices heard in these brand name outlets. What do those numbers mean in the here and now? Not much, if anything.
Blogs, Twitter and other social mediums have essentially made subscriber counts (as we used to think of them) worthless, except when it comes to purely judging the size of a geographic outlet, like Business Journals or local broadcasters. The obvious replacement number is unique Web views using a service like Compete
, you can check out rough estimates of unique hits a site has received over a given year. That should mean something, right? Wrong. Compete only factors in traffic to that given site it doesnt effectively track links or content shared via Digg, Twitter, Facebook or any other medium and it doesnt give you any sense as to whether or not a new site will explode in traffic next month nor does it factor in digital influence
With this in mind, youre faced with a clientele that still thinks along the lines of subscribers. How do you respond?
- Everything matters. If a blogger or journalist wants to talk to your client, even if theyre low on your clients list of important folks, make them do the interview. The more articles your client generates online, the more buzz theyll receive in general, and pretty soon those big media names will come calling. At worst, its twenty minutes out of your CEOs day. At best, theyre exposing hundreds or thousands of consumers to their product with almost no effort.
- In on the ground floor. Maybe Bobs Super Tech Blog isnt driving a lot of traffic right now, but whats the situation going to be like six months from now? Perhaps Bob is poised to join CNETs blog ring or maybe he is working on a big time syndication deal with the GigaOM Network. Whos going to get blamed if the blogs traffic blows up in a month and your client missed their window? You. Take the interview.
- Citizen journalists. Quite a few columnists and product reviewers, especially in the consumer technology space, keep low profiles online. Just because your client doesnt recognize the reviewers name doesnt mean that they arent important maybe theyre a part-time reviewer for Engadget or have a syndicated column that runs in a few dozen mid-market papers across the US. Its up to you to do your homework to find out who they really are and whom they might be working for.
Public relations shouldnt be about subscribers any more its about facilitating conversations with the right people to make sure you client gets heard. Pushing the mute button just because an outlet doesnt APPEAR to have the right number of readers just doesnt make sense. --John Terrill
(Photo credit: Stewf
Virginia's Governer-elect Bob McDonnell
is making the rounds to several Northern Virginia business leaders groups before his official inauguration
in ten days, including our friends over at TiE-DC.
Today he spent over an hour meeting, greeting and chatting up the TiE-DC entrepreneur community, and then outlined his key initiatives for 2010, including plans to solve the legacy transportation issues and economic development. It was wonderful to meet him in-person and hear his specific thoughts on the opportunities for small businesses and the entrepreneurs that fuel our nation and our state's health.
He also shared today's breaking news of three important cabinet post appointments, including Northern Virginia's own Jim Duffey, who is well-known in the Northern Virginia technology community. Also appointed today were Doug Domenech as Secretary of Natural Resources, and Terrie Suit as Assistant to the Governor for Commonwealth Preparedness.
About 80 attendees came to the joint event open to TiE-DC charter-members
and Republican Indian Community guests. Thank you Governer-elect McDonnell!- Elizabeth Shea