London Calling: PR and Media Across the Pond

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PR Across the Pond

The crinkle of the Monday paper, rumble of phone conversations and the aromas of tea and coffee brewing. These are the sensations that kicked off a week in London with Highwire’s sister agency Brands2Life.  

Agency Life

The similarities between Highwire and Brands2Life are many. We are both independent agencies with a focus on storytelling, teams, education and results. My Monday morning started with a office huddle where the agency founders fired up the team for the week ahead. I also had the opportunity to witness the month’s Impact Coverage meeting, where teams across the agency shared successful campaigns for a chance to win a prize. My favorites, an app built for a client launch and a successful newsjack, which resulted in broadcast coverage for old data. This reminded me of how Highwire recognizes its teams with team dinner celebrations and “High Fives”—in which individual and team efforts are praised.

As for the differences, most noticeable was the time zone advantage. In San Francisco, mornings are a juggling act with team’s catching up on email and news while simultaneously trying to connect with reporters. While this also holds true in London, the time zone made their mornings feel a bit more luxurious. I found the team’s morning news dissection huddles to be particularly amazing. Communication also differed. In the U.S., with teams across various time zones, we rely heavily on Skype, Slack, HipChat and BlueJeans to connect. In London, with the entire team in one office interactions happen at desks instead of over screens.  

PR Activities  

No matter the market, PR is the same at its core. Everyone is focused on telling a compelling story. We all place a big focus on relationships and spend our time connecting with reporters. We also all rely heavily on the creative power of bringing minds together. Brainstorms are when the best ideas are created, from unique takes on survey data to interactive elements like pop-up events that give target audiences an experience. One great example, is the high-speed selfie campaign that recently won the Brands2Life team PR Week’s award for technology campaign of the year—congrats!

During my time in London, I was lucky enough to help one of the consumer teams think of new ideas for a campaign targeting business travelers. We spent an hour thinking about our own traveling experiences and putting together ideas to help the client standout—airport concierge anyone?  

The biggest PR difference is the strategy behind campaigns. There seems to be a bigger integration between marketing, advertising and PR than in the States. I noticed teams developing advertising campaigns hand-in-hand with the PR narratives that would support them.

Press and Events

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Node-Red in action

By far, my favorite part about London was the people! I loved getting to meet our agency partners, witnessing media relations rockstars in action, and connecting with local clients and press. For instance, attending OSCON showed me how truly awesome and powerful Raspberry Pi is thanks to IBM’s Node Red. Plus the technical session on microservices was surprisingly easy to follow.

I also got the opportunity to meet with Kadhim Shubber of The Financial Times (FT) and Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch. Both are incredible reporters and people. With Kadhim, I discussed the impact of Brexit on the London Fintech market. The biggest concern for him is VC investment given how much money comes from outside investors. I also got some pitching advice: all FT employees around the world adhere to a noon UK deadline for stories. Remember that next time you before you pick up the phone.

As for Ingrid, her range of coverage is broad. She’s interested in following the money. In regards to AI, she wants to dive into the new cases that are highlighting its power. From a pitching perspective, she’s OK with follow-up emails as her inbox is always overflowing and mentioned to check in with her as she probably missed your first email. 

Do you have a story to share about your international PR experience? We’d love to hear about it on our Facebook page.

Three Trends You’ll See at AWS re:Invent 2016

DevOps, machine learning and global architecture to be key conference trends

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Under Armour uses the AWS cloud platform to give more than 180 million users access to its  Connected Fitness platform. Airbnb can store 10 terabytes of user photos with Amazon S3 to house backups and static files. Atlassian deploys its wildly popular HipChat and Bitbucket platforms on it. What do these companies have in common? They all use products from the AWS ecosystem to make their companies more efficient.

With over 24,000 projected attendees, this year’s AWS re:Invent will bring together companies from all over the world to learn more about the organization’s ecosystem and what to look for in 2017.

From Amazon CloudWatch to Amazon GameLift, this conference will have over 400 technical sessions led by industry leaders and AWS partners.

With all this going on, what should you be sure not to miss?

Three trends to watch out for at this conference are DevOps, machine learning and global architecture. Check out our analysis below to help understand how these trends will shape 2017.

DevOps

  • The USA Today description:
    • DevOps encourages communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and IT operations — two business units that have traditionally functioned independently. DevOps is a combination of philosophies, practices and tools to increase the agility of a company’s processes and software development cycle.
  • Why does it matter?
    • DevOps creates a more effective and personalized customer experience, innovates existing software more reliably and accelerates the software delivery cycle. That means faster processes, better service and happier customers.
  • What to expect at AWS re:Invent:
    • Look out for a fireside chat with Groupon, Intuit and LifeLock, as well as a breakout session with AOL on the challenges in providing next-generation applications. These companies are ready to talk about how implementing a DevOps model will protect your company from the competition leading into 2017.  
  • AWS Ecosystem Spotlight, Atlassian:
    • Atlassian Bamboo enables teams to collaborate, build software and serve their customers better. The continuous delivery tool offers strong integrations with AWS for teams to produce software in short cycles that can be built, tested and released faster and more frequently.

Machine Learning

  • The USA Today description:
  • Why does it matter?
    • Machine learning algorithms can be trained over time to make intelligent recommendations for a variety of applications. Machine learning can help with everything from facial recognition, fraud detection and even more accurate medical diagnoses. Ultimately, machine learning will save businesses time and money while delivering a higher quality of service to customers.
  • What to expect at AWS re:Invent:
    • The financial services industry and security functions are going to take the spotlight at re:Invent with use cases in fraud detection and security automation that any company can implement on the AWS platform.

Global (Enterprise) Architecture

  • The USA Today description:
    • Global architecture is a way of building a company’s IT hardware and strategy to support global growth from the beginning. This means solving a broader set of requirements and challenges than other companies that exclusively look domestically.
  • Why does it matter?
    • Running a nationwide IT operation is difficult, but global IT is even more complicated to support. Any company looking to operate globally can expect more pressures, especially related to the availability and quality of service. It’s important for companies to keep this in mind before tackling an international expansion.
  • What to expect at AWS re:Invent:
    • Netflix will present on its journey of failure, innovation and ubiquity as it scaled globally. The session will dive into the architectural patterns that support the streaming giant.

Chicago Ideas Week at a Glance

What do creativity, navy seals and gender equality all have in common?

Chicago Ideas recently hosted its sixth annual Chicago Ideas Week, a festival that brings entrepreneurs, philanthropists, celebrities and other thought leaders from around the globe together to discuss topics from health to hip hop.

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Our Chicago team (plus a special guest from the San Francisco office, Celina Poonamallee) attended a few sessions throughout the week. The first being Creativity at Work, which reminded us that creativity is truly at the center of almost every field. A diverse lineup of speakers—including an astronomer, a New York Times reporter and the designer behind Nike’s Air Jordans—explained how they transformed their careers and lives by thinking outside the box.

Our favorite highlight of the session was Jesse Itzler, a millionaire entrepreneur and author of “Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.” To say Itzler has a unique background would be an understatement: He sold his first two companies (to Berkshire Hathaway and Coca-Cola, respectively), ran 100 miles in under 24 hours, is married to the founder of Spanx and started his career as a rapper with his single “Shake It Like A White Girl.” Despite all these accomplishments, Itzler recently found himself functioning on autopilot. Naturally, he invited a Navy SEAL into his home for a month to “shake things up a bit” and then wrote a book about it.
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Itzler explained that he sees creativity as a survival skill, a concept that should be familiar to anyone in the tech space. Innovations come to life in Silicon Valley every day. No organization, from legacy companies working towards digital transformation to startups trying to stand out from the crowd, can survive without creative ideas.

Another session, Venture Capital: The Glass Ceiling No One Ever Talks About, put a spotlight on the gender gap that is too often overlooked in today’s market. The panel of women entrepreneurs  moderated by CNN’s Poppy Harlow included some incredible and inspiring women, including Sarah Kunst, founder and CEO of Proday; Beth Haggerty, co-founder of Parity Partners; and Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and president of Context Media.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-2-09-34-pmThe panel began by describing the issue at hand: Less than 5 percent of all ventures receiving equity capital have women on their executive team. Driven by a natural gender bias, women entrepreneurs have been facing an uphill battle to achieve success compared to their male counterparts. One of the panelists, Shradha, even shared that when she and her business partner began pitching for their first round of funding, she was was asked not to attend the VC pitches in order to avoid the bias and enhance their odds at securing the financing.

This session hit a chord with us, causing us to reflect on how inspiring it is to work for a company founded by three strong women entrepreneurs. Because we are so luckily surrounded by a female-powered culture, it’s easy to forget that this gender gap is a critical issue in today’s society. We learned that to make an impact and change the stereotypes of the future, we need to change the culture. In the words of the panelist, start by simply showing up and speaking up. We need to amplify each other’s voices,both men and women. And we need be confident in our abilities, applaud success and recognize our accomplishments.

Whether it’s instilling some more creativity in our work or making changes to increase diversity and equality, we can all make an impact and implement real change.

What will you do to close the gap or shake things up?

Don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter @HighwirePR and check out @chicagoideas for highlights of Chicago Ideas Week.