7 Steps to Successful LinkedIn Marketing

In recent weeks, we’ve explored how to develop a content strategy, how to set up a social media program from scratch, and how to use thought leadership bylines to earn media coverage. All of these content approaches complement each other and help reinforce a brand’s identity. But the power of the written, or recorded, word can only get as far as the audience you’ve built to consume it. Luckily, there’s a way to amplify the reach and impact of this owned and earned content that we find quite valuable and our clients are consistently curious about: LinkedIn Sponsored Content.

 Adding a paid element to your PR program helps bridge the gap between traditional PR and traditional marketing, which shouldn’t operate in silos anyway. We like to take a strategic view of LinkedIn promotion, using a step-by-step practice to develop and continually optimize a highly-targeted LinkedIn ads campaign that complements existing content development and organic social media initiatives. The approach outlined below helps identify hyper-relevant prospects, target them with the right content, understand what content to create in the future and serve your company’s ultimate marketing goals.

 Step 1: Identify Ideal Audience

As with any marketing process, you can’t succeed if you don’t know who you’re talking to or trying to reach. But if you know who the decision makers, influencers or buyers are that you want to influence with your content, you can target them at a granular level on LinkedIn. By combing criteria, you can hit a hyper-targeted user set and ensure you’re not spending money promoting content to users who will never make a difference for your bottom line.  You can target audiences in three ways:

  • Demographics – Job function, seniority, company name, geographic region, industry, etc.
  • Interest-based targeting – Group membership, skills, fields of study
  • Company audience data – Target account lists your sales team is using (Note, you’ll need a lot of names for this to be effective, but it guarantees a precise audience.)

Step 2: Define Campaign Goal and Associated Content Formats

Once you know who you want to read your content and ultimately to engage with your brand as a potential customer, you’ll need to define the goal of your campaign. This will determine the kind of content you promote. For content you don’t already have, you’ll need to focus on developing it as part of a comprehensive owned, earned and paid media program. For the following goals, you’ll want to emphasize the associated content:

 Brand awareness

  • Company blog posts on LinkedIn
  • Press releases
  • Long-form posts
  • Visuals/videos
  • Product announcements
  • Promotion of tradeshow attendance

Thought leadership

  • eBook, whitepaper, video, research
  • Industry commentary
  • Long-form posts
  • Guest blogs on other blogs
  • Industry trends or data

 Lead generation

  • eBooks­
  • Webinars
  • How-to guides
  • Blog posts with calls-to-action (CTA)
  • “Freemium” downloads/gated content
  • Industry-related reports

Step 3: Develop an Editorial Calendar

Once you know which content to share, set up an editorial calendar – this will help you to visualize the rhythm of content being published and ensure that you’re addressing different aspects of your brand’s value proposition. Having everything written out will also help make sure you share different forms of content to keep things fresh and engaging for all members of your target audience, depending on their interest, challenge, or stage in the buying process:

  • Awareness: Have realized and expressed symptoms of potential problems or an opportunity.
  • Consideration: Have clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity, actively looking for ways to address the issue.
  • Decision: Have defined their solution strategy, method or approach and ready to take the next step.

Step 4: Identify Assets and Messaging to Promote Content

Identify and/or develop compelling ad copy (150 words or less) and visual content that make readers want to click on or download the content you’re promoting. If you can’t sell your content, no one will read it no matter how informative or well-written it is.

Hint: Include calls to action, statistics, quotes, actionable text.

Step 5: Determine Ad Method

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content campaigns are promoted through paid channels based on posts you have also made directly on your Company Page. They are best used to attract new followers to the company website or landing page and drive engagement with company-specific content.

Company Page posts (status updates) can be promoted in the newsfeeds of both followers and non-followers whose demographics have been specifically targeted. This is a good option for posting blog content, articles about your company or to showcase commentary, award wins, customer or product announcements, and more.

Direct Sponsored Content

The direct sponsored content option allows you to post content directly in the LinkedIn feed without the content originating on your LinkedIn Company Page. This is useful if you don’t want the post to clutter your company’s LinkedIn profile page, but otherwise operates the same as sponsored content.

Website Ads

LinkedIn also offers more traditional website ads, which lead readers to the company website and often start at $2.00 per click and up. These are best leveraged for sending interested parties to your website to download gated content – whitepapers, e-books, case studies, webinars – for lead generation, or to product pages for direct sales promotion. If you choose this option, you should set up goal tracking in Google Analytics to count how many contact form submissions are received as a result of a given ad. Then judge what your cost per lead is and determine if it is delivering appropriate ROI.

Step 6: Set a Budget

Finally, you’ll need to decide what your total monthly budget for LinkedIn ads will be, and how you’ll allocate your spend – either emphasizing CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) if your goal is brand visibility, or CPC (cost per click) if your goal is lead generation or website traffic conversion.

LinkedIn Ads work on a bidding process, so depending on the audience you compete for, the price will change to show an ad. Bids are only processed at $.01 more than second-highest bid, so you can set your bids at the top limit of what you consider a fair value for the click or impression.

Step 7: Reporting/Continuous Improvement

It’s essential to monitor and analyze the key metrics of your campaigns on an ongoing basis. This review process is critical for finding opportunities for improvement to your campaigns, whether it’s improving reach, accuracy of targeting, CPC or CPM, website conversions, engagement and much more.

You should use the LinkedIn campaign manager to review all the metrics available on the platform itself, but also refer to your Google Analytics reports to see how successful you’ve been at driving increased traffic to your website as a whole or to specific landing pages on the site. There are also tools like LinkedIn Insight Tag to your website that will help you evaluate deeper insights about your campaign and users to continue improve your LinkedIn, content marketing, and overall marketing goals.

To learn more about how LinkedIn can help drive brand awareness and lead generation as part of your PR or marketing program, feel free to reach out to me directly – [email protected] – and don’t forget to follow Ketner Group Communications on LinkedIn and Twitter for more valuable tips like these.

 

Intern Series: Career Fairs

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.

It’s that time of the year again, a day that can fill students with dread – the career fair. Getting dressed up in our slacks and uncomfortable shoes, printing out (hopefully enough) resumes for everyone we speak to and waiting in line nervously, wondering how to stand out from the other hundred plus students in attendance, are just a few things we worry about. But career fairs shouldn’t be something you avoid. These events can be the perfect opportunity to meet your future employer and get meaningful networking experience. And with UT’s Moody College of Communications Career Fair on September 26, we thought it would be the perfect time to roll out some advice on how to tackle these opportunities.

Do Some Research

It’s okay if you don’t recognize every company attending the career fair. However, doing some research ahead of time on the businesses in attendance is imperative, even ones that might not necessarily be on your radar. This is one of the only opportunities where all of these businesses will be in the same place, so make the most of it and explore your options fully. While you don’t need to know every detail about each company, it makes a big difference when you are familiar with what they do. Visit their website or blog and get an idea of the type of work they do. You can ask them about a certain client or case study, or an open position they have listed; this will show that you didn’t come unprepared. It demonstrates that you are interested in what they do and have taken the time to learn about them beforehand. As you wait in those long lines to speak to someone, bring along notes to review so when it’s your turn to shine, you have lots of ammo for the conversation. On top of that, some colleges provide information on every company that will be in attendance on their app, so see if your school offers it and use it to your advantage!

Dress the Part

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” may sound cliché or lame, but it can make or break a company’s first impression of you. The representatives at each booth came dressed for the part, so you should too. While formal business attire has become less common for employees today, it still plays a part in making a lasting impression on prospective employers. They want to see that you made the effort to get ready for the event, take your career seriously, and that if hired, you would be able to dress professionally. UT also requires that you arrive in professional dress, so don’t make the mistake of preparing for the career fair only to be asked to leave because you showed up in jeans.

Exchange Information

It can be awkward deciding the right time to give someone your resume or business card, but recruiters want them! Even if it turns out you don’t qualify for the position, ask them to hold onto your resume in case something opens up. That company may be looking for someone for a position in the future and remember you and think, “Wow, this person I met at the UT career fair would be perfect for this role, let me go find their resume and contact them.” You worked hard on those materials so hand them out! Even ask for their card; they probably have a stack of about 200 in their office so I’m sure they would love to get rid of one.

Follow Up

A very important step that many students forget is to follow up after the career fair. If you had a particularly memorable or exciting conversation with someone, go ahead and shoot them an email explaining how great it was to meet them. This will lead to the beginning of a professional relationship with that person, and even if you don’t end up working together, it’s always beneficial to have another contact in your field. Even if you felt like the conversation didn’t go so well or was a bit awkward, contact them anyways. It never hurts to let them know you appreciated speaking with them, because at the end of the day they took the time out of their schedule to be at the career fair, too.

Take A Deep Breath

Career fairs can be very nerve-racking, but at the end of the day they are an amazing opportunity to learn about the companies in your area. They give you valuable pitching experience, something that is very beneficial in our field, and provide insight into the real working world. If you want to get hired, you are going to need to learn to vouch for yourself, so get out there and tell these employers why you would be valuable to their company. You have a lot to offer as a young professional, so take a deep breath and take that bull that is the career fair by the horns.

Tips for Developing a Content Strategy

Blogs! Social media! Whitepapers! Webinars and email newsletters! These are only some of the content marketing tactics that hold a tremendous amount of potential for getting your business the attention it needs to grow as fast as it deserves.

It can be truly dizzying for marketing teams to crank out the amount of content needed to make an impact. And unless your marketing team requires a fleet of Uber XLs to get to an office happy hour, it’s just not possible to do it all. Yes, PR firms can be terrific allies in developing and executing on your content strategy, but how should you set one up in the first place?

Brand awareness vs. lead generation

An effective content strategy serves two equally valuable and competing (yet complementary) purposes – brand awareness and lead generation – neither of which your marketing can succeed without. It’s finding out how to balance these that takes work. So, take a step back and work from the top down. Define your organization’s unique needs and goals. Ask questions like:

  • Do our customers know who we are?
  • Is our pipeline flooded or flowing at a trickle?
  • Does our sales team close every sale they work on or are we struggling to convert leads?
  • Do we have a competitor or competitors regularly winning deals over us?

Once you know where you stand, where you’re already succeeding and what gaps you need to address, you can determine the type of information your intended audience would most benefit from. Then, leverage the three overarching channels available to you – owned, earned and paid media – to get it to them.

Owned Media

Think about the advice we’d all give to a friend feeling overwhelmed by a situation, something along the lines of, “you can only control what you can control.” Although sometimes frustrating to take that advice at face value, it’s essential to get the basics right before branching out to more nuanced arenas. Unsurprisingly then, owned media should always be the first and most fundamental element of any content strategy.

Website

To that end, your focus should be on ensuring your website is the rock your content strategy can build off of. It allows you to tell visitors who you are as a company, what you stand for, what you sell and why it’s worth the investment. It has unrivaled power to tell your story how you want it told – everything you want someone to know about your company should live here. You should also have simple components like a ‘Contact Us’ page for lead generation, and any gated whitepapers, case studies, e-books, or webinars can live in perpetuity on your website to generate traffic and leads, long after you publish them.  Managing a regularly updated blog is also a key part of becoming a well-rounded brand; it will serve as an outlet for the promotional and thought leadership messaging you want your customers to associate with your business.

Social Media

It’s not exactly a cutting-edge revelation, but social media channels allow you to disseminate any info you want to the people that follow you. All the content you post to your website should be shared on the social channels you run, as this drives traffic to specific landing pages and your site as a whole, further driving lead generation. Just don’t forget to share and engage with the broader community on your social media platforms, as no one likes a “me, me, me” account!

However, it’s also important to note that not every platform is perfect for every brand or audience. We’ll share another post on social media content marketing in a few weeks (and will link to it once it’s live), but we tend to be major fans of LinkedIn for our B2B retail clients, using Twitter and Facebook as complementary outlets. Based on your audience and goals, pick and choose your platforms so you don’t waste time and resources building a community that won’t drive online engagement.

Email

Often left out of the ‘thought leadership’ bucket, but rarely forgotten by traditional marketers, email can play a key role in reaching an audience of customers, prospects, partners and others who care about your company message and sign up to receive information from you. Don’t just use email to sell; use it to inform, engage and entertain whenever possible to maximize its potential and keep your readers from going for an instant ‘delete.’

Earned Media

Along with content strategy and development as a whole, earned media is the bread and butter of our PR firm, and one of the most compelling reasons to work with an agency with a long history in a given market. Earned media provides a major boost to your brand’s visibility, recognition and authority. But using content to earn media attention doesn’t end with press release pitching.

My colleague Adrienne Newcomb wrote a great blog on using bylined articles to secure thought leadership coverage in key trade publications, and we’ve found that case studies, proprietary research reports, and pitching executive commentary on developing trends (great for sharing on social too) can have a big impact on a brand’s ability to get media coverage.

Whatever content you create for your owned channels, think about how you might be able to convince someone else to use it on their own platform. Without reinventing the wheel, you’ve greatly increased the value of a given piece of content.

Paid Media

Paid media can be a terrific option to supplement your owned and earned content strategies but should rarely, if ever, be relied upon to have a strong impact before the brand has developed those initial content foundations. We recommend thinking of paid media as the final exclamation point on a well-executed organic program that helps take successes to new heights. This doesn’t mean you need to have a killer email marketing program in order to promote high-performing blog posts on LinkedIn, but it does mean you shouldn’t be investing heavily in LinkedIn posts that direct back to a useless website. Determine the gap in your growth plan, create enjoyable content people want to engage with, build an audience that cares what you have to say, and use paid to take you over the top. If your foundation is strong, the potential ROI can be huge!

We’re here to help

Want to learn more about developing a content marketing strategy from scratch or optimizing a program already in motion? Reach out to us. We love talking about content and it’d be our pleasure to help you use your own media effectively and efficiently.

7-Step Guide to Starting Up a Social Media Program

Social media is a key element of any marketing strategy, allowing brands to connect and engage with their audience and grow the business. Whether it’s used to generate leads, showcase new products, deliver better customer service, or manage reputation and brand image, businesses are taking advantage of the benefits of social media platforms to help generate online exposure.

Over the years, we’ve helped clients increase the visibility and impact of their ongoing social media initiatives, but we’ve recently taken on an entirely new challenge: launching a social media program from scratch.

Although creating a social media program can seem daunting at first, with the right plan of action, you can see great results in just a few months – we have! Below are some easy steps we followed to create a successful social media program for a client of ours, with helpful tips we’ve learned along the way.

Step 1. Develop Your Goals
As with any other PR campaign, it’s important to define your goals from the start so you know what success looks like. Then, work backwards to identify the steps you’ll take to achieve that goal. Aimlessly starting a social media program will result in just another content channel with limited purpose, and less impact. Carefully develop an overarching goal, and define campaign strategies and tactics that help you achieve it.

Step 2. Research, Research, Research
Research is key to understanding how to achieve those goals you just developed. There are so many great resources out there that can help you answer questions like:

  • Which channels are the best fit for my company?
  • How often should I be posting on each channel?
  • Should I use paid or organic posts?
  • What sort of content should I be focused on?
  • How do I measure success?

This is also a good time to conduct a competitor audit to understand how your competitors are doing online and what type of social content they are posting. The more you know, the more you can be confident with the decisions you make!

Step 3. Set up Your Accounts
Now that you’ve identified which networks you’ll be active on, it’s time to set up your accounts. Fill out your profiles completely with an easy-to-understand bio (no jargon!) and appealing visuals that are tailored to your audience. Also, make sure to give the appropriate people on your team access to the account so they can manage the pages, too.

 Step 4. Create a Social Media Content Calendar
Go back to your research and see what sort of content you should focus on. Channels shouldn’t be overly promotional, so balance company news and products with thought leadership articles to show that your company has a firm grasp on the impact of the latest industry news and trends.

Tip: Schedule a few posts and fill your page with content before you start following people. That way, people visiting your page don’t see an empty feed with no incentive to follow back!

Step 5. Get Relevant Followers
Start following relevant users who you think could benefit from your channel. Remember, gaining more followers isn’t always the main objective. Look back at the goals and strategies you developed in Step one and target followers that will help you achieve it. It’s also a good idea to send out an email to your employees, encouraging them to follow and engage on your platforms.

Tip: Liking relevant posts is a great way to get more people to find your channel. You can also use hashtags and tag users in your posts to get more views.

 Step 6. Evaluate Your Strategy with Regular Reviews
With so many moving parts, you can’t expect to get your social media strategy perfect the first time around. That’s why testing and evaluating your strategy on a regular basis is necessary to creating an effective campaign. Look to see if you met your short-term goals and assess what you can do to improve the program. After you’ve taken a look at what’s working and what’s not, adjust accordingly. Re-strategize and take action on what you can do to optimize your social channels.

Step 7. Consider Using Paid to Amplify Your Content
Take the value of your strongest-performing content to the next level by putting paid behind your posts. Not only do you get to set your own budget, you can also collect data on the type of people viewing and clicking on your page. If you’re being strategic and really targeting your audience for lead generation purposes, paid social can lead to results that are far beyond industry averages. For example, we’re seeing click through rates (CTR) as high as 1.739% for one of our clients on LinkedIn – way better than the industry benchmark of 0.13% – even while keeping the cost per click (CPC) under the industry benchmark! With constant analysis and tweaking of content messaging and audience targeting, these results only get more impressive.

Tip: LinkedIn allows you to upload a list or specify a segmented audience to target. It also says that the most successful campaigns target between 60,000 and 600,000 membersat a time.

If you don’t have a social media program in place yet, now is the time to start. Feel free to contact our team at Ketner Group to learn more about how we can help your business develop and manage a social media program that meets your business goals!

International House of Branding

IHOP is changing its name. Last week, the company tweeted (from its updated handle), “For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb.”

In the week between the initial tweet and the official announcement, social media responded. The news definitely sparked my attention, and I haven’t stepped foot in an IHOP in over 10 years.

Many expressed outrage while others offered up guesses of what the “b” could stand for, and the IHOb account responded creatively to tease out the news and keep people guessing. Some notable predictions included breakfast, bacon, and even the right answer: burgers.

While the social media interaction was fun and sparked life into the brand, the big buildup to yesterday’s underwhelming announcement landed as flat as a pancake, in my opinion. I considered it misleading, as the company implied that the name change would be permanent, and instead it’s just a temporary ad campaign.

However, the PR stunt brought up a good point. It demonstrates how crucial branding and identity is to legacy brands. It also begs another relevant question…

When should you rebrand?

Rebranding makes sense when a company is shifting its services or has already made that shift – for example, offering more breakfast options than just pancakes. Apple Computers renamed to Apple, Inc. as they began to expand its product lines and sell more than computers. This was a natural move and made sense as the major brand identifier – Apple – was kept in the rebrand.

On a more personal level, this year yours truly changed our name from Ketner Group PR + Marketing to Ketner Group Communications. We’ve always been more than just public relations and marketing, offering services in social media, content development, and more, but we found it was time to change our name and logo to reflect that. But are we in the same boat as IHOP? Probably not.

Many food and retail brands never undertake such a public (or even private) rebrand, as the company name is the identifier for consumers. If they do, it’s a result of an acquisition, or done before they expand, like Starbucks did in its early years, originally named Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice. A smarter move for food and retail brands is a subtle logo change. And just a few years ago, IHOP did reveal a new logo. Last month, Best Buy redesigned its logo after 30 years. The font and colors are similar, and the yellow tag is still included to represent the company’s history. By changing its logo, Best Buy didn’t change its identity, but subtly alluded to how it’s adapting to an evolving retail environment.

IHOb is an example of how drastically changing one’s image, values or services can be met with hype, but also intense criticism. When undergoing a new logo design or rebranding – or in this case, just a burger campaign – brands should ensure that its essence is kept in the name.

Dr. John Murphy’s Universal Principles of Effective Communication

Last November, I had the pleasure of hearing one of my former professors at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. John Murphy, present his “Universal Principles of Effective Communication” at the Texas Exes Lunchtime Lecture series. While I’d heard a version of this lecture before, I was pumped to hear him speak again and be back in the “classroom.”

As I recounted my experience to the KG team, I was disappointed that my younger colleagues did not have the pleasure of taking ADV 318J with Dr. Murphy. In light of this, and the biggest advertising event of the year, the Super Bowl, having just passed, I’d like to share Dr. Murphy’s “Universal Principles of Effective Communication” and pass along some of his wisdom and a few classic examples he shared*.

Think Different

“Think Different” is Dr. Murphy’s first principle of effective communication. Here, the main objective is to do something different – either different from your norm or different from your competitors. A couple of examples that Dr. Murphy provided were the 1997 Apple campaign that coined the term “Think Different.” and this Chevy commercial in the spirit of “Lassie,” that doesn’t focus on the truck’s features, but instead, tells a familiar and captivating story.

Simplicity

We know this as KISS or “Keep it simple, stupid,” a principle that applies across the business world. It’s exactly what it sounds like; don’t complicate things.

Specificity

Specifics sell. When communicating, whether through an ad campaign or a business email, it’s important to be as specific as possible. By providing unambiguous details, the consumer knows exactly what to expect, making it more likely for them to engage with your call to action. For this principle, Dr. Murphy shared an ad that appeared in a Houston newspaper listing a non-profit’s detailed, and specific, list of needed donation items.

Believability

Believability isn’t simply telling the truth, it’s doing it in a way that people understand. Therefore, the key is using familiar language and speaking in the way that your audience would. This may mean setting aside some grammatical and syntax principals to relate to the audience.

Relevance

Furthermore, make sure you’re communicating to the right audience and don’t be afraid to call them out. Are you trying to reach millennials? Fathers? Milk drinkers? No matter who it is, by calling them out, you can be sure to grab their attention.

Likability

Now, we all know, especially in the age of social media, it’s impossible to get EVERYONE to like you. However, being likable is the first step in getting someone to buy something from you. Most of the time, consumers, and certainly businesses, aren’t going to purchase a product or service from someone they don’t like. A classic example is a car salesman in Michigan who sent every single one of his customers a card every month; on the back of every card it said, “I like you.” Clearly, this worked; he sold over 13,000 cars throughout the course of his career.

Consistency

It’s okay to say the same thing over and over. Some of the biggest brand names have achieved great advertising success by sticking to a consistent strategy. For example, Nike continues to tell audiences, “Just Do It,” Motel 6 promises, “We’ll leave the light on for you,” and, the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales, who barely made the cut this year, have been a constant.

While Dr. Murphy’s presentation focused on advertising campaigns, the same principles can be applied to PR and any form of strategic communications. Furthermore, these principles can be used beyond the world of strategic communications and used in your everyday business or personal correspondence.

*All ideas and examples in this blog are credited to Dr. John Murphy.

KG’s Top 10 Favorite Newsletters

The retail industry is rapidly changing every day, and sometimes, it can be hard to keep up. That’s why our team stays up-to-date by subscribing to newsletters that will alert us on breaking Amazon news, inform us of a good responsive pitch opportunity, or give us insight on an interesting new study. Here are our top 10 favorite newsletters to help us stay in-the-know with all things retail and technology:

Industry Dive
“Broken out by vertical – Retail and Supply Chain Dive are my top picks – Industry Dive newsletters offer a combination of breaking news and industry insight I find incredibly useful to my day-to-day work and my overall understanding of the industry. Even the format of the articles, which each include a few summary bullets at the top, makes scanning the news for relevant content simple and convenient.” –Aidan Griffin

L2 Research’s “Winners and Losers” Series
“L2 Research’s weekly ‘Winners and Losers’ video, featuring the hilarious and brilliant Scott Galloway, is a fantastic recap of the brands that are thriving (or not) in the digital age. It really is the best of both worlds for me! I get a data-driven, sometimes provocative, overview of the best and worst performing brands, AND, Professor Galloway always makes me giggle with his crazy, end of video antics. It’s a must-see!” – Catherine Seeds

RetailWire
“RetailWire’s daily newsletter includes three discussion topics that offer great insights into what industry thought leaders consider to be hot topics and it’s a great opportunity for our clients to participate in those ongoing trend discussions. RetailWire’s round up of top headlines is also provides quick reference guide for the biggest industry news of the day.” – Adrienne Newcomb

RIS News
“I’ve turned to this for a long time as another good weekly summary of top news items. It often includes some information gleaned from earnings calls, and it has interesting info on retail technology deployments.” – Jeff Ketner

eMarketer Retail
“This is a newsletter I only just signed up for recently, but have already found to be a valuable resource for data-driven trends. No matter what sort of story or content piece I’m working on for a client, it seems like eMarketer Retail always delivers a relevant data point, consumer study, or industry survey that I can reference.” – Aidan Griffin

IHL Group
“IHL publishes an “Eye on Retail Top 10 News Items” every Saturday, and it’s a succinct summary of the week’s top retail news stories from numerous sources. What I like about it: It comes out on Saturday morning, when I don’t get many emails and my inbox isn’t overflowing – and it nearly always has something useful to me.” – Jeff Ketner

RSR’s Retail Paradox Weekly
“As the tagline says, it’s ‘The Candid Voice in Retail Technology.’ The analysts’ insights into industry trends and happenings are both frank and entertaining – I recently found myself laughing out loud at Paula’s ‘Fake News’ article and her attempt to edit a Wikipedia page.” – Adrienne Newcomb

Sourcing Journal
“Sourcing Journal provides a lot of information you can’t find anywhere else, with a good focus on sourcing and manufacturing. They always have up-to-date information on the industry’s challenges and opportunities and is a great resource for anything related to compliance, sustainability, global trade and more.” – Stacy Lan

Retail TouchPoints
“Retail TouchPoints has a great weekly newsletter that explores the biggest trends throughout retail. I especially enjoy their research studies and features that dive into how retailers are using technology to excel and improve their standing in the industry. Editor-in-Chief Debbie Hauss does a great job curating this content in a way that has me looking forward to it every Tuesday.” – Greg Earl

Fortune Data Sheet
“Fortune Data Sheet provides the latest breaking news across the tech industry, highlighting the top trends taking our world by storm. Combine this with the fact that it lands in my inbox at exactly 8 am. each day and you’ve got the perfect tool to stay up to date.” – Mariana Fischbach

As a PR and marketing agency, our team needs to be on top of news and trends to craft story ideas and pitching opportunities that work best for our clients. These newsletters, and much more, help us leverage the timeliest conversations happening in in this exciting and transforming landscape. Check them out yourself to stay informed on what’s trending in retail technology!

What I’ve Learned at Ketner Group

This blog post was written by our intern, Daniela Ramirez. 

Find an Internship to Help You Develop These Four Skills

Senior year has held lots of great memories for me, from interning at Ketner Group to finishing my capstone project during my last semester of college. Working at Ketner Group throughout my senior year has been a wonderful experience as I gained a variety of skills, whether I realized it at the time or not. I believe a few of the skills I have learned along the way have been particularly critical in prepping me for the next phase of my career.

Teamwork
Teamwork really does make the dream work. What I have appreciated the most about Ketner Group is the team-oriented approach. They tackle everything with teamwork and include members of the team from every level, which has allowed me to gain experience in real client work. I never feel intimidated to ask questions, go to a team member to understand something better or pick their brain about a certain subject.

Time Management
The great thing about Ketner Group is that you are not solely assigned to one client so I’ve been able to work on a variety of projects and tasks. A valuable result of working on a multiple clients has been learning to manage my time, making the most out of deadlines and priorities.

Media Relations
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about media relations is how big of a role research plays. Pitching media is nothing if you haven’t taken the time to research the best targets for a particular opportunity or idea. Being smart about the journalists you reach out to and making sure the information you are pitching them is relevant and appropriate is key for achieving media relations success.

Messaging
A big part of PR is looking at the bigger picture and understanding the noteworthy takeaways. When putting together customized pitches or content, understanding the overarching message and goals will help grab journalist’s and the reader’s attention.

Land an Internship to Help Gain These Skills
I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a team that challenges me everyday and pushes me to continue learning. I believe this is something everyone should look for an internship.

When seeking an internship, go after opportunities that spark your interest and relate to your passion. If you want to work at a non-profit in the long run, intern at a non-profit, but if you’re interested in working at a PR agency or corporation after graduation, find an agency or corporation with a strong internship program. A good place to start your search is by joining student organizations that are relevant to your major and attend events with companies, events or individuals that are of interest to your work. These opportunities are a great way to learn more about their day-to-day and will help you get your foot in the door.

Ultimately, make the most of your four years and put yourself out there; the more internships you do, the more you will learn and get a better idea of what you want to do after school. Before you know it, these opportunities will be gone and it will be time to enter the job market.

 

 

SXSW Gets Intelligent, Raises as Many Questions as Answers

SXSW 2017 was a terrific week spent in the presence of some of technology’s brightest minds, music’s best acts and film’s most creative souls. For Ketner Group, the event was a chance to lose sight of reality and dive into the fascinating beyond, the next era of the intersection between technology and humanity. It’s exhausting work, but hey, someone’s gotta do it.

It seems that with each passing year, SXSW does a better job of asking questions than providing answers. Maybe that’s because each one-hour session doesn’t do the experts on stage enough justice. How can someone who has dedicated their life to mapping the human brain using machine learning break that work down in one hour, while sharing a stage with the founder of Siri and a biologist learning how to grow everything we need by having intelligent systems program atoms and microbes? It takes the hour just to fully realize how much smarter these folks are than you!

But understanding the question that needs solving is the key first step to success. And we saw a few critical questions arise that anyone involved in commerce and technology will need to consider within the short and long term to ensure their prosperity. Some will be answered before SXSW 2018, and some not for many years, but the work starts now. Let’s dive in.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, these are some of the most hyped technological concepts out there. And they were everywhere at SXSW 2017. And really, they should be. AI and machine learning will be incorporated into nearly every aspect of retail, from logistics and distribution to marketing to in-store and online customer experience.

AI has the power to greatly reduce the stress of manpower on a retail business, opening up human capital for more valuable roles that drive better experiences. Intelligent systems will understand human language and new age personal assistants will make Amazon’s Alexa look like a pet rock.

And as the founder of Kasita revealed, even your living room will be AI-heavy to the point that it may actually be artificial intelligence in physical form. TVs, window blinds, thermostats and many other items will become smart gadgets, learning how to adapt to your lifestyle and reduce your time spent doing menial tasks, which include buying things like groceries or razors. Watch out, because this one is going to be fun.

Conversational Commerce
Siri started the voice command personal assistant craze that has since grown into a full force commerce craze. But based on nearly any metric – capability, adoption, competition – it hasn’t yet hit the mainstream and is nowhere near its full potential. Alexa and Google Home can’t understand complex speech patterns, can’t infer deeper meaning from simple requests and are prone to making real mistakes, like ordering something because it overheard someone on TV or a demanding child say it. Chatbots will combine the best of speech recognition and cognition to make customer service a breeze. No, really.

Our voices will eventually replace our hands as our primary machine operating tools, and how retailers integrate this technology into their omni-channel platforms will be fascinating to watch.

Social Commerce
The golden rule in payments innovation is not to compete against other forms of digital payments, compete against cash. Social commerce has long been an area that retailers have felt could be the next frontier in omni-channel commerce. And as they started to understand its potential, conversation apps outpaced them. So what’s the future of social commerce? Think small.

Commerce on social media or conversation apps is not a significant growth area for enterprise level business, at least not yet. And part of this is the limitation of highly complex payment, banking and regulatory systems.

Instead, this is an area in which independent businesses, individual sellers and developing nations are the true pioneers. In fact, according to Facebook’s Director of Commerce & Payment Partnerships, Facebook alone has over 5 million businesses registered, many using it as a critical platform to do business.

Sellers can create mini-storefronts on their Facebook or Instagram pages, listing the products they have for sale, deleting the posts once they’re no longer in inventory. They can use peer-to-peer payments apps like Venmo to manage cashless and remote transactions, and communicate instantly via apps like WhatsApp and create a marketplace for their goods much broader than available within the constructs of their physical environment and local infrastructure. 

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The question for major retailers will be whether they can integrate massive SKU count assortments into this sort of framework, if the social and conversation apps will evolve with their platforms to enable a simple integration, or if social apps will avoid the invasion of commercial interests on an otherwise personal interaction space.

What Now?
For now, we wait, we watch and we marvel at the technologies that are revolutionizing our world. Within retail itself, we’ll continue to see the automation of process, the personalization of marketing and experience, and the simplification of consumption. Where we’re going, we don’t need answers (right away), we just need the right questions.