Inspiring the Next Generation of Marketers at INBOUND 2018

Just as summer is winding down, every September more than 24,000 people flood Boston for Hubspot’s annual marketing conference – INBOUND. Touting the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama, Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, and founder of the “me too” movement Tarana Burke, Hubspot furnishes a star-studded lineup of speakers eager to share their personal experiences, successes, failures and learnings with marketing and PR professionals from all corners of the world.

I had the pleasure of attending the conference for three days earlier this month on behalf of Highwire PR. In those three days I heard from over 16 passionate, tack-sharp business executives, entrepreneurs, celebrities and other well-respected leaders from a cornucopia of industries.

Amidst all of this excitement and a sea of Insta-worthy swingy chairs (one of which I absolutely took for a spin) here are a few takeaways that I gleaned from high-powered leaders at the conference.

The Importance of Analog

As our world becomes increasingly more connected and rooted in technologies, many of the speakers at INBOUND stressed the importance of preserving non-digital experiences. For marketing and PR professionals, technology provides an unprecedented level and frequency of communication that opens doors and enhances our efforts. However, the enthusiastic adoption of technology has created a sense of social anxiety — constantly checking email, posting on Instagram, tweeting about an experience — that directly impacts our ability to “stay in the moment.”

Joanna Coles, former chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, and SoulCycle co-founder Julie Rice both offered a solution to combat this lack of human connection by finding some sense of community around us. Whether it’s at your local spin studio, book club, community chorus —  wherever — it’s critical that we carve out a niche to forge these connections sans smartphones.

Similarly, former vice chair of GE Beth Comstock and Troy Carter, Spotify global head of creator services, cautioned against replacing our human instinct with data. While measurement is key to benchmarking success in business, it’s critical that we don’t “rely on the crutch of data,” warned Troy. Our gut instinct is invaluable and uniquely human, leading us to free thinking and possibility in a way that data does not.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

In almost every single session, there was a clear throughline: effective prioritization and success go hand in hand. Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said it best when she shared that  “the ability to ruthlessly prioritize” was vital when she joined the Vimeo team. For most of us, there will never be a shortage of work. It’s easy to get distracted and suffer from “shiny object syndrome,” bouncing from task to task without much thought. However, in doing so we often spend time on things that don’t necessarily require our attention, spurring stress and burnout. Where we can reclaim our power is realizing we can’t do it all. It’s OK to push back or save a task for another time; as Anjali stated, “If you have a day where you try to do everything, you’ll do nothing well.”

Seek Out Creativity

Creativity is the lifeblood of PR — it’s what we use to help our clients stand out and share their stories. Therefore, it’s critical that we make time for creativity. How do we do this? INBOUND speakers had plenty to share on the topic.

  • Nourish our curiosities: We musn’t shy away from hard questions, but rather follow them and see where they lead.
  • Challenge gatekeepers: Beth Comstock implored us to reevaluate what we hold to be true. She urged us to invite people in whose judgement and perspectives make for “agitated inquiry” that produces sturdy, well-fleshed-out ideas.
  • Actively carve out space for creativity: Be sure to set aside designated time to flex these creative muscles and imagine new possibilities.

It’s difficult to lift your head above the PR noise, but attending INBOUND this year helped me realize just how valuable time, balance and creativity truly are. These three elements are also integral parts of the culture and vision here at Highwire. I love working for a company that encourages its employees to continuously identify creative outlets — whether that’s attending industry events like INBOUND or in my day-to-day work.  Until next year, INBOUND, and thanks so much Highwire!

Inspiring growth – Highwire’s Agency-Wide Radical Candor Training

Highwire was built to be an agency that prioritizes collaboration, teamwork and collegiality as much as progress and client success. In order to grow our own careers, honest feedback is critical, but the process of sharing and receiving feedback can be awkward, uncomfortable and even harsh. Giving and receiving feedback is something we all need to improve on as we look to grow our careers.

As part of Highwire’s diversity and inclusion initiative to learn to work better together, the entire agency recently learned the ins and outs of Radical Candor from Joe Dunn at Radical Candor, LLC. Radical Candor is the ability to challenge directly and show you care personally at the same time while delivering feedback.

Giving a training to both our East Coast and West Coast staff, Joe provided the agency with the tools to provide effective feedback and strengthened our agency’s culture of feedback. Here’s how we’re embarking on working better together.

Why’s it important?

“Radical Candor gives us a framework to have the conversations that keep us true to our best intentions and ensures that we are moving forward, together,” said Carol Carrubba, principal at the agency. “Those that practice radical candor and take the chances now will be more likely to get what they want in the future.”

It’s easy to get carried away talking to teammates over Slack, text and email –  especially since it’s an avenue to avoid uncomfortable face to face conversations. This is not effective. Radical Candor has given us shared language and tools to drive our careers and have those necessary conversations, even when it’s not easy.

The recent trainings on Radical Candor did more than provide staff the format and tools to give effective feedback – it was also an opportunity to carve out time for feedback in our minds and make others feel confident delivering and receiving feedback.

“If something is bothering me, I have a tendency to let it sit,” said Ali Wilson, intern in the agency’s San Francisco office. “This training has inspired me to deal with challenges as they come and to communicate with my teams, managers and colleagues frequently, honestly and openly about any challenges I may be facing.”

How we’re embracing it

Change isn’t something that can happen overnight. But according to Dallas Ripka, account executive in the New York office, she’s actively working to implement what we learned.

“Since our training I’ve been striving to give and receive feedback more candidly” said Ripka. “The training opened my eyes to the importance of having more one-on-one conversations with teammates in-person or via phone. I’m asking more of my teammates for direct feedback and look forward to more collaborative conversations that act as opportunities for growth.”

But to truly embrace the model for giving feedback, we were asked to bring one piece of feedback to the half-day workshop that we’ve been avoiding or delaying. In small groups, we applied the Radical Candor model to learn how to give this feedback effectively.

“I’ve been trying to find a way to give feedback to a teammate for a while now but was nervous with how they would take it,” said Ashley Angello, senior account executive in New York. “I was finally able to have this conversation using Radical Candor and I’m glad I did because it opened up a better rapport with this person overall.”

As we continue to grow our careers, try new things and work with new people it is important that we strengthen our culture of feedback and inclusion at Highwire. This training is another example of the work our team is doing to not only effectively provide feedback internally, but externally as well.

“We’re masters of words and need to get better at ensuring we use our words in the best, most transparent and productive way with each other,” said Meredith Klee, vice president in San Francisco.

Curious about being part of something different? See our open opportunities here, or reach out to a Highwire Walker to learn more.