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”.

Prepare Yourself for the Next Big Cat Meme (While Looking at Some Funny Faces We Made)

It's actually "Pallas's Cat," but no one on the Internet wants to write that. (Scott Liddell, Wikimedia Commons)
It’s actually “Pallas’s Cat,” but no one on the Internet wants to write that. (Scott Liddell, Wikimedia Commons)

If there’s one thing we’ve learned while working in tech, it’s that the Internet was invented for one reason and one reason only: cats.

It’s a little mind-boggling to consider how many cat-related memes and viral videos have spread across the online universe, but we think it’s pretty safe to say that cats—however rude and allergy-inducing they may be—are viral gold. They’ve become completely intertwined with the world of sharable Web content.

With this in mind, we’d like to bring your attention to the next reigning feline of the Web: the Pallas Cat. If you’re not familiar with the Pallas Cat, you’ve been missing out and frankly you need to get your act together. The majestic kitty is native to the Himalayas and has garnered significant attention lately, due to a recent video of a wild Pallas Cat discovering a scientist’s remote camera outside its den. This fluffball is totally hilarious, not to mention completely adorable.

Following the release of the aforementioned video, OffBeat published a compilation of Pallas Cat facial expressions that simply inspired us. Now, exercising the right to be copycats, we present our own version of “Pallas Cat Facial Expressions,” featuring the faces of Blanc & Otus and captions relevant to our daily lives here at the office. Enjoy!

1. The “all nighter” face.

L-R: Turnt-down Pallas Cat, Emilie Gerber

2. The “don’t talk to me until I’ve had coffee” face.

L-R: Neil Desai, deeply agitated Pallas Cat
L-R: Neil Desai; deeply agitated Pallas Cat

3. The “we got our client quoted in The Wall Street Journal!” face. 

L-R: Pallas Cat experiencing WOW, Christine Pai
L-R: Pallas Cat experiencing WOW; Christine Pai

4. The “I’ve been pitching since 4am” face. 

L-R: Julia (Doris) van Broek, monumentally agitated Pallas Cat
L-R: Julia (Doris) van Broek; monumentally agitated Pallas Cat

5. The “my call was canceled and the World Cup is on” face. 

L-R: Opportunistic Pallas Cat; Stephanie Kays
L-R: Opportunistic Pallas Cat; Stephanie Kays

6. The “I did not just click ‘Reply All’ on that email” face. 

L-R: Andrew Padgett, Pallas Cat wondering "why me?"
L-R: Andrew Padgett; exasperated Pallas Cat

7. The “that briefing sheet just turned into a briefing book” face. 

L-R: Unhumored Pallas Cat, Neil Torres
L-R: Unhumored Pallas Cat; Neil Torres

There you have it! We hope that this cartoonishly expressive critter brightens your day as much as it brightened ours. Oh, and when you’re done procrastinating by reading this post, get back to writing that press release! #PRLife

PR Best Practices from Old-School Rap Geniuses

Credit: Raelene Gutierrez
Credit: Raelene Gutierrez

In the sprit of knowledge sharing, my colleague Bill Rundle and I recently debuted B&O Street Insights.

What started as friendly banter between a guy from the “Yay” and another from the “mean streets of South East Auckland” morphed into an internal communications initiative. Now, we’ve decided to share this musical treasure trove with you – the fine readers of Above The Fold. The purpose of this project is to take our fondness for old-school rap/R&B/hip-hop, and use it to further enhance each other’s knowledge on the key concepts of PR in a unique, fun and (sometimes) creative manner.

Basically, we’re going to show you how the old-school rap geniuses were actually speaking to music lovers all over the world about communications best practices. Our first four installments are below. Come along for the ride and enjoy the lyrical journey.

Volume I: Mr. Robert Matthew Van Winkle

Stop, collaborate and listen.

This nugget of wisdom comes from the profound words of the poet Vanilla Ice. An evangelist for teamwork and active listening, Mr. Ice reminds us that we should take time to stop what we are doing, think about how we can collaborate with our co-workers and clients, and listen to customer and industry feedback.

Volume II: E-Z Rock and Robert Base

Ladies love me, girls adore me, I mean even the ones who never saw me
Like the way that I rhyme at a show, The reason why, man, I don’t know

Robert Base describes a situation in which his personal brand is known and adored, reinforcing the value of word of mouth. His brand ambassadors were born as a result of high-quality messaging being delivered through a successful speaking and awards program. When asked about his strategy to build brand ambassadors and fan loyalty, Mr. Base was hazy on the details.

Insights: 

  • The most successful PR campaigns build brand reputation, loyalty and generate word of mouth.
  • Agency staff need to remember to save their PR plans on the server so they can be replicated at a later date.

Volume III: Jonathan Smith

Shots shots shots shots shots shots
Shots shots shots shots shots
Shots shots shots shots shots

Mr. Smith refers to a popular form a of liquor consumption (a shot) multiple times throughout the prose. He expresses enthusiasm for the micro-portions of alcohol with a raw and unrefined delivery. Smith’s approach is highly engaging and persuasive, and stands out as an example of highly effective messaging.

Insights:

  • Keep messaging simple and concise
  • Repetition builds familiarity
  • It’s all about the delivery
  • Shot Friday is an essential element of the PR lifestyle

Volume IV: David Jude Jolicoeur

Hey how ya doin’
Sorry ya can’t get through
Why don’t you leave your name
And your number
And I’ll get back to you

As PR practitioners, we are often caught in situations where we are unable to answer the phone, and Jolicoeur’s best practice guide to voicemail greetings still rings true today.

His voicemail strategy involves a greeting delivered in a friendly yet professional manner, which acknowledges the inconvenience that your absence might have caused the client/journalist/influencer. Jolicoeur then recommends callers leave their name and number, before communicating intention to return their call.

While most voicemail strategists agree that callers should be encouraged to leave their name and number, many have criticized Jolicoeur’s weak suggestion (‘why don’t you leave your name and your number’) and believe this should be a firm request.

Insights:

  • Ensure your voicemail is friendly yet professional
  • Encourage callers to leave their name and their number
  • Communicate your intention to return their call
  • It was probably the Wall Street Journal so return that call as soon as possible

That’s all for now. Get at us next month for more rap-infused PR tips and tricks.

Bill Rundle also contributed to this post. 

Play Ball! Why PR and Baseball Aren’t So Different

Opening Day for our home team, the San Francisco Giants, has finally arrived and Lou Seal is ready to bring another championship to the Bay. In the spirit of grand slams, hot dogs and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” here are nine things PR and baseball have in common:

  1. The Double Play. You know what’s better than getting one client in an article? Getting two. Same goes for America’s pastime: a double play lets you kill two birds with one stone.
Top: Neil Desai and Christine Pai Bottom: Drew Smith and Danielle Tarp
Top: Neil Desai and Christine Pai
Bottom: Drew Smith and Danielle Tarp

2. Perform well under pressure. PR professionals know that there are rarely days that are stress free. That’s why the first lesson learned in PR is keep calm. No one knows this better than a pitcher in a bases loaded situation.

Emilie Gerber
Emilie Gerber

3. Not every pitch is a strike. Sometimes a story we pitch to a reporter won’t always be right down the middle. But you can bet the next ball we throw WILL be a strike.

Bill Rundle
Bill Rundle

4. The lineup. Each PR professional will play to their strength, just like Jeff Kent batting clean up behind Barry Bonds for their glory years. The best players will know where and when to assert themselves.

Team photo
L-R: Jen Smith, Joan Touchstone, Kristin Reeves, Simon Jones, Drew Smith, Neil Desai, Charlie Passero, Neil Torres, Danielle Tarp

5. The manager. Each team needs its fearless leader. The San Francisco Giants have Bruce Bochy and we have Josh Reynolds.

L-R: Kristin Reeves, Megan Gregorio, Stephanie Kays, Josh Reynolds (Coach), Natalie Pridham, Colette Keane, Bill Rundle
L-R: Kristin Reeves, Megan Gregorio, Stephanie Kays, Josh Reynolds (Coach), Natalie Pridham, Colette Keane, Bill Rundle

6. Shake things off. In PR and baseball, you’ll have your good days and your bad. An angry reporter versus a bad hitting day. We need to learn to brush it off.

7. Practice makes perfect. It takes time to master PR and baseball. The more you work at it, the better you’ll be.

Andrew Padgett
Andrew Padgett

8. Know who you’re up against. Before you throw a pitch, know the success your opponent has hitting a curveball. Tim Lincecum knows better than to throw Adrian Gonzalez a pitch down the middle, or it will end up in the bleachers. Don’t launch your client’s product until you understand the industry and know the competition.

L-R: Suzi Owens and Stephanie Kays
L-R: Suzi Owens and Stephanie Kays

9. Sometimes it’s just about the beer. Enough said…

L-R: Charlie Passero, Megan Gregorio, Drew Smith, Ivy Chen
L-R: Charlie Passero, Megan Gregorio, Drew Smith, Ivy Chen

Smiling in the Face of Disruption: Welcome to Above the Fold

B&OAt B&O, we’re celebrating. New clients. New employees. New services. And new results for existing clients. A lot has changed and we are only just beginning.

And of course we don’t have the monopoly on change. It’s everywhere we look as technology creates new industries and redefines old ones.  For those of us crazy enough to sustain a career in tech PR, isn’t that what makes our jobs so fun? It’s this questionable relationship we all have with adrenaline and the rush of never quite knowing what’s going to happen next that compels us.

Knowing that change is happening is one thing. Understanding what matters is something else. It requires the courage to speak plainly. The curiosity to lean into new ideas and differing opinions. The candor to fearlessly and openly share lessons learned from successes and failures. And while it sounds like a daring combination for an industry defined by spin, it’s exactly what we are about.  Simply put, we believe that when tech PR professionals act as a creative collective of equals, we discover the resourcefulness, tenacity and experience to not only handle disruption, but to rock it.

It was this culture that made me want join B&O last August. It’s a culture that’s defined by authenticity. We believe people operate at their best when they’re encouraged to show up … I mean really show up. That means our people don’t leave their personalities at home. We don’t waste energy acting like somebody else all day. Instead, we bring everything we are into the office, where it’s put to good use and celebrated. And that means we each play to our individual strengths and combine forces to form an unstoppable tribe of equals who come through for each other and stare disruption in the face.

In the coming weeks and months, that’s what you’ll see more of on this site: disruption. Discussions about it, research about it, and a celebration of it. Starting March 27 you’ll also see my new blog series, “XTC—Exploring the Change,” in which we take a fresh trend each Thursday and turn it inside out.

So welcome to our new website. Welcome to our new blog. Welcome to our tribe. This is going to be fun.