Employee Spotlight: Annemiek Hamelinck, General Manager

I’m a runner.

Annemiek blogIt has taken me a long time to feel comfortable saying this out loud. When I told my friends and family that I had started running and signed up for my very first marathon in 2005, they simply started laughing because they thought I was joking. I never participated in sports while I was growing up and I had not ever even run one lap on a track (the farthest I typically ran was to the grocery store to buy a pack of cigarettes!). In fact, I did not even own a pair of running shoes.

I started running to create space. Space to think and space for me. The kind of job we have requires a mind that is always on. It’s also the kind of job that has us surrounded by people who are tapping into that mind that’s always on. Its noisy, it’s constant and it can be overwhelming. It certainly was for me.

I just started training for another marathon and, coincidentally, my training program started the same week I started this new job. I have lofty goals for both. For my running: keep my toenails, kick ass and qualify for Boston. For Blanc & Otus: foster a culture where everyone can be themselves, be heard and be awesome. Where we work hard and play hard. Where we make big ideas a reality. Where we deliver five-star service to our clients and have a damn good time doing it.

I have big shoes to fill that require big thinking and big space. There is no doubt in my mind that running is what keeps me creative and sharp. Henry David Thoreau said: “Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow,” and I couldn’t agree more.

New Employee Spotlight: Nicholas Porter

Hi, guys! I’m Nicholas. I’m Blanc & Otus’ newest account supervisor. I enjoy running, listening to death metal and eating Indian food. I also really like pugs. My mind is pretty much always moving. That’s typically a good thing and a bad thing. I’m also an amazing dancer. Did I mention I also really like pugs? But enough about me – you probably want to know what I’ve learned during my first six weeks here at Blanc & Otus, don’t you? I have you covered. Read on!Nicholas Porter

West Coast Work Culture Is the Opposite of East Coast Work Culture

I’m sure some will disagree with this sentiment, but to that I say, yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. Here’s the deal. My colleagues at B&O work extremely hard. They are a creative, strategic thinking and intelligent bunch. They deliver only the highest quality work to our clients. With that said, though, everything here is just more laid back. Feel more comfortable wearing jeans to the office? Go for it. Have some work you’d rather finish off from home in the morning? Just let your teams know. How about having the ability to work from home every Friday, regardless of the title on your business card? Amazing! What you really cannot beat, though, is the free organic fruit available all day, every day in the kitchen. That’s my real motivation for getting up in the morning.

Collaboration is the Name of the Game

Here at B&O, we have an open-style seating plan. No one has an office, meaning our general manager and senior vice presidents sit right next to interns. No one is ever out of reach and it’s awesome. Further, we share our building (and the aforementioned open-style office) with Hill + Knowlton, Landor, Ogilvy and Nielsen. Think about that – PR, advertising, marketing and media measurement all under one roof. Need help on a project that requires some of that expertise? Just take a walk down the hall and your problem is solved. With these resources at your fingertips, our clients can be assured that their integrated campaigns will never be less than everything they have the potential to be.

The Bay Area Is the True Home of Tech

East Coasters are pretty famous for their…interesting personalities. I mean, the whole world runs on East Coast time, so I guess that explains why accidentally bumping into a guy at a bar anywhere in the Northeast is immediately interpreted as, “I want to fight you.” Look at me right now! There’s a whole jumble of other states below the Northeast (I think?) and I’m not even considering them when I say “East Coast.” Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you open your smartphone, every app on there was likely rolled out in the Bay Area first. Throw a dart at a list of enterprise tech companies currently dominating the landscape and chances are they call this place home. Zuckerberg, Benioff and Ellison? They all live here. It creates an energy in the air that you can truly feel and makes my and my work family’s job at B&O that much more enjoyable.

So there’s my story. And I’m sticking to it. If you don’t like it, then I have just one question for you – wanna fight about it?

Great People Are at the Heart of Our Business, and No One Has Been More so than Peggy Clark

Stay classy, Pegs. We'll miss you.
Stay classy, Pegs. We’ll miss you.

Here on our blog, you see us write a lot about the trends in the industry, the latest happenings and tips and tricks of the trade. Perhaps not often enough do we take a step back and look at the reason we even have a business in the first place… our people.

The thing that makes Blanc & Otus great is that we have an amazing tribe of different, talented and passionate people who are committed – not only to delivering on our mantra of 5-star client service, but also in their support of each other.

In my 16 years at the firm, I have never seen anyone showcase this commitment more eloquently than our beloved office coordinator, Peggy Clark.

For 15 years Peggy has been part admin, part therapist, part caterer, part den mother and ALL HEART. Looking back, I am not sure we have all appreciated enough the tireless effort and commitment she has delivered. At the times when we were so crazy we thought we might lose our minds, it was Peggy that brought the pizza and beer. When a new client or candidate walked through the door, it was Peggy that gave them a warm and lasting positive first impression of Blanc & Otus.

Something ordered, booking travel, rearranging conference rooms, scheduling Ubers, flowers on anniversaries, ensuring cheese sticks stocked at all times, a shoulder to vent on…Peggy Clark.

By themselves, these may seem like small tasks. But in reality, these are huge things that have ensured the agency has run smoothly and made our jobs, and lives, easier and better.

Seeing her bright smile (and impeccable, matching jewelry) is one of the things I value most when I come into the office each day. And it’s one of the things I will miss the most as we prepare to send her off on her much deserved retirement.

In a service business like ours, having great people is essential. We were lucky to have been blessed with Peggy all these years. Her commitment to delivering a 5-star service to the Blanc & Otus team has made a lasting and invaluable mark on our company and each of us individually. We send her with all our thanks, our love and our best wishes in her retirement adventures.

In the words of the great Frank Sinatra …“thanks for the memory”.

Holmes Report Innovator 25: A Thank You

I’d like to take a moment to thank the Holmes Report for including me in their list of Top 25 PR Innovators. It feels awesome to be included in such inspiring company, and I’d also like to take a moment to commend my friends and colleagues who’ve been recognized as fellow innovators in PR. In particular, I’d like to say congratulations to my friend Charlene Li for also making the list, and for inspiring so many of the ideas that many of us have been putting into practice this year.

What strikes me about the list this year is to what extent the people on this are passionate about their own particular vision for communications and content. Whether or not we “made the list,” that’s something all of us in PR share—we are all in service of telling somebody’s story, and we are all in service of innovating new ways to tell that story. And that involves a fair amount of “creative destruction”—which in PR takes the form of blowing up old processes and form factors to make way for more useful ones. As a troublemaker at heart, I have to admit to enjoying the destructive aspect of the creative process, and I’m curious how many of my colleagues on this list share my penchant for rhetorical demolition.

At B&O, the creative destruction in 2014 has been all around storytelling. If anything, my inclusion on this year’s innovators list is a nod to the hard work the entire B&O team has put into advancing our shared vision for Viral Storytelling. Our storytelling model, which like many other successful story models is based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, is pre-engineered to generate the positive word of mouth that drives sales, reputation, talent retention and brand engagement. And it’s a storytelling model we use in each and every one of our accounts.

What’s best about this story model is that it’s based on authenticity. We find what is most true about our clients. We help them discover the most compelling way to evangelize themselves and attach themselves to the trends that make them the most relevant. And we help them articulate their purpose and mission in a way that gets their audiences to want to see them succeed. It’s amazing what storytelling can do when it’s authentic and not all about yourself, as I had a chance to discuss in a recent speech at LinkedIn TechConnect 14.

It’s been fun to blog about storytelling and essentially open-source our Viral Storytelling model to the industry. We believe that smart innovations are worth sharing. And we’re just getting started. In the coming months, the broader bench here at B&O will be sharing even more inspiration and insight into innovative trends in communications, including:

  • The power of human connections and community uprising
  • Social and multichannel messaging
  • Brand journalism
  • Research tools, analytics and the power of big data in PR
  • Focusing our storytelling on the human impact of new technologies

Again, my thanks to Aarti Shah, Paul Holmes and the Holmes Report for including me as a Top 25 PR Innovator. And perhaps most importantly, on behalf of my B&O teammates and myself, I’d like to express our deep appreciation to our clients who’ve had the curiosity and courage to creatively destroy a few old models and co-create some high-impact stories with us this year.