ai retail tech pr

AI and Retail Tech PR: Three Things to Remember

It’s hard to believe that today’s AI revolution started only 18+ months ago. That’s when OpenAI publicly released ChatGPT, forever changing the technology landscape by fueling an exponential wave of technology innovation.

We’ve seen firsthand the impact of AI in retail technology. NRF 2024 could easily have been rebranded “NRFAI,” as AI was everywhere and anywhere. But now there’s been a shift in emphasis about AI, which is moving from the “what” of AI (what it is and how it works) to the “so what” (what does it mean for your business?).

In terms of AI’s impact on the retail industry, our friends at IHL Group, a retail research and advisory firm, have done an excellent job of quantifying the financial benefits.

IHL has estimated that the top 200 publicly traded North American retailers and restaurants could see $1.5 trillion in additional financial impact from AI through 2029, with Amazon and Walmart alone accounting for more than a third of that. The firm’s “Retail AI Readiness Index” noted that nearly half of that will be created by generative AI.

Those are mind-boggling numbers. However, the “big picture” view of AI in retail is only part of the story. What’s needed now are stories about the real-world results and ROI of AI implementations. As IHL president/chief AI officer Greg Buzek says, “How are retailers really using it, with case study examples?”

That’s where we come in, as PR storytellers. However, given the unprecedented hype around AI, it’s important to keep these three things in mind when developing your PR strategy.

1. Skip the PR-speak about AI

Eliminate the buzzwords when you’re pitching editors. Most of them are burned out from AI fatigue, as this recent article from Fast Company makes clear. It’s worth quoting at length here:

“We are officially reaching the phase in the tech cycle where a new technology (in this case, artificial intelligence) goes from truly wondrous to truly annoying. Every organization now seems to be using it—or the idea of it—to ride the hype wave to achieve attention, clicks, or, you know, just a few more customers. And it’s starting to annoy the hell out of me.

“I can’t tell you how many pitches I receive from some poor comms person who is forced to proudly exclaim in the first sentence ‘We’re an AI-first company.’ Yeah, you and everyone else since, oh, early 2023.”

As the writer goes on to say, all the noise around AI can obscure the innovative work being done by the technology companies that are truly at the forefront of AI. These are the stories that the industry needs to hear.

2. Remember the media needs real-world AI stories

Exciting AI stories are quickly emerging. The industry’s largest retailers, grocers, restaurants and brands are actively sharing their own AI successes.

A recent Chain Store Age article detailed AI innovations in personalization from Best Buy (personalized mobile promotions), Reebok (personalized products) and leading regional grocers that have implemented personalized discounts, including Northeast Grocery, which uses an AI analytics, personalization and customer engagement platform from our client Birdzi.

While the largest tech vendors may dominate the headlines, some of the most innovative AI solutions for retailers are from earlier-stage technology companies.

These technology vendors have built AI platforms and solutions from the ground up (our client Digital Wave Technology is a prime example), rather than simply adding generative AI solutions to a legacy product portfolio.

The work these companies are doing is truly newsworthy.

3. Keep PR front and center in your marketing strategy

A recent Digiday article detailed how marketers are shifting the budgets away from pure performance marketing to focus more on brand building, including earned media. That’s where PR comes in.

There are unique challenges for PR agencies in telling AI stories. Some retailers and brands may be reluctant to disclose how they’re using AI solutions, as they consider it a competitive advantage. There’s an incredible amount of noise to cut through. Editors are bombarded with AI pitches, as we’ve noted earlier.

Yet there are plenty of opportunities to get your message across: thought leadership content, bylined articles, media pitching, recognition through industry awards, industry events and more, always amplifying your earned media wins through social media and marketing.

These are among the many PR tactics the Ketner Group team uses to get the word out for our clients, and it works.

AI innovation is moving at an extraordinary pace, creating plenty of opportunities for creative storytelling that explains the real benefits of AI. Make sure your company is part of those stories!

Why PR Meetings Should Be Part of Your Trade Show Strategy

Trade shows are one of the best opportunities for retail tech vendors to meet with clients and prospects face to face.

Whether it’s an initial meeting or a chance to move a prospective client further along the sales pipeline, in-person meetings are invaluable. And since key events such as NRF, Shoptalk, FMI Midwinter and others happen early in the year, the success of these meetings can help set the tone for the rest of the year.

However, there is another key audience to consider for trade shows: the media who attend these events. As a PR agency, we work closely with editors and reporters to cover client news and industry perspectives, and what they write helps influence our clients’ prospective customers. As a result, we always look for good opportunities for our clients to meet with media during conferences and trade shows.

Tech companies are often reluctant to participate in press meetings during busy trade shows; after all, their #1 objective is sales (and rightfully so!). However, here are four reasons why media briefings should be part of your trade show strategy.

1. Amplify your news

PR-savvy companies recognize that industry events are prime opportunities to make news announcements. As we’ve shared before, press releases announcing customer wins, new products or original research can create buzz, help drive booth traffic, and lead to media coverage during and after the show.

Meeting with editors and reporters to brief them on your news will greatly increase the opportunities to be included in influential articles. And if you don’t have news to share, use press meetings as an opportunity to share your viewpoints on industry trends, conduct background briefings for future stories and build relationships.

2. Influence the influencers

When you meet with editors and reporters, it’s an opportunity to help “influence the influencers.” The earned media that’s generated through PR provides a valuable source of reliable information for your prospective customers. In an age of mass disinformation, credible, trusted news media are more important than ever.

We’ve seen many instances where articles in leading publications have resulted in new prospects and customer wins for our clients; press meetings at trade shows will help support your sales efforts.

Don’t overlook analysts when planning your meetings at industry events. Analysts issue highly influential reports on technology vendors, and it’s important for them to know about your company in order to understand the vendor landscape.

Analysts are important players in major sales cycles; retailers seek out analysts when deciding on technology direction and vendor short lists, and analysts are frequently consulted when companies are considering mergers and acquisitions.

3. Discover new opportunities

Not surprisingly, most of our communications with editors take place via email and occasional phone calls or Zoom meetings; the journalists we work with are scattered throughout North America and worldwide. Given the nature of our virtual world, it’s hard to overstate the importance of in-person meetings; they present a rare opportunity to make an in-person connection.

Even a short meeting at a trade show can provide an opportunity to learn about new stories a reporter is working on, and the topics and trends they’re especially interested in. You can learn about upcoming industry analyst reports, too, and arrange in-depth analyst briefings after the event.

In-person meetings are opportunities for you to share your opinions on industry trends, challenges and opportunities. Technology vendors are an important source of information about the direction of our industry, and trade show meetings provide a chance to provide your perspectives.

4. Develop long-term, valuable relationships

As editors get to know technology vendors, good things start to happen. They can begin to understand your company’s area of expertise and recognize you as a valuable resource for future articles – which in turn leads to more press coverage. As a PR agency, we see it happen continually, when we get inbound media requests to speak to one of our clients for a story.

In-person meetings also nurture the “relationship” aspect of public relations. We get to know one another as unique individuals, which leads to better relationships and in many cases, lifelong friendships. And that makes business–and life –a lot more enjoyable and rewarding.

2024 retail tech trends

AI Upended the Retail Tech Landscape in 2023. What’s Ahead in 2024?

AI’s breakthrough year in 2023 was the retail technology equivalent of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour – a once-in-a-generation event that changes everything.

If Swiftmania is the biggest musical sensation since The Beatles, then Generative AI is easily the most revolutionary technology since the iPhone. AI is quickly becoming a pervasive technology, dividing the timeline for tech advancements into “before” and “after” AI.

AI will dominate the 2024 retail tech industry

Dan Berthiume, senior technology editor of Chain Store Age, summed up the impact of AI in a recent Q&A with Ketner Group: “AI is the most dominant technology I’ve seen in the last 15 years. It will be an important component in every technology system and every part of the enterprise, and like mobile and omnichannel commerce, it will be a constant feature (not just in retail) and will just be assumed.”

It’s a safe bet that AI will be the #1 tech topic at next week’s NRF 2024. And while AI will continue to dominate the retail technology landscape 2024, the conversations have shifted from the technology itself to all the different ways that AI impacts retail: from product creation to assortment planning, forecasting, supply chain management, pricing, PIM, marketing and every other area of the complex retail ecosystem.

Along the way, we’re also starting to see some data emerge about the financial impact of AI in retail. Last month our friends at IHL Group released their Retail AI Readiness Profiles that measure the potential financial impact that AI can bring to retailers and restaurant chains.

As always, IHL quantified its findings with an impressive real-world analogy: according to IHL, Macy’s alone could see $7.5B in business gains from AI in the next 5 years.

What are some of the AI-driven tech trends to watch for in 2024? Here are just a few of the things we’re tracking; they’re just a small sampling of all the ways that AI will impact retail in 2024.

Personalization continues to get more personal

Retail is moving from personalization to hyper-personalization, delivering shopping experiences that “dazzle each shopper at scale,” according to Adobe’s annual research report, 2023 Digital Trends: Retail in Focus.

Currently, only 16% of retailers can personalize experiences based on customers’ interaction history, while only 9% provide personalized experiences based on shopper intent. There’s massive room for improvement, and AI is the critical technology that makes this possible.

AI helps combat retail’s labor shortage

Employee turnover in retail reached record highs in 2023, but a combination of AI, robotics, computer vision and other technologies can help retailers offset the impact of labor shortages by automating routine tasks.

For example, autonomous inventory robots can provide 24×7 inventory updates and help retailers keep their shelves stocked, reducing out-of-stocks and increasing sales.

Retail supply chains become more resilient with AI

One of the biggest technology lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic was that retail supply chains weren’t resilient enough to handle sudden supply chain shocks, from factory closings to rapid changes in consumer demand and the need for new fulfillment models.

AI is quickly helping change that. A recent Business Insider article notes, “Robots are helping fulfillment-center workers sort through large volumes of products, artificial intelligence is predicting the most energy-efficient delivery routes, and modern data-collection and analysis methods are helping retail stores optimize stock management. Retail-technology experts say that without these innovations, supply chains would struggle to function in the face of fast-changing customer expectations and turbulent economic times.”

Retail tech spending will increase in 2024

The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI innovation in retail. And given the furious pace of AI innovation, it’s no surprise that Gartner predicts that 57% of retailers plan to spend more on software in 2024.

AI will certainly be a major driver in this trend, especially as retailers look at AI’s tremendous financial upside (IHL estimates that the overall economic impact for the top 212 North American retailers and restaurants will be $1.5 trillion for the next 5 years).

Ketner Group is fortunate to have a number of clients that are on the forefront of AI innovation, and we’re looking forward to exciting press announcements at next week’s NRF Show.

2024 will be a pivotal year for AI in retail technology, and Ketner Group clients will be a big part of the story!

Looking to make an impact with PR in 2024? The Ketner Group team would love to connect! Download our Retail Tech PR Handbook to learn more about our best-practice approach to retail technology PR or schedule some time with us!

nrf 2024 public relations

5 Things To Do Now To Prepare for NRF

I’m writing this blog during the hottest summer on record, and like you, I’m dreaming of cooler weather, football season, the holidays and….

….NRF! The first email for NRF ’24 hit my inbox Aug. 8, and my first reaction was “whaaaat!?” But after 30+ years in retail tech PR, the timing makes sense. After all, now is the time to begin planning your NRF communications strategy, and we’re already starting to work with clients on this.

PR success at NRF can put a vendor in the spotlight and support the sales pipeline in a big way.

As a retail technology vendor, what can you do now to get ready for the Big Show? Here are five brief recommendations for PR success at retail’s most important event.

1. Include PR in your planning

The checklist for NRF is a long one, from booth planning to event logistics, products, sales meetings, marketing support, customer dinners, after-hours events and much more. Don’t treat PR as an afterthought!

Start planning your NRF PR messaging and strategy now, including overarching themes, analysts to brief, potential customer announcements, new products, press announcement schedule, spokespersons (including training, if needed), media and analyst meetings during the show, on-site PR support and more.

2. Brief analysts now

Industry analysts are in high-demand during NRF. Their schedules are incredibly packed, and their paying clients are understandably first priority for in-person briefings.

Because of this, we advise clients to begin briefing key analysts and other influencers in the months leading up to NRF. Schedules are more open in the fall, and it’s an excellent time to update analysts on your company’s product roadmap, customer success and other developments. During these briefings, you can also lay the groundwork for a short meeting or product demo at NRF.

Looking for best practices? Our blog on analyst relations provides valuable insights.

3. Map out your press release strategy

Don’t save all your announcements for the show! Most vendors spend months planning their NRF announcements — why pack all your news into a three-day period? You’ll see more success by making announcements before, during and after the show.

Your company can help build momentum prior to NRF by announcing significant customer wins and other news, helping you get the attention of prospects and media prior to the show. But hold some announcements in reserve. Newsworthy announcements during NRF can create buzz, help drive booth traffic, and land your company on the post-show “best of NRF” lists.

Don’t forget to have hard copies of news releases available to share with media. Some editors receive hundreds of PR emails daily at NRF, so it’s easy for your news to get lost. After the show is a good time for announcements, too; editors’ inboxes are less crowded, your competitors won’t be making so many announcements and your news will have room to breathe.

What if you don’t have announcements? You can still highlight recent data reports, predictions and industry trends that you’re seeing. Your company’s perspectives may shed light on some of the big issues in retail and technology. Don’t hesitate to share them, and be sure to make ongoing PR a key part of your marketing strategy throughout 2024.

4. Plan your media and analyst outreach

Timeframes for media, analyst and influencer outreach can vary widely. In general, start your analyst outreach early, as some analysts will book their NRF calendars several months in advance. Keep in mind, too, that these will be relatively short meetings, which is why it’s important to do in-depth briefings in the fall.

We typically start media outreach for our clients when the first NRF media list is available, usually mid-to-late November. Keep in mind, editors, analysts and other influencers will be attending NRF keynotes and other general sessions, so their availability to meet with vendors may be limited.

5. Show kindness and respect

A mentor of mine once said to treat editors like your best customers. And if there’s one time each year when editors and analysts especially deserve extra consideration, it’s during NRF.

Offer them a comfortable place to sit (their feet will be aching!), bottled water or other refreshments, and realize they may be exhausted from packed schedules and talking to dozens of vendors. Find out in advance what they’d like to focus on during the meeting and be sure to address their expectations. If an editor is accompanied by a sales rep, be sure to give them equal time, too.  Be concise, realizing that you may only have 20 minutes before they head to the next meeting.

Bonus tip: prepare to enjoy free beer!

Our Ketner Group team has gained a lot of insight about NRF during the 20+ years we’ve been attending, and it’s always fun to share advice about retail’s biggest event. The checklist above is by no means exhaustive, but it will help get you off to a good start. And as always, contact us if you’d like to talk about PR planning for NRF.

Here’s one last tip: when I asked Dan Ochwat, our senior content specialist and former retail editor, what always got his attention at NRF, his answer was simple: “free beer!” So if you’re looking for the icing on the cake from NRF PR (or the frost on the mug), that may be just the answer.

And with that, let’s all raise a glass to a successful NRF in 2024. Cheers!

speaking awards retail tech pr

3 Reasons Why Speaking and Awards Should Be Part of Your PR Strategy

Texans love their H-E-B. The beloved grocer was recently named the Ultimate Texas Brand by Texas Monthly readers, who overwhelmingly crowned H-E-B the winner over 49 other iconic Texas brands including Dairy Queen, Whataburger, Buc-ee’s, Southwest Airlines (that holiday scheduling fiasco didn’t help) and many others.

Why H-E-B? It all boils down to an incredible corporate reputation that’s authentic and well-earned. It’s what every company, both B2C and B2B, strives for.

That’s why building a great brand is a cornerstone of public relations. As a B2B retail tech PR agency, our goal is to help our clients break through the clutter and create the kind of brand reputation that can give them an edge in a crowded field of technology vendors.

Speaking and awards play a vital role in this, and they’re an important part of a well-rounded, strategic PR program.

When your company wins an award or an executive is selected to speak at a conference, it sends a powerful message to customers, prospects, investors and future employees.

1. Build thought leadership

Here are several ways that speaking and awards contribute to a successful PR strategy.

Speaking at a key retail event gives your company instant credibility. When one of your customers or company executives takes center stage at Shoptalk, NRF or another prominent retail conference, you gain a captive audience that’s eager to learn about your solutions and how your company can help retailers improve performance.

Every event has its own requirements for speaking submissions, and while many opportunities are free, some are paid. Our team knows the ins and outs of all the key retail events, and we provide expert guidance to our clients as part of their overall PR strategy.

Awards also build thought leadership for your company and its executives.

For example, RIS News recognized Michael Jaszczyk, CEO of our client GK Americas, as one of its Top 10 Movers and Shaker in Retail in 2022, positioning him as one of a elite group of top retail influencers, and our client SymphonyAI Retail CPG was recently recognized as a top 100 IT company by Inbound Logistics, among many other awards.

These are powerful testimonies of a company’s thought leadership and position as a retail tech provider, and we can share dozens of other examples.

2. Highlight customer successes

Retailers love to hear how your company’s solutions have helped other retailers. There’s no better proof point than a customer that’s willing to share their success with your solutions.

Many speaking opportunities are only open to retailers, but it’s well worth it for retail tech companies to nominate their customers as speakers.

Retailers are eager to learn from other successful retailers, and your executives can attend the event and participate in the discussions that ultimately follow successful speaking opportunities. That in turn can lead to follow-up conversations and ultimately help drive sales.

Awards may focus on specific customer implementations, while others, such as the RIS Leaderboard, are based on real-world customer feedback from hundreds of retailers. This kind of recognition builds credibility and guides retailers in choosing possible retail technology partners. It can pay big dividends, too.

For example, when one of our former clients was acquired by a large technology company, the press release specifically mentioned our client’s outstanding performance in the Leaderboard, which was one of our key strategies for building their brand reputation.

3. Demonstrate growth and momentum

Everyone loves a winner. That’s why prestigious awards such as the Deloitte Fast 50 and the Inc. 5000, which recognizes America’s fastest growing companies, are so important. These are highly selective awards! But if your retail tech company is a leader and growing quickly, awards such as these can validate your success and lift you above the competition. We’ve helped many of our clients win these kinds of prestigious awards.

Of course, speaking and awards don’t exist in a vacuum – they must be part of a multifaceted, strategic PR program that includes media relations, content development, analyst relations, social media and other elements. A great PR program must work synergistically with a company’s overall marketing plan and business goals.

So when your company wins an award or secures a high-visibility speaking engagement, shout it from the rooftop!

Incorporate it into your social media and sales outreach, feature it prominently on your website and include it in sales presentations. In some cases, a significant award may be newsworthy enough for a press release.

Put your company in the spotlight

If you’re looking to build a high-impact, comprehensive PR program, the Ketner Group team would love to talk to you! Download our Retail Tech PR Handbook to learn more about our best-practice approach to retail technology PR, then get in touch with us.

We look forward to hearing from you.

jeff ketner barbara walters

My Interview With Barbara Walters

The death of legendary broadcast journalist Barbara Walters in December marked the passing of one of the most influential newscasters in television history. Walters shattered the glass ceiling of a male-dominated world and inspired other high-profile women broadcasters who followed in her footsteps. She became famous for her in-depth, prime-time interviews with seemingly all the world’s most influential people: from world leaders as varied as Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro to celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.

Walters interviewed me, too—way back in 1965, when she was a reporter for the “Today” show. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was my first exposure to PR and journalism.

Let’s be clear; she didn’t interview me because I was a celebrity. In 1965, I was a 12-year-old kid wrapping up a two-year stay at the Sahuaro School—a boarding school in Tucson, Arizona for children with acute, untreatable asthma. The school was reserved for the “worst of the worst” asthmatic kids from across the country. It literally saved my life. It also introduced me to a kind, generous young journalist who treated an ordinary kid with the same respect and courtesy she eventually would afford presidents and kings.

Here’s how it happened. Mr. Johnson, the Sahuaro School’s PR director, called me into his office one day and told me the “Today Show” was visiting Tucson and wanted to do a segment on the school (something that I realized years later he had secured with a pitch, just like any other good PR person). “Ms. Walters” wanted to interview three residents of the school, and he thought I’d do a good job of representing the Sahuaro School. He asked me if I was willing to do it, and I said “yes” without really thinking about it. I was too young, of course, to realize that this was a big deal.

I don’t remember much about the interview, and I haven’t had any luck over the years trying to get a copy. However, I remember that Walters seemed genuinely interested in my story. She looked me in the eye when she asked questions. She was patient and unhurried. And she listened – just like any good journalist.

A year later, when I had returned home to Wichita Falls, Texas, Johnson wrote and asked me if I would write Ms. Walters a letter to let her know how I was doing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the school was struggling financially, because they took children regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. Johnson was hoping for a follow-up segment that could help the school, knowing that PR could make a difference.

I dutifully wrote Walters to update her, wondering if she’d even remember me. I started my letter by writing, “I’m not sure if you remember me, but…” And to my surprise, when I received a letter back from her a few weeks later, she started it by saying something that I’ve never forgotten: “Of course I remember you!”

Sadly, that letter is long lost; I’ve looked for it many times, but to no avail. Sahuaro School ultimately closed. Walters went on to become a world-renowned journalist and celebrity in her own right. And I’ve enjoyed a long career as a writer and then a PR professional.

I’ve reflected about my interview many times since Walters’ death. She had a remarkable talent for getting people to open up, and she could always find the real story, the things that matter most.

That’s what PR people are charged with as well. PR is the art of storytelling—discovering the most important stories our clients have to tell and connecting those stories to the audiences that matter most.

As I learned from Barbara Walters, everyone has a story to tell. It’s up to both PR professionals and journalists to listen, treat people with respect and be faithful to their stories. It’s an honorable calling to be a storyteller, one that Walters exemplified as a journalist. And it’s one that I strive to live up to every day as a PR professional.

pr relationships

How To Put the Relationship Back Into Public Relations

In my 30+ year career in public relations, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about relationships. After all, “relations” is one of the two words we use to describe what we do every day. Trusted, long-term relationships between editors and PR professionals are at the heart of public relations excellence.

It’s getting harder to develop and maintain those relationships, though. PR moves fast – really fast – and speed and efficiency reign supreme when we’re pitching, responding to news trends, making last-minute changes to press releases and other content, and juggling a dozen other different priorities.

Most journalists work in a pressure-cooker environment, too; editors and reporters change jobs frequently, publications are typically short-staffed, and the number of journalism jobs continues to decline. It’s not an ideal environment for building relationships.

Yet relationships are critical to our wellbeing, both personally and professionally. It’s one of the most important life lessons that came out of the long COVID-19 shutdown, and it applies to both our personal and work lives.

So how can we keep the “relationship” part of PR front and center? Here are a few ideas.

1. Treat editors as individuals

Each relationship in our lives is unique. Our friends have different viewpoints, interests and quirks, and we respond to these whenever we have a conversation.

Editors aren’t all alike, either, and that’s why they get so annoyed at the “spray and pray” mass pitches that clueless PR agencies sometimes blast to hundreds of media contacts. (That’s not the way we do it at Ketner Group, I’m glad to say. For a funny, insightful perspective on this, check out this Slate article about how an editor decided to respond to every single PR pitch for one day.)

As a retail technology PR agency, we know the stories that retail tech journalists are looking for, and we tailor our pitches accordingly. Every editor has specific needs and preferences, and we do a disservice to them and our clients if we don’t take time to understand them.

2. Be responsive

An editor’s world is just as hectic and fast-paced as ours — sometimes more so, and many writers and editors must generate multiple stories each day. Time is of the essence in responding to media requests and making it as easy as possible for journalists.

Is an editor requesting client input for a time-sensitive story? Then move quickly to evaluate the opportunity, brief your client and meet or beat the deadline.

3. Remember what Mom said about manners

Did your mom always remind you to say “please” and “thank you?” Yeah, same here. Common courtesy goes a long way in every area of life, and that includes the workplace. Did an editor include your client in a story that made you look like a hero for landing great coverage? Then by all means, email them to say thanks.

4. Pass along a compliment

When you read a great story that’s not about your client, email the journalist and let them know how much you enjoyed it. Editors and reporters expect to hear from us when we’re pitching them, but it’s a pleasant surprise to get an email that’s not client-related. It also shows that you’re taking the time to read and appreciate their work.

All of us appreciate positive feedback, and journalists are no different.

5. Set expectations with clients

We’ve all dealt with clients that suffer from The Wall Street Journal syndrome, so setting the right expectations for media success is a vital part of  managing the client-agency relationship. It’s important for the editors and reporters that we work with, too.

As PR professionals, we should only approach editors with stories that are newsworthy and relevant to their audience.

If we take time to educate our clients and set proper expectations for working with media, they’ll understand what an editor really cares about, and we can tailor the PR outreach accordingly. It makes the editor’s job a lot easier, and it ultimately helps our clients get the coverage they hired us for.

Take PR beyond the transaction to the relational

These suggestions are just a starting point for developing good working relationships between journalists and PR professionals. I’m convinced, though, that we need these simple reminders more than ever.

Most editors we know work remotely on very tight deadlines and are bombarded with pitches, press releases, follow-up emails and Zoom meetings — while working hard and fast to produce great news content.

PR professionals can help by respecting journalists’ preferences, meeting deadlines and adding fresh insights and perspectives to the stories that they’re covering. If we do our job right by focusing on relationships, it helps moves PR from the transactional (“you do something for me, I’ll do something for you”) to the relational (“we’re working together to help achieve both our goals, and we’re doing it in a friendly, collaborative way”).

By focusing on relationships, we can make put a personal, thoughtful touch to what we do every day and make PR work better for journalists, clients and those of us who do it every day.

Do you work for a retail tech company that’s looking for a more effective way to work with editors and improve your earned media? Contact Ketner Group today; we’d enjoy talking to you about how to build better PR relationships.

20 Years at Ketner Group! An Interview with Catherine Seeds

I’m usually not nervous about interviewing someone, but this blog post is a bit different. After all, it’s about my business partner and our agency president, Catherine Seeds, who celebrated her 20th anniversary at Ketner Group earlier this month.

This agency absolutely wouldn’t be the same without her. Catherine dares to dream big, she’s fiercely loyal, and she always, always has the best interests of the team at heart. I’m thankful for her leadership and friendship.

Catherine and I sat down for an interview recently, and we could have talked all morning; this interview is only a part of our conversation. But it sheds a lot of light on what makes Catherine tick (spoiler alert: Walt Disney plays a key role), the challenges and opportunities of running a PR agency, and her vision for the future of Ketner Group.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

20 years working at a PR agency is almost unheard-of these days. What’s inspired you to be part of Ketner Group for all these years? 

One of my inspirations is my dad. He worked at John Deere for 35 years, and after retiring from John Deere Corporate, he worked for them again managing a dealership in Marble Falls. He’s very loyal and steadfast, and I get a lot of that from him. When I met you and Terry (my former agency partner), this felt like a place I could be for a long time.

One of the other things is that Ketner Group has always been open to change, for example, changing from a B2B technology PR agency to focus entirely on retail technology. There is so much innovation in retail, and we’ve had the opportunity to not only work for great people but also be part of an industry that’s fun and exciting.

Our team is a big part of it, of course. They’ve always inspired me to keep doing bigger and better things.


You’ve made so many contributions to Ketner Group, and you’ve continually challenged us to dream big and step outside our comfort zone as an agency. Looking back at your first 20 years, what are you most proud of?

This is a hard one—there are so many things I’m proud of! Opening the New York office was big. But even more important, we’ve started thinking bigger as an agency. Ketner Group used to be thought of as a small Austin agency that catered to startups; we didn’t look at things on a global scale. I’m proud that we’ve been able to slowly change Ketner Group into an agency that’s nationally recognized.

I’m also very proud of our team—past and present. We’ve always brought in the right team members at the right time. It’s been a collaborative effort of so many people over the years, both inside and outside the agency, that have encouraged and helped us to do more than we’ve done before. Our team has grand goals, and they are a huge part in helping us achieve those goals.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

I can think of over 100 challenges that I have had to overcome in my 20 years at Ketner Group! I keep using the word lucky, but it is so true. I have been so lucky to have an amazing partner in Jeff Ketner and a fabulous leadership team that have all worked together to solve whatever challenges come our way. We will continue to face challenges, but we will do so as a team, just like we always do.

On a personal level, one of the biggest challenges is being a working mom. I am blessed to have a fabulous husband who’s a true partner, and we always do things 50-50. But being a working mom has its challenges. Over the years, there have been plenty of late nights, working on weekends, trips on which I missed things. But these were small sacrifices, and my husband and kids are extremely supportive of me and my work.

As I said in my blog last year about parenthood at KG, Ketner Group has allowed me to have the best of both worlds, and my children get to see first-hand the aftereffects of a family-first and employee-first company. More importantly, they know that it is possible to have a successful career and be there for them no matter what. I have always been so grateful for that.

ketner group team oct 2022

Who inspires you as a leader?

Walt Disney has always inspired me! There are rumblings that he was a micromanager and had a short temper, which is not like me, but he had a grand vision for what he wanted to accomplish. Disney has famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world.” I just love that quote!

We’ve done a lot of things at Ketner Group that I’m proud of. But there’s so much more we could be doing. I’m always trying to think of what’s next.

I’m also inspired by female leaders! And in Austin, there are plenty of fabulous women to look up to. I love how Elizabeth Christian and Kendra Scott are always giving back and going beyond what’s expected. Their leadership inspires me to do more in my community. I’ve been on the PTSA board at Cedar Park High School (Go, T-Wolves!) for several years now, currently serving as president, and volunteer regularly with my son at the Leander ISD Clothes Closet. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when you participate in something that is bigger than yourself – it is a great feeling!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the things that are the scariest! I loved the miniseries “The Offer,” about the producers of the original Godfather movie. As the series indicates, making the Godfather movie was riddled with problems—budgeting issues, fights about casting, and the mob! The producer of that film had to constantly deal with challenges, but he never wavered and kept pushing forward.

This show spoke to my soul, ha! It occurred to me that in my role as president, I’m basically a movie producer. (Minus the mob of course!) Our job as leaders is to keep calm and work with our teams to solve problems one step at a time. I love facing challenges head on, and I especially enjoy mentoring my team through these challenges.


What are your goals for Ketner Group over the next few years?

We have ambitious goals. First, we want to continue branding Ketner Group and establishing ourselves as a nationally recognized firm that is the go-to agency for retail technology. When retail tech companies think of hiring an agency, I want Ketner Group to be top-of-mind.

I also want to figure out the best way to maintain a hybrid work environment. We will always have some remote employees, and we’re investing to make sure we still come together as a team. We’re working hard to find the best ways to continue building a great company culture.

announcing retail tech pr handbook

Announcing the Retail Tech PR Handbook: 3 Key Takeaways

Retail technology is evolving at at an increasingly rapid pace, and that’s good news for retail tech companies. According to IHL Research, this acceleration creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for technology companies, as retailers embrace new solutions.

Now is the time for retail tech executives to seize the day and capture attention through strategic PR and communications initiatives.

The question is how?

Enter our eBook! Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of the Retail Tech PR Handbook.

As experts in retail tech PR, we wanted to give our clients an all-encompassing resource that covers everything we’ve learned over our 20+ years experience in this fascinating industry.

The eBook is a blueprint on how to create and execute fantastic retail tech PR strategies. And in celebration of its launch, we’re offering three key takeaways below.

1. Do your homework.

Before launching your PR program, assess if your company is prepared.

Some key questions to ask include: What are your PR goals? Do you have the marketing resources and people needed to help manage your PR strategy internally? Are you ready to commit to PR for the long run?

Successful PR is an integral part of your overall marketing mix. Doing your homework will ensure that you’re prepared to dedicate the right internal and external resources.

2. Craft a compelling story.

Storytelling is at the heart of media relations, which relies on convincing an editor to write about your solutions by crafting a strong, compelling narrative. In turn, these editors’ publications influence who will buy your products.

We recommend evaluating your messaging and value proposition for clarity before executing your media strategy. We also recommend selecting a great partner to help you craft your compelling story.

3. Create a PR plan.

PR plans are like driving directions for a road trip: you need to know what turns to take to arrive at your destination. You also need to leave some wiggle room for stopping for gas along the way. Some of those turns and exits will come soon, others won’t happen until much further down the road.

Your PR plan should include PR activities that are built into the plan well in advance to make the most out of long-lead time opportunities, such as trade shows, awards, product launches, research projects and any seasonality to your retail brand.

In addition, your PR plan should incorporate pit stops, or the necessary wiggle room set aside each month for unplanned activities like incoming media and analyst relations requests, company news, and more.

Keep learning about retail tech PR

Ready to learn more about how to create a top-notch retail tech PR strategy? Fantastic!

You can download our eBook here. Happy reading!

importance of pr during recession - exec

Give PR a Seat at the Executive Table, Now and Always

It’s been a long, hot summer—and an uncertain one for marketers who are grappling with the impact of an inflationary economy and fears of a possible recession.

Companies are scrutinizing marketing budgets more closely, and CMOs are increasingly being asked to justify their spend. Faced with conflicting data, disappointing earnings report and negative economic news, marketers may have tough decisions figuring out how to allocate their budgets.

That’s when PR becomes even more important than usual, because it’s one of the most cost-effective, credible ways to reach your audience and support your marketing funnel. As one PR agency owner wrote in Forbes:

“Through any time of crisis, there is one critical part of any business strategy that should never be forgotten: public relations.

“Why public relations? Because when so many others aren’t surviving the storm, it lets the public know that you are still standing, communicating and being active, and that you will still be there when things get better. PR is one of the most budget-conscious, effective and resourceful ways to keep your name out there during a recession. The third-party endorsement that PR creates is a voice that carries through and resonates with audiences long after the depression has passed.”

Keep in mind that this was written during the height of COVID-19. Anything we face in the coming month­­s—and economists are deeply divided about the prospects and severity of a recession—will pale in comparison to what we all survived in 2020.

PR helps fill your sale funnel, regardless of the economy

Companies will soon begin their 2023 marketing planning, and PR should continue to be top of mind for a full-funnel sales and marketing program.

“PR has always been thought of as a ‘top of funnel’ contributor,” according to Cision, “but this association does not fully encapsulate the impact PR has throughout the buyer’s journey in today’s digitally-driven landscape.”

That’s because earned media can be used in so many ways in the sales funnel. Content from earned media can be amplified through social media, shared in nurturing campaigns, and used throughout the sales cycle. PR can also help gain the attention of retail industry analysts and other important influencers in the retail ecosystem.

Ketner Group’s focus on retail technology has helped our clients realize the potential of each of these elements of a well-rounded PR program. Time and again, we’ve seen the power of PR to help our clients gain recognition as thought leaders, increase engagement with prospects and help drive leads.

That became critically important during COVID, when much of retail was particularly hard hit. Our team moved quickly and worked closely with our clients to devise new strategies to reach retailers. We saw an increased emphasis on content and a renewed appreciation for earned media and the credibility it carries.

Our best advice for retail technology marketers: Always give PR a seat at the table

Our retail technology clients realize that PR should always be considered a key part of the marketing mix, no matter the situation. New technology solutions have fueled much of the retail resurgence since 2020, and our clients reaped big rewards by continuing to invest in PR and marketing.

What should be your strategy for PR and marketing in the coming months? Simply this: Continue to give PR a seat at the executive table. PR is at its best when used as part of an overall company strategy, not just an afterthought.

Despite concerns about a potential recession, the outlook for retail remains healthy. After all, consumer spending is steady, inflation is trending down and consumer sentiment is rising.

This is all good news for technology companies. Retailers will continue to seek new solutions to improve profitability, increase consumer engagement, implement new fulfillment models and better manage their supply chains; and that’s just the beginning. A retail analyst friend of mine expects retail technology spending overall to increase next year.

If you’re a retail technology company, you can’t afford to miss out. Ketner Group has specialized in retail technology PR for more than 20 years, and we know retail like no other PR agency.

Looking for a PR partner that knows your business? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you reach retailers and support your marketing goals.