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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
Last week Chicago’s thriving technology scene was ignited with the annual Techweek conference that took place over the course of several days all over the city and culminated in the Techweek Gives fundraising competition ending ceremony.
Before getting into the new learnings and themes we took away from this year, we want to take a moment to reflect on the expansion the Chicago tech community has seen. There is something to be said about the strong community network that has developed out of the tech scene in Chicago and successful events like Techweek make that base thrive even more. Year over year, we’ve been able to ingrain ourselves in the lively tech culture and network and for that, we are thankful.
From this year’s summit, here are a few of the sessions Walker Sands employees attended and the points they gleamed from discussions in Data, AI and Enterprise Technology:
Data Intelligence Presented by Atidiv – This session was lead by a panel of CEOs from YCharts, Narrative Science, LQD Business Finance and Civis Analytics. Here are a few major takeaways from the discussion:
- For data intelligence apps to thrive, full integration is the future.
- Companies should be mindful of AI and the hype behind it.
- Companies will need to adapt infrastructure before fully integrating AI.
Customer Acquisitions for Enterprise – Jeff Ellman of UrbanBound & Hireology, Kevin Kent of ReviewTrackers, Erik Severinghaus of SpringCM and Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound joined this Techweek panel to discuss their perspectives on acquiring B2B customers. Here’s what we learned:
- Don’t underestimate the process of qualifying leads.
- Customer acquisitions have a long pipeline and it can be expensive.
- Don’t waste time with leads that don’t care and aren’t qualified.
- In the sales pitch, don’t be afraid to make clients vouch for you via logos and use cases
Taking time to participate in these events always leads to a regeneration of excitement for our team. This was most obvious by the group who participated in the discussion with Mayor Rahm Emanuel who shared plans for integrating technology into the infrastructural future plans of our city. So many years later and we still find ourselves getting giddy over these kinds of advancements.
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to pull off a dynamic event that continues to bring together the tech minded community. As a team, we took away great new learnings and are looking forward to what the rest of this year has in store for the Chicago Tech community
There’s no doubt Walker Sands has THE BEST admin under the sun. Trish Kalchbrenner, our executive assistant, has been with Walker Sands for two and a half years, and let’s just say it’s a miracle we survived the times before her.
In honor of admin appreciation week, we asked our employees to share what they love about Trish. This post would go on for days if we included all the responses! So, here are the top five reasons why we are lucky to have Trish in our lives.
1. She gets the job done no matter what
“Not only is she the most organized person I’ve ever met, but she’s scrappy — if you need something done, she’ll find a way.”
Trish constantly goes above and beyond for every person at Walker Sands. Whether it’s coming up with creative solutions to mundane office problems or working her magic to make the impossible seem like a breeze, there’s no problem too big or small for Trish to handle. And not only that, but she is killing the working mom game.
2. She always has a positive vibe
“I’ve never seen Trish with anything but a positive attitude.”
We all know the stereotype of the grouchy admin who is just there just to punch the clock. Lucky for us, Trish is the complete opposite. It can’t always be easy (or fun) managing an office of 80 employees, half of which are millennials, but Trish comes to work every day and radiates positivity. If you’re having a bad day, she’ll lend an ear and know just how to make it better (probably by showing you an adorable picture of her son or recommending the best spot to grab a donut).
3. She knows how to have fun
“She is literally a ray of sunshine and goes out of her way to cultivate our office culture, whether it’s through the company-wide scavenger hunt or simply grabbing a beer in the kitchen on Friday at 5.”
On top of keeping Walker Sands running, Trish goes out of her way to make sure we all have a little fun throughout the work week. Trish reminds us enjoy the little things in life by organizing our weekly Game of Cones or helping us celebrate holidays like National Pancake Day. Oh, and she is the queen of GIFS (no email from Trish is complete with the perfect GIF).