jeff ketner and catherine seeds 30 years

Lessons Learned and Memories Made: 30 Year Anniversary Q&A

It’s been 30 years since Jeff Ketner founded Ketner Group Communications, and it’s been an absolutely incredible – and sometimes wild – journey. To help us celebrate, Jeff and I kicked back for a stroll down memory lane. Check out the full video below or read our summary to learn more about some of the highlights of the last 30 years!

How Ketner Group began: striking out on his own

Catherine: Tell me about the day you decided to strike out on your own. Did you have any memorable conversations with your family? Or friends or peers?

Jeff: It wasn’t planned that far in advance; it was pretty spontaneous. I was vice president at a technology PR firm here in Austin when one day the owner walked and said that she was retiring and shutting the whole place down.

What?!

At that time, I was very fortunate to have Texas Instruments as a client and a strong 5-plus-year relationship with them. So, after the owner of the firm said she was shutting it down, I told her I was going to talk with TI. “That’s fine,” she said. Literally the same day, I talked to TI and they told me not to worry. In just a few days, I was set up as a vendor.

I would like to say that it was planned out. I had wanted to set out for a while, but I was sort of thrust into it.

Indelible memories (alt: Ketner Goofs Communications)

Catherine: There have been a lot of crazy, silly things that have happened to us over the years. What are some of your favorite moments from the past 30 years?

Jeff: I remember the time at NRF when we had a snowball fight with the team from Digby, now known as Phunware, at one or two in the morning. We were in New York City, it was cold, and we were all stranded because the airports were shut down. So, we had a snowball fight on the streets of New York!

Or another time at NRF’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Retail. Just being able to play guitar onstage with some fun people like Brian Kilcourse, Steve Rowen and Cathy Hotka. Just to be able to be onstage — and I used to be pretty good, but I hadn’t played in a long time — it gave me a chance to get the rust out and to have some fun and play with people that became my friends. Plus, I get to tell my grandkids that I was onstage at B.B. King Blues Club in New York.

The fun and silly things that happen around the office are amazing, too. People spontaneously breaking into song or just laughing and being together as a team. The things that make anyone feel special. Like the times when I come back from a day off for my birthday and my office is decorated to the max. Of course, there is Bosses Day – which I didn’t even know was a thing – during which people dressed up like me: flannels and blue jeans.

It just things like that that are fun and make you feel special. We do a lot of that as a team, just to really maintain a sense of caring for one another and trying to each other’s back and have fun together.

The lessons learned in 30 years

Catherine: What lessons have you learned as a founder and CEO of your own business?

Jeff: Well, there are a lot of them. The most important is to build a great team, give them a lot of freedom and just trust them. I think the people really make it work. We have a very collaborative team, and we work together well. That’s what I’m most comfortable with. It’s not really a top-down organization that’s driven by one, singular personality. We’ve worked to establish a culture of openness and trust and collaboration.

As much as anything, it’s about getting the right people in place and doing everything you can to hang on to them and make it an exciting place to work, but also give space for a work-life balance. At the end of the day, it’s the things everyone does outside of work that are going to stick with you for the rest of your life. What you do at work counts, but there is life beyond work, and we give our team the space to realize that.

Finding a niche in retail technology

Catherine: We’re known around town for specializing in retail technology, but what is it about retail tech that is so exciting to you?

Jeff: It’s fun! We’ve worked in semiconductors, we’ve worked in servers, we’ve worked in both the fun and the boring parts of technology. But everyone shops. Everyone eats. Retail touches every part of life and it changes so fast. Ten years ago, all the shopping was done in store, and that’s just totally flipped. Over the last three years, no one used to order groceries online and have them delivered or arrange curbside pickup.

It’s changed, and it’s changed really fast. I can’t think of any technology sector that is changing and that touches every facet of our lives like retail. To me, it’s the most fascinating, fast-paced industry to be in.

Overcoming current and future challenges

Catherine: I’d like you to share some advice on how you’ve overcome challenges.

Jeff: When you have a challenge that comes up you have to do a couple of things. First, face it honestly and straightforwardly. You can’t sweep it under the rug. If there is a tough conversation to be had with a client, it’s much, much better to pick up the phone than send an email. You also have to double down and work through it. Rely on your team. Be honest. Be transparent.

I know you didn’t want to bring up the “pandemic” word but working through this has been something I’m most proud of. The team came together even when clients were having issues and cutting budgets. There was a mass freak out throughout every sector of business. We’ve worked through it, we’ve focused on bringing on new clients, and we did everything we can to take care of our existing clients.

We worked our way through it and I’m grateful for that. The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for so many people and businesses. It’s really because of the team that we’ve overcome it.

Bad times will happen, there will always be unexpected things that come your way. Look to your team and rely on your instincts. Over time, you will develop a resilience that will allow you to get through things that are difficult.

pr agency in nashville

Music City Update: 2020 Delivers Joy if Not Expectations

I can’t imagine a single person who would say they thought 2020 turned out like they expected. I certainly can’t.

After launching our Nashville office last August, we had big plans for this year. While it hasn’t turned out like we expected, I am grateful to say that the year has provided joy nonetheless.

Broadway Photo

I’m proud of our team for what we’ve accomplished and in that spirit, I’d like to celebrate some of the notable successes from this year, which include working with Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN), OhanaHealth, Origami Day, and launching the NTC Marketing Peer Group!

Welcoming 36|86 Festival and LaunchTN to the Ketner Group fold

One of our very first KG Connects featured LaunchTN’s Van Tucker, now interim CEO, who joined us in June to share how to use radical candor to achieve business goals. After launching the Nashville office at 36|86 Festival last year, we had developed a nice partnership with the organization, which helps make Tennessee the most startup friendly state in the nation.

Little did we know that that event would spur an even more long-standing relationship and that just a few weeks afterwards we’d kick off working with LaunchTN to support 2020’s virtual 36|86! Together, we increased awareness of the event with media, generated coverage and increased buzz.

Van Tucker quote

With an incredible roster of speakers, we were able to ultimately secure coverage in publications across the nation and Tennessee. Some favorites? WWD wrote about a session by Ian Rogers, chief digital officer at LVMH. Gil Beverly, chief marketing and revenue officer of the Tennessee Titans, was interviewed by The Startup Life. And Van Tucker herself bylined an article for Retail TouchPoints on how retailers are coping with COVID-19.

“As a speaker for KG Connects, I experienced Ketner Group’s creative thinking, enthusiasm for their work and master organizational skills,” said Tucker. “Not to mention, they’re just fun! I knew they would make a wonderful partner when it came to our media relations for 36|86 Festival and ultimately LaunchTN overall and my instinct was not wrong. We’ve been thrilled by the output of our work together and pleased that they equally consider Tennessee the perfect place for launching a new office.”

Capturing coverage for OhanaHealth

We also had great fun this year working with Daniel Oppong, founder, OhanaHealth. When we initially spoke with him about his desire to do a media relations push around the next iteration of the company, we were excited to hear him talk about how the news sat at the intersection of three incredibly powerful themes from this year: healthcare, accessibility and employment.

Daniel is dynamic, driven and talented, so it’s no surprise OhanaHealth is primed for connecting top talent with health companies poised to make a meaningful impact post-COVID-19. We were thrilled to help the company generate coverage in local and trade publications alike.

A few highlights? TechHR series covered the launch and featured a Q&A with Daniel. Local publications did the same, with the Nashville Business Journal publishing the launch and Urbaanite doing a feature on Daniel.

“On top of delivering fantastic and measurable results, Ketner Group was exceptional to work with,” said Daniel. “They took the time to get to know me and OhanaHealth’s PR goals, then designed and executed an intentional strategy that put the story I wanted to tell (with OhanaHealth) in front of the right journalists, which ultimately led to it being read by thousands of people.

“I didn’t really know what I was in for, given that it was my first time formally working with a PR group, but our engagement exceeded my expectations and set a really high bar for what’s possible when working with the right PR group. I’m a big fan of Ketner Group, and not only would I recommend them to other companies, but I hope I get to work with them again.”

Don’t forget our work with Origami Day!

Missed the news earlier this year? We had the pleasure of working with Origami Day to help them create a communications plan.

samantha-lane-origami-day-content-plan

“Quarterly long-form content was a huge victory in fixing bottlenecks in my business,” said Samantha Lane, time management coach and creator of Origami Day. “Knowing that ‘batching’ is an effective way to accomplish more with less, I was already creating content around monthly themes. However, Kirsty helped me see the value in zooming out to quarterly themes and long-form pieces of content.”

Launching an NTC Marketing Peer Group

Another exciting effort this year? We became members of the Nashville Technology Council! We were thrilled to become a more integrated part of the technology community here in town, so when we learned that they didn’t yet have a Peer Group for marketers we thought, well, what a better time to start?

Wide shot photo of Nashville

Through the course of this year, we’ve had the pleasure of working with NTC and others in the community to kick off this group, which will seek to help members connect, learn, grow and give back. I’ll be joining the committee as a co-chair alongside some other wonderful members including fellow co-chair Lane Harbin, director of marketing at Campaign Monitor.

Our very first event kicks off Friday Dec. 11 at 11 am, more details are coming soon!

Nashville is still growing

COVID-19 is not slowing down the growth Nashville has been experiencing over the past few years. In fact, we continue to see announcements regularly that are signs of the city’s opportunity for big impact. Just last week, the New York Times’ announced it is opening a Nashville bureau.

Nashvill pedestrian bride

And Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development, Holly Sullivan recently remarked, “We don’t want to be the last tech company to announce a corporate office in downtown Nashville. We’d like to welcome other tech companies too so we can really build that robust diversity within the Nashville area.”

These continued stories inspire us and remind us that we’re just where we should be.

Remote work

We Were Remote, Before Remote Was Cool

When it came to the topic of remote work and how Ketner Group has addressed it over the years – I immediately thought of the 1981 hit country song, “I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool,” sung by Barbara Mandrell.

In it, Mrs. Mandrell talks about how she listened to music from the Grand Ole Opry growing up while her friends were “digging on rock ‘n’ roll” and how everyone is now trying to be what she was back then.

When it comes to remote work at Ketner Group, this song seems spot on. We’ve been at this for quite some time – way before it was cool, and (now) necessary.

The way we were, and are: Ketner Group and our history of remote work

While I know that Ketner Group is not the only company to have instituted flexible work-from-home policies prior to the pandemic, our agency was founded with an emphasis on offering a good work-life balance for all employees.

That became very apparent to me in 2005 when my daughter was born. My two bosses at the time, Jeff Ketner and Terry Barnes, made it clear that my family was very important and that they were just fine with a work schedule that was best for me and my family.

"we were remote before it was cool (or frankly necessary)" pull quote

This philosophy started even before my tenure at Ketner Group, when Jeff launched the agency in 1990. He was to be at home every night for dinner, and if he needed to work from home, he would lug home a big laptop to finish any client work after his kids had gone to bed.

Thus, the roots of Ketner Group’s flexible work standards started to grow, and we’ve never looked back.

Our attitude toward working from home has always been simple: plan accordingly, meet your deadlines, and communicate with your team and managers of your schedule. In normal times, we always encouraged the team to be in the office as much as possible, but life happens.

Whether it be a doctor appointment across town, picking up kids from school, or being at home for the cable guy – working from home to take care of things is sometimes just easier. There are also times when one needs to work from home to concentrate on a big writing or research project – we’ve always encouraged that, too.

We’ve been everywhere

In recent years, Ketner Group has continued to walk the walk and talk the talk when it came to working remote – a sentiment I talked about last November in the Austin Business Journal. One of the most important things we value at the agency is trust, and we have a very high level of trust with all of our employees.

For example, we have had employees take extended vacations to Europe and Asia (learn more about Mariana’s time in Bali here), where they worked remote for a period of time while they were overseas and then take an additional two weeks off for vacation. A few years ago, one of our employees spent a year working from Ireland, and it worked out beautifully.

It is important to support these remote work options because we want our team to live their best lives, see the world and have amazing experiences.

W.O.R.K in the USA

Since March, our remote work game has been in overdrive – along with the rest of the world.

In fact, a global survey conducted by Gartner, Inc. found that 88% of business organizations all over the world mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home when the COVID-19 virus started to spread at exponential rates.

team culture ketner group

The move to full-time remote work for the Ketner Group team was seamless, and again demonstrated how much we value and trust each of our employees. Not only is everyone currently working from their respective homes, but we have a few employees that have hit the open road in RVs to fully experience remote work life!

It’s been an adventure for all of us so far.

Our team is spread out across five states, but our productivity and company culture remain strong. The pandemic has been hard on all of us – professionally and personally – but we remain a strong and dedicated team because of the processes and work policies we put in place 30 years ago.

I look forward to when we can all be in an office together again. Until then, we’ll be seeing you on a Zoom somewhere.

prnews agency elite top 100 award win

Ketner Group Communications Named to 2020 PRNEWS Agency Elite Top 100 List

AUSTIN, Texas – Sept. 1, 2020 – Ketner Group Communications, a public relations, marketing and communications firm helping innovators establish market leadership, today announced it has been named to the 2020 PRNEWS PR Agency Top 100 list. The list highlights the top communications, marketing, and digital agencies serving the U.S. as a resource for those in search of an agency partner.

Agencies making up the list were chosen based off the following: creative campaigns with proven results, reputations built by client testimonials and industry awards, agency thought leadership, as well as noteworthy agency capabilities or offerings. The list includes firms of all sizes for a collective representation of the best of the industry.

prnews agency elite ketner group

“To be named in this list among so many other creative and successful agencies is a huge honor for us,” said Jeff Ketner, CEO, Ketner Group Communications. “We have worked hard to make this not only an agency that prioritizes exceeding client expectations, but one that enables our amazing team to learn and grow in their careers, and live their best lives outside of the office. Our team brings its A-game to the table each and every day, and it shows.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ketner Group team has continued to provide the highest levels of support and results for clients, securing media coverage in publications like Reuters, Variety Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, Marketwatch and more. It has guided clients on the best practices in communications during a pandemic and officially launched the agency’s first webinar series, KG Connects, bringing together influencers and industry experts to discuss trends in PR and marketing. As well, Ketner Group has again been featured as one of the top PR agencies in Austin, and the agency’s president, Catherine Seeds, was recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Power in Central Texas.

The Agency Elite Top 100 list is available via an all-new searchable portal on prnewsonline.com, giving brand-side marketers an effective and efficient tool in narrowing the search for their next agency partner. PRNEWS expects more than 50,000 client-side visits to the list annually.

To learn more about Ketner Group’s expertise in public and media relations, content development, and digital marketing, along with future career opportunities, contact us.

Media Contact

Mariana Fischbach, Director of Media Relations
Ketner Group Communications
[email protected]

great b2b podcast

How to Create an Awesome B2B Podcast

90 million Americans regularly consume podcasts. And B2B podcasts are an increasingly key part of that.

Listeners tend to be educated, affluent and loyal – the exact audience most B2B brands want to reach.

That’s why we were fascinated to talk with Clark Buckner, co-founder and partner of podcast consulting agency Relationary Marketing, for our July 2020 KG Connects webinar. He gave us the scoop on why B2B podcasting works so well and shed light on his five-step process for how to develop a great B2B webinar.

Does B2B podcasting work?

Yes, B2B podcasting works well for three reasons:

  1. Podcasts are intimate – When you listen to a podcast, it’s a real human speaking directly to you about something they’re passionate about and you’re interested in. It establishes a sense of shared experience that supports the idea of an established relationship.
  2. Podcasts are accessible – In the car, at work and especially streaming from smartphone on any number of apps, podcasts are a versatile medium for sharing and consuming high-quality content.
  3. Podcasts are passively consumed – While listenership has taken a small hit during pandemic as fewer people commuted, they’re still popular to consume while doing other things like going for walks, doing a workout or cooking dinner. Really, any time away from a screen provides both a captive and passive audience for podcasts.  

How do I start a B2B podcast?

Clark uses a tried-and-true formula when helping his clients launch a great B2B podcast:

  1. Content design
  2. Invite/preparation
  3. Recording
  4. Production
  5. Publishing

When viewed in a list, it’s easy to assume that each stage should be given equal consideration.

That’s not a wise approach.

Brands considering a podcast have intrinsic challenges. It’s labor intensive and rare to have all the right technology and skills internally to produce a great podcast.

Luckily the barrier to entry to podcasting has gone down as the space has matured (thanks largely to the wild success of the Serial podcast, recently acquired by The New York Times).

It’s now easier and more affordable for agencies and brands to work with a company like Relationary than to do it alone. But first, they need to master step one – content design.

What’s the first step of launching a B2B podcast?

The first step of launching a B2B podcast is content design. A lot of companies get caught up worrying about technology or guests or who will host it… all undoubtedly important questions, but not the first thing to worry about.

Clark recommends focusing exclusively on five elements of content design before stressing the small stuff.

  1. Goals – What does success look like for your podcast? Be specific about one or two goals that a podcast can uniquely achieve for you. Brand awareness, lead generation or helping existing customers get the most out of your platform are all good options. Given that you’d need 10,000 regular listeners to even consider selling ads, B2B podcasting is about relationships. Sell the mission and a belief in your team and company as trustworthy and capable partners.
  2. Target audience – Most B2B companies have highly targeted audiences. Will everyone in your consumer base pay attention to or be motivated by a podcast? Will prospects at different stages of the funnel be more interested that others? Once you know what the goal of the podcast is, you can define the audience and figure out what matters to them most.
  3. Episode structure – Will you do one-on-one interviews between a company employee and a guest? Will you have an independent podcaster lead these conversations instead? Or do you plan to only interview internal experts? You could also develop a narrative structure and tell stories of great case studies or have people you’ve helped record themselves telling a story. Options are limitless, but pick one that will work for you and stick with it.
  4. Episode frequency and length – How many interesting conversations can you really lead? How much time will you dedicate to the podcast and how much time do you expect your audience to give? Think of podcasts like a TV show, with seasons. Figure out each season’s episodes ahead of time and stick with a standard cadence and episode length. You can always change it up for season two.
  5. Title/marketing – Like any form of branded content, podcasts need to be promoted to attract attention. Figure out how you’ll recruit listeners and what kind of resources are available to bring in new listeners. Podcasts are far easier to produce than ever before, but without additional promotional effort on top of it, you’ll be sitting on great content with no listeners.

How do you go from plan to production?

With this foundation, it’s relatively easy to go through the rest of the steps as long as you have access to the right network, skillsets and technology.

Step 2: Prep

Figure out who you’re going to have on your podcast and how you’ll prep them to lead a conversation that serves your company’s goals. It’s great when your guests are the kind of experts who can talk at length about a number of interesting ideas. It’s your job to let them know what you need from them, and have a plan for keeping them on track.

Step 3: Record

Unsurprisingly, the environment you record in matters. Surprisingly, the tech doesn’t matter that much. It’s far more important to have a great environment. It’s better to use basic headphones that come with a phone and be in a quiet, confined space than use an expensive mic in an open space such as a kitchen.

Case in point: Clark usually has an office to record in, but working from home during the pandemic, he uses his closet.

Step 4: Produce (i.e. edit)

You’ll never get commercial grade quality from the raw footage you record. To polish the final product, work with a partner or invest in technology that offers sound editing and also content editing.

Don’t over-edit. You want it to sound human. Breathing sounds may feel awkward at first, but it’s elements like this that give podcasting it’s personal touch and relationship power.

Step 5: Publish

At this stage, most brands will send the final product off to their marketing team, creative directors or communications agency to help promote the material and drum up interest.

Like we said before, if people don’t know the content exists, they can’t listen and become loyal brand fans and customers.

Let’s talk about podcasts

If you’re interested in launching a B2B podcast or getting more visibility for one you already produce, we’d love to help you do it. Check out Clark’s full presentation or shoot us an email to set up a free 30-minute consultation.

the future of b2b media

The Future of B2B Media

The future of B2B media is a topic worthy of a book. It’s a huge industry with a lot of moving parts, but there are a few trends that stand out to me as defining the future of the industry more strongly than any others.

In general, beyond just B2B, the most successful media companies have the full attention and trust of their audience. Regardless of what they promise – information, entertainment, perspective – they thrive when they capture time and attention better than anyone else.

In my last blog on the future of journalism, I dug into the monetization challenges facing online publishers battling the two-headed monster of Big Tech and the COVID pandemic. While I am confident that the best publishers will benefit, emerging from this inflection point stronger than ever, others are at risk of defeat.

As PR and communications professionals, it’s important for us to consider what the future of B2B media looks like, and how the roles and powerful voices within it will evolve over time.

The short answer is, media companies are finding new ways to stay competitive, while individual experts and corporate brands are simultaneously taking on characteristics of media companies to survive and thrive in the attention economy. We see it playing out something like this:

B2B media consolidates

In a market where revenue disappears overnight, only a few players will remain strong—mirroring the media industry at large. We’ll see the most trusted names in each market consolidate their influence by bringing in the lion’s share of the reduced available revenue.

Those who were already struggling will have to close. The big players will capitalize on the opportunity by investing in new services and staff who help them further monetize their attention share. They have the time and resources to wait out the storm.

Publications monetize new services

“Successful media companies have to have two things. They have to control their own distribution and they have to have their own programming. People that don’t have both either have to rectify that or go out of business,” said Michael Bloomberg, as shared in a great Twitter thread on Bloomberg’s experience.

With big tech platforms like Facebook and Google taking a larger role in distributing the media’s content, publications must quickly build out their own distribution methods. They need to shift from relying on search and social to reaching their own audiences where they are.

We talk about it all the time with our retail tech clients – retailers must be everywhere their shoppers are. It’s no different in media.

In terms of programming, we’re already seeing the most well-respected B2B publications scale services well beyond online and print articles. They host webinars, conduct sponsored research, curate multiple regular newsletters, create video, run conferences (and will find ways to take leadership roles in virtual events), award programs, and more. Those who continue this content mix and find ways to own the distribution will come out on top.

Independent experts change the game

Adding new services that go well beyond reporting the news isn’t the only reason the definition of ‘media company’ is changing.

New content creators are entering the mix, often without affiliation to any media brand. They’re not in it to compete for ad dollars; their currency is attention. They might be company executives, consultants, investors, academics or industry analysts. As long as they have deep expertise and a platform to share thoughts, they can play the game.

These high-relevance industry experts and brands are the thought leaders and entertainers that news organizations can never be. They can take positions that exist outside of pure fact; they can challenge conventional knowledge and accumulate loyal followers.

Social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube have given SMEs free platforms to become the go-to experts in any domain. They provide a “boots on the ground” sense of reporting objective truth.

influencers aren't truth-tellers

What’s more, these influencers don’t repute themselves as objective truth-tellers. That makes it easy for them to say what they think and use personality and entertainment to elevate their spot in the intellectual hierarchy.

These SMEs will challenge publications for the title of the most reliable and influential voices in the industry. As they do, they will continue to monetize their position. They will offer their own secondary services – selling products, services or time without the overhead or scrutiny that media companies deal with. As this proves an increasingly powerful sales tool, more players will enter the field.

Corporate brands double down on ‘content marketing’

The industry’s savviest entities won’t be left behind in this paradigm, either.

Digitally intelligent and highly engaging brand “publications” will increasingly become entertainment hubs for their industries. This will take the form of both robust blogs and brand-agnostic, semi-independent media entities.

publications become entertainment

Without the need to supplement content with advertising revenue, they will build platforms that offer cutting-edge storytelling experiences.

Funded by corporate profits, they can invest heavily in being at the forefront of every industry conversation. Eventually, corporate profits will help them be among the first to deploy new storytelling technologies such as augmented or virtual reality, or 360-degree video.

In the attention economy, pervasive brand awareness and affinity leads to sales of their core product or service offering. Their media platform can operate at a net-negative cost and still drive significant gains in corporate profit.

Communications professionals take control of audience engagement

Every company today, in some way, is (or should be) a media company. Everyone has an online presence, competes for views and attention, and wants to be a key voice in their industry.

As B2B media, corporate, and individual players compete for attention, they’ll overlap and collaborate more; we’ll continue to see the splintering of long-held industry roles.

But we can’t just wait and see how the future of B2B media affects our approach to brand building. The new market context demands that we also take control of our own content creation and distribution. We all need to be media companies now.

Do you want to propel your company’s growth by adopting a media company mindset, but don’t know where to start?

We’re offering a free 30-minute conversation to help get you started. We’d love to brainstorm with you! Just get in touch.

woman at laptop planning PR and marketing

2020 PR Planning, Take Two: What to Do Now

2020 PR planning was derailed for many companies far too early this year. The global pandemic forced companies to scrap carefully laid business and marketing plans and adjust at lightning speed to constantly changing conditions. We’re now at the mid-point of 2020, and the question is: what comes next for marketers?

Despite the ravages of the coronavirus, we’re seeing some signs of optimism among our clients. They are focused on the future and have moved quickly to pivot their products and services to meet the uncertainties of the post-pandemic world. Companies are rethinking business models, looking for new opportunities to help their customers succeed, and aligning their marketing and PR plans accordingly.

So, how can you take your bearings and set a new marketing course for the remainder of the year?

Here are some initiatives that are a must for every company and marketer.

Re-examine your brand proposition.

COVID-19 put a pause on business as usual, but many companies are using this time to re-examine their brand proposition and the value they bring to their customers. Companies are asking if their value proposition in the pre-pandemic world still makes sense as we face the uncertainties of a “new normal” that is still taking shape.

For the B2B technology companies we work with, the challenges their customers face are sharply different now. How can their solutions help companies in a world that’s constantly shifting, and how should their messaging change to reflect that?

Forward-looking companies are taking time to re-examine their 2020 PR planning.

This process includes:

  • Re-evaluating messaging across channels – making sure that their messaging around products and services remains relevant;
  • Conducting research that helps them understand trend changes;
  • Rolling out new messages through PR initiatives, website relaunches, social media and owned content.

Innovate fearlessly.

If there was ever a time to roll out new strategies, this is it.

Some changes will be born out of necessity—the overnight rise of virtual conferences and trade shows, for example. There is also increased emphasis on content marketing, social media and earned media.

We’ve quickly made changes here at Ketner Group, too.

When business-as-usual ground to a halt in March, we launched a new webinar series, “KG Connects”. In doing so, we built a new avenue to help clients, partners and other companies explore fresh marketing ideas. It also helped us reach new audiences and showcase our expertise.

At the same time, we started monthly office hours for clients only. The private setting promotes candid conversation about their unique PR and marketing challenges. We’ve used this time to build closer relationships with our clients, and they’ve reacted positively.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Innovation is critical, but don’t lose sight of the fundamental PR and marketing activities that are important to your brand.

This is not the time to go dark on press announcements and corporate communications. These initiatives are essential for securing the media coverage you need to get the attention of customers, prospects and investors.

Are you announcing a major new product or making another significant company announcement in the second half of 2020? Be sure to check out Adrienne Newcomb’s recent blog on the necessary steps for a great product or business launch.

Reallocate your unspent marketing budget.

Remember all that budget you had earmarked for events later this year? If at all possible, use it—don’t lose it.

The cancellation of SXSW early this year was just the first of a wave of event cancellations in 2020. Many events planned for early 2021 will likely be rescheduled, too. You can reallocate that budget into marketing initiatives that will keep up your visibility. We’re actively working with our clients to help them do that, and we’d be glad to offer our strategic advice.

The key thing to keep in mind for marketing now is simple: don’t stop.

Your customers and prospects are looking to you to provide expert guidance in turbulent times. So, it’s critical to communicate with them through carefully planned and executed campaigns. Take this opportunity to re-examine your brand, innovate with new ideas and keep up your PR presence.

These are the kinds of challenges that can bring out the best in our companies and marketing efforts. With these initiatives, your updated 2020 PR planning will help you showcase that.

Media Training

The Media Training Playbook

Every organization needs to make big decisions about their media relations approach. You must determine who within your organization will own the program and identify the conversations you want to lead. Once you’ve done this, you need to ensure your spokespeople are media trained and ready to take an interview on short notice.

Building muscle memory through media training

You wouldn’t send your sports team out to compete against their rival without practicing plays. The team has to build muscle memory and develop chemistry. Media training works exactly the same way. It builds your spokesperson’s muscle memory and familiarizes them with the process. With practice and coaching, they will know a series of plays to implement based on the type of interview.

media training is like sports

Types of interviews:

Your spokesperson may need to take an interview in the following formats:

  • Written responses via email that quote them directly in print or digital articles;
  • A phone interview or on-camera conference call that will quote the spokesperson throughout digital and print articles;
  • A podcast recording that will feature a Q&A style interview that turns into the basis for an article or is printed as submitted;
  • Broadcast interview in which the journalist will utilize an (on average) 30-second video segment of the spokesperson’s interview – sometimes these segments are live.

It’s important to note that each medium brings nuances in the way your spokesperson needs to deliver their message to be effective. Therefore, as you begin your organization’s media training journey it’s important to emphasize the differences in interview formats. The spokesperson’s technique will have to change with each.

For example, broadcast requires an additional set of skills as the spokesperson has to convey key messages via body language in addition to speaking. For broadcast, we usually like to bring in additional partners that solely focus on this medium in order to really help the spokesperson prepare for all of the nuances that broadcast demands.

Every time I advise clients on preparing for a broadcast interview, I kindly ask them to stay away from sounding and looking like Ricky Bobby on this now iconic scene from the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Take a look, and you’ll see why!

Developing a media training process for each type of interview – whether creating an internal training process or bringing in an outside professional – is key.

media training plays

Media training – how to get started

As you build a media training program or work with an agency such as ours to get your spokespeople trained, we recommend the following “plays” to build out your media training playbook:

Play #1 – Knowing why to prepare for a media interview

In coordinating with spokespeople for media interviews, it’s important to discuss the importance of training. They need to know why training matters and how it will help them in the long run. Getting your spokespeople bought in early on in the process is critical to ensuring future interview success.

Play #2 – Spokesperson Do’s and Don’ts

A critical part of media training involves walking spokespeople through things they should and should not do during the interview. For example, letting your spokesperson know which customers they can or cannot name publicly, as well as which facts and figures they can reference versus ones they cannot speak to, is key.

Everything a spokesperson tells the journalist is deemed “on the record”. If something they say isn’t fit for print, the spokesperson must explicitly get the journalist to agree that the information is strictly “off the record” before sharing. This can be very helpful to help them understand context without revealing private info publicly.

Play #3 – Different methods of answering questions

It’s important to identify different ways and tactics spokespeople can use to respond to questions. For example, at times, a journalist’s question may be long winded and a spokesperson’s natural tendency may be to go off on a tangent.

Identify these characteristics and walk the spokesperson through various ways of answering a question. The goal is to deliver quotable soundbites that stand out within the journalist’s report.

You should also practice scenarios in which the spokesperson must politely decline to answer a question if they do not have an answer for it or cannot publicly speak to it.

Play #4 – Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve run through the initial plays, it’s time to put all of that muscle memory into gear and walk through several mock interviews. The spokesperson should be walked through interview exercises designed specifically for the kind of stories and reporters they’ll speak to.

As you do so, identify each reporter’s interview and reporting style and discuss what they respond to and how the spokesperson can adjust their messaging to be more effective for each journalist.

Practice makes perfect! As you start media training your spokesperson, ensure you are going over the above plays and getting them prepared to perform “on the field.”

If you need additional help, Ketner Group is available to help your spokespeople hit the ground running and achieve success! Contact us today to get started on your media training journey.

woman shopping for clothes in a store

Sensory Marketing: A Retailer’s Friend or Foe?

It’s a no brainer that emotions influence buying behavior. Advertisers use tactics daily to grab our attention and drive brand awareness. Similarly, our five senses can also be used to influence our behavior, whether it’s through the attractive color of a sweater or the smells in a candle store. But there’s one sense that online and brick and mortar retailers are realizing can be their biggest weapon or biggest downfall: touch.

What is sensory marketing?

Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch, and haptic marketing, or sensory marketing, can help retailers sell products through the sensory effect a product can have on a shopper.

Sensory marketing takes place when a shopper squeezes an avocado to see if it’s ripe, samples a lip gloss or lifts their arms to see if a new shirt fits. While this is not a new concept, these examples of sensory marketing are done in physical settings.

E-commerce’s role with sensory marketing

Before COVID-19, a Retail Dive survey found that more than half of shoppers visit a brick and mortar store to touch or see a product they may end up buying online. So while e-commerce may be touted as a more convenient option, it often fails to mimic the in-store experience due to the lack of physical touch and ability to test out or try on products.

The letdown of making a major purchase online and have it not meet expectations when it arrives – not to mention the hassle of returns – can be a main deterrent and reason why shoppers still visit brick and mortar stores. The act of touching or testing out a product reassures the shopper that their choice is the correct one.

Sensory experiential marketing

The pandemic has created an unprecedented opportunity for savvy e-commerce retailers to use technology to continue taking market share from stores. But it’s important to consider if online retail can ever fully match the same experience that physical stores offer.

Traditionally, online retailers have worked to alleviate haptic marketing growing pains by offering trial periods or samples of products. And now if you shop online, retailers have detailed product information and high-quality images, so consumers know when they’re buying a cotton or rayon top.

Now, with artificial intelligence and virtual or augmented reality, consumers can even visualize larger items in their own space – such as a new couch or a Christmas tree right in their living room. When done through a device, haptic marketing has also taken an experiential turn.

Common in the gaming world, a viewer’s phone can buzz or vibrate when watching a video. Imagine watching an ad for running shoes, and every time the runner jumps, you feel the impact on your phone. While it may not be effective in conveying how the shoes fit on your own feet, this new form of marketing can definitely increase brand awareness.

Retail’s relationship to emotion

The use of sensory marketing can be very nostalgic as the five senses are tied to emotions. When you’re sitting in a store, debating which couch to buy, you imagine yourself sitting on it in your own home. This is harder to imagine behind a screen. Luckily, when there’s a barrier between the shopper and product, e-commerce retailers are getting smarter about how they market these products.

Broadcast Media Relations During COVID-19

Note: We published this blog post in preparation for Justin Goldstein’s webinar on broadcasting. Since publishing, the webinar is live, and you can catch it on demand!


Broadcast media is booming as the Coronavirus pandemic restrictions only begin to loosen and everyone searches for sources that can provide reliable and timely information. Consider, recent findings from Nielsen show that 83% of consumers are listening to as much if not more radio than before the pandemic.

Clearly, if you’re looking to secure television, radio or podcast placements, now is the time to do so. But, be aware that producers and reporters are just like us and mainly working from home due to the virus. A refined approach is more important than ever to break through your contact’s inbox and earn their interest in an interview. 

Here are a few recommendations to consider:

Provide Key Assets Upfront

Are you in the process of developing assets like b-roll, headshots and bios for your spokesperson(s)? If so, hold on pitching until you have these elements so that you can include them in your first pitch to producers and reporters.

These contacts are sifting through hundreds of emails while trying to coordinate interviews via platforms like Zoom and Skype that they normally don’t work with. There’s a good chance that if a reporter opens your email and doesn’t see at least one or two of these assets listed, he or she will delete your email and move on to the next opportunity. If for no other reason, moving on reduces the stress of sending a follow-up email to ask questions. 

How can you best incorporate this information into your pitch?

  1. In your subject line, note that you’re offering an interview and these assets.
  2. Provide a link to download your b-roll and headshots via Dropbox or a similar platform to avoid your message going to spam.
  3. Include your spokesperson(s) bio towards the end of your pitch so that it doesn’t take away from the story that you’re trying to tell at the top. 

Use Your Voice

Phone pitching is critical in broadcast media relations, especially during COVID. Newsrooms are overwhelmed with pitches, coordinating segments with their producers from afar and receiving updates on Coronavirus-related stories from the public. So, the chances of them responding to email outreach are less than the print/online reporters that you might be more familiar with. 

It will likely be harder to reach reporters and producers directly. Your next step is to call a network or station’s assignment desk and speak with an assignment editor. They are well-positioned to coordinate interviews or connect you with a contact that can do so. You can also leave a voicemail on a producer or reporter’s phone. They often check to make sure that they’re not missing any important messages while away from the office.

Be Flexible

Many broadcast contacts are doing their best to adapt to navigate the pressures of virtual planning meetings and interviews. While you can certainly share your spokesperson(s) platform preference for connecting, try to be flexible.

If a reporter asks to connect via Skype and your spokesperson(s) is hesitant to pursue because they’re not used to the platform, try to schedule a quick training session. Get them to feel confident and comfortable going into an interview rather than push back on the reporter. 

Consider creating video-conference meeting invites for reporters and producers and offering your willingness to do so in your pitch. This removes one extra step in coordinating an interview that they don’t have to manage.

Be aware that if you’re staffing interviews on Zoom video, your video box will appear, so it would be best to confirm with your contact that he or she can have their team edit you out before finalizing their segment. 

Broadcast media is a powerful tool that should be leveraged for your media relations program. But, it’s crucial to approach your contacts in a strategic manner to garner their interest. Your results depend on it.

Attend June’s KG Connects Webinar to learn more

Want to hear directly from Justin about the state of broadcast media and both evergreen and timely best practices for securing coverage?

Join us on Friday, June 26 at 10:00 a.m. ET for the next edition of KG Connects! Learn more and register here.

About Justin Goldstein

justin-goldstein-press-records

Justin is president and founder of Press Record Communications, a strategic media relations agency with expertise in broadcast media. He is an award-winning media relations pro, voted an Exceptional Under 35 by the Public Relations Society of America. He has developed and implemented broadcast media relations programs that have supported clients like General Motors, Best Buy and the Clinton Global Initiative.

In recent years, Justin has coordinated event broadcast press campaigns for the Consumer Electronics Show, Detroit Auto Show and Conference of Mayors. Justin also served as morning drive producer at WRHU-FM, New York’s number one non-commercial radio station. His work has been recognized by PR News, PR Newswire and the Hermes Creative Awards.