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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Walker Sands & G2 Crowd Band Together to Help Kids

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.

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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.

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This blog post was written by Adam Beeson, director of communications, at G2 Crowd. Learn more about Adam Beeson here.

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Just a Book, Part 4 – Everybody Writes

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!

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Client Work Shines in Q3

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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