Lean In is good advice, Ask For What You Want works too

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photo: justinablakeney.com, Like She Said #6

I joke to my friends that I am practically illiterate since having kids. Sadly, it’s not really a joke. As a former English lit major and daughter of a published linguist, this is a pretty sad state. Recently I have been picking up the (dusty) books on my nightstand and trying to stay the course. Not declaring master literacy just yet, but I have enjoyed some progress with a few reads, including Sheryl Sandberg’s “you can have it all” manifesto, Lean In. It’s one of those books you can read in short spurts, put down and pick up again later.

This is simply preamble to a recent revelation: Ask For What You Want. Stick with me, this will make sense.

End of year, I’ve been doing a lot of plan writing and development of creative briefs for FY2014. As I am crafting the big visions, thinking about contingencies and making lists of things needed to make the execution of these big visions happen, I realize that I was not inputting what I really needed but rather what I thought would make it past approval process! Whoa. It seems I have at times, fallen into the habit of asking for “just enough’ versus what I really need and want.

I am mindful when developing plans and programs that resources are limited. The realization that I had fallen into a pattern of asking for ‘just enough’ versus the “big sky” wish list of what I want was sobering. Is this so wrong?

Not asking for what you want means you may not get what you set out to win, at least not in the long run. This is not good. Sure, sometimes, maybe often times, realities that we cannot control hit. But if we don’t lay out the big vision with the big ask, we are inevitably falling into a pattern of marginalizing what we need. I pride myself on being able to do a lot with minimal resources, time, etc., but when we are hitting refresh, dreaming big and starting anew, we need to go for it. Ask for what we know we really need. Hard line realities and the inevitable compromise will happen soon enough.

Back to reading books. A book is a commitment. Reading means diving in deeper, beyond the intro paragraph, the headlines and subheads. It means taking in information and processing, forming an opinion based on more than 140 characters or a snappy headline or a clever hashtag.

I credit my recent bedside reading with helping me to get to this moment. It’s simple, Ask For What You Want. And, honestly, how often do you find yourself asking for less, for just what you think someone will give you versus asking for what you really want?

Ask for what you want. This is going onto my New Year inspiration board. If I make one that is.

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Getting a Head Start on a New Year

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Don’t get me wrong, I love, love each and every moment of the holiday season. Extra time with family and friends, festive parties, and the demonstrated expressions of giving and gratitude are especially sweet. But as the Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie buzz begins to lift, it feels like we are suddenly ringing in the New Year. The year’s end signals the time to prepare for the year to come. As we celebrate another great year at KSPR, here are just some of the key mantras buzzing in our heads as we plan for an even better 2014.

Don’t hit repeat. Data is your friend. Look at the initiatives and key programs that were successful and, more importantly, take a look at those that did not meet expectations. Define the metrics that matter. It’s tempting to stick with what you’ve done before but that’s a mistake. We are so busy and so focused on next, next, next that often we forget all that we accomplished. The year’s end is an opportunity to look at the big wins once again (this part is fun) and record best practices for next year. Just as critical, it is a chance to take a good, unemotional look at the efforts that did not yield the desired results. Best lessons to carry forward are often learned when things did not execute perfectly.

Reinvent. Learn from wins and losses but always keep space for something new and brilliant. We are not about plugging into existing templates and calling it done. This is not strategic and will not garner the big, shiny wins. One of my favorite anecdotes occurred early on in building my company; a prospective client asked within 10 minutes of our very first meeting, “Well, what will you do for me?” Sorry, but if what you do is so generic that I can plug it into a PR playbook, than you need more than PR, you need a really big, really robust marketing and advertising budget. The intersection of fresh ideas and focused execution is what differentiates us from the rest.

Focus on the product. Our clients are firmly in the consumer products and services space. We meet with them to understand where they want to go next. What are the key investments planned? What products and services did their customers buy and what was left on the shelf?  Why? What products and services continue into next year? What are the new introductions and when? What is marketing and sales planning to do to support? In the course of these discussions, we plan accordingly for seasonal, launch and event initiatives around core and new products and services. Deep in the trenches of metrics and planning, we never lose sight of the product.

New metrics. Once key product manufacturing and deliveries are confirmed, we put ourselves in the planning stages of these marketing and sales discussions so that PR initiatives are aligned with the business. If we can influence and align at the planning stages, we are doing all that we can to ensure that efforts and resources are aligned with the important metrics for business success. This is how we ensure our relevancy and seriously, this makes what we do much more interesting. No one here likes execution for the sake of execution. Results tied to metrics of business success are where we live to work.

In our world, Christmas in July is a reality as the consumer magazines search for the best of the best for their holiday gift guides. By the time the holidays are under way, feeling a little ‘been there done that.’ But the planning and strategy for what’s next has always been the fun part. Thinking about next year won’t take my enjoyment away from the actual holiday festivities. In fact, they will be that much sweeter with the knowledge that we are prepped and ready for what’s on the horizon. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and anticipation for more to come in the New Year.

Love Note to Austin

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I was recently asked to share my perspective on being a mom in Austin for Elizabeth St., a site featuring “chic moms who know that life is best lived with style”. Their words not mine, but I was flattered and happy to share my opinions about fashion, food and culture. These are in many ways ‘the core’ that makes many big cities around the world iconic, perennial attractions. I am a West Coast gal through and through — born in Seoul, raised in Portland, college in Seattle, career + family in San Francisco. The move to Austin was a transition. A big one. But six-plus years in, I love this city and Austin is mine.

What do I love about my city? What makes it a great place for kids, for families, for someone used to a “big city”? Taking a moment to think about the places I love, the things we do as a family and the places we love as couple was a surprisingly easy and fun exercise. I couldn’t write my lists fast enough. I was surprised by how much I had to say.

Why do I love Austin? Austin is still a young city that embraces entrepreneurs and families. If you are willing to engage and put in the time, there are endless opportunities to grow your network professionally and personally. In just six years I have an amazing group of girlfriends and an integrated business network. I feel completely dialed in. The style vibe is casual; eclectic but there’s a growing appreciation for elevated, individual personal style makers.

We don’t do “date nights” as a couple. We like the spontaneity of going out when the mood hits, and we try to capitalize on opportunities to check out new restaurants, to see a show, listen to live music or attend an event or party when it strikes us as “babysitter-worthy”. Beyond the time and expense, the experience must be enticing enough to make us miss an evening with our daughters, who by the way we are crazy about spending time with.

Our dining hot spots when we are not with our kids? Here’s our current babysitter-worthy list of places: Uchi, best sushi spot – ever. Uchiko, an offshoot of Uchi but a little bit sexier. Clark’s Oyster Bar, amazing fresh seafood and amazing wine pairings. Second Bar + Kitchen, a breath of fresh air when it opened several years ago, as it was reminiscent of SF dining, and Austin’s first spot to offer seasonal, fresh staples with a bit of a fancy twist. La Condessa, fresh, modern and upscale Mexican food.  Lenoir, former chef from TRIO at Four Seasons opened this quaint, seasonal delight. Eden East Austin, is like crashing a country wedding, outdoors on group picnic tables under the trees with chickens and hens running nearby. And of course, Jeffrey’s luxe and fancy fare is on our list. We haven’t been to the “new” Jeffrey’s but it’s on our list for our next grown up, seriously fancy meal.

But what makes Austin a great city for our kids? The inherently casual vibe of a city known for musicians and artists translates its energy and attitude throughout. I can take my kids to the ballet at the gorgeous new Long Center for the Performing Arts, to ACL music fest in Zilker Park, and to the Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. No matter where or when we go, access is easy and there are always parking spots and friendly faces greeting us. Coming from San Francisco, where two of my kiddos were born, a neighborly attitude and easy access are huge factors in making Austin a kid-friendly city.

Beyond the neighborly attitude and outdoor spaces, our family appreciates Austin’s fantastic breadth and depth of kid-friendly dining spots. Our favorite places to take our kids? So many to list, but these are our current faves: Asti, a quaint Hyde Park neighborhood Italian bistro, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, what’s there to say? Great beer, wine and everything fried! Elizabeth Street Café, indoor and outdoor seating with casual and spicy French Vietnamese  – yum! Perla’s, another casual indoors and outdoors option with fresh and seasonal seafood. Fonda San Miguel, classic interior Mexican fare done well every time. Did I mention the talking parrot? Crowd pleaser for the kids every time. The lovely ladies tossing fresh tortillas in the main dining room entertain our kiddos for at least 15 minutes, another big plus. Brunch at Jo’s on 2nd Street, basic brunch staples with Texas style options: breakfast tacos, Huevos Rancheros and Migas. Oh, and cannot forget Easy Tiger bakery and café – at long last good, fresh breads and baguettes.

Clearly our priorities are shopping for food, finding places to eat and planning great meals, but there are also wonderful places for our kids to learn, explore and grow in Austin. Top of our list includes the Zach Scott Theater for classes and theatrical performances, Zilker Park (music and festivals year-round) and the Art School at Laguna Gloria AMOA Art House – best art classes for kids (and adults, although I haven’t taken them, just my kids.).

I still think of myself as a West Coast gal but Austin has wedged its way into my heart. I love this city and it is mine. Thank you ATX. MWAH.

Be Creative and Keep it Real

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This week we had an event in LA for our client, BlueAvocado.  Not just any event, this one was special. For anyone who has planned big events, you understand the many challenges as well as the immense satisfaction of a job well done when everything aligns and perhaps even exceeds your expectations. This was one of those events.

Our client recently announced the second XO(eco) collection designed by Lauren Conrad. A news release and press kit delivery is fine and good but we did not think it was enough. Although there were some very real challenges to making it happen, in this case, we felt strongly, maybe a little insistent that our client let us plan a media and influencer launch party – the real kind, not virtual.

When we plan an event, we see every element as an opportunity to tell the client’s story. One of the reasons we love working with BlueAvocado is that their story is fun to talk about and they have many assets that make for a compelling story— a woman-run sustainable design company that delivers on their promise to the environment, to customers, to partners, and to shareholders.  We felt every element of the event needed to communicate this marriage of sustainability and style. From our electronic-only invite to the eco paper all collateral pieces were printed on we looked at each element to ensure authenticity and consistency.

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We integrated the design patterns from the XO(eco) collection into many elements of the event from the invitation to the table settings (Why use boring table numbers when a beautiful print is much more memorable?).

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Last but not least, what’s a great party without great food? The menu Bouchon, Beverly Hills created for our event reflected the eco + sustainable theme of the XO(eco) collection.

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Hope this inspires you the next time you are contemplating an event. Or the next time you get to be a guest and just enjoy someone else’s efforts, you may look at all the details and custom touches with a different point of view.

I Do, Again

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This weekend we will step out from our day to day lives (assuming our sitter shows up) and escape for an in city get-away to the nearest hotel that promises relaxation and 24 hour service. We need to make a ‘physical break’ in order to  pause, breathe and celebrate our 12 wonderful years together as a married couple. And yes, they have been wonderful, the best 12 years of my life. But as a generation before us remembers what they were doing when JFK was assassinated, our memories of our wedding day will forever be linked with the shock and the horrors when thousands perished on 9/11/2001.

As one of the couples to marry on Saturday, September 15, 2001, our annual commemoration brings such a mixture of happy emotions as well as unintended memories. The passage of time has not lessened these discordant feelings.

Our original wedding had been a year in the making. Our destination was Hanalei Bay, Kauai. We were living in San Francisco at the time. Our vision was that our friends would spend the week together and everyone would know each other by the time the official celebration took place. We did not want a traditional wedding. There was no wedding cake or bouquet toss planned for our big day.

We flew to the island on Monday to meet with our wedding planner and get last minute details nailed down. We had almost 100 friends and family members from Germany to California, New York to Seattle, and Texas to Oregon flying in that Tuesday and Wednesday to enjoy a week of carefully planned events. Needless to say, the wedding we planned did not happen. In the end, my parents barely made it onto a flight the night before; our bridesmaids, groomsmen, and flower girls did not make it. Just two planes landed on the island, one from San Francisco and one from Portland bringing in 20 or so friends. None of our friends with kids attempted to fly that week.

We wrestled with the decision to move forward. Was it the right thing to do? What right did we have to rejoice at a time like this? Any disappointment for our dashed wedding plans felt petty in the face of all. Just two nights before our wedding date, we still had not decided what to do.

And then the decision we agonized over was suddenly clear. During a quiet moment when our cell phones were not ringing with sympathetic wedding vendors and caring, loving friends bravely trying to still be there for us, we sat on our balcony watching the sun set over the bay and breathing in the wonderful, balmy cool, calm that only tropical climates can provide. At that moment, we understood that our wedding was not about who was able to come or what kind of party we would throw, or even what was happening in the world. It was simply the date that we had promised to each other. Under the serenity of Hanalei Bay, far removed from the terrors happening on the mainland, we decided to keep our promise to each other, regardless if anyone made it to the island to bear witness.

In the end, we had a beautiful, simple ceremony and celebration on the beach.

Last year we renewed our wedding vows with many of the bells and whistles of a planned wedding party. It wasn’t a commemorative year, it simply felt right. This time, my dearest girlfriends and original bridesmaids were there by my side. It felt like such an intended decision to “marry” my husband. In the blush and excitement of newfound, serious romantic love, you think, “I know what I am committing myself to.” After 12 years of marriage, I feel at times that being married is the most natural and at the same time most unnatural state to be in. Who really knows what it means to make a lifetime promise, before they get married? But our decision to carry on with our wedding, the way we came together in appreciation of just being together has become symbolic of our married life together. I would say, “I do” all over again, most definitely.

Don’t Call Us Party Planners

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The entertainment industry loves to promote the image of public relations as an industry filled with glossy, shiny, stiletto-heeled party planners. Think Samantha Jones of Sex and the City or Gwyneth Paltrow sitting at her desk every day, looking perfect and unruffled while waiting for the phone to ring and springing into action only when attending fabulous parties in the late 90’s film, Sliding Doors.

For those of us in the industry, these inaccurate and simplified portrayals of our profession have always been mildly annoying at best. Do we throw parties? Absolutely. Events are a great way to call people to the table and to let them experience your brand and product story in a meaningful, memorable way.

The downside of events is that the cost and resource allocation can be overwhelming. No matter how well you budget and allocate resources, planning events is like a construction project. It will invariably cost more, take longer and hit you with unanticipated challenges. This is not to say that events are not terrific vehicles to grow your brand and to tell your story. Well executed events can pay dividends well beyond the life of the event itself.

How to maximize your investment and garner measurable impact? An intentional, results-driven approach is crucial. Following are some big-picture strategies and tips to help you create an influencer event for impact.

  1. Clearly define your primary objective. Is the goal to generate media coverage? Then everything you do should be a direct connect to that objective.
  2. Who is the audience? If your objective is to generate media coverage than the audience is relatively simple. But media is not a homogeneous whole. Who represents the media already covering your industry? Who might be interested in covering your space? What about media in the social space, including relevant bloggers? Who are the industry influencers? It’s not always about numbers here. Dig deeper, do your research and qualify your list of tier one and tier two media and influencers.
  3. Do the math. In general, plan on 30 percent rate of rsvps from your invitee list. If you are planning a 50-person event, you should qualify and invite close to 150 people to conservatively get you to your planning number. There are exceptions up and down on the rate of return but this is a general, conservative approach. Better to have too many attendees than not enough. Plus, there are always unanticipated contingencies and no-shows. Be prepared to have staffers seated (if it’s a seated event) to “fill in” obvious empty spaces.
  4. Keep the messaging consistent. When looking at all event elements, from save the date, to invite, venue, décor, signage, gifts, food, entertainment/presentation etc., the “story” should be consistent. For example, if you are an environmentally minded company all event elements should be consistent with this positioning. Electronic invitation delivery is no longer taboo for a premium event. If you have to do printed invitations, think about using a vendor that offers recycled paper, perhaps look at carbon offsets for travel and the like. Be consistent in all executables.

Again, these are big picture strategies to keep in mind before green lighting an event. An intentional, results-driven approach will ensure that your event will provide the ROI needed to ensure success. Right now, we are in the final stages of planning a media/influencer event in LA. Will share the fun event details such as décor, staging and entertainment in our next post.

Transitions Are Hard, But They Get Easier, Sort of

Our Family: Marcus, Me, Elke, Katharina and Natascha

Our Family: Marcus, Me, Elke, Katharina and Natascha

The transition from summer’s easy schedule to the rigid demands of fall and back to school is the single most difficult transition during the year. This is not a plea for sympathy, not a rant, or preamble to advice but more or less therapy for me as I transition once again. Some background.

As a young person daydreaming about my future life, I did not envision that future as someone’s wife, let alone someone’s mother. Growing up, my own mother was what I proudly and fondly term a bra-burning feminist. She had to break glass at every step, to fight for every inch of her education and career success. The mantra of my childhood, “Be independent. Make your own money. Do not rely on a man to take care of you” was seeped into my consciousness. I internalized these lessons but perhaps not in the way my mother had intended.

On the surface I may appear as a typical, type A, focused, ambitious over-achiever. This is accurate, but not the whole picture. Something happened on my path to becoming “the boss” of everyone. I met my soul mate, fell in love and then inexplicably decided it would be a good idea to have children too. Love, in its best form, might be the transition of all transitions.

Today, I freely admit that I am shamelessly, proudly, and abjectly in love with my husband and my three delicious, make me smile and I will-do-anything to make them laugh and they-drive-me-crazy children. l wear my various mantles of motherhood, happily and proudly (except the mini-van, I won’t go there).

Instead of feeling conflicted about being a good mom versus staying on a career track, I tackled both. To be honest, maternity leave left me a little restless and ready to get back to work. What happened next is a new path that I forged for myself. My mother did not provide a road map for me. She opted to stay on the career track at all costs. She was and is spectacularly successful in her field.

Career accomplishments + satisfaction improved imperceptibly at first, then continued to grow over time. This was the case despite the nanny issues, maintaining a nursing schedule while traveling cross-country, the worry of doing it all and not killing my newborn – these were all simply challenges to overcome. In the end, my career was looking and feeling fulfilling and maybe even enviable.

My confidence and satisfaction have expanded not lessened with time. With the birth of each child (I have three school age daughters) I grew in ability to manage and to be a contributor and a leader at a whole new level. Clarity of decision-making was my friend – I had no time to over think! Apparently, I am part of a whole generation or at least a wave of women who have discovered similar. I seem to be in good company as indicated by recent stories in Huffington Post and New York Times.  Proclaiming, Being a Mother Makes You A Better Worker to The Triumph of the Working Mother, these stories attest that working moms are the newest exceptional breeds of super multi-taskers. Hoorah for us. Seriously, my humor and ability to take myself a lot less seriously have been another key to survival.

As a “working mom” I often get the “Wow, I don’t know how you do it all” comment. I never actually answer because I’m not sure it’s a compliment, an expression of pity or just a polite of-the-moment response. It doesn’t really matter. I’m lucky. I have a job I love (most days) and I get to be a mom, in every sense of the word that is meaningful to me.

I was raised to think, to be independent and I think I’ve done that. I am a mom and I have a successful career. I didn’t have to choose one over the other. Managing the back to school transition is indeed a challenge. But becoming a mom was the biggest transition of my life and I think it turned out pretty ok.

How to Pick the Right Video Maker?

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We recently completed an amazing video project for our client, BlueAvocado. This particular project was so seamless, embodied such pitch perfect collaboration and most importantly, produced an end product that our client loved. This got me thinking, why are some projects so easy and at-times even magical and others are ‘good enough?’

 If I have to distill it down to one key success factor – hands down – success hinges on picking the right video partner to produce it. Beyond technical expertise, they have to ‘get it.’ They need to be able to translate the look and feel of a premium lifestyle brand in an interesting, engaging way. So, once you commit to a video project – how do you pick the right video partner?

First, understand the options:

  1. There are production studios that have professional, dedicated recording studio space, great for voice-overs, working with a voice actor and recording sound in a controlled environment. They may or may not be able to do the actual filming with in house staffers. Often, studios will outsource to a trusted film person to capture the footage and they in turn pass off the unedited film to the studio person to edit and work in graphics, sound etc.
  2. There are film and video professionals that can film, edit and produce. They don’t usually work in a production studio but unless you need to record sound in a controlled environment, you don’t need one. Generally, this is the most cost-effective option
  3. Full service production house has it all, studio production facility, videographers, editors, sound mixers etc. This is the most expensive option but if your client has the time and the budget, this can be the most fail safe and robust method.

Our client base tends to be young, disruptive companies with interesting, multi-layered stories to tell. Often they don’t have the runway of time and scale to create these pieces in a full service way, but at the same time as care-keepers of these developing brands, we don’t want to give up production quality. With the variety of talented video and filmakers, you really don’t need to go full service route. I also appreciate the quick turn and flexibility you get when working with these folks.

For this most recent project, we were tasked with creating a short three minute video to launch an eco men’s collection of travel and lifestyle pieces designed by up and coming designer, Ross Bennett. We worked with Christian Remde, award-winning filmmaker who happens to be based in Austin. His portfolio is impressive and his approach to the project aligned with our vision to communicate a premium feel but with a playful attitude.

The video will push live as part of the overall launch for the collection in the fall of 2013. Will post video here as soon as our client’s official launch happens.

Qualifying New Media Sites and Blogs

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When working with non-traditional media sources – how do you separate the good from the bad?  In PR speak, how do you qualify a good source? Traditional media metrics don’t apply.

Since our clients play in the retail, consumer goods and services space, there really are no good Technorati type sources for us to reference. Over the years, we have come up with our own checklist of how to qualify the best new media sources and blogs for our clients.

Each and every time we reach out to or respond to a new online news site or blog, they are evaluated on our specific criterion. Are they a credible, worthwhile news site/blog for our clients?

1.  Subject Matter

Is primary subject matter a fit for our client? A fashion blog for a fashion story, a business blog for a business story, an eco blog for an eco pitch, etc. Although there are many blogs and news sites that cover a broader range of subjects – do they have content that makes sense for our specific client’s product or service. Is there a natural fit and mutual interest in the subject?

2.  Look and Feel

Just as important as subject matter fit – does the site have an overall above the norm, aesthetic that looks good? Is there a wow factor? Is the layout easy to follow? Can we “see” our client’s story here? Would our client feel positive, neutral or disappointed by a placement here?

3.  Quality Content

Is the copy well written? Does it follow basic AP Style? If no, is it well written, without being littered with obvious grammatical errors? Does the content reflect a specific POV without being overly controversial?

4.  By the Numbers

How many Subscribers / Facebook Likes / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram / You Tube followers? Do they have presence on multiple channels?

5.  Influence

Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Does this site/individual have influence? How often do they post fresh, relevant content? Do they start new discussions that others pickup on and respond to and share? Do they get reposted/repined and liked? There’s no magical formula here, this is subjective but a good indicator of credibility and influence.

We subject blogs and online news sites to more scrutiny for three main reasons:

  • These opportunties can be just as time intensive and difficult to garner coverage as with traditional media. Input for output is always key. We never have all the time and budget to do it all – prioritizing is key.
  • We are responsible for the brand reputation of our clients –each new site or blog requires our due diligence to qualify.
  • We apply deeper level of scrutiny for blogs that request product in exchange for coverage and/or product reviews and giveaways.

Not all of these rules apply for every site or every blog, but stepping back and evaluating with thoughtful metrics has helped us to ensure that our clients are happy with the results and that we are able to deliver the right ones. Let us know if you have come up with other ways to evaluate and make sense of the new, new media landscape.

Where the Brands are the Stars

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If you have never been to one of the big consumer trade shows, you are missing out on a great opportunity to really get to know an industry and marketplace from an on-the-ground perspective.

As a consumer, it is the one place you can learn, explore and experience hundreds, sometimes thousands of consumer products by industry (electronics, games, food, natural, housewares etc.) all in one place. If you work in a particular industry or you are interested in getting into a new one, I highly recommend the experience. It can be overwhelming — wear comfortable shoes and sport a positive, engaging attitude. Be prepared to absorb, listen and learn.

Our agency focuses on specialty, premium and natural brands, and clients often use trade shows such as Fancy Foods, International Housewares, and Natural Products Expo to introduce new products or to launch a new brand.  In fact, I just returned from Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. I was there to support two of our eco specialty brands – Tints of Nature and BlueAvocado. Tints of Nature no longer sets up a booth at the show (their sales distribution channel is pretty set). They now attend the show to see what is happening with other beauty brands and more importantly to meet with their regional field sales reps and acknowledge their success and hard work..

Our eco lifestyle essentials client, BlueAvocado, attended Expo West to preview their 2013 product collections for buyers and media. They had an amazing show.  The NPE is the show for specialty natural and organic products to showcase among their peers. The audience is educated and interested in all things eco + sustainable. Since BA has a great sustainable impact story on top of beautiful, chic and functional eco products, this was the perfect place to show their new collections.

I spent most of the show at the BlueAvocado booth. Because our clients are generally young brands, time at the booth provides a fantastic opportunity for face time with the founders and/or C level executives. Nothing beats listening and learning from the people whose vision and hard work created the company itself. I also learned a lot from the sales teams. While sales and PR are certainly different worlds, I have always understood the value of being engaged with the P&L folks. If these people can’t sell the product, the company will not survive. I love to listen and to learn from this core crew. What they say and do does not directly impact the creation of press materials and messaging, but they influence all. When creating press materials and key messages I always have an eye on the company’s direction and focus, this team has a large, if indirect, impact on how I tell their story.

For me the best part of this show was the opportunity to walk around and see all of the natural and organic products that I personally love and use every day — I was more than a little giddy. I was also able to meet a few aspiring eco entrepreneurs and to hear about and test their new products. Many of these impressive business people happened to be women: such a great reminder that we can all make our dreams happen. Many of the big “rock star” brands at the show all started with a single vision and a dream for a better, more sustainable future. I was more than just a little star struck at this amazing show where the brands really are the stars.