From College to Ketner: Rob Fallen, NYC Intern

Hi Everyone! My name is Rob Fallen, and I am the new NYC Intern… coming at you remote from my childhood bedroom. I’m a Senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, but I grew up just outside of NYC! I’m an honors communication major with a double concentration in advertising and public relations with double minors in psychology and music.

Why PR?

Fresh out of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. At Marist, I was placed into a program that helped me figure it all out. Thankfully, it brought me to an introductory PR course. Going into this course, saying I was terrified would be an understatement. My professor held weekly mock press events and challenged our writing skills, all in an introductory course?! Most people hated it, but it challenged me in a way I had never been challenged. From there, I was hooked.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to experience everything from PR writing to reputation management to communications research. PR has allowed me to not only be creative but be analytical in how I approach my work! My past intern experiences have been in non-profit, academia and social media analytics. I have enjoyed getting to know the quirks about these different industries, and now I am super excited to learn about the retail technology industry with the Ketner Group team!

Outside the Office

At Marist, I try to keep myself as busy as I can! My two favorite extracurriculars include Marist Orchestra and Marist PRSSA! I’ve been playing the violin for nearly 15 years, gratefully having the opportunity to continue at college. For PRSSA, I recently became our chapter’s president, which is quite an exciting opportunity as we transition back to “normal operations” this upcoming fall!

In my free time, though, you will probably find me perusing a record shop (or multiple) with a cold brew in hand. Over the past year, I’ve become a huge audiophile, expanding my vinyl record collection to cover my wacky taste in music. When I say wacky, I mean ranging from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pathétique’ in B minor to trans-artist SOPHIE’s Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. Yes… feel free to judge me.

What About Now?

Taking on your first professional internship is not an easy task, especially with the backdrop of a raging pandemic and political unrest. I’m thankful for the morale the Ketner Group team has had, reminding me to have resilience. Overall, I’m thrilled to learn all I can from the knowledgeable and humble team at Ketner!

b2b analyst relations communications strategy

B2B Analyst Relations: The Secret Sauce to Your Communications Program

For some B2B organizations, the risk of becoming an echo chamber when it comes to company strategy is real. This month, during our webinar on analyst relations, we discussed how analysts can provide third-party feedback to help companies create a solid communications plan.

Our host Catherine Seeds was joined by Patty McDonald, global solution marketing director at Symphony RetailAI and Steve Rowen, managing partner at Retail Systems Research (RSR).

In her role, Patty ensures Symphony RetailAI, which is a client of Ketner Group’s, addresses the retail supply chain market with the right products, services and communications. At RSR, Steve helps current retailers make more strategic decisions about the role of tech in their enterprise.

Our discussion provided the inside track of what industry analysts are looking for and how to build long-term relationships.

What is the right time for analyst relations?

According to Steve, the sooner the better. Engaging with analysts does not need to be expensive and there’s truly no bad time for a discussion.

analyst relations - marketing strategy

Patty agreed that “the best time is all the time. When you think about building solutions, it’s really important to vet out the tech and the messaging. From a marketing perspective, it’s helpful to run these things by analysts, and have that as the backbone of your overall strategy.”

What are analysts looking for in a briefing?

The best inquiries all quickly summarize the company’s story. “We want to know what problems you’re trying to solve with your tech. That makes for a great conversation,” Steve said. “Don’t show me how the technology works right away; if I want to know, I’ll ask.”

Patty recommended technology companies identify a goal ahead of time. “Even before we have a conversation with an analyst, I want there to be mutual understanding of what I’m looking to get out of the conversation.”

Most importantly, both Steve and Patty emphasized the importance of being honest when it comes to what your technology can do and what you have planned for the future.

How can companies set the stage during a briefing?

“Establish objectives of a briefing early,” Steve said. He identified this as something Ketner Group, or another communications firm, can help with. In the beginning of the call, introduce the attendees, remind everyone what the goals of the discussion are and summarize the objectives.

analyst briefing objectives

For example, “We’d like to learn more about RSR. We’d like to introduce our new product, X. And we’d like to get perspective on how to bring the product to market.” For more tips on briefing best practices, check out these resources from RSR.

How do you nurture relationships with analysts?

When you think about your long-term relationship with an analyst, remember that they can provide another informed voice in the room–and you can never have enough smart people.

analysts marketing messaging

“As you’re getting your marketing materials together, getting perspective on even a word or two in your messaging can be valuable,” said Steve. Patty agreed that advice is helpful, particularly when using analysts as external validation for an internal idea. 

Patty also reminded attendees that analyst relationships go both ways. Recently, she’s had a lot of fun working with analyst firms on their thought leadership. “Personalized Promotions: The Key to Bigger Baskets and More Frequent Trips,” was a joint report put out by Symphony RetailAI and RSR.

Keep the conversation going

Interested in learning more about how to make analyst relations a core part of your communications strategy? We’d love to see how we can help! Contact us to set up a free, thirty-minute consultation.

Stay in touch with Patty and Steve by connecting with them on LinkedIn: Steve Rowen and Patty McDonald.

If you want to catch the full conversation with Catherine, Patty and Steve, feel free to view the webinar on demand. Our next KG Connects event will take place in October. Stay tuned!

kg connects may webinar on demand
ketner group Top Place to Work by Ragan

Ketner Group Communications Recognized as a Top Place to Work by Ragan

AUSTIN, Texas, – April 14, 2021 – Ketner Group Communications, a public relations, marketing and communications firm for innovative technology companies, today announced it has been recognized as one of Ragan’s Top Places to Work: Class of 2021.

ragans best places to work ketner group

Ragan Communications, publisher of the influential Ragan Report, is the leading publisher and resource for PR and communications professionals. This inaugural award is part of Ragan’s annual Employee Communications Awards and recognizes organizations with great company cultures that are true to their mission and vision and provide a top working environment for each of its employees. Ketner Group joins this inaugural class alongside 18 other organizations.

While public relations agency life is often associated with high burnout, Ketner Group has gone the extra mile to ensure each employee can attain a healthy work/life balance by providing a flexible work environment that fits each employee’s personal needs. This work environment was established by founder and CEO Jeff Ketner 30 years ago and been a guiding principle ever since.

Employee-oriented, remote working has been part of Ketner Group before it became fashionable. Prior to COVID, team members spent time working from Germany, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Thailand and across the U.S, Canada and Mexico without missing a beat. To ease the burden of social isolation and increased family responsibilities during the pandemic, work schedules have become increasingly flexible.

In 2020 the agency implemented Summer Fridays, allowing employees to clock out early May through August to get an early start to their weekends and enjoy time to disconnect. Ketner Group also launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, reinforcing the agency’s commitment to improving its recruiting, hiring and training processes as well as creating a company culture with all employees in mind.

“We’re honored by this award from Ragan, which is widely recognized as the premier media company in our industry,” said Jeff Ketner, founder and CEO. “It’s a team award that recognizes the contributions from everyone at the agency. They make Ketner Group a great place to work, day in and day out, and they make it easy to maintain a collaborative, friendly and positive work environment that enables us to go above and beyond for our clients.”

In addition to Ragan’s Top Places to Work recognition, Ketner Group was also recently named to the 2021 Inc. 5000 Regionals Texas List as one of the fastest growing companies in the state of Texas and was named to 2020 PRNews PR Agency Top 100 list. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ketner Group team has continued to provide the highest levels of guidance, support and results for clients, securing media coverage in publications like Reuters, Variety Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, MarketWatch and more.

About Ketner Group Communications
Ketner Group Communications represents innovators that are reshaping the world we live in, including high-growth companies in retail, e-commerce, grocery and CPG, advertising and marketing and consumer technology. We work with clients throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K, and our core capabilities include media and analyst relations, content development, social media strategy and implementation, and digital content marketing. Ketner Group has called Austin home for 30 years and expanded in 2019 with the addition of offices in New York City and Nashville. For more information, please visit www.ketnergroup.com.

Media Contact
Mariana Fischbach, Director of Media Relations
Ketner Group Communications
[email protected]

b2b content inspired by netflix

How to Create B2B Content That Puts Netflix to Shame

In our latest KG Connects webinar, we were lucky to have our friend Alicia Esposito join us to discuss how to create great B2B content marketing campaigns.

B2B content has always been a key part of building thought leadership, engagement and even leads. Over the past few years, it has become even more important, but brands have struggled to keep up with the breakneck pace of change.

That’s where Alicia comes to the rescue. As the director of content at G3 Communications, she aims to help businesses take an omnichannel approach to thought leadership and ultimately build passionate, empowered communities.

2020: A landmark year for B2B content

For the past decade, DemandGen Report, a G3 publication, has been tracking content preferences. “Year over year, it remains the same,” Alicia said, “folks say, ‘over the past year, I’ve relied more on content.’”

As companies continue to rely on content, they have also seen a corresponding increase in demand.

Last year was no exception to the rule. While the full report isn’t out yet, Alicia was able to share some initial data from an upcoming DemandGen Report.

“62% of respondents said they relied more on content over the past year than any other year,” said Alicia.

rise in b2b content needs

Factors such as lockdowns and a lack of in-person events have driven the demand for content, which has become a key component of the now-digital sales processes.

Incredibly, according to McKinsey, only 20% of buyers and sellers want to go back to in-person. “If you can have the right kind of content and can guide someone through an experience digitally, you don’t need to get on a plane and go halfway across the country,” she said.

Creating creative marketing that stands out

When it comes to impressing potential buyers, businesses need a wealth of content. According to Alicia, buyers will engage with 3-7 pieces of content before they actively engage with sales.

However, when it comes to the type of content buyers prefer, there was a major shift last year.

“In 2019, it was all video. This year, webinars shot to the top,” Alicia said.

Research is showing some interesting contradictions in how people consume content. There’s a demand for easy-to-consume content, while at the same time there is demand for long-form content like whitepapers.

To meet evolving needs, Alicia suggested iPapers, aka interactive white papers, which are very digestible and interactive.

With iPapers, “you can see how much time users are spending in the experience. What people are clicking on, how long they’re spending on the page. This allows you to see what the tangible engagement is.”

adapt long-form content alicia esposito

She also says it’s important to build a content ecosystem out of long-form content. Consider creating infographics, social media images, checklists and even creating video trailers. (For more on this topic, check out “How to Adapt Long-Form Content Into a Wealth of Resources.”)

“I encourage everyone to look at their content and find those bite-sized pieces to expand upon and connect to that long-form piece.”

Using content to generate leads

“How does content turn to leads?” It’s one of the biggest questions for marketers, alongside, how does PR drive leads?

“When we ask our customers what drives them to engage with content, there are always two answers: the trustworthiness of the source and the credibility of the content,” said Alicia. To build this trustworthiness, “you need good storytelling.”

storytelling drives leads

According to Alicia that means understanding the audience, getting to the heart of their pain points, understanding their goals and framing the story through their eyes.

“Powerful, empathetic storytelling is what drives that lead generation success.”

When it comes to the numbers game, however, Alicia says to stick to quality, not quantity.

“A common thing we hear is that clients create huge projects that generate thousands of leads and none of them are qualified. Sales teams don’t even want to reach out to these leads,” she explained.

Want to keep talking about B2B content?

The webinar is over, but the conversation doesn’t have to be.

If you want to discuss how content can help you, reach out to us!

To get in touch with Alicia, connect with her on LinkedIn.

To learn more about B2B content, watch the March webinar on demand.

We’ll be back in May with another edition of KG Connects; we’ll tackle analyst relations and how it can mean big things for businesses.

texas inc 5000 2021 ketner group

Ketner Group Communications Named to the 2021 Inc. 5000 Regionals Texas List

AUSTIN, Texas, – Mar. 17, 2021 – Ketner Group Communications, a public relations, marketing and communications firm for innovative technology companies, today announced it has been named to the 2021 Inc. 5000 Regionals Texas list. The Inc. 5000 Regionals: Texas recognizes the fastest-growing companies in the state of Texas and is an extension of the Inc. 5000 nationals list.

inc 5000 ketner group

Being named to the list is a local honor with national recognition and one of the most esteemed honors a privately held business can receive. Ketner Group joins this year’s list alongside innovative companies including Urban Betty, Red Fan Communications, SEI- Dallas and CKP among others.

This recognition comes on the heels of Ketner Group announcing its 30th anniversary as a B2B PR agency. Serving clients throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Ketner Group has established itself as a trusted partner to clients ranging from publicly traded companies to high-growth startups. Ketner Group has achieved many milestones throughout its 30 years as an agency, including reporting consistent growth in revenue, employees and client portfolio and naming Ketner Group’s longtime leader Catherine Seeds as agency’s president and partner in 2019. In recent years, the agency has expanded office locations beyond Austin, opening offices in New York City and Nashville.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ketner Group team has continued to provide the highest levels of support and results for clients, securing media coverage in publications like Reuters, Variety Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, MarketWatch and more. It has guided clients on the best practices in communications during the pandemic and officially launched the agency’s first webinar series, KG Connects, bringing together influencers and industry experts to discuss trends in PR and marketing.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in the 2021 Inc. 5000 Regionals Texas list,” said Jeff Ketner, founder and CEO. “Even in the midst of a global pandemic that affected all of us professionally and personally, our team demonstrated exceptional resilience, focus and dedication to Ketner Group and our clients. This award recognizes our team’s hard work, and we anticipate that 2021 will be our best year yet.”

To learn more about Ketner Group’s capabilities and career opportunities, visit ketnergroup.com.

About Ketner Group Communications
Ketner Group Communications represents innovators that are reshaping the world we live in, including high-growth companies in retail, e-commerce, grocery and CPG, advertising and marketing, social media and consumer technology. We work with clients throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K, and our core capabilities include media and analyst relations, content development, social media strategy and implementation, and digital content marketing. Ketner Group has called Austin home for close to 30 years and expanded in 2019 with the addition of offices in New York City and Nashville. For more information please visit www.ketnergroup.com.

Media Contact
Mariana Fischbach, Director of Media Relations
Ketner Group Communications
[email protected]

stewards of the future webinar tameka vasquez

How Marketers Can Be Stewards To the Future

For the first KG Connects of the year, we were delighted to have Tameka Vasquez — strategist, educator and futurist — join Catherine Seeds to discuss the importance of being what Tameka calls, “stewards to the future.”

In her day job, Tameka serves as a global marketing leader at Genpact. She also just recently jumped back into the world of academia as an assistant professor at St. John’s University in New York. She started her work in futurism because, as she describes, “everything in the world is just made up, and we have the power to make up something else.”

Read a summary of the webinar below, or if you’d like, watch the full webinar on-demand through Zoom.

What is a steward to the future?

Tameka often uses the phrase, “steward to the future.” To her, it’s a literal phrase.

She explained that a steward is a person who takes care of passengers on planes or cruise ships during their trip. The same concept applies to marketing, according to her, marketers need to think, “how do we use [marketing] to navigate people from the point of where they are today to the future?”

A futuristic remix on the four Ps of marketing

Most marketers know the four Ps of marketing — place, price, product and promotion — as well as how important this is for organizations. However, in future-work, Tameka takes a different approach to this classic method.

four ps of marketing philosophy

She puts forth the following:

  • Possible: what is something that can reasonably happen?
  • Plausible: what is feasible given what we know right now?
  • Probable: what is likely to happen? 
  • Preferred: what fits expectations and ambitions?

She stated the importance of these future four P’s, especially for marketers, because, “there is a high degree of uncertainty and there are a lot of contextual instances where you have to apply these four p’s.”

Applying futuristic thinking to marketing plans

As part of her work as a futurist, Tameka has to think, “What does it mean when we say the future?” She continued, “that could be 2021, it could be 2030. Whatever that marker of time is, you can then decide what the story that you want to tell about the future is. How do we use the attention that we have in the moment to give people a view of the future?”

tameka vasquez attention quote

Using 2020 as an example, she described how we needed to meet the moment by educating people on COVID-19 best practices while also thinking about how current events allow individuals and organizations to reimagine what the future could be.

“If 2030 was a time where certain things were possible, 2020 probably accelerated that path where we now need to think about those things far more intentionally,” she explained.

Getting comfortable with discomfort

The future means change, and change is very uncomfortable for many. Especially when those changes run counter to organizational planning. Tameka says that while strategic planning is never really going to go away, we can factor change into our planning easier than we could in the past.

She said that, “we have the capability to be social listeners in a way that we just hadn’t historically. While you’re in this space of planning, you also need to be in a space of listening.”

marketing strategic planning

When it comes to meeting business goals, Tameka explained that it’s still possible to apply futurist thinking. The trick is to focus on KPIs while, “making slight pivots. The plan doesn’t get thrown out the window, you’re slightly shifting.”

Learning more about futurism

Futurist thinking isn’t the easiest to jump into. Tameka’s preferred method for learning is to look at what brands are doing beyond the product or service.

“I really want people to look at how certain companies have captured the moment and how they’ve used the sentiment of the time to better position themselves,” Tameka said.

She used the example of how Twitter has been able to respond to the moment where trust and transparency are critical. She said that Twitter has been creating features that improve transparency, such as flagging questionable information. This does two key things simultaneously: it demonstrates Twitter is rising to the moment while also showing what a future of transparency might look like.

Tameka also shared some great beginner resources:

  • Prescient2050: Free resources that will help get you started learning and using the tools of strategic foresight and shaping your future.
  • Brookings Events: A nonprofit that conducts in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems.
  • Futures Festival: An event that highlights principles of inclusion, plurality, and collective participation as a means to how we can move toward challenging the status quo and move toward preferable shared futures.

Want to keep talking future?

There is a lot to discuss when it comes to futurism. If you want to keep the conversation going, reach out to Tameka on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn. Reminder: if you want all the insights from the webinar, you can watch it on demand.

watch kg connects january on demand

Join us for our March webinar to discuss B2B content!

KG Connects is moving to a bimonthly schedule for 2021. Join us in March for a discussion on how to create B2B content that puts Netflix to shame. Sign up for free.

ketner group 30th anniversary

Ketner Group Communications Celebrates 30 Years as a B2B PR Agency

AUSTIN, Texas, – Jan. 26, 2021 – Ketner Group Communications, a public relations, marketing and communications firm for innovative technology companies, today announced the firm’s 30th anniversary. Serving clients throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Ketner Group has established itself as a trusted partner to clients ranging from publicly traded companies to high-growth startups.

Ketner Group is the leading agency for retail technology companies. Specializing in this vertical has allowed Ketner Group to play a role in retail’s fast-paced evolution by representing a wide range of innovative clients, from omnichannel commerce to online marketplaces, hospitality and supply chain solutions. Ketner Group has expanded its portfolio of clients in the last five years to include B2B technology and professional services companies across a number of verticals, while still maintaining its leadership in retail technology PR.

“I have worked with the Ketner Group for two decades of its 30-year journey and right from the start recognized there was something different about its approach — sophistication, intelligence and authenticity,” said Joseph Skorupa, strategic adviser and former editor at large for RIS News. “These are principles I value, and clearly they have been instrumental in the agency’s three-decade record of success.”

Ketner Group has achieved many milestones throughout its 30 years as an agency, including reporting year-over-year growth in employee size and its client portfolio and naming Ketner Group’s long-time leader Catherine Seeds as the agency’s president and partner in 2019. In recent years, the agency has expanded office locations beyond its Austin headquarters; opening an office in New York City and another in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 2020, Ketner Group was named to the 2020 PRNEWS PR Agency Top 100 list. The list highlights the top communications, marketing,and digital agencies serving the U.S. Ketner Group was named to Austin Inno’s 2019 50 on Fire and is regularly recognized as one of the top PR agencies in Austin. Seeds was recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Power in Central Texas.

“It’s an honor to celebrate Ketner Group’s 30th anniversary, and it’s even more exciting to look to our future,” said Jeff Ketner, founder and CEO. “We’ve experienced year-over-year growth for the past four years, and we’re off to our best start ever in 2021. I’m grateful for all our team members, especially Catherine and our senior leadership. None of this would be possible without them and the support of so many long-term clients, and we will continue our momentum in the years ahead.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ketner Group team has continued to provide the highest levels of support and results for clients, securing media coverage in publications like Reuters, Variety Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, MarketWatch and more. It has guided clients on the best practices in communications during the pandemic and officially launched the agency’s first webinar series, KG Connects, bringing together influencers and industry experts to discuss trends in PR and marketing.

“We are proud of the growth and reputation our agency has established during these 30 years. Our hard work, integrity and strategic creativity has helped us earn the trust of our clients and partners, and in many cases, have led to longtime friendships,” said Catherine Seeds. “It is an honor for me to serve as president of Ketner Group Communications, alongside my team of fearless and kind PR professionals, and I look forward to sharing additional news about the agency’s future in the coming months.”

About Ketner Group Communications
Ketner Group Communications represents innovators that are reshaping the world we live in, including high-growth companies in retail, e-commerce, grocery and CPG, advertising and marketing, social media and consumer technology. We work with clients throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K, and our core capabilities include media and analyst relations, content development, social media strategy and implementation, and digital content marketing. Ketner Group has called Austin home for close to 30 years and expanded in 2019 with the addition of offices in New York City and Nashville. For more information please visit www.ketnergroup.com.

Media Contact
Mariana Fischbach, Director of Media Relations
Ketner Group Communications
[email protected]

Future of work webinar

The Future of Work: Shifting All the Paradigms

Last week, we were excited to host our first-ever panel discussion on KG Connects! Moderated by Ketner Group president, Catherine Seeds, our panel chatted about the future of work and included: Daniel Oppong, founder of OhanaHealth; Carolyn Birsky, founder of Compass Maven; and Sterling Hawkins, internationally recognized thought leader who focuses on the #NoMatterWhat approach.

As Catherine said as she opened the webinar, we couldn’t have picked a better topic for the end of the year. The working world has changed so rapidly that it has been hard for anyone to keep up.

Fortunately, our panel was able to help us make sense of it all and walk us through the changes they’ve seen companies undergo throughout 2020, as well as what that means for 2021 and beyond.

You can read the summary below or watch the webinar on-demand anytime on Zoom.

The impact of COVID-19 on hiring

Catherine: I’m curious, Daniel, are you seeing a lot of interest in the health-tech space right now?

Daniel: It’s a mixed bag, honestly. Even with the increase in hiring for the health-tech space in general, companies are still trying to figure out what they can do sustainably. Just because there is demand now doesn’t mean there will be demand over X amount of time.

Catherine: Has COVID helped or hindered companies’ recruiting efforts?

Daniel: Thinking about hiring, especially with the early-career candidates that I work with, presented a paradox. There’s a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of uncertainty as to where numbers are going to land at the end of the year. At the beginning of the pandemic, companies had to stop and see where things were going before making any hiring decisions. But as things have stabilized, companies know a little better going into 2021.

As far as creative ways to hire, look at more bespoke ways to distribute jobs. Look at more niche job boards like BuiltIn, Angel List or OhanaHealth to distribute jobs to the demographic you want to target. Additionally, get creative with who you involve in the hiring loop. Not everyone needs to be in the same physical space for an interview, so you can get more creative with who you involve in the hiring process.

Managing our teams in the COVID-19 environment

Catherine: Carolyn, you started your new managing position at the start of this pandemic, so I’d love for you to share some of the ways that you created a virtual environment to help them feel inspired, energized and innovative.

Carolyn: I joined my team fully virtually and I’ve met just one of the people that report to me in person at a distance. So, our entire experience together has been virtual. The biggest thing to focus on as a manager is being purposeful about the interactions you’re having.

Carolyn Birsky managing remote work

I’ve encouraged my team to have office hours where new members can go to them and foster a team environment. We also do cold call blocks on Zoom where everyone mutes their audio, but we can see each other making calls, and we message each other asking questions or sharing success. I’ve been looking for opportunities to do those kinds of things that we wouldn’t be able to do in office.

How remote work changes company culture

Catherine: Sterling, how are companies keeping culture fun and alive within their organizations while remote?

Sterling: Culture is this very nebulous thing, but it’s something that each of us innately knows. For example, if you travel to Dubai, Shanghai or Paris, something inside you knows you’re in a different world and that you have to operate differently.

The same thing happens in companies, and it gets reinforced from the conversations we’re having internally. But the transition to the virtual world is a chance to distinguish what that culture really is. We can start to see there are pieces of our culture that aren’t effective. Or maybe they were effective, but they aren’t anymore. How can we change some of those dynamics?

Catherine: Company culture is a big part of recruiting, and how does showing that culture translate to the current circumstance?

Daniel Oppong company culture

Daniel: COVID has separated everyone from the idea that they can come to a space and get a feel for the company culture there. How are companies showing up for the candidates that they are interviewing? The value proposition of the company, the clarity of the mission, the experience of interacting with the manager in the hiring loop all has to speak volumes.

Moving from the brick-and-mortar to the virtual

Catherine: Moving forward, what do we do with our physical office space?

Sterling: The short answer is that it depends. What part of the world are you in? What are you working on? But Synchrony Financial Services announced they are closing their main offices and turning what’s left into a shared workspace. Now they’ve taken their overhead down and created a more dynamic, interactive environment. There is now some kind of hybrid approach that will look different going forward.

Sterling Hawkins future of work

The hardships that come with the virtual workspace

Catherine: How do you deal with the isolation and depression, as well as the other mental hardships that come with working during the pandemic?

Carolyn: It starts with compassionate leadership. Even when we’re in person at an office, you need to, as a leader, start from a compassionate place. Certain people may have different home situations, you won’t know what that is, and you can’t pry into that, but you want to create a space where you say that you’re here to support them. It starts with leadership saying that your situation is OK and that you or anyone in the company is there for them.

Sterling: It’s so interesting how the pandemic has humanized all of our interactions. It’s almost expected and embraced for things to come up like crying children. Having some compassionate leadership is a piece of the puzzle, but also having some of the right support mechanisms inside companies to help people grow from these things matters. As we give our team mechanisms to help them grow, I think they’ll show up.

Daniel: I have to agree. Think about parents who don’t have changing work demands, but now have to think about their kiddos. How do we prioritize that? One of the things my company has done is focusing on employee resource groups. Like a working parents’ group, which has been a really meaningful way to support parents. To Carolyn’s point, having that empathetic view goes a long way.

missed future of work webinar

Keep the conversation going

The conversation doesn’t have to stop when KG Connects is over! Stay connected with our panelists:

Don’t forget: you can watch the entire webinar on your own time on demand.

Jan. 2021 Webinar: How Marketers Can Be Stewards To the Future

We just looked at the future of work, but the future isn’t just work. Marketers have a unique new world to conquer that requires moving beyond selling products and services. Learn how strategist, educator, and futurist Tameka Vasquez thinks we can all embed futuristic thinking into our strategies. Register here.

retail 4.0 gary hawkins webinar

Grocery’s Great Digital Revolution Through COVID-19

In November, we had the pleasure of being joined by Gary Hawkins, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail Technology (CART), on KG Connects. Hosted by Ketner Group CEO, Jeff Ketner, Gary walked listeners through what the digital evolution of grocery means for retailers and shoppers alike.

CART connects retail to new innovative capabilities through programs, events and education. Additionally, Gary is a highly sought-after strategic adviser and speaker, as well as a board member of companies that bring game-changing capabilities to market. He has written three books, Retail in the Age of i being the latest.

Below you can find a full summary of the webinar. If you’d like to view it on demand, you can check it out on Zoom here.

Retail 4.0: What the future of grocery retail entails

To set the stage, Gary and Jeff first discussed Gary’s latest whitepaper, “Retail 4.0: The Age of Metamorphosis” reveals the current and future changes expected in the grocery industry. There are three key themes Gary focuses on.

The first is the blurring of reality.

As Gary explained, “The world of digital, the online world is meeting and fusing together, melding with the actual physical world. As these things come together, it’s absolutely beginning to change and transform how we shop.”

retail 4.0 key themes

The majority of people use their phones while they shop, which, according to Gary, opens the door to not only incredible amounts of information, but also augmented reality. As augmented reality technology continues to improve, the in-store experience will begin to utilize it more and more. 

The second theme is the automation of business practices.

“Instead of a physical robot, we’re talking software robots that can begin to automate the decision-making process in a growing number of areas across the retail organization.”

The third theme is the opportunity for traditional retailers. Specifically, the ability for these retailers to, “play the exponential value creation game building out their digital networks.”

Who’s spearheading the future of grocery retail?

After the closer look into Retail 4.0, Jeff asked a rather simple question, “Who is doing it right?”

Who else but Amazon?

grocery sales change

“The new Amazon Fresh Farm…They’ve brought Alexa into the store now,” Gary described, “if a shopper has a question, they don’t have to seek out a clerk, they simply go to an Alexa station and ask their question.”

Which ties right back to the first key theme in Retail 4.0.

The pandemic’s impact on retail

When asked about the role of COVID-19 on the grocery industry, Gary had one word—Accelerant.

“Before [the pandemic], online grocery was maybe somewhere around one or 2% of sales. Literally overnight, retailers experienced a doubling or triple of online sales. I’ve talked to some retailers that saw even 5x or 6x of online sales growth. Simply exploded.”

Gary continued by explaining that the growth has plateaued, allowing retailers to reassess their systems and ensure they are prepared for the foreseeable future.

He also noted that, “for an industry that has almost resisted innovation and change for the past 100 years, when they need to, retailers can move really fast.”

One area where he saw this unusual speed was employee communication. Retailers, typically through apps, were able to push out training for sanitation, coordinate messaging and rapidly changing scheduling for every associate.

Grocery innovation on the horizon

Being at the forefront of new technologies, Gary sees a lot of interesting new startups enter the retail space. One area that he is watching with a keen eye goes right back to the first theme of Retail 4.0: augmented reality.

“I saw a stat recently from Gartner that over 100 million people are using AR primarily through their smartphones. I think we are simply going to see that explode in the next 12 months as Apple introduce their smart glasses,” Gary continued, “I’m really looking to that technology to transform the shopping experience.”

Marketing to the individual shopper

Augmented reality isn’t the only cutting edge. Gary also lauded AI and machine learning’s current and future potential, as well as its ability to power key business systems such as personalization.

“It’s helping to facilitate the automation of different decisions. For example, it is more efficient for a mass retailer to go to market on an individual customer basis than it is to go to market with traditional mass promotion.”

While it would seem that meeting the individual preferences of shoppers may be harder to achieve, Gary explained that, at scale, the 1-to-1 marketing tactics will, in-fact, smooth supply chain issues by removing the spikes in unit sales caused by mass promotion.

gary hawkins grocery evolution quote

While there are challenges to implementing this method, they aren’t caused by technology, but by retailers and brands themselves. Gary stated that retailers need to move away from over a century of thinking about how they do business.

This includes brand promotions as well.

 “When you shift to a true 1-to-1 model, that changes how brands pay retailers to promote their brands to shoppers on a mass scale.”

The 2021 digital retail experience, and beyond

The fact is, in twelve months, we may find a very different retail experience in grocery stores that are on the cutting-edge of technology. Online grocery has had a major impact on the physical store, and Gary expects to see stores become hybridized between a traditional grocery store and a micro-fulfillment center.

“Every retailer is now focused on making online retail profitable, and when you’re sending people up and down the isles to fulfill those orders, it’s tough to get profitable,” Gary said.

Gary is seeing a, “stampede,” toward the automation and micro-fulfillment side of grocery retail. He expects that stores will begin to move the micro-fulfillment center to the back of the store, while the front half focuses on fresh foods and customer experience. Experience being the operative word according to Gary.

“If that store can’t provide an experience to get shoppers out of their home and into the store, they won’t be there,” and because grocery delivery is so prominent, he explained that, “the days of utility shopping are gone.”

Breaking into the grocery technology market

Gary was asked, “how do new technology companies market themselves to retailers?” While the inability to meet face-to-face makes marketing a challenge, Gary offered a bit of advice.

“Understand the space, the retailer’s challenges and needs and then work to craft that vision and story about why the retailer should be talking to you. Retailers need to focus on the vision — what’s coming — because things are moving really, really fast.”

Regional grocers can utilize technology to keep up with major retailers like Walmart. According to Gary, “it’s not about access to the technology, it’s about can that regional retailers change their culture? Can they move faster? Deploy things faster? Can they change their processes and how they think about their business?”

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If you’d like to watch the whole webinar, you can watch it on demand anytime.

The last one for 2020: Where in the H*LL Does the Future of Work Go From Here?”

As we wrap up 2020, we’re looking toward 2021 and how work will change even further than it has over the past year. Join Carolyn Birsky, Daniel Oppong and Sterling Hawkins as we dive deep into how to maintain a culture, recruit talent and keep some kind of normalcy all while remote. We look forward to seeing you! Register here for free.

NY Fashion Tech Lab overview

A Peek Inside The New York Fashion Tech Lab

In our latest KG Connects webinar series, we heard from Jackie Trebilcock firsthand about the work that the New York Fashion Tech Lab (NYFTLab) is doing to empower women-led fashion-tech and retail-tech companies.

Jackie is the managing director of NYFTLab and boasts over 15 years of experience in fashion, technology and business development. She has spent much of that career working with entrepreneurs to grow their vision and companies via strategic planning and relevant industry introductions.

Elevating fashion-tech companies

For the past eight years, NYFTLab has facilitated partnerships between growing companies and big-name global brands. Founded by Springboard Enterprises, alongside key fashion retailers, NYFTLab’s mission is to support women-led companies that have developed incredible innovations merging fashion, retail and technology.

Through the connections to capital and retail partners, Jackie describes what NYFTLab does as, “a business catalyst…our whole goal with this is to provide more exposure and a platform for the companies to share what they do.”  

This is a sentiment echoed by co-founder and CEO of HaftaHave, Amanda Latifi, a 2020 Lab participant.

“The connections and relationships that Springboard and Jackie have forged with top brands and marketers in the retail industry is bar none,” Amanda said. “This is not VC’s telling retailers about emerging tech, but retailers selecting emerging technology to work with based on known needs and pain points.”

NYFTLab is empowering women and emerging tech

NYFTLab is highly focused on a particular group, recruiting women-led early and growth-stage emerging technology companies. While that description might be narrow, the areas of interest for the Lab are anything but. AR/VR, blockchain, data analytics, content marketing, supply chain and so many more technologies are welcomed into the fold.

Participants in the Lab have hailed from all over the globe. From Paris to Singapore, anyone from anywhere can apply to the NYFTLab program. The Lab also partners with brands and retailers from outside of the U.S.

“It’s becoming increasingly more global than it was when we started,” Jackie said.

Jackie Trebilcock quote

The next generation of fashion technology

The 2020 Lab featured eight companies that represent the cutting edge of fashion and retail tech: Reflaunt, Becoco, Sozie, Zoomlook, Futureproof, Change of Paradigm, Heuritech and HaftaHave.

While the participants were selected in February, the fact that they are pushing the bounds of technology means that they were well-poised to take on the unique challenges that 2020 brought.

When asked about the intersection of technology and fashion, particularly in the pandemic, Jackie said that, “everyone needs to think differently. The consumer has been really changed and challenged as to how they can shop how they used to. All of this has created a huge opportunity for new companies to come to the forefront.”

Missed the webinar?

Watch this webinar and sign up for the next KG Connects

To learn more about the NYFTLab and the 2020 Lab participants, watch the webinar on demand.

On deck: Grocery’s Digital Disruption: What’s Ahead for 2021

The world is changing at a breakneck pace, and retail is no exception. Mark Fairhurst and Sylvain Perrier, creators of the “Digital Grocer” podcast will focus on what’s ahead for grocery retailers in this fireside chat featuring special guest host Jeff Ketner. We look forward to you being there! You can register here.