Achieving Workplace Success With a Collaborative Culture

No matter the industry or the size of the company, when employees come to work, they want to feel valued. The deep-seated desire to have a seat at the table indicates companies that often have the most successand the happiest employeespromote a collaborative culture. Throughout the past 29 years, Ketner Group has learned a thing or two about how to encourage collaboration among coworkers. And it takes more than just team lunches and company outings. Although those team bonding moments are important (check out pictures from our recent axe-throwing outing), building genuine collaboration happens daily. Here at KG, we take specific actions to maintain a collaborative culture in our workplace. Read on to discover our tactics.

Ketner Group’s summer outing to Urban Axes Austin.
Throwing axes led to some competition, but also created an atmosphere for bonding and collaboration.

Create A Welcoming Environment 

Driving effective collaboration starts with an inviting attitude. Employees should feel comfortable when talking to one another. To encourage a steady flow of communication throughout the day, the Ketner Group team tends to leave our office doors open. With this practice in place, face-to-face interactions happen more frequently. In addition to keeping our doors open, we use Slack. The team collaboration software helps us communicate with each other via channels designated for specific accounts and internal teams.

As a result, we’ve found transparency is a key to effective communication. Keeping each other updated on our schedules and priorities is a cornerstone of our business. Every Monday we kick off the week with a short staff meeting. During the meeting, every team member gives updates on what they plan to work on that week. When we’re all in the know, collaboration becomes more feasible.

Even though we are dispersed among various accounts, we encourage cross team collaboration. One way we do this is through Friday brainstorm sessions where we choose one topic to discuss. All employees are encouraged to share their input and anyone can pitch ideas for the topic each week. Whether it’s asking for help with a client project or ideas around how to promote our own agency, brainstorms reflect our collaborative culture. Two minds are better than one, but putting 12 heads together has proved to be even better. Since we started meeting for hour-long brainstorms each week, our shared ideas have generated success for our clients and our agency as a whole. For example, one brainstorm session focused on our client Adlucent, which recently garnered high-profile media attention after we coordinated with them in releasing a whitepaper.

Provide Leadership Opportunities For All Employees 

At Ketner Group, leadership roles aren’t only for senior level employees. Every team member, junior staff included, owns a specific part of the agency. Whether it’s keeping the blog up and running or creating and distributing the monthly newsletter, we all have a chance to improve individually and hone our own skills. However, these activities aren’t possible without coordination. While employees have the autonomy to take the lead role in a specific part of the agency, we can all work together and play off of each other’s strengths. Subsequently, we value each other’s thoughts and the agency is better for it.

Additionally, finding new business opportunities isn’t limited to senior staff. We all pitch in to find opportunities for the agency and have allotted hours to conduct research toward this every month. Instead of everything coming from the top down, Ketner Group has made the business an inclusive one. Through giving everyone opportunities for leadership, the end result is a collaborative culture.

Support Each Other In Ways Big And Small

A supportive team fuels our collaboration and results in effective teamwork. If a team member is facing a challenging task or is unsure of how to handle a situation, we know we have each other to turn to. We also encourage peer reviews on our work, which helps us improve both our writing and editing skills. Each client team also conducts internal meetings to coordinate work and keep each other up to date before presenting ideas to the client.

Outside of the office, the support continues. From going on walks together to internal reviews and check-ins, we are more than just an office of coworkers, but consider each other our “work family.” Collaboration has quickly turned into genuine care, which carries over into all aspects of our work and life.

Above all, our close-knit team makes it simple for us to collaborate. Whether it’s asking each other for advice, collecting thoughts in an email brainstorm or even reaching out for help when we need it, our teamwork is the foundation for much of our success. Our Founder and President Jeff Ketner expands on how our agency culture has evolved into what it is today in his recent blog post. If you’re interested in learning more about Ketner Group, send us a message.

Omnichannel Options for Austin Shoppers

Exploring Omnichannel at The Domain

When looking for a new place to live after I graduated college, proximity to work topped my list of requirements. Luckily, I was able to find an apartment that I loved within a seven minute distance from work. My new home also happened to be only seven minutes away from the place I sometimes jokingly refer to as my second home: The Domain, a shopping center featuring some of Austin’s best omnichannel options.

Moving to North Austin has only made that statement even more true. What once was a light-hearted joke, is more of a reality for me now. As a frequent visitor of Austin’s premier retail hub, certain stores have caught my eye. Since I’m constantly reading about omnichannel trends, I thought I’d assess how my favorite stores are implementing these tactics. For a look at how The Domain exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance, check out Jeff’s blog from 2018. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned about omnichannel options in Austin as a local consumer.

Nordstrom Provides Expanded Order Pickup Options

When it comes to omnichannel options, Nordstrom is no stranger. Nordstrom’s app is an essential tool for digital shoppers who like to browse online before they buy. When searching for items in-app, shoppers can even custom tailor the search bar to reflect their store location of choice. Plus, the app will curate personalized outfits based on your past purchases and search history.

A few months ago, I tested out the “reservations” option, which allows shoppers to reserve up to 10 items online. Through the app, I reserved a pair of shoes. Within a couple of hours, I got a notification that the pair of shoes I picked out were ready for me to try on. Upon my arrival at The Domain, I received a second notification explaining where to go to try on the shoes. After parking, I entered through the doors to the second floor and found the designated kiosk immediately. Subsequently, a sales associate directed me to a reserved dressing room and assisted me when I requested to try on a different size.

I’d call my experience a success. As retailers start to provide more omnichannel options where the digital and physical sides of the store work together, I’m looking forward to quicker and easier shopping trips. In addition to the reservation option, Nordstrom at The Domain also offers buy online, pickup in-store. In a jam-packed parking lot, customers picking up their online orders can park in reserved spaces, speeding up their shopping journey.

Away Creates Seamless Shopping Experiences

Away, a luggage startup and lifestyle brand, caught my attention on Instagram. With its “clicks to bricks” model, the formerly online-only retailer now has seven physical locations. Lucky for us Austinites, The Domain is home to one of Away’s stores. I’m taking off on a plane to Europe this month and realized it was time to upgrade my luggage. Perfect excuse for my first trip to Away!

Before visiting the store, I researched options and decided which pieces of luggage would be best for my traveling needs. Based on Away’s website and social media platforms, I’ll admit my expectations for the store were already high. To my surprise, my experience at the store exceeded my already-high expectations.

Though I had an idea of what I wanted, I had a few questions before making the investment. One of the sales associates was quick to greet me and patient with my questions. She even looked up measurement restrictions for the airlines I am flying to ensure my luggage would make the cut. Her help ultimately led to my decision to purchase a set, including a carry-on suitcase and bag. I left the store feeling refreshed and satisfied with my purchase. What started as browsing on Instagram turned into visiting the store and making a purchase. Yet another example of an omnichannel option in action!

Omnichannel Options Are On the Rise

All in all, omnichannel is putting a spin on traditional shopping and giving consumers something to look forward to. Whether it’s through a personalized app, store navigation tool or expanded pickup options, omnichannel is only growing. I consider myself lucky to live in a city that often gets a “first taste” of omnichannel options that later evolve. The latest and greatest is right in my backyard, so to speak. If my experiences at Nordstrom and Away are any indication, the future is bright for omnichannel retail.

Storytelling Is for PR Too

As someone who majored in journalism, telling full and complete stories inverted pyramid style is practically ingrained in me. While writing for PR clients differs, both require the writer to tell a story. Whether it’s a blog post, bylined article or press release, you need to do more than describe a product. Instead, you need to capture the attention of their audiences with a genuine, compelling story.

To deliver on this expectation, ask yourself, “What’s the story here?” Once you determine an answer, you’re ready to write through the lens of that story angle. Along the way, I’ve learned some helpful tips when it comes to keeping the heart of the story front and center in your writing.

Have a Thorough Understanding of What You’re Writing About

First and foremost, unearthing a story is nearly impossible if you don’t understand what you’re writing about. Whether you’re writing about the latest retail technology tool (tends to be where my mind is at these days) or a new hire, a thorough understanding of the subject will help you create your story. To hone in on this, create a ‘topic sentence’ based on the story to help guide your writing. Within this sentence, highlight the main sentiment you want to convey to readers in just a few words. I like to write it out and keep it handy to refer back to as I delve into creating content.

Let the Story Unfold

With your ‘topic sentence’ in mind, your thoughts are given direction, allowing a story to unfold. As you write, glance at your topic sentence to ensure your words line up with your core idea. On top of a thorough understanding, creativity is key. If you’re constructing a press release about a new product launch, chances are the story runs deeper than the objective features of the product. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer. Think about how the product solves pain points in everyday lives to shine light on the story you should tell.

As PR professionals, we may not be commissioned to write novels, but that shouldn’t stop our inner storyteller from emerging. Human nature gravitates toward stories. Stories tend to engage more than direct facts without a connecting theme. As you endeavor to serve clients well, envision yourself as a storyteller for the brand and products. This goes a long way with the media, readers and the agency-client relationship.

To learn more about the power of storytelling in PR, you can find more helpful tips on Cision.

The Holiday Season Is Upon Us: Top Retail Trends in 2018

As the year comes to an end, retailers have one thing on their minds: maximizing the peak shopping season. Between consumers shopping for Christmas gifts and preparing for holiday festivities, sales spike in November and December. Even more so, NRF expected this year’s retail sales to increase nearly 5% over 2017. In addition to a higher percentage of sales, more competition between retailers also ensues. Vying to stand out, notable retailers and brands have proved their value to consumers with a few innovative trends.

Taking the cake in 2018 are those who understand what their customers want and deliver the highest quality in response.

A Personalized Approach Goes a Long Way

In today’s on-demand economy, traditional deals won’t capture shopper’s attention alone. Instead, customized apps and email promotions help on-the-go consumers know what discounts are available ahead of time.

In my own personal holiday shopping this season, Nordstrom’s app has helped me stay up to date on which products are on sale. Furthermore, the app creates a personalized “looks” page that generates outfits based on a profile I’ve created. As I shop for friends and family and snag last minute outfits, the app has been a lifesaver. Browsing online gives me insight into what items are in stock at the store closest to me. When I’m in a crunch and know what I want, I can easily place an order online. If I’m unsure about a size, I can reserve up to 10 items online and swing by the store to try them on. Needless to say, personalized apps go a long way when the holiday season rolls around.

Apps are taking over, but email marketing isn’t a lost cause either. While clogged inboxes aren’t exactly a shopper’s dream, I’ve enjoyed receiving specialized discount codes from my favorite retailers this month. In many cases, I’ve bought something online or stopped by the store to browse because of the emails I’ve received.

Social Media Drives Results

The cellphone is an integral part of the modern-day shopping experience. Specifically, social media platforms have a dominant hold on users. According to the 2018 Holiday Social Marketing Trends report, 56% of consumers said a brand’s social media presence affected holiday purchase decisions. Additionally, 79% of marketers planned to run a holiday campaign on social this year. Out of those who ran a holiday ad campaign last year, 88% of marketers said it was effective. Hence, the strategy seems to work in most cases.

This year, retailers from various industries are getting in on the action. Companies are using relevant hashtags and Instagram stories to capitalize on increased shopping. Target, for example, features a “Gift Ideas” highlight on Instagram to offer some ideas based on who shoppers are buying for from babies to teachers. Though this is a practical approach to increasing awareness among customers, some brands are going for a more emotional effect.

Air Canada pulls on heartstrings with an ad showing emotional reunions as airline passengers come home for the holidays, associated with the hashtag #FlyTheFlag. The Instagram community took to the video with nearly 5,000 likes.

VR and AR Give Glimpse Into Retail’s Future

A recent addition to the holiday marketing repertoire is enhanced reality. Whether virtual or augmented, the technology is gaining traction among retailers. Most noteworthy, Facebook launched augmented reality camera effects for ad campaigns over the summer. This holiday season, Office Depot is using the technology to offer “Elf Yourself” ads. With this feature, consumers can animate themselves with elf-like effects.

An even more immersive and novel experience is virtual reality. Though more of an enigma, we can expect more VR experiences in retail’s future. Macy’s is an early adopter of the technology, launching “See Your Space IRL”  in time for the holidays. Available in about 70 Macy’s locations, shoppers can use a VR headset to envision a room in their home and experiment with different furniture pieces.

All in all, holiday shopping has come a long way from overnight campout sessions outside of stores to catch the latest deals. With a more digital, customer-centric approach, securing the season’s top purchases is a bit more seamless. Don’t get me wrong, I still think holiday shopping is a stressful time of year, but I’m thankful that so many retailers have stepped it up in hopes of a more fun and less chaotic experience.