Friday Five: 4/3-4/7

The weekend is near, but there’s no time like now to catch up on some of this week’s top tech stories.

Pepsi Pulls Ads Accused of Trivializing Black Lives Matter – The New York Times

Pepsi released a controversial, two-minute ad which has now been pulled. In hopes of aiming to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding, the ad, featuring Kendall Jenner, received intense criticism after making light of current real-world problems. “Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” said the company on Wednesday.

YouTube TV Arrives Today – Promising, But A Work In Progress – Fast Company

Debuting in five markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area), YouTube TV has arrived. For $35 a month, users can view up to 50 plus channels, and the service is available on Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, and the web. YouTube TV will allow up to six accounts and three simultaneous streams. The twist? Viewers can only watch on a TV via Chromecast.

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What EdTech Stakeholders Are Talking About: Lessons from SXSWedu 20

As a former teacher, education PR professional and current learning and development manager at Walker Sands, I was ready to nerd out at SXSWedu 2017. Thousands of experts gathered for 4 days in Austin, Texas to address trends in edtech and have honest conversations about the challenges facing the education industry as a whole.

Between education celebrities such as Dr. Brene Brown and John Maeda wandering the halls, and one interesting session description after another, my FOMO was at an all-time high. I attended as many sessions as I could and walked away with solid insights into the current state of edtech.

What EdTech Stakeholders are Talking About Now

1. What can VR do for you?

VR, AI and MR (mixed reality, combining the first two) technologies are eliciting intrigue across all industries, education included. While some educators are embracing the possibilities for deeper engagement (major buzzword alert), others worry about the risk of losing touch with reality.

If we can transport students to anywhere in the world with one swipe of a finger and a cardboard box, what’s to become of physical field trips? Will students further lose themselves in a solitary, virtual vortex? Will VR have a significant enough impact in the classroom to warrant any of this?

Teachers who have begun implementing these technologies in the classroom have noticed students prefer to explore them in groups. The social component of education remains significant. Regarding impact, all signs point to VR/AI/MR transforming, specifically and certainly, the med school experience and many healthcare practices.

In the traditional classroom setting, the technologies will allow for deeper exploration by bringing more concepts to life in new, interactive ways. One thing most can agree on is that these technologies are often intuitive enough to make implementation and integration more accessible for educators.A

2. What does the future hold for higher education?

The notion of the 21st-century job, in which you choose a specific career path and then go to school for it, is fading. Companies are instead seeking employees with relevant skills, such as creative problem-solving and good communication.

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Friday Five: 3/27-3/31


TGIF! Before you kick off your weekend, check out some of the top tech stories from this week.

Google’s AI Hasn’t Passed Its Biggest Test Yet: Hunting Hate – Bloomberg

Companies are halting their YouTube spending for monthly ads. Earlier this month, companies’ ads were found alongside hateful and extremist videos. Google parent company, Alphabet Inc., may lose less than 1 percent of its sales this year as a result. Google is working to solve YouTube’s problem by using AI to monitor content and ad placement.

Soon your pizza will be ordered, made and delivered through robots – Venture Beat

This week, Domino’s Pizza revealed a new project to a number of Dutch and German cities. The pizza restaurant chain is working to use ground drones to deliver food orders that are within a one mile radius. Domino’s partnered with Starship Technologies to make this robot a reality.

New High-Res Oculus Home for Gear VR Boosts The Mobile Experience – Fast Company

Oculus VR, an American tech company owned by Facebook has completely revamped Samsung’s mobile VR experience. They has taken Samsung’s Gear VR and brought it closer to high-end VR systems. The gear will now feature clearer graphics and incorporate more user participation with connected controllers.

Starbucks is going to try out a mobile order only store – TechCrunch

Starbucks is working toward improving its mobile ordering and recently added a feature that allows customers to order ahead and pick up their coffee. And because Starbucks mobile ordering is such a hit, the company has plans to open a mobile order only location in Seattle. The mobile order only coffeehouse will have a different design including a more prominent pick-up window.  The location will be open starting next week.

At Digit, All That Spare Change Is Adding Up–To $500 Million in Deposits  – Fast Company

The money-saving app, Digit, helps users save money without even thinking about it. Once connected to your bank account, it studies your spending habits and income history. Then it takes money that you don’t really need for your daily spending and puts it into a FDIC account. Last year Digit had a total of $75 million in deposits and this year they hit a milestone of $500 million.

Did you come across any interesting tech news this week? Tweet us your favorite story @WalkerSands!


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Media Relations 101: Building Relationships with Reporters

Public relations is not so much about what you know, but who you know. That’s why all of the Walker Sands media relations specialists came together this month to share our best tips and tricks for developing relationships with reporters.

While our media relations specialists often collaborate across teams, each specialist has their own unique approach to building a rapport with the media. Over coffee and bagels, we consolidated our tips into four best practices for building relationships with reporters:

  • Be personable – No reporter wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot. Keep emails casual and to-the-point. Try mirroring their tone to get a better feel for how they prefer to communicate. Once you’ve established a rapport, send a short email to compliment them on a recent article. This shows the reporter that you’re interested in their work and that you’re not only contacting them for favors. You can also mail letters or cards when appropriate (i.e. birthdays, holidays, condolences). Even the smallest gesture goes a long way.
  • Stand your ground – Many media relations professionals, especially new ones, tend to be overly accommodating and passive when working with the media. That said, don’t be scared off when reporters ask why they should cover your pitch. Be ready to explain why your story is newsworthy. Reporters respect when you hold your ground.
  • Ask for feedback – When a reporter turns down your story idea, consider responding with something along the lines of, “Are you open to future pitches, and if so, what kind?” Feedback will help you better gauge how a reporter prefers to be pitched and what types of stories they are interested in.
  • Meet face-to-face – If you have the opportunity to meet a reporter in person, take it.
    Not only does meeting in person let reporters know you see them as a resource, it shows them that you’re a resource too. You can position yourself as their go-to PR contact by establishing a face-to-face connection and providing the reporter with a variety of expert sources.

Fellow PR pros: Do you have any other media relations tips for fostering relationships with reporters? Tweet us @WalkerSands!

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Walker Sands PROI Exchange Recap: My Week in Atlanta

Back in November you may have read Walker Sands senior content strategist Kelsey Gunderson’s blog post on her week at Slaeger Communications in Norway, as part of our agency’s Public Relations Organization International (PROI) exchange trip. Like Kelsey, I was chosen to spend a week at the office of one of our partner agencies, immerse myself in their culture and come back with new ideas and inspirations for the way we work at Walker Sands.

While I didn’t venture quite as far as Kelsey did, I chose to visit Jackson Spalding in Atlanta, I learned just as much and managed to find a little time for some fun.

What I Learned

Jackson Spalding is a roughly 140-person agency headquartered in Atlanta, with additional offices in Athens, GA and Dallas. Their clients span a range of industries – from banking, to healthcare, to education – and include some of the biggest consumer brands headquartered in Atlanta (including The Coca-Cola Company and Chick-fil-A).

A large part of my time at Jackson Spalding was spent observing various weekly meetings for those accounts, where team members would gather to discuss items in progress, the health of the account and who had extra bandwidth to take on new projects. If there’s one thing I took away from those meetings, it was the importance of being able to grow and scale your services alongside a client. Some of Jackson Spalding’s largest and most successful accounts, like Orkin or Delta Airlines, started as small projects handling one piece of that business – like media relations or event support. By doing exceptional work and earning the trust of their clients, the JS team has been able to take on more responsibilities and expand the programs until they’re functioning largely as an extension of their client’s internal communications or marketing teams.

Second, the JS team is committed to doing whatever it takes to deliver the best results for their clients. Stories of team members becoming self-taught experts in, for example, email marketing to help a client in need are common around the office. That comes as no surprise considering how the agency has been able to grow their accounts service by service. Spending a week at Jackson Spalding, observing client brainstorms, and meeting with a handful of their account managers reaffirmed for me Walker Sands’ own belief that maintaining a scrappy mentality from our small agency days will be critical as we continue to grow our own offerings and accounts.

Here is a photo of me telling the Jackson Spalding team about work and life at Walker Sands:


What I Did

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk briefly about what I did in Atlanta outside of Jackson Spalding’s office. The city is well-known for its growing arts and culture scene, especially in the Midtown neighborhood where I was staying.

In addition to checking out the High Museum of Art, Center for Civil and Human Rights and Piedmont Park on my own, the JS team was kind enough to take me to some of their favorite local food and drink spots – including the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world, The Varsity, and Ponce City Market, an old Sears Roebuck distribution warehouse that has since been converted into shops, restaurants and a rooftop bar/carnival called Skyline Park.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Atlanta or Jackson Spalding without a visit to the World of Coca-Cola museum: rsz_img_20170227_181857_966

I’d confidently recommend applying for the PROI exchange program to anyone in our office – not many PR agencies offer an opportunity like this. And in an industry as small and connected as public relations, it helps to have smart friends and partners in other cities.

Thanks, Jackson Spalding!

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