Media Talk Tech Panel Recap

As PR professionals, it’s imperative to periodically check in with the media to gain a better understanding of the stories they’re looking for and how we can work together to tell those stories.

That’s why last week we, along with the Silicon Valley and San Francisco chapters of PRSA, hosted Jason Wilson of VentureBeat, David Pierce of Wired and Sean Captain of Fast Company at our office to share their thoughts on topics ranging from the state of media to how publications are handling the convergence of technology and politics.

On Audience

Panelists also touched on what they’re looking for from a source. The number one thing? They have to understand the publication’s audience, said Jason Wilson.

On Story Characters

David Pierce added that he has become good at knowing when people are giving him a speech and he’s more interested in finding the character of the story and hearing their experience firsthand.

On Politics

When asked how politics have impacted the newsroom over the past year, the panelists agreed it varies for each publication.

“You think about the role Facebook played in the election, and you realize this is just our world now, and we have to deal with it,” said Pierce. “But we have to ask ourselves where it makes sense for us to get involved and why our readers would care about it.”

On Angles

For Sean Captain, it’s all about how you approach the story. “Everyone wants to jump into the conversation, but you have to find the angle that works for your readership,” he said.

Check out the highlight video below, and take a look at the Highwire and PRSA social channels for videos, quotes and more from the panel!

Highwire Spotlight: Behind the Scenes with Our Training Program

Introducing our training program to ensure success in PR


Just as technology, politics and culture change at a rapid pace, so do the skills required to succeed in the business communications landscape.  As PR professionals, we are expected to stay at the top of our game and one of the best ways to do that is by constantly challenging ourselves to learn and try new things.

Through the Highwire Training Program, we aim to not only train the skills required for the job (pitching, messaging, writing, etc.) but also for business. To that end, we bring in improv coaches, productivity experts and management consultants to train us in those areas.

Three team members collaborating on a work projectThe Highwire Training Program consists of five complementary pillars:

  • PR Skills: Based on skill level, we offer two tracks: Fundamentals and Advanced
  • Writing/Editing/Pitching: Featuring our writing coach Lauren Edwards from WriteCulture, who conducts monthly level-specific writing, editing and pitching sessions and is available year-round for 1:1 consultations
  • Mid-Management Training: Specifically guides Senior Account Executives through the transition to the Account Manager role
  • Reporter Lunch & Learn: Reporters and editors give us the lowdown on how they work and how we can work best together  
  • Monthly Sessions: A catch-all for the larger skill areas such as productivity and time management, business development, management skills and improv

The old adage goes, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Nowhere is that more relevant than in communications, where you’re only as good as your last article or tweet. Maintaining a solid training program with regular input from all levels is one of the keys to achieve relevancy and proficiency.


Keep an eye out for upcoming posts where we share our knowledge about what we’ve learned in training. And learn on!

Meet the Furry Friends of Highwire

It’s no secret that Highwire is a pet-friendly place, and in honor of National Pet Week, we’re dedicating a blog to some of our favorite furry (and not so furry) friends.

If these cute faces have you itching for a companion of your own, you can use Shelter Pal to find the perfect shelter pet near you who is ready to be rescued. Just text ‘Shelter Me’ to 980-477-3728 — Artificial intelligence and image recognition powered by Twilio will help match your lifestyle with the perfect pet!

Meet a few of our best friends: 


Olive Besa-Kallens Wolfson

Instagram Handle: @oliveinmypocket

City: Albany, CA

Hobbies: Eating books and pretending to read them

Highwire Human: Ben Wolfson




Amaebi & Domino

City: Daly City, CA

Hobbies: Eating and maintaining my big-girl status (Amaebi); sneaking into the bed at night to cuddle with my humans (Domino)

Highwire Human: Amy Tsui



Gup & Farfalle Carrubba

Instagram Handle: @farfallethepup

City: San Francisco

Hobbies: Frog-dogging in the sun, snoring loudly, bringing joy to everyone I meet (Farf); Hanging out with my boy and figuring out how my crazy long legs and paws work (Gup)

Highwire Human: Carol Carrubba



Winston Wrinkles Hagenmedia-20170508-3

Instagram Handle: @winston_the_frenchton

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Procuring socks, enjoying fine cheeses,
going on
long walks and being carried home from them

Highwire Human: Natalie Pacini



Ella Farrellmedia-20170508-4

City: New York City

Hobbies: Playing fetch and eating tuna

Highwire Human: Margaret Farrell






Rosie Manganmedia-20170508-5

City: Danville, CA

Hobbies: Long walks in the suburbs and identifying new pillows to sleep on

Highwire Human: Natalie Mangan




Peppa GagliardiGG (1)

City: North Caldwell, NJ

Hobbies: Hide-and-seek on my own terms

Highwire Human: Gia Gagliardi







Maxx PlatiFullSizeRender

Instagram Hashtag: #maxxthehuman

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Eating acorns and chasing squirrels

Highwire Human: Nicole Plati




Hendrix Polar Torresmedia-20170508-1

City: El Sobrante, CA

Hobbies: Playing in water, helping with yard work (sticks involved), and steering clear of doorstops (scary)

Highwire Human: Andrea Torres






Baz Khya & RodeoScreen Shot 2017-05-08 at 12.34.04 PM

: New York City

Hobbies: Hoarding trash (Baz Khya); lying in the snow and wrestling (Rodeo)

Highwire Human
: Natalie Tijerina





Cotton media-20170508-11Davick-Latham

: Oakland

Hobbies: Perfecting the “Dog with the Pearl Earring” look

Highwire Human: Tanner Latham






Taco Harlanmedia-20170508-8

City: New York City

Hobbies: Sleeping on people (including my human baby sister Sloane), sleeping on books, finding new and interesting surfaces to sleep on

Highwire Human: Jennifer Harlan







Willie Gratehousemedia-20170508-12

City: San Francisco & Sonoma

Hobbies: Barking at leaf blowers, enjoying treats and going on walks

Highwire Human: Kathleen Gratehouse






Pepper Navaltamedia-20170508-13

City: San Francisco

Hobbies: Chasing shadows (not a metaphor)

Highwire Human: Chris Navalta







Theo Hillsmedia-20170508-16

City: Providence, RI

Hobbies: Chewing on walls, but my human is trying to get me to expand my horizon

Highwire Human: Chris Hills







media-20170508-15Ella Bean Fitzgerald & Mimi Giachetti

City: Oakland

Hobbies: Being active and trying to make friends with Mimi (Ella); sleeping, trying to avoid Ella (Mimi)

Highwire Human
: Gina Giachetti





Mickey Militanamedia-20170508-14

City: Chicago

Hobbies: Serving as the cutest ring-bearer you’ve ever seen

Highwire Human:  Marlena Militana







Benny Bubbico Ciullamedia-20170508-17

Instagram Handle: @thebennybubs

City: White Plains, NY

Hobbies: Chasing balls and bunnies in the backyard

Highwire Human: Lindsay Ciulla





Oliver (Ollie) Gauthiermedia-20170508-18

City: Oakland

Hobbies: Licking plastic bags, playing with my toy carrot and eating our house plants

Highwire Human: Mariah Gauthier







Maggie Sedin10411775_10205253064705191_4162205524789019084_n

City: Fremont, CA

Hobbies: Eating, sleeping and avoiding kisses from my human

Highwire Human: Marielle Sedin






Annie Smedleymedia-20170508-19

City: Santa Clara, CA

Hobbies: Throwing toys across the room and knocking things over

Highwire Human: Shane Smith







Indo ReedMendocinoSand

Facebook Page:

: Alameda, CA

Being the ultimate hunk and carrying around things like buckets and tools

Highwire Human: Jill Reed




Do you have any fur babies powering your agency? Let us know in the comments below (and share plenty of pictures please)!

Making an Impact on Earth Day

One of the truly great things about Highwire PR is the passionate group of people that work here. Highwire employees are passionate about improving their communities. We’re passionate about helping animals, working with displaced communities and families, helping people out during times when they need it most, and ensuring the places that we live and breathe are sustainable.

This past weekend marked the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, and so we wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the great work that our team has done to take care of our Mother Earth.


Building a Clean and Sustainable Community

For the past few years, the San Francisco team has joined forces with some of our Bay Area PR agency friends to “Rock the Earth.” Annually, we help clean up and protect a local lake that’s near and dear to our hearts — Mountain Lake.

Mountain Lake is one of San Francisco’s last surviving natural lakes and the only natural lake in the entire 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The lake has been through a lot in its 2,000 years, beginning in 1939 when a highway was constructed nearby, shrinking its size and causing pollution. Since then, runoff from fertilizer at the neighboring golf course has added to the pollution and countless pets and other animals (goldfish, turtles and even an alligator) have been released into the lake, forcing out the native wildlife and damaging the ecological system.

This year, Bay Area PR agencies got their hands dirty to help by removing invasive plant species, laying down mulch for native plants, and shoveling sediment from ditches that led directly to the lake.

Park Clean Up

San Francisco team members Marisa Hutton and Marielle Sedin clear out ditches during “Rock the Earth.”


Cleaning up the Trash

Earlier this year, the Chicago team (with special SF guest Shari) got their hands dirty at Lincoln Park Conservancy to assist in wild habitat restoration by pulling and weeding out non-native plant species in the park.

This Saturday, they came together again to pick up trash at the historic Lincoln Park. The team worked with other locals to mulch around park trees and trails, cleared winter debris, planted native wildflowers and grasses, and cleaned up the park. The Highwire crew specifically worked on painting and refurbishing benches in the park.

The New York team joined in the fun as well to pick up trash as part of Central Park’s “Pick Up, Pitch In,” initiative, beautifying the most visited park in the United States.

Chicago Park Cleanup

Brenna Hogan, Natalie Pacini and Erika Ackerman of the Chicago office paint benches at Lincoln Park on Earth Day.


Loving the Earth Year Round

Beyond cleaning up our local parks on earth day, the Highwire team makes an impact on the environment all year long.

The Chicago office often partners with Green City Market to support the growth of sustainable food. Green City Market seeks to support small family farms and promote good health through education and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably raised produce and products.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco team joined the global CleanSpace movement, becoming part of the first cohort of citizen scientists collecting air quality data for “MapSF.” By carrying around iPhone-sized sensors known as a “Clean Space Tag”, the team is collecting data about the air quality of where we live, breathe and work, and contributing to an air quality heat map across the Bay Area. The data will be used to keep track of the air quality across the area and improve our daily lives.

To find out how you can get involved in projects that help the environment on Earth Day and throughout the year, visit the Earth Day website or


The Art of Bad Publicity

Is there a silver lining in today’s bad publicity?

It’s been widely reported that President Trump masqueraded as his own publicist in the 1970s, 80s and 90s in order to boast about his life. The president is the self-proclaimed master of “The Art of the Deal,” but does he also own the art of bad publicity?  And does his election victory in the face of campaign implosions, leaked scandals and myriad other crises support the old adage that there is no such thing as it?  

PR missteps, even crises, happen from time to time. The online world we live in means everything is amplified and “going viral” can happen in an instant. Seventy-two percent of customers trust online opinions as much as they trust their family and friends, according to Forrester Research. This means publicity, good or bad, is highly influential in a world where we’re constantly sharing and consuming information online.  Recent cases of messaging gone wrong have included Pepsi, Uber and United. While some of these brands have suffered serious damage, the question remains: is there a silver lining in any of this bad publicity?

Let’s take Pepsi’s widely mocked ad featuring Kendall Jenner, sister to Kim (Khloe, Kourtney…you know who we’re talking about). Yes, the food and beverage corporation issued an apology after the criticism, but it’s estimated that Pepsi got somewhere between $300 million and $400 million in free media coverage out of the controversy. To put that into perspective, then-candidate Trump earned $400 million worth of free media in February 2016 while campaigning, which is close to what Sen. John McCain spent on his ENTIRE 2008 presidential campaign. Additionally, Pepsi’s mentions on social media were up more than 7,000 percent the day the ad debuted, according to Brandwatch. In one day, Pepsi garnered 1.25 million mentions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Only just over half of those mentions were negative, means that just under half of that explosion of conversation was positive or neutral.  And that negativity might not have been as painful as you would expect. Analytics experts actually say that negative mentions are given somewhat less weight than positive or neutral mentions.  Whether intended or not, Pepsi got the whole world talking about them.

Moving to the airline industry, we recently touched on United’s woes (its stock price and reputation plummeted), but that calls to mind another carrier case. US Airlines once replied to a customer complaint tweeted at them with a pornographic image. The tweet stayed on the company’s profile for a full 60 minutes before it was removed, but not before it’d received 476 retweets. Here’s the thing: After the damage had been done, US Airlines actually gained 14,000 followers as result of the Twitter attention.

Lastly, it’s been an outright battle on the roadways between Uber and Lyft, as the rideshare giants compete to dominate the streets. Uber was plagued by scandal early in 2017, including the popular #DeleteUber hashtag campaign. Lyft, whose value is approximately 10 times smaller than Uber’s, has worked to capitalize on the good feelings surrounding their platform, announcing an opt-in app feature that allows riders to automatically route rounded-up ride charges to charity. But for all of Uber’s troubles, the question of whether the company has been hurt by all the negative publicity remains to be seen. Uber announced recently that their ridership numbers in the first 10 weeks of 2017 eclipsed those of early 2016, and an eventual public offering may be looming, as has been predicted.  

In describing publicity in “The Art of the Deal,” President Trump had this to say, “Good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.” So is any publicity good publicity? From a PR perspective, the battle to stand out from the crowd is fiercer than ever before. But where’s the line between good PR and bad? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.

We want to hear from you! What’s your take on the line between good PR and bad? Tweet us @HighwirePR.

East Coast vs West Coast? The Best Tech PR Adventure Combines Both

West Coast vs East Coast Infographic

To successfully navigate the East and West Coast tech scenes, you need to wrap your mind around their differences. Each has always offered different cultures and communities to those seeking new opportunities, and this remains true for their respective tech landscapes.

The East Coast hustle and the West Coast chill seem to swap roles, however, when the topic of conversation is turned to the tech industry. The West Coast tech scene is based on a fast-moving mentality, inspired by a highly competitive industry that’s seeded with venture capital. The East Coast, by contrast, is built on a traditional foundation that stems from its academic environment, creating a more cultivating mindset.

Understanding these differing tech scenes could make or break a startup’s success when choosing which coast to call home.    

Rising in the East: On Boston aka “The Innovation Hub”

The academic focus plays a huge role in Boston’s startup industry to form a unified community. Many universities (such as Harvard’s i-lab) as well as more established companies host accelerator programs to offer space, resources and guidance. The heavy academia influence also leads to a tech scene strongly driven by research.

When discussing GE’s recent HQ relocation, chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said, “We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations. Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research and development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world.”

The Boston industry as a whole is less consumer-based than the West Coast, and more focused on products that help enterprises expand and increase efficiency. The Massachusetts tech scene is also infiltrated by the large presence of its medical community, leading to a strong focus on digital health and biotechnology. All these aspects create a cohesive environment with a nurturing mindset, honing in on growth and long-term goals.


Setting Off in the West: On San Francisco and Silicon Valley

As we turn to Silicon Valley, “Pick up the pace” echoes across the country, and the West Coast tech scene is a change of pace in every aspect.

According to NBC News, the West lacks as much of a cohesive community as the East Coast. Instead, the West fuels its fire with passion and speed, leading the Bay Area startup scene to the success it sees today. Driven by young minds and young money, the unique personalities on the West Coast create a short term, fast-paced mentality.

This high-energy environment breeds healthy competition. There is a steady fight to stand out in the crowd and attract a potential investor’s big bucks. There is a larger focus on socializing — which is key to winning big in the Valley. Relationships are the foundation of the industry here. You’ve got to know and find the right people to involve in your business and achieve the highest level of success.


Best of Both Worlds

Recognizing that each coast offers a unique perspective, it seems the most reasonable solution to picking a side in the Bay Area vs. Boston battle is to simply choose both. By merging the mindsets of each coast, one gains a deeper understanding of the tech industry as a whole.

A Chicago Perspective on Branch Offices: How We Make Them Work


When teams try to function across a country or continent, they are bound to face their fair share of challenges. But, in the end, the pros absolutely outweigh the cons. It’s no surprise that regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed, has increased 103 percent since 2005, or that about 3 percent of the workforce now teleworks at least half the time.

Highwire is a perfect example of this trend. Our agency originally broke ground in San Francisco in 2008, and its fast success led to the opening of a Chicago office in 2012, a New York City office in 2015 and, most recently, a presence in Boston in December. We also have senior level employees who work full-time from Seattle and L.A.

Highwire PR_March2016_-2

Our Full Team!

Different Coasts for Different Folks

I’ve been able to experience and witness first-hand how our branch offices operate—both as their own entities and in the larger Highwire ecosystem—given my recent opportunity to spend a week in the Highwire New York office through our Red Rover program, a client meeting that landed me in the Boston office last week, and the fact that I operate permanently out of our Chicago space.

The New York office is as fast-paced as the city itself, with everyone hard at work at their desks if not scrambling to get into a conference room for an important meeting or jetting off to an industry event.

On the other coast, the San Francisco headquarters embodies the laid-back vibe of California while possessing the constant drive of Silicon Valley. Schedules are flexible while client expectations are not, and the office executes accordingly.

Our Chicago Team!

Our Chicago Team!

Chicago (my home base) lies between the two—both geographically and culturally. Our smaller size lends itself to a more casual and carefree atmosphere, but the quieter environment is also conducive to high-level productivity.

And Boston, our newest and smallest office to-date, possesses the scrappiness that’s only found in up-and-comers. The Boston crew is all about balance: exceeding client expectations while continually seeking out new opportunities for growth, relying upon one another along the way.

Communication Barriers Breed Collaboration

Ultimately, how these different offices come together and collaborate for the success of our clients is key — And given the fact that account teams often have members from more than one office, effective communication practices are crucial.

It’s true that internal communication can be sub-optimal when co-workers operate in separate offices. For instance, when water cooler chat turns into an important work discussion, that information is at risk of not being disseminated to the entire team. However, this is a problem even companies housed in one building may face, and Highwire uses multiple methods of inter-office communication to negate common obstacles.

For example, in addition to the obvious phone calls and emails that circulate internally in every company, everyone at Highwire is constantly available on Skype regardless of location. We take advantage of both the instant messaging and video chat functions on a regular basis (read: all day) in order to check in with colleagues across the country or across the office.

Additionally, almost every week there is a company-wide meeting over video—whether it’s an opportunity for professional development training or an all-hands announcement. These meetings give us the opportunity to come together virtually, from coast to coast and everywhere in-between.

The other obvious issue we run into when working with teammates across the country is the time difference, which can cause a bit of a wrinkle when it comes to scheduling these aforementioned meetings. After all, there are only five consecutive hours in the work day when all employees everywhere are at their desks, despite the eight hours of work we all put in.

But this apparent obstacle also affords certain benefits. The three-hour time difference from New York to San Francisco means that, as a whole, our company is officially operating 12 hours every day. This allows us to shift responsibilities strategically and rely on teamwork; i.e. East coast workers can get a jump on early announcements or breaking news while those on the West coast can help handle any requests that come in late in the day.

In the end, working for and managing a company with coast-to-coast offices that are intertwined in everyday work comes with its challenges, but the benefits far outweigh any setbacks—especially at Highwire.

Our Boston Office is Now Open

boston-1775870_1280Boston vs. San Francisco. Since I started in the PR industry in the late 1990s, a regular debate topic has pitted the so-called capital of New England with Silicon Valley, asking which was the better market for tech innovation.

For someone living in Boston, doubt—perhaps even jealousy—shrouded the debate; often it followed news that tipped the scales west. As one example chronicled in the popular film “Social Network,” Facebook started in the Boston area, only to flee to the other coast.

In reality, Boston and San Francisco share a spirit of entrepreneurship buttressed by similar characteristics. In both regions, ideas are born from numerous colleges and universities. Business networks usher those ideas and bring them to market, and marketing and PR disciplines have innovated to best connect them to target audiences.

Perhaps it is not a surprise then that Highwire PR is opening a Boston office, with a presence downtown, led by PR talent deeply rooted in the region. We see an opportunity for a PR approach that is based on creativity and deep technology insight. The firm will apply the best PR strategies and tactics from our work in all regions to drive visibility efforts. And in cooperation with Highwire’s office in New York City, we can now more readily support any company in the Northeast and along the east coast.

It’s also perhaps not a surprise that an early 2016 ranking by Bloomberg of the most innovative U.S. states placed Massachusetts and California in a virtual tie at the top. Innovation is not the exclusive province of either state—and it is, therefore, more than appropriate that Highwire’s PR services are now fully available in both, and the many states in-between.

Actually, it looks like Massachusetts came out ahead of California in that Bloomberg ranking (albeit just barely). As one of the Boston PR pros helping to grow the new Highwire presence, I am biased; but how about that?

London Calling: PR and Media Across the Pond


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


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.

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.


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.

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.