Why the Omnichannel Shopping Approach Will Prevail: Insights from Shoptalk 2017

jeff-sheldon-3232 (2)Jeff Bezos famously said, “the customer is always right.” Today’s customers are more connected, agile and willing to try a new site or way of shopping if it means they can get a better deal or experience.

At Shoptalk 2017 traditional retailers and e-commerce giants showed how they are adapting to appeal to today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.

Here are three trends that were on the top of the agenda at Shoptalk:

Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Stepping Up Their Game

Although physical stores are struggling, consumers still want the benefits that come with shopping in-person. Retailers have gotten the message: customers demand innovation and the “same old” won’t work. Kohl’s is trying smaller store formats instead of closing stores that are not performing well. For the time-crunched customer, Target is redesigning 600 suburban stores to include multiple entrances, self-checkout lanes, online order counters and groceries at the front for quick trips. Walmart is launching Store No. 8, a Silicon Valley tech incubator focused on retail innovations in robotics, augmented reality, machine learning and AI.

Shop with Your Voice Or Your Favorite Social Platform

After a trial with 20 brands, Instagram is opening its shopping feature to all fashion, apparel, jewelry and skincare brands using commerce platforms Shopify and BigCommerce. With more than 600 million active users and 5 million business profiles, Instagram could overtake Pinterest to become the leader in driving e-commerce on social platforms.

For those who still want to shop locally, no worries! Google Home’s new assistant feature can determine in-store availability of products with details like sizes and prices, as well as provide store hours and travel directions.

Even e-Commerce Has to Change

Although Amazon was the leading e-commerce retailer in 2016 with more than $79 million in U.S. sales, there is still room for improvement.

 The everything store is testing a brand registry to assure vendors that intellectual property will be protected and counterfeit goods will be prevented. Any brand can register its logo and other intellectual property with Amazon starting next month. With this brand registry, both customers and the company will be able to flag counterfeit items.

To compete with Amazon Prime and its one-day shipping, eBay’s new summer program will guarantee delivery on more than 20 million items in three days or less. If a package is late, buyers can either receive credit, a refund on shipping or return the item at no cost. eBay already has a counterfeit refund program in place. As long as the knockoff item is disposed of, the company will refund both the shipping and the item’s price.

Overall, Shoptalk gave us great insight into the future of shopping for online, in-store, in-app and everywhere else.

Cision vs Muck Rack – Which is the Better Media Database?

Highwire Labs Reviews Next-Generation Media Databases  

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Every good PR person knows that the best path to good media relations is strong personal relationships, but the reality of life and the industry often means we need to look further afield. With this in mind, Highwire Labs began an investigation into the new generation of media databases.

We compared Cision’s new platform C3 against a relative newcomer to the space, Muck Rack. Both have evolved beyond static and faceless lists to include live updates to reporters’ coverage and social feeds, but only one can stand out as the clear choice for the tech-savvy PR pro. Here’s our take.


Cision C3

Highwire has been using Cision for years and they have a reputation as the de facto media database for PR professionals; however, it has not been without its frustrations including a poor user interface and slow load time. To be frank, our team did not go into this demo with high expectations. But, we were pleasantly surprised!

Turns out Cision has had quite a facelift. Not only do they offer an improved interface for looking up media contacts, but they have added features like live reporter Twitter feeds, editorial calendar database, automated briefing docs and metrics reporting all within its platform.


The updated platform has become a “one-stop shop” by allowing you to see recent coverage and Twitter feeds from the reporters within their media profile. Also the integration of the HARO and Editorial Calendars into Cision’s platform makes it easy to check a single location for potential opportunities.

The improved search function allows you to find reporters not just by their stated beat, but by the actual stories they write and conversations they have, making it easier to build a targeted list of the right reporters who will be interested in your topic at hand.


  • Improved user interface to make searching reporters easier and more specific
  • Editorial calendar feature to create edcals within the platform
  • Automated briefing documents for reporters
  • Live reporter twitter feed to see what reporters are covering at a moment’s notice
  • Metric reporting to track client’s share of voice against competitors
  • One platform to handle multiple steps to the PR process


However, Cision does still have a few drawbacks despite the new improvements. As a legacy platform it has a reputation to overcome amongst journalists. Since much of the contact information and biographical information on the platform is self selected by the journalist, sometimes information is missing or not very detailed. There is also something of a learning curve to figuring how to use all the tools available in this platform to their full potential.


  • Legacy platform with fixed reputation
  • Self-selected information by journalists
  • High learning curve to reach full potential


Muck Rack

Muck Rack is a newer tool to the PR database scene. Most PR professionals are familiar with the free version of the tool that provides snippets of a reporter’s coverage, biography and recent articles, but that is just the bare minimum of what the platform can actually do.

Muck Rack prides itself on being a tool for PR pros and journalists alike. PR teams can create media lists, find reporter contact information, build coverage reports and monitor the news, while journalists can build their own portfolio to better represent their coverage area and writing style to PR pros.


The key benefit of Muck Rack is that it a platform designed to change the way both reporters and PR people look at media databases. By integrating with Twitter and monitoring reporters’ coverage it presents a more complete view of a reporter’s area of interest than traditional databases. And by creating a service that is useful for journalist, it helps change the overall perception and creates an incentive for more maintaining complete and accurate information. It is an innovative approach that is brimming with potential and helped other databases to catch up.


  • Reporter contact information updated in real time
  • Novel approach to collecting reporter information
  • Extensive media list development


Unfortunately, Muck Rack is mostly potential. The concept of using Twitter and recent coverage to identify relevant reporters for a targeted pitch is enticing but not effective in Muck Rack’s implementation. Also the heavy reliance on Twitter results in inconsistent results for each reporter. Some reporters are more active and descriptive on their social profiles than others meaning that it is possible to miss many relevant reporters who don’t directly Tweet about the topics they cover.


  • Less professional user interface
  • Reality of search features does not live up to the full potential
  • Some features are still under development
  • Too heavily reliant on Twitter


Highwire Labs’ Take

Our team was impressed with the features and improved functionality with Cision C3—it’s a one stop shop for PR basics. Having a single platform to research reporter contact information in addition to editorial calendars, briefing docs and real time reporter updates streamlines multiple steps of the PR process.

Neither platform has a standardized price publically available, so you’ll have to work with their sales teams to decide what is the better option for your agency from a cost perspective. For, Highwire, Cision turned out to be the more cost effective platform.

WINNER: Cision C3



Next up, we’re comparing email extensions to better manage our email outreach. Let us know what tech you’d like us to explore next!


This post was co-authored by Kelly McDermott, SF-based account associate, and Andrew Erickson, SF-based account associate.

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.

Reflecting on HIMSS 2017: 3 Key Trends from the Healthcare Industry’s Biggest Disruptors

HIMSS sign, courtesy of FierceHealthcare

Image courtesy of FierceHealthcare

It’s a pivotal time for the healthcare industry. Healthcare has a reputation for being slow to adopt technologies, but innovators in the industry are showing that they’re ready to turn to health IT strategies to disrupt the way our health system operates.


Some of the greatest minds in healthcare gathered at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s annual conference last month to discuss the latest innovations and trends driving this evolution in healthcare. The most prevalent topic at HIMSS this year was the influx of data, what to do with it and how to protect it. Here are a few takeaways from the conference and how we predict they will evolve:


AI and the New Cognitive Era

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty kicked off the show with a keynote on the potential of cognitive computing to unlock a new “golden age” in healthcare. Rometty suggested that artificial intelligence has the power to free clinicians to engage more deeply in their primary interests by doing much of the legwork for them.


Rometty’s take on the ability of AI to transform the healthcare industry was not surprising given the overwhelming hype of machine learning technologies, as well as IBM Watson Health’s research and development activities over the past two years. However IBM isn’t the only company with its eyes on AI.


While Rometty herself admitted that AI in healthcare is a bit of a “moonshot”, companies in the industry are already proving its impact. During the conference, M*Modal announced that its AI-based clinical documentation solutions enabled physicians to free up more than 2 million hours of their time that would have otherwise been spent documenting it. And Nuance revealed results that proved clinicians can save up to 45 percent on documentation time with a 30 percent drop in errors when using their solutions.


The Rise of the Empowered, Engaged Patient

Knowledge is power for patients, yet historically patients have been left in the dark regarding their health data. One argument frequently raised at the conference was that patients should be allowed access to their data, especially if it can help them track and manage a condition.


Physicians are beginning to place a larger emphasis on care in between visits. This empowers patients to become active participants in their own health and extend their care beyond the four walls of the hospital. Additionally, there are many digital health apps that already aim to provide consumers with the ability to collect and analyze their critical health data, ushering in a new generation of informed patients.


With the rise of telehealth platforms and advanced remote monitoring technologies, data collected at home is as accurate as data collected at the doctor’s office. However this concept is not yet widely accepted across the healthcare sector. This gap calls for a connected healthcare model where all of the different stakeholders can share data seamlessly across systems.


Cybersecurity Concerns

Not surprisingly, with all this data comes the added concern of how to keep it safe. In a presentation about making the right investment in security, Mac McMillan, co-founder and CEO of health data security and privacy company CynergisTek, discussed the overwhelming need for cybersecurity adoption in healthcare. The industry suffered a record 92 privacy breaches attributed to hacking in the first 11 months of 2016, which was a 64 percent increase from 2015.


This trend will continue as hackers become more savvy at breaching health system data centers. Healthcare organizations are on alert and spending accordingly. 90 percent of U.S. healthcare respondents feel vulnerable to data threats, which may explain why 81 percent of U.S. healthcare organizations and 76 percent of global healthcare organizations will increase information security spending in 2017, according to a study released at the conference by 451 Research and cybersecurity technology and services vendor Thales.


The healthcare industry is at a crossroads. While it faces the unique challenge of encouraging an open flow of health data between patients, providers and physicians, it also must remain mindful of how to keep that sensitive information out of the wrong hands. Healthcare is certainly a sector to keep your eyes on as it continues to stride toward system interoperability and a secure, seamless data exchange.

A Week at RSA 2017: Insights from Highwire’s CyberSquad

Nation-State Activity, AI and Market Consolidation All Top-of-Mind for Security

February stands out for African-American History Month, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, but we cannot forget about the annual RSA Conference that takes place in San Francisco.

Every year, cybersecurity experts, aficionados, journalists, and Highwire’s very own #CyberSquad congregate in San Francisco for one of the premiere cybersecurity events of the year. This year’s show, the largest in the books, did not disappoint.

The conference was abuzz with talks on new offerings, partnerships and industry sentiment. The keynotes — ranging from Microsoft’s President to renowned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson — were also especially enlightening. Additionally, Highwire was on the show floor interviewing attendees to get the pulse on show and industry trends. Thanks to all who participated, especially those who are typically doing the interviewing — I’m talking to my reporter friends out there. Special shoutout to Bradley Barth of SC Magazine, Fahmida Rashid of InfoWorld, Paul Roberts of The Security Ledger and Katherine Teitler of MIS Training Institute for taking time out of your busy schedules to help with our man on the street videos.

At a high level, the buzz from the conference floor and attendees alike focused on nation-state cybersecurity concerns, the hype around AI, the issue of false positives, visibility and the blurred perimeter. Also of note was the sentiment around market consolidation.

We also heard from seven of our own clients in a live podcast series conducted from our annual Highwire RSA happy hour. Special thank you to Sean Sposito and our friends at CSM Passcode for partnering with us on this great event. See here to learn more about the “Rise of the Chief Digital Transformation Officer and Six Other Key Takeaways” from industry experts.

Jesse Bil Justin 2 Chris Jer Ziv

Here’s more from our in-house security pro, Erik Martinez, on what Highwire’s CyberSquad learned at the 2017 RSA Conference:

Nation-State Cybersecurity

Many at the conference discussed the ostensibly growing involvement of nation-states in cybersecurity, both as attackers and targets. The recent nefarious activity and attacks in Europe and the U.S. thought to be instigated by Russian hacker being a catalyst for this train of thought. As a result, industry leaders are prepared to expect more espionage; information and influence operations; and the destruction or disabling of data and systems. Interestingly, the common belief is that these activities will increasingly happen in the shadows after the recent wave of public discussions on the matter. This can be expected to happen through hired non-state actors like organized criminal groups.

AI: The Bell of the Ball

Like in most technology-focused industries, cybersecurity is in love with AI and machine learning. The possibilities it offers the cybersecurity space are mouthwatering and nearly everyone is touting some version of it in their solutions. But perception around AI is still mixed. Many RSA-goers equated the buzz around AI to that which big data stirred up when it first came onto the scene — a tad premature.

This is not saying that AI technology is not helpful — it is — but it will require human judgment for the foreseeable future. AI technology can execute tasks faster and with fewer errors than humans but training is still necessary and intuition lacking.

Market Consolidation

There is a coming disruption in the market in the form of market consolidation and whoever remains will like have no other option but to play nice. In terms of disjointed solutions, Palo Alto Networks CEO Mark McLaughlin predicts  that “the measure of [the industry’s] success will be, instead of people saying, ‘I have twenty, thirty, forty vendors, and I have to figure out how to handle that,’ they’ll say, ‘I have four hundred vendors and I’m good with it.'” He argued that this happy state would come about as vendors developed “better ways of consuming their value proposition.” In other words, all the products will work effectively and with increased cooperation as the market consolidates.

This should not be cause for alarm, as the trend could provide exits via mergers and acquisitions. Not to mention that good outcomes are likely to result from general industry cooperation. Why work against each other, when working together can be much more beneficial.

If you were in attendance, share your story in the comments — we’d love to hear about your experience!

Also, we’re hiring! If you are a security or enterprise tech PR pro interested in joining our rapidly growing team, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Nida Ilahi at nida@highwirepr.com.

The post was written by Christine Elswick who leads Highwire’s burgeoning security practice and Erik Martinez, our in-house security expert.

Introducing Highwire Labs: Our Experiments in #PRTech

Highwire Labs PR Technology Reviews

In January 2017, we published a blog on the impact of technology on public relations. In contrast to our friends in marketing, PR has more slowly adopted technology, largely due to the relationship-driven nature of the profession. With that said, advances in machine learning and cloud applications are improving PR technology (#PRTech), and many innovators are entering the market with solutions and platforms designed to simplify the PR pro’s life.

At Highwire PR, we are constantly asking ourselves how we can do our jobs better and improve the effectiveness of PR activity. So we’ve launched a new team – Highwire Labs – with the goal of kicking the tires on these new platforms.

Over the coming months, the new Highwire Labs team will be researching and reviewing the latest PR tech platforms and sharing their findings right here on our blog. The Labs team will compare the top media database platforms, media relationship management and engagement tools, monitoring and measurement solutions, as well as tools such as email tracking technology to provide thoughtful analysis on which platforms are likely to succeed in the fast-paced agency environment.

First up: A media database comparison between Cision and Muckrack.

We’d love to hear from our readers. What technologies are you using to do your job better? What technologies would you like to see reviewed by the Highwire Labs team?