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Twin Cities PR This Week – Dec. 15

I don’t know about you, but WOW, what a busy week! I broke away from work for a bit to celebrate with my MIMA friends Wednesday night at the annual MIMA Holiday Party at Aria. An excellent time as always catching up with old friends and new.

Since I know everyone is eager to get on to the egg nog and yule logs, let’s get right to the latest job changes, promotions, events, new account wins and awards in Twin Cities PR in the last week:

Fenced In, Part 3


Debbie Friez recently accepted the role as social media lead at Top Rank Marketing. Congrats, Debbie!



Nice opportunity there–Life Time Fitness is seeking a PR specialist to join its team. Chance to work with one of my very favorite people (and long-time college friend), Natalie Bushaw.

Thermo King (client) is seeking a senior-level communications manager to work in its Bloomington location.

Get paid to gamble? Mystic Lake Casino and Hotel is seeking a social media manager to join its team.


Big congrats to Danny Olson at Weber Shandwick for winning “Digital Communications Leader of the Year” as part of the 2014 PR People Awards.

Really excited to welcome three new members to the MIMA board just this week: Brad Spychalski (Target), Bryan Vincent (United Healthcare) and Nick Lipetsky (Lumen8) will be joining the board in January. Congrats fellas!

And finally,  HUGE congrats to my good friends over at Bellmont Partners PR on winning PR Agency of the Year in the Ragan/PR Daily ACE Awards. Crazy to see how far my friends Brian and Jen Bellmont and Shelli Lissick have come in the last five years. Congrats!

Talking Points Podcast: 2015 Social Media/PR Trends

In this week’s show, Kevin and I talk 2015 trends. But, they may not be the trends you probably think of when you consider the onslaught of “prediction” posts we see every time this year.

SHOW NOTES – December 18, 2014

“App Downloads Will Surpass Facebook Friend and Twitter Followers for Most Brands”


“How to measure the quality of your audience”


“How to Use Analytics to Build Your 2015 Marketing Plan”


“Advanced analytics: position, velocity, and acceleration”


“PR needs to get acquainted with analytics”


“What’s next for visual design: 8 trends to watch in 2015″


“The Marketing Companion Podcast: Our most valuable content lessons”


10 things the PR consultants won’t tell you about PR consultants

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a big devotee of reading the hard copy print edition of my local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And, like many, I particularly enjoy the Sunday edition. Mostly because it just includes so much more editorial than the daily paper.

One of my favorite sections of the Sunday paper is the Business section–much more robust than the daily paper. And, it also includes some syndicated content from the Wall Street Journal, which I really enjoy.


Of note, I often find myself reading the “10 things XX won’t tell you about XXX” columns. You see everything from retirement planning to college savings to end-of-life planning covered here.

I like that “10 things” idea so much, I’m stealing it today. OK, to be clear (and to avoid legal action from the WSJ), I am not stealing content–just the format.

So, today, I’d like to talk about 10 things PR consultants won’t tell you about PR consultants.

We say “yes” now–and figure the details out later.

One thing I learned pretty quickly when I worked on the agency side is that when the client asks if you can do something, you say “yes” and figure it out later. We didn’t always know what we were getting ourselves into, but we sure did our best to figure it out along the way. For example, I remember agreeing to a sizable web project, when at the time, I had little in the way of web development experience. But, after our team huddled, we figured out the right resources to pull in and made it work.

We over-deliver. A LOT.

If I had to make a generalization, I’d say PR people are typically “people pleasers.” That means we want to make our clients happy–no matter the cost. That means a LOT of over-delivering–sometimes to the chagrin of our agency owner partners (and ourselves, as solo consultants!). But, it happens. We try to push back. We try to manage expectations. But at the end of the day we write off a fair amount of work.

We always project confidence–even when we don’t know the answer.

Picked up this tip from my agency partners years ago when I was working at McGladrey. I could “see” them practicing this on calls I had with partners. We’d ask them a question that they most likely didn’t know the full answer to, and they always came back with a strong answer. Even if they didn’t know the answer, they acted like they knew the answer. Sometimes, that’s all the client needs to see/hear.

We really do have more fun than you corporate folks.

Now, I’m not a career agency guy. I’ve only spent time at two agencies. But, I have a lot of friends at agencies. I’ve worked with a lot of agencies as partners over the years. So, even though I haven’t spent a TON of time on the agency side, I feel like I can say that consultants do, in fact, have more fun than their corporate peers. I’m not saying corporate folks don’t have ANY fun–just that agency folks have relatively more fun along the way.

We’re masters of Powerpoint.

Now, I’m on the light side of this one, but I know many consultant folks who know Powerpoint inside and out. Why? Because that is the de facto tool of choice when it comes to presenting to clients and potential clients. I wouldn’t consider myself a PPT expert, but I know PLENTY of people on the agency side who are. Heck, I’ve learned some of my best PPT tips and tricks from my agency friends over the last few years (thanks Danny Olson, Greg Swan and Tony Saucier).

We really do work in our slippers.

As consultants, our schedules tend to be more flexible. In fact, I know one local MSP agency that nurtures a complete “work wherever you need to, but just get your sh*t done” culture. So yeah, we work from home and on our couches a fair amount. But here’s the thing: That freedom typically benefits clients as consultants also tend to have a “do whatever it takes to get sh*t done” attitude, too.

Work travel sucks. I mean, really sucks.

Consultants tend to travel a lot for work. To agency sites. To media tours. To trade shows. You name it. We’re on the road a fair amount. And, after you’ve done that for about a year or so, it wears thing pretty darn quickly. All those hours in airports, crappy restaurants and hotel bars starts to add up after a while. And, you tend to work an average of 18-hour days when you’re on the road. I mean, what’s not to like, right? :)

We get paid to look good, too.

During one of my agency stints, a couple weeks in, I started noticing a trend: The women really amped up their fashion game on client meeting days. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying the women looked less-than-stellar on non-client meeting days–just that they really took things up a notch on those days when we saw clients. And, when I say “amped up” I don’t mean they got more formal–I actually mean the opposite. They got more fashionable. As I learned, sometimes the client wants their consultants to LOOK good, too. Not just polished–but on trend.

We’re more connected than you.

I don’t say this in a mean, biting kinda way. More just matter-of-fact. As consultants, part of our JOB is to be connected. To the media. To colleagues. To vendors. You name it. Plus, typically, we’re not quite as locked up in meetings as our corporate friends. So, it’s easier for us to attend those networking events, coffees and vendor introductions. And, when you hire a consultant, a big part of what you’re paying for is that person’s/agency’s aggregate network. You’re paying for all those loose connections, because in many ways, they will benefit you down the road.

We’re always managing client expectations.

At least the good ones are. This is always in the back of our minds because happy client=more business. So, we’re always careful to set realistic goals. We’re constantly looking at how we’re doing and adjusting along the way. And, we’re always looking for opportunities to under-promise and over-deliver (see point above).


A telecom company holding a red carpet PR event? Verizon kinda pulled it off.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to a small, unique event at the Verizon “Concept Store” at the Mall of America. I say “unique” because it was pitched as a red carpet event where Verizon would show off its latest holiday technologies and gadgets.

Now that’s a different approach, I thought. And, I happened to be recording a podcast with Kevin Hunt at the Mall of America right before the event, so the timing worked out perfectly.

I’m no tech blogger, so I wasn’t going to blog about the event from that perspective. But, I thought the red carpet strategy was an interesting approach from a large company like Verizon to roll out its newest holiday products.


Here were my general thoughts, impressions and takeaways from the event (from a PR planning perspective):

Invite influencers–but don’t discriminate too closely

When Verizon pitched me initially on this event, I was kinda perplexed. I don’t talk about tech all that often. I’m a PR/marketing blogger. But, the more I thought about it (and saw who else they were inviting), it started to click. They didn’t have to limit the list to JUST tech bloggers. Why not open the list up to all sorts of local “influencers?” After all, virtually everyone is a target for the types of technology they were rolling out on the red carpet.

Get Verizon employees involved

Instead of hiring actors (or stand-ins) to showcase the Verizon products, they simply let their employees do it. And, largely, they seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Simple idea, but a really nice way for the Verizon folks to get those local store employees more engaged with media and local influencers.

Make the red carpet fun!

Verizon really did have fun with the red carpet idea. They had people showcasing drones, waterproof technology (using a fish tank, which was kinda fun) and even ‘smart’ soccer balls. They even asked local media personality, Alison Kaplan to emcee the event, which I thought was pretty smart (instead of having the Verizon folks do it). I even heard local tech columnist and friend, Julio Ojeda-Zapata say afterward, “This was definitely a first for me. I don’t get too many ‘firsts’ anymore.”

So, overall, I really thought Verizon did a nice job with this event. If I had any constructive feedback, it might be to showcase fewer products (man they flew through a lot in 20 minutes). And, maybe have a little more fun with the GIANT screen behind the red carpet. But, that’s really nit-picking.

I also had a chance to ask Karen Smith, PR manager with Verizon (Great Plains), a few questions about the event. See below.

How did you measure success for an event like this?

We consider the event a great success – both in attendance and in media and social coverage of the event. And, it was fun! Everyone had a great time.

What was the general approach going in?


We were looking to do something to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Verizon’s first Destination Store at the Mall of America. It was Nov. 21, 2013 that the store had it’s first official full day of business after a national announcement. We also wanted to preview Holiday Tech gadgets because of the slew of new devices available this year. And, increase knowledge of all the lifestyle smart accessories now available and our hands-on store design.

I thought you had a good turnout in terms of media/influencers–what were your expectations?

We wanted to have a minimum of 15 people at the event. We had RSVP’s from 20 and 18 came (two emailed that they had gotten ill and were not able to come). We had a mix of media and bloggers at the event, which was also a goal.

Seems like the Verizon employees were having fun–was this an employee engagement play, too (in a small way)?

We did leverage the expertise of some of our store employees who are “experience and solution specialists” and they had a great time participating in the show.  I think now other employees would be anxious to be involved in future events!

I noticed Albert Maruggi there taking video–how do you plan to use the video you captured at the event? Or, maybe you’ve already used it!


Verizon has two content creation blogs – for the 15-state Midwest area at vzwmidwestarea.com and nationally on our website at news.verizonwireless.comAlbert was shooting video for a Midwest Area blog post about the show interviewing some of the attendees

I noticed influencers from all walks of life at the event–not just “tech influencers.” What was your thinking when selecting “influencers” to reach out to? How did you conduct the outreach?

You are correct – we have worked for years with tech bloggers but we also work with various lifestyle bloggers because wireless devices are now used in facets of everyone’s life (or could be!).  The Destination Store is also a Tech playground where products are in “lifestyle zones” and many of the bloggers had never been to our experience store.  We had met most of the bloggers or worked with them before and we knew the event would have something for everyone. 

Anything else to add?

We asked Alison Kaplan (Arik note: For those not in MSP, Alison is a local media personality/journalist) to emcee the show as she had attended events with the original store opening and is the Mall of America expert as well. We hoped to create a buzz for the Holidays and for Tech Lifestyle Fashion and use of the #VZTechHoliday hashtag.

Finally, I think the event showed our operations team and store general manager that we can have an event successfully in the store while it is open to the public.  We usually have three or four free wireless workshops every day at the counter area behind the chairs.  But the space is large enough to accommodate a live event and the red carpet and lighting added a nice touch.

One of our takeaways is the backlighting from the  27-foot brand focal wall killed a lot of the bloggers candid snapshots!  The wall is interactive, if you ever stood in the foot prints and waved your hands, and we were not able to turn it off. We also would have the second public fashion show that ran Thursday night at 7 p.m. on a Saturday – now that we have had the event a crowded store would not be an issue.

Twin Cities PR This Week – Dec. 8

Random note: One of the downsides of the independent lifestyle: No holiday parties. Fortunately, I find ways to wiggle my way into a bunch of different client and organizational holiday parties each year. This year, I hit the MN PRSA holiday party earlier this week (great time catching up with old friends). And, I’m also looking forward to the MIMA holiday party next Wed (sign up here!).

Enough holiday talk–onto the latest job changes, promotions, events, new account wins and awards in Twin Cities PR in the last week:

Fenced In, Part 3


3M is looking for a social media specialist for its health care division.

WCG in Minneapolis is seeking three positions for its team: Manager, Media Relations http://hire.jobvite.com/m?3RdCTgwkDirector, Media Relations http://hire.jobvite.com/m?3ecCTgwG; and Group Director, Media Relations http://hire.jobvite.com/m?3BdCTgw4

Weber Shandwick is looking for an account supervisor to add to its financial services team.



Congratulations to the new slate of board members with MN PRSA, including incoming president, Joel Swanson. And, a hearty congrats to outgoing president, Anna Liewicki-Long (Anna and I co-chaired a PRSA committee years ago–been really fun to watch her star rise over the years).

Like I said above, the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association will hold its annual holiday shin-dig at Aria on Wed., Dec. 17. And the best part–it’s FREE (for members AND non-members). Would love to see you there, if you like in MSP. Register here.

Progress: Fast Horse is making good progress on construction of its new home in the North Loop. Can’t wait to see the new digs, guys! (Photo below courtesy of the FH folks)


My former colleagues over at Beehive PR are hiring an account coordinator and design intern. However, the deadline to apply is TODAY!