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Analyst relations and how to leverage them in your PR efforts

In the world of communications there is often an important part of the mix either overlooked or sometimes just forgotten - analyst relations. No matter your role within the marketing landscape, engaging with or staying close to industry analysts will help you fine tune your product or service offering, hear what is expected by your customers from vendors within your market and what is needed as your customers and prospects look to tomorrow and their next wave of growth.

We have heard a lot about “disruption” within the B2B world. But sometimes we get lost in that word and think of something completely new, when in reality organizations today are looking for a new approach to solving every day problems within their business. That is one area where the analyst community can help organizations approach their business a bit differently and rise to the top in crowded marketplaces. Digital disruption is all around us, and there are a number of older technologies that are solving new problems today. I’d be willing to bet a good amount of them stem from conversations about what’s next with the analyst community.

How do you leverage the analyst community? Analysts are looking at markets as a whole and trends within them. The organizations that work with analysts the best are the ones that open up and listen. You need to understand that it is their job to provide their thoughts on what they are seeing not only from you and your competitors (and no, they don’t provide specific info on different organizations between vendors) but from people looking to purchase a product or service within a certain market. You need to have thick skin and enter into it with an open mind because sometimes you aren’t going to get the glowing feedback you are expecting. Instead, be completely open and provide them with your own SWOT on where you see your organization and take their feedback. When analysts see you put their advice or guidance into action, that goes a long way.

Who should own this responsibility? It should fall under your external communications, PR or marcomm team. You want to be able to enter into an AR program with insights and views from market influencers, key media and customers. The feedback your AR team garners from their work will benefit your media relations efforts, content engine and marketing programs calendar.

Are you leveraging an analyst relations program in your overall public relations and marketing communications programs? If so, are you leveraging any of these key insights in your external communications efforts? If not, why? Be interested in your thoughts.

- Jay O. 

What can marketers learn from the US Men’s National Soccer Team Performance at World Cup?

Tomorrow between the hours of 12-2 pm ET, many American workers will take a prolonged lunch break and business productivity will be at a crawl at best. You can say that this is for a good reason, as the United States men’s national soccer team has a chance to advance in this year’s World Cup with a win or draw versus Germany. As you may know, there wasn’t much expected of the team this year and its head coach even said they were unlikely to win the World Cup. Unless you have absolutely no interest in sports, you will probably glance over and check out the office TV or check the score online or on your phone during the match –this is more about national pride than athletic superiority or winning and losing a game. And let’s be honest, should the USMNT advance tomorrow, nothing is won – but the story lives on and that is where the opportunity presents itself.

Like the Olympics, the World Cup comes around every four years; during that time, soccer fans are able to show off their sport to the world, and your local neighbors turn into lifelong soccer fans singing for 90 minutes and joining the American Outlaws. They are able to cheer on their beloved sport all while hearing that soccer in the United States is here to stay and that the world’s most popular sport will finally make a dent in the States. But then that buzz goes away. Don’t get me wrong, the attention and respect given to the sport during this time is well deserved, but what gets me as a marketer and communicator is the lack of follow through and programs that should be planned in advance to continue the momentum being gained in Brazil. How are local, regional and national soccer organizations capitalizing on this buzz? What should they be doing and what can other businesses learn from this rise of attention? How does it translate to the world of marketing and public relations?

For marketers of all sized companies, you view a big event or product launch as a milestone in your annual marketing calendar, and plan accordingly. Buildup to the event includes generating momentum to ensure you will not have a one-and-done moment of success. In today’s business world, the brands that are able to ride the wave of momentum throughout the course of a quarter or even throughout the year are the ones that see ultimate success.

In the world of B2B marketing communications and public relations, we’re about three months out from our busy season – when most organizations unveil their big product launch of the year, host their customer events or make their big news splash. We’re preparing a number of earned, owned and shared media strategies to generate opportunities to ride the event’s momentum into the next phase of our programs.

Personally, I am a fan of competition (not necessarily soccer), so I’m watching the World Cup and am rooting for the U.S. because this is a chance for the sport to grab a hold of an opportunity and run with it. Will they? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: the opportunity is here for soccer, and there is a nation of soccer crazies setting up public viewing parties to cheer them on, so I sure hope they take advantage of the World Cup and the time fans are dedicating to the sport and sustain the soccer momentum long after the World Cup wraps.

- Jay O. 

What does tech have to do with the World Cup? More than you’d think

As everyone knows by now, it’s the World Cup (!!!!) – the one month stretch of nationalism, chaos and drama that culminates with a team being crowned the world’s best. It is the most widely watched sporting event in the world and it’s GREAT. 

That being said, the World Cup comes with a unique set of challenges. Aside from causing a nosedive in global productivity (but not at Text100, of course!), the World Cup puts a significant bandwidth strain on technology. Twitter can tell you – during the 2010 World Cup, Twitter experienced multiple outages, leading GigaOm to speculate (I assume correctly) that the World Cup was literally bringing down Twitter. Soccer isn’t nicknamed “the world’s game” for nothing, and Twitter was overwhelmed by populations of entire countries simultaneously tweeting up a flurry celebrating goals, questioning the referees, and whatnot.

Twitter wasn’t going to be tricked twice – it drastically bolstered its operations in preparation of the World Cup this time around. Twitter expanded its servers and created redundant servers to act as “shock absorbers”, kicking in and handling additional web traffic when the primary servers are overwhelmed. (You can read more on Twitter’s backend operations at Fast Company.)

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am one of those people. The spastic reactionary tweets during games, the excessive use of #hashflags, and the whole shebang. I’m also one of those people who doesn’t get ESPN at home, so when I need access to ESPN, I rely on its streaming service, WatchESPN, to catch games. ESPN came out with viewership numbers for the U.S. World Cup opener game against nemesis Ghana – 2.7 million devices streamed 191 million minutes. Not bad, WatchESPN, not bad.

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We are now in week two of the World Cup and it seems Twitter and ESPN were fully prepared to handle the World Cup – instead of fail whales, I’m seeing hashflags and some pretty amazing soccer matches instead. Which is exactly how it should be.

- Steph L.

Happy the Horror Meal: How Brand Participation Can Ensure Customers are Laughing with You, Not at You

On May 19 McDonald’s introduced its new mascot “Happy.” Happy, in theory, represents the Happy Meal and all the fun and goodness that comes with it. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, Happy’s design opened a whole new can (or box) of worms. Happy’s overly enthusiastic smile, human teeth and eager eyes apparently represented the innermost fears of the Twitter community. In no time, there was a mass reaction, including images of Happy photo shopped as a horror movie villain. 

The reaction was so sensational an online marketplace called DesignCrowd created a contest asking participants to Photoshop Happy into horror movie posters. There were 58 entries, and the winner the winner walked away with a $200 prize.

Although one could focus on the fact that the McDonald’s creative team took a wrong turn with that Happy Meal box design, what’s more important is the connection between consumers and brands.

Whether or not McDonald’s will address the fact its newest mascot could really scare some young children, it has to acknowledge the massive response from the online community. Years ago the conversation might have been the same, with critics and running jokes about how terrifying Happy is. Today, the empowered consumer takes this a step further and pokes fun at the company, and online businesses seize the opportunity to gain some traffic and consumer interaction of their own. That is what is so exciting about the consumer-brand relationship today. 

Cartoon in NY Daily News.

Earlier in April, Nature Valley had a similar encounter with the online anime community, narrated by Buzzfeed. A teen tweeted a joke about buying Nature Valley granola bars and discussing anime with its nonexistent friends. The Nature Valley account responded by assuring the teen they knew a couple of real anime enthusiasts in the Twitter world and connected them. This is when the anime fans in Twitter caught wind of that and decided to advance the joke. They started asking Nature Valley anime-related questions, and the account started answering. By the end of April, the communication between the granola bar company and anime fans led to the Nature Valley Anime Art Fest. Yes, you read that right. The Nature Valley Anime Art Fest is a real thing. Teens photo shopped granola bars into anime scenes and gifs and Nature Valley started retweeting them. Granola met anime, and the Twitterverse was ecstatic. Some sample tweets, shown below, demonstrate how consumers not only poked fun at a brand, but created content for the company on their own.

McDonald’s hasn’t yet commented on Happy’s potential rise to horror movie stardom, but it should take a look at Nature Valley’s mastery of taking a joke and building strong relationships with consumers as a result. 

- Andrea E.

A Serial Entrepreneur’s View on the Evolving Tech Landscape

Text100 Boston sat down recently with startup veteran and serial entrepreneur Raju Rishi to discuss trends in the technology industry and how companies can stand out in today’s crowded marketplace. Raju shared some valuable insights on everything from content to data analytics that are valuable for both startups and marketers alike. Below are the highlights from our conversation.

The Importance of Analytics

Today’s technology world is all about analytics. Things that were once considered an art (like marketing) are now being approached as science. Marketing tactics and results are more measurable than ever, and analytics capabilities will only improve over time.

So what does this mean for tech companies and marketers? You need to become an expert in analytics. Tech companies that don’t incorporate analytics functionality into their offers will lose out on customers. Marketers that don’t learn how to speak or use analytics so that they can communicate results and direction to the C-suite will fall behind.

Content is King – But It’s Both Quality And Quantity

We all know the phrase “content is king.” It’s partly because the world is increasingly shifting to a pre-buying model where consumers gather most of the information* they need to make a purchasing decision before ever speaking with a sales rep. This means companies need to produce high quality marketing communications to engage and influence customers across various channels – web, social, mobile, etc. Companies today face the challenge of creating compelling, unique, interesting content with regularity. It’s about quality and quantity.

The good news is that there is a host of content services out there to address both quality and quantity challenges. Contently can help organizations (and PR agencies) create content that tells great stories to positively impact their brand by leveraging a network of freelance journalists. On the other end of the quality/quantity spectrum sits Ceros, a marketing service that allows organizations to quickly and affordably create digital content without developers so they can keep up with hungry readers, viewers, etc. The most successful organizations will make content marketing a priority.

 (*We here at Text100 recently surveyed 1,900 B2B IT decision makers on the purchasing process. Our study revealed just how many places there are for prospects to gather their information and make the right decision for their business. Check it out here.)

Don’t Forget To Create Content for Multiple Platforms

Raju shared a really interesting narrative on how humans interact with content on various technology platforms. When you’re watching TV, you tend to lean back. You’re passively being entertained and don’t interact with the content. When you’re on your computer, you tend to lean forward and are heavily engaged with what’s on your screen. Mobile technologies (smartphones and tablets) produce a response that’s somewhere in between.

When companies design content, they need to address each platform uniquely to solicit the best response and engagement. You can’t just repurpose web content for a mobile device with no changes. It doesn’t work that way. Furthermore, with the proliferation of mobile devices, companies need to make sure they’re creating experiences that will come across positively on mobile platforms. In many cases, this means designing for mobile as the primary platform with web becoming a secondary mechanism for interacting with a brand.

Should Your Early Stage Startup Partner with a Big Tech Company?

While this may seem like a great opportunity, the short answer is no. A lot of the big technology companies have venture capital arms and want to partner with promising startups, but startups should be cautious to enter into this type of arrangement early on in their business. Why? They simply don’t know how big their company will grow and what path it will take. Plus, an early partnership can alienate other companies that might be valuable partners down the road. Early stage startups are better off working with neutral parties and should only consider working with the tech giants once they’ve reached series C or D funding rounds.

What Makes a Valuable PR Agency Partner?

The best PR agency will offer a marriage of strategic insights and boots on the ground support, with the real value created at the strategic level. At the end of the day, technology companies are looking for ideas. Agencies should always strive to offer their best ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. It’s important for agencies to stay on the pulse of their clients’ markets and understand the competition to stay one step ahead of consumers and win.  

Raju is currently a partner at Sigma Prime Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm that specializes in identifying early stage technology companies that have the vision and drive to change the world.

What else do you think technology companies should consider if they want to stand out and make their mark?

- Caroline P. 

Wait, March Madness is going on now?

Just kidding. As everyone knows based on the chatter around their offices, March Madness is happening. Office pools are getting competitive, and people are looking for score updates to see which teams will destroy their brackets or take them to a win for some serious bragging rights. Take a look around your office– do you see a lot of productivity going on? Or, are everyone’s brackets too distracting? In a recent survey from one of our clients, Staples Advantage, March Madness was (not surprisingly) identified as a productivity killer by office workers and managers alike.

That’s not the only thing causing a distraction in the office right now. Spring is finally showing signs of its existence with a sunny 50+ degree day, which is yet another reason employees aren’t paying attention to their work. After the weather we’ve been having for the past few months in Boston, who can blame us for getting a little distracted?

What’s interesting is that the survey also revealed that employees and employers alike believe they are more productive today than five years ago, so there is hope. New technology and workplace trends allow us to be more productive anytime, anywhere. 

So, what can help keep productivity levels high during March Madness and Spring weather? Start by equipping your office with the right technology (including mobile technology to allow for telecommuting), ergonomic furniture, and a well-stocked break room. All of these factors help boost productivity throughout the day, as they not only allow workers to comfortably work where they want, when they want, but also encourage them to step away from their desks and refocus. If you’re looking to go outside and feel what it’s like to not be bundled up in a winter coat, take a walk and get away from your computer. In the end, you’ll come back to work recharged and ready to take on new tasks.

There are ways to be productive, even when the NCAA tournament and Spring weather are involved. It’s just a matter of making sure your office is properly equipped to encourage productivity. 

- Ilena R. 

Snapchat: 10 Seconds of Fame, or the Next Big Marketing Platform?

Within the last few years a countless number of social platforms have been released that allow users to communicate with each other in new and innovative ways. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter were originally created for user-to-user communication, but are now used as marketing tools by prominent businesses.

Businesses use social platforms to reach a broader audience, more consistently and often at a lower cost. As a result, we can expect to see businesses continue to use these platforms to market their products in the future.    

Facebook and Twitter have long been the leaders in social media marketing. But it may come as a surprise to some that Snapchat is making a strong push to be the next big thing in social media marketing. When people think of Snapchat, they typically think of goofy photos of themselves or their friends that disappear after just 10 seconds. Well now Snapchat is adding new features that allow it to be used as a more effective marketing tool.

In early October of 2013, Snapchat released an update allowing for “stories” to be created. Snapchat “stories” compile users’ snaps together to create a narrative of their experiences. These narratives last for 24 hours before they are deleted, just like regular snaps.  This update could prove beneficial for businesses that are attempting to use Snapchat as a potential tool for marketing. 

One company leading the way and integrating Snapchat into their marketing plan is 16 Handles, a self-serve yogurt chain.  One promotion from 16 Handles allowed you to receive store credit if you snapped them a picture of you eating their product.  Once the picture was sent, you would then receive an automated snap back from the 16 Handles account. To take advantage of the promotion, you would open the snap the next time you were at the store and receive a coupon   (see below) with anywhere from 16% to 100% off of that order. This is a great example of how a social app can be effective for marketing.

Other companies that have started using Snapchat are Taco Bell, Audi, Acura, Karmaloop and Grubhub. It will be exciting to see how these companies come up with different ways to use Snapchat to promote their brands. 

Since the release of Snapchat in 2011, it has become one of the most popular apps downloadable for smart phones and tablets. Snapchat is popular mainly because of how simple and fast it is to use.  Messages can be created and consumed in just the matter of seconds, which is probably why it is so addicting to many of us.  A staggering 350 million images are sent per day! With numbers like that, it should come as no surprise that companies are looking into ways to take advantage.   Who would have thought that Snapchat could turn 10 seconds into a long-term marketing platform? I for one did not, but I am looking forward to seeing where this new social tool can go. 

- Ryan M. 

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Textie Growth: The Power of the Intern

I like to think that Text100 sets itself apart because many people have grown-up here. When I say “grown-up,” I mean that we have a unique group of people in the Boston office that started out as interns, and have grown within the company and as people, myself included.

I talked to some of my fellow former interns and asked a few questions about their time at Text100 and what they think makes it special. My first question to them was “What is your favorite aspect of Text100?” 100% of them said my co-workers and the culture. I find that pretty remarkable!

Stephanie Liu, who is now an account coordinator, said, “At one of my previous internships, the fun committee always had to persuade people to grab drinks or attend office outings – definitely not a problem we have at Text100. From welcome drinks for new hires to beer o’clock every Friday, Texties are a sociable bunch.”

Kate Mather,  who is now a senior account executive, agreed, saying, “Not only do I get to work with great people every day, but I get to feel like I’m part of a team, I’m respected and encouraged, and I feel cared for. In the corporate world, it’s easy to feel as though you’re just some ‘number.’ But at Text100, I feel as though my managers, teammates, and office coworkers care about me as a person and as an employee. Everyone is very collaborative and we do a great job of building people up rather than breaking them down.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’ve been at Text for six months or 10 years, you are treated with the same level respect as the next employee.

Greg Doonan, who was recently promoted from intern to the account coordinator role, made a great point:  he thinks Text100 is different because, “unlike many companies, Text100 managers make a concerted effort to respect the importance of a work/life balance. PR can be a ‘sink or swim’ industry, but everyone I’ve worked with at Text100 respects the need for personal time and will assist you if you feel overwhelmed.”

During our pow-wow, where it was hard to stop socializing (we all really like each other), we talked about the most important lessons we learned while we were interns.  Stephanie commented, “Texties appreciate hard work and dedication. During your internship, you’ll have days that are crazy busy and days that are really slow. It’s on the days when you’re twiddling your thumbs that you really have the opportunity to shine in the office by showing you’re proactive, interested in the work you do here, and willing to lend a hand.” Greg agreed and added, “There are always ways to assist.”

A testament to the Text100 way, and reflecting our company values that every Textie learns when hired is our “Kickass” awards each week. Each week there are nominations and voting – winners can be great pitch teams, account teams, or individuals who secured something great that week, and all winners get awesome gift cards, along with high-fives from the team.

And here are some words of wisdom from those of us who have interned at Text:

  • Be proactive in communicating. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because you will save time and people want to help. Offer your assistance, because there are opportunities to work with various co-workers on a number of projects and get exposure.
  • Work hard, think things through. Be detail-oriented; if you aren’t already, teach yourself to be. Also, I think questions are great – I ask a ton of them myself – but I appreciate when someone takes the time to really let directions sink in, or do some research, or search around the server, before asking how to do something or where to look.
  • Be curious. When I had slow days as an intern, I did a lot of poking around in the email directory to see which accounts people worked on and how they are staffed; I also looked at the account aliases to get a sense of which accounts the other North America offices have, and I asked people what projects they were working on. It helped me gain a better understanding of the type of work Text100 does and how I fit into the picture.
  • It’s not just an internship – it’s a way of learning the industry from the ground up and it’s why so many of our interns stay with the company and go on to have successful careers here. Not only does Text offer a great learning environment, but we invest ourselves in the growth of every single employee – including interns. When we interview intern candidates, we want to know that they’re passionate about learning and very proactive. It goes a long way in our office!

Text100 recognizes PR is not for the faint of heart, and rewards hard work, dedication and growth. If you are interested in an internship at with Text100, please contact our HR office for more information at najobs@text100.com.  

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And the Young Shall Inherit the Tweets. Or Not.

Since the business world started to take notice of the meteoric rise of the social media, there has been one trope that continues to ring out: Let the youngest in the office handle it since they’re probably the only ones who understand “that stuff.”

For a few years, maybe, it might have held some truth. Teenagers and college students were early adopters and still tend to drive a large degree of innovation. But they aren’t the only users in town. In fact, across social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn, users between 35 and 64 have been joining at a rate far surpassing their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.

For brands trying to reach current and potential customers, this middle-aged migration to the social sphere represents greater opportunities for engagement. Older demographics have always had greater purchasing power, but now they are closing the gap in digital savvy. This means that not only are audiences you once thought turned a deaf ear to “that kids’ stuff” playing in the sandbox of online media, but they are flocking to do so in greater numbers – and with more aplomb – than ever before.

“So,” you might be saying, “what does this all mean?” It means that older audiences are not just visiting Facebook to dominate Farmville or trolling YouTube for the latest cat video. OK, so maybe they’re still looking for cat videos, but that really defies age. Now, these important audiences are using social networks to interact, build relationships and gain insight into the issues that matter to them.

You can’t pretend that social only matters to 14 year olds with a severe case of Bieber fever. It matters to everyone, even if they’re more likely to have fully-vested 401(k) than a weekly allowance. With an older audience comes the realization that it’s more about the genuine ability to have a conversation online than whether or not you fondly recall the time LaserDisc and Betamax were the future of technology or are too young to remember the three weeks Zip Drives were going to change everything

There are plenty of questions to ask when it comes to social media, and that’s where Text100 is here to help, but the first one should not be, “are we ‘young’ enough?”

By Dan P., our newest Text100 Intern

An e-book in three hours, and more thoughts from “Take Flight with PR”

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While it sounds impossible – and some might liken it to going around the world in three days – students at Boston University’s College of Communication took the lead from Professor Edward Boches to conceive, write, design, produce and publish a 68-page e-book in three hours.

Our eyebrows raised when we heard this at “Take Flight with PR,” an event hosted by The Council of PR firms and Boston University on October 3. We’ve written e-books for clients, but we’ve spent more than three hours, three days, even three weeks to produce content that connects people with brands. Yet, there was something formidable and exciting about Boches’ approach of “courage, collaboration, creativity” that helped his students focus on the task at hand and “fight for the project rather than for their own individual recognition.” This is so intrinsic to Text100’s values of “We are ONE TEAM.”

At the event geared to preparing students for careers in communication, Boches also nudged students in attendance to avoid getting comfortable with what they already know. He maintained that “the individuals and agencies who are failing now — or at least falling behind — are doing so because they lack the courage to leap forward and learn new technologies, platforms and ways of connecting.” Text100’s value of “We DARE” fuels our ability to help our clients create content that will help inform and influence decisions – stories and content that go beyond words and media – across platforms to help brands connect with people in a very powerful way.

This theme of embracing new challenges and committing to an ongoing learning process was also pervasive in the panel discussion that followed, during which one of our own – Ken Peters – spoke alongside four other PR pros from agencies in the Boston area to a room full of PR hopefuls. The Text factor certainly shined through as Ken explained how important it is to a company like Text100 to set high expectations for employees and encourage them to grow and learn, all the while having a dedicated and collaborative team of people there to help and evolve with them in the process.

As digitally savvy students enter the job market and build their careers, they need to be comfortable with an ongoing career evolution. We have seen this transition during our own careers at Text100 as we move from traditional PR consultants to integrated communications consultants — built on Text100’s legacy of 32 years of experience in sharing content for the world’s most important and innovative brands. It is an exciting time in our industry – the opportunities are limitless, and it’s up to us what we do with them.

- Ilena and Lisa Silver