Why Winning the Moment Still Matters: Part 1

Think about some of the big moments in your life. Maybe it was when you walked across the stage to accept your diploma or crossed the finish line at your first marathon. Maybe it’s when you and your work colleagues won a huge industry award. People build their lives and careers around pivotal and personal moments. 

Just like successful people, brands, and the executives who guide them, also understand the fundamental importance of critical moments. Over the past year, we’ve taken a hard look at this concept and found (not surprisingly) the brands that outshine their competitors realize that each day provides distinct opportunities to win moments - whether it’s with customers, shareholders, employees, colleagues or clients.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll scratch the surface and explore the idea of winning the moment in greater detail. From breaking down the concept to hearing from experts on what they’ve done to succeed, we’ll help further define the value of the concept and how you can take action to position your company for success.

Since there’s no time like the present to jump right in, we developed a list of people that are vital for brands to win over.

  • Reporters and editors have two objectives: report news and tell interesting stories in a way that keeps readers engaged. Securing interviews, guest columns and coverage requires companies to craft and deliver well-timed content and stories that reporters can use to inform and/or entertain their readers.
  • Venture capitalists don’t invest in companies, they invest in people. For many companies in need of financing, there is no more important moment to win than when you are presenting to a potential investor. Preparation and intimate knowledge of the details can make you a standout. 
  • Industry Analysts by design are curious people on the lookout for what’s next. Winning them over stems from your ability to educate and bring a unique perspective to their area of research. Does your narrative show you can help them understand what’s coming next?
  • Conference organizers have an almost unending supply of experts, gurus and self-promoters knocking on their doors to speak at their conference.Winning over an organizer and securing that keynote or spot on the panel requires proving you can bring a fresh perspective or unique vantage point to the table while leaving the sales pitch at home.
  • Conference attendees end up tapping away on their phones and sipping on flat soda by day two of a conference...they need a lift. If you’ve been lucky enough to secure a coveted speaking slot, you need to deliver something that grabs people’s attention, keeps them engaged and makes them think “I need to talk to this guy/gal afterwards.” 
  • Customers are spoilt for choice and are no longer beholden to brand loyalty. The difference between earning a purchase can be as simple as a social media interaction. Creating a story or narrative that resonates across each and everything you to do is paramount to success. 

There are of course many others. 

Feel free to reach out if you have a story of winning the moment to share or an example that will benefit others. 

Enjoy the series. 

Indicate Media Expert One-On-One Series - Nick Klenske

Happy New Year everyone! Hope it was enjoyable and everyone got a little down time. Now that we are into 2016, Indicate Media is picking up exactly where we left off. Below you will find the latest post in our One-On-One expert series with Nick Klenske, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Q&A Newsroom Communications. Nick is an extremely interesting guy, lives in Italy and touches upon many important themes to pay attention to in 2016. Enjoy.

Your slogan is, ‘We are your newsroom.’ What does that mean, and why is a newsroom element important for your clients?

In the past, companies relied on journalists and the media to cover stories about them, with little control over how the story was framed. Today, companies have the ability to create their own news. For example, GE writes about innovation on their news site, creating an image for themselves as an open, inventive company, and SABMiller created an entire website dedicated to their ‘build a better world’ slogan to promote their work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other issues. Companies can now frame how they’re perceived with their own news sites or blogs, chiming in on newsworthy topics or creating those topics themselves. Having a blog with regular updates is also great for SEO, which is something companies can’t ignore these days.

You work with sponsored content regularly. Why do you think that is important?

In the same way that companies need their own news site, brand journalism or sponsored content promotes the brand’s success stories and tells the story they want their audience to hear. Forbes, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and many other outlets run sponsored content that essentially looks like a news article about the company. It’s important for our clients to place stories in these larger outlets to really get their message across, and we help them do it in a clear and compelling way.

Are there any tried and true communication rules you’ve learned through your career?

First, I would say create your own news. Be ahead of the news cycle. Second, strong copywriting is key. Of course, marketing tactics change rapidly and things like social media, images, video, etc. become more and more important, but at the end of the day, words matter. After seeing an ad or watching a commercial or liking an Instagram post, clients will ultimately end up on your website, where the copy will tell them about you as a company, and convince them to purchase or work with you, or not. Making things easy for clients is also important. That means a working website across all devices, with simple navigation.

Do you find that your clients in the United States and the types of stories they want to tell are different than your clients and their stories outside the US?

I do find this to a point. I think our clients in the US are much more on trend, meaning they’re more likely to adapt to social media and new storytelling methods. In other countries, they’re still more focused on web content and press releases, and more traditional marketing methods. Most of our US clients are also more US-focused, while our clients outside of the US have a more international client base, and therefore their marketing strategies have to appeal to a larger audience. For many of them, English is a second language, which is where we, being native English speakers, come in to make sure everything is translated properly and comes across in the right context.

Where do you think marketing is heading as technology changes? How is Newsroom Communications adapting?

Social media has been becoming more and more important for the past decade. Now, with real-time video apps like Snapchat and Periscope, it’s more important than ever, and audiences expect instantaneous results and connection. It’s also much easier for companies to reach global audiences, meaning their messages have to appeal on a wider scale. At Newsroom Communications, we have a dedicated social media team that helps clients craft specific messages for various social platforms. We also have offices in Europe and the United States, giving us global reach and understanding when creating international campaigns.

In your mind, what are the three most important characteristics of a successful marketing/communications campaign?

Compelling copy, visibility, and knowing your audience.

What do you think will happen with branding and marketing in 2016? Any predictions?

Data will be hugely important in 2016. There are already so many ways to track what customers are saying, and it will be imperative to collect that information to find out what exactly clients want, and why. Brand ambassadors have also become a lot more common, and it makes sense. I’m more likely to buy something if a friend recommends it too. So I think brands will have to think about this, and find ways to build trust and transparency into their marketing campaigns.

 

Indicate Media Expert One-On-One Series - Taunya Renson-Martin

As many of you know, Indicate Media is laser focused on bringing our Chasing Perception readers valuable information that helps move the needle in one's thinking. In addition to our Journalist One-On-One Series, we are thrilled to also present our new One-On-One Expert Series. First up, we had the pleasure of speaking with Taunya Renson-Martin, Founder and Managing Partner of Mach Media. Taunya not only is a great person and an expert on all things communications, she is also a proven entrepreneur and extremely effective leader. Check out the Q&A below. 

1. Your company uses the slogan ‘Every Great Relationship Starts With a Story’ - can you tell us more about that, and why 'story' is so important for your company?

One of my favorite things to do with good friends is to reminisce about how we first met. For instance, at least once every 2 years, my best friend and I dredge up the story about how we met in the communal bathroom of our dorm rooms at JMU. And the story of how I met my Belgian husband at a BBQ in Washington DC is near legendary among our friends.

People love to tell stories about how they met, about the interesting times they had, about first impressions, about near disasters and how they pulled through together… These tales weave us together, make us laugh, sympathize…They draw out our emotions. They bond us together. They help build bridges of trust.

At Mach Media, we are storytellers. We help companies tease out the motives, shared memories and shared ambitions that bind together team members or connect businesses with their clients. And we help organizations communicate these stories through words, videos, animations, imagery, performance….

Finally, we also enjoy fantastic long-term relationships with each of the companies with whom we work. There are many great stories to tell there too!

2. Are there any tried and true marketing/communication rules you follow when it comes to working with businesses? Why?

I’ve never met a rule that I wasn’t interested in breaking!

So let’s see… make an impact. Don’t do stuff to just be doing stuff. Communicating and marketing isn’t about “putting stuff out there”. It’s got to hit people in the gut. It’s got to compel them to act; and preferably act the way you’re hoping they will. So the only way to be sure that’s happening is by measuring the impact of the campaign or activity. And the best way to measure whether or not you’ve reached “the goal” is to first establish what the goal is. So 1) set KPIs, 2) act and 3) measure. That’s a 1, 2, 3 rule that’s hard to get away from.

3. Do you find that your clients in the United States and the types of stories they want to tell are different than clients and their stories outside the U.S.?

The stories aren’t different. The way the stories are told can be a little different.

If I can be so bold to paint a large generalization, our clients throughout Europe tend to be way more modest about “tooting their own horn”. There’s a reluctance to “let’s talk about me”. Now generally, that’s not a bad thing. The downside is, however, that some corporate cultures (the US for example) may mistake modesty for “lack of backbone”. Not saying something is equated with not having something to say.

So we work with a number of Europe-based companies with international operations, helping them to better explain or demonstrate what they do and the benefits their products or services deliver, in a way that feels comfortable and credible to them and that still engages their non-European counterparts.

4. What led you to choose marketing/communications as your profession?

Now that’s a story related to the story of meeting my husband!

Long story short. I was an actress in Washington DC until age 26 when I met my Belgian husband and moved to Belgium (as all impulsive actresses do).

Armed only with my English language, writing skills and chutzpah, I started freelancing as a copywriter and journalist for several marketing & communications agencies and magazines (private jets and fashion, don’t ask).  Eventually the workload grew large enough (and so did my family with the birth of my second son) that it made sense to turn my freelance work into a small agency. Eight years later, there are 15 of us and two offices, one in Gent, Belgium and one in Washington, DC.

5. How is Mach Media adapting to the quickly changing world of Internet and social media? Has this changed your view of marketing, and how so?

We certainly use social media, but so far it’s not heavily used among our clients. We have many B2B clients who are still a bit reticent about the ROI of Social Media. The investment in their time to engage on social media is one they choose not to prioritize.

Of course we still run social media accounts for several of our clients, but frankly, there is no comparison to having direct access to the CEO through a social media channel or having an engineer spontaneously share new ideas or witty observations that arise during the course of the workday. Social Media should be personal. I for one disdain “polished corporate media accounts” – you know the ones where you can practically hear the chain of validations being checked off before the tweet gets out there…

We’re also interested in internal social media. Many companies still struggle to encourage people to engage on platforms like Yammer and Chatter… Employees feel they don’t have enough time, consider it to be yet another office tool or don’t want to appear “stupid” in front of their peers (this is particularly the case in global companies where the unwritten rule is to communicate in English, but non-native speaking colleagues don’t feel comfortable enough with their English writing skills to engage in public written discussions).

6. In your mind, what are the three most important characteristics of a successful marketing/communications campaign?

-  It knows its audience. (Make the effort to segment your audience, not only by role but also by behavior and needs!)

-  It’s super creative, smart AND simple. (Make it interesting, but make it easy. We now have the attention span of a gnat. Help us “get it” quickly.)

-  It has SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) objectives and is measured against them.

7. What is your favorite project you've worked on and why?

Building Mach Media is my favorite project! I was an actress before. I definitely did not study how to run a transcontinental business. That said, a few of the skills I learned in the theatre are paying off. One of them is improvisation. Always say YES and then play out the scene.

8. What do you think will happen with branding and marketing in 2016? Any predictions?

No real predictions. But I’m excited about mobile phones and the unlimited possibilities due to having a photo studio, film studio, recording studio, the world’s largest library, communication hub… in our pockets. That’s where I’m going to throw extra focus next year ( my 13 year old son is making some amazing no-budget movies)!

9. On a lighter note - if you could go back in time to any point in history, where would you go and why?

1973, Georgetown Hospital, Washington DC, when I was born. I’d be happy to do almost everything all over again!

 

 

Indicate Media Journalist One-On-One Series - Michael Humphrey

For the latest installment of our journalist Q&A series, we had the pleasure of chatting with Michael Humphrey, a long-time journalist who contributes to Forbes and has also written for The New Yorker, New York, Salon, National Catholic Reporter and The Kansas City Star. Mike is also a Ph.D. student in Public Communication and Technology and an instructor in the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

 

1. You have such an interesting past, so let's start at the beginning. In undergrad, you studied both mass communication/speech and the philosophy of religion. While books could be (and have been) written about the parallels between mass communication and religion (e.g. propagation of the faith), briefly, how did one discipline shape your view of the other?

Philosophy of religion helped me appreciate the relationship between abstract thought and practical action, which I believe lies at the core of communication. My professor studied under Richard Niebuhr who once wrote, “Everyone has some kind of philosophy, some general worldview, which to men [sic] of other views will seem mythological.” I think that’s right and the challenge for communication is how we construct workable understandings of each other across such barriers. 

2. Fast forward. You now contribute a column on Forbes.com called Techno-Trainers. You previously covered user experience and now focus on video. How did you fall into the video beat - is it something that's always interested you?

I started with the video beat in 2010 and did about three years of that, then shifted to UX for a year, and moved back to video earlier this year. Really my interest in video as a format is driven almost entirely by YouTube, which I personally find the most intriguing social media platform there is. The interaction that occurs between YouTube celebrities and large fan bases fascinates me. I was really writing about digital culture most of the time and I found myself in the digital video beat because of that. Then following digital video trends took me to other places -- social TV, cord-cutting, etc. The medium itself does not intrigue me as much as how relationships and cultures are formed around these videos. 

3. What's your one piece of advice for PR folks when it comes to building relationships with journalists - and has that advice changed from when your career first started to after the Internet 'happened'?

I was kind of poking around for six months in the digital video space when a P.R. person pitched an idea that changed my career. She saw a piece I had written (I can’t remember what it was) and she was representing Google at the time. She could tell that I was interested in digital video as a disruptive technology and how that gave viewers a new kind of agency. That led her to pitch me a series about emerging YouTube stars, which was still pretty undercovered in early 2011. That series dominates my most-read list and led me into the field I cover now.

I tell this story because she understood that I needed content and access to good stories. She read my work and figured out how to shape her clients’ needs to my beat. Then she approached me with a newsworthy idea. We tweaked it some, but really we both were amazed at how successful that relationship became. So often I get pitches to interview CEOs about her or his company, but I almost never write that kind of piece. The pitches that make it through to a conversation understand what I do write about.

The Internet changed a lot about the relationship. Content demand is high, so PR professionals are important for many bloggers and other kinds of journalists to provide the resources for that content. But there’s one fundamental fact that I think has not changed: PR professionals are there to serve their clients. I and all journalists have to keep that in mind and do our own research to make sure we are best serving our clients, the readers.

4. You're also a Ph.D student at Colorado State University teaching journalism and digital media to undergrads. In a nutshell, what's it like working with Millennials who grew up on digital and social media?

Love them! They are misunderstood. They are not the digi-philes we make them out to be. Most are deeply conflicted about their tethering to the social and mobile revolution, fueled by the fear of missing out. Sometimes I think they are more nostalgic for my childhood than I am. And I believe as they mature, they are going to fight for balance in their lives.

Here’s one example. A few weeks ago, The New York Times did a nice piece about how e-book sales are slipping and print books are on the rise again. There were a lot of reasons given, but no one mentioned Millennials. I have a hunch they are an important element here. Most of my students can’t stand e-books. They want print for that lean-back experience. Interestingly, they tell me that will switch quickly when their younger siblings, cousins and nieces start consuming. The YouTube Generation, or Generation Z, is the real digital tidal wave coming.

5. Many of your your journalism students plan to go into PR, marketing or advertising. What are a few of the core principles you teach that span both sides (knowing that the objectives of journalism and PR/marketing are often at odds). Storytelling? What else?

I talk a lot about developing digital communities around stories and information. That means, for both sides, the content should be transparent, collaborative, trustworthy and useful. I believe the mass scale pageview approach is reaching its logical zenith and that value propositions of return visitors are becoming more critical. Look at the way YouTubers are using their communal influence to start businesses, sell other brands and build empires. That’s about connecting not just to a piece of content, but the human being behind it. I think it applies to all sides of communication today. I remind them toward the end of the semester, “Don’t forget to be human.”

6. Where do most of your story ideas come from today? Do you get PR pitches that sometimes help develop a story? Is it just about scanning the news and keeping up on current events? 

It varies. I read a lot and I watch a lot. I’m pretty much done with hot takes, but I will do a lot of reading about topics that matter to digital video and will come in with a slower analysis. Mostly I like to interview people, so I’ll reach out to them or to their publicist. Like I said above, a great story idea from a PR professional is always welcomed. I will often shape it differently than pitched, but I respect that they also have good storytelling instincts and so I’m always willing to listen.

7. Speaking of that, when it comes to media consumption, what are your top must read outlets or must watch programs every day?

Nothing but Forbes. Just kidding! I still go to the front pages of traditional outlets like the the Atlantic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York, The Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan. I read a lot from the Verge, TechCrunch, Medium. I read Peter Kafka at Re/code and admire his reporting. I used to read Grantland and can’t believe it is gone. Twitter and Google News are still very important places to find information for me. I use Pocket a lot for those gems I find via social, especially if they take a little longer to read.

8. Do you have any quick predictions on general trends for video and social heading into 2016?

I am telling my students to imagine strategies for 360-degree video, livestreaming and potentially augmented reality. Those technologies all need cultural inflection points still, in my opinion, but they are coming. It’s easy for tech-savvy people to misunderstand that what they know, and their friends know, is still not a cultural reality for most. I think living in Colorado helps with that some. But I think all three of those technologies hold great promise for storytelling and communication in general.

For social, it’s clearly becoming more visual and younger people seem more interested in one-to-one and one-to-few sociality, which is still best represented by Snapchat, although that app has become a much more public and broadcast-oriented platform the past year. I think it’s important to understand why Instagram is so successful. Not only is it visual, which I think matters most, but it’s usually a friendly place to be. I think that matters and we might see that narrative more as Twitter continues to struggle.

9. Just for fun: What is your all-time favorite 1) book 2) movie 3) album?

Oh wow, this is the hardest question. My favorite novel has long been The Brothers Karamazov and my favorite nonfiction book is probably Team of Rivals. My favorite movie is Fargo, but There Will Be Blood is a close second. My favorite album is Obrigado Brazil by Yo-Yo Ma. That has accompanied me through a lot of writing. But when it is time to get some energy, I love Jay Z’s MTV Unplugged album with The Roots as his band. That is an album that holds up for me.

Advancing solar and building energy technology

Every so often, Indicate Media is able to take on a project that not only fits into our core mission of working with entrepreneurs and businesses to 'win the moment,' but also has wider implications on advancing industry. In this case - the solar and building technology industries. We are thrilled to team with the Department of Energy & National Renewable Energy Laboratory for its 2015 Winter Catalyst program. Check out the details below. 

 

Indicate Media Teams With US Department of Energy & National Renewable Energy Laboratory for 2015 EERE Catalyst Innovation Prize Demo Day

Strategic communications firm helps prepare finalists for solar & buildings-energy technology focused software competition

Indicate Media, a strategic communications and public relations firm, today announced it has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) & National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for the 2015 EERE Catalyst Innovation Prize Demo Day. Indicate Media President, Todd Barrish and Associate, Rick Liebling will work with a cohort of 19 finalist teams to perfect their presentations for the in-person pitch and demo competition taking place December 10, 2015 at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.

The EERE Catalyst Innovation Prize is an open innovation program that aims to catalyze the rapid creation and development of products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. solar & building technologies market. Through a series of prize challenges, the competition makes it faster and easier for American innovators to launch cutting-edge companies, while tackling time-sensitive market challenges.

On Demo Day, each of the 19 teams from around the country will pitch and demo their innovative solar and building energy-focused software products to an esteemed panel of investors, entrepreneurs, and energy policy experts. Judges will award up to $700,000 in cash prizes to 7 of the 19 competing teams. This year's teams that Indicate Media will work with include: 

  •     SunSwarm: Creating a marketplace to facilitate community solar by matching consumers with      developers

  •     Tangerine+: Presenting real-time data for real-time energy savings

  •     SolarBook: The solar industry's one stop shop for solar education resources

  •     Solar Action Network: Fighting for clean energy

  •     Sungiver: Easy and fun solar investing for every citizen

  •     EnerWise: Solar powered home equity

  •     Solar Merchant: Simplifying solar for your business

  •     YouSaveWithSolar.com: Solar savings under one roof

  •     Hot 4 Solar: Sales intelligence for residential solar

  •     Solar Doctor: A check engine light for solar panels

  •     Solar Land Solutions: The convergence of land + clean energy

  •     MySunBuddy: More sun for everyone

  •     RE-volv: People-funded renewable energy

  •     Bright Harvest Solar: Remote solar design

  •     Building HALO: Bringing energy and operations insight to the forgotten commercial buildings of America

  •     Livable Analytics: Supporting smart, comfortable spaces

  •     BuildingSpectrum, Inc.: Life cycle energy analysis software for the architecture industry

  •     Kinetic Buildings: Building diagnostics made simple

  •     HiberSense: Smarter homes, smaller bills

"To create and develop any innovative product is only half the battle - the ability to communicate your ideas in a succinct and compelling manner can tip the scales of success," said Todd Barrish, President of Indicate Media. "Having worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years for these type of pitch competitions, we've seen first hand how story-flow, timing and simple presentation delivery can either make a good idea shine or a great idea fall short. We are solely focused on working with the teams to help solidify their presentations and are thrilled to be part of a project that advances energy innovation."

The Demo Day schedule runs from 9 AM to 7 PM and is organized around multiple one-hour blocks of rapid-fire product pitches from each of the Catalyst teams. The schedule will also include three panels supported by partners from the local Philadelphia start-up community highlighting resources for local innovators, and connecting the national innovation network of the Department of Energy to the local innovation network in Philadelphia. Winners will be announced at the end of the event following a closing keynote speech by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Visit here to register and view a full agenda: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/lightning-strikes-catalyst-demo-day-the-franklin-institute-tickets-19465697425

About Indicate Media
At Indicate Media, we drive our client's communications objectives forward. Our approach is calculated, strategic, organized, and focused on precise execution of short-term initiatives to achieve long-term objectives. Employing a strategy we call “Winning the Moment”, we strive to understand our clients unique market opportunity and make intelligent decisions based on a clear vision, strategic plan, and ongoing collaboration. Indicate Media specializes in public relations, content marketing and video/animation services to start-ups through Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries including B2B/B2C Tech, Ad/MarTech, Wireless/Telecom, Energy, and Financial and Professional Services. For more information visit http://www.indicatemedia.com

About U.S. Department of Energy Catalyst Prize
Catalyst is an open innovation program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy that allows the public to rapidly develop software products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. building energy efficiency and solar energy marketplaces through a staged prize contest. To learn more visit: http://catalyst.energy.gov/

Indicate Media Journalist One-On-One - Dorian Benkoil

For our next Journalist One-On-One, we had a chance to catch up with veteran journalist Dorian Benkoil. In addition to writing about digital media, Dorian also co-founded Teeming Media and launched the Mediathon, which is a hack-a-thon for media makers. He also teaches Digital Media Management as an adjunct professor at Baruch College. Dorian's wisdom spans a 30 year journalism career, and it's always a pleasure to get his insights on the things moving the media industry today. You can follow him at @dbenk.

1. You started your career in journalism nearly 30 years ago and have worked for Newsweek, The Associated Press, ABC News and Mediabistro. What are one or two of the most striking changes you've seen in regards to media and news over the years?

Accountability. Journalists can now be fact-checked by the community and made to account for their actions or reports. They’re put under the same scrutiny and transparency requirements as their subjects.

2. Back when you were regularly writing and editing for media outlets, where did most of your story ideas come from? PR folks? Agencies? Direct from companies? What helps capture your attention and interest today?

Mostly from observation and conversations. Sometimes from observing an internal paragraph or mention of something that was lower down in another story, or a trend I saw that hadn’t been seen. Or from events that needed to be covered. Occasionally, when I was assigned, I assume the story came from a PR person, but did not have direct contact with them. Today, what captures my attention is something that’s a trend or new wrinkle I’m seeing and hearing but that isn’t in the zeitgeist. Not one product or service, but multiple angles that get at the same issue or quandary.

3. What's your one piece of advice for building relationships with busy reporters -- and has that advice changed from when you first started as a journalist to today?

Be genuine and helpful. Don’t pitch stories that aren’t relevant to what the reporter is doing.

4. Where do you see digital media heading in the next five years? In a world full of listicles and tweets, is there still room for long form journalism (apart from the major daily papers)?

Yes. Medium seems to prove it. BuzzFeed seems to show there is room for both. Politico. And what is “long-form”? 1,000 words? 3,500? A thought-provoking list-icle could be long-form, and take a long time to construct and conceive.

5. What's your take on the native advertising debate and the role it plays in today's media?

It’s fine, as long as it’s done transparently and well. It is very hard to make it scale.

6. You've written a bit in the past about the clickbait / ad traffic phenomena. There was a big Bloomberg piece recently diving into this topic. Your reaction in a nutshell?

There will be a  constant battle, a cat-and-mouse game, between using technologies effectively and thwarting those who would misuse them for illicit gain.

7. Tell us about what you do at Teeming Media, including the Mediathon you've put together.

Teeming Media: Devise and execute business, media and content strategies for publishers, brands and technology companies. Focus on media- and advertising technology. Research, analyze and implement business processes, workflows, measurement and technology for digital and social media.

The Mediathon: A Mediathon is a hack-a-thon for media makers. For a day or a weekend, we get together to create, collaborate, and compete, making media around a specific theme. Boundaries will be stretched, networks will expand, and fun will be had! The Mediathon facilitates collaborative production of innovative original content. Our mission is to interrupt the status quo, inspire new directions and promote media that informs and delights those who consume and create it. We also foster great conversation among experts and thought-leaders and the assembled.

8. When it comes to media consumption, what are your top 'must-read' news sites or 'must- watch' shows for you every day?

Re/Code, Business Insider, MediaShift, NYT, WSJ, On The Media, AdExchanger





What We Can Learn From Past Presidents and Their PR Teams

With slogans, logos, t-shirts, and speeches to stadium-sized crowds, presidential campaigns are sometimes more like a lesson in marketing than one in politics. Of course policies play a role when it actually comes time to go to the polls, but who doesn’t remember Bill Clinton’s charisma, JFK’s style, Obama’s ‘Hope’ slogan, or Reagan’s dramatic flair?

There have been several U.S. presidents who - simply put - had a flair for marketing. While we at Indicate Media aren’t in the business of playing politics, we do think it’s interesting to take a look at how politicians have used marketing tactics to win the most powerful position in these United States of America.

Here are three presidents who (along with their teams) may have had a career in PR if, you know, the whole POTUS thing didn’t work out for them:

John F. Kennedy: The youngest president ever elected to the office of the Presidency, JFK’s youth, charm, and innovative campaign strategies propelled him ahead of Richard Nixon. Did you know televised Presidential debates were JFK’s idea? He invited Nixon to participate in the first televised debate on September 26, 1960. JFK uniquely understood the power of the moving image. His team spent days analyzing the lighting, choosing which suit would best cut down on the camera glare (turns out it was blue), and had him practice over and over again speaking directly to the camera.

What seems so common today certainly wasn’t back then and these little tactics added up. Prior to the debate, Kennedy's young age was thought to be a negative, but by the morning after the debate, many doubt's about Kennedy’s age and abilities were erased. The 1960 election was the first time television became a source of information for voters.  

JFK also used television to promote a ‘new era’ of innovation and technology. He used images to embrace social issues like civil rights, and while supporting social influencers like Martin Luther King Jr. could have hurt his candidacy, it ending up gaining him endorsements and pushed social issues into a campaign that was previously dominated by economics and foreign affairs.

By playing on his strength’s and personal appeal through TV images, and by using the platform to focus the country on social issues, JFK was able to completely re-frame the campaign, and he become the 35th President of the United States.

Ronald Reagan: Building off the media legacy set by JFK, this former actor built a charmed relationship with the news media, and turned television into his personal platform. President Reagan mastered the ability to get his message across in an influential way, and used plenty of visuals to do it earning him the nickname “The Great Communicator”.

He also had a love for dramatic flair and stirring the emotions of people. For example, check out one of Reagan’s most famous campaign ads titled,  “The Bear,” showing a grizzly bear wandering through the woods and concluding, “isn’t it smart to be a strong as the bear?”

President Reagan also understood the importance of using timing and location to his advantage. While standing at the Brandenburg Gate between East and West Berlin, Reagan urged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” in one of his most famous, controversial, and strategic speeches. Reagan's staff members debated keeping that line in the speech, but the President, understanding the power of the moment, was determined to keep it in and showed that sometimes calculated risks in communication is necessary.

Barack Obama: Most of us still remember the slogan of “Hope” and “Change” heard round the country in 2008.  But, even more important than these words is the way these words were promoted. President Obama understood there was a new kind of medium in town and embraced social media right from the start. For example, he announced that Biden would be his pick for Vice President on Twitter before alerting mainstream media, brought in ‘citizen journalists’ to create consistent (and partisan) content to build online momentum, and had a massive and extremely effective email campaign that secured hundreds of millions of dollars in online donations.

The terms 'Hope' and ‘Change’ were so present throughout the entire 2008 campaign that it was almost impossible not to know what the Obama campaign stood for. However at the same time, many historians have stated that you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who could distill into 'single words' the themes his competitors were running on. Ad Age paid attention to this and it’s why Obama beat out Nike, Apple, and other huge brands to win Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year in 2008.  

So as you can see, there's a lot we can learn from presidential history. The power of the image, the power of the moment, the power of leveraging grassroots strategies, are all lessons startups to established brands can utilize when engaging with their audiences.

For additional inspiration, or to learn how to take your ideas to the next level, contact Indicate Media today.

How Personalization In Storytelling Will Change Your Business for the Better

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There's something magical about a customized product. It speaks to us and our interests and bring us into a brand’s story. It's the reason why Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’ personalized name campaign was such a huge hit, and why Birchbox and other customized subscriptions are so popular.  

Brand Keys reviewed more than 150,000 predictive loyalty and engagement assessments, and not surprisingly, they found that customers like and engage more with products that feel personalized and create a great experience.

In this latest Chasing Perception blog post, we wanted to take a look at two tactics brands are regularly using to tell their stories in personalized ways while still appealing to the masses.

If that sounds interesting to you (and why wouldn’t it), read on:

Loyalty = Data

Loyalty programs have been growing in popularity over the past five years, from every day shops like pharmacies and grocery stores, to luxury brands. Loyalty programs make customers feel special, and they get something back for choosing you. But they also help brands too, as a loyalty program provides a convenient database of self-volunteered information about customers' shopping habits. With that information, you can not only see which demographics are buying which products, but you also have more information to create targeted storylines designed to directly appeal to specific customer demographics.

Custom Products & Marketing

Offering things like custom designs and engravings is obvious, but even simple things like providing customers with accounts where they can save their favorite products and see recommendations based on their purchase history can be personal enough to make a difference - - and this is all part of your brand story. How many movies have you watched because Netflix told you you might be interested in them? How many extra products have you bought on Amazon because they were related to an existing purchase? The numbers add up fast, meaning higher sales for the brand, and higher satisfaction for your customers.

Customization requires an initial investment in setting up a new program or technology, but even before you get to that point, your communications team should be three steps ahead to plan the brand messaging  and elevate the story - all in an effort to see an increase in repeat customers. When you see this happen, you will know the strategy is paying off.

Need help telling your story? Contact Indicate Media at tech@indicatemedia.com


How Great Branding Turned These Products Into Household Names

It’s easy, relatively speaking, to be the marketing team of a “fun” brand, one with naturally compelling images and a great story. But how do you market seemingly boring, but necessary brands?  Things like insurance and toilet paper? In the latest post for our Chasing Perception blog, we take a look at how four high-profile brands have kept their brand image in the spotlight with great success, and while keeping up with changing forms of media. Check out what we can learn from these brands.

Geico: Insurance is the most boring thing on the planet. And yet, Geico put a lizard on TV and made it fun. By telling the story of an anthropomorphic British gecko who loves his job as an insurance salesman, Geico became a household name, business exploded, and people look forward to the Geico ads during the Super Bowl, (along with the much more traditionally entertaining products like beer and cars). Not only can 15 minutes save you 15% or more on car insurance, but with a talking Gecko, 15 seconds is also all it takes to convince people to call.  

Charmin: How do you sell something as generic as toilet paper in a funny way, without alienating a huge part of your base with bathroom humor? You start the #tweetfromtheseat campaign for twitter, while providing more informational materials on your other platforms. Charmin’s brilliant branding appeals to both moms and college students with fuzzy bears, a historically useful product, and getting silly on social media. Recently voted the “sassiest brand on Twitter” and with sales numbers to prove success, Charmin has brought a ‘boring’ product into the spotlight.

Old Spice: Soap is soap, right? But who could you be if you use that soap? That’s what makes Old Spice stand out. The brand’s entire marketing campaign is focused on a seemingly perfect man who has it all and who all women want. All you have to do to be like him? Use Old Spice. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s self-deprecating at times, and it goes viral. Most importantly, it sells something as simple as soap to multiple generations.

General Electric: It’s hard for B2B brands to transition to social media or create compelling advertisements. GE sells machines to industrial markets, and though very useful, it’s not exactly the stuff Instagram campaigns are made of. Still, GE’s products are innovative, and they take that to social media, speaking to investors, employees, future employees, and consumers through a platform on Pinterest. Here, customers can learn about GE products, ask questions, and share their own innovative ideas. The takeaway? Engineering is needed, engineering is cool, and when it comes to engineering, GE is the best.

Are you interested in learning how to translate your story into something compelling and valuable to your audiences? Get in touch with us at tech@indicatemedia.com.


Indicate Media Journalist One-On-One Series - Alyson Shontell

The continued rise of native advertising highlights the importance for publishers to keep advertising and news/editorial – aka. church and state – separate. For this installment of our One-On-One With Tech Journalist Series, we spoke with someone who’s worked on both sides of the fence for the well-known online publication, Business InsiderAlyson Shontell joined Business Insider in July 2008 as the 6th employee. Formerly Sales Planner, Alyson is now a Senior Reporter and primarily covers technology with a focus on startups. We got Alyson’s take on the state of tech media, startup reporting and found out what she would do with her days if she didn’t have to work.


1. Your background lies both on the marketing/advertising side and the journalism side. After you started your career, was there something in particular that led you more down the journalism path?

I always enjoyed writing and my junior year summer, I interned at Conde Nast. I tried to keep journalism open as a career track but decided to pursue my advertising major when I graduated. The starting salary was slightly higher and I figured I could always write on the side. While I was on the advertising side, I started submitting stories to our editors for fun. They got published and performed well. I realized I needed a creative outlet like journalism and that it’s better to pursue a passion in the long run. During my annual review that year, I asked to switch from the sales side to an open editor position at BI. They put me on a three-month trial where I was essentially doing two jobs at once, my sales planner position and the editor position. At the end of those three months, they were kind enough to let me jump from sales to editorial. I’ve been writing professionally for the past four years.

2. What are one or two major things you’ve seen change in tech journalism and the media landscape over the past five years or so? And have they been for the better or worse?

Now it’s much more saturated. It’s finally cool to start a media company!

When I first started writing, TechCrunch was run by Mike Arrington and they were the ones to beat. PR people would only give them scoops, and if you scooped their TC story everyone (the company and PR people) got really angry with you. Now it’s a much more level playing field and other brands have been able to rival or even surpass TC. The landscape has gotten a lot more saturated. There’s PandoBetaBeatValleywag, Business Insider, Re/CodeThe VergeThe InformationTechmeme, plus the Apple & gadget blogs and newspapers/magazines buffing up their tech reporting staffs. 

3. As a tech journalist, where do you get most of your news, tips and story ideas from today? PR folks? Social media? Direct outreach from companies/start-up founders?

I get most of my stories from in-person meetings and conversations. Engaging conversations with smart people always lead to story ideas. Very few stories are from PR folks, unless they’re exceptional bits of news I have to write, like Uber’s $1.2 billion round. But if I’m doing my job really well, I should know that’s coming before a PR person tells me about it.

4. It’s well known that journalists are flooded with hundreds of emails every day. How do you quickly determine what news and story ideas warrant a further look and what instantly goes into the trash?

If I’m interested in something, and I think our readers will be interested in it as well, I’ll pursue it. Business Insider has a much broader readership than other tech-only sites, so I like to think about stories I can cross-post to our main page. Generally, those are tech stories that even non tech-savvy readers will care about. Truly innovative ideas, great people/founder stories, etc. Things everyone can appreciate and enjoy learning about.

Subject line and the sender matters a lot in my inbox. If I don’t know the sender, there’s a high likelihood the email will be trashed. If it’s a subject line like, “Story Idea,” that’s an instant trash as well. Most reporters have plenty of their own story ideas. Also, I don’t like when someone writes “I loved your article!” then goes on to say, “So you’ll love this company and should write about it!” It makes the compliment feel insincere and me feel used. 

The best way to get a reporter to pay attention to your emails is to have a real relationship with them. Reaching out to before you need anything is a nice change.

5. What tips do you have for communications professionals in building relationships with tech journalists (or are good old-fashioned relationships archaic in the fast-paced world of tech reporting?)

As I said before, reaching out before you need anything is nice. That doesn’t mean I want an inbox full of no-reason emails, but just someone thinking of me as a human being, not a means to an end, gets noticed.

Also, honesty gets noticed. I know PR is a lot of spin, but the reporting game is all about having relationships you can trust. So figuring out how to tell the truth to me, even if it’s in an off the record capacity, goes a long way for relationship building. 

Additionally, tech reporters like scoops! And PR people likely know scoops about other companies outside of the ones they rep. So tips that won’t get you in trouble with your clients are appreciated. 

6. Where do you see tech journalism in five years? Will as some have contended, all journalism be tech journalism?

I think there will be consolidation. There are arguably too many publications right now because media startups are kind of the hot thing to launch right now. I don’t think all of them will survive, and there will be roll-ups.

7. You cover both start-ups and the ‘big guys’ e.g., Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Is there something you enjoy reporting on the most?

I love startups. I really love the people stories behind startups. What’s the founder’s deal? People love learning about people. I also like seeing startups explode and and getting an early idea of what products/tech the world will be using next.

8. Some of the most heavily funded start-ups ever have gone under and simply disappeared. Is start-up funding as ‘news’ in and of itself losing its sexiness in your opinion?

Business Insider generally doesn’t report on funding rounds, unless it’s something truly eye-popping or we’re given the exclusive. There are plenty of other blogs that will print your funding news. We don’t think going into debt is the most interesting story about a startup that can be told.

9. As far as media consumption, what are the ‘must-read’ news sites or ‘must-watch’ news shows for you every morning?

Re/code is doing great work.

10. (Just for fun) If you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?

I’d travel. A lot! I’d love to join Outward Bound.

Indicate Media Journalist One-On-One Series - Kavi Guppta

For the next installment of our Journalist One-On-One series, we are thrilled to speak Kavi Guppta, who writes for Forbes and Contently’s The Content Strategist (where he runs a #modernmarketing podcast in addition to writing). Kavi is, in our humble opinion, one of the smartest reporters when it comes to all things marketing and technology. This is a One-On-One you won’t want to miss.

In your Forbes column, you write about 'technology's impact on business and culture.' You have an extensive background in social media marketing, including strategy and content creation. It's easy to see how social media has impacted our culture at large. In your time, what's the single most way social media has impacted business?

Social media, and digital mediums in general, have completely flipped the notion of businesses and brands creating trends. All culture is now created by the audience and it’s incredible because brands are struggling to catch up.

We’ve left the Mad Men era where what was cool or hip could be dictated in a top-down approach.

What you’re seeing now is this constant remix of culture through video, image, and text content taking place and audiences are at the steering wheel. Social networks are the playground by which regular people decide what’s funny, what’s worth caring about, and how the rest of the world should see that information.

2. Earlier this year, you launched a great podcast series with Contently called #ModernMarketing. Here, you inquire with various industry leaders about the future of marketing and advertising. In your estimation, what are the top one or two things that will shape and define marketing over the next 5 - 10 years?

The first one will be relevance, and that goes back to my answer above. Marketers really are struggling with how to remain relevant (not only among competitors, but with audiences). How do marketers connect with customers through the interactions they want to be communicated through? How do marketers connect in a human way? How do marketers adapt to what customers want, and create an experience that isn’t such a hard sell?

The second one will be metrics. We haven’t completely figured out how to measure and be held accountable for our efforts. This is the first time in decades that the industry has truly been faced with the challenge of measurement. Technology has made tracking incredibly detailed, but marketers were super slow in adopting the software and taking advantage of what the data was telling them.

There won’t be a silver bullet that nails a standard for the industry in either of these areas. But relevance and metrics will force marketers to reinvent their approach to the concepts more frequently.

3. The lines between content marketing and native advertising are easily blurred. What must brands who are creating content and consumers who are reading content do to properly distinguish between the two?

Advertising is not content. Ads explicitly sell something. Content is the experience around the ad, and it doesn’t spend all of its time selling something.

Audiences know the difference--it’s why they’re tuning out of advertising experiences disguised as content. It’s marketers that have to be reminded of that distinction frequently because of the bubble they live in.

4. At what point did you become interested in moving from writing content and running the social strategies for various brands to writing about the larger marketing space from an editorial perspective?

I’ve wanted to seriously be a writer since high school. The marketing experience was just the pathway I chose to realize that dream. Although I spent my days communicating to clients and audiences through presentations and campaigns, writing was at the core of everything I did.

Despite the long hours I still made time to keep a blog and write regularly even though nobody noticed or that the thoughts weren’t fully formed. My editor at Forbes, Bruce Upbin stumbled upon my writing one day and kicked off a career pivot where I was able to really just focus on my writing. It also helped that I quit the industry, sold everything, and decided to travel and work at the same time as a digital nomad.

5. You have lived all over the world and are currently in Perth, Australia. From your perspective, are the marketing and media sectors (and consumer attitudes) in the APAC region widely different than in N. America?

I’m actually in Pondicherry, India right now -- deep in the south of the country.

And yes, APAC is WIDELY different. So different. Extremely different.

The region is modernizing rapidly, and of course APAC has the West as a reference for what their future can look like, but even their comprehension and imitation of the West is vastly different and routed in very different habits.

Technology out here is helping the region elevate its standards to meet very basic human needs. We have a tendency to take advantage of the tech services we enjoy; we just expect them to work. In a region like Asia, there are hundreds of millions of people who have just been introduced to new technology and it has profoundly changed the way they live. I wrote about it with my friend Anjali Ramachandran in our ebook Disruption in the Developing World.

The way companies market in these regions are really interesting. India for example is a very consumerist culture, and they’re a very ad driven culture. Ads drive a majority of the digital interactions people encounter out here: free wifi? Watch an ad. Coupons for ecommerce? Here’s an ad. There’s a currency that the culture here values where time in exchange for something useful is worthwhile.

6. Where do you get most of the ideas for your stories and content - be it for Forbes or your podcast? PR folks? Direct from brands and entrepreneurs? What in your mind makes for an irresistible story?

A lot of my ideas come from reading and real-life moments. I keep an ongoing list of article ideas in Trello that come to me on my travels, while I’m trying to fall asleep, or while I’m eating. I’ll iterate on those ideas over and over again until I think I have a sound concept that will resonate.

There are a handful of really good, timely PR folks who pitch me with really good article ideas (shout out to Peter Moran -- you’re one of them). I’m not on some mass list for those folks, and they always approach me with well thought out concepts to consider.

Endless reading is really my main source of inspiration. I read everything, even if it’s subject matter I don’t understand. The key is to find something useful in everything and apply it to your own life.

At the end of the day, I pump out good stories and I pump out a lot of terrible ones, too. The best ones are useful to my readers and share explicit takeaways that can help them in a problem they are trying to solve. I will admit I’m still figuring that one out. It’s a process.

7. Technology has of course improved the way we consume media (faster, broader access to information) but also has negative aspects (too much info, a lot of garbage/clickbait). How do you strike a balance and keep from becoming overwhelmed?

Curation is really transforming the way media organizes information, and the way audiences choose to consume information. I recently recorded a podcast episode on the concept.

We’re seeing this fascinating intersection of software and human interaction that is reshaping what’s important to audiences. Media is getting smarter in how that information is delivered: personalized email newsletters; quick mobile updates; social media feeds.

Garbage content and click bait tactics have been a part of media since the invention of newspapers. Tabloids practically introduced the concept. Garbage will always exist, but how that garbage is packaged and presented to people is what changes the context of how the information will be consumed. There’s plenty of garbage content out there that does a better job of attracting audiences than heavy weight, prestigious brands like the New York Times.

8. As far as personal media consumption, what are your 'must-read news sites or 'must-watch' shows every day?

I don’t watch TV (not out of some puritan value -- I just don’t have one). I really only watch TV in hotel rooms. When you don’t understand a language I just gravitate to whatever MTV region I’m in.

Documentaries on YouTube are fantastic. Right now I’m watching a three part series on Napoleon Bonaparte.

I don’t have a set-in-stone list of must read sites. I do have must read curators who inform my work every day. I’ve talked about a few of the email newsletters I love. I’ve also shared Twitter profiles that teach me something new everyday, and Twitter profiles that curate the best business information.

Curation just works better for me than visiting a set list of sites. It keeps my feed fresh with perspectives gathered from across the web.
 

9. Just for fun: You've lived and worked in many places around the world. What destination is currently number one on your travel bucket list?

Japan! Haven’t been there yet, but I’m absolutely in love with the culture and the history. 2016 looks promising for a visit.



How Early Stage Companies Can Navigate the Crisis Minefield

“We have a crisis…” This is the last thing any company executive wants to hear - ever. The word alone conjures up images of disaster and panic. The reality is that every company - big or small - will at some point face a crisis. The question is: are you prepared?

Your response can have a longer lasting effect than the crisis itself. Crises met with silence, or “no comment” can cast a negative light on your company and portray you and other execs as indifferent - or worse - uncaring. For startups and SMBs, a negative first impression can be hard to recover from.

By their nature, crises arise unexpectedly and are therefore impossible to plan for 100%. But that doesn’t mean you have to flounder when they arise. Fortune 500 companies and other large brands have crisis plans. Sometimes these plans fall short, but anticipating and having a plan to start is half the battle.

For startups and SMBs, crises can take many forms. There’s a tendency for early stage companies who are focused hard on growing the business (rightly so) to not think about crises until one actually hits. Then, everyone tries to react, but with no cohesive strategy in place, the positive opportunities that crises present are lost.

The first rule of any crisis is that you can’t communicate your way out of a problem. Your first step should always be to fix, or work to fix whatever the issue is. Did your website or software have an outage? Before you say anything, get to work fixing the problem and then communicate your efforts to customers, partners, employees, investors - whoever the issue effects.

Here are a few initial things to think about for crisis planning.

  1. Create a ‘what if’ list. Think about and make a list of the potential issues that may arise within your company both today and down the road. Include both likely and unlikely scenarios to help better prepare for all types of situations. Bring different team members in from the start, as crises can involve issues across product, sales, marketing, finance and human resources.

  2. Communicate internally. Having protocols in place regarding who will respond in what scenario (and how) will alleviate fragmented and even contradictory messages going out from multiple people/teams. In theory, this should be easier for smaller companies without thousands of employees, but even small teams can falter if everyone isn’t on the same page internally.

  3. Avoid knee jerk reactions. Timeliness is critical in a crisis, but that doesn’t mean you should quickly talk just to talk. Even if you’re the CEO or a co-founder and you’ve decided to respond, take a few minutes to run things by others (co-founder, your communications team, etc.) to help bring perspective and strategic insight into the best way, tone and channels to respond (blog, social media, email, etc.).

Crises doesn’t have to spell disaster or create chaos. For every crisis, there’s an opportunity to correct the problem and respond in an organized, strategic, intelligent - and most importantly - human manner. Customers and other internal and external stakeholders want transparency during a crisis. Even when hiccups happen, which they will in any startup and SMB, you have the opportunity to continue telling your brand story in an honest and authentic way.

Want to discuss further about how you can organize, develop a plan, and align your communications efforts for crisis planning? Get in touch with us here.

Indicate Media One-On-One Journalist Series: Stuart Elliott

The key to media relations is in the name: building relationships with the media. This means taking time to learn about a reporter's background, interests, likes, pet-peeves and most importantly...what he or she looks for in a story pitch. Last year, we launched a series of one-on-one Q&As with journalists in the tech sector. In our series re-launch, we're talking with reporters covering advertising, marketing and media. For this first installment, we had the privilege to catch up with Stuart Elliott, well known for covering the ad industry at the New York Times for nearly 24 years.

1. You, of all people need no introduction - but we are still interested in your journalistic roots. When you entered the journalism field, was the advertising beat always on your mind, or did you 'fall into it' at the start of your career?

I had always been interested in advertising; I remember reading the Advertising column in the New York Times when I was in high school. And I had always been interested in journalism and writing. My first job in journalism out of college was at a paper in Rochester, N.Y., where I had many beats, the last one covering TV and radio. It was during that time that I first wrote about advertising, in columns about commercials. At my next job, at the Detroit Free Press, I covered advertising, marketing and retailing for most of my time there, then automotive marketing. Then came Advertising Age, covering the magazine beat; USA Today, covering advertising and marketing; and finally the Times, taking over the Advertising column in 1991.

2. We would be hard put to find others who have covered the advertising, marketing and media industries as long as you have. What are one or two major things you've seen change over time in both the ad industry, as well as the media reporting on it? Have they been for the better or worse?

The biggest change for advertising and journalism has been, of course, the Internet, digitalization of those industries, and every other industry, the profound changes wrought by being online, the Web, mobile, social, etc. For good or bad? It is what it is, but clearly in media many legacy companies have been financially damaged by their inability to change fast enough to adapt.

3. As the previous advertising columnist for the New York Times, where did you get most of your story ideas from? PR folks? Agencies? Direct from brands? What's stirring the creative juices with your new Media Village column?

My ideas at the Times came from many sources: covering breaking news, getting tipped to stories about to happen, pitches from PR folks, inspiration from reading articles in trade publications, requests from editors, seeing ads in print or commercials on TV. My weekly column for Media Village is opinion, essay, based on what's going on in the news and what people in advertising, marketing and media are talking about -- or ought to be talking about if they're not.

4. You received a well-deserved reputation amongst publicists as someone who gave 'everyone' the time of day -- even if to simply say 'no thanks.' I can't image you received fewer emails than any other writer in the industry. What prompted your approach / philosophy?

I got hundreds of emails a day, plus numerous phone calls, press kits in the mail and by messenger and so forth. But I believed, and still believe, that I don't know everything and it's useful to hear out people who may have something interesting to tell me. Also, why alienate people by ignoring them? If you do that, when they have something that's REALLY good, they turn to someone else, a competitor. And there's also the Golden Rule, treating people the way you would want to be treated (corny as that sounds). 

5. Based on the previous question: you went above and beyond, considering all of the off target and bad pitches out there. What's your one piece of advice to PR people for developing solid relationships with busy reporters?

One piece of advice: if you're dealing regularly with a beat reporter, read what he/she writes, get to know his/her habits, deadlines, contact preferences.

6. Where do you see media heading in the next five years? In a world full of listicles and 40-character information, is there still room for long-form journalism as an art?

I have no idea. I hope there's still a place in the future for long-form journalism, also for reported journalism, reliable journalism, objective journalism.

7. Riffing on the last question: How (if at all) will technology continue to improve how we disseminate and consume information? For you personally - hard copy newspaper or iPad with your morning coffee?

Dunno where things are headed, tech-wise. Personally, I still read the print edition of the Times, as well as the print edition of the Daily News and print versions of many magazines. That is augmented during the day with visits to many many websites of both legacy publications and new, online-only media.

8. As far as media consumption, what are the 'must-read' news sites or 'must-watch' shows for you every day?

The New York Times, the Daily News, adage.com, adweek.com, mediapost.com, jimromenesko.com, Poynter Media Wire, Google News, CMO Today blog, Digiday, Mashable, Campaign US, The Drum US, Gawker, Towleroad, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, the three network nightly newscasts.

9. Just for fun: You are well known as a lover of American history and nostalgia. If you could travel back in time and visit any era of our country's past, when and where would you go?

Great question! I am torn among Chicago in the 1920s, Hollywood in the 1930s, Washington in the 1940s and New York in the 1950s.


You have 60 seconds to tell your story: GO!

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"The name of my company is X and we are a next generation, state-of-the-art platform enabling ...." NO

"My company X offers consumers the only way to ...." NO

"We have developed a way for businesses to redefine how ...." NO

Almost all the presenters of the last pitch event I attended began with something like the sentences above. As you probably guessed, the goal was to best describe their company in 60 seconds. I have been to and helped entrepreneurs prepare for many pitch events in my day. Traditionally you have some good presentations and some less desirable. At this particular event I was rather surprised that almost all of the pitches weren't shaped with a little more thought and insight. It's ironic because several of the presenters were clearly intelligent entrepreneurs and had what seemed to be strong visions for their business models. Yet, what became very apparent was that they were lacking in their storytelling abilities. 

A quick Google search on how to pitch your business in 60 seconds will most likely lead you to someone explaining that there are four questions that need to be answered in one sentence (over 60 seconds) to deliver an effective pitch. The questions include: What do you do? What problem do you solve? How are you different? Why should I care?

While these questions are a good structure for organizing your 60 second pitch, as with anything the devil is in the details. These four questions are a good road map to success but need to be fused with telling a story that's engaging, personal and relatable.  Not delivered in a way that makes you sound like a robot.
So how do you do it? 

The answer is very simple .... you need to practice.  Sounds logical right? To tell your story with maximum impact you can't just prepare the night before your pitch event, the same way a TED presenter doesn't just get up and give a TED talk. It takes hours of practice, revising, switching things around, standing in front of a mirror, asking your peers what they think, all to strategically craft and shape the pitch to where it needs to be. 

Now of course practicing isn't the only magic bullet because you need to come up with the words first. But, ask anyone who has seen a well rehearsed pitch vs. an 'off the cuff' pitch, and more often than not the rehearsed pitch, given by an entreprenuer who found the words over the course of the practice process, will come off a thousand times better.  Why is that?  The answer is because more than anything, every time you give your pitch the real thing you are selling is YOU.  The pitch is almost secondary.  Sure some people like chocolate and some vanilla (meaning, some will love the idea of your company and some will not) and that will always hold true but everyone will agree that you stack the cards in your favor against the naysayers if they instantly believe in YOU.  If your words flow smoothly, if you have the confidence of being well prepared, and if you present the best possible 60 second argument for your business ... success is most likely guaranteed.

So if you are an entrepreneur who knows they need to be able to quickly tell their story (which by the way is every entrepreneur), my advice is ... start practicing now! 

Indicate Media One-On-One Journalist Series - Jennifer Kite-Powell

The relationship between journalist and PR professional throughout history has been a constant ‘tug of war.' Journalists are charged with weeding through endless pitches to get to the heart of a story relevant to their audience, while PR professionals are charged with crafting their clients’ stories and bringing interesting points of view to the table worthy of media coverage.

To further explore this relationship and better understand the needs of journalists, today my firm - Indicate Media - is posting the first in a series of One-On-One With Tech Journalists. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll bring you Q&A’s from respected journalists, highlighting their views on everything from working with PR professionals to thoughts on what’s happening in their respective industries and coverage areas.

Feel free to read through and pass these insights to others. Our hope is to not only bring value to those on our side of the fence (shout out to the PR professionals), but help us all better understand what journalists really want and need, so we can adjust our strategy and make this complex relationship less of a weird ‘tug of war’ and perhaps more of an awkward hug between cousins. You get the point!

For our inaugural Q&A, we had a chance to catch up with Jennifer Kite-Powell, a Forbes contributor who covers science, robotics, and innovative technology.

1. With a background in political and government communications, how did you end up getting into tech journalism and specifically covering robotics and science?

My degree was actually in Journalism but since that paid so poorly and I could not get my dream job of working at National Geographic, I went into political and government communications which possible paid just as poorly. Actually, the idea is that if you are a good writer, you can write about anything as my first journalism job was writing for Golf Magazine and I don’t even play golf.

2. What are one or two major things you’ve seen change in tech journalism and media landscape over the past five or so years? And have they been for the better or worse?

Hands down, it’s the short attention span that digital communications has brought to us, and our ability to read something that is more than 400 words.

There’s a big difference between tech journalism and science journalism and in fact a bigger difference between what tech pubs write about versus just clone to get a story out. I would say fewer stories and more short attention span summaries of news with no relevance for the reader.

3. In your experience, what are the major differences between the general tech landscape in Europe and the U.S. and how (if at all) does this affects the tech media/reporting?

I don’t think this applies at all; apps aren’t really made with one market in mind so why should the coverage be any different? I have heard it said (on Twitter) that U.K. journalists write as if their mothers are reading over their shoulders and U.S. journalists write is if their college professors are. I think that we have to disengage from this Europe vs. U.S. debate and just write a story that people can relate to. For instance, the Glowing Plant project was written about globally but you can’t even get the plants in Europe due to regulations, but it didn’t matter. Was it news? Yes. Did it interest people? Yes. Unless you are writing in a native language about something that affects JUST your citizenry, it should not matter

4. Former FT journalist Tom Foremski recently opined, “Tech journalism has lost its way.” To what extent do you agree with this?

I would have to 100% agree. Tech journalism what? The example of CES or MWC is a great case in point — where we boil it down or synthesize into a few key words or summaries based on the dozen or so media outlets or reporters that grab onto the lowest common denominator. Tech journalism is now lazy, jaded and can’t think beyond itself. Foremski makes one of the best points I have ever read when he says the Internet of Things is mundane. It is and what does it mean? We latch onto these terms and shove them down our reader’s throats and they are now wandering around spouting things they probably don’t have any relationship to. Case in point — anything now we put in our ears that is a connected device is now called “hearables” not “wearables” Down the rabbit hole we go.

5. As a tech journalist, where do you get most of your news, tips and story ideas from today (e.g., PR folks, social media, direct contact from companies/startup founders)?

Your know oddly, I get most of them from PR folks and then the DIY CEO’s who think they can just pass along a press release and that does the trick. Recently, someone sent me a blog post and said, “I would love to have this covered in Forbes.” A blog post. Founders are the worst, they tell no story and send a bunch of links, PowerPoints and say “under embargo” which means nothing. Again, back to the idea of a story or as Foremski says, how does it relate to our lives?

The best pitches I get are from scientists actually, if you can believe it. And, of course the PR people that now know I am looking for how that product relates to the tech or the person or how we live our lives. People care more about reading the impact something makes on them.

6. What are the types of stories that interest and excite you the most (e.g., tech conferences, social entrepreneurship, startups, big companies e.g., Apple, Facebook, Google)?

Interesting. This again is about the connection more than the news. Big companies? What is innovative about that? They increasingly turn to hackers or developers to help them innovate. Did you know General Motors just created a hacker community to help them innovate for smart cars? No because it’s not sexy enough for tech journalists. I learned that two 16 years olds from Manhattan who can’t even drive created a driving app that allows their parents to see how many hours they logged and transmits to their drivers ed so that it’s tracked and monitored while they are in the car. Who knew?

Obviously, I lean towards any topic that affects how we love, live, sleep, vote, relate with our environment or discoveries and what that means.

Conferences? No.

7. What tips would you give communications professionals in building relationships with tech journalists (or are good relationships archaic in the fast-paced world of tech reporting)?

I would tell them to think and push back on their client. It’s fast paced sure but are people reading that news story about product version 1.45? Probably not or maybe at a tech level someone is. But my best advice is don’t give me something the day before and say it’s under embargo and don’t just send me a release, tell me what it means. I would say about 1% of people do that, and those are the people that I normally write about.

8. Where do you see tech journalism in 5 years? Will as some have contented, all journalism be tech journalism?

I can’t even see past next week. There is no telling where it will be, technology is constantly evolving as are us humans and our desires, hopes, needs and wishes. Word on the street is that we now have a 9 second attention span on the internet. Esquire has a short-short fiction contest that is only 72 words. There will always be short form media outlets and longer form media outlets. I mean Forbes is not like VentureBeat, which is not like QZ, which is not like Fast Company. I think as long as words stay legal, tech journalism will continue to breathe in many different places in many different forms.

9. (Just for fun) Word has it you’re a Game of Thrones fan. Who is your favorite character and why?

Well according to the Game of Thrones quiz, I am Arya Stark, which I was happy with, as she is certainly a survivor and looks good in both short and long hair. I usually carry a little sword with which to mince words anyway.

Three Business Areas Where You Can Sync Up Storytelling

Professional communicators constantly talk about storytelling. Indeed, the first step to any strategic communications campaign involves carefully crafting and solidifying a brand’s story and messaging.

For new organizations, this exercise requires starting from scratch. More established organizations might look to revisit and revise their messaging to keep things fresh. Either way, a brand’s story forms the backbone of all communication.

The marketing department is usually where a brand’s story is conceived and born. Today, traditional public relations practitioners are working more closely with clients to organize the brand’s corporate and specific marketing messages. While marketing is a good place for story and messaging to start, this is unfortunately where it all too often stops.

An organization's story and messaging should remain consistent across all business functions. Messaging can be tweaked for different audiences, but core messaging should permeate and guide all efforts.

Here are three business areas outside of the traditional marketing arena where PR professionals should be working with clients to sync their brand story:

Sales

Traditionally, marketing and sales have often butted heads. One is in charge of generating leads, the other, closing them. While marketing and PR often use messaging to create brand awareness, the larger organizational story and messages should be synced with the sales team early and often.

Salespeople are in the unique position of being on the front line of communication with customers and prospects. They often understand better than anyone else what’s required to keep customers happy and to convert prospects into clients.

It’s a mistake for marketing to create its own messaging and for sales to use something completely different. This isn’t to say that sales should blindly cut and paste marketing messages into their content, be it a sales deck or prospecting email, but certain messages should be aligned for consistency of brand vision, values and voice.

Product development

The product development team can consist of programmers, data scientists, designers and engineers. Just as with sales, the product team shouldn’t be using its own separate messaging to communicate with clients. The marketing and product development teams should regularly sync up for major product launches and even small product update emails going out to clients.

Often, product explanations and descriptions are detailed, technical, and in-the-weeds. Marketers and PR folks should take the time to understand product innovations and distill these complex ideas into easily digestible information. Certain parts of the brand’s story and messaging will be integrated into how products are presented. 

The overall company story (the vision and guiding force) should be the foundation of all new product development. If a company can’t answer how a product fits into who the company is, why it exists, and the problems it’s trying to address or solve, it should ask, “Why are we building it?”

Human Resources

An organization’s story and messaging is critical for external messaging (marketing, sales and product), but also plays an important role in internal communications and attracting talent. Part of any company’s vision is its values. These values outline not only how a brand interacts with outsiders, but also how it interacts with existing and future employees.

Everybody wants to be part of a company with a strong culture and clear vision. An HR director can use the brand story and messaging in different types of content whether it’s in a handbook, newsletter, company intranet, or other forms of employee communication.

The brand story and culture should shine through in recruiting efforts. Just as applicants are working to sell themselves, companies interested in attracting and retaining the best talent must communicate in a way that reflects clear purpose and vision. This could be a job posting or how an executive delivers a presentation at a networking event.

You’ve helped your clients discover and develop a great brand stories. How are you helping every part of their organization tell that story?

*This post originally appeared in Ragan's PR Daily


Successful Communication: The General Idea

Imagine you’re in seventeenth-century war-torn Europe. You’ve just been promoted to general in your nation’s army, and your first campaign involves re-capturing a highly fortified city from the enemy. Control of the city, which is nestled between two hills, is essential to winning the war.

Military strategists have determined the best chance of success is to split your army and encamp two groups on separate hills. You will command one group, and ranking general will oversee the second. Victory hinges on a coordinated, simultaneous attack from both of your forces. If either group attacks alone, the enemy will be able to repel and destroy said group.

The plan includes another major drawback. Your two groups aren’t in visual range of each other. The only way to communicate back and forth is to send someone through the valley (where the occupied city is) to deliver messages. Communication is essential because you can’t determine the best time to attack until you occupy your hilltop positions.

Upon taking your places, the other general surveys the city and sends a messenger to inform you to attack tomorrow at 10am. However, not knowing if the messenger avoided capture across the valley, he begins to hesitate. You receive the message and send a messenger back to confirm. But, like the first general, you don’t know if your messenger will make it, and begin to hesitate. Neither you nor the other general wants to risk attacking with any chance that your messages weren’t received.

You could keep sending messages back and forth to confirm each previous reception, but success of each delivery would be uncertain, and this could continue ad infinitum.

You’ve just witnessed a classic puzzle know as the Two Generals’ Problem. It’s often used in computer programming courses to demonstrate difficulties that arise in Transmission Control Protocol (TPC). After looking into this, I realized it also perfectly illustrates the importance of basic strategic communication in the age of social media, content marketing and business storytelling.

Communication requires a sender, message and receiver. Successful communication occurs when your message is:

1. Received by your target audience

2. Interpreted correctly

3. Evokes a (hopefully positive) response (thought, feeling, action)

The speed, convenience and prevalence of online communication often make organizations and individuals forget about these basic principles. Social media, blogs and videos have made it very easy to simply send out messages. As companies from start ups to established brands continue to embrace and use new digital platforms to communicate with the public, it remains important to think about the following questions:

1. Is our target audience receiving our messages? (Are we using the right channels to engage?)

2. Does our target audience understand our message? (Have we carefully crafted our messaging and story?)

3. Are messages causing our target audience to feel, think or act in a desired way? (Are we just tooting our horn, or sending out useful and compelling information?)

Like the generals, organizations should be using PR and digital communication to assess when and how to act e.g., release a product, issue an apology, offer stock, etc. We have a tremendous advantage over the generals though. If used correctly, PR used as a way to tell your story and engage in two-way communication allows you to determine if messages are being received understood and translated into positive thoughts and behavior. Conversations no longer have to take place through unreliable communication channels.

One similarity does still exist though. For both the seventeenth-century general and the twenty-first century organization, results can be disastrous for taking action before successful communication has occurred.

Five Communication and Pitching Tips for Entrepreneurs

So, you’ve decided to dive into the rough and challenging waters of the tech startup world. As a visionary, you’ve got a great idea for a new product or service and perhaps the expertise to execute it. Sooner or later though, you’ll need to clearly communicate and pitch your idea to potential business partners, employees, investors, customers and the media.  While this can be an intimidating part of the startup process, here are tips that can help you avoid sinking like a stone.  

1. Get Your Story Straight  
Selling ideas lies in the art of storytelling. Every idea and company has a story behind it – so does yours. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a mobile app or the next clean tech that will radically change the world’s energy future. Your startup’s narrative began with an idea to fill a human need. Storytelling is more than just pitching a product. People respond to stories that sell a vision as told from one human being to another. Identify your story, get it straight and be able to tell it during a 30 second elevator ride, or a five-minute investor pitch.  

2. Plan on Paper First  
Chances are the idea for your startup began as some scribbled notes on a pad, or maybe even a cocktail napkin. The point is: you wrote things down about your company and technology to keep ideas organized. This shouldn’t be different for your pitch. Trying to keep your pitch in your head doesn’t do you justice. Once you have the story you want to tell in your head, get an outline down on paper. This way you can quickly add things, scratch things out, move points around, etc. You’d be surprised how much a pitch can evolve from your initial thoughts.  

3. Tailor Your Pitch  
The first rule of any type of communication is to know your audience. Tailoring your pitch doesn’t mean changing your story. Your core story will stay the same, but it’s all in how you present and tell it depending on whom you’re telling it to. This recent NY Times article highlights a collection of literary classics from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Moby Dick” targeted to toddlers. It’s important to think about how to tell the same fundamental story in a slightly different way depending on if you’re pitching an investor or end consumer.  

4. Be Careful How You Use Numbers  
It’s easy and tempting to overuse numbers in a pitch – especially when presenting to investors. This isn’t to say that numbers aren’t important – they are. However, especially for shorter pitches, you won’t have time to dig into financial projections. If an investor truly wants to understand the numbers, he or she will do a much deeper dive into your business and ask to follow up with you for more information. Your pitch is simply designed to help get them to that point. If you do use numbers, always place them in context of the larger story.  

5. Practice, Practice, Practice  
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs try to communicate or pitch their idea off the top of their heads. Winging a pitch that you haven’t practiced and polished over and over again rarely works. You may think you know what you want to say, but under the pressure of having only 90 seconds to sell your idea in front of a panel of investors, not having your pitch down to a science can result in disaster. Practice by yourself, in front of others, or with a presentation coach, but practice!  

You’ve invested strategic thinking, time, energy and practice into your startup. Do the same for your communication and pitching for maximum success!

You Have 60 seconds to tell your story: GO!

“The name of my company is X and we are a next generation, state-of-the-art platform enabling ….” NO  

“My company X offers consumers the only way to ….” NO  

“We have developed a way for businesses to redefine how ….” NO  

Almost all the presenters of the last pitch event I attended began with something like the sentences above. As you probably guessed, the goal was to best describe their company in 60 seconds. I have been to and helped entrepreneurs prepare for many pitch events in my day. Traditionally you have some good presentations and some less desirable. At this particular event I was rather surprised that almost all of the pitches weren’t shaped with a little more thought and insight. It’s ironic because several of the presenters were clearly intelligent entrepreneurs and had what seemed to be strong visions for their business models. Yet, what became very apparent was that they were lacking in their storytelling abilities.  

A quick Google search on how to pitch your business in 60 seconds will most likely lead you to someone explaining that there are four questions that need to be answered in one sentence (over 60 seconds) to deliver an effective pitch. The questions include: What do you do? What problem do you solve? How are you different? Why should I care?  

While these questions are a good structure for organizing your 60 second pitch, as with anything the devil is in the details. These four questions are a good road map to success but need to be fused with telling a story that’s engaging, personal and relatable. Not delivered in a way that makes you sound like a robot. So how do you do it?  

The answer is very simple …. you need to practice. Sounds logical right? To tell your story with maximum impact you can’t just prepare the night before your pitch event, the same way a TED presenter doesn’t just get up and give a TED talk. It takes hours of practice, revising, switching things around, standing in front of a mirror, asking your peers what they think, all to strategically craft and shape the pitch to where it needs to be.  

Now of course practicing isn’t the only magic bullet because you need to come up with the words first. But, ask anyone who has seen a well rehearsed pitch vs. an ‘off the cuff’ pitch, and more often than not the rehearsed pitch, given by an entreprenuer who found the words over the course of the practice process, will come off a thousand times better. Why is that? The answer is because more than anything, every time you give your pitch the real thing you are selling is YOU. The pitch is almost secondary. Sure some people like chocolate and some vanilla (meaning, some will love the idea of your company and some will not) and that will always hold true but everyone will agree that you stack the cards in your favor against the naysayers if they instantly believe in YOU. If your words flow smoothly, if you have the confidence of being well prepared, and if you present the best possible 60 second argument for your business … success is most likely guaranteed.  

So if you are an entrepreneur who knows they need to be able to quickly tell their story (which by the way is every entrepreneur), my advice is … start practicing now!