When the business community and the not-for-profit community find opportunities to work together, humanity wins. However, even as we understand this reality, we are still challenged with finding the right opportunities to make an impact.
For nearly the past two years, Walker Sands Communications has been working with G2 Crowd as their primary public relations agency. In that time, the relationship has created terrific work – Walker Sands has been a pivotal force in telling the story of G2 Crowd. However, we’ve recently joined forces, beyond just work, through a G2 Gives initiative that will make a wonderful investment in the future. G2 Crowd and Walker Sands will be working together to raise funds for a local cause, Chicago Tech Academy.
Chicago Tech Academy is a public, charter school that teaches students with an emphasis on STEM education. Unfortunately, ChiTech faces many financial challenges to provide an advanced education to their students. Annually this public school is tasked with raising an estimated half-million dollars to fill their budget shortfall.
Tim Handorf, co-founder and CEO of G2 Crowd, recognized this shortfall as an opportunity for the Chicago business and not-for-profit communities to work together. With this realization, G2 Crowd launched a new G2 Gives initiative to raise funds to help ChiTech fully fund their education plans. For each review received through this initiative, G2 Crowd will donate $10 to ChiTech.
The team at Walker Sands quickly volunteered to join in this unique opportunity. Together we initiated an internal review campaign. The team at Walker Sands has been reviewing the software and services that they use on G2 Crowd, which rapidly collected reviews and will soon eclipse their initial goal of 100 reviews.
The initiative will also result in some valuable data for Walker Sands. The G2 Crowd research team is collating the data from these reviews and creating an IT Health Assessment for the company. This research will help Walker Sands to better understand which of their solutions are best meeting their needs and which might need to be re-evaluated.
The goal of G2 Gives is to leverage professional knowledge, bring transparency to the B2B market place and help the not-for-profit community through just one, 10-minute review. This initiative is accomplishing those goals and so much more for future generations in Chicago.
This blog post was written by Adam Beeson, director of communications, at G2 Crowd. Learn more about Adam Beeson here.
If you’ve been reading along, congrats to reaching the fourth and final installment in our Just a Book 2017 blog series featuring Ann Handley’s, “Everybody Writes.
Now that we’ve covered everything from the philosophy of writing to grammar rules and publishing tips, it’s time to dig a little deeper on writing for social, web and email. Because while you may be a marketer by title, Ann helps us to figure out what it really means to write like one.
Here are some of our favorite strategies from Ann:
Writing for Social
“Remember: think dialogue, not monologue. Social sites are often condemned for encouraging banal and useless noise, such as ‘Eating a burrito for lunch.’ But they provide rich opportunity to share updates that offer context or reveal character.” (Page 190)
Though only about a decade old, social media platforms have transformed the way businesses interact with their customers. Instead of picking up the phone or sending an email, customers are now just a few clicks (or swipes) away from connecting with their favorite brands. Curious how you can make the most of social? Check out the following tips:
- Twitter. While you may be interacting with strangers, at the end of the day, they’re still people. Write as if you’re chatting with a friend or family member to establish rapport. Twitter also offers the opportunity to tell people what you’re all about. Share what your company stands for and how it’s improving the world to give followers insight into your bigger story.
- Facebook. When it comes to Facebook, focus on quality over quantity. The more targeted your approach is, the better chance you’ll have of increasing sales. And remember, brevity is your friend. Short posts – 100-140 characters – and appropriately-sized images – 800×600 pixels – will drive the most engagement.
- LinkedIn. With company pages, individual profiles and even showcase pages that highlight specific products and services, there’s a lot happening on LinkedIn. To stand out from the competition, optimize your profile with keyword-rich descriptions in addition to a steady stream of relevant news. It’s also a good idea to encourage employee advocacy since sharing important updates can boost both reach and engagement.
Writing for Web
“It’s tempting to go overboard – and arcade-ify your landing page by adding all manner of bells and whistles. Instead, go for simple and clean, with stupid-obvious navigation. As I’ve said elsewhere in this book: less is so often more.” (Page 227)
There’s a lot to consider when writing for web. To churn out top notch copy for Walker Sands’ own websites (like our digital site), our content team has turned toward these tips on more than one occasion. For home pages, keep your audience top of mind. Speaking directly to your audience’s motivations will help you demonstrate how you can solve their problems. Even something as small as adding in words your audience uses can help earn their trust – and ultimately their business.
As far as landing pages go, pay special attention to three key elements – the where, what and why. Carefully explaining where visitors have landed, what you’re providing and why they need to take next steps will make for a simple yet effective landing page. Curious how to tackle an about us page? Ann suggests focusing less on your company and more on who your employees are in relation to the visitor. Showing the human side of your employees while also including customer testimonials can help ensure you connect things back to the reader.
Writing for Email
“Rethink your email content, to reconsider what you’re sending, and why, and how you’re communicating . . . swap places with your recipient and write an email you would open.” (Page 219)
According to a study from Radicati Group, more than 265 billion emails are expected to be sent each day in 2017. By 2021, that number could reach 319 billion. To break through the noise, try keeping things concise. For example, short subject lines can boost open rate. The same goes for email copy. Rather than writing a drawn-out paragraph, get straight to the point to avoid wasting your reader’s time.
When appropriate, you can even go casual and use a recipient’s first name. Last but not least, finish things off with a specific call to action.
To take your writing to the next level, check out pages 181-261 of “Everybody Writes.” You can also watch our video on the final section of Ann’s book.
Better yet, reserve your spot to meet Ann in person! On Oct. 23, she’ll be joining us in Chicago for a meet and greet and Q&A session at the American Writers Museum. Spots are filling up fast so reserve now!
The third quarter is a wrap, and as we prepare for sweater weather and pumpkin everything, we’re taking a minute to reflect on some of the great projects our team completed during summer 2017.
Directly from the creative minds behind it all, here are four projects and campaigns that knocked it out of the park.
CallRail – Funding Announcement
By Anna Shymanski, Account Executive
We love the opportunity to share good news for our clients, especially when we get to announce growth and expansion. When we got the urgent call that CallRail was set to announce a major round of Series A funding in the next few days, the marketing technology team was fully prepared to help them share the news. To give a little background on CallRail, they provide customers with easy to read reports that show where their marketing efforts are performing best.
After tapping into our media relations expertise and communication skills to work with the investment firm, we were able to go to the press with a great story. In the end, we secured feature placements for CallRail’s funding announcements in both The Wall Street Journal and VentureBeat. We also secured mentions in Fortune, MarTech Advisor and other VC outlets. CallRail’s CEO called the team’s efforts “heroic.” We’re proud of the coverage we secured for a client that we respect and enjoy working with, and even moreso the partnership we’ve continued to build with the team at CallRail.
The Future of Retail and Amazon Prime Newsjacking
By Erin Jordan, Account Director
On the retail technology team we pride ourselves on always being up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies, allowing us to better insert our clients into timely news and tell their stories.
One of our favorite internal projects we work on each year is the annual “Future of Retail” study. For the last four years, we’ve surveyed consumers on their buying behaviors to help our clients (and their clients) get ahead of and best prepare for changing shopping demands.
Our vast understanding of the marketplace has led to our launching of the study during some of the most timely retail tech updates in our recent history – and this year was no different. While Amazon was making major moves, our team jumped on the opportunity to use the 2017 report to dig deeper on trends like voice commerce, and leverage the findings to newsjack the summer 2017 Whole Foods acquisition and annually awaited Prime Day.
So far, the study has been pitched 16 times resulting in roughly 125 placements with highlights including Washington Post, Entrepreneur, The Street and more. And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve worked tirelessly to place an additional five clients in over 50 publications, all leveraging Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and Prime Day. Of those placements, we are especially proud to have our clients and company referenced as a resource in USA Today, PYMNTS, Marketing Land, Business Insider, CNET, Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
Given the report’s success the past four years, it was an all hands on deck effort from our design, marketing, digital and content teams. Having generated more than 4,000 downloads in the past three years, the data from the study complements the work we do for our clients, allows for long-leg pitching and has enabled us us to produce equally valuable mini reports such as the “Future of Retail 2017 Holiday Report”.
LiveStories’ Gender Pay Gap Report
By Rosie Gillam, Senior Account Executive
For the past year, one of our favorite accounts to work on has been LiveStories. What we love about this client is how they use public data to tell stories. The product, LiveStories, allows users to find, explore and present civic data all in a single web-based location. When the client came to us for help with a new campaign, I was thrilled to be working with them on another data-driven project.
LiveStories expressed that it needed our help driving awareness about the brand and its product in three major markets across the West Coast — Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company was preparing to exhibit at state and local government conferences in these cities. We were charged with helping enhance the brand’s credibility before each of these events.
The campaign served to build awareness about LiveStories through a series of localized, data-driven reports about the gender pay gap. Our efforts helped LiveStories land coverage in major news outlets across Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco — All together we garnered over 60 placements including BuzzFeed, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg Law and more.
EXP.com – website launch
By Matt Brown, Senior Digital Marketing Director
As a member of the Walker Sands web team, I can confidently say that not a day goes by where we don’t work as a team. This rings true in the launch of our latest project, exp.com.
Several months ago, exp came to us with a challenge. As a large multinational civil engineering company headquartered in Canada, they needed a new website that befitted their global, modern, prestigious company. Unfortunately, their website at the time suffered from outdated designs, old messaging and capabilities, and poor performance in search results and on mobile.
Since then, our Walker Sands team of content strategists, SEO technicians, UX/UI designers, developers and project managers got to work and invested over 2,000 hours in this challenging endeavor over the past several months. And then finally in September, we were able to successfully launch the new exp.com featuring a compelling new responsive design, optimized messaging and user paths, multi-language capabilities and accessibility compliance for disabled visitors.
We are so proud of the work our team was able to accomplish this quarter. Their hard work in Q3 is telling of what will be accomplished in Q4. Keep an eye out for more highlights!
Welcome back to Part 3 of the 2017 Just a Book blog series!
As we head into week three, it’s time to take the philosophies and skills we’ve learned so far and put them to action – getting content published.
Every piece of great content deserves the right platform to host it, and an audience eager to read it. However, as content creators, we have to remember that every opportunity to publish is a privilege. And with that privilege comes an accountability to our audiences to produce content that is both accurate and honest. To help us navigate this responsibility, Ann offers a number of great strategies on publishing content that you can feel confident in.
Check out these tips from our third week of reading “Everybody Writes”:
“Data before declaration. If you are going to tell me what you think, give me a solid reason why you think it.” (Page 178)
Readers want to know that your opinions are founded in truth. The best way to convey this is through data. Whether creating a whitepaper or drafting a byline, data gives your content important context and earns both you and your business credibility. You can turn to trusted sources like government agencies, research reports and major media outlets, but it’s ultimately up to you to be a good judge of what sources are reliable.
Be a Thoughtful Curator
“If you are merely regurgitating content from elsewhere without adding your own take, that’s not curation – that’s aggregation. A robot can aggregate content, but only a human can tell me why it matters.” (Page 166)
At some point as a writer, you’ll need to find inspiration and content elsewhere. As you search, it’s imperative to curate your content ethically. This means giving credit where credit is due, using a diverse set of sources and, most importantly, adding your own point of view to the story. Like a museum curator, it’s your job to highlight an artist’s individual work while also putting together a cohesive gallery that says something new about you. Take a closer look at how our design team approaches finding inspiration.
Dot Your i’s and Cross Your t’s
“Copyright information is like smoking marijuana: people tend to think that because it’s common it must be legal. It’s not.” (Page 170)
When it comes to using a found idea, quote, image, etc., always ask first. While living in a digital age can make it feel like the information we find online is everyone’s, the rules of copyright infringement are very black and white. Ask for permission, record the conversation and stick to this agreed-upon arrangement. Respecting this process ensures the validity of your content and can actually be a hidden opportunity to build relationships with others. Asking someone to use his or her content is not only flattering short term, but grows your network long term.
Interested in more tips on publishing great content? Take a closer look at Pages 139-179 of “Everybody Writes,” which we also cover in this week’s video. And with just one week of blogging left, catch up on anything you missed from Part 1 and Part 2.
Don’t miss Ann on Oct. 23, which is when she’ll be joining us and some of Chicago’s best marketing minds for a meet and greet and Q&A session. Reserve a spot for this year’s event here, which we’re hosting at the newly opened American Writers Museum!
Marketing and sales professionals from around the world headed to Boston last week to attend Inbound 2017 hosted by HubSpot. This year’s show attracted more than 20,000 attendees who came out for a myriad of inspiring keynote and breakout sessions, networking events along the seaport and other educational seminars.
Walker Sands was among those attending. With boots on the ground to explore the emerging tactics and technologies helping to shape our industry, we went to every session we could, talked to every exhibitor we could and absorbed as much as we could in the four days we were on-site.
There were countless takeaways for business leaders and decision-makers in the B2B tech sector. To help our clients keep pace with these new, emerging trends, we’ve assembled a list of key points from the two most memorable sessions we attended.
- Former First Lady Michelle Obama – The highlight of this year’s event, former First Lady Michelle Obama was invited to join an early morning session hosted by professor and best-selling author Roxane Gay. The interview centered on Michelle’s experiences as first lady, her thoughts about the election and her goals and aspirations as she looks ahead to the future.
She stressed the importance of reintroducing herself at public events as a former “First Spouse” as there will come a day soon when we’re ready to appoint a woman as our commander-and-chief. To reach this milestone, we need to understand how to find our own authentic voice. According to Michelle, any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton during our most recent election voted against their own voice.
There is a message here for marketers. We need to help our customers find their voice. We can do this by reaching them where they’re at with messaging that resonates with who they are, what they need and how we can help. This is why listening is such an essential first step in coming up with messages that will resonate with a target audience. At Walker Sands, we’re always listening, whether it’s on a discovery call with a customer contact or through information gleaned off a customer’s website, blog or social media profiles.
- Co-Founder of Refinery29 Piera Gelardi – Piera Gelardi is Executive Creative Director and Co-Founder of the award-winning digital media company, Refinery29. She has been widely recognized as one of the most creative people in the world of media.
Her session focused on why we need to establish the conditions for creativity before we can achieve creative breakthroughs. These conditions are different for everyone. For Gelardi, she is in position to be her most creative self when she is in her warm, fuzzy office cocoon which she has adoringly dubbed “The Peach Pit.” It’s here that she drinks rose, laughs and comes up with off-the-wall ideas alongside those she knows and trusts.
This isn’t far-off how we brainstorm creative campaigns here at Walker Sands. From CompTIA #MakeTechHerStory to the Owler CEO Likeability study, we are always chasing our next big idea. Like Gelardi, we require the right conditions to come up with the creative concept that’s going to resonate with the media and different stakeholder groups who we’re trying to reach.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we saw and heard during this year’s event. If you want to learn more about our experiences at Inbound ‘17 in Boston, let’s connect!