Shoptalk 2019: Consumers Lead the Retail Evolution

At Shoptalk 2019, Shoptalk founder, Anil Aggarwal, asked, “what will retail look like ten years from now?” It’s an interesting question. The retail industry is changing at an unprecedented pace, thanks to consumers’ changing expectations. And retailers are answering the call with new initiatives that will have a lasting impact on retail.

It’s important to explore the depths of which consumer behaviors are changing retail. For example, Facebook’s VP of Ads & Business Platform, Mark Rabkin, stated that consumers are proving how quickly they can get into new models of consumption. Meaning, consumers who normally adopt new trends every six months are now adopting new trends on a monthly basis. This new adoption model has quickly driven retailers to experiment with new customer experience concepts. Below are a few interesting ones seen and heard from the Shoptalk floor.

Macy’s Pursues Mobile and In-Store Experience

Jill Ramsey, Macy’s Chief Product and Digital Revenue Officer, and Rachel Shechtman, Brand Experience Officer, discussed retail’s next chapter. Taking a look at Macy’s most-loved traditions like its Thanksgiving Day Parade and holiday display windows, Ramsey and Shechtman identified key areas to make the Macy’s shopping experience iconic with digital and in-store components. Ramsey highlighted how Macy’s mobile app is now the retailer’s year-round display window, bringing shoppers aesthetic and curated shopping experiences that drive inspiration.

Macy’s also created a new initiative, Macy’s Style Crew, driven by store associates. The retailer tapped into its employee base to identify micro-influencers who can showcase their fashion and style. This initiative showcases Macy’s products beyond the retailer’s four walls and drives inspiration. Within the store, Shechtman discussed her work with Macy’s to create curated in-store experiences that facilitate shopping for consumers.

Startups Merge Digital and Physical

Discussions also highlighted how digital pure players are finding a home in brick and mortars. For example, both Madison Reed and GlamSquad, who traditionally offered their services offline, have teamed up with established retailers and opened their own locations to create full-circle shopping experiences. For example, GlamSquad who brings mobile beauty services to consumers’ homes, opened beauty kiosks at CVS. Meanwhile, Madison Reed opened Color Bars in select locations around the country. Both of these digital pure players agree their digital presence is key, but their newfound physical presence taps new audiences. While their digital presence put them on the map, their physical component takes their shopping experience to the next level.

Rent the Runway and Crate and Barrel Offer Services

Crate and Barrel discussed rethinking the in-store experience to deliver customer experiences that live up to the expectations of today. Crate and Barrel’s CEO, Neela Montgomery, discussed different partnerships with companies like Zola, a wedding planning and registry company, to facilitate the shopping experience.

As well, Rent the Runway’s COO Maureen Sullivan discussed how the company gives shoppers the ability to shift from ownership to access with the ability to utilize Rent the Runway year-round.

Retail Ten Years From Now

So, what will retail look like ten years from now? The truth is no one can answer that question just yet. However, as consumers continue to run the show and retailers answer the call, it appears retail will become more service oriented than ever. The new age of retail will also continue to focus on delivering fun experiences that drive inspiration and continue incentivizing consumers to shop. It will also blend the lines of physical and digital, creating unique experiences upon every iteration.

Social Media Week Austin Delivers Key Business Insights

Social Media Week Austin brought together social media experts, digital power players and brands last week. Gathering at the UT campus, featured speakers from Bumble to Whole Foods Market spoke about their experiences using social media. In total, more than 100 speakers shared ideas and actionable insights with an audience of 800 industry peers. As well, our very own client, Laura Musa of Adlucent, provided key insights for making social performance soar.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Stories.” Designed to empower professionals with a deeper understanding of social media strategies for business, this theme explored the role of social media in spreading awareness, news and stories across platforms.

The Critical Role of Social Media

Social media is under more of a magnifying glass than it’s ever been before. As usage becomes more widespread, more regulations have kicked into high gear. For example, Facebook underwent scrutiny for certain practices uncovered within its data collection strategies. Platforms like Instagram also had to implement regulations for influencers announcing paid partnerships.

These new regulations improve the safety and accuracy of social media advertising and digital marketing. And as consumers discover new products on social platforms, they also look for transparency in the ads they see.

Austin Isn’t the Only City With Social Media on its Mind

With this thought in mind, this year’s Social Media Week Austin brought together the best in the business. Given Social Media Week takes place in over 28 cities, the Austin conference provided attendees with a global scope of everything going on in the world of social media.

Find the full list of cities hosting their own social media weeks here.

The Rapid Response Formula – Insight, Data, Speed

As Talladega Night’s Ricky Bobby avidly proclaims in a pronounced southern accent, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” While this quote cracks me up, it rings quite true in a rapid response scenario. If you’re not among the first to provide a comment after news breaks, chances are, you’ll get lost in the noise. However, speed is not the only component of a successful rapid response formula. To garner media mentions, your rapid response should be prompt, include unique insights and highlight pertinent data.

While this is easier said than done, PR professionals can follow a few tips and tricks to ensure speed when sending out a rapid response.

Tip One: Monitor the News

Effectiveness in the rapid response world means keeping an eye on breaking news. This step requires you to think like a journalist. As a best practice, we recommend looking at your top 15 media contacts and analyzing what topics they regularly cover. For example, if they cover retail and technology, do they cover breaking news from retail giants like Amazon and Walmart? If so, the best way to offer timely and relevant rapid responses is to go straight to the source.

For example, publicly traded companies issue press releases and hold quarterly earnings calls, which journalists usually attend to get the scoop. Therefore, by making the time to read the press releases and attend these calls, your company can stay ahead of the curve on breaking news and deliver a speedy and timely response.

Tip Two: Figure Out Your Unique Position

Once you gain understanding of the breaking news, it’s time to figure out what to say. You may have to decipher whether media contacts need an analytical point of view, a forward-looking prediction, or an explanatory statement that discusses what this breaking news means. Remember that your rapid response should add value to the journalist’s story. Once you figure out your position, it’s time to bring in data insights to back up your statement. The more unique the data, the better, as it will help both journalists and readers understand your company’s point of view and help establish you as an expert source.

Tip Three: Craft Your Response

Now that you have all your components, it’s time to craft your rapid response! We typically recommend sending journalists a paragraph or two that can easily serve as a quote. Within these paragraphs, focus on what is important and unique. Rather than summarizing the breaking news, acknowledge it and provide your statement with key data insights.

When it comes to the perfect rapid response formula, remember to think speed, insight and data. As you start to think like a journalist, you’ll understand what the media needs for their next breaking news story.

PRSA ICON 2018: It’s All About Relevant and Data-Driven Content

Last week, the Ketner Group team attended the PRSA 2018 International Conference, better known to the public relations community as PRSA ICON, in our own backyard here in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with the conference, it’s designed specifically to help the communications community enhance our personal and professional network through career development and connecting with other PR practitioners.

Needless to say, the KG team definitely networked, and we DEFINITELY returned to the office with new ideas and methods for bettering our professional craft. We heard inspiring keynotes from Do Something’s CEO Aria Finger and digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. The PRSA ICON breakout sessions we attended were all about perfecting your messages in clear yet relevant ways, and also explored new sectors of the communications industry. Here are just a few tidbits of the best practices we learned at PRSA ICON this year:

Lesson One: Communicating should ALWAYS be about your audience

Although as communication professionals we may think we are clearly delivering our messages, that may not always be the case. As we learned at the conference, we currently live in the age where content is king, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of “churning and burning” an immense amount of content, losing sight of one key component: your target audience. For example, think of a scenario where someone is just talking at you, instead of trying to understand what experiences or topics may be relevant to you based on your experiences and former knowledge – chances are, mid-lecture your mind will start drifting away to more relevant thoughts.

Therefore, your audience should always be at the forefront of the message. Key questions like ‘what is my audience’s point of reference?’ and ‘why would this be relevant to them?’ and ‘what does my audience need?’ should always lead your messaging strategy. After all, if you lose your audience, who is going to read your content?

Lesson Two: We are all, or should strive to be, data analysts

We live in a digital age where every search and click is tracked. And while we in the PR world are notorious for disliking math and preferring words over figures, it’s time to join the data revolution. At PRSA ICON, we discussed the need for PR professionals to dive into the world of data to create an even bigger need and sense of interest for each and every story, while continuing to make our pitches and strategies not only timely but also informed and relevant. As IBM’s Brandi Boatner explained during her workshop, while the world of data is intimidating, the key here is to start one step at a time. She recommended starting with Google Trends and then identifying data sets that are relevant to your communications strategy. As Boatner explained, when you dive into the world of data, you should not try to analyze a large amount of data all at once, as both you and your audience will be overwhelmed: “A good storyteller masters things that are unseen and with AI and data analytics, you can create a communications strategy that quickly identifies and gets ahead of trends.”

Lesson Three: Social media influencers are now a staple in public relations

As industry conversations continue to heat up on the effectiveness of social media influencers, the fact is, social influencers are now and will continue to be a staple in the world of communications. (Ketner Group recently profiled one such influencer in a recent blog!) What’s more, social media influencers can help companies effectively grow organic audiences and customers they would not have had before. As we learned at PRSA ICON, leveraging social media influencers for your communication efforts is a matter of conducting diligent research to identify the right influencers that will create a new level of authentic communication between you and your target audience.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And in public relations and communications as a whole, there is something new to learn every day! We look forward to implementing the lessons learned at this year’s conference into our communications craft as we continue to be life-long learners in this industry.

This Year’s FIFA World Cup MVP is…. Technology

As the summer heat continues to roll in, it’s the time of year that the majority of us run for the nearest pool or beach as the temperatures rise and schools let out, and the expected “out of office” messages begin to appear in your inbox on a daily basis. However, this year, the “OOO” messages may also be appearing for an additional reason, the FIFA World Cup.

It’s that magical event that occurs every four years and brings a whopping 3.4B people around the world together to tune in and root for their favorite country. And while some of the players’ faces may be familiar from four years ago, as well as the all-too familiar brands including McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser, there are also new off-the-field players making their way onto the scene.

For example, if you’ve been tuning in to the matches this first round, you may have noticed Chinese brands, such as Hisense and Vivo making their presence strongly known on the sparkling World Cup advertising banners around the field. However, the biggest player of them all making its presence strongly known at the World Cup this year is, you guessed it…technology. And this year’s technology MVP comes in the shape of a Virtual Assistant Referee or VAR.

Virtual Assistant Referee

For the very first time at a FIFA World Cup, the referees are benefiting from the use of VAR to get an eyes-from-the-sky POV. Through this technology, referees are able to track and gather data on all plays in the field in real-time. This data is then automatically transmitted to an assistant referee who is away from the field. During calls such as penalties, goals and deflections, referees are able to call on the assistant referees to get a more in-depth look at the call. While VAR is doing a great amount of good, this technology is already causing some controversy with World Cup fans, as several blame the VAR system for awarding a penalty to the French team during the Australian and France face-off, consequently leading to France beating Australia.

There is a phrase that states “no publicity is bad publicity,” and while VAR may be having its moment of fame (or controversy) on the World Cup stage, one thing is for certain, referees, teams and World Cup organizers are gathering real-time data like never before. In the spirit of progression and pushing the sport to its limit, I believe that this technology will be a key player in helping the sport advance, and I for one, can’t wait for 2026 when the World Cup makes a pit stop in North America.

Finding a Home in Today’s Digital World – A Digital Nomad’s Diary

In my 30s this kind of travel was nearly impossible. You are quite lucky to be able to stay connected no matter where you go. This is why I had to wait until retirement to travel,” an elderly British man said to me as we sat on the top deck of a fast boat on the way from Bali to Gili Trawangan.

This past month, with Ketner Group’s blessing, I was able to cross off one of the top items on my life bucket list and travel to Bali, Indonesia, for an entire month. I’ve gotten to explore the beautiful beaches and scenery, unique culture, great food and, most of all, see how the other half of the world lives – literally. And yes, while it was a lot of PLAY, there was definitely some work still involved in my travels, as I promised my KG family that I’d work throughout to ensure we did not skip a beat with our clients.

As the man on the boat reminded me, this past month I’ve felt extremely lucky to be living in an age where my work can be part of my carry-on luggage no matter where I go – as long as there is a strong WiFi connection. And, while I won’t bore with you my many pictures of radiant white sand and crystal clear blue waters on this blog (follow me on the Strings app for more on that!), I can offer some insight and best practices on what I learned from being a digital nomad this past month.

Digital Nomad Rule #1

Plan for it. For this rule, I don’t necessarily mean you have to find the right time to travel and work in order to succeed as a digital nomad – sometimes you have to put “timing” aside and just go for it and see how it turns out!

What I mean is, before you set out on your digital nomad journey, take the time to review your workload, and consider the time difference between where you will be and where the rest of your team and/or clients are. From there, set a schedule that outlines the times you will be online, how you will communicate with your team, and what your projects and assignments will be while you are away. Team work makes the dream work, especially in a fully digital world, so to keep everyone at ease, be sure to communicate with your team and stick to your plan while working remotely. Whether you are 13 hours ahead or just one hour behind, a plan matters.

Digital Nomad Rule #2

Find a digital home. As I mentioned earlier, a strong WiFi connection is a must! As I traveled throughout this past month, I was pleasantly surprised and very underwhelmed by the WiFi offered at my different stays. However, no matter where I went throughout Bali, finding a digital café or even a digital workspace that catered specifically to digital nomads was extremely easy. In fact, during my five-day stay in Canggu Beach, I posted up at a members-only workspace called The Dojo, that offered some of the speediest WiFi on the island 24/7, as well as conference call rooms, food, free coffee and water, and a pool in case you needed to take a break to dip in and relax from your workday. So, no matter where you go, make sure you find a digital home for the day to get your work done, and maybe take a swim while you’re at it!

Digital Nomad Rule #3

Find inspiration from your digital community. As I sat in The Dojo, I couldn’t help but overhear the different conversations people around me were having. I met a variety of people, from editorial and marketing directors, to business entrepreneurs and customer service agents. This communal workspace offered the opportunity to not only come face-to-face with all walks of life, but to also easily ask a question if I was interested in learning about a new topic. The Dojo offered additional networking hours where you could come together as a digital community and talk about everything from productivity hacks to brewing the perfect cup of coffee. This space not only offered several opportunities for inspiration, but also a sense of “home” and belonging in a digital world.

Last but not least, remember the key ingredient: “you are lucky” to be able to do this in today’s day and age, so take advantage of it. Call me a typical millennial but the phrase “you only live once” is quite ingrained in my brain. As they constantly say here in Bali, “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Thanks to today’s technology, the four walls of the office cubicle can now be broken down and substituted for ocean waves crashing in the background.

Shoptalk 2018: New Venue, New Retail Outlook

Shoptalk 2018 is slated to take place in Las Vegas in just a few days, March 18-21, bringing with it the latest and greatest in retail innovation. Now in its third year, the Shoptalk 2018 conference will be the largest one to date, with almost 8,000 attendees coming together in the conference’s new location at the Venetian. Interestingly enough, just as the show moves to a new location this year, it also appears that the retail conversation has also shifted in a new direction — from retail apocalypse to retail renovation.

For example, during the past two years the conversation at Shoptalk has largely been about how to address and compete with the 800-pound elephant in the room: Amazon. And while Amazon is still a major topic of conversation throughout the retail industry, this year’s Shoptalk promises to focus on how savvy brands and retailers are utilizing their physical storefronts and digital channels to not only bring about the future of retail, but truly create the kind of customer experience that consumers have been asking for.

Key Conversations

With the continuous innovation and changes happening in the world of retail, here are the topics that we look forward to hearing most about during the show;

  • Voice and conversational commerce – as the adoption of voice-assistants continues to rise among consumers, retailers and brands need a way to not only deliver a true-to-the-brand experience but also ensure that their product discovery efforts are maximized during initial voice searches. It will be interesting to see and hear the work retailers are doing to maximize their efforts via voice.
  • The future of the store front – while retailers continue to discuss and experiment with the combination of physical storefronts and digital channels, it will be interesting to see what new developments are underway. Last year we saw prime examples during Shoptalk including Sephora incorporating its mobile app features to help enhance consumers’ experiences within the store and track all the products they used and liked during their consultation with an in-store beauty expert.
  • Artificial Intelligence – this year’s big buzzword is artificial intelligence; however, it will be interesting to listen to actual use cases of AI during this year’s Shoptalk to clarify and pinpoint what is actually possible and what is just hype at the moment.

Clients at Shoptalk

Do you plan on walking the show floor during Shoptalk 2018? Keep a lookout for our retail technology clients who will be exhibiting as well as participating in some of the speaking sessions during the show. From conversational commerce to prescriptive analytics to mobile app platform solutions and everything in between, check out our wonderful KG clients on the show floor including:

As retail innovation continues to make waves in the first half of 2018, we look forward to the creative ideas and innovative case studies that Shoptalk will feature. From retail apocalypse to retail renovation, it will be interesting to follow retail’s journey throughout 2018.

NRF 2018 Recap: Welcome to the World of Unified Commerce

This past month the Ketner Group team journeyed to New York City to attend NRF 2018: Retail’s BIG Show, where the majority of our clients were either exhibiting or attending. This being my third year to attend the conference the phrase ‘BIG Show’ was definitely not lost on me, as every year it seems to me that the show floor grows in number of exhibitors and attendance traffic, as you are forced to weave in-and-out of the massive crowds to get to your next appointment.

However, before arriving to the show this year, I wondered if the ongoing ‘retail apocalypse vs. retail transformation’ conversation would have any impact on the show’s attendance and energy. After attending the show and taking some time to reflect on everything I learned, I can tell you that the term ‘BIG Show’ lived up to its reputation and then some!

Above all, the show seemed to showcase a renewed spirit in retail, one in which retailers realized the time to change has come. But their change will be tactful and needs to focus on bringing true improvements and execution in order to attain a customer-centric environment that delivers a seamless shopping experience across all touchpoints.

How are retailers planning this you ask? Here are a few top themes heard and seen across the show floor.

Unified Commerce

If you took one look at the show floor, two words stood out above all: Unified Commerce. This year unified commerce took center stage as retailers connected with IT vendors to discuss how to achieve a unified commerce environment by 2020. Several retailers noted that while they have adopted a few technologies already to create a unified commerce experience, there is still work to be done to bring all the puzzle pieces together. We expect, as do many industry insiders, that unified commerce will be a top priority for retailers in 2018 and beyond.

Personalization

If achieving unified commerce is the main goal for retailers, then personalization and customer-centricity are the main pillars to achieve this goal. Conversations at NRF around personalization and customer-centricity sought to arrive at the true meaning of these capabilities and the technologies that will allow retailers to make it happen.  For example, retailers noted that offering personalized recommendations based on a consumer’s cart items is just one piece of personalization, rather than the whole package. Therefore, retailers are looking to prioritize building out their personalization offerings as the year continues.

Robots, Voice and AI

NRF did not lack the latest in robot, voice and AI technologies. If you happened to take a quick tour through NRF’s Innovation Lab, you were greeted by several technology vendors showcasing robots that help pick out personalized grocery lists for consumers, face-recognition technologies that tout the ability to place your favorite fast-food order upon arrival to that restaurant, and voice-assistants that could instantly replace your favorite item. While various retailers were laser-focused on ensuring the foundational technology to build a unified commerce environment was in place, it’s no doubt that the adoption of these new technologies will be next on retailers’ roadmap.

NRF definitely set the pace for retail priorities in 2018, and if the industry is as busy as the conference was this year, then we are in for a thrilling ride in 2018.

Not All Press Releases are Created Equal: Tips & Tricks for a Successful Press Release

 

In the world of public relations, the words “press release” are part of the daily vernacular in day-to-day communications. The bottom line is, everyone has a story to tell. Whether a company is launching a new product, issuing a breaking news alert, providing details on an upcoming event or highlighting the great work they’ve done, a press release is the best and most efficient way to deliver the news straight to the media and external audiences.

However, not all press releases are created equal. For a press release to be truly successful, companies need to strategically think about the press release content, the timing of the release and the publishing medium they plan to utilize among other top factors. Below are a few best practices to follow when issuing a press release:

Content

For the most part, the content of your press release should be short and straight to the point. As a best practice, the headline should be concise –around five to seven words— while providing a perfect picture of the main point. If possible, use key words that are trending in your sector to expand your SEO reach. You can always use the subhead to provide a broader picture of key components, but the subhead should also be no more than a sentence.

Next, the body should provide the who, what, when, where and why within the first two paragraphs of the release to allow the media to quickly understand the importance of the news and decide if this is something they would like to cover or pass on to someone else.

If you have a quote from a customer or a third-party reference, make sure to position it close to the top or no lower than the middle of the page to ensure visibility. Additionally, include any graphics or short videos you have to accompany your release. Visuals not only help to quickly paint the full picture, but they can also provide additional collateral that media can utilize to tell your story in further detail.

As far as word count is concerned, a press release between 600-800 words should do the trick to not only get the media’s attention, but to also ensure they read the entire release.

Timing

The timing of a release is everything. Ideally, most press releases should go out early in the morning within the time zone you are trying to reach. This allows media publications to receive the news early enough to reach back out to you with any questions they may have for the story they are working on.

Additionally, if you are planning to publish your press release around a big event, ensure you are carving out a specific window of time where you press release can rise above the noise and garner the attention of your target audience. Don’t forget to take into consideration national and bank holidays such as Thanksgiving or Martin Luther King Day, and avoid sending press releases a few days before or after the holiday to prevent your press release going out while your audience’s attention is preoccupied elsewhere.

Publishing Medium

Once your content and timing are established, it’s time to decide how you will publish your press release. At this stage, you will need to answer the question of whether you will be sending out your release through a wire service, such as BusinessWire, PR Newswire, or Nasdaq GlobalNewswire, or directly posting it on your website.

Remember that not all press releases have to be distributed through a wire service. We recommend publishing a press release through a wire service only if your company is announcing a new funding round, product launch or a customer win so that it reaches audiences and media publications beyond your network and amplifies the overall reach of your announcement.

Press releases that discuss new company appointments or upcoming events and speaking engagements can forego the wire and be posted directly to your site. If you go this route, ensure you pitch the press release directly to your core media targets and network, as well as promote your news via your social channels to maximize reach.

Press releases are a great way to quickly and effectively get your company’s news out there. By creating a perfect combination of the right content, timing and publishing strategy, you can ensure your press release is a success for your company.

#TexasStrong— Hurricane Harvey and The Texas Spirit

This past week, Hurricane Harvey brought historical havoc to the Texas Coast, making landfall right in Rockport, Texas and traveling all the way to Houston, where it proceeded to sit stationary for five days and dump the equivalent of what The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compared to as “the biggest waterfall in Niagara Falls continuously pouring on Texas for nine months.”

Early estimates on Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the retail industry have come in at about $1 billion in losses. However, the entire impact is yet to be seen as the flood waters slowly subside and reveal the full impact of the devastation.

That is not to say that this natural disaster has only brought darkness and gloom. In the face of disaster, we have not only seen retailers step up to the plate to help out the victims of Harvey, but we have also seen technology and people play an important role in recovery and rescue efforts like never before.

Retailers give back to their consumers
While it is estimated that retailers will lose an enormous amount of money from Hurricane Harvey, that has not stopped retailers from stepping in to help with recovery efforts. This week alone, we saw retailers large and small pledge donations to aid hurricane victims. Notable retailers included Walmart, Amazon, Lowe’s and the Home Depot.

Technology aids first aid
As Hurricane Harvey pounded on Texas, emergency lines throughout the state became extremely saturated, leaving people waiting to be rescued. However, thanks to social media efforts, such as people reaching out for help on Facebook and a walkie talkie app called Zello, civilians were quickly able to mobilize alongside first respondents to aid in water rescue efforts.

The Texas Spirit
On a personal note, I had the privilege of calling Houston home from age six until age 20, when I moved away to college. My family and I immigrated to Houston, Texas from Guadalajara, Jalisco when I was in first grade and my immediate family still resides in Houston.

Growing up in Houston completely shaped the person I am today. It is the place where I met my best friends who are now more family to me than just friends. It is the place where I met my husband and extended my family. And it is the place that taught me you can find unity amongst diversity.

As an immigrant to the U.S., Houston provided a completely welcoming environment as I found myself in a melting pot with diverse cultures from all over the world. The mural in the heart of downtown Houston reads “Houston is Inspired,” which is a true testament to the heart of the city. Whatever culture you currently find yourself in the mood to explore, Houston provides it. From Greek to Chinese to Japanese to Latin, you name it and chances are, you will find a unique spot or festival that brings you closer to this culture within Houston. In the mood for a little space exploration? A little drive down toward the coast will get you there.

This week was extremely heartbreaking to watch as my family and friends were personally affected by Hurricane Harvey, losing things they have been working for their entire lives. Amid the heartbreak, however, it was also inspiring to see those friends and family come together alongside complete strangers from all over the U.S. to help with water rescues and volunteer at shelters to help victims feel safe and protected. Through it all, the friendly spirit that Texas is known for has demonstrated hope and resilience in the face of catastrophe.

We still have a long road to go as far as recovery goes, beginning with the beautiful coastal areas of Rockport, Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, all the way down to Houston and well into the state of Louisiana. However, if the efforts are anything like what we’ve already seen this week, then Texas is sure in for an amazing journey.

If you are interested in helping with recovery efforts, here is a good list of where to begin.