There’s no rest for the weary when launching a new office in an exciting new town.
After beginning the week hosting an outstanding storytelling panel at our new We Work office in East Nashville, we continued the week-long celebration of Ketner Group’s Nashville Office launch by modering a great conversation at the 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival about how startups can win press and influence customers.
The room was packed with a host of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, marketers, PR people, executives and more for the first session at 36|86. Kirsty said the atmosphere at Ole Red in Downtown Nashville was “electric, packed full of people, and a great overall experience.”
The panelists included Ben Kurland and Lisa Roberts, experts with years of experience in entrepreneurship, marketing, and PR between the two of them. Every attendee took away valuable tips and tricks to help take their business and career to the next level.
Ben, a Nashville local, spoke on his experience generating press on a local scale. He highlighted the value of creating good relationships with reporters and having a strong network in your area. He shared two key pieces of advice when interacting and working with reporters, the first being: “Be friendly, come prepared, and make the job easy for the reporter.” His second piece of advice: “Don’t ignore the power of Twitter; don’t be another buried email.”
Lisa is an Austin native and provided a great perspective on how to make the most of your PR and use it to the best of your ability. She offered valuable advice and personal experiences on how she uses PR to generate leads, create brand awareness, and differentiate her brands in the eyes of consumers. Lisa’s advice to entrepreneurs and growing businesses: “think about your business opportunities as headlines. If it’s a headline no one cares about, it’s probably not a good priority.”
Welcome to Nashville
The festivities are only just beginning here in the Music City and we can’t wait to share all the news and surprises with you. We are so excited to join the 615 Family and make an impact on the Nashville community. Based on our experience so far, we expect that there are lots of good things in store for us in Music City, USA.
With more than 60 entrepreneurs, marketers and communicators of all ages were in attendance, we met fascinating people with unique backgrounds and perspectives on brand building and business development.
very special thanks to our panelists Nicole Delger, Kelley
Griggs and Brittney Oliverfor lending us their time and expertise.
A sincere thank you to all who joined us – we
hope every attendee learned a little something that makes their story easier to
tell and more powerful for their brand.
The storytelling didn’t disappoint. We loved hearing about how an unknown author was able to secure a publisher for her book after Brittney wrote a Fast Company article about it and put her on the map.
Meanwhile, Nicole discussed how her reliance on telling stories has helped Musgrave Pencil Co., a more than 100-year-old business, develop a modern brand voice.
And for all of the PR pros looking for some insights into the secret sauce… Kelly spilled the beans on how journalists identify stories that will resonate with their audience (it’s all about personal connection to a story’s presentation and impact).
Our engaged audience asked great questions and kept the conversation focused on driving and measuring value – the real reason we spend so much time on creating our stories.
What does my day entail at Ketner Group? I wake up each morning asking that question. Anything can happen in public relations. As a Senior Account Executive, media relations, long-form content, social media and beyond are always part of the seemingly never-ending to-do list. This non-stop grind is the reality across the entire public relations industry and remains true at Ketner Group…but we always keep up the KG flare along the way.
The SAE Grind
The first thing I look at when I get into the office is my call schedule for the day. Client communication and coordination is key. Therefore, calls with clients and internal teams are essential to planning and strategizing ongoing activities and maintaining strong relationships with our great clients.
As we strive to help our clients tell their stories in the best publications, each day involves executing and overseeing media relations and PR campaigns. This requires constantly identifying fresh storylines and bringing proactive pitching ideas to the table, ready to discuss with the KG team and clients. This brainstorming, drafting, discussing, pitching and relationship building with media is a constant.
Writing is a big part of our business and as an SAE. One of my roles is managing the day-to-day content on some of my teams so I spend a lot of my time keeping writing projects moving along smoothly. Sometimes I’m in need of a “writing day,” when I attack long-form content pieces such as e-books, blogs and whitepapers.
Fortunately, on these days I have the flexibility to work from home, the library or anywhere else to avoid distractions and maintain laser focus. As I discussed in my last blog about content development, we all have different writing processes and at Ketner Group. Luckily, we’re able to find what works for us and make these days as efficient as possible.
Additionally, days can include social media management, speaking/award submissions, digital content marketing, helping clients shape communications strategy and messaging. These and a variety of other activities work together to help our clients grow and strengthen their brand across all channels.
Expecting Fire Drills
While most days include much of the above, you never know
what’s going to happen throughout the day. In fact, it’s a rarity for a day to
go according to schedule. Expecting urgent client requests is what PR is all
about and keeps us on our toes.
However, the unexpected isn’t always more work. At Ketner Group, the unexpected can also mean office lunches, coffee runs and celebrations (with a beer or wine in hand) that keep everyone engaged and refreshed. I’m fortunate to get extra motivation from my office-mate Aidan, who provides me with all the inspiration to succeed you see in the picture above. The John Cena “Never Give Up” towel purchased at WWE Monday Night Raw is especially effective in preventing me from ever giving up. And since a little friendly competition goes a long way, I always make time in my day to battle him at the New York Times Mini Crossword.
A day as a Senior Account Executive has its ups and downs
but, at the end of the day, it’s always a fun and exciting ride at Ketner Group.
No matter the industry or the size of the company, when employees come to work, they want to feel valued. The deep-seated desire to have a seat at the table indicates companies that often have the most success–and the happiest employees–promote a collaborative culture. Throughout the past 29 years, Ketner Group has learned a thing or two about how to encourage collaboration among coworkers. And it takes more than just team lunches and company outings. Although those team bonding moments are important (check out pictures from our recent axe-throwing outing), building genuine collaboration happens daily. Here at KG, we take specific actions to maintain a collaborative culture in our workplace. Read on to discover our tactics.
Create A Welcoming Environment
Driving effective collaboration starts with an inviting attitude. Employees should feel comfortable when talking to one another. To encourage a steady flow of communication throughout the day, the Ketner Group team tends to leave our office doors open. With this practice in place, face-to-face interactions happen more frequently. In addition to keeping our doors open, we use Slack. The team collaboration software helps us communicate with each other via channels designated for specific accounts and internal teams.
As a result, we’ve found transparency is a key to effective communication. Keeping each other updated on our schedules and priorities is a cornerstone of our business. Every Monday we kick off the week with a short staff meeting. During the meeting, every team member gives updates on what they plan to work on that week. When we’re all in the know, collaboration becomes more feasible.
Even though we are dispersed among various accounts, we encourage cross team collaboration. One way we do this is through Friday brainstorm sessions where we choose one topic to discuss. All employees are encouraged to share their input and anyone can pitch ideas for the topic each week. Whether it’s asking for help with a client project or ideas around how to promote our own agency, brainstorms reflect our collaborative culture. Two minds are better than one, but putting 12 heads together has proved to be even better. Since we started meeting for hour-long brainstorms each week, our shared ideas have generated success for our clients and our agency as a whole. For example, one brainstorm session focused on our client Adlucent, which recently garnered high-profile media attention after we coordinated with them in releasing a whitepaper.
Provide Leadership Opportunities For All Employees
At Ketner Group, leadership roles aren’t only for senior level employees. Every team member, junior staff included, owns a specific part of the agency. Whether it’s keeping the blog up and running or creating and distributing the monthly newsletter, we all have a chance to improve individually and hone our own skills. However, these activities aren’t possible without coordination. While employees have the autonomy to take the lead role in a specific part of the agency, we can all work together and play off of each other’s strengths. Subsequently, we value each other’s thoughts and the agency is better for it.
Additionally, finding new business opportunities isn’t limited to senior staff. We all pitch in to find opportunities for the agency and have allotted hours to conduct research toward this every month. Instead of everything coming from the top down, Ketner Group has made the business an inclusive one. Through giving everyone opportunities for leadership, the end result is a collaborative culture.
Support Each Other In Ways Big And Small
A supportive team fuels our collaboration and results in effective teamwork. If a team member is facing a challenging task or is unsure of how to handle a situation, we know we have each other to turn to. We also encourage peer reviews on our work, which helps us improve both our writing and editing skills. Each client team also conducts internal meetings to coordinate work and keep each other up to date before presenting ideas to the client.
Outside of the office, the support continues. From going on walks together to internal reviews and check-ins, we are more than just an office of coworkers, but consider each other our “work family.” Collaboration has quickly turned into genuine care, which carries over into all aspects of our work and life.
Above all, our close-knit team makes it simple for us to collaborate. Whether it’s asking each other for advice, collecting thoughts in an email brainstorm or even reaching out for help when we need it, our teamwork is the foundation for much of our success. Our Founder and President Jeff Ketner expands on how our agency culture has evolved into what it is today in his recent blog post. If you’re interested in learning more about Ketner Group, send us a message.
This blog post was provided by Charles Dimov, an experienced marketing professional and one of our former clients.
As marketers, we know that communications and public relations are important. They are part of a sound marketing mix. It’s good for the brand and helps drive awareness. But, what is it doing for qualified leads and lead generation? Of course, we all understand that it helps. If someone has heard of your brand from a third party article, they are more willing to interact with you online. Wonderful, but that’s all wishy-washy qualitative stuff! Is there tangible proof that public relations drives qualified leads? As a convert, here is my story that answers this question. Spoiler – the answer is YES, it does.
For the past three and a half years, I have led global marketing for a small retail software firm, OrderDynamics. In all regards, the company was a startup with a serious challenge. Four years ago, it was a 40-person firm, spun off from a larger organization. It had no discernible market presence. For the most part, no one in the industry had heard of us. There was no significant brand presence, compared to several goliaths in the industry like IBM, Oracle, and SAP. The flow of inbound leads was sporadic at best. To approximate, we had about 30 inbound raw leads per month.
These were certainly not marketing qualified leads (MQL), nor sales qualified leads (SQL). The inside sales process was completely focused on outbound efforts (events, list calling, followup). To top it off, web traffic dropped 75% in the year following the spinoff. Sales thought of marketing as an unengaged team working on its own. In hindsight, this was by no means a picture of success.
Public Relations & Qualified Leads
Starting with a vision, and marketing strategy (content centric – inbound), we added a communications / PR plan to the marketing mix. With buyer personas in hand, we focused on creating high-quality content, and on an ongoing public relations push. For a fast start, we outsourced this expertise.
Publishing educational, non-promotional content on a consistent basis was part of the plan. Content included white papers, topic briefs, data sheets, brochures, webinars, podcasts and ground-breaking industry research (developed in-house).
Through these initiatives, we established an ideal platform for a blogging strategy, using SEO to catch the interest of ideal buyers.
Good content gave us a chance to drive press releases, provide media quotes, submit non-paid bylines to industry publications, offer guest posts, and even interview on podcasts. These third-party public relations efforts started driving an influx in inbound raw leads. On the marketing funnel, raw leads converted to qualified leads with a growing number of prospective customers.
After ramping up our PR efforts, page views grew from less than 6,000 per month to peaks just shy of 18,000 per month. More importantly, the marketing department grew inbound leads to as high as 400 per month. Over three years, more than 240 third-party industry publications referenced OrderDynamics. This in just over three years. Twelve of these were quotes in Forbes magazine, with one full unpaid article written about our research in the publication.
Certainly, the sales team was engaged, and excited. Consistent, high-quality content marketing – supported by a strong SEO blogging strategy, and solid ongoing PR – completely turned around the business. Sales and marketing were now working together to fill the sales funnel. Additionally, sales reps saw and appreciated the clear benefit of marketing’s contributions.
Proof in the Qualified Leads
You may wonder, did PR really provide sales-ready qualified leads? I wanted to know this answer too. So, we closely watched our inbounds in the stages in the sales process, in sales calls, and through our qualification process. Over the past two years, from close to 300 qualified leads analyzed, most were attributed to SEO (organic search), at 36%. We found the next largest category to be the ‘Direct’ sourced qualified leads, the people who directly typed in our website address, at 33%. However, as a small firm starting with an almost completely unknown brand, these sources must be largely attributed to our public relations efforts.
If there is any doubt in your mind – public relations does work! And there are results to prove it. For instance, solid public relations execution drove 33% of our sales accepted leads (SAL – qualified leads).
My husband and I recently introduced our 9-year old son to the classic Will Smith song – Summertime. Even though this jam dropped way back in 1993, it still has a coolness factor to it, according to my son! The song talks about summer being a time where you can sit back and unwind.
Well, the KG team knows a few things about that!
Team Road Trip: Dallas!
Of course, we stay just as busy during the
summer as we do the rest of the year, but we are big believers in taking time
for vacations and exciting summer adventures! In fact, I’m proud to announce
that many of us just returned from a fun weekend in Dallas to celebrate our
sweet Stacy’s wedding! There was much merriment and dancing – the perfect way
to kick off the summer at KG. (We are only slightly jealous of Stacy’s current honeymoon
vacation in Hawaii!) I was so glad that our crazy crew was there to celebrate
Stacy and Alvin’s nuptials.
KG Vacation: Holiday Road!
But it doesn’t stop there. As a matter of fact, The KG team has many more fun vacations in store for Summertime 2019. Kirsty just back from a wonderful week by the seaside in Florida. Meanwhile, Mikaela is traversing Europe for an amazing 2-week vacation. I’ll be hitting up the Texas coast twice this summer, Mariana will be wining in Sonoma, Jenna will be camping at the Frio and Greg will be hanging in Montreal. Whew. As well, I believe there are also other trips planned to Seattle and Boston, too! Point is, our team knows the importance of getting away and taking the time to mentally relax. In our business, it is a must.
In addition to personal vacations, I’ll also
be traveling to our offices in New York and Nashville this summer for some very
exciting industry events! Stay tuned for future blogs on that in July and
Soak Up The Summer Sun, and the Adventures
To sum up, Team Ketner Group just loves the summer. Above all, we love spending time with our friends and loved ones and sharing all of our adventures (and amazing pictures) with each other. From our team to yours, we hope you have an amazing summer full of fun, sun and memories!
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the article focused on ad agencies, not PR firms. After all, we’re Ketner Group, not Sterling Cooper! However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the article. Several of our employees came from national PR agencies that expected them to bill 160+ hours a month. Late nights, employee burnout and high turnover were part of the culture.
That’s no way to run a PR agency — and it’s certainly not the way we do things at Ketner Group. We talk about KG as our “work family,” and it’s not a cliche. Our agency culture has evolved over time, and I think there are at least four reasons why.
#1: Create an Agency Culture Where People Can Thrive
Clear expectations and mutual accountability, combined with reasonable work hours and billing expectations, are fundamental to creating a positive agency culture. (And yes, competitive salaries and benefits matter, too.) These are table stakes, though. Everyone in an agency deserves a climate where they can continually learn, develop new skills and grow in their career, without sacrificing family or personal time. They also need a clear sense of how they can progress, both in salary and titles, and the reassurance that hard work will be rewarded. These are all things we’ve taken to heart at Ketner Group. That’s why we do employee reviews every six months instead of just annually. Why we value everyone’s opinion, not just the most senior staff. And why we do anything we can to help our individual team members grow and thrive.
#2: Trust Your Team
Do you hire great people? Then by all means, trust them. If KG team members focus on clients, consistently hit billing targets, demonstrate professional growth and are team players, then they earn our trust. That’s why we have a flexible work-from-home policy, especially given the headaches of Austin traffic. Trust is also the reason we’ve let KG’ers work abroad, from Dublin to Bali, not to mention our new offices in New York and Nashville.
#3: Exceed Client Expectations
Are you surprised that this wasn’t #1? Well, there’s a method to our madness. To do great client work, we believe that agencies must first create a positive environment where everyone thrives, and where there’s a climate of mutual trust, respect and accountability. Professional skills are a given, of course. But without these other attributes, it’s hard to create cohesive, focused teams where everyone focuses on exceeding client expectations. Great teams do great work, and we see it every day in our fantastic, hard-working team members.
(This isn’t me hyperbolizing, either. The VP Marketing of one of our clients recently told me that hiring Ketner Group was the single best decision he made for his company. And just last week, an editor told me we had the best PR team in the business.)
#4: Have Fun
This one almost goes without saying, but let’s face it: even at its best, PR can sometimes be stressful. And the best way to counter that is to leave plenty of time for fun. That’s why Ketner Group has Taco Tuesday, Wake-up Wednesday, frequent team lunches, and random outbursts of singing and laughing during the day. Yes, we use Slack primarily as a business tool, but sometimes a string of off-the-wall giphys is just what you need to laugh during a crazy afternoon (a Greg video or a random JK emoji can do the trick, too). And just this weekend, the KG team danced its heart out at Stacy’s wedding. The point is, committing to a fun work environment is one of the reasons we enjoy showing up every day.
There’s much more that goes into creating a great culture — frequent video chats and weekly check-ins with our remote team members. Taking time to chat with one another about life, not just work. Making sure everyone has each other’s back. Keeping the freezer stocked at all times with Amy’s frozen dinners. And occasional Rosé breaks. Team culture is always evolving at Ketner Group, and we’re working hard to make sure it evolves in the best possible ways.
This blog post has been provided by our intern, Katie Stone.
Earth Day is a special day to me. Not only is it a day that celebrates the Earth and its resources, but it is also my parent’s wedding anniversary. Though not intentional, the holiday seems fitting. Growing up, my parents taught me to respect the Earth through evenings spent watching nature documentaries and taking family trips to national parks. Now as an adult, I care deeply about the planet and climate change issues. Likewise, I know I am not the only member of Gen Z to think this way.
According to the 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey by CGS, 68% of Generation Z shoppers have made an eco-friendly purchase in the past year. The survey also shows that Gen Z ranks ethical business as one of its top factors when making a purchase. Therefore, retailers who aren’t using eco-friendly strategic messaging are going to be abandoned by the up-and-coming generation.
Be Transparent About Sustainability
Before you publicly declare your company an eco-friendly one, do a quick analysis of your company’s current practices. If your company has made, or is currently making some environmental mistakes, get in front of it. Be open and transparent about past mistakes while directing your messaging toward the future. Detail your company’s plans to reduce or eliminate its negative effects on the planet through proactive digital media campaigns. When your company reaches a goal, use social media, press releases and other PR tactics to get your message heard. A strategic approach to eco-friendly branding will strengthen your brand amongst Gen Z and your other target audiences.
Include Sustainability in Your Strategic Messaging
Developing strategic messages will establish your company as a thought leader in sustainability. Spend some time developing key messaging that aligns with the messaging you already have. Test out what works and doesn’t work. Then, work with company spokespeople to get all of your strategic messaging consistent and include it in traditional and digital media.
When you identify the messaging you want to use, it is important that the messaging is laced throughout your brand. One post on social media using #EarthDay isn’t going to cut it anymore. Demonstrating your company’s sustainable initiatives year-round will give your larger Earth Day campaigns more validation.
Flesh Out Your Community Relations
Showing is often more important than telling when it comes to environmentally friendly initiatives, as it proves that your company genuinely cares about the environment. Fortunately, there are plenty of possible community relations practices. Here are a few earth friendly community relations ideas to try in your office:
Incentivize volunteer work
Get your office to participate in
Donate time and money to local environmental
Start a rooftop garden, or sponsor a
Encourage carpools and working remote
When your company takes part in community relations activities, make sure you include it in marketing pieces. For example, highlight the activities in a newsletter or write a blog about the experience. Visual content is key, so make sure you get lots of pictures and video. You can use this content on social media and other branding materials.
Find Your Approach to Branding
There are many different approaches that companies can take when branding themselves as sustainable. To sum up, find what works for your brand and run with it. Looking to build out your strategic messaging beyond Earth Day? Send an email to [email protected] – we love to talk branding!
As someone who majored in journalism, telling full and complete stories inverted pyramid style is practically ingrained in me. While writing for PR clients differs, both require the writer to tell a story. Whether it’s a blog post, bylined article or press release, you need to do more than describe a product. Instead, you need to capture the attention of their audiences with a genuine, compelling story.
To deliver on this expectation, ask yourself, “What’s the story here?” Once you determine an answer, you’re ready to write through the lens of that story angle. Along the way, I’ve learned some helpful tips when it comes to keeping the heart of the story front and center in your writing.
Have a Thorough Understanding of What You’re Writing About
First and foremost, unearthing a story is nearly impossible if you don’t understand what you’re writing about. Whether you’re writing about the latest retail technology tool (tends to be where my mind is at these days) or a new hire, a thorough understanding of the subject will help you create your story. To hone in on this, create a ‘topic sentence’ based on the story to help guide your writing. Within this sentence, highlight the main sentiment you want to convey to readers in just a few words. I like to write it out and keep it handy to refer back to as I delve into creating content.
Let the Story Unfold
With your ‘topic sentence’ in mind, your thoughts are given direction, allowing a story to unfold. As you write, glance at your topic sentence to ensure your words line up with your core idea. On top of a thorough understanding, creativity is key. If you’re constructing a press release about a new product launch, chances are the story runs deeper than the objective features of the product. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer. Think about how the product solves pain points in everyday lives to shine light on the story you should tell.
As PR professionals, we may not be commissioned to write novels, but that shouldn’t stop our inner storyteller from emerging. Human nature gravitates toward stories. Stories tend to engage more than direct facts without a connecting theme. As you endeavor to serve clients well, envision yourself as a storyteller for the brand and products. This goes a long way with the media, readers and the agency-client relationship.
To learn more about the power of storytelling in PR, you can find more helpful tips on Cision.
Last week, the Ketner Group team attended the PRSA 2018 International Conference, better known to the public relations community as PRSA ICON, in our own backyard here in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with the conference, it’s designed specifically to help the communications community enhance our personal and professional network through career development and connecting with other PR practitioners.
Needless to say, the KG team definitely networked, and we DEFINITELY returned to the office with new ideas and methods for bettering our professional craft. We heard inspiring keynotes from Do Something’s CEO Aria Finger and digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. The PRSA ICON breakout sessions we attended were all about perfecting your messages in clear yet relevant ways, and also explored new sectors of the communications industry. Here are just a few tidbits of the best practices we learned at PRSA ICON this year:
Lesson One: Communicating should ALWAYS be about your audience
Although as communication professionals we may think we are clearly delivering our messages, that may not always be the case. As we learned at the conference, we currently live in the age where content is king, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of “churning and burning” an immense amount of content, losing sight of one key component: your target audience. For example, think of a scenario where someone is just talking at you, instead of trying to understand what experiences or topics may be relevant to you based on your experiences and former knowledge – chances are, mid-lecture your mind will start drifting away to more relevant thoughts.
Therefore, your audience should always be at the forefront of the message. Key questions like ‘what is my audience’s point of reference?’ and ‘why would this be relevant to them?’ and ‘what does my audience need?’ should always lead your messaging strategy. After all, if you lose your audience, who is going to read your content?
Lesson Two: We are all, or should strive to be, data analysts
We live in a digital age where every search and click is tracked. And while we in the PR world are notorious for disliking math and preferring words over figures, it’s time to join the data revolution. At PRSA ICON, we discussed the need for PR professionals to dive into the world of data to create an even bigger need and sense of interest for each and every story, while continuing to make our pitches and strategies not only timely but also informed and relevant. As IBM’s Brandi Boatner explained during her workshop, while the world of data is intimidating, the key here is to start one step at a time. She recommended starting with Google Trends and then identifying data sets that are relevant to your communications strategy. As Boatner explained, when you dive into the world of data, you should not try to analyze a large amount of data all at once, as both you and your audience will be overwhelmed: “A good storyteller masters things that are unseen and with AI and data analytics, you can create a communications strategy that quickly identifies and gets ahead of trends.”
Lesson Three: Social media influencers are now a staple in public relations
As industry conversations continue to heat up on the effectiveness of social media influencers, the fact is, social influencers are now and will continue to be a staple in the world of communications. (Ketner Group recently profiled one such influencer in a recent blog!) What’s more, social media influencers can help companies effectively grow organic audiences and customers they would not have had before. As we learned at PRSA ICON, leveraging social media influencers for your communication efforts is a matter of conducting diligent research to identify the right influencers that will create a new level of authentic communication between you and your target audience.
As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And in public relations and communications as a whole, there is something new to learn every day! We look forward to implementing the lessons learned at this year’s conference into our communications craft as we continue to be life-long learners in this industry.
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