IRCE 2017: The Focal Point of eCommerce Innovation

If you know the history of Chicago, you already know that the city proudly holds the title of the first skyscraper in the U.S. Similar to the innovation that took place to bring about one of the most transformative structures of our times, the annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) at the beginning of June, united the best and boldest technology vendors and retailers in the industry, all at the center of one of the founding cities for merchant activity —Chicago.

Whether attendees were looking for the next big technology invention on the show floor or sharing their best practices on the main stage, the conference was a clear indicator that technology continues to permeate into all aspects of the retail industry and that it will continue to evolve.

Here are four interesting takeaways from this year’s show:

  • The availability of technology – if you happened to find yourself wandering the show floor during the conference, one thing is for sure, if there was a specific technology you were in search of for your retail business, you were sure to find it as well as an additional buffet of technology offerings to serve your needs. Looking at the retail industry within the past decade, it’s amazing to see how retail technology has continued to advance. This is both a transformative and exciting time to be a retailer, and the caliber of technology solutions on the show floor demonstrated that there is a proper tech solution for all retailers’ needs.
  • B2C expectations in the B2B space – One thing our regular consumer lives has taught us is to expect a great customer experience no matter what. To achieve this, many retailers have implemented personalization technologies and techniques and these expectations have inevitably transferred into our business lives. Several workshops during IRCE, such as Zoro.com’s presentation with Kibo, offered key insights into how to overcome B2C challenges in the B2B space. A key lesson from this session was to analyze your B2B customer set across the board and implement key personalization techniques for three main groups; new online prospects, the ready buyer and return customers.
  • The Importance of Security – Today’s consumers expect their shopping journey to be one seamless experience, yet secure. We were impressed this year to see an increased and wide variety of security and fraud prevention technologies readily available on the show floor.
  • Grocery – The grocery space has undergone one of the biggest transformations of all within the past few years with the rise of grocery delivery services such as Instacart and AmazonFresh. Throughout the show we attended several discussions and outside events focusing on the future of grocery and were pleased to find the grocery space is currently one of the biggest verticals pioneering a mobile-first and omnichannel environment. One of the reoccurring themes throughout our discussions was the continuous blend of the brick-and-mortar store with the digital channel, and the push to continue making the grocery environment an experience-driven process for consumers.

Aside from the rich and delectable deep-dish pizza and the historic architecture found in every corner and crevice of Chicago, IRCE 2017 proved to be the focal point for retailers and vendors to share insights on the latest and greatest technology trends happening in the world of eCommerce. We are excited to see what the future holds for eComm and can’t wait to see what IRCE 2018 brings!

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.

Shoptalk 2017, Back and Bigger than Ever

Shoptalk U.S. 2017 is just around the corner! Taking place at the Aria in Las Vegas, March 19-22, this year’s Shoptalk promises to be the “blockbuster” of all retail events for the year, with world class speakers, new session formats, increased networking opportunities and a revamped exhibit hall.

las-vegasIf last year’s Shoptalk is any indication of what this year’s will bring, we have one prominent piece of advice to maximize your time at the show: wear comfortable shoes and have your introduction ready to fire off at any moment in time, as you will find yourself mingling among the industry’s movers and shakers.

Remember that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas and this is especially true for Shoptalk. If you schedule your agenda just right, the contacts you make at the show can follow you all the way back to your home headquarters and continue to deliver results long after the show has ended.

Here are our pro tips for making the best of Shoptalk U.S. 2017:

Content, Content, Content!

A little bit of history for you, the creators of Shoptalk are the same organizers that brought you Money 20/20. Inspiring and intelligent content is their bread and butter, and as such, Shoptalk this year promises to bring the brightest minds in the industry to discuss the current and future state of retail. Before the show, make sure to earmark the sessions you consider a must-attend on the agenda and plan around those. Shoptalk is a complete learning opportunity for your team and a great way to discover new opportunities for innovation and differentiated thinking within your organization.

Bring Your Best!

As we’ve alluded to continuously throughout this blog, Shoptalk provides several scheduled networking opportunities as well as opportunities to develop organic conversations anywhere you happen to be at the moment. As such, be sure to prepare a concise yet memorable way to introduce yourself and what your company does.

Social Media is a Must!

After you’ve introduced yourself to new contacts, be sure to connect with them via social media. Twitter and LinkedIn are excellent ways to not only keep track of everyone you are meeting at the show but to also engage in follow up conversations post-show. Consider this for one second: you are likely to meet an average of 50 contacts while you are at the show. Make life a bit easier for yourself by connecting with them via platforms you monitor on a daily basis.

Keep an Eye Out!

Additionally, should you happen to be perusing the exhibition floor or looking for innovative sessions to attend, keep an eye out for our clients who will be present at Shoptalk this year:

  • 360pi: Look for the 360pi team on the show floor meeting with retailers and partners about their pricing intelligence solution.
  • Bold Metrics: Bold Metrics will be exhibiting on the show floor, be sure to stop by to learn how they’re helping retailers predict consumer body measurements.
  • Columbus Consulting International: Be on the lookout for Columbus Consulting’s principals! They will be navigating the show floor and meeting with retailers and vendors alike.
  • DynamicAction: DynamicAction will be demoing the expansion of its advanced analytics solution, which addresses retailer challenges by leveraging connected data to drive profitable decisions online and in stores. The demo will take place with Mulberry on Tuesday, March 21 at 8:50 a.m. If you can’t make their demo, be sure to stop by their booth #1210 on the show floor.
  • Edgecase: Keep an eye out for the Edgecase team on the show floor. They’re looking forward to meeting with retailers and potential partners to learn how they can help them unlock the power of their e-commerce product data.
  • Mirakl: You won’t want to miss Mirakl’s demo at 9:35 a.m. on Monday, March 20. During the demo, CEO Adrien Nussenbaum will go through their new Marketplace for Services, which aims to make it simple and straightforward to sell services, whether standalone or packaged with complementary products. Mirakl will also be on the show floor at kiosk #PK20.
  • Shopgate: Shopgate will be on the show floor; make sure to drop by to discuss your mobile strategies for 2017.

We look forward to seeing you at the show!

Until Next Year NRF

NRF’s Big Show is officially over and we are back in Austin! After several cups of coffee consumed as well as analyst and media meetings coordinated for 13 clients, I think it’s safe to say this year’s show was one for the books. Check out what the Ketner Group team was up to while in the Big Apple.

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NRF 2017, Here We Come

In most industries, the holidays are a time to disengage from the hustle and bustle of work, plan for 2017 and clean out the junk folders to start the New Year feeling refreshed. But as we all know, quite the opposite is true in retail. And once a new calendar gets pinned to the wall, the heat really starts to turn up as we make final preparations for the biggest conference of our year, NRF’s BIG Show.

This year, the Ketner Group team has been as busy as ever, meticulously preparing, pitching, coordinating and managing all sorts of client announcements and on-site briefings. As the newest member of the KG team and a rookie to the realities of NRF life, I have to admit it’s been impressive watching our team stay (mostly) stress-free, while securing some truly terrific opportunities for publicity next week, without losing sight of client needs in the now.

As our entire office goes wheels up this weekend, heading from sunny and warm Austin, Texas to the hopefully not-so-cold and not-so-gray Big Apple, I expect to feel the same excitement and confidence in our client outcomes as our veterans who have been mastering the NRF process for over ten years.

We look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, connecting with new clients and having NRF ’17 mark the start of another great year at Ketner Group, for our clients, and for the retail industry in general. Good luck everyone!

Ketner Group clients at NRF, and where to find them:

 

NRF 2017: Don’t Throw Away Your Shot in the Greatest City in the World!

For those of you who are theater nerds like me, perhaps you caught the mashed-up reference to two songs from the critically acclaimed, Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. (For those of you who didn’t catch the reference, I’ll forgive you only if you can score me 5 tickets to the show next Tuesday!)

Image provided by Kathleen See
Image provided by Kathleen See

But, back to the matter at hand. Those of us working in the retail industry know there are exactly nine days until NRF begins. As of right now, the race is on to be in the room where it happens -“it” meaning where the best and brightest in retail come together to showcase the technologies that will change the way consumers shop in 2017 and beyond. (I’d also like to say I threw in another Hamilton song reference in this paragraph. I’ll let you figure that out on your own.)

The Ketner Group team has attended and supported our clients at NRF for nearly 15 years, and we’ve learned a few things along the way – one big one is to wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated in between your Starbucks trips! Here are a few additional PR tips to keep in mind as we enter these last few days before the BIG show:

Don’t save all your announcements until January. Most vendors spend months planning their NRF announcements. But why cram all your news into a three-day period? We counsel our clients not to save everything until NRF, but rather to adopt a release strategy for before, during and after the Big Show.

Announcing significant customer wins and new technology in the months leading up to NRF is a great way to build momentum going into the show and to trumpet your successes to prospects. During the show, your news faces stiff competition from hundreds of other press releases, but one or two newsworthy announcements can help drive booth traffic and create a buzz during NRF. After the show is a good time for announcements, too; editors’ inboxes will be a lot less crowded, many of your competitors will emptied their arsenal of news at NRF, and your news will have room to breathe.

Don’t expect to brief everyone at NRF. While NRF presents a terrific opportunity for face-to-face meetings with key editors and analysts, you won’t be able to meet with everyone on your list. The top editors and analysts are in high demand during NRF and have tightly packed schedules; many of them will have their entire days booked in 30-minute slots starting at 6:30 a.m., and paying clients and prospects will have top priority. It is important to respect the fact that they may not be able to meet with you; briefings before or after NRF can often be more relaxed and unhurried.

In keeping with this, we advise our clients to connect with key influencers in the months leading up to NRF. Schedules are more open, and it’s an excellent time to bring analysts and editors up to speed on your company’s latest products, customers and other developments. During these briefings, you can also lay the groundwork for a possible meeting or product demo at NRF.

Leave the PowerPoints at home. The editors and analysts you meet at NRF will likely be cramming 30+ vendor meetings into their day – which can mean an equal number of mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations. We advise our clients to scrap the PowerPoints during NRF. After all, if you’ve done your briefings in the fall, then an NRF meeting can be a chance to build a one-on-one relationship. Offer editors and analysts a comfortable place to sit (their feet will be aching!), bottled water and treat them the same way you’d treat your most valued customers. Find out in advance what they’d like to focus on during the meeting: demo, product roadmap or customer announcements. If an editor is accompanied by a sales rep, be sure to give him or her equal time, too.  After all, editors and analysts have to make a living, too, and many of the lead generation programs offered by the top retail and analyst firms can produce solid results.

 If companies prepare properly, NRF can get the new year off to a running start. Don’t forget, history will have its eyes on New York during those four days this January – what will you do to earn your shot in the greatest city in the world?

Retail Season is Here and Shop.org is Around the Corner

Image via http://retailsdigitalsummit.nrf.com/

Retail season has arrived. From now until spring, our calendars are filled with the hottest events and busiest days in retail. We jumped into the fray last month with back to school campaigns and returned from Labor Day to kick things into high gear with Shop.org prep. This year, Shop.org is Sept. 26-28 in Dallas, only a three-hour drive up I-35, and our team is excited to check out the show along with a number of events taking place throughout the show. Here’s our roundup of can’t miss Shop.org happenings:

Retail Innovation Lounge Dallas
Ketner Group is thrilled to serve as a media sponsor for Retail Innovation Lounge Dallas, taking place Sept. 26-28 at The Dallas Entrepreneur Center, a short shuttle ride away from Shop.org. The event will bring together leading retail executives and retail technology innovators for three days of keynotes, panels and networking.

Ketner Group Clients at Shop.org
In addition, a number of Ketner Group clients will be attending and exhibiting at Shop.org. You’ll find Convey, DynamicAction, Edgecase, Kibo and Mirakl on the expo floor. For more information on their exact location, check out the Shop.org exhibitor list, here, and if you’re interested in meeting with one of our clients, let us know.

Can’t Miss Keynotes and Sessions
There are number of exciting keynotes and sessions planned for Shop.org. We’re especially looking forward to the keynotes, “JC Penney and Transforming the Customer Experience – An Insider’s Look” and “Digital Retail’s Fast Track: Virtually There With AR/VR” featuring speakers from Sephora and Google.

We’d love to see you in Dallas this month. Please reach out if you’re interested in grabbing coffee to catch up or talk about your company’s PR strategy.

Don’t Forget to Vote for Your Favorite SXSW Panels!

OK kids, this is a BIG week! It’s the last week to vote for your favorite SXSW 2017 panels. In case you missed the memo or just need a friendly reminder, this Friday, September 2 is the last day for public voting and commenting for the panels you’d like to see as part of the 2017 programming.

If you are having trouble deciding which panels to vote for, let your friends at Ketner Group help you out! This year, our clients at DynamicAction and Convey have thrown their hat in the ring to speak on some incredible retail and brand-focused panels. And because we love retail tech so much, we’ve also listed several additional panels from our friends at RetailMeNot, Bazaarvoice and eyeQ. Check out our recommendations below:

The Fight for Fit in Retail

In this session, four female thought leaders will discuss how the concept of “fit” has evolved from the early days of ready-to-wear clothing to custom clothes-on-demand. From clothing to cosmetics, we’ll explore how retailers need to keep up with changing styles, sizes and gender identities, the changing role of sales associates and how technology (magic mirrors, virtual reality, mobile apps, body imaging) is changing the way shoppers find the perfect fit – forever!

How to Protect Customers from Delivery Disaster

Rising customer expectations are forcing retailers to build complex carrier networks with disparate experiences and capabilities. How can retailers use data to unify the experience, reduce cart abandonment and boost post-purchase satisfaction? What is necessary to answer customers needs for real-time updates? In this panel, eCommerce leaders will discuss how they are overcoming modern delivery challenges to wow customers.

Understanding Privacy in the Land of Oversharing

In this world of consumer oversharing, the line between public and private content is blurry, leaving brands to navigate a murky gray area of what kinds of consumer-generated content can be repurposed for a brand’s needs. How do the boundaries of the law differ from the ethical guidelines set by industry groups, and what can brands do to protect themselves and the consumers they hold so dear?

Data is the New Black: The Consumer “It” Factor

Brands are living in the age of the consumer, but with smarter insights the age of the savvy marketer is bursting onto the scene. So, how can you harness the power of consumer behavior and data in a way that is discrete, empowering and not….creepy? To remain relevant in the cut-throat world of retail, brands must start to leverage consumer behavior data at scale, and optimize the information overload in new and interesting ways.

Privacy in an Era of Shopper-Aware Machines

Retailers and brands are adopting new technologies to better compete with e-commerce. From responsive signage, to beacons and sensors, store environments are becoming embedded with shopper-aware technologies in response to customers’ demands for easier, more fun, and more engaging shopping experiences. But if these devices are aware of – and responding to – shoppers, does that create new privacy concerns? In this survey of emerging technologies panelists will discuss the privacy implications for shoppers, brands and retailers.

Final 2017 programming will be announced the week of October 17. Click here to check out already announced key note and featured speakers!

Getting a Seat at the Cool Kids’ Table: SXSW PanelPicker Tips and Tricks

It’s hard to believe, but the programming preparation for SXSW Interactive 2017 is already underway. As many of us in the industry already know, the PanelPicker submission process kicked off last week and closes on July 22. Which means if you are working to submit a panel, duo, trio or solo session for next year’s line-up, you have exactly 15 days to finalize your panelists and hit the send button.

Courtesy of Ketner Group
Courtesy of Ketner Group

Getting selected to be a part of SXSW’s much coveted Interactive program is no easy task. The competition is fierce and it gets tougher every year when going up against highly sought-after tech speakers in the areas of robotics, virtual reality and machine learning, not to mention President Obama and J.J. Abrams.

Over the past two years, the Ketner Group team has led the charge in getting a few of our clients’ panels selected as SXSW speakers via the PanelPicker process, and in doing so, have learned a few tips and tricks.

For those of you who may not know, the PanelPicker process goes something like this:
It is a “three-step online process” that allows the SXSW community to have a voice in programming. The first step encourages the community to enter proposals for daytime conference programming for all SXSW events; the second step allows the community to browse all of these ideas, leave comments and vote for those they think are the best fit. The third step, not open to the public, is the input of the SXSW staff and advisory boards, which helps ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance as being selected to speak at SXSW as individuals with large online followings. The voting breakdown looks like this: Public Votes – 30%, SXSW Advisory Board – 40% and SXSW Staff – 30%.

While one can argue that luck and timing plays a huge part in getting picked for the “cool kids” table at SXSW, there is something to be said for paying close attention to the things that the advisory board and the SXSW staff recommend when putting forth a session to be voted on. According to SXSW, “Fully-proofed, narrowly-focused, forward-thinking ideas that emphasize creativity and innovation will have the best chance of successfully navigating SXSW community voting, staff analysis and Advisory Board feedback.”

Here are a just a few recommendations from the Ketner Group team on organizing a successful panel at SXSW:

  • It has been our experience that having at least one or two high profile speakers, whether by name or association with their company, coupled with an eye-catching topic that is new and different, is key. Our clients who have been selected for SXSW Interactive programming in recent years have used titles such as the “Future of Cool” and “Ghost Economy,” for their sessions, combined with speakers from Google, Zappos and Brooks Brothers.
  • Some of the coolest sessions that I’ve been to at SXSW have also included well-known media or industry analysts, such as this session from 2015 titled “Personalization for the People,” featuring Forrester’s lead ecommerce analyst and a reporter from CNBC, in addition to an executive from Sephora.
  • Take the time to review the sessions that were selected in previous years – SXSW loves featuring new speakers and new, never-seen before topics and data. As well, when recruiting for speakers, try to find candidates that have presented at other industry events – part of the submission process is to upload videos of the proposed speakers doing what they do best, speak! SXSW is looking to fill their programming with engaging folks who will, for lack of better words, put butts in the seats.
  • Learn all you can from others who have been successful at SXSW, and don’t make the mistakes of others. SXSW is hosting best practices meet ups in multiple cities over the next few weeks – take advantage of these events to learn how to make your proposal stand out. As well, there are plenty of blogs and articles, like ours here, that will give you guidance on what works and what doesn’t. Check out this great article in the Austin American-Statesman that outlines four concepts that make a better panel for SXSW audiences.

If your panel does get selected for SXSW, that’s when the real work begins! Stay tuned for future blogs on how to best prepare your speakers for SXSW and how to successfully promote your panel leading up to the festival. In the meantime, if you need any guidance on submitting a panel for SXSW this year, feel free to contact me at [email protected] and our team would be glad to help!

Good luck!

 

PRSA Corner: Breaking Through the Noise and Reaching Your Target Audience

ClpsEJ3UYAAqeNFWe recently attended and were the official sponsor of the June PRSA Austin Chapter Luncheon. The luncheon titled, “Media Relations: Insights from the Newsroom,” featured three journalist panelists who discussed how media has evolved over the years, the integration of skills and technology in media relations and how PR professionals can (and should) break through the noise to reach target audiences. Here are some highlights:

Tara Doolittle is the Viewpoints editor for the Austin American-Statesman and is in charge of the editorial pages and online commentary. She began as a rookie reporter in 1997 and has worked with the newspaper’s reporting teams covering education, city hall and lifestyle. As many journalists do, Tara receives over 400 emails a day, which means getting her attention is no easy task. Although she gives first priority to local pitches over others, she tells PR folks to send short pitches, know who you are pitching and focus on the journalist’s interests, and course, always be sensitive to deadlines. Other key take-aways from Tara:

  • For hard news and community engagement pitches, Tara recommends doing research on how other publications (in other areas) report certain trends and how those trends might play out locally. Look for ways to tell the local story. As well, Tara says PR professionals should “think broadly” because the Statesman is not just a print newspaper, but a multimedia content platform.
  • According to Tara, the digital space is the way to go, especially with social media and sharing. She recommends PR professionals think about this when it comes to pitches. Photos and videos are a great way to keep people on the website for longer periods of time – it’s a win-win for everyone!
  • Tara said the biggest struggle she faces as an editor for a daily local newspaper is serving three sets of readers because they all want different things: folks who don’t pay for online content; folks who do pay and read online content; and full subscribers.

Erin Quinn-Kong is the editor-in-chief of Austin Monthly and the editorial director of Austin MonthlyAustin HOME and austinmonthly.com. A Missouri native, she attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism and worked in New York City as an editor at Allure and Us Weekly before moving to Austin in 2008. Compared to the Statesman, Austin Monthly operates with a smaller staff who has to work very hard to keep up with daily and monthly deadlines. It’s a fast-paced environment (with a small staff), which definitely makes it hard for PR professionals to get the attention of the editorial team. Knowing that, Erin says it is critical for PR professionals to know why the story would work in her publication, and know who you’re pitching to and why. Other key take-aways from Erin:

  • Pitches come into play when they make a connection to something that relates to the local area, or that may have appeared “buzz worthy” on social media. That is the sweet spot on pitches!
  • Erin recommends asking them to coffee. As editors, she believes it is part of their job to know the PR people in town. Having the opportunity to be “face to face” with PR professionals is a much better way to connect than an email.
  • Her biggest challenges as the editor of Austin Monthly include creating boundaries between her job and life and the struggle of small budgets and staff combined with high expectations.

 Haley Cihock is Executive Producer for KXAN. With 15 years of experience in broadcast news, she writes, edits and manages a team of producers, anchors, editors and field reporters working on the noon newscasts across two channels. According to Haley, the best stories come from community engagement – listening to the buzz around town, hearing what local citizens are talking about – and then figuring out how to cover the story. She believes that Austin has an engaged audience and people in the city really want to talk. At KXAN, social media is a huge tool for listening for potential stories. Other key take-aways from Haley:

  • Make no mistake, there is limited “on air” time, so Haley recommends that PR professionals pass story ideas and news to the digital side to get more bang for the buck. Using multichannel media is a great way to disperse the message, and it is how stories evolve, especially when it is resonating with people. Haley also says the evolution of media means that things are moving faster and faster, things get lost, so PR folks should try more than one platform to tell their story.
  • As an on-air journalist, Haley has to think of the bigger picture, but often times receives “micro” pitches from PR professionals. Pitches have to be bigger than just one thing. It is important to think beyond your client or your one story – try to make connections that could turn into bigger feature stories.
  • Her biggest challenges as an on-air journalist is always trying to be the first with the story, but to also to get the story right and do it better than anyone else. Erin believes that, for TV journalists, the challenges haven’t changed much, but the ways of approaching them are changing. Her two biggest pieces of advice is to not send video to the newsroom (they have to shoot their own) and to not send gifts to on-air journalists.