Three Ways to Save an Unproductive Day

Daily agency life often feels like an elaborate juggling act—account managers constantly juggle accounts and each account’s unique priorities and deadlines. This requires switching gears throughout the day, usually several times an hour. The necessity of this workflow is obvious—we need to be available to our clients throughout the day as projects and issues pop up, and we strive to efficiently handle projects as if each account were our only account. The KG team prides ourselves on being flexible and in our ability to nimbly manage dozens of loose ends at a time. However, it would not be a stretch to call this style of work ‘multi-tasking,’ and from our recent series on productivity, we know that multi-tasking at its worst actually reduces productivity. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on how to be more productive at work, and identified “fragmentation – trying to juggle many competing, and usually unexpected, demands on your time,” as the leading cause of an unproductive day and the root of the uncomfortable feeling that you worked really hard all day and yet have the sense that nothing got done. Yep, that’s a day KGers can relate to! How then do agencies limit the inefficiencies of multi-tasking in the face of competing demands on their time?

The WSJ article, “How to Save an Unproductive Day in 25 Minutes,” gives three suggestions for busy professionals to maximize efficiency when pulled in a million directions. The article resonated with me, and I wanted to share the tips and how they apply to agency life at KG.

1. Schedule uninterrupted work time—Whether you have to go hide in the empty conference room to escape the usually welcome antics of your awesome coworkers (pie! Funny YouTube clip!), pipe in some white noise to get you in the no-distraction zone like Eric does, or follow the Pomodoro Technique like Valerie does, actually scheduling dedicated time to completely focus on the most pressing task at hand can help check it off your to-do list faster.

2. Keep track of the progress you made that day—The WSJ recommends writing out everything you did at the end of a crazy day to give yourself a better sense of accomplishment. Personally I keep a running to-do list and find great satisfaction (possibly too much satisfaction) in checking things off that list. Sometimes I even tack on a few too-easy tasks that really shouldn’t count (making breakfast, putting new ink in the printer) just to make myself feel more productive! As the WSJ points out, perception is reality and just feeling more productive can make all the difference between a good day and a bad one. Continue reading

Top 5 Questions Companies Should Consider in Planning PR for 2012

It’s our favorite time of the year—and I’m not talking about the Holidays. December is the month where our clients start thinking about goals for their 2012 public relations programs. In addition to new technology and industry standards, every year brings growth and change to a business, so re-evaluating one’s PR program is a must. Here’s a look at five of the most important questions companies should ask themselves and their PR agency when planning a new PR strategy for 2012.

What worked for you in 2011?
This may seem like an obvious question to ask, but finding a satisfying answer proves difficult for many. PR can be more of an art than a science and is often challenging to measure. Try answering this question with another: “What PR wins stood out most to you this year?” If your answer is, “The customer-focused articles we secured,” or “The pre-launch media and analyst interest we received,” then aggressive media and analyst outreach was what worked best for you in 2011. When you’ve identified your most valued PR win, put an emphasis on that when planning for 2012.

Budget cuts? How do you get the same value for less money?
Budget cuts are nothing new. Every year seems to bring higher demands of producing more results for less money. While it seems as though this request is the same as asking a contractor to build an “MTV Cribs” home on a “Design on a Dime” budget, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. You can still have a swanky PR program if you’re willing to cut back in other areas that may not produce such cost-effective results. For example, consider reducing the number of events and tradeshows you attend or exhibit as this could free up tens of thousands of dollars per show. Lightening your advertising spend can also allow you to spend more on PR, which can bring you earned media—a more valuable and cost-effective means of promotion.

Do you have product or solution launches?
Is your company planning to introduce a new product or solution in 2012? Even if it’s planned for later in the year, product launch PR and marketing activities should be outlined from day one. Product launches (especially products that are new concepts) are one of the best ways to earn media coverage and brand recognition and need to be carefully planned throughout the early lifecycle (launch, adoption and evaluation).

Where is the majority of your revenue coming from?
It’s easy to get excited about your new products or services, but don’t forget who pays the bills. Make sure your PR program has plenty of resources assigned to the product or service that is bringing in the most revenue. Have you been busy with pre-briefing analysts on your new technology? Make sure that you use existing happy customers as media references for your current selling product while you save press releases and analyst briefings for the new product. Continue reading

It’s the Most Wonderful (and Stressful) Time of the Year!

Hands down, Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year.  And it is just around the corner – the holiday lights, the Christmas carols, the yummy smells of apple cider, Christmas pine, and peppermint! My 6-year old daughter is already giddy with excitement wondering what Santa will leave for her under the tree (she’s hoping for a surfboard and an Apple iTouch) and I’m teaching my 2-year old how to sing Jingle Bells. This weekend, I will be decorating my house from top to bottom in green, red, and gold, and my husband will be up on the rooftop hanging up the Christmas lights.  I’m so excited!

And then, there is the Christmas shopping. Cue the dramatic sound effect – Dun, dun, dun!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas shopping and I really don’t mind the crowds like my husband does. But sometimes it can be a very overwhelming process because I am, for the most part, the lone shopper for my little family of four. (And before you judge me, I realize my little “problem” qualifies for #firstworldproblems.) This year is proving to be even more stressful – and here’s why:

  • This year we will be celebrating Christmas in Dallas, so my husband and I will need to plan carefully which presents to bring in the car with us and which ones (i.e. Santa’s gifts) to have shipped to Dallas.
  • My 6-year old daughter has already given me her Christmas list of about 30+ items on it, plus all of the items that she has circled in the Toys R Us, Target, and Walmart circulars. I’ve been able to whittle it down to about 10.
  • One more thing about my daughter – she’s discovered the American Girl Dolls.  Lord help me.
  • My budget: My husband is a big-time penny pincher and really “encourages” me to stay within our allotted budget.  The problem is that I’m really bad about sticking to a budget.
  • And finally, as a working mommy of two, my time is limited. Looking at the calendar, I see that I have less than four weekends to complete my holiday shopping. Can I have a glass of spiked apple cider now? Continue reading

What Will Retailers Do with 2.7 Million Tablets?

If anyone needed more proof that mobile is the hottest trend in retail, RIS News reported this week that the percentage of consumers who made purchases with mobile phones doubled from 2010 to 2011, from 9% to 18%. STORES devoted almost its entire November issue to mobility, too. These are just a couple of additional proof points for the meteoric rise of consumer mobility, which Retail Systems Research describes as the “most galvanizing force (in a positive way) we’ve ever seen in retail.”

Mobile technology is changing the retail landscape in ways that haven’t been seen since the rise of e-commerce. However, the trend that’s captured my attention lately is what’s happening with mobile devices inside the store – and more specifically, how retailers are using smartphones and tablets inside the stores.

A recent research study from retail analyst firm IHL Group included a fascinating statistic. According to IHL’s survey, more than 2.7 million tablet devices will be shipped for use in North American retail and hospitality by 2015, an increase of 450% over current rates. These figures don’t even take into account the handheld devices that retailers are scrambling to roll out in mobile POS deployments.

The bottom line? Get ready to see millions of tablets and smartphones in retail stores in the next few years, along with fundamental changes in everything from the physical layout of stores to the way that consumers interact with store associates.

61% of retailers surveyed by IHL Group rate mobile technology as their top priority, so what we’ve seen so far in store-based mobile systems is just the beginning.

Early mobile deployments at retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, Nordstrom and others have focused primarily on the ways that mobile can improve the store experience. These retailers are looking to mobile devices to get their sales associates out from behind the cash wrap and onto the sales floor, where they can interact with customers, guide the shopping experience, look up product reviews and ratings, and check inventory on out-of-stocks in order to save the sale.  Early deployments are promising, but the changes we’ve seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading

KG Productivity Tips Series #3: Other Things We Like

If you’re a regular reader of the KBlog, you’ll recall KG’s favorite productivity tips for staying focused and organized. In the third and final segment in our productivity series, we share our favorite miscellaneous productivity tools and tricks that help make the KG team shine!

Google Voice: So chances are that you’ve heard of Google Voice before, but on the off-chance you haven’t, let me be the first to tell you how cool it is to not have to listen to voicemails anymore. If I have to miss a call because I’m on another call, I almost instantly receive an email and a text transcription of the voicemail–quite the perk for someone like me who dislikes listening to five consecutive messages of “Hi Brittany, it’s your mom. Call me back!” to get to the message left by a client. (Aside: I can’t be the only person whose mom doesn’t trust that my phone will tell me I missed her call without needing to leave a message.) Especially effective for people with multiple phone numbers (home, work, cell), Google Voice gives users the option to use a single Google forwarding number to all of the user’s phones, so when your office phone rings when you’re out of the office, you can take the call on your cell. Brilliant! Google Voice also supports conference calling with call recording and online archiving. On top of all of that, there are lots more features, so get your Google Voice on now if you haven’t signed up yet.

Good Old-fashioned Mindfulness: This one might be a “duh,” but if we were all doing it right, I have a hunch our society would be a lot different than it is. The powers of mindfulness are praised high and wide for increasing health, happiness, and productivity. Some even believe that if you focus your positive energy well enough, you can attract good things to you. Now, I don’t know if I’d go that far personally, but I do know that reminding myself to be mindful and “in the moment” can have powerful effects on my sanity and my efficiency.

Next time you find yourself scatterbrained, extremely stressed, or asking yourself “what the heck was I just doing/going to do?”, try this: Close your eyes. Take ten deep breaths and visualize all the thoughts cluttering your mind flowing out one-by-one, vanishing (poof!), leaving your head empty. (I’m saying visualize, folks – most of us are not really that good.) Then, ask yourself: What is it I really need to be focusing on right now? Try to pick one thing that’s high-priority. Open your eyes, and jot down a few steps that you can work on right now.

Session Manager: I love tabs. There are two dozen tabs open in my browser right now. Session manager helps keep those tabs safe until I’m ready to return to them.

Session Manager is an add-on for Firefox and Chrome that allows you to save the state of all windows and tabs open in your browser. This snapshot of your broswer can be saved and an unlimited number of sessions saves are allowed. Besides backing up your browsing in the event of a crash, this helps keep personal and professional browsing separate. It allows you to unplug — save your 9-5 browser windows as you’re leaving for the day, close your browser and leave your work projects until you’re ready for them. (It’s no fun to open up Chrome on Sunday morning when you’re looking for a good brunch spot on Yelp and get a big reminder of all the loose ends waiting for you Monday morning.) Or, focus on plugging back in. (If you’ve been shopping at home for a sweet new pair of slacks and reasonably priced ties, you can save those window-shopping tabs until later to avoid distraction when you get to the office.)

Look at the Competition: This may seem unrelated to productivity, but competition is a huge motivator, and motivation increases productivity. When I look at clients’ competitors’ news coverage or social media activity, for example, I get motivated to work really hard and to come up with new ideas to stay at the top of our game. If you’re even the slightest bit competitive like me, you’ll find your competitor’s success a perfect productivity push.

Achieving and maintaining peak performance is a constantly moving target. Just when you think you’ve cracked the code, another distraction or challenge pops up and creates room for improvement. At KG, we’re always on the lookout for the next big thing, so let us know if there’s something that works for you that we should know about!

Surprise! You’re in Public Relations.

“Surprise!” is what should be written on your diploma upon college graduation. As is the case for many careers, public relations is one thing taught and another in practice. Earlier this month, I accepted an invitation to speak to the University of Texas’ student-run Tower PR group and was brought back to my college days—days of hope, dreams and eagerness to start a fabulous life in PR.

After meeting such wonderful, enthusiastic future PR professionals at UT, I started comparing what I thought a career in PR would look like at 21 to what it actually is after nearly 5 years of going from internships to account coordinator and executive roles to senior account manager. Now I love my job and I’m sure I chose the best career for me, but one thing is certain: At 21, I had not even a clue what I was in for.

“PR is glamorous.” SURPRISE! It’s not. At all. PR professionals get no public credit for the good work we do, and that’s the way it should be. You work hard all day to win positive publicity for your clients (hardly ever for yourself), and a job well done may or may not be met with praise. PR is very much a “behind the scenes” or “backstage” role, so people who crave being the star of the show should think twice about choosing this underappreciated career.

“PR is all about party planning.” SURPRISE! I wish I could plan parties for a living. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been approached by someone wanting to get into event planning. Party planning is a large, successful industry and is mastered by event planners, designers, caterers and others. It’s a whole other tamale. In fact, it’s on a whole other plate. In PR, you’re immersed in activities such as crafting a corporate message, managing client relationships with media and analysts, and writing case studies, press releases and articles. On the rare occasion that a client throws a party and needs your help, they will likely be looking for your assistance in promoting the party to a targeted community. Continue reading

Ketner Group Journey- The Beginning

My name is Catherine Mitchell and I’m a senior public relations student at UT Austin. Knowing that graduation is slowly sneaking up on me in December, I decided that I needed more experience in the public relations Industry before I could truly know which path to choose when I graduate. This leads me to the beginning of my journey with Ketner Group!

I have held previous PR internships with outstanding companies, but still I longed for experience in an actual agency whose sole purpose was PR and marketing. I had been to quite a few interviews at other agencies, but when I walked through the door here at Ketner Group I instantly felt at ease. Everyone at the office was friendly and energetic. My interview didn’t feel like a formal “what are your strengths and weakness” type interview, but more of a two-way conversation where I felt comfortable to be myself and got to learn more about the people in the agency. Choosing the place I wanted to intern was a no-brainer!

Ketner Group deals mainly with B2B technology clients, which is definitely a different field of PR that I imagined myself working in. However, I have found that I really enjoy learning about different IT developments implemented by Ketner Group’s clients.

Merely seeing how a public relations professional spends his/her day at work has provided me
great insight into the field. The opportunity to sit in on conference calls and meetings with
clients has shown me how to build and maintain strong relationships with clients. I have learned through observation the importance of presenting knowledgeable council to the client while still maintaining a casual enough tone to keep the meeting friendly.  When I’m at the office I literally feel like a little sponge trying to absorb all the information I can!

Being surrounded by professionals who really love what they do has made interning at Ketner Group a really positive experience thus far. People really aren’t lying when they say the best way to learn is through experience. I now know that I enjoy working in a boutique agency where everyone is more than coworkers- they’re friends.

Leading a Double Life: What PR Can Learn from Social Work

A body outline drawing of Valerie in which each piece symbolizes a part of her journey through the Social Work programPhoto: A body outline drawing of Valerie in which each piece of the drawing represents Valerie’s journey through the Social Work program.

For those of you KbloG readers who don’t already know, I started working on my Master’s in Social Work last fall. It’s hard for me to believe that I only have NINE weeks of class left before I finish my last “real” courses and begin my final internship before my May 2012 graduation. Of course, as you know because you’re reading this blog post, I couldn’t bear to leave the awesome Ketner Group team so soon, so we’ve worked together to make it possible for me to “lead a double life” and do both. Even though there are few weeks in there that I’ve all but forgotten due to lack of sleep, I wouldn’t have changed a thing (short of altering the laws of time in which the day is 30 hours long – the parents are all nodding their heads in agreement!)

I could go on for way too long about the experiences I’ve had, but for the purposes of this post, I thought it would be fun to talk about a few of the things I’ve picked up in social work that I could see the PR world benefiting from.  If I really sat down and thought about it for a while, it would be a LONG list – but as you can imagine, I’ve got studying to do, so let’s make it snappy!

“Yes…. and….” – My beloved first-year practice instructor, Tammy, drilled this one into us on day one, and we all thought it was kind of silly, but now, I try to drill it into anyone I catch making a “yes…., but” statement. We’re humans. We love to think we’re right, and we love to argue. But it can get pretty obnoxious when you’re talking with someone and they keep pretending to agree with you at first, then negating exactly what you said with their “Yeah that’s true but I mean….” statements. Being on the receiving end of these comments is no fun, and it happens more than we realize – oh, until now, because you’ll start realizing it all the time. So what’s the alternative? The more positive and respectful “yes, AND” statement. What I didn’t know until I Googled this just now is that it’s also an improv comedy technique, which makes total sense! No one wants to watch an improv skit where the comedians can’t let go of their preconceived ideas or egos rather than playing off what’s going on in the moment. Continue reading

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

I’m not going to lie.  Sometimes my job is hard. In fact, it can be downright frustrating and still causes me to shed a few tears now and then. Twelve years working in public relations has taught me to have thick skin and to keep pushing forward when things get tough, but I still have days when I can’t wait to get home and pour myself a tall glass (or two) of my favorite white wine. And I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. According to The Huffington Post, public relations is ranked one of the top ten most stressful jobs in America, right alongside our friends in advertising, commercial pilots, architects and EMTs. PR executives must consistently prove our worth to clients, for fear if we don’t, we’ll get the boot. (We must also be perfect spokespersons and pitchers for the media, for fear of being “that PR person” – but that is another topic all together!)

We must educate clients who don’t understand that it is not always about how many clips you get, but also includes the importance of developing and nurturing relationships with media, analysts and industry though leaders. We must be all things to our clients: spokespersons, advisors, cheerleaders, editors, trainers, devil’s advocates, educators, writers, lead generators, pitchers, networkers, brand ambassadors, sometimes psychologists, travel companions, and dare I say, friends.

So, imagine my surprise when I read a CNBC report about the Top 10 Hated Jobs in America (as surveyed by CareerBliss). Public relations was nowhere to be found on the list, instead, it was marketing managers and VPs of sales and marketing. According to the survey, directors of sales and marketing (who typically manages the company budget, public relations and employee training) reported the second-highest level of job dissatisfaction due to “lack of direction from upper management and an absence of room for growth.”

I’ve been working in the PR agency world for my entire career, so I am not naïve to think that marketing managers and directors have it easy. I know they don’t.

Continue reading

KG Productivity Tips Series #2: Staying Organized

A few weeks ago, we started a new series on productivity and we shared some our favorite ways to minimize distractions. Today we tackle another beast–organization.

Google Docs: Because Ketner Group is not on an intranet, we usually have to verbally or electronically call dibs on editing a document, then pass it along to the next person and the process begins again. Google Docs allows us to collaborate on the same document, while getting real-time updates from the person editing. This way, we can eliminate the added time it takes to combine two or more edited versions that were sent around the same time.

Outlook Tasks: I know, I know. It may seem old school (or nothing new), but I keep my week’s ‘to-do’s’ in my Outlook Tasks folder. What better place to store my action items than the same program that stores my emails and calendar appointments? Also, when I receive an email that requires some action, I flag it and it is automatically sent to my Tasks folder. I also set the tasks to ping me on certain days or times so I don’t forget to complete them. It’s like my electronic nagging mother.

Stickies: What should you use Stickies for? That’s up to you. This minimal tool offers a relatively low-tech way to jot down notes or keep track of projects and more. 

Stickies is a free, basic note-taking application available on every Mac since 1994. These electronic Post-It Notes can be placed around your desktop. Stickies is an easy-to-use, lightweight application that works well for everything from to-do lists, taking notes on a call or preparing the first draft of an email — or this blog post. You can create multiple Stickies, but they all save to one file and save instantly, making them great as a word processor in a pinch — the barebones application runs lightning fast even on sluggish computers — where you don’t (knock on wood) have to worry about losing your content in a crash. And, Stickies is not just restricted to text. You can drag and drop everything from images to Quicktime movies to embed.

: It may sound like a shameless promotion, but Ketner Group client Omnego developed a really cool app that helps keep my life less cluttered, and at least for me, less clutter=more productivity. 

 Continue reading