Walker Sands Sponsors ITA Initiative to Empower Women in Tech

When the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) launched Women Influence Chicago last fall, we immediately recognized an opportunity to be a part of an initiative that we’re passionate about­­: empowering women in tech.

In addition to being associate members of the ITA, we’re so excited to announce that we are now proud sponsors and founding partners of their Women Influence Chicago Initiative. Through this incredible organization, we have the opportunity to help women in the Chicago tech scene through training, education and events, with the goal of empowering women throughout a variety of leadership roles.

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The Women Influence Chicago Initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Pre-Workforce: encouraging interest in technology through mentorship, education and STEM programs
  • In-Workforce: providing resources and training for Chicago tech companies, as well as their male and female employees, to help them create inclusive work environments for women
  • Positions of Influence: increasing the number of women in the C-Suite, on boards and in other prominent leadership roles at tech companies in Chicago

Powered by the ITA, Women Influence Chicago is co-chaired by Kelly Stickel, CEO of Remodista, and Aimee Schuster, CMO of Miller Heiman. Walker Sands will attend Women Influence Chicago board meetings as their public relations and marketing advisor.  

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Allison Ward, Senior Account Director

Walker Sands senior account director Allison Ward is excited to bring her experience and insight to this initiative. As a senior member of our FinTech public relations team and a working mother, Allison is personally passionate about Women Influence Chicago’s mission to empower female leaders and hopes that their work in the city has a wide, long-lasting effect. “We want to make Chicago an ecosystem where women in tech are not only prevalent, but thriving and supported. If we can empower women in tech in Chicago, hopefully there’s a ripple effect in other large tech markets.”

Toward that goal, Women Influence Chicago will be working on action-oriented projects throughout the year. They are determined to not just highlight the problems — but to actually solve them. Events like the “Women Influence Chicago Series: Negotiating Your Equity Package” are designed to do just that. The group is also working on an actionable blueprint to promote diversity and equality in the workplace, with tips for tech companies on how to empower their women into the C-Suite and leadership positions.

We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative and can’t wait to share more with you on their fantastic projects throughout the year. Keep an eye out for future Women Influence Chicago blog posts, and in the meantime, connect with them on their website or on Twitter.

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Seattle’s Favorite Hot Dog Gets the Chicago Twist

Following the relaunch of our San Francisco office in 2016, we’re excited to build upon this West Coast momentum with the opening of our new Seattle office!

Seattle’s tech community is vibrant and quickly growing. We’re eager to build more relationships in the area and to continue helping tech brands grow. The additional local support will help us better service clients in the region.

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Okay, now to the hot dogs.

Being from Chicago, of course we had to put Seattle’s famous cream-cheese version to the test. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. And then I got to thinking – trying this hot dog represents how our team is approaching new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Learn Constantly – Cream cheese on a hot dog was certainly a new one for me. We’re eager to learn all we can about the Seattle’s B2B tech PR needs and how we can revisit our operations to deliver better results for clients. This passion helps our teams master top industries and encourages a collective commitment to always doing great work. Tech nerds? Nah. We like to think of ourselves as tech enthusiasts.
  • Get Inspired – Seattle is full of people who believe they’re building tomorrow’s greatest tech inventions today. We believe it, too. And with the opening of our Seattle office, now we can help everyone else see it. We love tech and are constantly inspired by the awesome companies we’re lucky enough to work with. It’s our mission to nurture the sparks of news ideas – after all, one hot dog inspired this entire blog post.
  • Be Fearless – Whether trying a new food or deploying an unprecedented PR strategy, our time in Seattle has already confirmed that risks are worth their rewards. Our mission is to support your business’ goals however we can, and our Midwestern sensibilities won’t settle for anything less than reliable, honest work. But we won’t reach our highest potential if we’re always doing things the same way. We’re ready to take risks, push boundaries and try what the other guys aren’t even thinking about yet. That means we may fall down sometimes, but our resilience only makes us stronger and leads to better results for our clients

Maybe I’m just hungry, but Walker Sands really does feel like a Seattle hot dog with a twist. All the classics you know and love, but with a little something extra to intrigue (like celery salt and a pickle). Okay, maybe enough food. But, hey, there’s something about being from a city that stands behind its dog.

As always, our expansion is made possible by a roster of amazing clients that trust our approach to PR, as well as talented employees who continuously amaze me with the work they do. Thank you for making this all possible – we couldn’t be more excited about our Seattle adventure.

With that said, we could use your help getting started. We’re looking to expand our Seattle family (paid internships and full-time team members). Know someone who would be a great fit? Send them our way!

And if you’re ever in the area, let us know. We’d love to discuss what Walker Sands can do for your business – how about over a hot dog?

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Is Your Business Ready to Talk Bitcoin?

Back for more about bitcoin and blockchain? Now that we’ve discussed their capabilities it’s time to consider whether the two innovations should be part of your company’s strategic messaging. From identifying an internal expert to narrowing your focus, the following three questions can shed light on whether bitcoin or blockchain are topics your company should speak to.

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1. Do you have an expert?

The first step to position your business as a trusted resource on bitcoin and/or blockchain is finding the right thought leaders to help drive the effort. Reach out to executives who may be interested in authoring bylines or jumping in on conversations about bitcoin and blockchain. Those who possess an in-depth understanding of your business as well as familiarity with cryptocurrency may be the best candidates.

Remember though, just because someone is considered an expert on bitcoin doesn’t mean they have the same level of knowledge when it comes to blockchain. Divvy up thought leaders based on their grasp of the two technologies.

Having trouble drawing interest? Don’t forget to mention what’s in it for them. Not only will speaking about bitcoin and blockchain raise awareness of your company, but it may also help your thought leaders gain recognition within the industry.

2. What’s the angle?

Once you’ve identified thought leaders, narrow down your company’s messaging. While there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to bitcoin and blockchain, not all of it is important to your audience. Choose an angle that’s relevant to prospects, interesting to your customers and easy for thought leaders to knock out of the park.

Whether the focus is on how bitcoin or blockchain technology may impact your business or the broader industry as a whole, make sure to stay on top of new developments. There are a number of go-to resources for the latest cryptocurrency news and trends, including:

PYMNTS – Bitcoin Tracker
Business Insider – Finance
CNN – FinTech News

bitcoin thought leaders

3. Are your thought leaders prepared?

Get the most out of interactions with the media by thoroughly training thought leaders ahead of their moment in the spotlight. Helpful resources such as Q&A documents or suggested talking points can go a long way toward ensuring your company’s messaging is understandable and consistent – no matter the thought leader.

If time permits, consider conducting a mock interview before the big day. Not only will it help calm any nerves, but it may also give you the chance to answer questions and simplify key messages.

Stay tuned for part three of our bitcoin and blockchain series!

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What you missed at Cyber Security Chicago 2017

Two weeks ago in Chicago’s McCormick Place, Cyber Security Chicago 2017 wrapped up after two days of influential security professionals and career hackers sharing their security secrets.

With 43 exhibitors from across the security industry and thousands of attendees, Cyber Security Chicago set the stage for a great event of learning and networking. If you weren’t able to make it to the event this year, don’t worry! The show will be back next year from September 26-27, 2018, and you can sign up here.

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Highlights of the Event

Cyber Security Chicago 2017 featured several high-profile security keynote speakers, including:

  • Kevin Mitnick: Known as the world’s most famous hacker, Kevin Mitnick was once one of the FBI’s Most Wanted because he hacked into 40 major corporations simply for a challenge. Kevin is now a trusted security consultant to the Fortune 500 and governments worldwide, and he performed his “live technology magic show” for attendees  as Wednesday’s keynote speaker.
  • Confessions of a Hacker: On Thursday, attendees got the rare opportunity to listen to an anonymous professional hacker as he shared his techniques and examples of how he defeated both the latest cyber security technologies and physical security measures. The hacker even started off in the crowd and walked to the stage unnoticed where he sat behind a distortion screen – right under our noses!

Key Takeaways

In addition to the countless lessons learned from the keynote speakers, there were two overall themes attendees were able takeaway from the event:

Your people are your weakest link: We heard this line several times at the event. The anonymous hacker during Confessions of a Hacker said that despite all of your complex security solutions, hackers will still breach your networks through unsuspecting employees. This hacker has breached a number of large companies, banks and medical data centers through not only the organization’s’ digital networks but also their physical securities. He advises the best way to guard against hackers is to enforce digital and physical security policies and to teach employees how to spot phishing emails, social engineering hacks, etc.

You’ll never truly be safe in today’s day and age: Some said it was cynicism. Others said it was realism. But, almost all attendees we spoke to agreed there was a universal feeling in the air during presentations: you can never truly protect your information online. Many of the presentations touched on how the Internet of Things is opening society up to more and more vulnerabilities, so regular people like you and me need to start preparing for worst-case scenarios. One speaker on this subject, Steve Overko, from Kaspersky Lab, gave some key ways to avoid risk when you live in a connected home, including:

  1. Installing endpoint security software where possible
  2. Limiting app permissions and using authentication
  3. Limiting information gathering by encrypting and/or storing it locally

It seems like we hear of a major breach every other week. It’s important as our world develops and moves more data online to be cognizant of our security. The anonymous hacker pointed out that there will always be someone coming after your data – be it for malicious purposes or simply for the thrill of it.

Walker Sands Communications was proud to support the media coverage efforts of Cyber Security Chicago before and during the show. It was a great event that invited attendees to think more deeply about cyber threats and how they can protect themselves and their organizations from them. If you’re interested in learning more about our expertise in the event and cybersecurity fields, please contact us here.

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‘Ann’ Event for the Books

This week we hosted our third annual Just a Book (book club for marketers) event and were thrilled to have Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs and author of the WSJ best seller, “Everybody Writes”. Throughout September and October we shared around 100 copies of the book with marketers across Chicago and came together with colleagues, clients and friends for the closing event.

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This year’s book focused on why writing is an essential tool in every marketer’s toolbox and gave tips and tricks for fulfilling your writing potential. We broke down the content in her book each week by the philosophy of writing, grammar rules and story guidelines, publishing and writing for marketing, ending the series with Ann at the American Writers Museum.

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Ann was such a pleasure to collaborate with and we are still reeling over what a privilege it was to share the room with her. Through our Q&A, she talked about her ideas from the book and then some. Here are a few of our top takeaways from the event:

  • Use your voice – As a marketer speaking and writing for a brand it’s easy to get caught up in style guidelines and blindly slip into sounding like a robot; however, this doesn’t have to happen! According to Ann, “writing in a brand voice doesn’t mean you lose who you are.” You can still tell your brand story and adjust your own voice and style to do it. 
  • Keep Jargon to a Minimum – Jargon, it’s the catch-22 of marketing talk. Despite denying ourselves from using agile and scalable for the umpteenth time, Ann believes there is a time and a place for it. If the jargon and words you’re using mean something to your audience then use them! But, if it feels like fluff, drop them. This generally works best when speaking to a niche group of people.
  • Technology makes you a better writer – There is no denying that social media has not only revolutionized the way we communicate peer to peer, but it’s changed the way we approach marketing. Why not use it as a tool to be a better writer? In Ann’s own busy life, she uses instagram as an outlet for writing. She’s thoughtful about every word she types, and treats her account as a micro blog for maintaining her brand (And we totally recommend following her, @AnnHandley).

Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this memorable event. Check out photos here! It was an honor getting to fill the room for Ann with Chicago’s brightest marketing brains. Missed us this year? RSVP here to be included in upcoming events.

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