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.

Women Influence Chicago logo

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 headshot
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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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.

callrail

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.

FOR

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.

livestories

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.

exp

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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What EdTech Stakeholders Are Talking About: Lessons from SXSWedu 20

As a former teacher, education PR professional and current learning and development manager at Walker Sands, I was ready to nerd out at SXSWedu 2017. Thousands of experts gathered for 4 days in Austin, Texas to address trends in edtech and have honest conversations about the challenges facing the education industry as a whole.

Between education celebrities such as Dr. Brene Brown and John Maeda wandering the halls, and one interesting session description after another, my FOMO was at an all-time high. I attended as many sessions as I could and walked away with solid insights into the current state of edtech.

What EdTech Stakeholders are Talking About Now

1. What can VR do for you?

VR, AI and MR (mixed reality, combining the first two) technologies are eliciting intrigue across all industries, education included. While some educators are embracing the possibilities for deeper engagement (major buzzword alert), others worry about the risk of losing touch with reality.

If we can transport students to anywhere in the world with one swipe of a finger and a cardboard box, what’s to become of physical field trips? Will students further lose themselves in a solitary, virtual vortex? Will VR have a significant enough impact in the classroom to warrant any of this?

Teachers who have begun implementing these technologies in the classroom have noticed students prefer to explore them in groups. The social component of education remains significant. Regarding impact, all signs point to VR/AI/MR transforming, specifically and certainly, the med school experience and many healthcare practices.

In the traditional classroom setting, the technologies will allow for deeper exploration by bringing more concepts to life in new, interactive ways. One thing most can agree on is that these technologies are often intuitive enough to make implementation and integration more accessible for educators.A

2. What does the future hold for higher education?

The notion of the 21st-century job, in which you choose a specific career path and then go to school for it, is fading. Companies are instead seeking employees with relevant skills, such as creative problem-solving and good communication.

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Media Relations 101: Building Relationships with Reporters

Public relations is not so much about what you know, but who you know. That’s why all of the Walker Sands media relations specialists came together this month to share our best tips and tricks for developing relationships with reporters.

While our media relations specialists often collaborate across teams, each specialist has their own unique approach to building a rapport with the media. Over coffee and bagels, we consolidated our tips into four best practices for building relationships with reporters:

  • Be personable – No reporter wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot. Keep emails casual and to-the-point. Try mirroring their tone to get a better feel for how they prefer to communicate. Once you’ve established a rapport, send a short email to compliment them on a recent article. This shows the reporter that you’re interested in their work and that you’re not only contacting them for favors. You can also mail letters or cards when appropriate (i.e. birthdays, holidays, condolences). Even the smallest gesture goes a long way.
  • Stand your ground – Many media relations professionals, especially new ones, tend to be overly accommodating and passive when working with the media. That said, don’t be scared off when reporters ask why they should cover your pitch. Be ready to explain why your story is newsworthy. Reporters respect when you hold your ground.
  • Ask for feedback – When a reporter turns down your story idea, consider responding with something along the lines of, “Are you open to future pitches, and if so, what kind?” Feedback will help you better gauge how a reporter prefers to be pitched and what types of stories they are interested in.
  • Meet face-to-face – If you have the opportunity to meet a reporter in person, take it.
    Not only does meeting in person let reporters know you see them as a resource, it shows them that you’re a resource too. You can position yourself as their go-to PR contact by establishing a face-to-face connection and providing the reporter with a variety of expert sources.

Fellow PR pros: Do you have any other media relations tips for fostering relationships with reporters? Tweet us @WalkerSands!

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Team Spotlight: Erin Jordan

I sat down with Erin Jordan, an account director at Walker Sands and lead of the retail and e-commerce technology team.

Erin has been with the company for almost five years! While she’s busy looking for ways to grow her team’s practice areas, Erin took the time to give me a glimpse into what life is like at Walker Sands for her.

Here’s what she had to say!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

As the account director for the retail technology team, I ensure my team has everything they need to service our clients and get great results. I also help keep the team constantly up-to-date on trends in our space. Other activities I work on include survey research to demonstrate our expertise and expand knowledge within the retail space, working on new business and coaching my team to help them grow in their own careers.

Erin-Jordan

2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

The company was much smaller when I started. We only had 15-20 people. One of the best things about Walker Sands is that while the size has grown, we’ve maintained the scrappiness and ‘no idea is too small’ mentality that comes with having small teams.

We’ve come a long way in our expertise and great work. We now have the infrastructure and experience to handle bigger team projects. Growth of our practice areas is one things that has led to our success, and it has helped evolve our knowledge across different client industries. It’s also interesting to see how much our digital team and ecosystem of services have grown alongside PR.

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