40 Questions With: Rachel Livingston, Intern

 

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

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

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?

40 Questions With: Shelby Meyers, Senior Account Executive

As part of our 40 Questions series I was happy to pull our newest B&O addition, SAE Shelby Meyers, out of the office to one of her favorite spots in the city – Washington Square Park – to drill her with random questions and get to know her a little better. She was an awesome sport and totally humored me even with my most ridiculous questions.

When she’s not learning how to speak Italian and cook Sicilian food, Shelby loves to urban hike, explore the redwoods, eat her way through SF and read in all the parks. If you run into Shelby, be sure to ask her to talk about photography (it’s how she landed her first PR job!), do her Red Rum kid impression (I can attest it’s quite good), do a magic trick or play an instrument – she knows the clarinet, bass guitar and the bongos. I’m totally impressed. She’s also in the process of planning a wedding and currently contemplating a first dance song, so be sure to throw some recommendations her way. 

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Our full Q&A is below, but jump to the bottom of the page for a video of our newest member!

  1. Full Name: Shelby Alexa Meyers (Corradino)
  2. Where are you from? San Francisco
  3. Most exciting in your life right now? My new job at B&O!
  4. How did you end up in PR? I fell into it. I met a VP at a bar who offered me an internship because he was impressed by the way I talked about photography.
  5. If you weren’t in PR what would you do? Journalist
  6. Favorite ice cream flavor? Can’t eat ice cream L
  7. Favorite color? Green
  8. What makes you happiest? Francesco (her husband!)
  9. What makes you bored? Bad movies
  10. Morning person or night owl? Both
  11. Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
  12. Favorite childhood themed birthday party? Pocahontas
  13. Last book you read? I reread Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  14. Favorite boy band? Backstreet Boys
  15. Favorite veggie? Carrots?
  16. Puppies or kittens? Puppies
  17. Bacon or Nutella? Nutella
  18. What color is your toothbrush? White
  19. Do you chew your pen? No but I click it against by teeth
  20. Number of piercings? 10
  21. Number of tats? 3
  22. Beer or wine? Depends on my mood
  23. Last dream you remember having? I was drowning. (uh oh!)
  24. What time do you get up in the morning? 6:30
  25. What time do you go to bed? 11ish
  26. Last concert you attended? Milky Chance
  27. Can you do any good impressions? I can do the Red Rum kid from The Shining
  28. Which store would you like to max out your CC? All the stores
  29. Did you have any imaginary friends as a kid? I think I did but I don’t remember their names
  30. Can you play any instruments? Clarinet, bass guitar and the bongos.
  31. What’s the oldest thing in your fridge? There’s these portabella mushrooms we haven’t eaten yet…
  32. What’s the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time? I help Francesco play magic
  33. It’s Friday at 8pm where are you? At home drinking wine
  34. It’s Saturday at am 10am where are you? At brunch having a mimosa
  35. Last gift you gave someone? I gave Francesco a card
  36. What were you like in high school? A little bit of everything
  37. Last thing you watched on TV? The Mindy Project
  38. What do you think about when you’re alone in the car? Recently, what Francesco and I will pick for our first dance song.
  39. If you could be any animal in the world what are you? Dolphin or Koala
  40. Favorite 90s Jam? Ace of Base, All That She Wants… is another baby, woo ooo…

This headline is BULLSH*T: How Click Bait Headlines Have Become Our Worst Nightmare

You’re guilty of it; you know you are. You see a headline in your daily newsfeed that sounds controversial or so off-the-wall that you just can’t resist.

“How this Kim Kardashian lookalike is building the next great app”

This is click bait.

My personal favorite publication for finding these types of headlines? BuzzFeed. And it seems I’m not the only one. According to Quantcast from May 15 – June 13, 2016 BuzzFeed had nearly 440 million global visits to the site.

Buzzfeed has led the way for other news publications looking to get in on the “click action” and completely revolutionize their publishing practices. There are also quite a few publications that actually change the headline every few hours to see what works best.

But, how many times have you clicked on the link only to be disappointed with how the content didn’t match its title?

In the PR industry we are seeing this more and more. As more reporters are eager for the fleeting fame of a viral headline and freelancers are being paid by publications on a “per click” basis, this has become commonplace. Not to mention the pressure put on staff reporters that just want to keep their jobs. It’s a problem. I say problem because most of the time these titles turn negative. In fact, according to a study by Outbrain the average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives including “never,” “bad” or “worst” was an overwhelming 63 percent higher than positive ones (“always” and “best”).

Every PR professional can attest to this. You wake up to a client Google Alert and the headline is negative. You have a mild heart attack and start thinking about what you plan to tell the client when they call you at 7am. That is until you actually start reading the content. “Well, this isn’t so bad.” But try to convince a client of that. The headlines are all that matter, or are they?

Is it time to start expecting these click bait headlines more and just alter our approach? I’m going to go with what the amazing Bradley Cooper did in his Oscar-winning film and find the silver lining.

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  1. The more clicks the article gets the more people that read it, the more people that have been exposed to your brand.
  2. Thinking in the “click bait” mindset can actually get you some great pitch ideas.
  3. Let’s just face it…they are entertaining as hell.

The fact of the matter is that this is the new world order, and just like everything in PR, it will continue to evolve. Do I see this going anywhere anytime soon? Absolutely not. Sex sells, and so do catchy headlines.

Wait! What? 6/10: WARRIORS, Productivity hacks, and more

The past few weeks have been filled with cheer as the Warriors take on the Cavaliers and the Sharks heat it up on the ice rink. I wonder who will win tonight’s game… our bet is on the Warriors. But, before we start placing bets, let’s take a minute to take a quick look back on this week’s trending topics.

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  • Wouldn’t it be nice to have a simplified workweek and better work-life balance in the process? Well this Googler solved the issue. Fast Company shared how Jake Knapp devised a plan that helped teams solve bigger problems in less time.
  • Get your paper and pens out folks because I’ve got a quick and easy productivity trick for you. Quartz shared the Bullet Journal’s “secret” productivity hack that aims to give the old pen and paper a little more structure.
  • Recently, The Washington Post and a few other DC newsrooms shared four media relation lessons all PR folks could use. Remember to stay up to date with media lists, audience behavior impacts coverage date, be resourceful for journalists and keep content top quality!
  • Work and personal life can sometimes take a toll on us, so what separates us from the mentally strong people? Inc. shared 18 habits strong people have, including: practicing gratitude, accepting challenges and practicing realist optimism.
  • Our very own Chris Navalta shared another blog post on our favorite team – the Warriors! His piece discussed how yet another company (first Nike, now Uber) has “mis-dribbled an opportunity” to capitalize on Steph Curry for marketing opportunities. Third time’s a charm?

What were some of your favorite tidbits from this week? Send us a tweet @BlancandOtus #workhardfiestaharder

Meet The (Other) Company That Whiffed On Leveraging Steph Curry for its Marketing

Earlier this year, I had written about how Nike’s seemingly unprepared presentation to retain Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry as a client had cost them to keep the biggest name in sports … as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Apparently, another company has mis-dribbled an opportunity to capitalize on basically free publicity from the Babyface Assassin himself.

Prior to the start of the NBA Finals, Curry took part in a media session and answered plenty of non-basketball questions (think Media Day during Super Bowl week … but not as ridiculous). During the presser, Curry was talking about how he was chatting with an Uber driver … much to the surprise of reporters, who followed up and asked if he was actually in an Uber.

“Of course,” he said.

This surprised plenty of media folks, who went on to write stories about why we should love the reigning unanimous MVP even more … turns out he’s just like you and me – he takes Uber when he needs to.

Stories from local, national sports and tech outlets filled my timeline. It also became a trending topic on social media. You would think that Uber, in the midst of dealing with some bad publicity as of late (from riders’ experiences with drivers, to untimely surge prices … to being sued by the drivers themselves) could leverage the free plug from Curry and milk the publicity for all it’s worth.

Not so much.

Curry mentioned Uber on June 1. Dozens of articles were posted hours later. Since then, however, the news pretty much died down and the NBA Finals had begun. Not a single shoutout to Curry from Uber on social media (I did find a tweet from Uber from nine days ago that read “Ready to ride, @StephenCurry30?”, but it looks as though that tweet’s been deleted.)

What I did find, though, were other social media posts about Uber’s utter #PRfail to capitalize on the opportunity to profit from Curry’s plug.

“If @Uber doesn’t bank on this ‘Steph Curry takes Uber’ story, it’ll be a fail for their marketing team,” posted one Bay Area sportswriter on Twitter.

One would have thought that after Lyft’s collaboration with Andre Iguodala to prank teammate Festus Ezeli, Uber would have pounced on the opportunity to stay connected with the team’s best player. But, once I realized Uber wasn’t going to do anything about this opportunity, I began asking my colleagues if they saw anything from Uber that I might have missed.

“No,” said one of them. “But when I heard that Steph said he uses Uber, there were so many ideas we could have done if we were their PR agency.”

So I wasn’t the only one who was thinking that. And, apparently, Uber was the only one to NOT chime in on the ‘Steph Curry uses Uber’ conversation. Aside from their tweet – which was eventually deleted.

That’s really too bad, Uber. Who knows how much more positive publicity (and dollars) you could have made during that small window. If the Warriors wind up winning another NBA title, you might want to speak with the City of Oakland on how you can get Uber drivers to be part of the victory parade.

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Wait What 5/27: Memorial Day Weekend Edition: iPhone Struggles, Sleeping Tesla Drivers and a Weed Gym

Barbecues, weekend trips, spending time with friends and family…you’re probably looking forward to the long weekend. We’re going to send you off the best way we know how – with our list of the top tech news stories of the week.image_198

  • When you hear the words “iPhone” and “drop” in the same sentence, it either means that A) the new iPhone is about to drop! Or B) you dropped your iPhone while you were playing Candy Crush on the toilet. In this case – it’s neither. This week Apple released its March period earnings, which reported that iPhone sales have dropped as a result of competition between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 6S.
  • Leave it to Dubai to come up with this one: a 3D printed office building. Turns out, all you need to create a gorgeous, state of the art skyscraper is what’s known in the industry as “a big-ass 3D printer.”
  • Trouble in Tech-adise? The New York Times published an exposé on the legal battle between Gawker Media and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel. Turns out, Thiel was footing the bill for Hulk Hogan’s $10 million lawsuit against Gawker Media after the site published his sex tape. Thiel has a history with Gawker Media. The media company revealed his sexual orientation without permission, and said some less-than-friendly things about him on its site. So, the guy took action.
  • The most Bay Area thing ever? A new gym will open in San Francisco, at which members will be allowed to consume cannabis while working out. Though it’ll likely spark some controversy (get it?) – we’re sure there are plenty of folks that are thrilled about the news. SF is Silicon Valley’s backyard – and what people do in their backyards is their business. It is called high-tech, after all.
  • It’s what we basically all imagine when we picture ourselves in automated or driverless cars. A video of a Tesla owner, asleep at the wheel, is making its way around the Internet. Apparently, the Tesla Mobile S Autopilot system is so reliable, that drivers can just kick back and grab a nap! Honestly, this guy seems like a perfect candidate for a membership to that gym we were just talking about.

You’ve got the news – now head out and enjoy the sun this weekend. Or if you’re like some of us, you’ll just be inside waiting for Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode.