Final Days at B&O: A Reflection on the Past Six Weeks

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The time has come – my six weeks are up! One more week and I’m officially off to my senior year in high school. This opportunity has certainly been one that I will never forget. It was my first internship, first exposure to PR, and my first experience officially in the adult world. I enjoyed it here and the thing I’ll miss most is the overall atmosphere. I had no problem getting used to being here everyday because so many people offered their help to me when I needed it. I believe this internship has given me more than I could have offered. Even though I did lose a few hours of sleep, I got to strengthen a variety of skills such as time management, organization, being able to work independently, and knowledge in Excel, Microsoft Lync and Outlook. Even though the commute was long, I ended up having fun traveling and walking to work. The location made my mornings better. I became a morning person. At lease I know I won’t be waking up late for my first day of school.

I have one week to enjoy the rest of my summer and honestly, I think I’ll spend it catching up on sleep I lost in the commuting hours during my six weeks at B&O. I have to say, the one thing I won’t miss here is the amount of food that tempted me everyday (B&O has amazing snacks!) I’m guilty to say I began a habit of drinking tea. For many it’s coffee, but for me tea is my new guilty pleasure.

I came in not knowing what PR was at all and it turns out I liked it a lot. It is now on my list of potential careers I may pursue in the future. I do know now where to go if I do choose a PR career and I know for sure I won’t regret it. Special thanks to Sophie, Shasta, Annemiek and all those at B&O who helped make this an unforgettable experience. I’m truly grateful to have been surrounded by such amazing and talented people at B&O. Wish me luck!

45 Questions With: Taylor Phillips, AAE

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We’re back with another B&O new hire interview and this time it’s for Miss Taylor Phillips. Taylor’s pure excitement to start working at B&O gave us the opportunity to bombard her (or possibly weird her out) with all of our crazy questions. She answered like a champ, but still left us guessing on a few (if you can ever get out of her the craziest dare she’s ever done, do share with us!)

Taylor comes to B&O from sunny San Carlos, California. When she’s not enjoying the finer things in life like red wine and brownies, Taylor’s probably hanging out with her mean cat, Mikey. A few things to remember: she’s a birthday princess and even crashed Hillary Duff’s bday party once, she’s a summer-lover (although she might be allergic to the sun), and lastly, her favorite board game is… we’ll give you a CLUE. Want to know more? Watch her Q&A video, below!

  1. What’s your full name? Taylor Phillips
  2. Where are you from? San Carlos, California
  3. One word you use to describe yourself? Fun!
  4. What is your favorite kind of cheese? Manchego cheese
  5. How did you end up in PR? Kind of just happened
  6. What is your zodiac sign? Gemini
  7. What is your favorite dessert? Brownies
  8. What is your biggest pet peeve? When people bail on me
  9. What is your favorite color? Pink… No, blue!
  10. What is the best concert you’ve ever been to? Probably Britney Spears when I was like 6.
  11. Where would you go on a dream vacation? An island or anywhere in Europe
  12. Do you have any pets? I have a cat. His name is Mikey. He is mean.
  13. What did you have for breakfast? Breakfast burrito courtesy of Blanc and Otus!
  14. Who is your celebrity crush? Nick Jonas
  15. Do you ever make wishes at 11:11? All the time
  16. What do you wish for? I usually panic and say “world peace!” I don’t know…
  17. Do you have a favorite Snapchat filter? The puppy
  18. What is the most embarrassing email username you’ve ever had? puppygirl@mac.com
  19. Have you ever colored your hair? Yeah, I dyed it black by accident one time and I also streaked it pink when I was 14
  20. Do you have any allergies? Maybe the sun
  21. What is something you’re proud of? Getting this job
  22. What song have you had stuck on your head recently? Actually have it stuck in my head right now, I don’t want to say it though I don’t know what its called – “I just can’t say it though, I just can’t say it though”
  23. Do you have a drink of choice? Coffee, was that suppose to be an alcoholic drink? Wine, red wine
  24. How do you get to and from work? BART
  25. How do you cut sandwiches, diagonally or vertically? Diagonally
  26. Would you rather do a truth or a dare? Dare
  27. What is the craziest dare you’ve ever done?

I don’t want to say it.

[Oh come on]

I’m not going to say it!

  1. Do you have any siblings? I have a sister, she is 25
  2. What is your favorite season? Summer
  3. What is your favorite board game? Monopoly…? I don’t actually know Ohh “Sorry”! Is a good one. “CLUE” “CLUE!” is the one!
  4. When was the last time you’ve played? Oh a long time ago, should have been more recent…
  5. How do you drink your coffee or tea? Coffee with cream
  6. What is your perfect pizza? Big and fluffy crust
  7. Do you have any causes that you are passionate about? Animals
  8. What is your favorite word? Facetious
  9. Do you have a favorite holiday? My birthday… it’s my holiday
  10. What is your favorite food to order in? Chinese
  11. What is your most vivid childhood memory? Going up to the lake and playing water sports and stuff
  12. Was “the dress” white and gold or blue and black? It was blue and black! I didn’t see white and gold!
  13. When they ship Styrofoam, how do they pack it? In more Styrofoam
  14. How many licks so it takes to get to the center of a toothy pop? Ahh… I always eat it before it gets there
  15. How do they get those tiny boats in those glass bottles? Beats me! Worlds mysteries
  16. At a movie theater, which armrest is yours? The left
  17. Something that people may not know about you? Hmmm… I crashed Hilary duffs birthday party once
  18. Anything else you’ll like to share? Probably not.

 

 

Wait! What? Special Edition: Olympics

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In case you weren’t aware, the Olympics are starting up shortly. The games are anticipated every four years, where the world competes to be crowned a champion. Here’s the low down on everything you can learn about the Olympics through the lens of public relations:

  • First, let’s take a look at how brands leverage the Olympics. Every year we see various brands come out using some of our favorite athletes to help inspire and push us. One brand – Under Armour – has already leveraged the Olympics using Michael Phelps to highlight his last Olympics and the drive it takes to succeed. Watch the video and trust me you’ll feel truly inspired, and if you’re anything like me you’ll think about putting those athletic clothes to use rather than just lounging in them. Then again – maybe not.
  • #DeleteYourAccount may not only be directed at Donald Trump, but maybe Olympic athletes as well. Quartz reported on how Olympic athletes have gotten in trouble and need to refrain from voicing their opinion during the Olympic games. The International Olympic Committee recommended refraining from using any social media during the games. Why is this a thing though? May have something to do with the Michael Phelps “bong” scandal and Scotty Lago draping his bronze medal over his groin. Let’s hope this year the Olympics are scandal free.
  • In 2012, the most popular trending topics during the Olympics were Hurricane Sandy and the iPad 3. VentureBeat reports on how the Olympics will be beneficial for various brands in 2016: some of the topics we’re most excited to hear about are drones and wearables.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing some ridiculously good-looking men showing off their athleticism. Any other Olympics tidbits to share before the start? Tweet us @BlancandOtus!

Reflections on Week 3 in PR

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I’ve made it half way here! That means I must be doing something right. I just finished my third week here at B&O. I have had a really great time; I’ve experienced the life of living in a cubicle, life of handling money, life of having bags under my eyes, and the life of traveling every morning to work. Although the life in a cubicle may sound boring and exhausting, it really isn’t at B&O. And I have to admit the bags under my eyes are the fault of my weakness for TV shows.

As time goes on, I’ve noticed and learned a good amount of new things. I’ve learned much more about the company and details about the unique people who make up the company. I did learn that I work pretty quickly and that there are always ways I can help with other tasks if I finish all of my work. I’ve also learned research can be difficult and stressful at times, especially when you find out all the data you recorded was not saved for the next morning (YES, that happened to me once… or twice.).

Overall the thing that I am finding most interesting about work is the culture of B&O. Most people except for Neil (sorry!) don’t connect directly (hello email and IM, goodbye telephone). The culture of B&O is very friendly and family-like. It’s not just 100% work and competitive focus here. Yes, they take their work seriously and yes, they work efficiently, but the thing that creates the passion here is the culture. Without passion, there isn’t an efficient or conducive working environment.

Throughout the week, I have been assigned a task to interview those who work at B&O. I have interviewed a good number of people here and typically ask questions like how many years of experience they’ve had, their story, inspiration, and what they dislike and like about their job. I have really enjoyed listening to each individual story. All the stories connect and make you realize how PR is filled with people with entirely different backgrounds. There are people from different cultures, people who like/dislike different things, people with different leadership skills, etc. During my interviews, there were a few people who got to the point when I asked questions and some who took fifteen minutes to answer every question. Overall, everyone has been very cooperative with my interviews and seems to really appreciate doing them. I really enjoy being here at B&O and can’t wait to see what my last couple of weeks bring.

My Second Week in PR

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Raquel here, back with my second B&O blog post to give you an update on my first couple of weeks. I will admit, my first weeks at B&O have been slightly challenging. I was pushed into an environment I wasn’t familiar with and am definitely still learning the ropes here. As you know, I’m new to the whole “internship” thing and it was a little intimidating during my first few weeks knowing I was the only high schooler here. My main priority for my time here so far has been to come in on time and do all the work efficiently. I like time management and organization and my daily work has really put that to the test.

Luckily, I didn’t have much trouble understanding my daily work mainly because the people here are very friendly and willing to lend a hand whenever I needed help on something. I think my biggest hurdle to overcome was learning to travel into the office early in the morning and back home during rush hours. While that has been challenging, overall the experience here has been fun and enlightening. I learned I enjoy working independently but also working collaboratively and helping others.

There is definitely no boredom here at B&O. People are constantly moving, their minds are churning with new ideas, and the agency is definitely fast-paced. I’ve come to realize that time management is a very important thing here, because everyone works on different teams and must learn to manage their workload independently. Another thing I’ve learned here is that regardless of how many meetings you have, you must be able to work around them. Somehow, you have to find time to balance meetings with real work and client deadlines too!

I have had a good amount of projects given to me by B&Oers but also some free time, and I used it to mainly continue on research. Besides learning about PR I have had the chance to learn a bit about web design thanks to one of my projects. One thing I will definitely keep in mind moving forward is that there WILL be days when I will have a lot to do and others when I don’t, so its best to keep myself occupied when it’s slower. Perhaps the biggest thing I have learned being here is that you have to ask QUESTIONS. That’s the only way you learn as an intern, and everyone is always happy to answer them! I can’t wait to see what my next few weeks at B&O will bring.

40 Questions With: Rachel Livingston, Intern

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Our 40 questions series continues with our brand new (and awesome) intern, Rachel Livingston. We pulled Rachel away from her client work to one of her favorite spots in the city, the Ferry Building, and she basically made us laugh our asses off for 20 minutes as we drilled her with weird and random questions. Because, what’s better than spilling your deepest and darkest secrets on camera during your first week, at your first job?

This sunshine-loving, Marin, CA native just graduated from Miami University of Ohio six weeks ago and she’s super excited about starting her PR career at B&O with all of us “cool people” (she actually said that – we’ll let her learn the truth on her own). Rachel started at Miami as a biochemistry major but quickly transitioned to communications when her mom reminded her that, “talking was really her passion.”

If you have the pleasure of chatting with Rachel, make sure you ask her how to get the most bang for your buck at Bloomie’s and Nordstrom – she’s a shopping fanatic – and the latest Bachelorette drama… but not before 10 am on Saturday because she will be in BED. Oh, and to our Nutella or Bacon question — her response was, “is that a trick question?” Clearly we will be fast friends.

Our full Q&A is below, but jump to the bottom of the page for the highlights video!

  1. What’s your full name? Rachel Caroline Livingston
  2. Where are you from? San Francisco
  3. What’s the most exciting thing in your life right now? Just graduated college 6 weeks ago!
  4. Why are we here (the Ferry Building)? I used to take the Ferry in from Marin so it’s a special place for me.
  5. What made you want to work in PR? I started as biochemistry major but I failed miserably. My mom told me I liked to talk a lot so communications was probably a good major.
  6. If you weren’t in PR what would you do? Advertising
  7. Favorite Ice-cream flavor? Mint chocolate chip
  8. What makes you happiest? Sunshine! Beach!
  9. What makes you bored? Airplanes make me antsy.
  10. Favorite childhood themed birthday party? I had a Teletubbies themed party that was really cool, we had a Teletubbies pinata
  11. Favorite boy band? One direction… All the way man
  12. Favorite vegetable? That’s a weird one but… I like brussel sprouts a lot
  13. Favorite fruit? Watermelon
  14. Puppies or kittens? Puppies all the way
  15. Where would you like to max out your credit card? Bloomingdales or Nordstrom
  16. Bacon or Nutella? That’s a trick question… Nutella
  17. Biggest pet peeve? When people are texting at dinner
  18. Do you chew on your pen? No
  19. Number of piercings? Five
  20. Last book you read? Luckiest Girl Alive, pretty good book and pretty mysterious
  21. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Night owl
  22. What was the last dream you remember? A dream where my BFF and I were going on a date with guys and we had to convince them not to get in trouble… then we won the game… my dreams are bizarre
  23. What time do you go to bed? Working in this job? 10ish
  24. Last concert you went to? All American Rejects
  25. Can you play instruments? I used to play clarinet
  26. What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time? Read
  27. Favorite cereal? Don’t eat cereal…Frosted Flakes if I HAD to choose
  28. Worst punishment received at school? Never received punishment
  29. Any strange phobias? I don’t like feet…
  30. Where are you Friday night? A bar or out to dinner
  31. How about Saturday morning at 10 am? BED
  32. What were you like in high school? A mix of things… Probably thought I was cool but in reality most likely annoying.
  33. Last thing you watched on TV? Bachelorette
  34. Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer? Gatherer
  35. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color are you? Bright purple or pink
  36. What would you do if you won the lotto? Take my mom on vacation, shop, save
  37. What do you think when you’re alone in the car? I don’t think, I sing
  38. What is your favorite 90s band? We had 90s night at our school, therefore “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls
  39. What animal would you be? A sloth because they can lay and relax all day
  40. What makes you most excited about working at B&O? Excited about the people because they all seem really cool!

Summer Fun: My First Two Weeks as Blanc & Otus’ Newest Intern

It’s summer; it’s July – what does that mean to you? July usually means relaxation and fun since it’s technically the middle of the summer months, but what even is “summer” anymore? Summer can mean many different things, but to me it means “work” – but the good kind of work. It’s the kind of work where one gets to learn and experience new things – my work is a summer internship. My name is Raquel Vera, a soon-to-be high school senior and Blanc & Otus’ newest intern.

I was selected for Blanc & Otus’ internship thanks to San Francisco’s DSY Program, a program that allows me to experience the professional world of business. A friend recommended the program to me a few months ago and I have really enjoyed it thus far. During my first week at Blanc & Otus I was introduced to public relations, or what they like to call “PR.” I had absolutely no idea what to expect going into it, but it turns out it wasn’t so scary after all! They have a great office environment here, and everyone has been very welcoming and friendly.

My hobbies consist of participating in many leadership organizations, both at school and at church, along with reading books about leadership, business and psychology. Marketing and teamwork, specifically creativity and collaboration, are big areas of interest for me as well, and I can’t wait to see how my passions are applied to my work at Blanc & Otus.

The opportunity to work with Blanc & Otus has indeed opened up new experiences to the world I have not reached yet: the adult world. The opportunities that have been given to me to learn how it feels to commute to work, work full time, earn money, and be independent are very valuable. I know that there will be much more to come during this internship and regardless of the challenges, I have no doubt this internship will teach me many great lessons.

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From The Desk of the Media Strategist: Focusing on the Bigger Story

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For all the talk of new channels, content types and communication strategies, the heart and sole of public relations remains media relations.

And while there have been many talks, books, guides, etc. on pitching media, it often comes down to knowing ahead of time what a reporter covers and the content that is most valuable to them.

But remember that pitching a reporter is only half the battle. If they’re interested in your angle, they must now sell the story idea to their editors. To help us understand how stories evolve and what will entice an editor, who better to turn to than Scott Dadich, editor in chief at prominent business and technology publication WIRED.

In a recent issue, Scott provided insight into the editorial process at WIRED and how stories are determined. Below is a transcript of Scott’s feedback to the story pitch submitted by business writer Cade Metz. It’s an interesting read as this is exactly how PR practitioners should think when constructing pitches – and an overall reminder to always think bigger picture in order to help your favorite reporter get their story “green-lit.”

As appeared in the June 2016 issue of WIRED:

Last October, Fan Hui walked into a six-story office building near King’s Cross station in London, headquarters of a Google-owned AI startup called DeepMind, to play a game. Hui is the European champion at Go, the 2,500-year-old test of strategy and intuition that makes chess look like checkers. Its black and white counters have more possible positions on the Go grid than there are atoms in the universe. Every move has more possible outcomes than even the most powerful artificial intelligence had ever been able to calculate. Human grand masters don’t play the game by looking ahead at possible future moves. The move according to how the board looks. A machine needs more than “brute force” to beat the top humans. It needs something closer to, well, human intuition.

EIC Commentary: Cade had already been covering AI and this Go story, so we knew he was well sourced and steeped in the material.

Hui was in London to meet just such a machine. Built by a team of Googlers led by an engineer named Demis Hassabis, the AI relied on a technology called deep learning, a mimic of the interconnections in a human brain called a neural net. Feed it enough photos of a cat and it can learn to identify a cat. Feet it enough spoken words and it can learn to recognize the commands you bark into your phone. Feed it millions of Go moves and a neural net can learn to play Go.

EIC Commentary: The creation of a new kind of artificial intelligence I loved that. I, for one, welcome our new robot, etc.

Now, in theory, that would only produce an AI that’s as good as human – not better. So the team went a step further. They matched this neural network against itself. Two (slightly different) versions of the system played each other thousands of times over, carefully tracking which moves took the most territory on the board.

EIC Commentary: We’re always looking for inflection points, places where the future is starting to happen. That’s what this pitch argues.

The system that resulted, called AlphaG, is what Hui was there to play. In view of a few members of the DeepMind team, an editor from an academic journal, and an arbiter from the British Go Association, AlphaGo and Fan Hui played five games of Go that week. And AlphaGo won them all. In March, AlphaGo is going to South Korea to play Lee Sedol, the top Go player in the world. Experts – in Go and AI – think it’ll win.

EIC Commentary: Here’s where it goes from a topic to a story. Now there’s a conflict in the narrative and a moment we knew Cade could focus his reporting on: a human genius up against a Cylon, with the future of humanity in the balance.

The game though, is really just a proxy war. Deep learning has already proven adept at identifying images, recognizing spoken words, and even understanding natural language. AlphaGo’s abilities point the way to a future where robots interact with the physical world the same way the system interacts with Go – learning from its environment and responding to unexpected changes. As DeepMind built AlphaGo, Mark Zuckerberg and his AI researchers at Facebook were using deep learning to build their own Go player. This fight is really between Google and Facebook, over who will build the first intelligent, adaptable computer.

EIC Commentary: And these are the stakes. Beyond the metaphysical, building these AIs will have implications for the entire tech industry.

I’ve been covering this story as it unfolded, and I have exclusive access to the DeepMind team in the run-up to the match with Sedol and during the match itself. I propose building a story that spans not only the path of AlphaGo, from inception 19 months ago to the Fan Hui match to the match with Lee Sedol, but also the recent history of AI – a field that is moving faster than anyone, even its most prominent practitioners, expected. Structurally, I’d set it around a series of Go matches: AlphaGo versus Fan Hui. AlphaGo versus Lee Sedol. AlphaGo versus me. And, if I can set it up, AlphaGo versus whatever they’re building at Facebook.

EIC Commentary: (Part I) Bricklaying for the story. This spells out for the rest of us how Cade and Marcus plan to tell the tale. (Part II) A great idea that we didn’t use in the end. Cade’s access to the tournament in South Korea was too good. You’ll see.

 

Wait! What? Fourth of July Edition

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We are excited to take some time off and head out to the beach or a nearby barbeque and celebrate the Fourth of July! Before we head out let’s take a minute to look back and what happened this past week.

  • As we get ready to start our Independence Day celebrations, we can’t help thinking we’re glad we aren’t part of the UK. In case you live under a rock, the UK recently decided to leave the European Union and as John Oliver explained, #Brexit might not have been the wisest choice. Don’t worry UK, we will be sure to have a drink for you this weekend.
  • What does the Fourth of July and a movie theatre in Concord have in common? Well, they both have to deal with hot dogs. Concord theatre accidentally showed a trailer for Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party – a rated R film – to an audience watching Finding Dory. Watch the trailer and learn why some parents were not too happy with their children expanding their vocabulary.
  • Speaking of hot dogs – this year Nathan’s is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and hosting their Hot Dog Eating Contest. I mean what is more American than shoving as much food in your face AND winning a prize? Adweek looks at how Nathan’s has leveraged the holiday to build its brand and just last year the contest was mentioned 9,660 times on Twitter in one day. Maybe this year we will see someone eat more than 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
  • We are always hustling away in the office but it is time to celebrate a BIG birthday. Yes – America we are looking at you as we take off the Fourth for some much needed R n’ R. Check out Buzzfeed’s article to celebrate the holiday in style and be the coolest person at the party.

Happy Fourth of July to everyone! See ya next week!

What does Shark Week have in common with PR? Surprisingly, a lot!

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Do you know what week it is? Yes, it’s Shark Week – one of the holiest weeks, according to Stephen Colbert!

I’ve always been fascinated with sharks and might have been a marine biologist in another life, if I didn’t fear the ocean. But in this life, I work in PR.

As I watched the kick-off of Shark Week on Sunday, it dawned on me that there are a lot of common traits between shark species and PR professionals.

The All Star (The Great White): There’s a reason why the white shark is called a “great white shark.” It’s because it kicks a$$ at what it does. As the world’s largest predatory fish, it can travel long distances in search of prey. A great white named Lydia, tagged off the coast of Florida, was tracked for 20,000 miles while she was meandering the Atlantic Ocean until she reached the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Similarly, a PR all star is willing to go the distance when it comes to making an impact for his or her client.

This PR person knows the importance of strategy and proactivity to make the kill. Just like a great white proactively hunts for his juicy next meal, an All Star is always on the hunt for pitching the next big story.

The Indiscriminate Pitcher (The Bull Shark): Bull sharks aren’t picky eaters. They’ll attack anything that moves, just like an “indiscriminate pitcher” will pitch any reporter, even if he or she is not relevant! While bull shark attacks are usually successful, the indiscriminate pitcher isn’t, with most (if not all) of his or her pitches ending up in the trash.

The Forgettable One (The Whale Shark): Is a whale shark a whale or a shark? No clue – everyone forgets. But one thing I do know, is that you don’t want to be forgettable in PR. Building strong relationships, whether they are with media, analysts, clients or prospects, is crucial to PR. If someone can’t remember you, then you probably haven’t made a big impact.

I could probably keep going – tiger, hammerhead, blue, reef, blacktip, shortfin mako, etc. – but I’ll leave you with those three. Can you think of any others?