Beat the Blues on Blue Monday

You may not have heard of “Blue Monday,” but you’ve definitely felt it. Declared the most depressing day of the year, the third Monday in January is right around the corner.

Introduced in 2005 by Sky Travel, the travel channel calculated a formula based on factors like weather, debt and motivational levels.

It makes sense. I hate to be the office Debbie Downer, but there are no more holiday parties to attend, the gym is crowded with people acting on their new year’s resolutions, and you’re on a healthy kick yourself when the thing you want most in the world is a slice of chocolate cake. Not to mention you haven’t seen the sun in a few weeks.

The only good thing to come out of the phrase “Blue Monday” is the song by New Order. But even their lyrics can be applied to this depressing day: “how does it feel, when your heart grows cold?”

While the formula has been ruled to have no scientific basis, a lot of us still feel the impact. Whether you call it “Blue Monday,” Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just the winter blues, we hit a seasonal slump in the dead middle of winter. Below are some practical tips on how to make the most out of your Monday.

Mental Escape

More than just a sales tactic, there’s some sound reasoning to the fact why “Blue Monday” was coined by a travel channel. Planning a vacation or a to-list for the weekend can distract from any mundane Monday. What’s more, planning and daydreaming can give you something to look forward to, and a goal to work toward. Books and music are also good channels for escapism, especially on a budget. Music streaming services have playlists dedicated to whatever mood you’re in, so why not switch over to a mood lifter?

Physical Escape

Bears were onto this whole act of hibernation. Even though going outside and getting to the gym sounds like the least ideal activity right now, getting your blood pumping can not only make you feel better physically, but it can improve your mental mood. Elle Woods was right when she said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” If you’re too stubborn to leave the house, use the internet to your advantage and pop on a quick exercise video.

If possible, get some sun. It’s hard during this time of year, but the health benefits are immense, and can lead to improved sleep and lower blood pressure. If you’re lucky like us here in Austin, Texas, the sunshine does peek through every now and again during this long winter. Take a fifteen-minute break, bundle up, and soak up that vitamin D. And if you’re lucky enough to have MLK Day off, maybe make a quick escape to sunnier, warmer climate for the long weekend.

Embrace It

Sometimes, it’s hard to take advice and put it into motion. At the very least, when you’re lying in bed hitting the snooze button, practice gratitude. Start with three small things you’re grateful for and remember your source of motivation, like family, learning or new experiences. It won’t make the floor any less cold, but should make getting out of bed a little bit easier.

Remember that while “Blue Monday” hits every year, it’s just one day and is temporary. The seasons will soon change again and your mood will shift. If you’re feeling down, reach out to those around you – chances are, they feel the same.

An Inside Look at H-E-B’s Scan-and-Go

At Ketner Group, we keep close tabs on what retailers are doing to make the checkout experience as frictionless as possible, such as the expansion of Amazon Go stores and the launch of Macy’s and Target’s scan-and-go apps. So when I heard that H-E-B, our Texas-based local grocery store, was piloting a new scan-and-go app, I knew I had to go try the technology for myself and see what the hype was all about!

Technical Difficulties

When I arrived at H-E-B, I sat in the car to download the app, expecting to easily scan and go, as the technology implies. However, I wasn’t off to a great start. I tried registering and logging in, but I kept getting the same error message over and over again. Finally, I decided to go into the store and ask for help. The store associate didn’t know what was going on, saying that it must be a server issue. I ended up leaving the store, disappointed that I couldn’t try the app out that day.

This was not a good first impression. I learned how important it is for retailers to deliver a seamless app that is easy to download and set up. Or else, it’ll leave customers even more frustrated, going against everything the app was built for. Of course, technical difficulties happen from time to time. But when they do, stores should have trained associates in place to help shoppers who are encountering problems with the app and quickly fix any issues that may occur.

Convenient and Fast

A couple of weeks later, I was in Gruene, a small city in Texas, for a friend’s bachelorette party. Before we went on a hike, we decided to stop by the nearest H-E-B to pick up a few picnic supplies for lunch. Turns out, that store was also piloting the scan-and-go app. I opened up the app and voila, I logged in successfully!

We pick out a few items for the picnic, including apples, salads and sandwiches. I used the app to scan each item’s barcode. To my surprise, the scanner was super fast! I didn’t even need to hold the phone to the barcode steadily before it read the item. Since all the items we bought had barcodes, I was able to easily scan each product and put everything into the cart.

Feeling Like a VIP

Once we were ready to check out, I walked over to H-E-B’s dedicated station for scan-and-go kiosks. All I had to do was scan the barcode on my app and it printed a receipt for me. A store associate came over as I was walking away to verify my receipt and after that, I was able to quickly leave the store.

My friends were amazed that we could skip the checkout line, and it was definitely fun testing out a concept that I often read and write about myself. I’m excited to see this technology play out as more and more shoppers use scan-and-go as their primary checkout option. There’s definitely a few hiccups and challenges that retailers should be prepared for, but I think with the proper technology and training in place, scan-and-go will help remove the primary pain point for customers. Because like we always say, no one likes waiting in long checkout lines!

Ketner Group Seeking a Spring 2019 Intern

Ketner Group is currently seeking a driven, hard-working intern for the Spring 2019 semester to support our team, with the possibility of an extended offer as a summer intern. The paid internship begins in January 2019, offering a flexible schedule of 15-20 hours per week. Between collaborating with our energetic and creative team and gaining real-world agency experience supporting our B2B clients, the intern will have many opportunities for growth.

Qualifications:

  • Entering or currently in junior or senior year of undergraduate studies
  • Possess strong writing and communication skills
  • Willingness to work independently in a fast-paced environment
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Previous public relations and/or communications internship experience is required, preferably with an agency
  • Ability to learn quickly and adapt to our team’s work culture

Responsibilities will include:

  • Researching media and analysts
  • Editing and/or writing client press releases and marketing materials
  • Managing editorial opportunities
  • Compiling award and speaking calendar
  • Building media lists
  • Crafting blog content for clients and internal use
  • Developing social media posts for client and internal use
  • Participating in staff meetings
  • Assisting with other duties as assigned

Application instructions: 

Please send a resume and cover letter, along with writing samples, to Mariana Fischbach at [email protected]; no phone calls, please.

New Things Are All Around – Welcome to Ketner Group Communications

I always tell people it’s the little things that make me happy – a good hair day, catching all the green lights on the way home, or finding that lost $10 bill in my pocket. That’s why today, the official launch of our new and improved Ketner Group website, I am grinning ear to ear remembering all of the (several dozen) little things that happened during the journey of creating this latest version of KetnerGroup.com.

For starters, before the painstaking, yet satisfying process of developing the new website began – Jeff Ketner and I made the bold decision to change the name of the agency to Ketner Group Communications, leaving behind Ketner Group PR + Marketing. As an agency, we have grown in so many ways over the past few years, not only in our ranks, but also in expanding our scope of services to offer social media management and digital content marketing to clients. We felt that the word “communications” better described where we are now and where we are headed in the years to come. We think it fits us quite nicely, and we hope you like it!

So, a new name meant a new logo, with a new color palette, to go along with a new website! Enter our new and amazing friends from Mixtape Marketing (bless their hearts) who have hung in there with us since November 2017 and have been the best marketing and design partners we could ever ask for! No one ever said creating a new website was easy, but the Mixtape team made the nearly year-long process of getting this sucker off the ground a fun and enjoyable experience. Our hats off to them.

As part of the new Ketnergroup.com site, we wanted the content, design, tone and imagery to better reflect who we are as a group and our philosophy as an agency. As the homepage says, we are “obsessed with exceeding client expectations” and we love showcasing our can-do culture. It’s at the heart of who we are. We are a fun group of taco and latte-loving “strategists, writers, talkers, listeners, tweeters, readers, music nerds and goofballs” who love nothing more than to see our clients win big. We think that sentiment is perfectly reflected in the new website.

While we hoped to have launched the site sooner, we had a few worthwhile roadblocks come up this past year that needed our attention – like the six new clients we brought on in 2018, which led us to hire three new employees, bringing our current KG full-time employee count to 10. We were nominated as a finalist in “company culture” for the 2018 Greater Austin Business awards, and have been busy finalizing the details to open a New York office in 2019. Oh, and we bought new chairs for our conference room – they are so nice and comfy! Like I said, it’s the little things.

I suppose you can consider this blog the digital version of a “ribbon cutting” ceremony for the new Ketnergroup.com! To make it KG official though, we celebrated with some Torchy’s chips and queso, a big chocolate cake and champagne. It’s how we roll.

Welcome to Ketner Group Communications – our door is always open!

Four Things to Learn from Your First Year on the Job

It’s hard to believe that I graduated from college and entered the working world more than a year ago. Starting your first job is a major turning point in life and can quite honestly be daunting. As a new graduate, there are a lot of things you discover that they just don’t teach in textbooks and the classroom. So, I’ve decided to compile a few pieces of advice I’ve gleaned this past year to help new graduates who are starting their first full-time job.

Be Confident

As a new professional, it’s easy to feel insecure about your work and ideas. You left your “mama, I made it” moment as a senior in college and now you’re back at the bottom of the totem pole again.

When you start to doubt yourself, remember that you were hired for a reason. Your company believes that you have the right skills and experiences to contribute to the team. It’s so important to take what you’ve learned all these years and not be afraid to speak up and be confident in your abilities. You’ll be surprised what you can do!

Make Mistakes and Never Stop Learning

You may think that since you’re out of school, you won’t need to learn anymore. But really, you should never stop taking opportunities to cultivate your skills and be adaptable with the industry. This could mean reading articles, keeping up with news or acquiring new skills.

You may also feel like you have to do everything perfectly the first time around, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made plenty of mistakes on the job! But what I’ve come to find is that the mistakes will make you better, and it’s up to you to take something away from those learning pains.

Get Involved

Look around and you’ll notice that there are some incredible people to look up to and learn from. Whether it be your boss, co-worker, or any other professional in your industry, there are people willing to guide and help you if you just ask! There are also professional organizations you can join with luncheons and networking events. For PR folks, I’ve found that PRSA is a great resource with plenty of ways to connect, volunteer and meet other professionals in your area.

Do What You Love and Have Fun Doing It

Most importantly, whether you like it or not, you will spend more time at work with your co-workers than anywhere else. Take time to find out what your interests are, both in and outside of work, and hone in on those opportunities. Find a workplace that’s ideal for you. If you enjoy what you do and take time to care for the people around you, going to work every day will be fun and enjoyable. Thankfully, my team at Ketner Group has made it easy to adjust and has given me opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally as I’ve made my transition with a fun, taco-loving team!

So, congratulations to all the new graduates out there and remember to take a moment to breathe and enjoy this new chapter of life. Oh, and bonus advice – start saving for retirement early. I hear your 70-year-old self will thank you later!

Tara Building outside

Coworking in Dublin

As a remote employee, I’ve found a lot of ways to keep myself on a regular schedule, focused on the task at hand, and well-socialized. I even wrote a blog about working remotely earlier this year that helps showcase the ins and outs of shifting from home office to coffee shop and back again. Working remotely is as good as it seems, but there’s always room for improvement.

The Tara Building

Tara Building outsideTo help make this good thing better, the Ketner Group executive team has arranged a coworking membership for me at one of Dublin’s more recognizable and funky places of work, The Tara Building. Located right in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw from Trinity College and across the road from the Irish Times headquarters, it’s a great environment to settle in for a few hours and get some serious work done.

The open floor plan and floating desk environment make it a casual space to work, and it’s easy to catch the productive vibes from pros in other industries. Chats in the kitchen range from technical design concepts to Irish politics to the next great vacation spot or new restaurant to try. Weekly workshops on everything from leadership to Chinese Art make it impossible to feel like there’s a lack of innovation or culture in town. All of it combines to keep the creative juices flowing, and there’s also the opportunity to network just a walk downstairs away.

New Opportunities

Tara Building Coworking InsideWorking remotely allows for an unrivaled sense of control over schedule, location and wardrobe. It means if it rains, hard, I’m not going anywhere and that’s just fine. But it also means that I have a unique opportunity to work alongside professionals from across the world, from a wide number of industries on a day-to-day basis and expand my perspective into how the world really turns.

I’m very much looking forward to getting more comfortable and meeting new people through the networking events and free workshops. Plus, the promise of free coffee from one of the most innovative and socially responsible suppliers I’ve encountered, Moyee, has me buzzing with excitement

Two Reactions, Same Person: Thoughts on the PR Effectiveness of March for Our Lives

For the record, I am the SVP and Partner here at Ketner Group Communications, with nearly 20 years of experience working as a public relations professional. I love the industry I work in, and I love helping my clients elevate their brands by telling impactful stories that make a difference. When done right, timely and ethically, PR is a beautiful thing to watch. It can also lead to a horrible train wreck when done wrong, too late or unethically. It’s hard for me not to notice good PR or bad PR when it’s happening outside of my work with Ketner Group – it’s like second nature to me.

I am also a proud mother of two awesome kids, ages 9 and 13. I don’t know about the rest of you parents out there, but as soon as I became a mom, I felt as though I became an honorary mom to all the children on the entire planet. Meaning, I not only worry about my own two offspring constantly, but I also find myself concerned about every single kid that I see or hear about – even the older ones! A recent example: during the Winter Olympics, I found myself telling the young and talented athletes (via talking to the TV) who fell on the ice or lost a race, “Aww, it’s ok! You’ll get ‘em next time!” And don’t even get me started on when there is an injury involved. When watching college football, I’m always saying to myself, “His mother must be so worried about him right now!” I can’t help it – it’s also like second nature to me.

So, for the most part, my “life lens” is part PR professional and part mom.

When I watched all of the March for Our Lives protests happening around the U.S. this past weekend, my two “selves” automatically kicked in. By recent reports, March for Our Lives was one of the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War. These protests, as we all know, were in direct response to the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. By all accounts, the marches were a huge success – obviously!

My PR Reaction: This is PR at its finest! The students, from the onset, created a message that was compelling and most of all, honest, open and raw. They also used the platforms they knew would be the most effective to get their message across – in this case they were TV and social media. Lastly, they used those channels and their message to go about changing opinions with the intent of changing laws. It is more than impressive what they have done, and it’s a case study worthy of a dozen PRSA Silver Anvil awards. As Amy George wrote about this week in her column in Inc. Magazine:

“In just five weeks since the shooting spree that killed 17 of their classmates, a handful of these survivors have become pros at live TV interviews, created the ‘Never Again’ campaign and raised millions of dollars — from celebrities and organizations like George and Amal Clooney, Oprah and Gucci — for the massive ‘March For Our Lives’ demonstration that they’ve planned for Saturday in Washington.”

My Mom Reaction: These kids must be so tired, I hope they are getting enough to eat and are sleeping enough!

My PR Reaction: I admire the fact that with little to no formal education on PR strategies, objectives and tactics, they’ve been able to, as Amy outlined in her column, accomplish two very important things when faced with launching an effective PR campaign:

  • Own the conversation: These kids have done a commendable job of keeping their conversation going and going so that others don’t do it for them. Any good PR person will tell their client or company that you must get out there before anyone else to tell your story, or risk the conversation or message going in the wrong direction.
  • Master the soundbite: The students have also quickly mastered the art of the soundbite. Of course they have! Even my nine-year-old son can come up with clever soundbites to explain a funny situation that happened to him at school. They have been groomed for some time now to talk in short, witty conversations via social media.

My Mom Reaction: I wonder if they got nervous before speaking to the crowd in Washington?

The final end result of the PR campaign is TBD. But this we do know – it is a campaign that has quickly commanded the spotlight and is bound to continue to do so. I’ll continue to be in awe of them as a PR professional and will also worry about them as “far away mom,” but something tells me these kids are going to be just fine.

PRSA Chair Offers Guidance to Facebook

In light of this week’s events surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, we wanted to repost the following guidance from PRSA 2018 National Chair Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA. Please find the email that was distributed from PRSA earlier this week, below.

The current headlines about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, including lax data policies and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s initial silence on the ethical and legislative controversy, prompted PRSA 2018 National Chair Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA, to address how values and principles from PRSA’s Code of Ethics could help Facebook to get ahead, and stay ahead, of ongoing crisis developments.

What’s worse than Facebook’s data breach?

Facebook executives have learned, too slowly, that a trust breach is profoundly more damaging than a data breach. The elegantly simple remedies for the former are spelled out in the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Code of Ethics. Warning: Implementing them can require extraordinary courage, a thick skin and hard, sustained work. Not implementing them will lead to further erosion of trust and market capitalization, and a commensurate increase in government hearings and industry regulation.

Mark Zuckerberg, after a glacial delay, responded yesterday to the public outcry for information via “Anderson Cooper 360” and various other statements. An apology is an important start, but it’s reactive. To get ahead of this crisis, here are applicable values and principles from the PRSA Code of Ethics that Facebook should attend to:

Honesty and fairness, which are required for trust to be enabled among stakeholders, and to maintain the integrity of relationships with the public, the media and government officials. This is essential for informed decision-making in a democratic society. In short, come clean and play fair. If there is unpleasant news about what has happened, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, share it completely and quickly for Facebook’s benefit as well as the public’s. You do not want it to come from other sources, as has been happening since 2015 with this matter.

Free flow of information, which trusted organizations consistently advance. Don’t deflect, obfuscate or dissemble. Don’t have attorneys take over communications, which inherently sends a suspicious message.

Act promptly to correct erroneous communications. Crises can have huge magnitude as one-time events, or they can have protracted, steady-drip effects. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal has both. Yesterday, Zuckerberg finally answered the urgent question, “Where are you on this?” Henceforth, he and other Facebook leaders must spell out what they’re doing to fix every aspect of every relevant problem and report steadily on progress.

Disclosure of information, to build trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision-making. After reports this past weekend by The New York Times and the Observer of London, the deputy general counsel at Facebook said, “Everyone involved gave their consent.” Can informed consent happen when millions of Facebook users are seemingly expected, for their own protection, to turn off app settings that they aren’t aware exist?

Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented. The information consumer has a right to know whether a message is sponsored and who is sponsoring it.

Safeguarding confidences, to provide appropriate protection of confidential and private information. It is not unethical to keep proprietary information confidential; any company must do so to protect intellectual property and strategies to compete in a robust business environment. However, that information cannot be safeguarded if it harms the interests of the nation or society.

Conflicts of interest must be avoided or ended to ensure one’s professional or personal interests are not in conflict with society’s interests. This requires transparency, and transparency requires speed and consistency to enable trust.

If you can’t figure out what the product is in a given digital or social media app, then you are the product — your data, your attention, your connection to other users. Thousands of users didn’t realize that when they downloaded an app as seemingly innocuous as a personality quiz, it scraped information from not only their Facebook profiles, but from their friends’ profiles as well. Fifty million people were affected, and they don’t care if the cause was Facebook’s policies, its oversight of developers or the actions of a rogue developer. Facebook doesn’t get to assign blame, its customers do. So Facebook is obligated to deliver the facts and let customers decide for themselves if the problem is fixed.

This is a tough situation, and it’s easy for anyone to play Monday morning quarterback. Facebook’s leaders are highly intelligent, and I’ll bet that they’ve been given good PR counsel — but heretofore Facebook’s actions do not reflect best practices.

Therefore, I’d like to offer free, albeit unsolicited advice. Engage public relations professionals, whether on your staff or external, that know PRSA’s Code of Ethics chapter and verse. It will help you and the publics you serve. In fact, I’m willing to assemble a team of PRSA member experts who would be willing to counsel you without fee because the stakes in this far-reaching crisis are astoundingly high.

Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA
2018 National Chair, PRSA

Shoptalk 2018: New Venue, New Retail Outlook

Shoptalk 2018 is slated to take place in Las Vegas in just a few days, March 18-21, bringing with it the latest and greatest in retail innovation. Now in its third year, the Shoptalk 2018 conference will be the largest one to date, with almost 8,000 attendees coming together in the conference’s new location at the Venetian. Interestingly enough, just as the show moves to a new location this year, it also appears that the retail conversation has also shifted in a new direction — from retail apocalypse to retail renovation.

For example, during the past two years the conversation at Shoptalk has largely been about how to address and compete with the 800-pound elephant in the room: Amazon. And while Amazon is still a major topic of conversation throughout the retail industry, this year’s Shoptalk promises to focus on how savvy brands and retailers are utilizing their physical storefronts and digital channels to not only bring about the future of retail, but truly create the kind of customer experience that consumers have been asking for.

Key Conversations

With the continuous innovation and changes happening in the world of retail, here are the topics that we look forward to hearing most about during the show;

  • Voice and conversational commerce – as the adoption of voice-assistants continues to rise among consumers, retailers and brands need a way to not only deliver a true-to-the-brand experience but also ensure that their product discovery efforts are maximized during initial voice searches. It will be interesting to see and hear the work retailers are doing to maximize their efforts via voice.
  • The future of the store front – while retailers continue to discuss and experiment with the combination of physical storefronts and digital channels, it will be interesting to see what new developments are underway. Last year we saw prime examples during Shoptalk including Sephora incorporating its mobile app features to help enhance consumers’ experiences within the store and track all the products they used and liked during their consultation with an in-store beauty expert.
  • Artificial Intelligence – this year’s big buzzword is artificial intelligence; however, it will be interesting to listen to actual use cases of AI during this year’s Shoptalk to clarify and pinpoint what is actually possible and what is just hype at the moment.

Clients at Shoptalk

Do you plan on walking the show floor during Shoptalk 2018? Keep a lookout for our retail technology clients who will be exhibiting as well as participating in some of the speaking sessions during the show. From conversational commerce to prescriptive analytics to mobile app platform solutions and everything in between, check out our wonderful KG clients on the show floor including:

As retail innovation continues to make waves in the first half of 2018, we look forward to the creative ideas and innovative case studies that Shoptalk will feature. From retail apocalypse to retail renovation, it will be interesting to follow retail’s journey throughout 2018.

Client Spotlight: Luke Starbuck, VP of Marketing, Linc Global

Luke Starbuck, VP of Marketing, Linc Global

A Ketner Q&A

Luke built his first ecommerce website in 1997 and has more recently focused on bringing software that improves customer experience and drives revenue to ecommerce retailers for the past 5 years. He has led product, development and customer service teams and brings his experience in print advertising and media to digital and offline marketing and growth. At Linc, his primary goal is to connect retailers with the knowledge and tools that drive stronger customer relationships and transform one time purchasers into lifetime shoppers.

KG: What are the best things about being an employee at Linc? 

Luke: Having the opportunity to be at the forefront of technology in the retail space is a unique opportunity. There are few companies who really understand retail, and who are pushing the limits of what technology can make possible. Being part of Linc gives us all a chance to not only know the future, but also define it.

KG: Why did Linc decide to engage with a PR firm? 

Luke: Linc decided PR was an important part of entering the market because our philosophy, mission and software operates under a new paradigm. We’re not just doing something better, we’re doing things differently. So education and awareness is key to our success in bringing this to the market.

KG: Why did you select Ketner Group?

Luke: The folks at Ketner Group were responsive from the get-go, and demonstrated clear understanding of the market we’re targeting. Both very important to us. Furthermore, they showed that they are focused on results, very detail-oriented and are as relentless as we are. They were a great fit for us.

KG: Ketner Group and Linc have been working together for almost a year. What’s been the most successful results of your engagement with Ketner Group?

Luke: We’ve been very pleased to be able to join the conversation in top tier retail media, with commentary and feature articles in the target publications we were having difficulty reaching previously. The biggest success for us has been constant and continuous coverage in our target publications, with some particular great results with a report we released, and also a press release about a new customer, both of which drove significant interest.

KG: What peer advice would you give to a fellow Tech Vendor looking to develop a PR strategy? 

Luke: Really consider the value before you get started. If you are targeting mastheads just for the optics, its likely you won’t see ROI. Think carefully about where your target customers are, and what you hope to get out of a PR investment. Then focus on and define goals and measurements that reflect the return you hope to get. Finally, communicate with your agency or PR lead so that they are on the same page, and then work hard every week, together.