With Great Stories Come Great Responsibilities: #SMWNYC19

Authenticity. Data-driven. Storytelling. These were just a few key themes spread out amongst the presentations and roundtables at Social Media Week 2019.

At the heart of this conference was one central theme: stories. Not just how marketers, social media managers and strategists can tell better stories, but how they can and should take responsibility for the stories they’re creating. Yes, social media has shifted the way we approach our audiences, but no matter your title, we need to get back to a place where we’re telling the stories that matter. Not just for our clients, but for the people we’re so eagerly trying to connect with. We owe them this since they’re already inundated with irrelevant content every day (in fact, 51% feel brands give them too much irrelevant content, according to Socialbakers). The least we can do is give them the stories, products and services they care about.

So what did we walk away with? We heard from big brands, agencies and partners, and they all stressed how companies and agencies alike can launch better campaigns with more impactful messages. Start by asking yourself a few questions: Are you having a conversation in a space you shouldn’t be in? Have you inserted your messaging in a cultural movement that is a natural fit for your brand? Or, are you partnering with someone that aligns with your core values and more importantly, the stories you’re telling?

Here are four of our favorite takeaways and sessions from #SMWNYC19:

    1. Design Thinking: You’ve probably heard of Silicon Valley’s method for ideation, prototyping, testing, and sure-fire way to capture an audience’s mindset before bringing an MVP to market. But for those on the agency side, this method of thinking can be used to shift your focus to the people you’re creating for. It’s also a way to get quick feedback and develop concepts fast. One of our favorite parts was when someone in the audience asked the burning question on our minds: “how do I even get started with design thinking?” Matt Higgins, SVP and Head of Strategy + Innovation at SKYLABS, handed over a pen and pad of post-its. Once you’re armed with some basic tools, you’re one step closer to high-fidelity feedback and experiencing that AHA-moment.
    2. LinkedIn’s Roadmap: I’ve been personally interested in the development of LinkedIn’s platform. Over the course of this year, they’ve invested in features that will help brands reach their target audiences, create personalized engagements, and drive more results through automation. We listened to their roadmap beyond 2019, and there are a few exciting things on the horizon that we will no doubt be testing as LinkedIn programs and campaigns (for executives and brands) is an important part of the digital work we’re doing for clients today. I’m looking forward to testing LinkedIn Live (a new live broadcast service for video) when it reaches GA (right now only a select number of brands and influencers are testing this out), and I’m also looking forward to new features for video ads, including brand awareness, lead generation, and better insight into video performance (they’ve integrated with Moat, a SaaS analytics measurement provider, for better attention measurements). Plus, they’re starting to roll out LinkedIn Reactions to mobile and web users globally, so there’s even more ways to express how you feel about a post (for instance, we’d give this post right here a “celebrate” reaction!).
    3. Creativity and Cultural Relevance: Highwire attended a brand & agency leaders lunch featuring Viacom Velocity’s CMO Dario Spina, The Daily Show’s Desi Lydic, and UM Worldwide’s Strategy Manager Max Kabakov, to listen in on an engaging panel about using creativity and cultural messaging to authentically cut through the clutter of digital marketing. It started with a recap of The Daily Show and Twizzler’s commercial (which if you haven’t seen it, here it is). While it’s funny, relatable, and addresses a real cultural movement, the takeaway is pairing cultural issues with creative can be a risky road to travel. But, it can also be highly successful and impactful for brands to join today’s conversations. For both brands and partners involved, it needs to feel right. People (namely, millennials) are not afraid to call a brand out, so companies need to be wary of the cultural conversations and ask themselves, “Do we have the right?” For instance, if your company wants to take part in the anti-straw conversation but your business might not have the best reputation when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint, then you might want to sit this conversation out. And yet, stepping into cultural conversations can be good for business (think: Nike) and overall, humanizes the stories you’re telling.
    4. #OwnYourData: Remember the main whistleblower in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Brittany Kaiser? She’s still advocating for data security (not just “data privacy”) and she had some important messages for us during her presentation. Her opinion is that the only model that works is one where data is your property. Think about it this way: if you had an Airbnb, would you just hand over your keys to any person? Or would you ask them basic questions like, what do you plan on doing with my Airbnb? What will you pay me for this Airbnb? What are your intentions, and do I support them? As individuals, we opt-in to giving our data away several times a day without thinking. Would you walk into a room and flip to the last page in a contract and sign your name without reading anything else in the document? Well, that’s exactly what we do when we’re downloading an app or signing up for a service – we opt-in immediately. The way Kaiser sees it, if people understand what they’re opting into, and if our data is used properly, they’ll be more inclined to share their data. In fact, we can change the world by sharing our data, for things like medical research, humanitarian issues, and much more!

At Highwire, we’re already applying these learnings in the work that we do, for our clients and our agency. For example, we had a taste of design thinking and fast development during our Shark Tank at kickoff this year (we only had a few minutes to bring an idea to life and pitch it in real time!). And as a brand, we’re taking steps to join relevant cultural conversations — like reducing our carbon footprint as an agency and across all four of our offices (and remote workers).

Consider these takeaways and you’ll be on your way to responsible, better storytelling!

 

 

 

Recycling Smarter and Other Tips To Reduce Your Footprint On Earth Day

We’ve all heard the phrase, “reduce, reuse and recycle,” but what’s equally as important is learning how to recycle right. While we have the best intentions, when life gets busy and compost bins aren’t within reach, we’ve all been known to make a bad recycling decision.

This Earth Day at Highwire, our agency is renewing our commitment to mother earth by making a pledge to reduce our footprint and to be earth-wise all year round.

Highwire SF is pledging to consume less plastic overall. Our employees are pledging to make better decisions by using the silverware in the office that can be tossed into the dishwasher, rather than using one-time plastic utensils that might come with our Monday bagel delivery.

Highwire NY is committing to educating Highwire employees, and holding themselves accountable. This means skipping the plastic bag that might come along with that to-go lunch order, and saying no to plastic knives to spread their favorite schemar. Additionally, the New York office is going to print out labels for their recycling bins to remind employees what goes into what bin.

Those Chicago winters get cold, and Highwire Chicago is pledging to pay extra attention to unplugging those life-changing space heaters when they aren’t being used. Even more, the Chicago office is going to cut down on the usage of lights when not needed, and will make sure that all electronics are unplugged at the end of the day.

Highwire Boston is trying to go without plastic as well. The team is ordering a set of silverware to cut down on the need to use plastic cutlery, and a set of stainless-steel straws to avoid reaching for a plastic straw.

Our offices will also be participating in an Earth Day event this month. Highwire SF will be joining a handful of other Bay Area PR agencies to Rock the Earth by participating in a clean up at Mountain Lake. On the other side of the country, Highwire Chicago will be participating in its annual clean up of Lincoln Park while Highwire NY will be participating in a Central Park clean-up in May. Highwire Boston has a couple initiatives to better the community. They will be holding an “office planting” event, as well as donating to a local conservation charity.

While this annual reminder is a great way to remember the importance of doing our part to protect our earth, here are a few ways you can do your part all year long:

  • Choose paper or reusable straws with your iced coffee. Better yet, skip the straw all together
  • Use compostable trash bags in your kitchen, like these.
  • Learn how to recycle correctly— did you know that your greasy pizza box or your plastic bag should not be recycled?
  • Compost paper products like paper towels, newspaper and tissues
  • Participate in “Meatless Monday.” Just one ¼ lb. of beef requires 425 gallons of water to produce
  • Reduce food waste: learn how to properly chop vegetables to maximize what you are using
  • Use reusable mugs, bring them with you to Starbucks and get a discount.
  • Turn off lights you’re not using and when you leave the room. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED ones.
  • Eat organic food, and food from local farms that aren’t using pesticides (talk to your farmers, at places like Green City Market in Chicago!) It has been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food.

What will you be doing to reduce your own footprint this year?

Real Interns of Highwire PR – Top Tips On All Things PR

Highwire’s Internship Program helps college graduates build the foundation for a long-term career in PR. This internship provides opportunities to work directly with client teams and to gain relevant hands-on experience. Across our four offices, our interns help create content to help tell our client’s stories and develop a strong foundation of skills for a career in PR. Learn about a few of our current Highwire interns below!

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New England Growth Areas in Technology

Each year, The Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) assesses the technology market’s impact on the New England economy. Based on the findings and the group’s ongoing work in support of the region’s tech industry, MassTLC is uniquely qualified to speak to the vibrancy of the innovation economy.

We asked Tom Hopcroft, MassTLC’s president and CEO, about the Massachusetts tech economy, how it compares to Silicon Valley and the contributions the technology industry makes to the New England region.

 1) Highwire PR has been talking about the infamous west-coast vs. east-coast debate. What’s your assessment of the differences and similarities in the start-up environment when you look at New England and Silicon Valley?

The tech hubs in Silicon Valley and New England each have unique identities, but, as head of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, I can best speak to our local tech economy.

The first point I’d make is that Massachusetts is experiencing a tech renaissance. In the four years following the 2008-09 recession, we saw about 5,000 tech jobs added each year. Two years ago we added 8,000 and last year it was up to 9,000. Job growth is perhaps the most tangible indicator of a vibrant and growing economy but there are others.

Over this same period, for instance, a revitalized start-up ecosystem came together with the creation of the Boston Innovation District and others across the state; the creation of many start-up accelerators — most notably MassChallenge and Greentown Labs; and the growth of corporate research centers, university labs and public-private partnerships.

The makeup of our tech economy is another key attribute and differentiator for our region. We have a very healthy and diverse mix of consumer, industrial, digital and physical (e.g., IoT, robotics) technologies being developed for many verticals including health, finance, education, and government. Their close proximity to each other and to the academic and traditional industries creates a strong “bump factor” that leads to innovations at the boundaries between disciplines.

As such, Massachusetts has a unique strength and leadership opportunity in what is often called the Fourth Industrial Era, or Third Wave, depending on whom you ask. It is characterized by the instrumentation and automation of the physical world — bringing the offline world online, creating an Internet of Things and then overlaying digital information back into the physical world with augmented reality, 3-D printing and other new technologies.

Our leadership here is built upon our four decades of “data DNA” — from the structured mainframe and minicomputer days to the unstructured big data of recent years and today’s artificial intelligence and machine learning. Not to mention “things,” where our leadership is evidenced by the fact that the very terms “robot” and the “Internet of Things” were coined here.

In fact, companies like Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva Systems), Venca Technologies, and GE moved to Massachusetts from California, D.C. and Connecticut, respectively, specifically for the innovation capacity and talent — a blend of software and hardware engineering — that our region has to offer.

 

2) In reading the recent reports MassTLC has issued, it seems as though the tech industries do not get as much credit as they deserve for their contributions to the New England economy. What are your thoughts on what the reports tell us?

The tech sector in Massachusetts directly employs 300,000 people and there are another 100,000 tech jobs outside the sector in healthcare, finance, retail, bio, etc. Add in the jobs servicing the companies (e.g., PR, accounting, legal, etc.) and those that service the employees (e.g., dry cleaners, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) and you add close to 800,000 more jobs. In total, tech is responsible for about 34 percent of the job base in Massachusetts. And because they pay better than average, tech underpins about 44 percent of payroll in the state and 34 percent of gross state product.

While we are not as visible in the media, company leaders recognize the strength of what’s going on here. It’s why so many are moving or opening offices here. In fact, Eric Schmidt, speaking at MIT in the beginning of May 2017, remarked that “Silicon Valley needs a competitor” and that “the obvious competitor is the Boston-Cambridge area.” With GE’s recent relocation of their corporate headquarters, and many others, we see validation.

 

3) Having mapped the current New England technology markets for some time, what areas do you see as being the most promising? 

The big opportunity is around the digital-physical convergence I mentioned earlier.

Other areas of strength and opportunity that come to mind include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and consumer tech. People don’t think of us as a consumer-tech town, but we have quite the cluster with leading brands like TripAdvisor, Wayfair, Care.com, iRobot, Draft Kings, Rue La La and more. So, if you’re looking to work at or with a consumer tech company, there are some great opportunities to check out locally before you venture to other regions.

 

4) If you had advice for a young or growing technology company in New England, what would it be?

Get plugged into the local tech economy. Join groups like MassTLC and get involved. I like to say that membership is like a health club; you get out of it what you put in. And, it’s really true. By plugging into the tech ecosystem through us or otherwise, you will extend your ability to network and get wherever it is you are going a whole lot faster.

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?

From Internet Porn to Online Shopping: What Top Journalists are Saying About VR

The future of virtual reality looks bright, but it’s still unclear

Imagine being front row at New York  Fashion Week as Tom Ford  debuts its latest spring line without worrying about the hassles associated with travel, cost or crowds. In fact, you’re sitting front row to the catwalk with the runway spanning the length of your living room.

But how?

Virtual reality is slowly entering the world, connecting people  in ways that we thought were only possible in movies — and it’s much more than gaming. Interestingly, it has been leveraged to tackle (and sometimes spur) dialogue on issues like racial and sexual discrimination. 

For example, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab is using virtual reality for diversity training scenarios. The research has caught the attention of companies including the NFL, who is looking to the technology as way to train the league on understanding bias through custom-built diversity sessions.

But Stanford is just one example of how VR is slowing becoming adopted outside of gaming. The technology is  trickling into our everyday lives as the future of music videos, sporting events and even “vacations.”

In order to uncover what the future really holds for this seemingly fledgling technology, Highwire spoke with reporters Daniel Terdiman at Fast Company, Kurt Wagner at Recode and Marco della Cava at USA Today. What follows are insights from these insiders on where virtual reality is headed and the potential hotbed verticals emerging VR companies should avoid.

Q: What VR companies are on your radar?

Wagner: Beyond the obvious big players, like Oculus, HTC Vive and Google VR — Felix & Paul Studios, Penrose Studios, Lucid Sight, Inc., Vivid Vision.

della Cava: I’ve done a few stories about content companies like Penrose Studios, Jaunt — just keeping tabs on where the content’s going because the tech is sophisticated and will continue to get more sophisticated, more streamlined and less expensive.

Q: Are there any trends in virtual reality you expect to be big by 2017? In the next five years?

Wagner: I think shopping in VR could be relevant in the next five years—taking a tour of a home or a car from your living room. Also, I imagine VR porn will be big.

della Cava: I would say mobile is the thing to keep an eye on. Who can figure out just how good VR and AR can be on the smartphone? That’s something we all own right now, and if someone can find a way to give even a halfway-decent VR experience through the smartphone, that’s going to be powerful because we already own it. It really promises the short burst of a VR experience.

Q: What problems lie ahead for virtual reality companies?

Terdiman: The biggest problem is consumer adoption. Consumers must understand that not only is VR cool, but that there is a lot for them to do with it. Right now, there’s a big wow factor, but then people often wonder, “What’s next?” Until people get past that hang-up, there will not be mass adoption of hardware that is necessary for mass consumption of software.

Wagner: VR is a pretty individual activity. You put on the headset and really have to keep to yourself. I imagine it will be tough to get people on board with the idea when it truly requires total separation from the real world in order to enjoy VR. At least when you use your phone, you can still pay attention (kind of) to the people and things going on around you.

della Cava: It’s going to be a timing thing. There’s tremendous potential but I’m just not sure where it’s going to go now. There may an experimental period for the next five years, but it’s exciting especially in the enterprise space where you can see a lot more practical applications, especially with AR. Imagine getting instructions remotely on fixing an engine. That’s more real right now.

Q: In what sectors do you see virtual reality serving the most purpose?

Terdiman: I think it will be great for social experiences and for entertainment. People will be able to use VR to preview travel they might want to do. They’ll be able to learn things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Ultimately, though, I see it as a major entertainment medium, both for games and for music, sports and scripted stories.

Wagner: I think it’ll be important for mental health reasons—folks who have depression or anxiety or a fear. I could see it really making an impact there.

della Cava: It’s got strong potential—if it’s rolled out the right way—for sports and entertainment. That’s the way VR could trump AR, because you really want to commit fully to that experience.

Want to keep up with the latest trends in virtual reality? Follow us on Twitter @HighwirePR.

Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at Fast Company covering emerging technology. Follow him on Twitter @GreeterDan.

Kurt Wagner is a social media reporter at Recode. Follow him on Twitter @KurtWagner8.

Marco della Cava is a technology and culture reporter at USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @MarcodellaCava.

 

How to Create Buzz Around a User Conference Show

Prepping for a Big Event

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User conferences are a great way for technology companies to engage with their customers, partners and the broader IT ecosystem, as it provides a forum for exchanging ideas, sharing best practices and having fun together. They are also great venues for engaging with analysts, bloggers and journalists following a market. But all the activity means nothing without inciting the right kind of interest and maximizing its impact.

This spring we experienced this first hand as we worked with Confluent on the inaugural Kafka Summit and with Twilio on the fifth annual SIGNAL conference. Below are some of our key lessons learned and best practices around creating buzz before, during and after an event.

Before the Big Day

Planning and prepping for user conferences like Kafka Summit and SIGNAL should always begin with strategic thinking and an end goal in mind. Our approach typically begins by thinking about what we can do to track back to the business goals of our clients. For example, are we trying to help drive enterprise sales or downloads, strengthen and cultivate partnership relationships or raise awareness to help recruit top talent? Having a clear understanding of the team’s goals means that we can map out specific ways to support those desired outcomes.  

The Elements

In helping reach those goals, the following elements are crucial to the game plan:

1. Engagement: A conference brings together a unique community and it’s important that you communicate with all audiences. Here are a few ideas:

  • Capture Presentations, Insights and Interviews on Camera: Live streaming keynote presentations and other talks is a great way to broaden the reach for both your event and the experts on stage. If you can’t execute on that, at least capturing all the presentations on camera provides shareable content to use after the event. Further, we recommend hiring a separate video team (or two) in order to also record show floor interviews with customers, partners and other experts onsite. It’s an economical way to secure a large volume of interviews and also provides an interesting backdrop for B-roll footage you will need down the line. Don’t forget to bring video release waivers to get signed on the spot to help expedite approval for posting videos online.
  • Create an Event App: Offering participants an app to help them navigate your event and provide real-time feedback will keep them engaged. Solicit input on speakers, sessions, the food, the venue, registration process, and associated events like a hackathon or after party. Best of all you will receive immediate input on what resonated with your community and areas to improve on next time. The app also makes it simple to recap the event and share insights each day or at the close of the event.
  • Host a Party: Bringing everyone together after a day of sessions offers participants the opportunity to network in a casual environment. At Twilio’s SIGNAL, the two-day conference ended with a carnival-style bash where attendees could partake in coding challenges
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    Twilio SIGNAL $Bash attendees playing robot Jenga.

    turned into games. Winners collected points that could be turned in for a variety of prizes. Additionally, participants were playing for the opportunity to join an elite group of Twilio developers that would get the first opportunity at hacking the technology behind Magic Leap.

 

 

 

2. Social Media: Social media is one of the best ways to keep the buzz going during the event. Having dedicated staff scheduled to attend specific sessions and to live tweet during the presentations is a great wTweetay to share key insights with your broader community. To do so effectively, define a strategy for what you want to achieve through social media and establish rules of engagement to help orchestrate a nice conversation flow. Also assign other team members to retweet, respond to questions and engage in the conversation. This approach worked well during Kafka Summit and the show became a sustained trending topic on Twitter —impressive for an inaugural event!

3. Press and Analysts: Last but certainly not least, is the important role journalists play in making a conference a success. A conference is an opportunity to highlight the excitement around your company, from new partners to new products, and journalists play a crucial role in amplifying these messages. With press, the key is to start by building relationships months in advance to build familiarity. Once you get closer to the date, inviting press to attend the event, asking them to moderate sessions and sharing the news under embargo will help to drive awareness and give you the opportunity to highlight specific information. Another important element is to make sure your press collateral is in order—do you have spokespeople ready for impromptu conversations, have you connected with partners and customers about their interest in connecting with press and do you have images and stats ready to be shared? Finally, don’t forget about the visual stories and feel good stories you can tell both during and after. At Twilio SIGNAL, the children of employees using code to sell Lemonade was a huge attraction.

In all, by following our recommendations (and working with an awesome PR firm) you’ll be set up for success. To learn more about the success that comes through careful planning, you can read this InformationWeek article by Jessica Davis highlighting Kafka Summit’s success.

Share your story. What have you seen that’s worked well?

*This blog was written with help from Andrea Torres, senior account executive in Highwire’s San Francisco office.

Waiting for the IPO Window to Open? What to do While You Wait.

Now is a good time for tech companies to build out their comms programs in advance of an offering

2015 saw a slow down in IPOs, with IPO guru Renaissance Capital reporting that the number of companies completing an IPO in 2015 dropped 40 percent from 2014. The tech sector in particular took a big hit.

Despite the weakness, there were some tech IPOs in 2015, including Atlassian, FitBit and security SaaS company Mimecast (NASDAQ: MIME). Highwire was privileged to provide IPO communications support for Mimecast’s November 2015 offering, including managing global media relations, developing messaging and positioning as well as helping media train the company’s CEO in preparation for the day.

Mimecast IPO

 

Will 2016 see a resurgence of tech IPOs? At this point, it’s hard to tell. Many experts are saying “Don’t Hold Your Breath for a 2016 Tech IPO Boom”. For some startups, that could actually be a blessing in disguise.

Why would a slowdown in IPOs be a good thing for tech companies? Because IPO preparation should start far in advance of a possible filing, and that’s too often not the case. In fact, once a company is actively involved in the IPO process, it’s probably too late to launch a heavy media relations campaign due to the quiet period restrictions.

So if you are one of those tech companies waiting in the wings for the IPO window to open again, what can you do to prepare?

Get out there and tell your story.

Develop a clear and compelling way to communicate and then develop strong relationships with your beat reporters at the major media. As in all relationships, it should be a two-way street where you serve as a resource for the media when they need you. As a result, when listing day finally does come, they’ll be much more likely to cover you and much more educated on your value proposition. This is even more important for those B2B tech companies that don’t have the high levels of awareness that consumer companies command.

No one knows when the IPO window will open again, but in the meantime, there’s plenty tech companies can do with their comms programs to prepare.

What do you think 2016 will bring for the tech IPO market? Share your thoughts below.