In addition to summer hours and the legendary annual Cubs game, Walker Sands offers employees who have been with the company for three years a great opportunity: To visit an agency within the Public Relations Organization International (PROI) network. The goal of the program is to strengthen our ties with agencies around the world, while learning from our PR and digital marketing peers.
I was awarded the opportunity to visit Lansons, a full-service agency specializing in corporate, political and financial communications. At the end of February I packed my bags, exchanged my dollars for pounds and brushed up on the British monarchy by binge-watching “The Crown” for a full week of learning in London.
In July 2017, we were joined by Becky Annable, account direct and partner at Lansons. Not only did Becky share their incredible work and client portfolio, but she also emphasized Lansons’ interest in building a strong content program. As a content strategist and part of a 14-person team, I saw an opening to talk more about content’s role in public relations and digital marketing – and maybe show off some of the great work we’ve put together for our clients.
Learnings & Takeaways
After nearly 30 years in business, Lansons has cemented its place as one of London’s premier public relations agencies. And after meeting with their teams, it’s clear why. Everyone from new business development to financial services is so deeply immersed in what they do, and are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes. Here are a few of my biggest takeaways:
- Cross-Practice Area Opportunities. While Lansons serves several practice areas (public affairs, fintech, consumer communications, etc.), employees aren’t limited to one specific team. For example, you might have a client in the financial services space, one in consumer communications and one in public affairs. The reasoning behind crossing practice areas is it gives employees a chance to broaden the scope of their work, and helps maintain fresh perspectives for new ideas and media opportunities.
- Dynamic brainstorming. We love a good brainstorm at Walker Sands, and Lansons is no different. But instead of everyone sitting around a table, their brainstorms require a ton of movement and interaction. It was loud, fast-paced and I loved every second of it. In the end, the account team working on the client pitch had four white boards full of potential story ideas.
- Data-Backed Sales Processes. Lansons’ new business development team (our equivalent of sales) walked me through a typical presentation process. While most of their steps aligned with how our sales teams handled potential clients, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was how they incorporate data into presentations. They don’t believe in just showing prospects what they can do – they show them why that strategy will work
This trip would be misrepresented if I didn’t talk about the incredible staff at Lansons. I quickly learned there are few differences between Walker Sands and Lansons employees. Everyone is hard working and supportive, and truly enjoys being around their teammates. Plus, they know how to have a good time.
With the few extra days I had to myself, I explored around London (admittedly getting lost more than once). I wandered over to Oxford and Piccadilly Circus, strolled through Westminster and enjoyed seeing Tottenham Hotspur take on Huddersfield Town A.F.C. at legendary Wembley Stadium.
It’s hard to believe one week with another agency can have such an incredible impact on your professional growth. But it was unexpectedly refreshing and eye-opening to completely immerse myself in Lansons’ processes and cultures. Now if I can just make the case to go every year…
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.
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?
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!
At Walker Sands we’re built on three pillars, learn, support and do, which is why we’re big fans of the newest museum to open its doors in Chicago, The American Writers Museum. The new museum speaks to our mission in three ways. By encouraging learning in their state of the art immersive exhibits. By supporting the literary community in Chicago and beyond. And by motivating visitors of every walk of life to enrich their lives through all forms of reading and writing.
Before their doors opened in May 2017, the museum and its stakeholders persevered for many years to see the vision through. In fact it took nearly seven years of planning, funding and writing for the exhibits to come to life. Since opening, USA TODAY ranked the museum #1 in Readers’ Choice awards for Best Illinois Attraction. Songs of praise don’t stop there, Bustle, The Boston Globe and Simcha Travel among others have cited the American Writers Museum as a must visit Chicago attraction.
We had to see what all the excitement was about and on a recent visit to the museum I was wowed by the beautiful exhibits that were not only informative but eye opening as well. The museum honors and celebrates the whole gamut of writers, from reporters and politicians to musicians and novelists, everyone is a writer and on display. Their vision, “to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives” is reflected in each and every exhibit.
Of the twelve permanent exhibits, my favorite was the word waterfall, an audio visual immersive experience. Picture words cascading to forming well known and not so well known snippets of literature and writing while being bathed in narrative sounds that make it hard to look away!
Experience the word waterfall and other interactive exhibits yourself by planning your next trip to The American Writers Museum here.
Additionally, Walker Sands is excited to be partnering with the American Writers Museum to host our annual Just a Book club. If you’re a marketer based in Chicago and want to learn more about the book we’ll be reading and the event we’ll be hosting in the museum, check out the Just a Book landing page here.
If there’s one thing we know that works when driving a brand message, it’s storytelling. Storytelling is something we talk a lot about in marketing, and are very aware that the right narrative can take your brand from ho-hum to resonating with an audience of thousands.
In an effort to expand my storytelling skills and knowledge, I will be attending the Storynomics masterclass with acclaimed film and TV project consultant and author of Story, Robert McKee. After years of creative success, he’s taken his storytelling approach and adapted it to a set of teachings to help marketers transform their stories from interruption to entertainment. In addition to the hands on training McKee will provide, Tom Gerace, CEO of Skyword will also be presenting on how to use storified messaging to achieve marketing and brand goals.
I’m looking forward to attending the seminar and embracing the learn part of Walker Sands’ three pillars, learn, support, do. If you care to join me on March 29 in Chicago, register here using code WALKERSANDS.