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Why are brand-side PR pros less networked than their agency peers?

In case you missed it, AdFed recently held their wildly popular 32 Under 32 Awards. As usual, more than 100 people were nominated (105 to be exact). And, as usual, a large chunk of those nominees came from one area of our industry.

Agencies and vendors.

74 percent of the #32Under32 nominees were agency-side folks (I haven’t seen a published list of the winners yet). A full 78 of the 105 nominees. I’m too lazy to do the math, but glancing at previous years winners, I see a heavy skew toward agency folks, too.

Why do I mention this?


Because it lends credence to a trend I’ve long noticed, and often wondered about: Why are agency people far more networked than their corporate peers?

This is all based on a loose collection of assumptions. But, hear me out because I think it’s an interesting discussion.

Think about your local professional organizations–for me, that means MIMA and PRSA. Who largely makes up those groups and attends those events? I’d say agency folks. I remember when I was on the PRSA board, there was routine discussion about what we could do to recruit more corporate-side folks because we always seemed to lean agency-side (that’s been a MN PRSA label for years).

Look at the awards around town. I just outlined the prominence of agency folks in the 32 Under 32 Awards. Look at MN PRSA’s Young Professional of the Year Award–5 of the first 6 winners of that award have been agency-side folks. And, eight of the last 9 Padilla Award winners have also been agency or solo-side pros.

Finally, as I think about my experience personally, I think about the people I’ve worked with and know on the agency side and people I know on the corporate side. No question, my agency friends (largely) are more networked and connected than their corporate counterparts (with the exception of some folks like Jen Joly at Patterson Dental, Kevin Hunt at General Mills, Jamie Plesser at Allianz and Susan Beatty at US Bank). And, in my experiences working for corporations in the Twin Cities, those folks rarely (if ever) left the building for coffees and professional development events.

So, what’s going on here? Why are agency folks so connected, while corporate folks tend to stick around the office so much more?

I think a few factors are at play:

1: New business is a BIG motivator. Agency folks, like me, essentially get paid to know a lot of people. Because, you just never know where that next piece of new business will come from. So, they show up at events. They go to coffees. They apply for awards. Because all that helps them get their agency’s name out there.

2: Agency people, by their nature, are a bit more outgoing. I know this is a generalization, and it’s obviously not always true, but I’ve really found this to be a trend line in my career. Agency people are just more gregarious than their corporate counterparts. I mean, there’s a reason many agencies have beer wagons roaming the offices at 3:30 on Friday afternoons. Bottom line: The more outgoing agency folks are drawn to these social situations (coffees, events, etc.), while corporate folks seems more inclined to stay within their four walls.

3: Agencies trend younger. No surprise here, right? And I also think people who work for corporations tend to trend a bit older. Think about a typical career track. You start your career working for a big agency in your early 20s. You travel a lot. You’re not married nor do you have kids, so it’s not a big deal. Then, you work your way up the ladder, and you want more responsibility. You take a corporate job. You get married. You have a kid. You have another. Next thing you know you’re 37 and it’s pretty tough to leave that corporate gig where it’s fairly balanced and you now have 25 days of PTO to use for kid sporting events and vacations.

So yeah, I think by writing this I’m confirming what I’ve thought for years: Agency people really are more networked than their corporate counterparts.

Your thoughts?

Note: Photos courtesy of Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association.

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The 9 best coffee shops for PRs/marketers to work from in Minneapolis

Being a solo consultant is a lonely existence. It’s definitely one of the few drawbacks to this lifestyle. So, I make a habit of getting out of my home office as much as I can to the neighborhood coffee shops in Minneapolis. And, I have plenty of options, because there are a TON of them. It’s one of the many reasons I love living in the city.

And, since more companies are embracing a more flexible work environment and allowing people like you to work from home and coffee shops from time to time, I thought I’d put my eight-plus years of experience working from local coffee shops to good use and create a list of my favorites.

So, below, you’ll find nine coffee shops I probably work from the most. I attempted to grade them on a number of factors: environment, coffee, food options, parking and seating. I then gave each coffee shop an overall grade–remember, it’s a grade that revolves around what the coffee shop is like as a place to work, not the coffee shop itself (case in point: I LOVE Spyhouse NE, but it doesn’t get a top-level grade from me as a place to work–see below for why).

Now, you’ll probably notice there are a number of fairly popular coffee shops that don’t show up on this list. The new Penny’s is a noticeable miss (I still haven’t been!). Moose & Sadie’s is popular with North Loop types (but I rarely go there given the cluster that is North Loop parking). And Bob’s Java Hut in south Minneapolis is an institution (but just not my jam). Everyone has their favorites–these nine are mine.

Would love to hear what you think–and your reviews of other top coffee shops in the Minneapolis area. Leave a comment below, or comment on my Facebook post where I shared this post.


Head of the Class

Angry Catfish

Location: 4208 S 28th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Hours: 7 am – 8 pm, Monday-Friday

Environment: Half coffee shop, half bike shop, Angry Catfish isn’t your typical venue. But, it does have a nice, neighborhood feel to it. You can find outlets along the bars and outer edges of the coffee shop. And, the music isn’t too loud so you can’t talk to a table-side companion.

Drink of choice: I usually just opt for the pour-over Intelligentsia or Ruby coffee of the day, since it’s so damn good. And, I absolutely LOVE the small tray and little pitcher you get for the 12- and 16-oz. orders.

Food options: Huge bonus here: Angry Catfish carries a variety of donuts and pastries from Baker’s Wife, which is literally right next door. Opt for the State Fair donut–my favorite donut in the city (and I should know–I’ve tried them all!)

Seating: Ample seating. 8-10 bar spots overlooking the street. Some informal, couch-like seating. And 5-7 tables for the more serious worker.

Parking: Street parking, which is always available. I’ve never walked more than half a block to Angry Catfish. And, of course, bike parking right out front.

Arik’s Workability Grade: A (HUGE points for being next door to the best donut shop in the city; always pretty quiet, never all that busy and serving one of my favorite coffees–Intelligentsia. Yeah, high marks for AC).


Dogwood Coffee

Address: 4021 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Hours: 6:30 am – 8 pm

Environment: Open, air and lots of light let it through the huge windows in the front of the store. The vibe is modern (the wood booths are my favorite) with its signature pink espresso machine right up front. The neon bars above the coffee bar add a nice touch, too.

Drink of choice: I’m a huge Dogwood fan, but I usually grab a cup at the much smaller Dogwood in Uptown. I usually just go for the coffee since it’s so damn good. And you really can’t go wrong with any of their blends. I had the Costa Rica blend (16 oz.) this time around. Wonderful.

Food options: Dogwood carries a smallish number of Rustica bakery items including cookies, croissants, and my favorite, the danish. I opted for the orange danish, which was the perfect pair with my Costa Rica.

Seating: Dogwood shares a larger space with the accompanying Bodega, but it’s broken up by a wonderfully cozy section of two-person booths that I absolutely loved. There were also three separate bar areas to work from–one looking out onto Marshall Ave. and the other two overlooking the coffee areas. In total, the space had 12 sitting areas between the booths and small tables and chairs.

Parking: Dogwood has about 5-7 spots in its lot in the back of the store. Otherwise, there’s on-street parking on Marshall Ave. Plenty. And free.

Arik’s Workability Grade: A- (the best “vibe”/feel of any place on this list; usually pretty quiet; LOVE the small booths, and the coffee is second to only Intelligentsia in my book)


Vicinity Coffee (Lyndale location)

Address: 3350 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis, MN 55408 (also at 4301 Nicollet Ave S. Minneapolis, MN 55409

Hours: M-F 6 am-9 pm

Environment: Music wasn’t too loud. Acoustics are fairly good. And, there’s ample room even though it is frequently crowded during the day. There are many people working, so it’s a nice place to put down roots for a couple hours. Plus, they have two rooms–a bigger space with the coffee bar, and a side room where I’ve held meetings before. And, as an added bonus, they have the garage door for the summer months.

Drink of choice: I had the Boone’s Beard, which is their top specialty drink. It includes house-made vanilla, coriander and black Hawaiian sea salt. Pretty damn good. They also have the requisite coffee options and house-made chai, which I’ve heard it very good. And, they have a nice selection of teas for those non-coffee drinkers including something called “Iron Goodness of Mercy”. Sounds good in a Catholic kind of way 🙂

Food options: Vicinity has a small selection of scones and croissants (I believe from Rustica)–so you’re in good hands here. It’s just not my bag.

Seating: Ample seating. I counted 14 two-person tables in the main room. And one larger table for group meetings. Also love that many of the tables on the wall have outlets–no shortages here. One of the better spots for seating, actually.

Parking: On-street parking nearby. Vicinity is right in the Kingfield neighborhood, so there’s plenty of free on-street parking. No problem.

Arik’s Workability Grade: A- (love the open garage door in the summer; specialty drinks are above average, and there’s ample room and TWO rooms for spreading out)


Solid choices

Peace Coffee

Location: 3262 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Hours: M-F, 6:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Environment: Bright, open and airy. And plenty of outlets for the long-term worker bee. I also like that there are two separate rooms at the Wonderland Park location–little more room to breathe and spread out, should you need it.

Drink of choice: I usually just go with the brew of the day. In this case, it was their new Tree Hugger blend, which is a dark roast with the body of a light roast. Not usually what I go for, but it was pretty good (not great). I’ve really come to love their Snowshoe blend.

Food: They have a variety of bakery items and oatmeal, but nothing too crazy. In fact, I stopped at Baker’s Wife on the way and nabbed a couple State Fair donuts (again, best donut in the state).

Seating: Plenty. And, I like the options: booths, tables, stools. Perfect.

Parking: On street (on Minnehaha and the side streets) as well as a small lot out back. And, all free.

Arik’s Workability Grade: B (overall, a pretty solid place to work; love the vibe, but I just have never loved Peace Coffee; and, it does tend to be a bit crowded at key times).


Spyhouse (Downtown)

Location: 907 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Hours: 6 am – 8 pm, M-F

Environment: What you’d expect for a North Loop coffee shop. The classic tile is a nice touch. Love the high ceilings. And you’re surrounded by light with all the windows. You could do worse in terms of a place to work for a few hours.

Drink of choice: Just like when I visited the Spyhouse NE location, I opted for the Cold Brew (this time with a little lavender syrup). Outstanding.

Food options: Just like NE, Walnut Bakery items are offered here. I didn’t purchase any this time around, the the croissants looked awfully good. No donuts though 🙁

Seating: A few tables and a few different bar/high top areas. Not a ton of seating. And, outlets were tough to find, too. A few of the bar items hardly had any. Kind of a big miss for a brand new place.

Parking: On-street, free parking right nearby. Unheard of for North Loop, but it’s just far enough on the fringes where you have on-street parking for free on 10th. I’m sure that will change soon, but for now, take advantage.

Arik’s Workability Grade: B+ (love the location, and free parking nearby is almost unheard of downtown)


Canteen Coffee Bar

Location: 3255 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Monday-Friday

Environment: Maybe one of my favorite coffee shops in South Minneapolis to work from because it’s so quiet and rarely super busy. And, you’ll find an outlet nearby almost every table (a must for today’s coffee shop). The wi-fi is fast and reliable and it’s also relatively quiet. You’ll usually find many people working from Canteen throughout the day.

Drink of choice: While Canteen has the requisite selection of lattes and specialty drinks, I always opt for a straight cup of the wonderful Kickapoo coffee. Smooth and delicious. And, you can get the bottomless cup for just $3.25–perfect for the worker who’s going to set up shop for 1-2 hours.

Food options: Although I haven’t tried it yet, people rave about Toast Bar. I just haven’t gotten on board with the whole toast trend. The “Hollybars” also look pretty darn good–a selection of PB&J, coconut almond and peanut butter chocolate chip are usually on hand.

Seating: This is the strength of Canteen as a coffee shop for the remote worker. PLENTY of seating throughout–even when it’s busy, there seem to be multiple open  tables.

Parking: On-street parking is always available. No problem here.

Arik’s Workability Grade: B+ (solid coffee and all sorts of room; outlets everywhere and free parking don’t hurt either; plus…toast flights!)


Five Watt Coffee

Address: 3745 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409

Hours: 6 am-10 pm

Environment: The music isn’t over-powering, so you can actually work to it. And overall, the vibe is pretty urban with exposed brick walls, the garage door and an authentic south Minneapolis feel. The room also has tons of outlets throughout and free wi-fi. No complaints here.

Drink of choice: The Kingfield. It’s Five Watt’s most popular drink. I’m not a big latte guy, but I’ve tried it a few times and really enjoy it. But, at $5 a pop, it’s a lot to stomach for this cheap guy. Definitely a splurge item for me. Haven’t tried the drip/pour-over coffee, but they do use a roastery out of Kickapoo, Wisc., down south of LaCrosse where my folks grew up–so huge bonus Hanson points there! One more note: Free refills on drip coffee–even if you purchase one of the espresso drinks.

Food options: Five Watt brings in an assortment of Patisserie 46 breads and pastries. Not my favorite, but it’s usually a small selection of croissants, scones and muffins.

Seating: Five Watt is a small place. I counted 12 tables total–and they’re all two-person tables. But, it does have a great bar I love to work from, and in the spring/summer/fall, they have a nice outdoor patio (although it’s right on Nicollet).

Parking: Right on Nicollet is the best spot, and there are usually spots. So, overall, not too shabby.

Arik’s Workability Grade: B (would easily be higher if THEY HAD MORE ROOM! Specialty drinks are very good, and the space itself is tremendous. It’s simply far too small and always crowded).


Not sure I’d recommend, but…

Spyhouse (Northeast)

Location: 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Hours: 6 a.m. – 11 p.m. Monday-Friday

Environment: Somewhat loud. Lots of people. Always crowded. Not optimal work environment, or great for coffee meet-ups.

Drink of choice: Seems like most folks opt for Spyhouse’s espresso drinks, but since winter is now officially in the rear-view mirror, I opted for the cold brew, which was amazing. I’ve had the Spyhouse coffee before though, and it’s above-average. No Intelligenstia or Dogwood, but it’s very drinkable.

Food options: Bakery items from Walnut Bakery are typically pretty solid. I opted for the old fashioned sprinkle donut on this visit which was very good.

Seating: Plenty of seating, but I have yet to work at Spyhouse NE when it’s not absolutely packed. So, seating is definitely an issue. If you’re looking for a spot where you’ll be guaranteed to find seating, an outlet and the ability to work in peace, this isn’t the place.

Parking: Let’s be honest, parking is a disaster around Spyhouse NE. You can park on the road (shown here), but there’s no guarantee a spot will be available. And, other lots nearby are reserved for employees/customers of other companies. I’ve never loved the parking situation here, and it usually drives me to find another place to work.

Arik’s Workability Grade: C+ (would definitely be higher if not for the hideous parking situation, and the fact that the place is PACKED every time I’ve been there)


Urban Bean

Location: 822 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55405

Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. M-F

Environment: Open, airy and usually pretty darn quiet. Lots of outlets. Lots of space. One of the better environments to get stuff done.

Drink of choice: I opted for the house coffee–and why wouldn’t you when it’s Intelligentsia. A refill did cost me $1.50 though, which I bristled at.

Food options: Had a small selection of bakery items including croissants and scones. Nothing too outstanding. But, pretty standard for most of the coffee shops on this list. That said, I opted to pair my Intelligentsia with a salted caramel/chocolate donut from nearby Glam Doll Donuts.

Seating: Ample seating and a variety of options. They have 4-5 tables right against the windows, which are nice. They have a couch for more leisure reading/working. And, they have bigger tables for larger groups.

Parking: On-street parking is usually pretty easy to find. But, they do have a small lot that is also free on the north side of the building.

Arik’s Workability Grade: C (plenty of space, and coffee was fine, but just lacks any kind of discernable “vibe”)

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Yes, we have a social media mentor problem

I recently had coffee with a younger colleague who plays a key social role for a fairly large company here in Minneapolis. He/she was sharing a story I’ve been hearing more and more lately. Essentially it boiled down to this: There’s no one in the senior ranks at my company who knows more about social than I do.

Folks, that’s a BIG problem.

And, these younger people are starting to recognize it.


Why is this such a big issue? Because without “social mentors”, younger people in this space are lacking the direction, sounding boards and support they need as they attempt to figure out an entire discipline on their own (because, believe me, that’s what’s happening).

Think about it. You’re a 25- to 30-year-old who’s tasked with leading social media for a company (which is not that unusual in many cases). You’re knowledgeable about social. You get content. You know how to measure results. But, you need help, just like anyone else. You need someone to turn to for advice when you run up against a unique situation. You need someone you can bounce ideas off–someone who understands the tools and channels. And, you need someone who’s been around the block a time or two.

These “social mentors” are hugely valuable–and unfortunately, I am finding fewer and fewer companies have them on staff.

Why? Two big reasons:

1: Gen Xers largely eschew social media roles. As I think about fellow Gen X’ers in Minneapolis/St. Paul in social roles right now, it’s a pretty short list. I think about people like Bryan Vincent (UHG) and Kevin Hunt (Mills). But, like I said, the list is pretty short. I would say most X’ers I know chose to “stay in their lane” when social became a thing years ago (which is fine). But, it’s left a significant void of senior-level talent in the social arena. And, that means fewer of these “social media mentors” in company and agency ranks.

2: The Millennial to Xer/Boomer ratio is huge. According to reports, Millennials outnumber both Boomers and Gen Xers in the workplace (53.5M to 52.7 and 44.6 million, respectively). So, simple numbers tell us there are most likely more Millennials and fewer Xers (and Boomers, to a lesser extent). Then, think about how many Millennials are in these social media roles (A LOT!), and how many Xers/Boomers have experience in that area (not too many). You begin to see the math just isn’t working out…

So, we have a huge need for social media mentors among the younger set. And, we have a huge lack of social media mentors among the older set. Not a great recipe for success. What can be done?

I’m not sure I have the answer. Many of the Millennials who started in social roles the last 4-8 years will begin to assume more senior-level leadership roles in the years ahead, and they will become mentors to the new generation (Gen Z). It’s just too bad they don’t have more senior-level support right now–and whether they want to admit it or not, I think a lot of younger people could use that support.

Until then, I guess we just have a social media mentor crisis on our hands.

Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear from younger folks on this one…

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Trend: Repurposing Snapchat Stories across other social media channels

We’ve all heard about the “storification” (yeah, I just made that word up) of the social web and how it represents the future of social. And how companies should start paying attention because “stories” are the new news feed (that’s questionable at best, in my view).

But, we haven’t seen too many good examples of companies using that “story” functionality creatively.

Which is why I immediately paused when I saw this video from Walmart in my feed last week.

You’ll notice Walmart repurposed a string of Snapchat stories (I think) and incorporated it into this video they they put together and shared on its Walmart Today Facebook channel.

Pretty interesting, right?

I actually found this video interesting for a number of reasons because I think it represents three big trends we may end up seeing much more of the months/years ahead:

1: Repurposing “stories” across other social media

Haven’t seen too many brands do this effectively yet, but Walmart seems to have repurposed Snapchat Stories into Facebook/YouTube content (if you’re wondering how to do that, here’s a nice tutorial). This isn’t exactly groundbreaking work, but it is damn efficient as Walmart was already grabbing the video content via phone on location. That video content then served as the bulk of this short-form social video. We’re always talking about ways to make your content work harder for you–perfect example right here.

2: Social company spokespeople are becoming a “must” not a “want”

Another trend this post highlights is the need for the new wave of “social corporate spokespeople.” In the video, you see Bo and Antonio, Walmart “DJs” right at the top. These two are, in fact, Walmart spokespeople. Not in the traditional way you might think about spokespeople–more in a social way. These are the storytellers of 2017. And, they have the skills required for many social stories in 2017. They can get in front of a camera and convince employees/customers to talk and react to the camera (a key skill many in our industry DON’T have). They can put a story together. They have a feel for what will work via social channels. These are the skills Bo and Antonio bring to the table–and they’re going to be skills more companies look for in the years ahead, given our preference for video content online.

3: How do we find these company spokespeople?

Usually, you’ll go out and try to hire them. Which will be tough, given the current landscape and tight job market. But, what’s really interesting in this example is what Walmart did. Instead of trying to go out and HIRE social spokespeople (these two were really hired as radio DJs, but for this example, they’re also social spokespeople), they looked internally. They held a contest to find the first two Walmart Radio DJs who would run Walmart Radio–what a cool job for two lucky Walmart employees who had an interest in radio. And, that’s exactly what happened for Bo and Antonio.

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Are online media placements worthwhile if there’s a paywall?

The paywall.

On the media side, some see it as the savior of their business.

On the PR side, it could be seen as a major hurdle.

Because here’s the scenario that’s playing out increasingly with PR folks: You secure a great story in The Washington Post. Your client is excited. You’re pumped because, well, it’s The Washington Post for crying out loud.

The placement hits. You share it on social media. You share the URL with your client.

But, you start getting comments on the Facebook post about people not being able to read the article.

Your client sends you a note quickly saying she can’t get to it either.

Enter the world of the paywall.

It’s great for the media (and I’m not saying media shouldn’t be using this model as a revenue source–believe me, I’ve been a subscriber of the Star Tribune for 4 years now). Not so great for PR.

Based on the social sharing and online-driven world we now live in, online PR placements are more valuable in many ways than the print version. But, if there’s a paywall, that’s all negated.

No sharing on social media–you’ll just frustrate your readers/followers.

No sharing with the client–you’ll just light a fire under them.

No sharing in client e-newsletters–you’ll upset your current and prospective customers.

My question for you all today is simply this: Is this a legit concern for our business?

Are there really enough newspapers with paywalls to make this a legitimate issue? WaPo has one. And, according to one study, more than 80 percent of all newspapers with a circ of more than 500,000 have one (wow). And, certain industry pubs have adopted the model (I couldn’t find a comprehensive list anywhere, to my chagrin).

Will paywalls become more common as a revenue source, or will they recede as newspapers and media outlets continue to experiment with and change their business models (Nielson thinks so)?

And, what does this mean for us as PRs? If paywalls do rise in prominence, does that impact our approach in using media relations as a part of our toolkit? I sure think it would.

It’s an interesting discussion. I’m curious to hear what you have to say.

photo credit: domimartin 86 berlin the wall via photopin (license)

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