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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Friday Five: 3/20-3/24


TGIF! Check out some of the top tech headlines from the past week before you head out:

Walmart Is Launching a Tech Incubator in Silicon Valley – Fortune
To stay ahead of retail tech trends, Walmart has launched its own tech incubator, Store No 8. The Silicon Valley center, coined as an “innovation cluster,” is encouraged to grow, think and invent independently of the nation’s largest retailer and its influence. Walmart hopes this incubator will modernize e-commerce strategy with the production of robots, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and other tech trends.

Instagram now has 1 million advertisers, will launch business booking tool this year – VentureBeat
Instagram announced Wednesday that it now hosts more than 1 million advertisers on the app each month, which is a 400 percent increase from last year’s numbers. This growth has inspired the app to create innovative ways for businesses to interact with consumers, such as the ability for users to book appointments directly through the app, which is set to appear later this year. Technology and improvements that convert fans and followers into paying customers are the app’s “next steps.”

Here’s everything Apple announced on Tuesday – Business Insider

Tuesday saw the release of multiple new Apple products – unaccompanied by a large media event. The company instead unveiled a handful of new products and some “refreshes” of existing models on their website. Among the new offerings were a 9.7-inch iPad, a special edition iPhone 7 (RED) benefiting HIV/AIDS prevention and research and product updates to Apple Watch bands and iPhone cases. Most notable was the release of Apple’s new app, Clips, which is described as a hybrid of both iMovie and Snapchat.

Facebook tests an enhanced local search and discovery feature offering business suggestions  – TechCrunch 
Facebook’s newest search feature is essentially an in-app Yelp. The enhanced search capabilities allow users to inquire about “dinner nearby” or “best bars in Chicago” within the app itself. The search results also come with star-ranked reviews, pricing, location and a list of friends that have visited – all similar to services like Yelp, Foursquare and Google Maps. This is currently in the testing stage, but users can expect to see it in the coming months.

AT&T and Johnson & Johnson Pull Ads From YouTube – New York Times
YouTube has found themselves in a not-so-pleasant situation. Industry giants Johnson & Johnson and AT&T have both opted to pull their ads from Google properties after being paired with sites that promote hate speech and extremist views. This comes after a series of European entities (the British government, The Guardian and GSK) pulled their ads for similar reasons. Google has promised an “extensive review” of their ad policies and pledges to give brands more control over ad placement in the future.

Tweet us your favorite tech story from the week @WalkerSands!

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Walker Sands Earns Spot on Clutch’s List of Leading Chicago Full Service Digital Agencies

We are excited to announce that Clutch, a research firm that identifies leading software and professional services, has named Walker Sands Digital as one of Chicago’s leading full service digital agencies. Last year we were given the same recognition in both Chicago and San Francisco. Making the list a second time is a true testament to the clients we get to work with and the talent our teams contribute.


To qualify for the list, Clutch judged Walker Sands on industry awards and recognition, portfolio items, services provided and key clients. A team of Clutch analysts then reached out to our clients to collect additional information to help qualify us as one of the top digital agencies in Chicago. The client feedback was more than we could have asked for.

One client remarked:

Walker Sands’ project management skills across the board for our services are really top-notch. They are really easy to work with and open about our results. They provide weekly reports for our PPC efforts, so it’s really easy to keep a really good pulse on how we’re performing overall. The same goes for their SEO work.

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Later adding:

As soon as we give them a project, they really stick to their deadlines well, and the end product is always really well done. They keep me to my deadlines too, which is always appreciated.

We’ve been so fortunate to work together to build websites for clients like CloudCraze and Surgical Directions among others as well as an interactive micro-site for a cause for CompTIA. It’s great to be recognized by Clutch, and we mean it when we say we can’t do it without our clients.

Take a look at our full company profile to hear more from our clients and get an in depth view at how we were evaluated.

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Visit the Walker Sands website. We specialize in PR and marketing services for technology solution providers and B2B companies. Walker Sands Digital offers a wide array of digital marketing solutions and helps firms to get the most from their online presence.
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