Wait! What? 9/18: Facebook Finally Gives Us The Thumbs Up To Give A Thumbs-Down

“It’s Friday.” That is arguably one of the sweetest phrases in the world. From finally being able to ‘dislike’ your crazy uncle’s political views to giving tweens yet another way to take photos of themselves (hands free, anyone?), we’ve got the rundown on the top tech and industry stories of the week:

Credit: Thinkstock
Credit: Thinkstock
  • To like or not to like – that is the question. This week Facebook announced a ‘dislike’ button is in the works, empowering grumpy users everywhere to share their distaste.
  • Are you kidding me right meow?! Apparently a Cisco employee accidentally sent an email to the entire staffing list of over 30,000 employees, and pictures of cats and memes were circulated to everyone for hours. Obviously, madness ensued.
  • Taking your selfies to new heights … forget having to carry around a stick or deal with that pesky arm of yours in the photo: Dronies can follow you around, taking in-action photos of you and your friends on command. Kind of like drones flying around at concerts and NFL games taking photos of everyone, except now it’s just you, doing your thing, looking cool. Right?
  • Social media has that wonderful ability to take a giant event (the Super Bowl, GOP Debates…) and pick out one tiny aspect and run with it. The second GOP Debate was on Wednesday night, and amongst the pressing issues discussed, we discovered the variety of faces Donald Trump can make and who the #HotDebateGuy really is. Thanks, Twitter.
  • Definitely swiping right. Oscar Meyer recently rolled out a dating app for bacon lovers called Sizzl. It even provides a variety of safe first date questions, including:
    • “How do you like your bacon cooked?”
    • “What kind of bacon do you like?”
    • “If there’s one strip of bacon left, you…?”

Those were our favorite stories of the week, share yours with us on Twitter @BlancAndOtus!

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.

Wait! What? 9/11: It’s Christmas for Techies and Fashionistas, Love and PR are One and the Same

week in review 911
Credit: Thinkstock

Happy Friday everyone! Though there was only one national holiday this week, the Apple event is well on its way to becoming a bank holiday itself! From channeling your inner child to channeling your inner serial dater, here’s a round up of some of the top industry stories from this week:

  • This week was all about the big Apple reveal! The Tech Elite flocked to Bill Graham Auditorium this Wednesday as the world was introduced to the new iPhone, Apple TV and…Apple Pencil? The Next Web’s roundup of the event can help you keep track of all the updates and innovations.
  • Another exclusive event for a different kind of elite crowd kicked off this week: New York Fashion Week. Once reserved for the rich and famous, technology has worked its way into the tents at Bryant Park, offering us plebs a piece of the action through live-streaming.
  • You may not be a kid anymore, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t treat September like a new beginning. Fast Company gives advice on how to recapture that “back to school” feeling and refresh your career.
  • Is finding love really about selling yourself? Comedian Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance looks at dating in the digital age, but it actually gives some pretty sound marketing advice as well! Whoever said that PR wasn’t romantic?
  • In more somber news, today marks the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. WIRED takes a look at how the creators of the 9/11 museum took on the gargantuan task of creating a monument that would honor the memory of those who lost their lives and educate visitors about the tragic event.

That’s all folks! Tweet us your favorite stories of the week @BlancAndOtus.

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?

Wait? What! 8/28: Get Back Into the End-of-Summer Grind With Tips from Buzzfeed, CIO and Instagram

Credit: Thinkstock
Credit: Thinkstock

TGIF! From a panel discussion with some of BuzzFeed’s top San Francisco writers to taking branding advice from Instagram it’s been a great week for us at B&O. Here’s a little recap of some of the top tech stories this week:

  • You’ve spent countless hours prepping for an interview, you know how to highlight your strengths and discuss your weaknesses, but do you know how to answer the oddball questions? CIO asks seven unusual questions to help you nail down that dream job.
  • Now that summer is coming to a close it’s time to get back into the grind of work. Are you ready to jump back in? Fast Company posted a video on how to tackle your work when you get back to the office after a long vacation.
  • Businesses are starting to change the way they brand through photography by taking some tips from Instagram on how to master the art of embracing the ‘perfectly imperfect.’
  • In this week’s offsite a few members of B&O traveled to Microsoft for an “Inside the Newsroom” event to have a panel discussion with a few noteworthy Buzzfeed writers and editors, Mat Honan, Jessica Misener and Nicole Nguyen. Want to craft an engaging pitch? Nicole suggests two brief sentences, a gif and a link to the product.
  • It’s time to bust three PR myths that could be hurting your career. Instead of focusing on landing that “it” piece in the Wall Street Journal, try focusing your efforts on getting a client’s story in a publication that target their audiences on a daily basis.

These were our favorite tidbits of the week. Share yours with us on Twitter @blancandotus!

PR Can Be Stressful – Here are 5 Ways B&O Is Reducing the Strain….

Did you know that public relations executives have the 6th most stressful job in America? Under constant pressure and tight deadlines, it’s no secret that PR professionals feel overwhelmed from time to time (insert that collective SIGH here). So how can we learn to manage stress, avoid mental fatigue, and be happier overall at work?

Credit: AndreyPopov, Thinkstock
Credit: AndreyPopov, Thinkstock

You might think a viable solution to preventing all this stress would be to plan ahead and predict our daily schedules more effectively. But PR is a spur-of-the-moment industry, and the need to manage a constantly evolving news cycle often prevents said planning from happening in an organized fashion. Hence, it’s critical that PR workplaces continually seek out creative ways to help combat stress.

Stopping mental fatigue – a phenomenon caused “by an inability of the fatigued subject to allocate attention efficiently” (ERP study) – and stress in their tracks is where PR professionals need to focus their energy. “It’s preventative medicine,” said Jane Buckingham, CEO of trend forecasting and media firm Trendera in a recent Adweek article. “Studies show that meditation and living healthy lives make people more productive. They’re less frazzled by heavy workloads; they’re less likely to be overwhelmed…” And they’re therefore more likely to jump on tasks faster and with more energy and eagerness than before.

So let’s get down to it: What stress-reducing measures has B&O implemented in the workplace that work for us? Here are a few:

  1. Bouncy exercise balls and standing desks: Along with reducing stress, bouncy balls and standing desks can give you a break from the evil desk chair, which can literally kill you. The Washington Post released a troubling article last year detailing the excess of health problems desk chairs cause including heart disease, over productive pancreas, colon cancer, muscle degeneration, poor circulation in legs, soft bones…to name just a few. Bouncy balls reduce mental fatigue by forcing muscles to balance and thus pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain, reducing brain fog. Fast Company’s recent scientific research on standing desks indicates they have resulted in some clear physiological health benefits, including increased energy expenditure and an average heart rate increase of 8 beats per minute. Not to mention, they are simply fun and often the source of other workplace hijinks – including bouncy ball basketball.
  2. Encouraging stress-reducing moments in daily PR life: Yes, we are all super busy, but taking a few minutes to regenerate can pay off when it comes to boosting productivity and creativity. And that’s exactly why we have massage days every couple of months. To say they are popular would be an understatement. Not to mention, we are huge fans of an afternoon run for coffee, iced tea, whatever your pleasure. But really it’s less about the drinks than the stroll out in the fresh air and the conversation with colleagues that rejuvenates you and gets you ready for that next task ahead. Lastly, it is not uncommon to see that all office email go around with a hilarious cat or goat video. After all, nothing lightens the mood or brings a laugh like goats dubbed into Taylor Swift videos.
  3. Plan fun activities employees can look forward to: Good, clean happy hours … a definite key to reducing stress. While Inc. goes so far as to say beer can make you smarter, the #1 reason to plan these events is so employees have something fun to look forward to when moments of stress kick in during the workday. Aside from happy hours, B&O is known for its legendary events – from Valentingo to St. Patty’s Day Olympics.
  4. WFH Fridays: Ah, it’s just before the weekend, so what better reward after a long week than to stay home and complete your work from the comfort of your own place? Working from home eliminates the commute, traffic, and provides employees with that work/home balance they crave … not to mention the option of staying in your pajamas until noon and working alongside your pet is always a priceless benefit.
  5. Monthly Fitness Reimbursement: It’s no secret that gym memberships can prove expensive, and while the benefits of reimbursing employees for monthly gym fees are clear, employers benefit as well: when employees exercise and eat better, morale improves, productivity increases, and healthcare costs go down.

These are just a few of the great perks that accompany B&O’s fantastic wellness and healthcare benefits. And one thing is for certain: the implementation of these initiatives is crucial to our success in this constantly changing, fast-paced world of PR that, for better or worse, we love.

Wait! What? 8/21: Target’s Vigilante Troll, Amazon’s Big Oops and an Airport Powered by the Sun

Credit: ThinkStock
Credit: ThinkStock

Greetings PR-aficionados! What’s that? Yes, it has been a while. Since we last spoke, a lot has happened, including the addition of our new General Manager, Annemiek Hamelinck, who’s been doing a truly stellar job of leading our troop of misfits. The tech scene has been crazy, and we’re going to catch you right the heck up.

It’s time for our latest installment of “Wait! What?”

  • You’re simply THE BEST!” is what Tina Turner might say about the hilarious vigilante that took to social media, posing as Target and defending the company’s decision to remove gender distinctions in some sections of its stores. We laughed ‘til we cried and really appreciated this moment of faux justice.
  • Holy company culture, Batman! If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you might not know that Amazon is having some issues – of the miserable employee variety. The New York Times published an expose looking at the company’s intense, and unforgiving culture. Amazon – you should probably take a look at our Instagram for some happy-employee inspiration.
  • On a more positive note, an airport in India has announced it will be completely powered by solar panels. Us clean tech geeks are excited to see solar tech being used on such a large scale and hope there is more to come! Yeah…no joke here. Sometimes we can be serious, OK?!
  • Now, I know my ABC’s… Although the announcement of Alphabet as Google’s parent company has been clogging up your browser for the past two weeks, we’re more interested in the smaller, mind-bogglingly futuristic companies that fall under the umbrella, like the forever young anti-aging biotech company Calico, and of course, the infinitely inventive Google X.
  • “Why does the GPS say that he’s driving away from us…?” is normally the first thing that comes to mind when the name “Uber” pops up. This time, however, it’s all about the rumored IPO, which was mentioned in a document leaked to Reuters. Of course, the company chose not to comment on the rumor, but the cat is out of the bag (which would be a terrible thing to happen in an Uber, by the way).

So now you’re all caught up on this week’s big tech stories and hopefully have something cool to bring up at brunch this weekend. Tweet us your fave stories of the week @blancandotus!

XTC—Examining the Change: Ingenuity over Innovation

At our 2014 Tech MarkScreen Shot 2014-09-11 at 12.02.01 PMeters Playbook event last week, we previewed a number of themes we see emerging in tech PR this year that we will be examining in more detail on this blog over the coming weeks. Namely, approaching customers as influencers; changing the relationship with risk; engineering for expectations; and the rise of small data over big data.

But one of the biggest trends we see emerging is the rise of Ingenuity over Innovation. And as “innovation” is now center square for buzzword bingo in tech PR, it’s worth a closer look.

Here I’m defining “innovation” as the creation of a brand new component that’s never been seen before, and “ingenuity” as the creative recombination of existing components into something more useful. The wheel was an innovation. New. Impressive. By itself, useless. Then some ingenious soul took two wheels, put a stick through them and set a box on top, thus creating a cart. Also impressive. And immediately useful.

The problem with innovation is that it usually happens in a time of surplus. The wheel only came along after we’d learned to farm and store food and discovered free time. But ingenuity happens in moments of great need, when a difficult task needs to be done right now and we simply have to make do with what we have.

That’s the reality we face today.  And that’s why we are entering an era of ingenuity.

The good news is that ingenuity is an inexhaustible human resource. You see it at work today in key verticals such as automotive, healthcare, manufacturing and financial services. These sectors have to be cautious around innovation, given the regulations and cultures that govern them. But they must adapt to disruption to survive. So they don’t default to spending time and money on innovation for its own sake. They find mind-blowing new ways to use things that have already proven to be useful—and trustworthy.

Perhaps the most liberating thing about ingenuity is that it allows us to challenge the myth of scarcity. Too often we as a PR community begin our pitches with cost, complexity and risk. Without realizing it, we perpetuate a zero-sum game that assumes we just don’t have enough to work with now.

But what if we in the tech PR community could flip the script on scarcity and pose the viral question, “What if we do have everything we need? What if we just need the ingenuity to make better use of what we have?” What impact would it have if together we started telling the ingenuity story? Imagine the dialogue across entrepreneurs, technologists, economists and influencers around the ingenious utilization of the plethora of proven innovations at our feet.

Now that’s a story worth telling.