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Not One, Not Two, but SEVEN Bells Toll for SHIFT!

SHIFTers have had a lot to be proud of this year – whether it’s being named Digital/Social Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report, winning Bulldog Media Relations Awards for excellence in media and publicity campaigns, or bringing in amazing new people and clients on the daily, 2012 is off to a killer start.

Last night, we added SEVEN Publicity Club of New England Bell Ringer Awards to the list, including:

  • Gold award: Best National Print Feature
  • Silver awards: Best Product/Service High-Tech Campaign; Best Business-to-Business Product/Service Campaign; Best Response to Breaking News
  • Bronze awards: Best Clean Energy/Green Technology Product/Service Launch Campaign; Best Social Media Campaign

In addition, Senior Account Executive Kate Binette was named the 2012 Young PR Professional of the Year, known as the Striker Award.

Since we’re all about our people and giving you an inside look at SHIFT, here’s the scoop from the folks who represented SHIFT at last night’s awards:

  • Kate Binette, Senior Account Executive (@katebinette) – It was great to catch up with former colleagues that I hadn’t seen in a while.  Last night reminded me how tight-knit the PR community in Boston is, and it was exciting to engage in some friendly competition and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.  But I have to say, I think the SHIFT table takes the cake for fun!
  • Jena Rossi, Account Manger (@jenarossi) – I was really proud to be a part of the Boston PR community last night at the Bell Ringer Awards.  In addition to taking home some impressive awards for our awesome agency, we were also able to give back to an important organization, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
  • Dominic Weeks, Account Manager (@dominicweeks) – My favorite moment was seeing Kate Binette collect her Striker award.  Having seen her in action with clients, prospects, colleagues, and reporters, I can testify that she’s a class act, so it’s great to see the New England Pub Club judges get it so right!
  • Zach Servideo, Account Manager (@zachservideo) – Last night got me thinking – the annual Bell Ringer event represents so much more than individual accomplishments.  The Bell Ringers are a yearly reminder that the local PR scene is dominated by a core group of talented, familiar names and faces.  While we all may “compete” for coverage, this dynamic group shares in the same goal – to grow and improve the Greater Boston and New England business communities.
  • Kelly Kane, Account Manager (@kellykane) – My favorite part of the night was a tie between bonding with awesome colleagues during the event and taking home the Gold Bell for National Print Feature!
  • Danielle Mancano, Account Manager (@dmancano) – My favorite part of the Bell Ringer Award ceremony was spending time with my Boston colleagues, who I rarely get to see…and looking at David Wade’s HANDSOME FACE!
  • Catherine Allen, Vice President (@catherineallen) – You know, winning isn’t everything.  But it feels damn good.  We mixed and mingled, enjoyed dinner amongst friends, laughed at the @davidwade commentary and toasted each other on another great year.  Cheers!!
  • Todd Defren, Principal (@tdefren) – I am proud, of course, of the hard work that went into bringing home the awards last night.  But when it comes down to it, the company was what made last night really great.

Congrats to all of the winners last night, and big thanks to the Publicity Club of New England for a great event.  Until next year!

SHIFTers with their awards.

 

Can’t Deny Social Media’s Awesome-ness

Can’t Deny Social Media’s Awesome-ness

By Mallory Cloutier (@Mallory_C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In May, a few Boston SHIFT-ers attended the PRSA Social Media Summit. The Summit’s speakers – including our own Todd Defren – were not only awesome in the knowledge they shared, but were also fortunately transparent and honest about what hasn’t worked when it comes to social media.

Below are a few important nuggets we took away from the sessions:

Social is key to any marketing program

Traditional marketing is still very alive and well – anecdotally, we’ve found that marketing is seeing a big revival. However, the speakers at the Summit showed how social media can enhance each and every spoke of any marketing program and measurably extend the reach and impact of each initiative.

In Todd’s keynote that kicked off the Summit, he pointed out that businesses spend valuable time and resources to create content, but many don’t give the same energy into creating a content strategy. In addition to building content a business’ audience will actually care about, social media can be the element that helps businesses share this content, build a more impactful brand voice and make any marketing program even more awesome.

Build a strategy that fits the business

The conversation around whether social media can positively impact a business is thankfully almost null and void. However, despite the clear benefits social can bring to any organization, its massive success hinges on the strategy.

Bruce Weinberg’s keynote addressed why one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to social. Although he mapped out several strategies and approaches that spanned the range of business size and levels of risk aversion, social still requires businesses to be open to trying new tactics and potentially even failing.

Organic engagement rules

Michelle Ormes of Staples led the B2B industry track and was gracious enough to show what worked at the company – the Small Business Push seemed especially successful – and what didn’t work. Interestingly enough, despite promotion through the company’s other social media channels, scheduled Twitter chats with Staples executives were not a hit with the social media community and were eventually retired after a few months.

All and all this makes sense – social media channels, especially Twitter, rely on genuine, organic conversation. Michelle thought the Twitter chats were too structured for their audience and found more success in having company executives being ready to answer questions all the time, not just some of the time.

Measurement: still fuzzy

Across the board, there was no clear path on how to measure social media success.

The good: with a lack of a right and wrong measurement scale, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to measure what’s important for their organization. For example, measuring social media by theme rather than quantifiable metrics can be an option for some businesses.

The bad: for some, not being able to provide measurement or any data on the impact of the program could be the deciding factor against any social media initiative.

It’s up to businesses to choose what’s best for them when it comes to social. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s worked for you and your company!

The Road Less Traveled… To PR

The Road Less Traveled… To PR

By Liz Segran

There are many paths that lead to a fulfilling PR career. I’ve just joined SHIFT, and in my few weeks here, I’ve enjoyed hearing about people’s experiences, their backgrounds, their passions. Before becoming SHIFTers, many of my colleagues were English majors who spent their days reading Shakespeare. Others can recount the entire history of the printing press in a few minutes. These diverse experiences add to the color and vibrancy of life in this office.

My own road to PR was circuitous. After college, I discovered a passion for Indian literature. I spent six years after college pursuing a PhD in Classical Indian Literature. For me, there was no better way to spend my early twenties. For the sake of my research, I spent years backpacking through India, learning from holy men and scribes and scholars. I spent months studying murals in Cambodia and Indonesia, trying to understand how Indian culture had spread across the oceans during the middle ages. I lived in small villages and made friends with school children and grandmas. I figured that there would never be another opportunity to be so free of responsibility. I soaked it all in.

After months of going out into Asia, I would hole myself up in libraries in Berkeley, London and Paris, where there were archives of Indian literature. I would spend days alone, writing and thinking. I translated ancient texts and I wrote about the role of women in the world of ancient India. I managed to complete my seemingly interminable dissertation, and then, all of a sudden, I was done! I had to figure out my next step.

The thing is, while I loved my years as a wandering scholar, there was a part of me that felt divorced from the hustle and bustle of the real world. Scholarship is a solitary pursuit. It was good for me to learn to be alone for a time, but ultimately, I am so much happier being around other people. My instinct is to nurture relationships, and it is hard to do this when you are always on the move. And so, I found PR. PR is all about developing strong relationships with clients. Moreover, it is a world that is fueled by writing, something that I have been well trained to do, in the liberal arts.

As someone who is clearly fond of learning, what I love about PR is that there is always so much to discover. SHIFT has many clients in the tech industry that are doing groundbreaking, world changing things with their innovations. It is so exciting to learn about a new company or a new industry every week. PR professionals need to be up to speed about the business world. This is a place for people who are intellectually curious.

I am drawn to PR because it allows me to continue to be an adventurer, exploring new worlds, this time in the corporate sector. My background, as different as it is, has prepared me for the task ahead. It is a story that many other PR professionals can related to. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!

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Media Q&A with Real Simple’s Amy Bleier Long

Over the last few weeks, the brilliant Tumblr blog, “99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t One,” has captivated us, entertained us, and yes, sometimes gotten us through the day. Some of the best posts are humorous observations of the relationship between PR professionals and media – refer to exhibits a, b, and c. Of course, in real life, no one wants to be an angry elf mid-meltdown, even though he gets to rock a sweet fur collar (see exhibit a). So, to help us avoid making any of Tumblr’s “PR vs. media” scenarios a reality, I asked one of our editor friends to provide some insight on how she likes to work with PR folks, and what we should keep in mind throughout the pitch process, from initial outreach to final fact check.

SHIFT’s Overstock.com team has had the good fortune to work closely with Amy Bleier Long, assistant market editor at Real Simple, on several occasions this year. She is sadly leaving the publication this Friday, but the thoughts she’s shared below are fantastic reminders about how to build mutually beneficial media relationships. After all, if we’ve learned anything from Dwight Schrute, you never know when you could get shunned. Hopefully, these insights will help you avoid it.

As an editor at a women’s lifestyle glossy, what is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to the PR community?

I am going to offer two pet peeves, if I can. First is lack of communication. Sometimes we ask a PR person to help us secure a product or get more information for us and we don’t hear from them for a long time. Then, too late for a meeting or run-through, we hear from them with either no explanation for the delay or they tell us they were waiting for their client to respond. I worked (briefly) in PR so I know that a lot of times, it’s a matter of getting information from your client. But we appreciate when you let us know that, let us know that you know we’re on a deadline but you are on it and haven’t forgotten. Or if you find out a product we’ve requested is unavailable, we appreciate you going the extra mile and looking for an alternative, but let us know you’re doing that – because otherwise we might think we’re getting something we need, when we’re really not. And, if you’re the only person that works on an account and you’re going to be unreachable – please put an out of office message up so we know!

Second to that is probably when someone gives the impression (or flat out states) that we can have a product by a certain time for a shoot and then right before the shoot all of a sudden cannot come up with the product. We go through several layers of approval on products to shoot, and when a PR person tells me something is available and that we can have it in time for a shoot, we start counting on that item, and sometimes base other items around it. So if, at the last minute, we can’t get that item anymore, it really throws off our planning. At best, it means we have to scramble to replace that item; at worst, it could ruin a planned shot.

Do you have many or few relationships with PR folks – i.e. people you go to again and again for product ideas or story angles? How were those relationships established?  

I would say I have built many strong relationships with PR people that I go back to again and again for products or information, or to pick their brains on a story I might be working on. Mainly those relationships have been developed by working with these people over the last several years and having the experience always be pleasant. The people I work with the most are quick, responsive, and come through with products 90% of the time or more, even with very short notice. It helps, of course, when their products are really well-designed and match our magazine’s aesthetic. And also, no matter how many times I’ve worked with certain companies, they always remain grateful for the support, which isn’t a requirement, but it is really nice to know that they appreciate our relationship, too.

What do you find is the best way to get to know about the topics you write about each month? Outreach to friends in PR? Individual research? What can PR people do to make the research process easier?

I don’t write much, I mostly do the market work, but every once in a while I will reach out to my PR contacts to see if they know someone else in the industry who might be a good person (in terms of expertise on a specific topic) to talk to about ideas, inspiration, or a specific story topic.

A lot of media contacts dislike phone calls from PR reps (vs. receiving email inquires). At glossies, would you say that’s the general sentiment? If so, what should PR folks keep in mind when writing email pitches to increase our odds of getting a response?

I feel similarly in that I prefer email to the phone, though some things just need to be done on the phone. One reason I prefer email is because it gives me a written record of products requested, status, and any pricing or details so later, if I’m told something different, I can go back and question/confirm it. I hope this doesn’t sound terrible – I think the main reason editors seem to prefer email is that people get to the point quicker. Everyone is so busy and I think with email, people just get right down to it, which frankly, I prefer. When pitching, please be sure you’re targeting me appropriately. Take two seconds to confirm what department I work in. I know my title can be vague, and when I started at Real Simple, I think some of the listing companies put me on the wrong pitch lists (i.e. fashion or food), but I get an enormous number of emails that are not for my area at all. And also, if you’ve sent me an email about a product or story idea, please, please do not call me literally 5 minutes later to see if I got the email. I probably did but am either in the middle of something or it doesn’t apply. If I see something that is right for the magazine, I will definitely respond, or I will tell you which department to contact if I’m not the right person.

 

SHIFT Brings Home TWO Bulldog Awards

Here at SHIFT, we pride ourselves on not only our creativity, but also our ability to bring extraordinary ideas to fruition. This is why we were all ecstatic when we recently received word that SHIFT had been awarded not one, but TWO Bulldog Awards. That’s right, on the heels of SHIFT’s recent honor of being named the 2012 Digital/Social Agency of the Year by the Holmes Group, the agency took home a Silver Bulldog Award for “Best Campaign under $10,000,” along with a Bronze Bulldog Award for “Best Technology Campaign – Business Category.” Check out details around both winning campaigns below.

Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?

It’s no surprise that the war for talent in the Bay Area is heating up more and more by the second. SHIFT’s Appirio team saw a PR opportunity to bolster Appirio’s recruiting efforts at Dreamforce by capitalizing on the media presence at the event and latching onto a recent U.S. jobs report. Realizing that free food and an event filled with hungry software developers was a match made in heaven, the team coordinated for a taco truck filled with free food to be parked just outside  conference doors.

The campaign, which cost less than $2,000, resulted in 8.7 million impressions and coverage in Bloomberg Businessweek, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Palo Alto Daily News, CIO and broadcast coverage on KTVU and KGO. Major Kudos to SHIFT’s Appirio team for rocking it out on this campaign and claiming the Silver Bulldog Award for “Best Campaign under $10,000.”

Getting into the game

There is no denying that the gamification space is hot right now, but this was not always the case. In a budding industry, SHIFT was determined to make Bunchball the pioneer and market leader in online gamification solutions as well as the go-to resource around the industry and any/all related trends. How could the team accomplish such a task? By starting from the ground up. SHIFT worked to educate reporters about the ROI of gamification and to make sure that Bunchball and gamification were associated as closely together as Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie, Jay-Z/Beyonce, John Mayer/Jessica Simpson/Jennifer Aniston/Taylor Swift – well, you get the idea.

In a nine-month period, the SHIFT team secured 170+ original media hits in top-tier tech and business outlets such as Forbes, Dow Jones, The New York Times, Forrester, AllThingsD, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable and USA Today. At the end of the day, the team helped to increase Bunchball’s competitive share of voice to more than 40 percent. Congratulations to SHIFT’s Bunchball team for bringing in a Bronze Bulldog Award for “Best Technology Campaign – Business Category.”

As the only awards judged by a panel of professional journalists and bloggers, SHIFT could not be more happy to add the Bulldog Awards to our list of achievements. It is further testimony to the agency’s commitment and dedication to providing our clients with stellar work on a daily basis.

By Annie Meenan (@anniemeenan)

SHIFT Communications Wins Digital/Social Agency of the Year

Yesterday was an exciting day at SHIFT Communications – the Holmes Group named SHIFT the 2012 Digital/Social Agency of the Year and it is such an honor! SHIFT was up against some stiff competition beating out the likes of Edelman, Ogilvy and Weber Shandwick for the prestigious award. We’ve worked hard to help pave the digital/social path for PR and it’s so great to see the hard work pay off. To demonstrate SHIFT’s appreciation and excitement, we’ve polled all three offices to find out how some SHIFTers reacted to the news:

“I literally shouted … okay, I almost freakin’ cried … when I first heard this news. I am so proud and happy for my hard-working, fun-lovin’ colleagues at SHIFT Communications!”

-Todd Defren, Principal

Boston:

“When you’re surrounded by so many smart people every day, you can sometimes take it for granted. But this is one of those moments that makes you say ‘wow, I work for a market leader – I’m a part of a game-changing company.’ Words can’t even describe the sense of pride I feel today in being a member of the SHIFT family. Congrats to the entire team!”

-Zach Servideo, Account Manager

“I was thrilled to hear we won this prestigious award! All PR people know social is growing in importance all the time, but SHIFT is at the forefront of integrating it into each and every program we run.”

-Julie Staadecker, Account Manager

“At a time when every PR/marketing/communications agency is clamoring to devise the newest and best social media strategies for their clients, it is a HUGE honor to be dubbed THE agency for social and digital by the industry standard aka The Holmes Report.  Add to that the fact that SHIFT is a midsize agency that consistently competes with the Goliath PR firms of the world on digital account work, and you’ve got one happy, scrappy bunch of social media enthusiasts.  The coolest part to me about the award – and indicative of SHIFT culture – is that I know it only fuels all of us to continue to push the envelope on digital further. The best is yet to come…”

-Amanda Guisbond, Senior Account Executive

“When I joined SHIFT just over a year ago, I already had the impression that it was a social media heavyweight. Since then, I’ve learned so much about how companies should use social media to communicate with their key stakeholders.  Everybody at SHIFT is interested, engaged and, most importantly, curious about this issue.  We’re still dealing with a lot of unknowns and best practice is evolving.  When a SHIFTer isn’t certain about how a social media situation might play out, they’re honest enough to admit it and dedicated enough to make sure they find out!”

-Dominic Weeks, Account Manager

San Francisco:

“Hearing the news just made me realize once again that I am so lucky to work here. I am very fortunate to work with such incredible talent and proud of the work we’ve accomplished.”

-Matt Nagel, Senior Account Executive

“F#$% yeah!”

-Aaron Heinrich, Firm Director

“Ballah! Our clients have always seen us as one of the best digital/social agencies in this business — how fantastic to receive industry recognition from Holmes Group! And how else to spread the news? Across every social media platform linked to my name…of course. :)”

-Kristine Lee, Account Manager

New York City:

“We’re fortunate enough to have smart, forward-thinking clients who allow us to take chances with digital media. Our clients have come to rely on campaigns and programs that combine traditional and social PR activities, instead of acting as separate entities. This is where SHIFT has found its strength, and it’s fantastic to be recognized for it. “

-Danielle Mancano, Senior Account Manager

“In the last year or so, I’ve noticed such a shift in the type of counsel our clients value most, and that’s our advice on digital and social strategy. As an agency we’ve been working hard to give the best advice and ideas possible, and it’s cool to see that those efforts have had an impact.”

-Alexandra Brooks, Account Executive

“#Winning!”

-Justine Navaja, Account Director

“I’m so proud to be part of agency that continuously delivers fantastic client work and is recognized for our growth in digital/social. GO SHIFT!”

-Donna Ho, Account Coordinator

The Great Poke Off: Use Your Networks to Help, Not Just to Complain

By @Trochman

Working at an Agency provides you the ability to work with a number of great brands and experiment with social media tools in a variety of ways in order to help them reach their target audience.  Sometimes this gives you an awe inspiring look at creativity and human interaction. Sometimes it gives you a sad look at how nasty people can be to one another, or witness how a simple communication tool can be warped into a funnel for complaints.

However, what touched me recently was not the act of a large company or marketing team but the creativity of two friends looking to make a small difference in their own personal networks. This weekend I was given another affirmation to the true power of social media.  How with a simple act, people can engage with their networks – not for fame or attention – but to help one another.

As I was scrolling through Facebook I came across a competition between my cousin Dan Andersen and his friend John Clinton. The two were participating in a poke-a-thon on Facebook. The concept had been John’s brainchild the year before and I vaguely remembered them participating… but this year was different.  This year there was clearly an emphasis by both men to take a playful competition and use it to make a difference.

Here is what caught my eye, a new timeline cover and invitation via status update:

Friends, Countrymen, People Who I haven’t talk to since high school or EVER: It’s that solitary time of year when I call you to action for charity, but wait, I don’t want your money! All I want is that long-lost Facebook function that (hardly) anyone ever uses anymore….the poke. Last year, we raised $234 for This American Life and $158 for Heifer International. This year I hope to accomplish the following:

1) Raise more $$ for This American Life
2) Beat John Clinton again

Here’s how it works – every time one of you pokes me (on FB), I give $1 to This American Life (up to a later specified amount)…plus I get to brag about it to John in the Internet locker room.

If you’ve never poked anyone before, you are probably not alone AND good ol’ Mark Zuckerburg has been moving stuff around lately – FB timeline has actually hidden the poke option in the drop-down widget menu just below the right-hand corner of my cover photo.

So please, take 2 seconds out of your FB surfing and poke-a-bro. I promise to return the favor when this is all over. Thanks!

Here is John’s timeline graphic:

As the competition picked up steam and both men started receiving pokes, The Chicago Booth Follies was also added to the mix for donations. (Their graduate school’s annual variety show –which they had learned its funding was dramatically slashed this year.)

This challenge was issued in late March with a deadline of 4/8/12. (Ok so he can get mad at me for taking this long to notice…) Through humorous Facebook updates, offers to give gifts and challenging Meme shots (see Harry Potter here); Dan and John both received pokes from friends, family, coworkers – and the networks of each group.  Some of my friends here at SHIFT have even found themselves poking these gents.

At the time of the competition’s close at midnight on 4/8/12, Dan had received 274 pokes and John received 205.  This means $479 was donated to This American Life and $479 to Booth Follies.

This is the true power of social media. People from various backgrounds staying connected, communicating about goals and helping each other.  This isn’t a complaint campaign to change some trivial policy or product feature, it isn’t the RT of some celebrity – it is just two friends looking to raise money for an organization they feel passionately about.

Can you imagine if we all just stopped every now and again and thought along these lines?  I know I tend to use my own social media tools for sarcastic thoughts and movie quotes.  I think the problem is we all imagine that in order to make a difference we need to think of the next million dollar charitable campaign. No. You don’t. Even the smallest donation can make a difference to someone so long as it is to an organization, group or movement you believe in.

Consider yourself poked.  Now what are you going to do with it….



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