Ebola Relief in Liberia: Introducing #RetailFightsEbola

The Ketner Group team is fortunate to work with clients doing groundbreaking work in diverse technologies including mobile, cloud, supply chain, machine learning, advanced analytics and other innovative areas. We work with really smart people who are helping shape the future of how retailers interact with consumers, which is pretty heady stuff.

Every once in a while, though, we get to work on a PR campaign that is something special. And that’s certainly the case with #RetailFightsEbola, a campaign from the Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI) that’s rallying the retail industry to fight Ebola in Liberia. Ketner Group has been privileged to handle PR for the Retail Orphan Initiative since it began six years, but this latest campaign raises the bar even higher.

A quick word of explanation: RetailROI is a charitable foundation that brings together retailers, technology vendors and editors and analysts to make a difference in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable kids around the world. Rather than duplicate the work of existing charities, RetailROI provides grants to charities that are already on the front lines of providing care in some of the poorest countries in the world – including Liberia.

Working with its partner charities operating in Liberia, the #RetailFightsEbola campaign is rallying retailers, manufacturers and individuals to provide much needed medical and hygienic supplies to Liberia. The goals are two-fold:

  • Raise $1,000,000+ in donated goods from retailers and manufacturers. RetailROI is working to provide specific items requested by its partners and the Liberian Ministry of Health, including first aid supplies, as well as food, clothing and linens to help with practical aid and care for survivors and the more than 3,400 children that are newly orphaned from the disease.
  • Raise $250,000 in financial contributions from companies and individuals for immediate relief. The financial contributions will help RetailROI partners provide additional relief until the goods arrive. 100 percent of the funds go directly to Ebola relief – ensuring the funds go where they’re most needed.

Why Liberia? For starters, it’s one of the countries hardest hit by Ebola as well as one of the world’s poorest countries, with an average national income of only $412 USD per capita annually. Moreover, RetailROI has reliable partner charities on the ground, including a remarkable organization called More Than Me, whose original mission was to provide education and opportunity to the most vulnerable girls in Liberia’s West Point slum, but has recently expanded to combat Ebola.

“Liberia’s government is primarily focused on mobilizing hospitals, treatment centers and coordinating with others to help with the treatment and keeping order,” says Katie Meyler, founder of More Than Me. (Check out her recent photo journal from the Ebola crisis in Vogue.)  “When it comes to practical aid for those most at risk, the vast majority of the work and distribution is being done through community groups and non-government organizations with boots on the ground like us. Survivors of this disease lose everything; their entire household and belongings are burned to stop the spread of the disease, and several thousand survivors are now orphaned children.”

More Than Me and other RetailROI partners have reduced the number of new cases by up to 90% in some of the areas hardest hit by the disease, through education, community outreach and delivery of basic medical and hygiene supplies. These efforts have been so successful that the Liberian Ministry of Health reached out to them to expand their work to additional Ebola hotspots within the country – and that’s the impetus behind #RetailFightsEbola.

As Greg Buzek, co-founder and donor trustee of RetailROI, explains, “The goods that Liberia has requested are readily available from nearly any supercenter, drug, clothing or grocery store in the U.S. We are asking retailers and manufacturers to donate products at their cost from overstocks or out-of-season goods. This is retail’s chance to make a difference in the lives of people that desperately need our help at the source of the outbreak and will be key to helping contain this epidemic.”

Retailers or individuals who would like to get involved or donate to #RetailFightsEbola, please visit www.retailroi.org/ebolarelief for more information. Please help us spread the word!

Geeking out over SXSW Panel Announcement!

It’s only Tuesday, and the week is turning out to be very special for the Ketner Group team! A few months ago we took on the very daunting and detailed task of submitting a few of our clients to present at SXSWInteractive, in conjunction with the SXSW festival hosted right here in Austin, Texas. Yesterday morning, we were among the thousands of entrants refreshing our Twitter feed and the SXSW webpage. And finally, the magic happened—the list was announced, and we saw one of our client’s panel session was selected! Much excitement ensued, and perhaps a few yee-haws and whoops!

Image courtesy of SXSWInteractive
Image courtesy of SXSWInteractive

In addition to seeing our client OrderDynamics’s panel on the $800 billion “Ghost Economy” of lost sales retailers battle every year, there are several panels and sessions I’m planning on attending next March. Here’s a preview of a few retail and brand sessions I’ll be attending:

  • The $2 Billion Promise of Predictive Intelligence: Predictive intelligence is becoming a major topic for retailers. I’m planning on attending this session to see how Cisco and 6Sense are addressing this through their software platform to turn previous clicks and conversions into future products and purchases.
  • Mobile Tech and the Retail Revolution: Who hasn’t Shazammed a song to win an argument with a friend? In this panel, the CPO of Shazam, CPO of Mood Media and a senior editor of WWD will be discussing how retailers can utilize technology to create one-of-a-kind in-store shopping experiences while employing the wealth of product knowledge on the internet through mobile interaction.
  • Managing a Shit Storm and Restoring Your Brand: Let’s be honest—with a title like that who wouldn’t want to attend this session? I have a personal admiration for professionals and practitioners in the crisis communication field, so anytime I have an opportunity to learn from them, I’m there. This panel will give me some insight on proactively and reactively managing crises. I’m also interested in seeing how big data companies are evaluating social media response to crises.
  • Personalization for the People: Personalization is a HUGE topic in retail for the upcoming year. Retailers are tiptoeing on the fine edge of maintaining consumer privacy and providing personalized experience. I’m looking forward to hearing how this panel will suggest maintaining customer loyalty and amazing shopping experiences while not being seen as the “Big Brother” of retail.

As this year will be my first SXSW to attend and with over 700 sessions, meetups and panels to chose from, I will be making a schedule of my sessions of choice with three back-up options per time slot. Yes, I’m one of those people. If you’re coming to SXSW, be sure to stop by the Ghost Economy panel; it promises to be haunting.

What’s Happening in Retail | October’s Biggest Stories

Photo courtesy of Seth Sawyers on flickr
Photo courtesy of Seth Sawyers on flickr

This autumn has graced us with some much-needed cooler weather here at Ketner Group, but the retail industry is still turning up the heat! Retailers are faced with data security concerns, mismatching omnichannel expectations, forecasting the holiday season and revitalizing the concept of physical retail.

Here are some of the hottest retail stories from this month:

 Integrated Solutions for Retailers – “Kmart Investigates Payment System Breach”

Recently reported in Integrated Solutions for Retailers, Kmart announced a security breach of their payment data systems. According to a press release issued on October 10, Kmart’s parent company, Sears, filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Kmart immediately began working with an IT security firm. The breach was found to have started in September, caused by malicious software that was undetected by Kmart’s anti-virus software systems. The retailer was able to remove the malware, but has reported a number of credit card and debit card numbers were stolen. Kmart will be providing free credit monitoring protection to any customer who used a credit or debit card Sept. 1 2014 through Oct. 9, 2014. The company advises any customer concerned about the breach to contact their customer care center.

Wall Street Journal – “Amazon to Open First Brick-and-Mortar Site”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that online retail pioneer Amazon.com will be opening its first physical store on 34th Street in New York City. The site is set to begin operation just in time for the holiday-shopping season. Chain Store Age noted that 50% of purchases made online are from a retailer with a physical location, and that Amazon’s move showed that the company prioritizes omnichannel retail, silencing melodramatic remarks on the decline of physical retail. It’s worth noting that the retailer has studied the outlet concept and scouted locations for years, and while the store remains experimental, Amazon’s timing couldn’t be better. If they do fully capitalize on the opportunity, the addition of physical immediacy to their pricing and delivery platforms will become an astonishing trifecta.

Chain Store Age – “NRF: Holiday Sales to rise 4%”

NRF 2014 Holiday StatsAccording to a press release from the National Retail Federation and reported by Chain Store Age, holiday spending is forecasted to reach $616.9 billion, making it the first time since 2011 that holiday sales increased more than 4%. Retailers are expected to highlight competitive pricing and inventory exclusivity as Americans keep to their household budgets. NRF also predicts retailers will hire between 725,000 to 800,000 seasonal workers for the 2014 holiday season, a 14% increase from 2013.

OrderDynamics – “Retailers missing the mark on customers’ omni-channel expectations”

A joint study by our client OrderDynamics and Opinion Matters revealed that online retailers are not offering the services that customers want. For example, 54% of online shoppers want a named delivery date, but only 15% of retailers offer the service, usually offering next-day delivery instead, which only 10% of shoppers pay for. This mismatching of services is a critical weakness in omnichannel retail campaigns. Customers only see one relationship, and one engagement and discrepancies in meeting their desires anywhere, anytime, from any device could destroy the relationship entirely. For more information about the survey and the retailer benchmark, read the report ‘Customer Relationships: The rules of attraction’.

360pi – “Believe it or Not, Amazon is not the King of Cheap Online Prices”

Another recent report by our client 360pi partnered with Wells Fargo took an in-depth look at competitive pricing, indicating that Amazon’s pricing model is not as edgy as customers believe. The joint study found Amazon has lost to Wal-Mart and Target in key categories such as clothing, electronics and housewares. Furthermore, Target, whose products were shown by the study to be consistently 5% cheaper, announced that they will match Amazon as well as Wal-Mart. The study also notes that Amazon’s prices have been rising due to new investments, which may give a slight skew to the results. However, Time’s report says that the battle for online sales dominance is nowhere near over.

Digital Retail’s Brightest Take Over Seattle This Week for Shop.org 2014

The annual Shop.org summit is already underway, and it has been a fast and furious few days for the team here at Ketner Group and our wonderful and innovative clients who are exhibiting at the show this week. The months and weeks leading up to Shop.org was full of planning sessions, scheduling meetings with media and analysts and preparing show announcements for our clients. This is a very exciting time of year for the KG team as it represents the unofficial kick-off of the holiday shopping season. We are working with all of our clients on some really exciting holiday-themed campaigns over the next few months, but more on that in another blog post!

Shop.org is a must-attend event for anyone in digital retail. In their own words, it is “a 2½ day event specifically for digital and multichannel retailers. Get the rush of discovering new ideas, getting actionable takeaways and building strong relationships with the brightest and most innovative players in the digital retail world.” The more than 5,200 attendees, 280 exhibitors and 100+ speakers represent the entire digital and multichannel retail community: senior management, marketers, merchandisers and solution providers.

In the first two days alone, attendees have had a chance to participate in various keynote sessions, roundtables and panels. Highlights include:

  • Jamie Nordstrom of Nordstrom speaking on the importance of evolving with your customer or “you die”
  • The Amazon.com story featuring leading Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru and veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author, Brad Stone
  • A special NRF members-only session focusing on “Decoding the New Consumer Mind”

To see the latest and greatest news, tweets and photos from Shop.org – click here!

For those of you still in Seattle and need some advice on a successful Shop.org (or if you have some free time available before your flight home) check out Shop.org’s blog, “12 Tips for Making the Most of the Summit.”

Video Courtesy of Shop.org

Connecting Technology and Trust

Technology is a cool thing. I’m realizing this more and more as I become immersed in the retail tech world. Our retail technology clients are able to help retailers become more price-competitive via price intelligence software, others can connect all the enterprise dots of an international, omni-channel retail organization to keep all the moving parts of the company on the same page. On a more personal level, technology has completely changed the way I communicate – because of social media sites like Facebook or mobile apps like Snapchat, I can instantly connect with with friends in Canada or Europe without leaving my chair or having an exorbitant phone bill, which is no fun.

But as the old saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Technology allows you to make all these social and business connections, but what about the flip side of it? The security side of it? You’re sharing your information over this invisible dimension and trusting that no one is going to use this information against you.

Technology connects people across the globe. Facebook is a great example of this, but have they taken it too far? Their messenger app recently received a lot of bad press for reportedly using personal contact information and using spyware-type coding, not to mention it’s a completely separate app from the actual Facebook app. This new application brought up a lot of discussion of terms and service agreements and personal knowledge of your privacy, which is something we should all be aware of when checking that little box. Here is a great read about the app and its permissions.

Trust is a major factor in any relationship made, whether between friends or as a loyal customer. Yet there are so many instances where trust is not enough. Take the celebrity photo leak scandal, or the five million Gmail passwords that were leaked. Home Depot is the most recent retailer to have a data breach with more than 2,000 stores affected and customer data exposed. Retail Systems Research analyst, Paula Rosenblum, recently published a great article in Forbes about the data breach and consumer protection.

Apple just came out with a payment platform, Apple Pay. Will our payment and banking information go the way of nude celebrity photos? Yes, Apple has security measures in place, most prominently not utilizing the traditional magnetic strip, but everything is safe until its not.

Retailers undertake a great responsibility using customers information, be it banking or personal, and if (actually these days its more like when) their systems get breached they have to be willing to go above and beyond to regain consumers’ trust.

Most all retailers have taken huge financial and operational strides to ensure their systems are PCI-compliant as to avoid costly customer data breaches. These are huge undertakings to protect us and maintain our trust, but as consumers, we must also monitor and protect our personal information and be mindful of technology’s capabilities, good and bad.

The Rise of Consumer Control: What’s a Business To Do?

ThoughtWorks ParadigmShift 2014, a thought leadership conference on business disruption and customer engagement in Austin, Texas.
ParadigmShift 2014, a thought leadership conference hosted by ThoughtWorks in Austin, Texas, on business disruption and customer engagement.

With the evolution and widespread use of the Internet, mobile devices and social media, we’ve arrived in a fast-paced, noisy and fickle consumer environment.  It takes a matter of hours for consumer opinions to go viral across the web, and in a world where word-of-mouth travels like wildfire, businesses need to keep their ears to the ground to anticipate the next bit of buzz at the digital water cooler. Consumers have infinite stores and brands and tons of ecommerce choices to search for and buy the products and services they want – so how does a business foster a loyal community of shoppers in the digital world? Our client ThoughtWorks says let the consumer take the wheel.

ThoughtWorks has recognized the significance of the customer loyalty revolution in today’s hyper-connected economy, and plans to address the changing face of engagement at ParadigmShift — its 3-day, invite-only thought leadership conference September 21-23, right in our own backyard. “Technology is upending the dynamic of customer engagement,” says ThoughtWorks CEO Craig Gorsline, and ParadigmShift can help business leaders in all verticals prepare and execute the most effective strategies for two-way digital consumer interaction and loyalty.

Today’s shopper has unlimited instant access to information, reviews, social media and news surrounding a business, its products and reputation – all available at their fingertips. ParadigmShift will illuminate the profound changes in the customer landscape and open up the dialogue between top enterprise executives on how organizations can maintain relevancy with each other and their consumers.

Hugh Forrest, director of the ever-evolving and widely attended SXSW Interactive conference, will lead the closing keynote for the event, giving attendees an exclusive look into the dynamic inner workings of the minds behind the 4-day innovation summit that so wildly inspires SMB entrepreneurs and large enterprises around the world.

With redefined roles of engagement and brand loyalty, increased convenience, speedier interactions and the rise of personal choice, businesses must accept that handing the reigns to the consumer is not a bad thing. It’s what shoppers want, and when businesses embrace it, they’ll lead the next generation of successful customer engagement.

Stay tuned for more insights from conference sessions next week!

Oops, We Did it Again (and Again, and Again)

We’ve all heard (or have perhaps said) in one way or another the expression, “I would love to have been a fly on the wall when….” On more than one occasion, I’ve often found myself wishing I could have been privy to certain conversations that led to decisions being made about this or that.  One of the many items on my bucket list, as my friends and co-workers know very well, is to sit in on a Saturday Night Live writer’s meeting and just take in all of the crazy creativity. Ah, to be a fly on the wall at that meeting!

But, as a PR professional, I would also love the ability to travel back in time and have the opportunity to observe and even participate in the meetings that have led to some of the most terrible PR blunders.  In recent months, major apparel brands have manufactured and tried to sell items that, for anyone with half a brain, would be received as offensive, tacky and downright unethical.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

  • Just this week, Urban Outfitters came under fire for selling a “vintage” Kent State University sweatshirt that included what appeared to be fake bloodstains – referencing the horrific events that took place at Kent State in 1970. The retailer quickly released an apology and explanation, “…the red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” You’d think Urban Outfitters would have learned their lesson by now, after trying to sell a crop top shirt with the word “depression” written all over it, or the time they tried to sell a t-shirt that said “Eat less” across the front.
  • This past summer, fast fashion retailer Zara decided it would be a good idea to sell a child’s pajama shirt that strongly resembled the uniforms of Jewish people imprisoned during the Holocaust. It gets worse, but stick with me – the shirt was black and white, and featured a six-point star on the chest. In researching this blog, I’ve learned that this was not Zara’s first rodeo into offensive fashion. In 2007, they released a handbag that included four green swastikas, which was apparently overlooked before production.
  • Beloved shoe brand Adidas created a line of “kicks” in 2012 that featured – I can’t even believe I’m writing this – plastic orange chains that could be wrapped around said shoe-wearer’s ankle. Of course, the shoes were criticized, with good reason, because of their resemblance to shackles worn by slaves. Adidas said publically in response that the designs were not offensive, but just the result of designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous vision. As we Southerners say (in the sarcastically meant way, and not the way that my sweet mother means it,) “Bless their hearts.”

What I want to know is, who decided these (and countless other examples – I’m looking at you, Abercrombie & Fitch) apparel items were a great idea? We never know what goes on behind closed doors; however, one would think that in these meetings and creative sessions there would have been at least one person that should have said, “Hey guys, this is a really bad idea.” And if that idea made it through the filters of those initial meetings, you would think that someone in the C-suite group would have put a stop to it immediately. And, theoretically, if everyone else in the company decided “said shirt, with said offensive design” was a real winner and would make the company a ton of money, I would hope that a public relations executive would have gotten wind of it before production and done the right thing.

In life, we are all faced with decisions – some of them much easier to make than others. As PR professionals, it is our job to make sure the public-facing aspects of whatever company or person we represent is done so in the best and the most honest and ethical way.  Our recommendations are not always the most popular, but they are in the best interest of the company and should be listened to.

While the above-mentioned blunders were likely the result of multiple checks and balances gone wrong, the PR teams certainly fell down on their jobs in the worst way. The worst offenders are those from Zara, Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch who let these “mistakes” happen again and again. In my job, when we make a mistake such as including the wrong boilerplate in a press release or quoting the wrong spokesperson, we take steps to make sure that it never happens again. If I were the spokesperson for these retailers, I would do everything in my power to make sure not a single piece of merchandise could be mistaken for a horrific historical event or crime against humanity –  never, ever again.

Do what’s right, do what’s ethical and all will be well – I promise.

September is PRSA’s national ethics month. For more information on PRSA’s code of Ethics, click here.

Seven Snarky Ways to Avoid PR Success

Guest post by: Andris Media Group

timthumbAlright, let’s just jump right in!

1. When your PR people call or write, don’t return those pesky phone calls or emails promptly. Journalists aren’t, after all, working on deadline or anything, so there’s no reason to be respectful of their time.

2. Don’t get your PR team involved in branding meetings and brainstorming sessions. Heaven knows, they have nothing to offer in that regard.

3. Don’t ever, whatever you do, include your PR team in marketing meetings. Marketing and PR people should never be expected to work together. They should always be kept in separate rooms, and the marketing people should get the nice furniture with the special snacks. The two disciplines should never work in concert, right?

4. Don’t question your PR people if all they’re doing is taking orders from you like a child takes orders from a nanny. Your PR people aren’t hired to act as your ‘other’ brain, to offer ideas and to be in touch with what is and isn’t newsworthy or current and trending. You already know all that. You already know everything! You just need someone to boss around, and you’re happy to pay them to take orders, STAT.

5. Don’t make a personal introduction to your new PR team to any journalists or news people to whom you are already connected. Wouldn’t be silly to reach out to a trusted journalist on behalf of your PR team? It might get you some attention when handled deftly. And who wants attention, right?

6. Don’t give your PR people access to your social media team or encourage them to work together in any way. Heaven knows you didn’t hire those PR folks to help shape your message or widen your audience, did you? Now that would just be silly.

7. Don’t take constructive criticism from your PR team. Ever. They should always be your cheerleader and never tell you how they really feel. After all, an absence of critical feedback articulated well concerning any challenges ahead would make you feel stupid – like you’re not one of the popular kids. OOOH. Yuck.

It’s obvious this piece is written with a lot of snark and a tongue planted firmly in the cheek. However, we urge you to heed our advice. If you don’t understand PR –don’t hire a PR team to help you understand it. PR does not happen in a silo. It’s a group effort and it’s well worth it. So, please: do your research before you sign on the dotted line. Learn what it means to have PR people working on your behalf, and then help them help you. You, and your bottom line, will be much happier along the way!

Photo: An adapted photo (addition of speech bubble) originally by Sergio Vassio Photography, at flic.kr/p/7XxXwx

Girls Can Run the World

When my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first child, we were of course thrilled! Starting our own family was very important to us and we couldn’t wait to find out whether it was a boy or a girl. A few months later we got the word – we would be having a baby girl. I was beyond excited and immediately started shopping for cute baby girl dresses, bows, socks (with plenty of Texas Tech gear, of course) and started planning the color scheme and décor for her nursery. She was going to be the sweet, perfectly styled baby girl I always wanted.

Then it hit me – I’m having a girl. I pondered about what she’d be like – would she be the shy girl like me or would she inherit my husband’s strong personality? I also thought about all the things that go along with raising a girl – from teaching her how to fix her hair, helping her deal with friendships, how to cope with boyfriends and having the serious “talks” about her body. It was all very overwhelming to think about, but I knew that my husband and I would be up to the task.

Nine years later, it turns out that my beautiful Madeline most certainly got her father’s personality and height! She is mentally and physically strong, intelligent and inquisitive and has all of the qualities and the confidence of a good leader. (Case in point, she refused to get in the back of the tug of war line with the rest of the girls, insisting on being at the very front with all of the boys in the class!) Of course she has squabbles with her little girl friends from time to time, which has resulted in hurt feelings and some tears. But Madeline is not the type of person to dwell on things for too long, and is very quick to bounce back from anything that gets her down. I’d like to give my husband and I a “high-five” for all of this, but the truth is that I believe that 50% of her personality, and the personalities of all young girls, come with them on the day they were born.

The other half, well, that’s on us as parents and the rest of you out in the world. What can we as parents and the “global village” do to help our young girls grow into strong and capable members of society? What’s more, what can we all do to help them become the leaders of tomorrow?

When I heard about the #BanBossy campaign, I was immediately intrigued. Ban Bossy is a public service campaign designed to help girls flex their leadership muscles while having fun do it. It was developed in partnership with the Girls Scout of the USA, Rachel Simmons (co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute) and LeanIn.org. According to their website,
Girl Scouts
“When it comes to girls and ambition, the pattern is clear: girls are discouraged from leading. When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry,” and “too ambitious” that plague strong female leaders. Calling girls bossy is one of many things we do to discourage them from leading. It’s no wonder that by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys, a trend that continues into adulthood.”

The campaign provides leadership tips for girls, teachers, parents and Girl Scout leaders, to encourage confidence and leadership for young women. I thought this would be a wonderful lesson for Madeline’s Girl Scout troop. My two female co-workers (who also used to be in Girl Scouts) graciously offered to co-lead the meeting with me and talk to the girls about what it means to be a leader and how important it is to speak up and stand up for yourself and your friends.

Girl Scouts Silly
The meeting was a hit! We divided the girls into groups and had each of them act out different skits that allowed them to showcase different scenarios on being a leader and being a good friend. We talked to the girls about what it means to be “bossy” and that it is ok to be “the boss.” The girls loved hearing us talk to them about being the very best they can be and the importance of being confident young ladies.

One of the girls told us that sometimes people call her a “know it all” but that she really didn’t care. Awesome. That same girl told us later in the meeting that she wants to be President of the United States, and I’ve just learned from her mother that she has instituted a family newsletter with deadlines, assigned columns, etc. Even more awesome. Watch out world, this girl is going places!

As for Madeline, I know she is going places, too. My husband and I will continue to do our part to nurture her confidence, but I ask that the rest of you help us in the process. Please encourage Madeline and all young girls to dream big. A woman’s place is anywhere she wants it to be.

I encourage you to check out Ban Bossy and the below campaigns designed to encourage and inspire young women:

Meet Kathleen See

Hey y’all! I’m Kathleen See, the newest member of Ketner Group! The past few days have been such a whirlwind, but I’m so excited to hit the ground running with Ketner Group as an account executive. By the way, my coworkers are awesome, like “Let’s watch the World Cup together before your first day” awesome. I can already tell that I’m going to LOVE working with this multi-talented team! Everyone should be jealous they don’t get to work with this awesome, dynamic group of individuals.

Kathleen See, StaffI hail from Mississippi. Yes, I do own multiple pairs of shoes, and I even wear them some days. Saying that makes me think of the “Mississippi, Believe It” advertising campaign in 2008. The campaign was all about discrediting negative stereotypes about Mississippi and its people. I really enjoyed that campaign because it was so direct about addressing common stereotypes. Maybe that’s what triggered my passion for communications and advertising messages. You can see more about the campaign here.

In 2012, I graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and an emphasis in public relations. Sorry to disappoint all you Longhorn fans, but I’m an SEC girl all the way. Plus, let’s be honest, that orange doesn’t look good on anyone.

Last Friday was my first day in Austin, so I’ve been running around like a chicken trying to get all my affairs in order and to see all the sights of Austin. Coming from Jackson, Miss., there is no comparison between activities and experiences to be had. Although I will say that Jackson has a lot going on this summer with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. There are a lot of memorials and celebrations happening throughout the state this summer. If you’re looking for something to do with the family that has educational and historical significance that’s not too expensive, I highly recommend heading that way for a few of those this summer.

In my short 24 years, I’ve learned that the best way to experience a city is to eat your way through it, and I’ve come to realize that some of the best memories I have involve a meal, whether they be around a table enjoying one or in the kitchen creating one. That being said: all you foodies out there, comment below with places I should try in Austin.

Also I can already tell that I’m going to have to become more outdoorsy. That should be interesting. I’ll let you know how that one goes.

Fun facts are one of my weird things I love to know and learn. They hold no actual value other than for trivia night. Here are some fun facts about me and my quirks:

  • Before joining Ketner Group, I spent two years with the Mississippi Children’s Museum. I learned so much with them working in the non-profit and attraction fields. Working for the museum gave me such a unique perspective on integrating fun and education through the activity, exhibits and outreach programming messaging.
  • I don’t like sandwiches. It is few and far between where you will actually catch me eating a sandwich.
  • And I don’t eat peanut butter. I know I’m a statistical anomaly.
  • Being a Mississippi State fan, of course I own a cowbell, and I’ve gotten blisters from ringing it a little too excessively.
  • Reality television is my guilty pleasure. I’m not proud of it.
  • One of my biggest pet peeves is using shorthand in text messages, like ROFL, IMHO, so on and so forth. (Sorry, Mom and Dad, even when you do it.) I know that they are the best solutions to 140 character limits, but not in a text message.
  • Oxford commas make my skin crawl.
  • When I grow up, I want to be philanthropic and give back to the communities and organizations that have given me opportunities and shaped me into the person I am today.
  • Both of my parents are pilots, so I grew up going to airshows on weekends and during the summer. It was definitely not a normal family outing compared to the other family vacations my classmates would come back to school telling everyone about. Those hot, noisy days are some of my most treasured childhood memories.
  • I can write my name backwards and upside down.

I want to know what tips for navigating traffic, restaurants to try and things everyone living in Austin needs to know. I’m looking forward to your suggestions! I cannot wait to see what adventures Ketner Group and Austin have in store for me!