New Year, New Site, New Baby!

This has been an exciting couple of months at Ketner Group. As we covered in our last few blogs we had a very successful NRF with 11 of our 18 clients attending, making announcements and holding over 80 meetings with analysts and media.

Jeff Meets Jack!Behind the scenes, our team has been furiously working on building this brand new site that you see today. Countless hours went in on our end cultivating the content and working with Creative Pickle to create this beautiful site! We thank them for their patience and creative leadership.

Thirdly, and most exciting, we are happy to announce that our fearless leader, Jeff, and his wife, Molly, are
now grandparents! Their daughter and son-in-law welcomed Jack Andrew Winterroth in to the world at 9:30pm on Wednesday, February 3. He is a healthy 6 pounds and 12 ounces. We are thrilled to welcome this newest addition into the Ketner Group family. Congratulations Jeff, Molly and the entire Ketner clan!

 

Ice Cream’s Biggest Fan (and our new Intern): Meet Cambria!

Hello! My name is Cambria Sawyer, and I am thrilled to be joining the Ketner team as their newest intern! And yes, Cambria as in the font, wine, California town, and the heavy-progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria- but I am actually named after an old sailing ship in Rhode Island. My middle name is one of the most commonly chosen for children in China, but I’ll let you guess about that one!

CambriaWords are some of my favorite things on this earth. You can use them for good or evil, express your deepest thoughts and feelings, ask for ice cream (very important use of words), harness them to become closer to someone or push them farther away, motivate people toward life-changing action and a million other things. Words are powerful but also mischievous- it is not always known what effect they will have, and I think that is so dang cool. It’s truly a science to figure out how to best approach communication, and I think that is why I am so drawn to the fields of PR and marketing- they are mysterious and very, very fun.

My first major try at figuring out words came last year when I ran the promotion, marketing and creative aspects of a local non-profit’s 5K. We decided to call it the Record Run (themed around breaking a new world record every year), and broke the world record for the number of pennies collected for charity with over 500,000 pennies. Although it was my greatest challenge yet, I had an absolute blast branding the race, contacting media and strategizing for how to get more runners at the starting line. If you’ve ever wondered what half a million pennies look like, you can check it out here.

During my internship freshman year at the Frank Erwin Events Center, I had the Cambriaopportunity to approach marketing from an entirely different angle. Between holding interviews, analyzing social media response, and blog-writing, the learning curve was steep and also totally awesome. Plus, getting to high-five practically every professional fighter in the UFC was an added bonus.

Of course, there are a few completely non PR-related things that play a considerably large role in my personality, so here you have it:

  • I am six feet tall, but I am an absolute sucker for a pair of high heels.
  • My younger brother has a severe form of Tourette Syndrome. He and I have become ambassadors for the Tourette Association of America to help raise awareness and funding for the disorder. I am also currently writing a book about my family’s journey with Tourette’s (there are just way too many good stories for them to go untold).
  • If you give me ice cream, we are friends.
  • I absolutely love to travel and try new things. If you want to go on an adventure, the answer is almost always yes.
  • I am a drummer- I spent seven years in percussion, and four years playing tenors (55 lbs) on drumline. My next step is to learn steel drums!

Going into my sophomore year at The University of Texas at Austin as a PR major, I could not be more excited about the adventures that await me both on and off-campus. I am so thrilled to have been welcomed here at Ketner Group, and am excited to see what I can learn from such a talented team!

PR Spring Cleaning: Four Key Steps to Raising Your Company’s Media Profile

Spring is the season of new beginnings—and one of the busiest times of year for Ketner Group and our clients. We recently wrapped up our annual voyage to New York for the National Retail Federation conference, and are now getting ready to go full swing into SXSW 2015! KG clients are making exciting new product and customer announcements in the coming months, and we’re busily working with them on fresh ideas and opportunities for PR and marketing campaigns.

With Daylight Savings Time upon us in a little over a week, now is the time to do a bit of “spring cleaning” for your PR program. Believe it or not, retailers will soon be thinking about their new technology investments in preparation for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons, so it’s essential for technology vendors to keep up a high profile with PR and marketing campaigns.

What can companies do to kick start spring fever? Here are four simple suggestions:

Pick up the pace with press releases. Press releases are an essential way of gaining earned media coverage and creating buzz for your company. We love to see our clients generate one to two newsworthy announcements each month, as it’s a way to let key editors, analysts, influencers and prospects know your company is on the move.

Pitch, pitch, pitch. In today’s always-on news cycle, the media are hungry for content, and fall is ripe with opportunities. Holiday shopping will be one of the top business stories this fall and winter, for example, and many of our clients have story angles that feed directly into potential coverage in the coming months.

The key is to be relevant and creative. Do you or your customers have particular expertise that might be valuable to media? Then pitch your ideas; after all, the media is continually looking for interesting stories.

Focus on analysts. Industry analysts play a critical role in the technology ecosystem. How long has it been since you’ve briefed the key analysts covering your space? If it’s been 6-12 months or longer, it’s time for an update, regardless of whether or not your company is a client. After all, analysts need to understand your products, strategy and customer base in order to do their job; and since they often advise end-user companies on vendor selections, it’s essential that the analysts are up to date on your company.

Refresh your content. It’s no secret that content is king. Now is the time to refresh your website with fresh content, short videos, case studies, infographics, e-books, case studies and vehicles for telling your company’s story. Most of our clients’ software solutions have hefty price tags and solve critical business problems, so prospects will be on your site often to look for relevant, up to date content.

Friendly reminder from the Ketner Group – Don’t forget to set your clocks forward on March 8! Happy Daylight Savings Time day!

Ebola Relief in Liberia: Introducing #RetailFightsEbola

The Ketner Group team is fortunate to work with clients doing groundbreaking work in diverse technologies including mobile, cloud, supply chain, machine learning, advanced analytics and other innovative areas. We work with really smart people who are helping shape the future of how retailers interact with consumers, which is pretty heady stuff.

Every once in a while, though, we get to work on a PR campaign that is something special. And that’s certainly the case with #RetailFightsEbola, a campaign from the Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI) that’s rallying the retail industry to fight Ebola in Liberia. Ketner Group has been privileged to handle PR for the Retail Orphan Initiative since it began six years, but this latest campaign raises the bar even higher.

A quick word of explanation: RetailROI is a charitable foundation that brings together retailers, technology vendors and editors and analysts to make a difference in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable kids around the world. Rather than duplicate the work of existing charities, RetailROI provides grants to charities that are already on the front lines of providing care in some of the poorest countries in the world – including Liberia.

Working with its partner charities operating in Liberia, the #RetailFightsEbola campaign is rallying retailers, manufacturers and individuals to provide much needed medical and hygienic supplies to Liberia. The goals are two-fold:

  • Raise $1,000,000+ in donated goods from retailers and manufacturers. RetailROI is working to provide specific items requested by its partners and the Liberian Ministry of Health, including first aid supplies, as well as food, clothing and linens to help with practical aid and care for survivors and the more than 3,400 children that are newly orphaned from the disease.
  • Raise $250,000 in financial contributions from companies and individuals for immediate relief. The financial contributions will help RetailROI partners provide additional relief until the goods arrive. 100 percent of the funds go directly to Ebola relief – ensuring the funds go where they’re most needed.

Why Liberia? For starters, it’s one of the countries hardest hit by Ebola as well as one of the world’s poorest countries, with an average national income of only $412 USD per capita annually. Moreover, RetailROI has reliable partner charities on the ground, including a remarkable organization called More Than Me, whose original mission was to provide education and opportunity to the most vulnerable girls in Liberia’s West Point slum, but has recently expanded to combat Ebola.

“Liberia’s government is primarily focused on mobilizing hospitals, treatment centers and coordinating with others to help with the treatment and keeping order,” says Katie Meyler, founder of More Than Me. (Check out her recent photo journal from the Ebola crisis in Vogue.)  “When it comes to practical aid for those most at risk, the vast majority of the work and distribution is being done through community groups and non-government organizations with boots on the ground like us. Survivors of this disease lose everything; their entire household and belongings are burned to stop the spread of the disease, and several thousand survivors are now orphaned children.”

More Than Me and other RetailROI partners have reduced the number of new cases by up to 90% in some of the areas hardest hit by the disease, through education, community outreach and delivery of basic medical and hygiene supplies. These efforts have been so successful that the Liberian Ministry of Health reached out to them to expand their work to additional Ebola hotspots within the country – and that’s the impetus behind #RetailFightsEbola.

As Greg Buzek, co-founder and donor trustee of RetailROI, explains, “The goods that Liberia has requested are readily available from nearly any supercenter, drug, clothing or grocery store in the U.S. We are asking retailers and manufacturers to donate products at their cost from overstocks or out-of-season goods. This is retail’s chance to make a difference in the lives of people that desperately need our help at the source of the outbreak and will be key to helping contain this epidemic.”

Retailers or individuals who would like to get involved or donate to #RetailFightsEbola, please visit www.retailroi.org/ebolarelief for more information. Please help us spread the word!

Connecting Technology and Trust

Technology is a cool thing. I’m realizing this more and more as I become immersed in the retail tech world. Our retail technology clients are able to help retailers become more price-competitive via price intelligence software, others can connect all the enterprise dots of an international, omni-channel retail organization to keep all the moving parts of the company on the same page. On a more personal level, technology has completely changed the way I communicate – because of social media sites like Facebook or mobile apps like Snapchat, I can instantly connect with with friends in Canada or Europe without leaving my chair or having an exorbitant phone bill, which is no fun.

But as the old saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Technology allows you to make all these social and business connections, but what about the flip side of it? The security side of it? You’re sharing your information over this invisible dimension and trusting that no one is going to use this information against you.

Technology connects people across the globe. Facebook is a great example of this, but have they taken it too far? Their messenger app recently received a lot of bad press for reportedly using personal contact information and using spyware-type coding, not to mention it’s a completely separate app from the actual Facebook app. This new application brought up a lot of discussion of terms and service agreements and personal knowledge of your privacy, which is something we should all be aware of when checking that little box. Here is a great read about the app and its permissions.

Trust is a major factor in any relationship made, whether between friends or as a loyal customer. Yet there are so many instances where trust is not enough. Take the celebrity photo leak scandal, or the five million Gmail passwords that were leaked. Home Depot is the most recent retailer to have a data breach with more than 2,000 stores affected and customer data exposed. Retail Systems Research analyst, Paula Rosenblum, recently published a great article in Forbes about the data breach and consumer protection.

Apple just came out with a payment platform, Apple Pay. Will our payment and banking information go the way of nude celebrity photos? Yes, Apple has security measures in place, most prominently not utilizing the traditional magnetic strip, but everything is safe until its not.

Retailers undertake a great responsibility using customers information, be it banking or personal, and if (actually these days its more like when) their systems get breached they have to be willing to go above and beyond to regain consumers’ trust.

Most all retailers have taken huge financial and operational strides to ensure their systems are PCI-compliant as to avoid costly customer data breaches. These are huge undertakings to protect us and maintain our trust, but as consumers, we must also monitor and protect our personal information and be mindful of technology’s capabilities, good and bad.

Seven Snarky Ways to Avoid PR Success

Guest post by: Andris Media Group

timthumbAlright, let’s just jump right in!

1. When your PR people call or write, don’t return those pesky phone calls or emails promptly. Journalists aren’t, after all, working on deadline or anything, so there’s no reason to be respectful of their time.

2. Don’t get your PR team involved in branding meetings and brainstorming sessions. Heaven knows, they have nothing to offer in that regard.

3. Don’t ever, whatever you do, include your PR team in marketing meetings. Marketing and PR people should never be expected to work together. They should always be kept in separate rooms, and the marketing people should get the nice furniture with the special snacks. The two disciplines should never work in concert, right?

4. Don’t question your PR people if all they’re doing is taking orders from you like a child takes orders from a nanny. Your PR people aren’t hired to act as your ‘other’ brain, to offer ideas and to be in touch with what is and isn’t newsworthy or current and trending. You already know all that. You already know everything! You just need someone to boss around, and you’re happy to pay them to take orders, STAT.

5. Don’t make a personal introduction to your new PR team to any journalists or news people to whom you are already connected. Wouldn’t be silly to reach out to a trusted journalist on behalf of your PR team? It might get you some attention when handled deftly. And who wants attention, right?

6. Don’t give your PR people access to your social media team or encourage them to work together in any way. Heaven knows you didn’t hire those PR folks to help shape your message or widen your audience, did you? Now that would just be silly.

7. Don’t take constructive criticism from your PR team. Ever. They should always be your cheerleader and never tell you how they really feel. After all, an absence of critical feedback articulated well concerning any challenges ahead would make you feel stupid – like you’re not one of the popular kids. OOOH. Yuck.

It’s obvious this piece is written with a lot of snark and a tongue planted firmly in the cheek. However, we urge you to heed our advice. If you don’t understand PR –don’t hire a PR team to help you understand it. PR does not happen in a silo. It’s a group effort and it’s well worth it. So, please: do your research before you sign on the dotted line. Learn what it means to have PR people working on your behalf, and then help them help you. You, and your bottom line, will be much happier along the way!

Photo: An adapted photo (addition of speech bubble) originally by Sergio Vassio Photography, at flic.kr/p/7XxXwx

Retailers Give Back Through RetailROI

Photo courtesy of RetailROI

RetailROI, the Retail Orphan Initiative, is a shining example of technology vendors, retailers and analysts working together to raise awareness of the plight of orphans worldwide. More than that, though, RetailROI, provides not only funds but volunteers who are willing to put in “sweat equity” to build schools, computer labs, children’s homes, clean water projects around the world.

Since its founding 5 ½ years ago, RetailROI has helped more than 139,000 orphaned and at-risk children through education, computers, food and medical care. The charity has funded more than 70 projects around the world, with 94% of the funds going directly to charity.

Ketner Group is proud to provide pro bono PR support to RetailROI, and in this week’s blog we’re spotlighting a recent trip to South Africa, where RetailROI provided funding and manpower to set up a computer lab for impoverished kids. A big shout-out to our client 360pi, who along with Intel helped provide the funding for a computer lab that includes 30 tablet computers and a server.

RetailROI volunteer John Orr, SVP of Retail for Ceridian, led the RetailROI trip to South Africa with charity partner LUO, which provides education and after-school care for young impoverished children in South Africa.  Below is his first-person account (provided courtesy of RetailROI):

How was your trip to South Africa?  

Amazing, joyful, and tearful all in one. Ria, who runs the school, lost her sister years ago when they were car jacked and her sister Korna was shot and killed.  She spent years trying to understand it and find her purpose in life and at the same time wishing she was the one who was killed and not her sister.  She came upon these orphans and kids in need and found it.  My niece Lindsay got involved 8 years ago and has raised monies to build a safe house on the school property and fund other improvements.  That’s how I got involved.

Who also helped and did heavy lifting?

Intel sent a team made up of individuals from all around the world (who had never met) and brought them in to work on this project. It’s fabulous that they overcame many obstacles to set-up the lab and train the teachers; within a week they had the students using the tablets for research, spelling, art and so much more.

What surprised you? 

Photo courtesy of RetailROI

I was floored that these kids, who have so little, had respect for the devices and simply used them as if they have been using them for months.  While they trained the teachers, my son, nephew and I kept over 60 children busy playing (they wore us out every day!)  We then helped support the children in their classes as they needed help with the tablets, and we were certain to praise their successful efforts.

What was the best part of your trip?

When any of those kids smiled they looked so beautiful and had so much to not smile about — they had a special glow about them that touched your heart, brought joy, then made you cry out of love. That was my best part.  I brought my son with me, and Lindsay brought her brother with her.  We not only enjoyed spending that time together, but shared in a very special moment – one we will never forget.  It was very humbling, and I want to go back as soon as I can to experience the true joy of it all and those beautiful children.

Anything else you would like to add? 

What great work RetailROI has done and will continue to do!  When people get involved in any way they can, they’ll experience some amazing things in their life.  Thank you, thank RetailROI, thank these retailers and solution providers, and thank those who take the initial step and don’t ask whether they can do it or not. Sometimes you just buckle up and go, and then when that roller coaster stops, you cannot wait to do it again.  If I can do it, clearly anyone can…we all can!

We’re hiring an Account Executive!

KetnerGrpLogoWe’re hiring! If you or someone you know has two-to-three years of PR experience and is looking for a job, we want to hear from you!

Of course, we think we’re pretty cool, but in case you need some convincing, here’s a little about us.

Ketner Group PR + Marketing is an Austin, Texas-based public relations and marketing communications firm specializing in technology and B2B public relations for nearly 25 years. Ketner Group is experienced in a variety of industries, including retail technology, mobile technology, high tech business, hospitality technology, supply chain and logistics, and profitability and payments.

Our public relations team consists of passionate storytellers and we deliver diverse expertise in creating targeted public relations campaigns and marketing communications programs that can include multi-faceted public relations campaigns, relationship-based media and analyst outreach, company/product messaging and collateral, social media outreach, email and direct marketing and more.

Account Executive

 Job Description:

We’re looking for a motivated and dynamic team member who is passionate about PR, writing and media relations. The role of Account Executive (AE) is highly engaged in client relationships and will report to our Account Managers. An AE on our team should be a team player, but also be highly dependable to adhere to timelines on an individual basis. Ketner Group looks to its AEs to help execute on our PR campaign strategies and tactics.

 Responsibilities:

  • Assist Account Managers with staying on task for key accounts
  • Execute media relations activities, including developing media lists, press release distribution and pitching and editorial calendar research and management
  • Maintain Ketner Group’s stellar reputation in the retail technology trade media space
  • Cultivate new media relationships in other verticals and top tier, national press
  • Write content pieces, including press releases, articles, case studies, e-books, etc.
  • Participate in client calls and meetings
  • Serve as a key contact in client communications
  • Help to brainstorm fresh, new campaign ideas
  • Execute on social media tactics

Candidate Qualities:

  • Strong writing skills, be prepared to submit writing samples
  • Confidence in handling media relations, including pitching trade and national media contacts
  • Effective communications skills, including the ability to clearly articulate the status of PR program/campaign activities to clients in person, over the phone or via email
  • Excellent research skills in finding appropriate media contacts, collecting supporting data/information for copywriting, identifying client award and event opportunities and conducting client competitor research
  • Ability to be self-accountable, self-motivated and proactive in staying on task with daily activities

Candidate Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in communications, public relations, journalism or marketing
  • 2-3 years of PR experience in an agency, brand or corporation
  • Retail technology or brand PR experience a plus, but not required
  • B2B experience highly valued, but not required
  • Experience with executing on social media tactics
  • Experience with Vocus, Hootsuite and Harvest a plus

Instructions:

Please send a resume, writing samples, salary requirements and interview availability to [email protected]. To learn more about us, visit www.ketnergroup.com.

PR as Storytelling: What Flash Boys Teaches Us About the Art of Technology Storytelling

By Justin Hoch at http://www.jhoch.com (_MG_2932)

I’m a huge Michael Lewis fan. And like countless other readers, I’m eagerly devouring his latest book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, which rocketed to the top of the New York Times best-seller list immediately after its publication.

Lewis is a gifted storyteller who excels in bringing previously obscure topics to life, as he did with the arcane world of baseball statistics (Moneyball), Michael Oher’s journey from the streets of Memphis to NFL offensive lineman (The Blind Side), and how subprime mortgages and Wall Street greed fueled the Great Recession (The Big Short).

Lewis has a particular genius for explaining and making us care about topics that were previously unknown to typical readers: think on-base averages in baseball, or real-estate derivatives. But he’s outdone himself this time: Flash Boys shines a much-needed light on the dark side of Wall Street and how insiders have gamed the system through high-frequency trading systems, creating an unfair advantage that’s measured in microseconds – about 1/200th of the amount of time it takes to blink your eyes.

It’s storytelling at its best, complete with heroes, villains and mind-boggling technology. And like the most important stories of our time, it’s touched off a national debate (complete with lawsuits and a U.S. Department of Justice probe).

At its heart, Flash Boys is a technology story. And for all of us who make our living in high technology PR and marketing, it offers important lessons in the art of telling compelling, believable stories. What can we learn from Michael Lewis’ latest best-seller? Here are a couple of principles to keep in mind.

Keep it simple. As technology PR pros and storytellers, our job is often to write about topics that are difficult to understand. We have to resist giving in to buzzwords and techno-speak, instead focusing on explaining features and benefits in everyday words that any business editor or reader can understand. Many years ago an Austin American-Statesman humor columnist poked fun at a press release I wrote in one of his columns, taking me to task for using one tech buzzword after another. True, he wasn’t the target audience (he grabbed the release from a business writer), but the lesson has stuck with me ever since: keep it simple.

Simplifying complex topics is part of Michael Lewis’ genius and one of the reasons he’s such a popular storyteller. As one reviewer notes, “When it’s Michael Lewis doing the writing, previously incomprehensible topics become clear as day. That’s dangerous stuff for financial types who fare best when their activities are dense and misunderstood, and perhaps a tad threatening to the rest of us in the writing trade who wish we could be in Lewis’ league. Even Grandma can read Flash Boys, understand it and be entertained by it.”

Keep it credible. Keeping it simple is only part of the equation; as PR pros, we also need to remember to keep it credible. That means stripping out the excess adjectives and adverbs; for a press release, is company XYZ really the “leading provider of (fill in your favorite tech phrase here)?” The best writing strips out unnecessary language and gets straight to the point, without the fluffy language or over-the-top adjectives that create a barrier to credibility.

Focus on your heroes. Flash Boys turns an obscure band of Wall Street brokers and technologists into heroes. Brad Katsuyama, the highly principled, mild-mannered trader who is the central figure in Flash Boys, comes alive as an ordinary person who asks tough questions when his computer systems start behaving differently during routine trades. And now, he’s seemingly everywhere: from the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine to 60 Minutes. He’s the hero at the center of the debate over high-speed trading, proof that every good story deserves a great cast of characters.

It’s a reminder to all of us that if your CEO or client has a unique or particularly inspiring storyline, put him or her at the center of the story. But what if you’re dealing primarily with a technology rather than a person – which is so often the case in technology PR? Then look for ways that the technology touches people in everyday ways they can easily relate to. Do everything possible to personalize it. Does the technology make people’s work routines easier, or allow them to work better, faster or more accurately? Then say it, as simply and cleanly as possible, using examples to drive home your point.

Even better, if your company or client has customers that are willing to talk, make them the focus of your press releases and PR outreach. After all, nothing is more believable than seeing how companies and individuals put technology to work in the real world. We may not be writing about the next Flash Boys, but as PR professionals, we’re charged with telling great stories. And writers like Michael Lewis can inspire us to do our very best.