NRF 2019

NRF 2019 Gives Retail Stores the Old “Razzle Dazzle”

Please excuse the musical reference in my headline, but it just seems to fit!  The Ketner Group team is still on a high after wrapping up another successful NRF Big Show. We also saw the musical “Chicago” (starring Cuba Gooding Jr.) on Broadway. In the musical, the song “Razzle Dazzle” is about a lawyer who wins all of his cases by putting on a good show in the courtroom. He always stretches the truth since most of his clients are actually guilty!  The “razzle dazzle” I’m referring to, however, is the hundreds of new retail technologies that were on display last week at the Javits Center.

I think Joe Skorupa, editorial director of RIS News, summed it up best: The 2019 NRF Big Show was big, big, big! As usual, frenzied herds of attendees funneled into sessions and booths that were often too crowded to accommodate them. But this year’s NRF took bigness to a new level. Aisles were clogged with attendees, innovative exhibitors were jam packed and traditional exhibitors were jam packed. The lower level of the Javits Center, usually an outpost for the forlorn and lonely, was a hotbed of engaging technology and crowded activity.”

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em, Give ‘Em A Show That’s So Splendiferous

This year, NRF exhibitors and sponsors truly outdid themselves. The renewed interest in the brick and mortar store is everywhere, and the excitement is brewing. The industry “talked the talk” about the store in 2018, but at NRF, everyone seemed to really “walk the walk” when it comes to store investments! Even Target CEO Brian Cornell acknowledged the value of his stores. According to Cornell, Target stores fulfilled 3 out of every 4 orders. This included items picked up in the store, delivered to customers in the parking lot, or picked and packed by store associates and shipped to customers. Cornell considers his stores his single biggest competitive advantage.

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em, And They’ll Beg You For More!

You’ve heard the phrase “location, location, location,” but it seems in 2019, the chant for retailers will be “the store, the store, the store!” Just take a look at some of the store-focused announcements from Ketner Group clients:

  • California Closets demonstrated their use of Elo’s smart table technology, which incorporates use of endless aisle/endless design app on the Elo touchscreen platform.
  • C-store retailer Pilot Flying J announced that it is deploying a new store architecture solution with NCR Software Defined Store, enabled by Zynstra. The architecture creates an agile infrastructure across the entire store, reducing costs and optimizing operations for faster innovation.
  • Theatro announced the launch of its new data analytics suite, a proprietary method to track, aggregate, and analyze in-store employee key performance indicators.

These and many other new store technology deployments tell us two things. First, retailers want to do all they can to make the store a destination for fun, in-store shopper engagement.  Second, they can (and should) utilize the store to power their omnichannel efforts. Note: I have a feeling that we will have another word to replace omnichannel in 2019. Stay tuned on that!

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em, And They’ll Make You A Star!

The Ketner Group team believes the old “razzle dazzle” has new meaning for the retail industry in 2019. Gone are the days of trying to impress retailers with a three-ring circus of ineffective and expensive technologies. Solutions demonstrated at NRF 2019 have invigorated the industry with a breath of fresh air. The Ketner Group team is excited to play our part to push that momentum forward in 2019.

As notable author and speaker Steve Dennis recently tweeted, “Physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.”

Don’t be boring. Go after the razzle dazzle!

New Things Are All Around – Welcome to Ketner Group Communications

I always tell people it’s the little things that make me happy – a good hair day, catching all the green lights on the way home, or finding that lost $10 bill in my pocket. That’s why today, the official launch of our new and improved Ketner Group website, I am grinning ear to ear remembering all of the (several dozen) little things that happened during the journey of creating this latest version of KetnerGroup.com.

For starters, before the painstaking, yet satisfying process of developing the new website began – Jeff Ketner and I made the bold decision to change the name of the agency to Ketner Group Communications, leaving behind Ketner Group PR + Marketing. As an agency, we have grown in so many ways over the past few years, not only in our ranks, but also in expanding our scope of services to offer social media management and digital content marketing to clients. We felt that the word “communications” better described where we are now and where we are headed in the years to come. We think it fits us quite nicely, and we hope you like it!

So, a new name meant a new logo, with a new color palette, to go along with a new website! Enter our new and amazing friends from Mixtape Marketing (bless their hearts) who have hung in there with us since November 2017 and have been the best marketing and design partners we could ever ask for! No one ever said creating a new website was easy, but the Mixtape team made the nearly year-long process of getting this sucker off the ground a fun and enjoyable experience. Our hats off to them.

As part of the new Ketnergroup.com site, we wanted the content, design, tone and imagery to better reflect who we are as a group and our philosophy as an agency. As the homepage says, we are “obsessed with exceeding client expectations” and we love showcasing our can-do culture. It’s at the heart of who we are. We are a fun group of taco and latte-loving “strategists, writers, talkers, listeners, tweeters, readers, music nerds and goofballs” who love nothing more than to see our clients win big. We think that sentiment is perfectly reflected in the new website.

While we hoped to have launched the site sooner, we had a few worthwhile roadblocks come up this past year that needed our attention – like the six new clients we brought on in 2018, which led us to hire three new employees, bringing our current KG full-time employee count to 10. We were nominated as a finalist in “company culture” for the 2018 Greater Austin Business awards, and have been busy finalizing the details to open a New York office in 2019. Oh, and we bought new chairs for our conference room – they are so nice and comfy! Like I said, it’s the little things.

I suppose you can consider this blog the digital version of a “ribbon cutting” ceremony for the new Ketnergroup.com! To make it KG official though, we celebrated with some Torchy’s chips and queso, a big chocolate cake and champagne. It’s how we roll.

Welcome to Ketner Group Communications – our door is always open!

Breakfast Tacos and PR: Make Plans to Attend the 2018 PRSA International Conference in Austin!

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend last year’s PRSA International Conference in Boston, and as soon as I got back home, I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved in this year’s event taking place in Ketner Group’s very own backyard of Austin, Texas!

The annual conference is a wonderful event that “spotlights the intersection of technology and media, and leads the competition by providing unparalleled information strategies and tools for the new trends impacting the industry.” As I wrote in my blog last October, it’s a great event for professional development, inspiration, networking and even mentoring with some of the students from PRSSA.

This year, I’m THRILLED to say that Ketner Group will be a part of the planning as part of the PRSA Austin Chapter, the official hosts of the 2018 event. Stacy Lan and I have joined the opening reception committee, and we are excited! We are joined by our friends and peers from the Austin PR community to “get the party started” and show our colleagues from around the world just how awesome and wonderfully weird our city is.

I suspect there will be plenty of breakfast tacos for everyone!

A few key note speakers have already been announced:

  • Robert B. Reich: Economic Adviser, Best-Selling Author. Reich is currently serving as the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Reich’s most recent book is “The Common Good.”
  • Jonathan Mildenhall, Former Airbnb CMO. Mildenhall is a globally recognized thought leader in the worlds of business strategy and creative excellence. A proponent of purposeful branding, he is passionate about connecting consumers with brands in a meaningful, authentic way and building community-driven brands that promote positive societal change.

As well, PRSA is currently accepting proposals for speaking at the event. The call for proposals deadline is March 26. Click here for more information!

I encourage all of my PR peeps to consider attending this great event – I promise you will come away inspired and ready to execute on all the ideas you will hear about. Registration is open now, so y’all come on down to Texas and we’ll talk PR in October!

Two Reactions, Same Person: Thoughts on the PR Effectiveness of March for Our Lives

For the record, I am the SVP and Partner here at Ketner Group Communications, with nearly 20 years of experience working as a public relations professional. I love the industry I work in, and I love helping my clients elevate their brands by telling impactful stories that make a difference. When done right, timely and ethically, PR is a beautiful thing to watch. It can also lead to a horrible train wreck when done wrong, too late or unethically. It’s hard for me not to notice good PR or bad PR when it’s happening outside of my work with Ketner Group – it’s like second nature to me.

I am also a proud mother of two awesome kids, ages 9 and 13. I don’t know about the rest of you parents out there, but as soon as I became a mom, I felt as though I became an honorary mom to all the children on the entire planet. Meaning, I not only worry about my own two offspring constantly, but I also find myself concerned about every single kid that I see or hear about – even the older ones! A recent example: during the Winter Olympics, I found myself telling the young and talented athletes (via talking to the TV) who fell on the ice or lost a race, “Aww, it’s ok! You’ll get ‘em next time!” And don’t even get me started on when there is an injury involved. When watching college football, I’m always saying to myself, “His mother must be so worried about him right now!” I can’t help it – it’s also like second nature to me.

So, for the most part, my “life lens” is part PR professional and part mom.

When I watched all of the March for Our Lives protests happening around the U.S. this past weekend, my two “selves” automatically kicked in. By recent reports, March for Our Lives was one of the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War. These protests, as we all know, were in direct response to the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. By all accounts, the marches were a huge success – obviously!

My PR Reaction: This is PR at its finest! The students, from the onset, created a message that was compelling and most of all, honest, open and raw. They also used the platforms they knew would be the most effective to get their message across – in this case they were TV and social media. Lastly, they used those channels and their message to go about changing opinions with the intent of changing laws. It is more than impressive what they have done, and it’s a case study worthy of a dozen PRSA Silver Anvil awards. As Amy George wrote about this week in her column in Inc. Magazine:

“In just five weeks since the shooting spree that killed 17 of their classmates, a handful of these survivors have become pros at live TV interviews, created the ‘Never Again’ campaign and raised millions of dollars — from celebrities and organizations like George and Amal Clooney, Oprah and Gucci — for the massive ‘March For Our Lives’ demonstration that they’ve planned for Saturday in Washington.”

My Mom Reaction: These kids must be so tired, I hope they are getting enough to eat and are sleeping enough!

My PR Reaction: I admire the fact that with little to no formal education on PR strategies, objectives and tactics, they’ve been able to, as Amy outlined in her column, accomplish two very important things when faced with launching an effective PR campaign:

  • Own the conversation: These kids have done a commendable job of keeping their conversation going and going so that others don’t do it for them. Any good PR person will tell their client or company that you must get out there before anyone else to tell your story, or risk the conversation or message going in the wrong direction.
  • Master the soundbite: The students have also quickly mastered the art of the soundbite. Of course they have! Even my nine-year-old son can come up with clever soundbites to explain a funny situation that happened to him at school. They have been groomed for some time now to talk in short, witty conversations via social media.

My Mom Reaction: I wonder if they got nervous before speaking to the crowd in Washington?

The final end result of the PR campaign is TBD. But this we do know – it is a campaign that has quickly commanded the spotlight and is bound to continue to do so. I’ll continue to be in awe of them as a PR professional and will also worry about them as “far away mom,” but something tells me these kids are going to be just fine.

2018 Winter Olympic Games: Over Two Weeks of Public Relations Gold

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics. It didn’t matter if it was the summer or winter games, I was there, in front of the TV watching every moment I could. I remember watching Mary Lou Retton win the gold medal in the individual all-around competition in 1984, will never forget watching the drama unfold between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, or watching in awe as Michael Johnson broke record after record in Atlanta. My childhood, early adulthood and even in recent years watching the games with my kids, are filled with Olympic memories.

But the Olympic games are also something else – they are a PR dream, or a nightmare, depending on who you are and what situation you are in. For the athletes and the countries they represent, there are plenty of opportunities to overcome seemingly impossible challenges or to come to terms with not standing on the medal podium after years of hard work.

In short, the Olympics is an abundance of PR stories, some sad, some happy and others simply inspiring – and I love them all.

There have been plenty of those PR stories, in the weeks, months and even days leading up to the 2018 Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In fact, as I write this blog – watching the first competition of the figure skating team event – NBC just announced breaking news regarding the Team USA flag-bearer for Friday’s opening ceremony. Apparently, after it was announced this week that veteran luger Erin Hamlin was selected for the flag-bearer honor, U.S. speed skater Shani Davis responded (via Twitter) that he actually lost a tiebreaker coin toss that kept him from carrying the Stars and Stripes:

I am an American and when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event. @TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018 #PyeongChang2018

WHOA.

As a life-long Olympic spectator, my reaction is just that. Whoa. Yikes. But, as a PR professional, my reaction is to immediately feel for the U.S. Olympic communications team, the IOC’s communications team and of course the reps for both Shani Davis and Erin Hamlin. The games haven’t even started and the Twitter wars have started. Obviously so much has changed since my earliest memories watching the Olympics – the hair, the fashion, the actual competing countries, and of course, the communications aspect.  Of course, the “inspiring stories” with NBC commentators such as Bob Costas and Mary Carillo have always been there to give us a closer look at our favorite Olympic athletes. But it’s the social media component that has really changed the PR game – for better or for worse. I could write an entire blog just on this angle, but for now, I’ll just keep an eye on @Jambobsled (the Jamaican bobsled team) and @TaraandJohnny, and hope that the Twitter wars stay at a minimum.

Over the next 2 ½ weeks, I’ll be watching the Olympics from both the fan and PR perspective – and plan on writing another blog after the closing ceremonies. I’m sure there will be plenty for me to “dish” about – I mean – to give you all my completely unbiased and neutral PR insights.

Go Team USA.

Special Edition of “Ask the Influencers” – Who Run the World? Girls! Part 2

In part two of our special edition of “Ask the Influencers” we talked to Janet and Nikki about how they stay up to date on retail trends, the best advice they’ve been given and what they are most looking forward to in 2018:

How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?

Janet:I keep up via Twitter, LinkedIn and events I participate in. I follow the industry magazines, retail experts and the retailers themselves. There is some great content out there if you look. I also maintain great relationships with our customers. They are a wealth of information. A lot of them participate in our annual user group conference where they are sharing a lot of information, specifically around what’s working, what’s not, and what they are seeing in the industry. That kind of information is invaluable.”

Nikki: “Well, RSR surveys a lot of retailers all year long, so looking at their answers to our questions helps a lot! I also read a lot, and I talk to people. I try to ask questions to everyone – retailers, tech providers, friends and family. Everybody shops. Everybody is a consumer. Therefore, everyone has an opinion about retail. The hard part is sifting through all that to get to directional trends. I do think there’s some art to that.”

What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?

Janet: “The best advice I’ve been given was to ‘enjoy it.  Enjoy what you’re doing.  There will always be ups and down, but if you are enjoying the process, the people, the work, then it’s all worth it.”

Nikki: “The two biggest lessons I’ve learned – from advice given, then validated through personal experience – is one, always look to learn from everyone you interact with. Everyone has a lesson to be learned, whether they intended to teach that lesson or not. It’s way easier to learn from other people’s mistakes (or successes!) than from your own. Every mistake or bad outcome can be at least somewhat salvaged if you can ask yourself, ‘What should I learn from this?’. But you have to have a learning mindset to make that possible.”

“And two, everything – and I mean everything, I even count things like singing in this – really is 95% hard work and 5% innate talent. There probably are a million Beyonces out there, singing like angels in their showers. But it’s Beyonce who was willing to put in the hard work that got her to where she is. And yeah, lucky breaks play a part, but a lucky break comes to someone who is ready and able to take advantage of it when it comes their way. If you combine 1 and 2 – always have a learning mindset, and work hard at whatever it is you want to master – then you’ll go places.”

 What are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Janet: “I feel like we are positioned very well for 2018.  I think that retailers are realizing that the stores are still, and will continue to be a very important part of the consumers’ experience.  The Opterus solution is all about making sure that the store associates and the stores are ready for consumers to have a wonderful and consistent in-store experience. I think the problem we solve, operational excellence, communication, task management and overall compliance and accountability for the retailer, is key to making the stores something that customers will want to return to over and over again. So, I’m excited for what the year holds and how we can help retailers be more efficient and effective in managing the stores and creating something special.”

Nikki: “You know, at RSR, we never try to predict the future, because it’s just so uncertain. What I’m most hoping for in 2018 is to see a retailer who has figured out what the store really needs to be in a post-omnichannel world. I would really like to see that future brought to life. I would really like to see retailers start innovating again – innovating in a way that moves beyond just trying to find more ways to sell more stuff. 2018 could be the year! But, to be brutally honest, I thought 2017 could’ve been that year too, and it wasn’t!”

Nikki Baird is Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research focusing on trends impacting the consumer-retailer relationship, along with their supply chain and marketing implications. She brings perspective from all sides of the retail technology equation – having served in technology roles at both a large and a small retailer, and has provided advisory and consulting services for Fortune 500 retailers, distributors, and manufacturers.

Janet Hawkins has more than 20 years of experience in the retail market working for industry leaders such as NCR, Triversity and SAP. She has held a wide variety of positions with areas of responsibility including global strategic business partner relationships, third party technology partners, clients and resellers, business development, and project management. This has contributed to her strong relationship management, leadership and team building skills.

 

Special Edition of “Ask the Influencers” – Who Run the World? Girls! Part 1

I’d like to take a second to brag on my fellow “Wonder Women” out there: a recent Zenger Folkman study of 51,418 leaders in the U.S. and internationally found that women are considered more effective than male leaders. What’s more, former U.S. President Barack Obama said last month at an invitation-only event in Paris that more women need to be put in positions of power “because men seem to be having some problems these days.”

Seriously though, it’s been tough out there for women – and I’m not just talking about the past few months of daily horrific sexual harassment news stories. As the female cast members from Saturday Night Live recently sang about in the parody music video, “Oh, this been the dang world!”

But enough with the negative already. At Ketner Group, we believe in the positive stories, which is why we wanted to dedicate time to shine the spotlight on women executives who are leading the charge to make a difference. In this two-part blog, we speak with two very talented women entrepreneurs, Janet Hawkins, founder and president of Opterus, and Nikki Baird, co-founder and managing partner at Retail Systems Research. In this first blog, we ask Janet and Nikki about their thoughts on women working in retail and the biggest changes impacting the retail industry:

In your experience up to now, how have things changed for women working in the retail industry? What other changes would you like to see?

Janet: “The biggest change is that I see more women in more influential roles in the industry. I definitely think a women’s perspective was needed.  I also find that the women I’m connecting with are a group of strong, intelligent, driven people who are very interested in collaboration, sharing ideas and taking pleasure when others are achieving.  It wasn’t always that way. I’d love to see this be encouraged and to continue.”

Nikki: “You know, I think retail has been one of the more progressive industries in this regard. Not that retail has been a leader in tackling women in the workplace, but at least in my experience, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I’ve seen in other industries, like tech or manufacturing or supply chain. In an industry where (much of) a consumer’s shopping money is discretionary, or at least has a lot of competition for those dollars, there has been a big focus on understanding the customer, and a lot of acknowledgement that an executive should not be using their personal experience as the basis for saying they “understand the customer.” I think that has forced more thinking about women’s lifestyles and women’s needs than you see in other industries, and some of it, I have to believe, seeps into the workplace.”

“That said, retail needs to do more. I still see too many women only in marketing or HR roles, and not in tech or supply chain or even store operations. And there’s a real ruckus being raised right now by tech circles about the lack of women in Artificial Intelligence – which retailers are increasingly looking to adopt in some form or another. If it’s a bunch of toxic bros teaching your customer service chatbot how to interact with other toxic bros, that’s going to lead to some real misses on the customer service side for a retailer primarily serving women.”

What do you think are the biggest changes (technology or otherwise) most impacting the retail industry?

Janet: “When Opterus first came to market, only a short time ago, cloud solutions weren’t common.  Back then, a lot of retailers we spoke with believed and asked to host our solution on premise. We stuck to our guns, knowing the future was in the cloud. We don’t have any on premise installations of our solution. In the early days, it was hard to say no at the risk of losing the deal, but we did. Today, we almost never get asked the question. There is much more confidence in technology now and an understanding of the cost savings, efficiencies and benefits embracing new technology can bring to the table.”

Nikki: “Oh, omnichannel by far. Everything that has happened in omnichannel up until now has been a prelude to the REAL change that has yet to happen. Retailers have made only surface-level changes so far, but we’re getting to the point where they can’t move forward without making substantial, structural changes. Look at stores – retailers are struggling to figure out where to wedge in storage for click and collect. Retailers are struggling to figure out where to put the pack & ship station for ship from store. They’re trying to figure out last mile delivery and inventory visibility and in-aisle purchases. And at the same time, they have all these cashier stands that just aren’t getting used. Fixing that means construction and remodel. Literally, rip and replace. None of that has happened yet – though I’m starting to see some signs of it. That’s where big bucks start getting committed, because if you’re going to rip out the front of your store to revamp it because of omnichannel, you might as well tackle the rest of it while you’re at it. And that’s just looking at stores. Supply chain, merchandising, even product design will all feel ripple effects as well as their own direct impacts. When it comes to omnichannel, the industry is just getting started.”

Please read part two of our blog where we talk to Janet and Nikki about how they stay up to date on retail trends, the best advice they’ve been given and what they are most looking forward to in 2018.

A Look Ahead: 2018 Retail and Ad Tech Predictions

At Ketner Group, we live and breathe retail, grocery, consumer and ad tech day in and day out. It’s what we love to do, and, more importantly, why our clients hire us! It is literally our job to stay “in the know” on what the latest trends are in those industries and use those hooks to create media coverage-worthy storylines for each of our clients.

This year has certainly seen plenty of breaking news stories (shocker, mostly about Amazon), trends that didn’t and did surprise us (chatbots will rule the world and digital platforms need to step up their game when it comes to brand safety), and enough shopping data to last us a lifetime (thank you Retail Systems Research and IHL Group!). Oh, and don’t forget the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” that dominated headlines.

As we begin to close out 2017, we look ahead to what lies in store for 2018. The Ketner Group team will be heading the NRF Big Show next month to get a first-hand look at the latest and greatest technology solutions and store implementations of that tech. We will hopefully, start to pinpoint the answers to things like “What will Amazon and Walmart do next?” and “When will Sears just die already?!”

There are plenty of predictions on 2018 trends, but we wanted to showcase just a few retail and ad tech trends.

Three Trends in Retail
According to Christopher Walton, an independent consultant and former VP of Target Store of the Future:

  • Amazon will announce H2Q location, and America will be happy. “Bet on Bezos locating HQ2 somewhere between Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta (both are less than a day’s drive from Bentonville, AK) or within the Midwestern Triangle of Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago”
  • Pop-up retail will be hot, but it won’t solve everything. “It will all make sense until the underlying business economics of retail change (i.e. until technology fuels more productivity gains and utilizes working capita differently). The same problem that plagues retail — namely traffic — will plague pop-up shops too. Bonobos was the first penguin in the water with their guideshop concept, and they had to bail out and sell to Walmart. The pop-up concept is not different enough. It is just another side of the same coin.”
  • The narrative will move from apocalypse to reformation. “Apocalypse is a silly word. It means complete destruction. People will always need to buy stuff.

Therefore, retail and physical stores will never go away. They will just look different.

The retail stores of the future are in front of us already. They will be one-part Amazon, one-part Starbucks, one-part Bonobos and one-part Ikea, shrouded in the customer-focused ethos of a casino.”

Three Trends in Ad Tech
According to Kevin O’Reilly, CTO of TVSquared and Ketner Group client:

  • “TV is Dead” will be put to rest in 2018. “Yes, TV is changing – people consume media differently, via different channels, devices and times. While the total amount of TV viewing time has dropped in the last few years, TV is not dead … not even close. We hope that 2018 will see the end of this fearmongering and bring along realistic, fact-based TV talk.”
  • Brand Safety Means Reinvesting in TV. “Until digital assumes the responsibility and cost of brand safety – providing advertisers with more control, visibility and the assurance that they are being positioned appropriately – expect to see more and more brands come back to or increase investments in TV.”
  • New KPIs for TV. “The way in which advertisers measure TV will change significantly next year. We’re not going as far as to say measuring TV via ratings is dead, but advertisers are realizing that they can’t just rely on reach and frequency metrics. They are antiquated ways to gauge TV success. While things such as GRP, CPM and ratings certainly have a role to play in brand awareness, they don’t tell advertisers how spots drove response in the real world. In 2018, advertisers will increasingly measure TV through brand-specific, performance-based KPIs.”

If you ask anyone at Ketner Group, 2018 is poised to be a great year. Not only for the industries we serve, but for our agency as well. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements from Ketner Group in the next few months!

A Twitter-Sized Recap of the 2017 PRSA International Conference

It’s been over a week since I returned from Boston, having attended the 2017 PRSA International Conference, and my mind is still blown – in a good way of course! After spending three days with my PR peers from all over the world in more than a dozen professional development sessions, I’ve come back energized, inspired and full of ideas! It’s been 18 years since I last attended the PRSA International Conference. I was a senior at Texas Tech University, president of my PRSSA chapter and ready to take on the world! (Funny story, that year the conference actually took place in Boston! Annnnd, it’s possible that I might have had a little too much fun at Cheers with some of my new PRSSA friends from the conference!)

Thinking through all of the information-rich sessions I attended last week, compared to those I attended 18 years prior – I am reminded how much has changed and how far we have come as a profession. In 1999, we were certainly not talking about digital marketing strategies, big data and the science behind PR, viral media strategies or how to write content for mobile. I also know that we were not talking about the new ideas of diversity and inclusion – one of the bigger themes at this year’s conference. For those of us not in the millennial generation, diversity and inclusion has historically meant adopting best practices in our industry that supports racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences. This theme, however, has evolved to include diverse skill sets, mindsets and cultures at all levels of the organization.

Moreover, this year’s conference gave me pause to think about what it means to be a PR professional. As a student attendee in 1999, I was eager to learn how to best make my way successfully in this profession. Now, in 2017, so much has changed – we now have more (and much better) tools, technologies and channels to help us do the job we are hired to do. Then, most PR professionals weren’t given a second glance by the C-suite. Now, we have the power to make our place at the executive table.

Long story short – I have way too much information to include in just one blog! So, below are a few of my tweets (and some from attendees I connected with via Twitter) from the conference for a brief overview of the sessions I attended. I plan to write more session specific blogs at a later date, but for now, enjoy this “Twitter-sized” recap:

• “Now is the best time in history to be a storyteller” says @MorganSpurlock #PRSAICON
• Great session on data-driven strategies to manage millennial PR prof., focus on diversity and inclusion. @PRSA #prsaicon
• “If you want to rule the world, you have to dominate public relations!” @JKDJane #PRSSANC #PRSAICON
• Learning about the #BeAnAstronaut campaign from @NASA at #prsaicon. Brilliant! Raised over 18K applicants!
• Year in Space campaign showed how @NASA could work as a single unit with focused objectives. #prgoals #PRSAICON
• Real-time pitch session with @BeaArthurLMHC at #prsaicon. Great feedback on improving PR pitches. Tighten your pitches, know your hook!
• Performance based PR teams don’t wait until the end of the campaign, they look at data points every day. @IrisPRSoftware #thenewpr
• PR is exploding! More options for impressions: earned, shared, owned, paid. We all need raises! @AirPR
• Unleash brand’s superpower w/imagination. Don’t limit brainstorms to people by level. Be inclusive and find the winning idea! @KeithTweets
• Work backwards f/the headline you want to see. These guys were not afraid of endless creativity. @KeithTweets @Reebok @danmazei #prsaicon
• “When you do something truly creative, there is no template for it,” @danmazei #PRSAICON #dedication
• Tell me a fact & I’ll listen, tell me a truth & I’ll believe, tell me a story & it will be with me forever. @PRSA @PRSAOrlando #prsaicon
• Superpower tip: Validation. “The flood was the event, Noah is the story,” @danmazei -find real people to tell your story!#PRSAICON
• Getting “seat at the table” in strategy & change planning is easier when viewed as business leader with comms skills, not reverse. #prsaicon
• “PR, social media, editorial content – every idea we have integrates all 3 – no one thing can work in a silo…” @danmazei @Reebok #prsaicon

Client Spotlight: Austin-Based Shopgate Relies on PR To Tell Its Story the Right Way to the Right Channels

Ketner Group loves telling our clients’ stories – it’s what we (said in our best Ursula the Sea Witch voice) LIVVVVE for. Not only that, we always strive to develop client relationships that are based on complete trust sprinkled with a little bit of fun – a true partnership.

Soon after the Ketner Group started working with Shopgate almost a year ago, the account team (which includes yours truly) knew right away this agency-client partnership was going to be a gem! In just over nine months, the Ketner Group account team and the amazing Shopgate marketing team have developed a finely-tuned PR engine. Together, we have increased Shopgate’s presence and thought-leadership in the otherwise crowded space of mobile shopping platforms, secured some high-value media placements and of course, have had a lot of fun along the way!

Check out our recent Q&A with Amanda Laviana, Shopgate’s marketing communications manager:

KG: What are the best things about being an employee at Shopgate?

SG: I most enjoy the autonomy and flexibility of working in a company (and field) that’s ever-evolving. Particularly, I enjoy the efficiency of working on a lean team, where accountability and versatility are the most valued characteristics of every team member.

KG: Why did Shopgate decide to engage with a PR firm? What challenges were you facing prior to deciding to hire an agency?

SG: We knew we had a great story to tell, along with a great product to promote, but were having trouble effectively relaying it to the right channels. With a small team already overwhelmed with the everyday upkeep of a full marketing calendar and strategy, PR was falling to the back burner, and we identified our lack of a strategy there as a major roadblock. We’d produced so much great content, and had so many exciting announcements, features and changes that we knew would be relevant to our industry peers and prospects, yet we hadn’t properly amplified any of it. We needed a dedicated team devoted to this endeavor, and knew using an agency would give us everything we needed.

KG: Why did you select Ketner Group?

SG: We selected Ketner Group after meeting a few members of the team at industry events, and after understanding their expertise and experience in our particular field and region. After meeting the rest of the team and understanding their proposed strategy, we knew we’d make an excellent team. They really understood our needs, goals and roadblocks.

KG: Ketner Group and Shopgate have been working together for almost a year. What have been the most successful results through your engagement with Ketner Group?

SG: During our tenure of working with Ketner, we’ve been so impressed with the results we’ve seen. We’ve secured coverage in virtually all of the publications we had on our “goals” list. This has included Inc., App Developer Magazine, Mobile Marketer, Internet Retailer, The Next Web and a slew of others, including many relevant local publications key to our employer branding efforts. Our brand, product, clients and leadership team have been featured in interviews, commentaries, podcasts and articles across so many channels. We really can’t overstate how valuable the coverage has been in building brand awareness and reaching new audiences.

KG: What peer advice would you give to a fellow tech vendor looking to develop a PR strategy? 

SG: Utilize the experts! Doing it alone can be appealing in the beginning, but the opportunities you miss by not having a team dedicated to promoting your story through earned media are invaluable. Whether you utilize an agency or not, a successful PR strategy depends heavily on your proactivity. Being involved with and on top of every opportunity – and finding your own opportunities – will make all the difference in the amount of coverage you yield, as well as the relevant relationships you’re able to forge.