I’m All Ears: A Podcast Beginner’s Guide

On any given day of the week, whether commuting to work, folding laundry or walking the dog, chances are I’m also listening to a podcast. And I’m not alone – eMarketer estimates that in 2019, 76.4 million people in the U.S. will listen to podcasts. According to that same research, close to one-third of weekly podcast listeners listen to six or more podcasts each week. Hey, that’s me!

I can’t remember exactly what my first podcast series was – maybe Serial? But I’ve been hooked ever since. It may have begun with true crime, but the shows I subscribe to have become more diverse over the years. Topics now range from news and business to faith, parenting, and reality television commentary (which may or may not be related to “The Bachelor” franchise).

There’s so much great content out there, and only a limited amount of time in my day to listen, but I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorites. If you don’t have a regular rotation of shows in your podcast feed, give any one of these a listen.

A Few Of The Podcasts In My Earbuds

Y’all Need This Podcast

  • “The podcast about Texas and all the people and things that make it so darn…Texan.”
  • Hosted by Texas Humor‘s (and my real-life friend) Jay B Sauceda, Y’all Need This Podcast dives into really important topics, such as Whataburger vs. In-N-Out, who has the worst traffic in Texas, Texan stereotypes, and commonly mispronounced “Texan” words. Though we’ve expanded outside of the Lonestar State this year, Texas is in our blood here at Ketner Group – our standing “(Breakfast) Taco Tuesday” is proof.

The Daily

  • “This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.”
  • Produced (you guessed it) daily, this podcast is one that I cherry-pick episodes to listen to, given the topic. I enjoy the style of reporting and how the interviews and sound bites bring the headlines to life, adding more context and background than what a news article could convey.

Pantsuit Politics

  • “A political podcast hosted by women from both sides of the aisle who refuse to see each other as the enemy.”
  • Another one of Pantsuit Politics’ taglines is “the home of grace-filled political conversations.” Listening twice a week has helped me to process the news with more nuance and compassion – these girls are my go-to voices for understanding a variety of perspectives, especially in a political climate that feels divisive. I look forward to having these “friends” in my ears for the upcoming 2020 election, too.

And all the retail podcasts, too!

“Should I Do A Podcast?”

Podcasting might be a worthwhile marketing channel for your business, but your level of involvement is really a judgment call. Should you start a new podcast? If not, will you seek opportunities to be a guest on other relevant shows? Or, does it make more sense for you to advertise on a podcast that caters to an audience of your potential customers?

Start A Podcast From Scratch

Producing a podcast on a regular cadence is a lot of work. You have to invest in the right recording equipment and editing software to ensure sound quality. The time you spend securing guests, prepping for interviews, and then recording, editing and promoting your podcast episodes adds up to time not spent on other marketing priorities. It might spread you too thin, or require you to hire someone to manage it.

Before you jump head-first into starting a podcast, I’d also recommend scanning the horizon for what’s already out there. Are a number of shows already covering the topics and perspectives you would? What is unique about your podcast that would make it stand out? Consider your niche and then move forward (or not).

Advertise On An Existing Podcast

I can’t speak personally to the ROI of businesses advertising on podcasts. But as a listener to many podcasts, I can tell you that they work for me as a consumer. My birthday is right around the corner, and because I can’t seem to get away from the podcast advertisements for them, Rothy’s shoes are at the top of my wishlist. I know that may seem like a trivial example when what your B2B business is offering costs quite a bit more.

However, my perspective is this: podcast listeners trust podcast hosts to be particular about who gets to advertise with them, and customers are likely to respond to relevant, high-value products and services. In fact, 54% of podcast listeners are more likely to consider buying an advertised product. For more reading on the topic, take a look at Marketing Dive‘s “Is podcast advertising effective?”

Lisa Gold, California Closets, with Total Retail‘s Joe Keenan at NRF 2019

Pursue Opportunities To Be A Podcast Guest

When it comes to participating in podcasts as a guest, I say go for it – but only if it feels right to you. Before approaching a seemingly relevant show, listen to a number of episodes and picture yourself or a company executive as the guest being interviewed. If it feels like a stretch, it probably is. Also, podcasts want to tell interesting and insightful human stories, so they’re not going to give you a platform just to talk about how great your product or service is. Reel in the host with a client success story, as we did with our client Elo when Total Retail Talks interviewed their customer California Closets. Or position your spokesperson to talk to a larger industry trend.

There’s real momentum behind the podcasting movement, and audio content as a marketing tool is a trend we’ll continue to explore on behalf of our clients. Yesterday, Modern Retail also wrote a story about retail brands turning to podcasting, if you want to check it out.

If you’re a podcast listener, we’d love to hear about your favorites! And if you’re not, consider this your invitation to start listening.

4 Weddings and a Bridal Shower: A Look at How the Wedding Registry Has Changed

4 Weddings and a Shower: A Look at the Wedding Registry

It’s been a month since our very own Stacy became a Mrs. As all good coworkers do, we threw her a surprise shower before the big day. Scanning her wedding registry to pick out the best gift got me thinking. Four women from the Ketner crew in Austin have now tied the knot. So, as the retail industry has evolved, how have our registry experiences differed?

From Catherine’s nuptials in 2003 to the Tung wedding over Memorial Day weekend, a number of things have changed.

Quick facts:

  • Wedding years represented – 2003, 2012, 2015, 2019 
  • Retailers represented for wedding registries – Target, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Pier 1
  • What were the biggest differences? A shift away from formal wedding china to post-wedding travel funds. 
  • And where did we find common ground? Come on, who doesn’t like getting gifts?

Going to the Chapel…and the Store…and Online

The argument in the industry is that despite the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead. That trend can be seen in our wedding registry experiences too. Almost 17 years ago, Catherine and her husband did their registering in-store. This meant they didn’t have online access to make changes or sneak peeks to see what was purchased. Fast forward to my wedding in 2012, and Stacy’s this year. You’ll see that the store still has an important role. We enjoyed going in-person to kick off the act of registering, but found the digital experience helpful for reading product reviews and managing our lists.

In the movies, you’ll see couples buzzing excitedly through the store, using a barcode scanner to add to their wishlist. Stacy and her now-husband Alvin found that aspect of registering fun! My husband Thomas and I enjoyed the private event Crate and Barrel hosted (and still offers today). Engaged couples are allowed into the store early Sunday mornings for undistracted registering. Plus, there’s wedding vendor promos and free samples. Cake before lunch? Yes, please!

Love and Marriage, But Don’t Forget the Honeymoon!

Mariana and her husband Richie shared a home before their big day, which influenced their decision for how and where to register. Their two-bedroom apartment was pretty cozy, so they signed up for a Honeyfund account instead of a traditional wedding registry. What they wanted more than bedding or kitchen gadgets was to share experiences together. Through Honeyfund, family and friends could gift the travel-loving Fischbachs a surf lesson or a snorkeling excursion for their Hawaiian honeymoon. Although Mariana did say they received several Home Depot gift cards, which were spent pretty quick!

While Stacy and I share some similarities in our registry experience, Mariana and Catherine also have some parallels. Where they overlap is specific to their housing’s influence on wedding gift requests. While the Fishbachs opted for experiences over “things” because they were saving for a down payment, the Seeds were building a home. For this reason, Catherine needed practical things like end tables and a coffee table for their living room. She was also excited to pick out China settings. While she doesn’t use it often now, Catherine loves having something she will pass down to her kids. 

I Do…Love Wedding Gifts

Wedding season is underway, and we’re not the only ones contemplating the evolution of registries. Just last week, Retail Dive reflected on the history of the traditional registry, and Honeyfund’s founder gives her perspective there also. Here’s a stat we found interesting. Despite emerging trends around experiential requests and cash gifts, The Knot found that 97% of couples this year say they registered for retail products. 

Since we obsess over retail data for clients during the week, it’s fun when we get to discuss the overlap into our lives as consumers. Our conclusion is that retailers who will find relevance with the brides and grooms of tomorrow will be the ones that mirror broader retail trends. These retailers will provide options for both the thrill of in-store memory making, plus convenience and practicality too. Retailers should see wedding registries as a way to build brand loyalty, as couples associate a retailer with a joyful time in their lives.

mother career inspiration

How Our Mothers Inspired Our Communications Careers

This Mother’s Day, as usual, we at Ketner Group are feeling thankful for the inspiration our mothers have had on our careers. Whether by being our biggest champion, encouraging us to do the right thing or shaping the way we craft stories, they have influenced who we are as people, and as communications professionals.

She Taught Me to Always Do the Right Thing

Catherine Seeds and her mom Susan
Catherine Seeds with her mother Susan

For Catherine Seeds, our SVP and Partner, her mother’s biggest influence was teaching her to always do the right thing. “This is such a simple guide, but it has really stuck with me my whole adult life, particularly as a working mom,” Catherine remarked.

Catherine has had to make some tough decisions in her life, when it comes to her role as a mother and an agency VP. But through it all, that mantra has guided her to make the best decisions.

My Mother Was Always My Biggest Champion

“My mom was always my biggest supporter in anything I pursued growing up,” shared Account Coordinator Mikaela Cannizzo. “If I was excited about something, she was too. If I was passionate about achieving a certain goal, she encouraged me until I accomplished it. And when I wanted to pursue a career in writing and journalism, she was all for it. I think she still has all my clips saved from my early days at The Daily Texan.”

For Mikaela, her mother has always been someone she could confide in and rely on. “She is exactly the type of woman and mother I strive to be one day,” Mikaela expressed.

I Learned How to Craft a Story to Stay out of Trouble

As for our very own Greg Earl, his mother taught him how to perfect his stories. “I always had to fine tune my stories so I wouldn’t get into as much trouble. I learned to frame stories in a better light but also not to lie too much—in the event she got intel from around town.”

Without her, would Greg be so capable at crafting a great story? Maybe not. “But fortunately, she was there.”

My Mother Taught Me Empathy

Ann, Katie and Ashley Stone
Ann, Katie and Ashley Stone

“My mom taught me a lot about empathy and kindness.” Our intern, Katie Stone learned a lot about compassion from her mother, who is a stay-at-home mom.

“She taught me those soft skills that you aren’t going to learn in a classroom,” Katie said.

She Inspired Me to Ensure Everyone Has a Voice

Jenna Jordan’s mother is a teacher who emphasized the importance of recognizing and ensuring that everyone has a voice.

“We as a collective population are always learning and on the course of gathering knowledge,” shared Jenna. “My mother works with kiddos, so understanding empathy and different perspectives has always been a constant in my life!”

Mom Taught Me I Could Make My Own Career Choices

Kirsty Goodlett and Karen Corcoran Hughan
My mother and me in her element at Nashville’s botanical gardens

As for me, growing up, my sister and I referred to our mother simply as “the boss.” We didn’t know exactly what she did, we just knew that she was powerful and that she made her own path.

My mother taught me that when it comes to your career, you always have a choice. Whether you wish to work in a highly corporate career wearing power suits, like she did in Atlanta in the ‘90s, or you want to start your own landscape design career, like she did in Connecticut in the ‘00s, the choice is yours to make.

This has inspired me deeply. Now, I know that whether I want to work for someone else, myself or something in between, that choice is mine.

Same Us, New Look

Notice anything different? If making changes to our online presence was a haircut, we didn’t get just a little trim. We’ve got a whole new ‘do’ around here, one to better represent our capabilities and vision. Ketner Group is excited to (officially) announce the launch of our new logo, adjusted company name, and totally revamped website.

A Word From Our Leaders

“As an agency, we’ve evolved in so many ways over the past few years, and this website is a representation of that. Jeff and I made the decision to change the name from Ketner Group PR + Marketing to Ketner Group Communications, to better represent the services we offer.” – Catherine Seeds, SVP and partner

“It was certainly time for a change, considering our growth over the past few years. Not only have we experienced 40% organic growth over the past year, but our team has grown, too. We expanded from a group of six in 2017 to a group of 11 employees in 2018 to manage our client growth. We’ve also taken on six new clients in 2018, and in 2019, we are opening an office in New York City. We like to say we’re ‘obsessed with exceeding client expectations,’ and I’m confident our new website reflects that part of our company culture.” – Jeff Ketner, president

Take The New Site For A Spin

The website offers a more comprehensive layout that is simple to navigate. Here’s a tour:

 

Investigating: Ketner Group Communications’ Growth

INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED BY: Private Investigators on the Hunt for PR Justice

A lot of great news has been coming out of Ketner Group recently. Just last week, they celebrated a new website aimed at capturing the true essence and philosophy of the agency and they even announced a name change to Ketner Group Communications, leaving behind Ketner Group PR + Marketing.

But should we believe all of this good news to be true?

Refreshing their look? Changing their name? Do they think we’ve never seen the Fugitive, Catch Me If You Can, or similar chase-thrillers? We’ve seen this story before – and something’s not right.

During our research into what’s really happening behind their enhanced façade, we found documents claiming that the past year has been a transformative one for them – their team grew 40% and their business grew by nearly 40% as well. But did they think we’d fall for this? We decided enough was enough and it was time to uncover these lies ourselves.

Sure, you’ve watched The Jinx, you’ve binged Making a Murder and maybe you’ve listened to Serial – but nothing will prepare you for what you are about to watch in the investigation of Ketner Group Communications. Is this team really “passionate,” “well-regarded” and “exceeding expectations”? Find out for yourself…

In Defense of the Supermarket

It’s expected that by 2022, 20% of all grocery sales will come from online shoppers. And with 70% of consumers purchasing some of their groceries on the web, I’m definitely in the minority, having never ordered groceries online myself.

I’m not opposed to online shopping or curbside delivery. They’re great options for those with kids, those who have lost their patience dealing with always-full parking lots, or those without access to reliable transportation. We could all benefit from wider aisles and shorter checkout lines. Time is an important resource, and most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it.

Call me a traditionalist, but I like going to the grocery store. It makes more sense for me, whether I’m grabbing a few things or doing a week’s worth of pantry stocking. With brick-and-mortar, I can also avoid navigating the world of memberships and high delivery costs. While I make my shopping list in advance, the endless products I see as I browse the aisles can serve as meal inspiration. The unmissable “sale” stickers help, too. Also, like many others who shy away from online delivery, I like to pick out my own produce. Fifty-nine percent of complaints against online grocery services revolve around receiving undesirable or mishandled produce.

The art of the grocery store

While many grocery stores still have room for improvement, a massive amount of psychology and planning goes into getting consumers to spend more, from the store’s scent to the sugary cereals. Everything’s been thought out and tested by science, like the fact that supermarkets make it hard to find a clock or a window, so you lose track of time and keep shopping. We’re still debating what is the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping, and if there’s an ideal genre we can all agree on.

Did you know that spraying water on produce serves only to make it look fresher? The most expensive items are at eye-level, and products geared toward children are placed lower. Dairy products are kept as far from the entrance as possible, so shoppers have to pass by more items on their way to essentials. Supermarkets have been so strategically planned to keep shoppers within their doors and spending more that it’s almost a shame not to be the subject of their mind games.

A changing industry

For those who haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store lately, it might be time for a visit. With the use of a mobile phone, it’s easier for shoppers to look up where items are, or receive promotional items as they walk down a specific aisle. In addition to location-based benefits, mobile devices have also helped with checkout, which has served as a major pain point for decades. A 2015 study found that 88% of consumers want retail checkout to be faster, and with self-scanning technology, it’s now becoming common to avoid the checkout process altogether. Hopefully, hands-free shopping carts will be the next mainstream innovation. Clunky carts with one rusty wheel are so 20th century.

I’m fiercely loyal to shopping at my grocery store (America’s third favorite), and it helps that they’re starting to address the pain points that made consumers turn to online shopping in the first place. But more than just addressing current issues, brick-and-mortar grocery stores should also offer their own unique in-store benefits, to ensure shoppers like me are visiting. It all goes back to how we all want our time to be spent efficiently, and grocery retailers should strive to ensure that brick-and-mortar shopping is worth it.

A New Mom’s Take on Amazon

Almost two weeks have passed since Amazon’s most successful Prime Day yet, and between then and now, you’ve likely seen a good deal (no pun intended) of recaps. The purpose of writing this blog is not to provide another analysis of the retail event, but rather to share my Amazon perspective as a new mom.

But before I jump in, here are some highlights from Prime Day:

  • A record-setting 100 million products were sold for an estimated $4.2 billion. (Chain Store Age)
  • Early website difficulties cost the retailer an estimated $72 million in potential sales. (Internet Retailer)
  • Retail Leader breaks down all the numbers you could ever hope to know about Amazon Prime Day here.
  • I enjoyed Retail Dive’s discussion on their podcast, “Conversational Commerce.” Have a listen: Amazon Prime Day cues up the holidays.

Our Amazon spending analysis 

Did you know you can download a report of your complete Amazon spending history? Caution: it may be eye-opening! I spotted the tip in an article and was curious to know just how much money we’ve spent over the years.

My husband and I jumped on the Prime bandwagon early in our marriage, lured by the free shipping. In 2015, we placed a mere 13 orders from Amazon – probably just breaking “even” if you compare the average cost of shipping against the annual membership price. By the next year, that number jumped to 76, as we used e-commerce more and more to fulfill our personal and household needs.

Drumroll please… in 2017, my husband and I spent more than $3,500 on Amazon. Seeing a dollar amount that included a comma was a bit shocking, but I felt more at ease when I evaluated the nature of these purchases: we weren’t just buying impulsively when we saw a good deal. The 124 orders made last year for the Reeds will tell you a lot about our stage of life. In addition to pantry staples, toiletries, and dog food, we also bought: everything to “complete” our Amazon baby registry; gifts for Christmas and birthdays; and a significant amount of diapers and wipes.

Another status check

We’re more than halfway through 2018, and the Reed family is on track to surpass the number of orders placed on Amazon last year – 79 so far! And I’ll tell you what – not much has changed.

  • After my maternity leave, I splurged for a robot vacuum cleaner to make keeping up with chores easier on this working mama.
  • As our daughter became more mobile, our shopping cart was full of baby gates to try and items to “baby proof” our home.
  • When we threw our daughter’s first birthday party last month, I turned to Amazon for everything from her outfit to balloons.
  • What’s that? My daughter needs a Disney-themed outfit for a dress-up day at daycare? Thanks, Amazon! And clothes for me too, please. I don’t have time to shop in-store, and Amazon returns are just so dang easy.

I would be lying if I said our Amazon purchasing habits aren’t instinctual. It’s a habit now – we have a need, and we turn to Amazon first. We even purchased Dash Buttons for laundry detergent and dog treats. Amazon deliveries grace our doorstep weekly. We ‘Prime Now’ – is that a verb? – groceries when we’re in a pinch. We’ve taken advantage of the expanded streaming benefits, most recently binging “Downton Abbey” on Prime Video. As our family grows, and the demands on our time do too, I can’t imagine our Amazon activity slowing down.

I’m in good company

After my deep dive into the spreadsheet of our spending, I was curious to know how my Amazon lifestyle compared to friends. So, I created a simple Survey Monkey questionnaire, shared the link via Facebook, and watched the responses roll in…

“I tend to purchase on Amazon out of convenience, even if an item is more expensive.”

“I set up Amazon subscriptions for things I want to or tend to forget about – toothbrushes, air vent filters… I know when they are delivered, it’s time for me to change them out.”

“I use Amazon even more now that they have same-day, one-day and Prime Now shipping speeds.”

“I buy as much as I can online to save myself from making trips to the store.” 

“Amazon makes my life easier!”

Other insights:

  • More than 50 friends participated, and all but two said that the price increase ($99/year to $119) would not affect their decision to renew their Prime Membership. Yes, it was a large jump, percentage-wise, but the pros of “being Prime” still outweighed the cons.
  • The amount of money my friends spent in 2017 varied greatly, ranging from $400 to as much as $8,000.
  • Most friends were on-track in 2018 to spend the same as they did last year or more.

As much as I love a good bargain… 

You may be thinking, “So Amanda, what did you buy on Prime Day?” And the answer, my friends? Coincidentally, not a thing. I love Amazon as much as my friends do, apparently, but I’m more excited about the day-to-day convenience and experience than I am about a 36-hour promotional event.

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.