Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

SXSW: What I Learned Navigating Through Nerd-topia

By @rockegan

Every March for the past 20 years, movie buffs, music connoisseurs and tech nerds have taken over Austin, Texas. To some, the 20,000 extra people swarming the streets would be overwhelming. If you look past the lines, crowds and lack of sleep, however, you begin to realize that you are in a world where being called a “geek” or “nerd” is cool and everybody surrounding speaks the same language as you, and that language is Tech. What you experience for that week is nothing that you have ever experienced before or will ever experience again.

South By Southwest (SXSW) is focused on developing and expanding on innovative ideas for new products and services and because the main focus is technology, no two years are the same. With the rapidity at which the tech world advances, the things that were important this year may be considered archaic by next March.

According to the conference website, “SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.”

Walking through the trade show in the Austin Convention Center, I stopped at booth after booth and asked for a quick pitch of whatever the company was marketing. Although I was somewhat overwhelmed, a lot of the things that people presented to me blew my mind. I kept finding myself thinking, “Oh my gosh, Client X would love this!” or “This would be totally great for Client Y’s next launch party.”

As I pushed my way through the crowds, waited in endless lines for free food (like Do.com’s bacon truck where I tried pickles wrapped in bacon) and did my best to meet all the people around me at any given time I realized something. Even though just about every single booth had some sort of swag, the companies that did the best with regards to being noticed were those that really knew how to reach their demographics. Sure, they may have handed out a sticker or a pin (or five), but what really caught my attention was when a representative from the company would ask me a question and alter their sales pitch to cater to my specific interests/needs.

Even though I flew back to San Francisco with a severe lack of sleep, three new canvas bags for my groceries, a foldable water bottle for my purse and about 23 branded t-shirts (why do they even make SXSW shirts to sell? If you just walk into the Convention Center you get a lifetime’s supply for free!), some of the companies I remember most (even just two days out) are the ones that I walked away from with only a business card and a handshake.

Check out the slide show to see some of the pictures I snapped while making my way through the streets of Austin:

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Intern 101 with Mich Wells

Starring @itsamich, Produced by @MadelineWillman

SHIFT San Francisco’s Mich Wells gives some great intern advice all while having fun! Hear about what she loves about SHIFT, what’s she has learned so far and the two tips she has for incoming interns – she also dances with Cowboy Todd, leaps through the halls, flirts with Edward Cullen and more –  so check it out:

Google’s Search Plus your World: Why bother with SEO when all you need is Google+?

By Madeline Willman (@MadelineWillman)

A few months back, Google came out with its Google+ brand pages and SHIFTer, Kristi Eells, wrote a post about why healthcare companies should care. Kristi explained that at the time, “creating a Google+ page will not carry weight over companies without a profile…” However, on Jan. 10, this all changed when Google released its biggest change with “Search Plus your World,” a feature that integrates Google+ pages into users’ search results.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land wrote an extensive article explaining how Google’s Search Plus your World works. Here’s what you need to know:

Search Plus your World allows users with Google accounts to search ‘globally’ or ‘personally.’ When you are logged into your Google+ account you will see posts and pictures from your Google+ profile and from those in your circle. For example, when I search for SHIFT Communications, five personal results within my Google+ page and circles show up that mention “SHIFT Communications.”

When logged into Google+, Search Plus your World will automatically be turned on, but you can opt-out by clicking a toggle:

However, even when opted out of Search Plus your World and not logged into Google+, Google still shows Google+ pages before Twitter and Facebook pages when searching a particular topic. For example when searching for “music” Google provides Britney Spears and Mariah Carey’s Google+ pages on the left hand side. One may question why some of the biggest pop stars in the world like Katy Perry and Justin Bieber don’t show up: They don’t have Google+ pages.

This proves that if you want to have a better chance of showing up in Google’s results, a Google+ page is in order.

The change has shocked the tech community with backlash from influencers like MG Siegler who noted, “Google is using Search to propel their social network. They might say it’s not a social network since it’s a part of Google, but no one is going to buy that. They were late to the game in social and this is the best ca
tch up strategy ever.”

There are also multiple anti-trust and privacy discussions, but even though there has been ongoing controversy over Search Plus your World; it doesn’t seem to be disappearing any time soon. Google is the king of search with 64 percent of the market share (according to comScore’s December findings) and if Google is making it a priority, brands probably should too.

Regardless if Google is doing the right thing or not, the fact is: Google+ pages show up in search results before Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin results – if you want your company to have a better chance at staying at the top of search results you should think about getting on board and building out a Google+ profile.

Read Search Engine Watch’s Jason Cormier’s take on the issue in his article, Why Your Business Needs to Be on Google+ Now and check out how to build a Google+ page below:

Why the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl

First up, Mike Fearon’s concrete logic for why the Pats are winning the Super Bowl this year…

In the Game of Bowls, you partake in Metaphorical Cannibalism or you die (apologies to George R.R. Martin).

While NY is happy paying for overpriced gastropub fare and SF is downing garlic fries on the bandwagon, the more cerebral, cunning, ruthless New England fan is devouring their opponents’ souls. Through black magic or the dark arts you ask? No, the Patriots will win through cooking a game day menu based on their opponent’s location and culture.

For example, the Denver Broncos didn’t stand a chance after I prepared and consumed Rocky Mountain Oysters and [The] Lamb [of God]. This combination represented the Colorado area’s hunger for prairie oysters while honing into their much ballyhooed QB’s belief system. The result: 45-10. Indeed the only miracle last Saturday was making Denver’s favorite fried snack edible.

To some, that might be a bit extreme. But how can I ask the Pats to try hard if I fail to put forth the same effort? This level of dedication is usually reserved for the Night’s Watch. Unfortunately, the sweet summer children in SF and NY are blissfully unaware of the long night, when the sunny victories hide for years, and children are born and live and die all in runner-up darkness. February 5 is time for fear, my little lords, when Wes Welkers move through the woods…

Oh you wanted real football reasons – here’s a simple formula:

Belichick + Brady + Gronkowski = BOOM!

Send a raven to the Inner Harbor. The pats are coming.

If that wasn’t scientific enough for you, I’ll turn it over to Annie Perkins who gives you Vegas’ take on the Patriots…

If the Las Vegas oddsmakers are correct, the New England Patriots will win Super Bowl XLVI. As of today, the Pats are 11/10 favorites to win it all! They are so sure of a Pats victory, that a bet of $100 on the Pats would only return $110. Contrast that with their opponent for this weekend: if the Ravens win the Super Bowl, a $100 bet pays $600!

Las Vegas and their bettors know that the Patriots are the number one seed in the AFC for a reason. They are a 9 point favorite to win at home this Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. As good a defensive team as the Ravens are, the Patriots have one of the best offensive alignments in the history of the game and the most playoff experience. If they make the Super Bowl this time, it will be the Patriots 5th in 11 years.

Patriots 35-14 in the AFC Championship and 30-21 in the Super Bowl.

(Personal side bar:  My husband has been a season ticket holder for almost 20 years.  I have been to 4 games in our 15 years of marriage…. My choice. He may have contributed to the content in this post.)

Why the 49ers are going to win the Super Bowl

Vernon Davis

Harbaugh, Davis, Akers, Smith … just a few names prove the Niners will win the 2012 Super Bowl. We’ve seen all season a team of players – not to mention coach Harbaugh – that have the heart and drive to win. If you saw the Saints game there’s no questioning the team’s ability to take this Championship win home.

SHIFT S.F.’s VP, Cathy Summers, explains, “The glory days of Montana and Young were all about offense. The interesting difference with this 49ers team is that the defense is so strong. They will shut down the powerhouse offense of Manning et al, and then meet the Ravens for the first ever Har-bowl. And don’t count out the Alex Smith/Vernon Davis combo – look for the game changing (winning?) play when those two hook up.”

So watch out, New York (that includes you, John Casillo) as Aaron Heinrich – the fearless leader of SHIFT’s S.F. office – states, “the Niners are Giant killers” and we will take you down again on Sunday.

Check out this epic video highlighting the Niners win over the Saints!

Why the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl

Giants Will Win Fourth Super Bowl in Franchise History

Eli Manning

After four straight convincing wins, the New York Giants are in the NFC Championship Game. And of the four teams still alive in the NFL playoffs, they have the best chance to win Super Bowl XLVI.

It’s easy to forget that on December 18, they were 7-7 and had just gotten embarrassed at home by the last place Washington Redskins. Statistically, the Giants were near the bottom of the league in total defense and were last in the NFL in rushing. With two games left on the schedule, their postseason hopes were on life support.

Yet in only a month’s time, the Giants have not only turned into the sport’s hottest team, but they have become the most balanced team in the league. Led by Pro Bowl quarterback Eli Manning and receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, the aerial attack is still as dangerous as it’s been all year, but the late-season emergence of a disciplined defense with the NFL’s best pass rush and an effective running game has been the difference between missing the playoffs and contending for a championship.

On offense, the Giants are simply difficult to defend. When they come out in three-receiver sets with Cruz, Nicks, and Mario Manningham, they can throw the ball down the field or keep it on the ground with Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs, which opens up play action. In theory, the Giants can execute a full gameplan using one formation, making it tough for defenders to know what’s coming.

Flip to the other side of the ball, and the Giants can do what most teams in the NFL can’t – they get to the quarterback with only a four-man rush. At times, they can get pressure with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka and don’t have to send linebackers and defensive backs on blitzes. That means opposing quarterbacks have only a few seconds to throw the ball – into full coverage – before the pass rush gets there. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the probable MVP, can tell you that’s hard to do.

The Giants have peaked at the right time, are versatile enough to win any type of football game, and have an elite quarterback in Manning, who set an NFL record this season with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Sorry San Francisco and Boston (and SHIFT-less Baltimore), but it’s the Giants’ Super Bowl title to lose. 

Super Bowl 46

How to Be Your Office DJ

By Danielle Coe, John Cassillo and Kate Guarente

Bandwidth beware: the influx of streaming music and video services like Spotify, MOG, Hype Machine, Turntable.fm, YouTube and Vimeo has made it possible to listen to music all the time, anytime. Whether you have one headphone in or you’re blasting it on a Friday afternoon for the whole office, music adds to the creative atmosphere at work. We have shared below a handful of playlists that will pump you up, focus you in, and help you wind down with your colleagues. Have a listen, and let us know what you listen to!

Top Music of 2011:

Congratulations, you just made it to the final round of a new business pitch. You’re pumped, but now you’re looking at a 24 hour turnaround for another pitch deck. The following songs have already won music lovers’ hearts this year, and it’s time they motivate you to win that new business heart, too. Attention-grabbing, thrilling and sometimes a bit brash, each song sets the tone for what should be a great year to come for you and your clients.

“Otis” – Jay-Z & Kanye West

“I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” – Wavves

“Vomit” – Girls

“The Great Pan Is Dead” – Cold Cave

“Calgary” – Bon Iver

“New Beat” – Toro y Moi

“The Look” – Metronomy

“I Stand Alone” – Theophilus London

“How Deep is Your Love?” – The Rapture

“Wildfire (feat. Little Dragon)” – SBTRKT

Heads-Down:

Turn off your instant messenger, block your Gmail, and forget about Mashable for an hour. If you’re writing up a pitch about the cloud, this list is your go-to. With steady, relaxed beats and little to no distracting lyrics, these songs can focus you even on the loudest of afternoons.  Though some might also lead you to daydreaming, so careful where your ears tread!

The Wilhelm Scream” – James Blake

“Eyes Be Closed” – Washed Out

“National Anthem” – Radiohead

“Two Weeks” – Grizzly Bear

“One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Girlfriend)” – Wilco

“Someone Great” – LCD Soundsystem

808pm At The Beach” – Fred Falke

“Wildcat” – Ratatat

“Take My Soul” – Thievery Corporation

“Chinatown” – Wild Nothing

Monday Morning Oldies:

No one’s in the mood for some loud, annoying pop song by the latest “IT” girl singing about self-esteem on a Monday morning. At times like these, it’s all about those classics you, and everyone else, already knows and loves. Trust us, there’s a reason these songs have been popular for at least the last 25 years.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” – John Denver

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John and Kiki Dee

“Another One Bites the Dust”—Queen

“Will You Be There” – Michael Jackson

“You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – The Beatles

“Danger Zone” – Kenny Loggins

“You Make My Dreams” – Hall & Oates

“Shout” – The Isley Brothers

 “Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond

Client-Friendly:

You know the song that, no matter how many times you play it, your coworkers will light up and say “oh! I love this song!” These are the ones you can play on a Tuesday, leave your desk for a client call, and come back and people are still jamming. Make sure you have at least a few (or all) of the tracks below handy if someone designates you resident DJ on a busy day.

“Unless It’s Kicks” – Okkervil River

“Bloodbuzz Ohio” – The National

“Giving Up the Gun” – Vampire Weekend

“Reptilia” – The Strokes

“Month of May” – Arcade Fire

“Shooting Stars” – Bag Raiders

“Je Veux Te Voir” – Yelle

“Lights & Music” – Cut Copy

“Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster The People

“Superstylin” – Groove Armada

Impress on an Afternoon:

Sometimes there are those days when you’ve volunteered as resident DJ but you feel you’ve exhausted Mike Snow and Robyn and need something fresh. These songs will perk up your colleagues’ ears and eventually someone will ping you, asking “who is this?” Consider this one a little bit of a brag list.

 “It Gets Your Body Movin’” – Suckers

“Brother Sport” – Animal Collective

“The Rat” – The Walkmen

“Round and Round” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

“Heroes and Villains” – The Beach Boys”

“Stillness is the Move” – Dirty Projectors

“Heartbeats” – The Knife

“Tripped and Fell in Love” – YACHT

“Two Dancers (ii)” – Wild Beasts (Jon Hopkins Remix)

“Midnight City” – M83

What are your favorite songs to listen to while at work?

Enter at Your Own Risk: SHIFTers at Work in the Kitchen

By Annie Meenan

This year, SHIFT SF decided to break our Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins to celebrate with a good ol’ fashioned bake-off. Why? Well, because what better way to celebrate the holiday than with an overload of baked goods chased down with some spiked cider and pumpkin ale.

Our “Fall Festivus” kicked off right in time for happy hour and the troops eagerly marched into our transformed conference room to find a table filled with baked goods. From homemade pumpkin cookies and muffins to Kahlua-infused cupcakes, there was no shortage of sugary treats. Hungry SHIFTers piled up plates full of every sweet imaginable to ensure they got a taste of everything. Soon, it was time to cast our ballots for the best dessert.

It was a tough competition, but in the end there could only be one winner. The dancing skeleton trophy prize ultimately went to SHIFT newbie and all-star intern, Michelle “Mich” Wells. Her “Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Balls of Glory” won by a landslide. Lucky for you, Mich was willing to share her secret recipe, so you can try it for yourself! Check it out below.

The Goods

  • 1 package dark chocolate cake mix
  • ¼ cup special dark powdered cocoa
  • ~ 1 cup peanut butter (Peanut Butter & Co’s White Chocolate Wonderful – peanut butter mixed with sweet white chocolate – recommended)
  • 1 1/3 cups of water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 ½ tablespoons of butter
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 – 1½ cups peanut butter chips
  • 1 container (16 ounces) of chocolate frosting
  • 1 package chocolate bark coating mix
  • Sea salt
  • 9” x 13” nonstick baking pan
  • Cookie sheet
  • Wax paper

How to Make the Magic Happen

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat the baking pan in canola oil spray just to ensure none of the cake was left behind.

Mix together the dry cake mix along with the cocoa powder. Then, stir in water, eggs, vegetable oil and butter. Spread that goodness in the baking pan, put it in the oven for 35 minutes and let cool to room temperature. (Tip: if you stick a toothpick in the middle of the cake, and no residue is on it when you pull it out, it is ready!)

Once it’s cool, crumble the cake into large mixing bowl. Stir in your frosting, peanut butter and peanut butter chips by hand. Put some sea salt in at this stage to taste – keep in mind you will be sprinkling more on top at the end of the process. Then, shape the batter into one inch balls. Place each ball on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate overnight or freeze them until firm.

Next, melt the chocolate bark coating pieces according to package instructions. Dip the cake balls into the melted chocolate and let them set on the cookie sheet (make sure your cake balls are firm – if they aren’t, they are going to fall apart in the melted chocolate resulting in less cake, which would be a major travesty). While the chocolate coating is drying, sprinkle sea salt on top of the cake balls so it dries into the coating. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Remember, you can make this treat with any cake recipe, and change it up with white or dark chocolate coating, sprinkles, drizzled chocolate on top, etc.

For the Love of the Game

By Matt Trocchio (@Trochman)

Ah, the summer… It can really only mean one thing: softball season has begun again! Although the mighty SHIFT squad is once again off to a slow start, it isn’t always about the Ws and Ls on the record, it is what you take away from the game. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to be too warm and fuzzy. You can read last’s years post for that (Team Building: It Takes More than Just Trust Falls).

I’m often surprised at how often you can find direct comparisons of sports and PR.  Perhaps it’s because these analogies are universally understood, or maybe it’s because they just plain make sense.

I was speaking recently with another PR pro regarding PR career paths and the changes to expect along the way.  It’s something I think about quite a bit.  Not always for the reasons you may think either –not about increases in money, increases in control/power or if I get that new office with a window.  No, I am usually trying to get a grip on what I should be doing and what I should be letting go of.  Sometimes when you get so used to what your role is on a team, when it changes it can be hard to adjust. You are so used to certain projects and pitches that you just roll with it.  However, you need to remember there are hungry staffers working with you that are still looking to get these opportunities.  When do you learn to just let go?

The conversation I had was very interesting as he went on to describe how he views himself now compared to when he was in more junior positions.  When you first break out into PR you are like a starting pitcher.  You keep the pace for your team and you get the opportunity to throw some real heat at some tough tasks.  As you grow you move more into the closer position.  You are brought in to really take on some of the elite batters (pubs, contacts, etc) and ensure the win for your team.  You are also responsible to teach the bullpen along the way, allowing them to hear what you’ve learned since your days as a starter.  You show them your pitch techniques and tips and let them know how certain batters like to be pitched to or how to pitch around them.

However, is you move on to even higher levels you remove yourself from pitching altogether and become more like a catcher for a baseball team.  You are now behind the plate looking at the whole diamond, seeing every play unfold.  Your job is now to call the pitches letting your pitching staff know when to throw the heat, when to look for a curve or when to walk that batter altogether.  Your job is also to protect that pitcher – whether that be from a batter charging the mound or giving advice after a wild pitch.

This analogy could go on and on as you make your way to coach building and running your own team to someday perhaps owning your own ball club.  I think this description paints a pretty accurate description of the path through Agency life and what’s expected of you along the way.  If nothing else it reminds you that Agency PR is a lot like playing ball – it’s all about patience, experience and team work.

See you out on the field gang….

Social Media IMPACT with Pub Club NE & PRSA Boston

By Kate Binette (@katebinette)

With more than 1,147,000 Twitter followers and about 1,410,000 Facebook fans between them, the panelists at a recent Publicity Club of New England and PRSA Boston event had much to offer in terms of social media strategies and tactics.  Earlier this month, Amanda Guisbond (@agbond) and I headed downtown to hear Christi McNeill of Southwest Airlines, Peter Panagopoulos from WGBH and Elaine Driscoll of the Boston Police Department speak on all things social.  They shared interesting and unique insights into their social media programs and provided great tips and tricks for PR pros executing social programs for their clients.

Mike Volpe, CMO of fellow Boston company HubSpot, moderated the panel and kicked off the night with a few surprising social media facts:

  • People are now spending more time on social media than on email, with more than 100 million tweets pushed through each day and one out of every eight minutes on the Internet spent on Facebook.
  • The average person views over 2,700 Web pages per month.
  • 40 percent of B2B companies and 60 percent of their B2C counterparts have secured clients on Facebook.

It’s obvious that the social sphere is still continuing to grow, and with B2C and B2B companies making business connections through Facebook, a social presence is increasingly important for all of our clients.  But what are the tried and true tactics that hold up across industries?  Here’s the quick and dirty from the panelists:

  • Use social media to set the tone for traditional media.  Social media should be a supplement to traditional outreach and vice versa.  Elaine explained that when news hit about Osama Bin Laden’s death, the BPD’s quick execution on Twitter helped set the tone for local media conversation.  The Department also filmed a 30-second statement from the commissioner explaining that there was no threat to the city of Boston.  Every news station in the city referred to the BPD’s tweet and used their video, limiting hype and keeping the public’s reaction under control.  Similarly, quick action from Christi and the rest of the Southwest Airlines social team on the company blog and Facebook and Twitter pages helped alleviate calls from the media in the wake of the Company’s most recent plane crisis. 
  • Find a monitoring schedule that works – and keep the approval process short.  Monitoring 24/7 is a challenge, but it’s important to keep track of tweets, Facebook posts and events in the news that require a response.  At the BPD, a few quick internal conversations revealed that several 911 operators had a personal interest in social media.  The all-day, every-day access provided by the operators, combined with a nimble approval process, ensure quick action and response.  Christi’s team stays in touch and divides and conquers – communication is key!
  • Stay in touch with influencers, and stick to what works to reach them.  Christi found that catering to aviation bloggers and inviting them to Southwest Airlines’ media day helped broaden their reach beyond the airline’s traditional customer base and engage a niche group of aviation enthusiasts.  Peter explained that WGBH strives to give the people what they want – despite efforts to promote more interactive content on the Antiques Roadshow Facebook page, tune-in messages and appraisals see the most engagement from fans and keep them coming back for more.

To sum up the night, the panel shared their top tips for a successful social media strategy – in 140 characters or less, of course:

  • Have fun, and be relevant. – Christi
  • Inform, and be thoughtful.  – Peter
  • Don’t overtweet, and always be relevant. – Elaine

What do you think are the most important parts of a relevant, successful social media campaign?


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