Ketner Group Takes On The Big Apple

Amazon’s HQ2 expansion to New York was the biggest news in corporate expansions for 2018. But let me set the record straight. Ketner Group thought of it first.

This time last year we started laying the groundwork for expanding to the Big Apple. And we’re thrilled to say, it’s now a reality. Ketner Group Communications has just opened an office in New York City, led by our fearless team member Adrienne Newcomb. It’s a dream come true for all of us at Ketner Group, and it underscores our commitment to growth, innovation and client service. Check out our recent Q&A with Adrienne to find out how this native Texan is adapting to New York. (If you know Adrienne, you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s embracing it 100%.)

Besides the world’s best pizza and bagels, New York is a strategic move for Ketner Group. We’re excited about it, and it makes sense for a number of reasons, including the following:

The Center of the Media Universe

First and foremost, New York is the undisputed center of the media universe. Where else can you hold high-value, in-person press meetings with The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg and WWD in a single day? We’ve managed dozens of press tours and press meetings for our clients in New York, from top-tier to relevant trade media. Our interactions with New York media will pick up dramatically, now that Ketner Group has on-the-ground representation.

A Focal Point for Technology Innovation

New York is also the #1 area for retail, fashion, advertising and CPG innovation, and this will only accelerate with HQ2. The Retail Innovation Conference, hosted by our friends at Retail TouchPoints, is a prime example. Our client RevTech Ventures will participate in the May conference, focusing on the impact of disruptive, venture-backed companies in retail. New York is also home to XRC Labs, widely recognized as one of the top accelerators for disruptive retail and CPG companies. Moreover, in our first few weeks on the ground, we’re already talking to early-stage companies that will have a big impact in their markets. You may not have heard of them yet, but you will; we’ll make darn sure of that.

New Opportunities for Growth

Finally, our New York expansion is a sign of Ketner Group’s remarkable growth. We experienced a nearly 40% YOY growth rate in 2018, adding six new clients and increasing our team by over 50%. We’ve already added two major clients in 2019, and we’re not slowing down. We’re proud to say that our former KG’er Kirsty Goodlett has returned to Ketner Group as a senior team member; check out her intro blog to learn more about Kirsty’s recent re-entry to our team as an Account Supervisor.

None of this would be possible without our amazing team here at Ketner Group, as well as the best, most supportive clients in the business. We’re privileged to work with so many innovative companies that are shaping the future of how we work, shop, play and live. They trust us to tell their stories, and we work like crazy to exceed their expectations every day. Our New York office will only make it that much easier.

For more information, check out our press release announcing our NYC office.

kirsty-goodlett-account-supervisor

Get to Know Our New Account Supervisor: Kirsty Goodlett

Please allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Kirsty. That’s like thirsty, but with a K.

I’m thrilled to be back at Ketner Group. KG has always been full of the kindest, cleverest, most fun people I know. How could I not want to be part of a team like that?

Over the years, I’ve worked with Ketner in a variety of ways. I began as a client, finding KG to be an extension of our team at Digby. When I moved to Nashville, I joined Ketner Group as an Account Manager, while simultaneously providing marketing services to small businesses through my company Seamless Marketing. Now, after a detour working with Rustici Software to help rebrand their company and re-launch their websites, I’m back at Ketner Group!

But okay, okay, enough about business.

Making Things, Writing Things and Cooking Things!

If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s this: I love to make things.

I studied film and electronic arts at Bard College, the culmination of many years practicing visual arts, theatre and music throughout my childhood years. At Bard, I learned how to create installation art pieces and began the process of learning how to write and think, two things I plan to learn more about as I age.

I love to cook. I’ve had the fortune to learn how to cook from two fabulous self-taught cooks: my mother and my dear friend and cookbook author, Pam Anderson. These women have taught me that food is a way to show your love, express your creativity and create the fuel of a very good party.

Outside of that, I’m an avid reader and will consume pretty much anything you put in my hand. I can’t not finish a book. And I love yoga. I’ve been practicing for more than fifteen years. I use yoga as a tool to learn more about myself and give myself an excuse to dance.

In Nashville, I’ve found that there are two types of people: those who are born here and those who arrive here by accident, but then never leave. My husband is the former, I am the latter. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, particularly since we’ve set ourselves up in a pretty cozy fashion. We bought our first house two years ago and are about to celebrate the third birthday of our very nice dog Charlie (or Chuck, Cha-Cha, Chewie or Chicken for short).

All of this is to say that I’m very happy. And I am very excited for this next big adventure.

Meet Our New Intern: Katie Stone

This blog post was provided by our intern Katie Stone

Getting To Know Me

Hello everyone! My name is Katie Stone and I am the new intern at Ketner Group Communications. I recently graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Public Relations. 

I am originally from Katy, Texas (yeah, I know, Katie from Katy). Even though there isn’t a whole lot to do in Katy, I love visiting home so I can spend time with my family. I also like to visit our crazy boxer mix Daisy. Though I have lived in Texas my whole life, I have been lucky enough to travel to many places. I have hiked through national parks in the United States and zip-lined through the Costa Rican canopy. I’ve eaten fish and chips in London and walked the streets of Rome. I hope to go even more places in the future. When I’m not traveling or visiting family, I love reading, cooking and binge watching the newest shows on Netflix.

How Did I Get Here?

Before joining Ketner Group, I did six different internships with companies and organizations such as the Freedom of Information Foundation, Leadhub and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area. At these internships, I learned a lot about running the perfect social media campaign, developing digital content people will actually click on, and the ins-and-outs of event planning.

While working internships and going to class, I was also heavily involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). While in PRSSA, I served as secretary on our executive board. I was also the Communications Director for the PRSSA 2018 National Conference – the largest annual gathering of public relations students and professionals in the world. Though I had a crazy schedule, the skills I learned made every minute worth it.

Despite my current dedication to the field, I knew nothing about public relations before I went to college. When I started at Texas State, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I needed to select a major. I selected Mass Communication and Public Relations at random. Thankfully, I fell in love with it.

I couldn’t be more excited to get started in my new position at Ketner Group Communications. I’m eager to work with the KG team and to learn about communications in the retail technology industry!

Same Us, New Look

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

A Word From Our Leaders

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

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

Take The New Site For A Spin

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

 

Tips for Developing a Content Strategy

Blogs! Social media! Whitepapers! Webinars and email newsletters! These are only some of the content marketing tactics that hold a tremendous amount of potential for getting your business the attention it needs to grow as fast as it deserves.

It can be truly dizzying for marketing teams to crank out the amount of content needed to make an impact. And unless your marketing team requires a fleet of Uber XLs to get to an office happy hour, it’s just not possible to do it all. Yes, PR firms can be terrific allies in developing and executing on your content strategy, but how should you set one up in the first place?

Brand awareness vs. lead generation

An effective content strategy serves two equally valuable and competing (yet complementary) purposes – brand awareness and lead generation – neither of which your marketing can succeed without. It’s finding out how to balance these that takes work. So, take a step back and work from the top down. Define your organization’s unique needs and goals. Ask questions like:

  • Do our customers know who we are?
  • Is our pipeline flooded or flowing at a trickle?
  • Does our sales team close every sale they work on or are we struggling to convert leads?
  • Do we have a competitor or competitors regularly winning deals over us?

Once you know where you stand, where you’re already succeeding and what gaps you need to address, you can determine the type of information your intended audience would most benefit from. Then, leverage the three overarching channels available to you – owned, earned and paid media – to get it to them.

Owned Media

Think about the advice we’d all give to a friend feeling overwhelmed by a situation, something along the lines of, “you can only control what you can control.” Although sometimes frustrating to take that advice at face value, it’s essential to get the basics right before branching out to more nuanced arenas. Unsurprisingly then, owned media should always be the first and most fundamental element of any content strategy.

Website

To that end, your focus should be on ensuring your website is the rock your content strategy can build off of. It allows you to tell visitors who you are as a company, what you stand for, what you sell and why it’s worth the investment. It has unrivaled power to tell your story how you want it told – everything you want someone to know about your company should live here. You should also have simple components like a ‘Contact Us’ page for lead generation, and any gated whitepapers, case studies, e-books, or webinars can live in perpetuity on your website to generate traffic and leads, long after you publish them.  Managing a regularly updated blog is also a key part of becoming a well-rounded brand; it will serve as an outlet for the promotional and thought leadership messaging you want your customers to associate with your business.

Social Media

It’s not exactly a cutting-edge revelation, but social media channels allow you to disseminate any info you want to the people that follow you. All the content you post to your website should be shared on the social channels you run, as this drives traffic to specific landing pages and your site as a whole, further driving lead generation. Just don’t forget to share and engage with the broader community on your social media platforms, as no one likes a “me, me, me” account!

However, it’s also important to note that not every platform is perfect for every brand or audience. We’ll share another post on social media content marketing in a few weeks (and will link to it once it’s live), but we tend to be major fans of LinkedIn for our B2B retail clients, using Twitter and Facebook as complementary outlets. Based on your audience and goals, pick and choose your platforms so you don’t waste time and resources building a community that won’t drive online engagement.

Email

Often left out of the ‘thought leadership’ bucket, but rarely forgotten by traditional marketers, email can play a key role in reaching an audience of customers, prospects, partners and others who care about your company message and sign up to receive information from you. Don’t just use email to sell; use it to inform, engage and entertain whenever possible to maximize its potential and keep your readers from going for an instant ‘delete.’

Earned Media

Along with content strategy and development as a whole, earned media is the bread and butter of our PR firm, and one of the most compelling reasons to work with an agency with a long history in a given market. Earned media provides a major boost to your brand’s visibility, recognition and authority. But using content to earn media attention doesn’t end with press release pitching.

My colleague Adrienne Newcomb wrote a great blog on using bylined articles to secure thought leadership coverage in key trade publications, and we’ve found that case studies, proprietary research reports, and pitching executive commentary on developing trends (great for sharing on social too) can have a big impact on a brand’s ability to get media coverage.

Whatever content you create for your owned channels, think about how you might be able to convince someone else to use it on their own platform. Without reinventing the wheel, you’ve greatly increased the value of a given piece of content.

Paid Media

Paid media can be a terrific option to supplement your owned and earned content strategies but should rarely, if ever, be relied upon to have a strong impact before the brand has developed those initial content foundations. We recommend thinking of paid media as the final exclamation point on a well-executed organic program that helps take successes to new heights. This doesn’t mean you need to have a killer email marketing program in order to promote high-performing blog posts on LinkedIn, but it does mean you shouldn’t be investing heavily in LinkedIn posts that direct back to a useless website. Determine the gap in your growth plan, create enjoyable content people want to engage with, build an audience that cares what you have to say, and use paid to take you over the top. If your foundation is strong, the potential ROI can be huge!

We’re here to help

Want to learn more about developing a content marketing strategy from scratch or optimizing a program already in motion? Reach out to us. We love talking about content and it’d be our pleasure to help you use your own media effectively and efficiently.

Greater Austin Business Awards – Here We Come!

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.

We are thrilled to announce that Ketner Group Communications has been selected as a finalist for the Company Culture category of the Greater Austin Business Awards!

The competition is designed to honor excellence in business and recognize companies and organizations in the Austin region for achievements, community contributions and milestones. The Greater Austin Business Awards is one of the largest award and networking events in Central Texas, bringing together about 1,000 business leaders, entrepreneurs, organizations, government officials and regional chambers.

The culture at Ketner Group Communications is one of the many things that makes us unique, so we are proud of being named as a finalist in the Company Culture category. This award is presented to an organization that fosters a creative, collaborative company culture that is sustainable and retains employees – and that describes us perfectly.

Work-Life Balance

Ketner Group believes that having a healthy work-life balance is incredibly important. We offer flexible schedules and provide the opportunity to work from home, or virtually anywhere (even Ireland and Bali!), as our staff needs. Employees are encouraged to take time off when necessary, including much-needed vacations. It’s important to us that our employees are working at a comfortable pace while still producing incredible PR work for our clients. We love to include fun events during the week such as Taco Tuesdays, Wake Up Wednesday coffee runs, company lunches to celebrate big and small victories, and, of course, to celebrate any and all type of food/drink “days” (i.e. National Pizza Day) to keep our team motivated and morale high. Our motto is “work hard, play hard and be nice to people,” which we believe is the reason why our employees love working here, and our clients love working with us!

This healthy work/life balance encourages our employees to stick with Ketner Group for the long haul. On average, employees have stayed at the agency 4 to 5 years, which is way above average for PR agencies, and we’re working hard to make Ketner Group an ideal place for employees to spend the bulk of their career. Our SVP and partner Catherine Seeds will be celebrating her 17-year anniversary at the agency in November.

Professional Development

We believe professional growth is very important. Each employee is highly encouraged to contribute to outside professional organizations and community programs. To that end, each employee has a yearly budget for professional development. This allows them to travel/attend PR industry events, take classes to learn a specific skill set or anything else that will help them grow and develop as a PR professional.

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

At Ketner Group every opinion is not only listened to, but encouraged, no matter the rank or seniority of the person. Not just for client work, but for new business, company culture, process improvement, investment areas – literally anything. We encourage bold thinking and risk-taking. We think it’s important for all of our employees to know that they are heard and are an important part of why Ketner Group is the way it is. We believe in our team 100% so if a team member has an idea, we’ll always listen — and more often than not, we’ll act on it.

We are very excited and honored to be named a finalist for the Greater Austin Business Awards. Winners will be announced on Aug. 30 at the JW Marriot Austin!

International House of Branding

IHOP is changing its name. Last week, the company tweeted (from its updated handle), “For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb.”

In the week between the initial tweet and the official announcement, social media responded. The news definitely sparked my attention, and I haven’t stepped foot in an IHOP in over 10 years.

Many expressed outrage while others offered up guesses of what the “b” could stand for, and the IHOb account responded creatively to tease out the news and keep people guessing. Some notable predictions included breakfast, bacon, and even the right answer: burgers.

While the social media interaction was fun and sparked life into the brand, the big buildup to yesterday’s underwhelming announcement landed as flat as a pancake, in my opinion. I considered it misleading, as the company implied that the name change would be permanent, and instead it’s just a temporary ad campaign.

However, the PR stunt brought up a good point. It demonstrates how crucial branding and identity is to legacy brands. It also begs another relevant question…

When should you rebrand?

Rebranding makes sense when a company is shifting its services or has already made that shift – for example, offering more breakfast options than just pancakes. Apple Computers renamed to Apple, Inc. as they began to expand its product lines and sell more than computers. This was a natural move and made sense as the major brand identifier – Apple – was kept in the rebrand.

On a more personal level, this year yours truly changed our name from Ketner Group PR + Marketing to Ketner Group Communications. We’ve always been more than just public relations and marketing, offering services in social media, content development, and more, but we found it was time to change our name and logo to reflect that. But are we in the same boat as IHOP? Probably not.

Many food and retail brands never undertake such a public (or even private) rebrand, as the company name is the identifier for consumers. If they do, it’s a result of an acquisition, or done before they expand, like Starbucks did in its early years, originally named Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice. A smarter move for food and retail brands is a subtle logo change. And just a few years ago, IHOP did reveal a new logo. Last month, Best Buy redesigned its logo after 30 years. The font and colors are similar, and the yellow tag is still included to represent the company’s history. By changing its logo, Best Buy didn’t change its identity, but subtly alluded to how it’s adapting to an evolving retail environment.

IHOb is an example of how drastically changing one’s image, values or services can be met with hype, but also intense criticism. When undergoing a new logo design or rebranding – or in this case, just a burger campaign – brands should ensure that its essence is kept in the name.

INTRODUCING OUR NEW INTERN: MEGHAN FARRELL

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.

Hey everyone! My name is Meghan Farrell, and I am a senior public relations major minoring in business at the University of Texas at Austin. I was born in Calgary, Alberta but moved to Houston, Texas about 14 years ago – what a change! I quickly grew to love the U.S., and appreciate that you can’t shovel humidity.

Moving to Austin for school has been an incredible journey, with the city feeling almost separate from the rest of the state. I have experienced so many new things, like kayaking below South Congress Bridge while the world’s largest urban bat colony flies above, and don’t even get me started on the food here – trust me, I won’t stop talking.

My love for public relations began my sophomore year of college when I realized it was all about stories. I love telling a good story to my friends, family, or whoever will lend their ear. It’s progressed to the point where friends will ask me to tell stories for them, even when I wasn’t there. Finding out there was a major where I could do what I already loved was the most relieving feeling, and once I began taking PR classes I felt at home.

Before beginning my internship at Ketner Group, I worked as a student assistant to the Public Affairs Director at UT’s Harry Ransom Center. Some of my daily tasks included drafting media advisories, creating media contact lists, and analyzing their social media statistics. I also learned a great deal about pitching to the media. I truly cherished my time spent there, and I encourage everyone to go check out their vast collections.

When I’m not writing papers, I like to spend my free time hanging by the water, watching Chopped, snuggling my cat Billy, or finding the next great restaurant in Austin. I also love returning to Houston to visit my family especially because of our newest addition to the Farrell clan, my 2-year-old niece Mila.

I am incredibly excited to be spending my summer with Ketner Group and look forward to the stories that lie ahead!

Retailers are fighting back this year on Prime Day


This blog was written by our intern, Madeleine Hatley.

Amazon launched their third annual Prime Day starting Monday, July 10. Prime Day 2017 was the biggest sales day in history for Amazon, surpassing both Black Friday and Cyber Monday according to the Amazon press release highlighting the outcome of Prime Day this year. Despite popular opinion, this ‘micro’ holiday is not about boosting sales. It is simply a marketing tactic to advertise their “Prime” membership that guarantees customers fast shipping for an annual fee. And, boy, does it work.

Prime Day sales grew by more than 60 percent from last year, with a “record number” of Prime members shopping across 13 countries, Amazon said. It added that “tens of millions of Prime members” made purchases during Prime Day, up more than 50 percent from Prime Day in 2016.

According to a recent Consumer Intelligence Research Partners report, from June of 2016 to June of 2017, Amazon gained around 44 million subscribers. Although Amazon refuses to disclose an exact number, estimates show that Prime currently has around 85 million subscribers.

With 30 hours to shop, Prime members flocked especially to Amazon devices like the Echo, Fire tablets and Kindle devices, with the most popular device sold being the Amazon Echo Dot. Other top sellers include DNA tests for health and ancestry, gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Plus memberships. The sales event also slashed prices on a number of fashion items and beauty products, including marked down fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, Gant and Tommy Hilfiger, with prices going down by as much as 40%, according to The Telegraph.

An Opportunity for Retailers
Although Amazon has seen major success from its annual holiday, it doesn’t mean that competing retailers need to fret. Research suggests that Prime Day could, in fact, be helpful to other online retailers. According to an analysis from Criteo, Prime Day creates a “halo effect” for other retailers, with online traffic increasing for major ecommerce sites around 15% on Prime Day 2016 and the day after, compared with weeks earlier.

 This means that Amazon Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for retailers to cash in on the consumption culture that the online giant created, a similar effect from Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Shoppers are on the hunt for well-timed promotions within this time frame, and it’s up to retailers to lure them in beyond Amazon’s borders. For example, Claus Commerce-powered Freeshipping.com boosted profits last year when they saw an uptick in their number of orders and the average order value, when they offered a 20% discount last Prime Day according to Bezinga, indicating that positive outcomes can come out of Prime Day, even for competitors.

Time to Get Creative
Retailers are trying harder this year to grab customers’ attention and drive sales around Amazon Prime Day. Kohl’s offered 30% discounts on summer clothes and accessories for 30 hours.  Other stores like Toys R Us and Best Buy were also ahead of the game and featuring sales lasting six hours longer than Prime Day, featuring sales on Google Home.

Retailers should learn that in order to compete with Amazon, they have to be creative in the way they advertise around this holiday fueled by capitalism. They will have to market products consumers want at a reasonable price, advance technology on mobile platforms and get innovative to grab customers’ attention.

Retailers that stepped up to the plate on Prime Day in terms of competition were Wal-Mart and its digital company, Jet.com, as well as Macy’s. Wal-Mart matched many of Amazon’s discounts on various items. Market Track compared prices and determined Wal-Mart’s efforts to compete stood out the most among many companies. Similarly, Macy’s hosted their annual “Black Friday in July” sale that offered 25% off site-wide and offered free shipping exclusively on Prime Day.

With sales expected to top $1 billion this year, Amazon has seen major success in its Prime Day efforts. Now, it’s up to competing retailers to strategize their game for next year so that e-commerce customers can focus their attention on deals outside of Prime Day.

A Ketner Q&A with David Matthews, Managing Director at REVTECH

What is REVTECH and why did you start it?
REVTECH is a seed fund and accelerator program for leading retail tech startups.  I believe that Dallas is a logical hub for retail tech innovation given the number of national retailers headquartered here, most of whom are struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing retail model.  I started REVTECH because most of my most interesting deal flow (as a VC in Dallas for the past 17 years) has been in this sector.

What technology trends do you see most impacting the field?
The tools today’s consumer has at their fingertips bring selection, comparison and convenience never before seen in human history.  Retailers with legacy systems and processes simply can’t keep up.

How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?
I stay current on trends by monitoring the activities of the coastal VC’s and accelerators – especially those that focus on retail tech. I also evaluate the driving forces of M&A activity in the industry.

What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?
Best advice I’ve been given is to surround myself with people smarter than me – not a high bar!

How did you get involved in the industry?
My involvement in retail began as a low-wage employee in my youth; it accelerated when I landed JCPenney as a major customer (in my past life as an entrepreneur) when they moved from New York to Dallas.

What are three things we wouldn’t guess to be true about you?
1) I’m personally a low-tech guy, only high-tech with my investments. 2) I’m a drummer (not a singer!). 3) I’m a Buckeye!

What do you think is the biggest change occurring in the retail industry?
The consumer’s growing ability to fill needs effortlessly and to focus their shopping efforts on the wants and unknown needs.

What do you do for fun?
Walk the dog, hang out with my wife and kids and occasionally disappear to my cabin in the mountains.

About David Matthews
David is the managing director and founder of REVTECH. David founded REVTECH in 2011 as a seed capital fund and accelerator program focused on technology innovation for the retail industry. He has over 25 years of experience in building and developing companies and investing in software startups. REVTECH has funded 30 companies to date, half of which were able to attract seed funding of $250k or more, and four that have achieved $1 million in revenue annually. David has also helped these startups create over 200 new jobs. His most successful endeavors include selling Green Mountain Energy to NRG and selling Fiber Systems International to Amphenol. Matthews was raised in Oklahoma City and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Ohio State University in 1986.