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From 14 Things I Would Tell My 14 Year Old Self for “The Things I Learned From” 

ImagePut simply, you’ve got a lot of life ahead of you girlfriend. Take a chance even if you think you might fail. You’ll land on your feet and worst case scenario? You’ll learn something. Keep those lessons with you and share them with the people around you. Speaking of, do your best to bring people together – make introductions, make people feel comfortable, make people get to know the real you and bring out the real them in the process.

ImageTwo Years In for “40:20 Vision”
Two years ago this month I boarded a plane to New York City. I had two suitcases and would sleep on an air mattress in the living room of my new apartment that I would share with a roommate I had never met in person. I would start my new job the following day at a company with 600+ people in New York and thousands on staff around the globe (after leaving my first company of 16 employees). I could count the number of people I knew in New York on one hand and the majority was thanks to the power of social media. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into – just that I knew I had to try.

Inspiring Women, Part 11 for “Polish My Crown” Image
Face your fears head on. For 25 years I had never lived outside the state of Illinois. I had big dreams, but was so afraid of them that I was practically decorating the walls of my comfort zone – because I thought that’s all I would ever know. After moving to New York City I am a more determined person who knows fears do not define you.

How a Passion Pit concert is like a stellar PR campaign

They made the concert social with a strong theme. Through the hashtag #FeedTheBeat Passion Pit is creating a rockumentary with content, including tweets, photos and fan-aggregated video. Everywhere you looked at their SXSW concert – your wristband, signage, TV screens throughout the event space – you were reminded of the hashtag. 

They involved the audience. As you can see in the video Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos regularly shares the mic with the audience inviting them to sing along with the band. 

They signed on a relevant sponsor. Taco Bell’s recent slogan update – Live Mas – fits with a band. The slogan breaks away from the past of solely focusing on food moving to the mainstream (and all the fans that come along with it). 

They turned awareness into interest. I’ve never seen Passion Pit before attending the SXSW concert, but I wanted to because I love life music and it would be a fun night with friends. Between the enthusiastic set, Angelakos’ amazing vocals and their unique dive into social with the rockumentary, I have definitely moved from someone who is aware of Passion Pit to someone who is now a fan. 

Passion Pit demonstrates a unique way for a band to engage with social and further connect with and embrace their fanbase. Any bands OR brands catching your attention through a new use of social? 


All Things Promotional at SXSW

As a PR pro, the promotional items and transportation options definitely caught my attention. 

Unique promotional items 

NY Times had a booth for signing attendees up for subscriptions. They were also creating unique images designed from a photo of your face and words from your favorite section of the paper.


Walking around with floppy disks? I had to stop and find out why. With BucketFeet, a different artist designs every shoe. 


Seamless “Push to Eat” device that directs to the website. Interesting take to develop in hard form a way to decrease time getting to the site.


Want to create the photo booth effect at your event (without the actual booth or hard copy photos)? Photo booths were very popular at SXSW. Instead of only printing out the images, photo booths have gone social allowing photos to be automatically uploaded to social networks watermarked with the brand logo and relevant hashtag. 

o Taking this even a step farther is a company that’s new to the scene – Tagkast – a Chicago-based company I found on the trade show floor. Removing the actual booth allows for enough space for any activation. They’re also available to have roaming photographers on site at events to capture the spontaneous attendee moments and they hire freelance photographers so there are always many available.  

Getting around town 

Catch a Chevy – Cars driving on downtown Austin available for free rides. Attendees can tweet them or flag one down like a cab. When cabs are hard to come by these were amazing! 

I thought the RVIP Lounge was the perfect vehicle to have on site. After investigating it turns out they are here, but not promoting to the fullest extent. They could have leveraged hashtags/influencers to help promote; however, the tweets I saw from followers were positive. 

Pedi cabs are a go-to option for getting around downtown Austin – Oreo and Podio are two of the brands that sponsored pedi cabs with advertising/social promotion. 

For brands, transportation seems like a natural place to activate instead of trying to force something in the convention center. The copy can make a play off of getting around town and incentivizing riders with giveaways through the hashtag will keep the conversation flowing. If it’s a larger shuttle, brands can have reps on board to talk one-on-one about their services. 


Last of the SXSW Sessions

12 sessions later… an ambitious, and productive, trip into SXSW: 

Pandora and TechCrunch Dissect Music & Tech #PandoraSXSW  

o Chief of Technology Officer Tim Conrad said they want Pandora to be like air – available when you need it

o The greatest companies are built when you solve problems that matter

o To answer what most excites Conrad about where Pandora can go, Conrad highlighted the ability of groups to come together for shared experiences – listening together in the car, in the home, in the bar 

The Big Power Shift in Media #powershift 

o CEO of BuzzFeed Jonah Peretti discussed changes in media

o He addressed the question most people ask – how can you share breaking news from the White House AND cute puppies and still seem credible?

Peretti explained it as allowing the person to participate in all types of events that keep them human

o With websites, most people are not obtaining content through the homepage – they’re getting it through Facebook, recommendations from friends, etc. 

o To ensure success, brands must have a story/position and know what content they will create. Once they tell their story (in a few ways), they must look at which channels are working best – measure how much engagement is taking place and how much earned media is secured 

o Social is a way of thinking

Have a heart

Content is about identity

Capture the moment

Cute animals deserve respect

Humor is inherently social – when you’re laughing with people you feel closer to them

Nostalgia and human rights/social good are as well

Don’t share posts people would be embarrassed to share

Spend 50% of time coming up with ideas and 50% on how you’re going to share it

o When creating content for consumers, you must do more than interrupt them – you must create content that interests them and motivates them to share

Matthew Inman Keynote #askinman 

o Inman is the creator of The Oatmeal and popular comics like “How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you” 

o He championed two successful crowdfunding campaigns in 2012, including “Operation BearLove Good. Cancer Bad” where he turned a lawsuit on its head by raising over $200,000 for charity instead of paying $20K in damages to a rival website. In addition, he generated over $1M in nine days to try to buy the laboratory formerly owned by Nikola Tesla 

o On his site he doesn’t write just because time has passed/just to fill space – he writes when there is something to say

o Crowdfunding tips:

Be wary of perks – logistically it can be a nightmare (i.e. 30,000 donors and at minimum, everyone receives a t-shirt…)

Keep campaign short and sweet – the majority of funding will happen within the first few days when interest is high 

Inman’s campaigns weren’t about the perks/products – they were about writing a wrong 

o He closed by saluting the audience, aka the geeks, thanking them for what they do 

Change the Ratio: Conversations with Rachel Sklar #sxswomen @rachelsklar @cmwalla @merici @kathleendwarner @kayjaypartay

o The moderator admitted that this discussion of top tech leaders were pulled together late in the game acknowledging that although the panel all included white women they did try to secure a more diverse panel. This definitely stood out attendees as an African American woman and Asian woman spoke on how they felt underrepresented. The moderator turns the question back to them about making improvements and taking note of their feedback. When compiling a panel think all the way through to audience reactions and questions – thinking about the endgame will help define your strategy.  

o Top thoughts from the discussion: 

Taking great risks can be really uncomfortable, but you have to after what you’re passionate about. 

Be a storyteller – understand your message so that you can be an influencer. 

Advice for young girls:

Teach her to code and make sure she knows/hears regularly that she can do anything. 

Open up conversations about money – negotiations, asking for it, using it, etc. 

Celebrate their failures. Encourage them to try and fail. 


SXSW – Act 2

More updates from SXSW featuring Skype’s ability to connect people around the globe, Shaq’s ability to connect via Twitter and the potential ability for women and men to have it all. 

How Shared Experiences Enable Global Understanding #tech4edu 

o Head of Social Good Andrew Schmidt and Peace One Day Founder Jeremy Gilley led the discussion on Skype is being used to make connections and strengthen relationships

o Skype connects with people who are using their product in extraordinary ways. Imerman’s Angels connects cancer survivors with individuals currently undergoing treatment through Skype calls. It was started by a two-time survivor. Mark Wood will make the first Skype call attempt from the top of Mt. Everest. He travels on expeditions and talks with children around the globe via Skype about his adventures. Schmidt said he always welcomes stories about how people are using Skype to make new connections. 

o Gilley is a filmmaker who launched Peace One Day, a day for individuals to become involved in the peace process – it provides a window of opportunity for aid agencies to carry out life-saving work. On Peace Day 2008 in Afghanistan the United Nations Department of Safety and Security, which monitors security related incidents, recorded a 70% reduction in violent incidents. On Peace Day 2010, over 50,000 children and women of child-bearing age, across 23 high-risk locations of greater Kabul, were vaccinated against deadly diseases including polio, meningitis, diphtheria and tetanus. In addition, a nationwide polio immunization campaign to target 8 million children was launched. 

Host Skype talks weekly through schools – 81 schools in 55 countries (to get to the very bottom of violence with childhood bullying) 

Host Peace talks where two classrooms are brought together in two different countries via Skype 

Aims to inspire young people to become driving force of a united and sustainable world – advancing areas of conflict resolution and human rights. Gilley has received criticism that the initiative is only one day – he explains that of all the dialogue occurring 30% happens on the actual day while 70% is combined social media content and news coverage throughout the rest of the year 

Shaq at the Samsung Blogger Lounge #samsungsxsw @SHAQ 

o Shaq spoke on a panel with Brian Solis and afterwards he stopped by the Samsung Blogger Lounge for a short Q&A. He was well-spoken and really engaging with the host and audience. 

o Turns out Shaq found Twitter by accident. Someone had misquoted him so he used Twitter to back himself up. He wanted to keep the facts straight and speak from his perspective. To get Shaq’s attention, simplicity always wins – something that is inspiring and can change someone’s life. Shaq tells his children he would have been Valedictorian if he had all the technology they have available to them. His advice: be genuine. Believe in your product. Focus on your relationships. 

Current Trends at SXSWi #sxswrecap 

o The last four years of SXSW you could ask where are the women in tech? Not anymore Meg Casserly from Forbes said it’s no longer a conversation about women in tech – it’s just tech. There are so many members of the media on site because they need to be part of the conversation. Forbes has 26 people at SXSW. 

o Brands are coming to you, experiences are easy to package and walk away with it – making things more dynamic 

o The goal for attending SXSW should be to spark ideas, remove any fears and go after what you want. – Shawn O’Keefe, Interactive Festival Producer of SXSW. Said they take into account all attendee feedback (gathered from surveys, emails and one-on-one conversations) to improve SXSW 

OK, Women Can’t Have it All, but Maybe No One Can #slowdown 

o What does the “it” in having it all mean? 

Making choices and having priotiies in check. – Adam Ostrow, Mashable 

o Discussed the Yahoo announcement re: telecommuting. If Marissa Mayer were a man, no one would pay attention if he didn’t take his paternity leave 

For hiring Ostrow said Mashable focuses on talent over gender and location. Mashable has only had a physical office as of 3 years ago, started all as telecommuters 


Jumping into SXSW

Updates from the whirlwind days at SXSW. More to come!!  

Beyond Work/Life: Changing the Debate & Making Change – Anne-Marie Slaughter led a lively discussion on the balance women and men must create in their lives. Key sound bites: 

o Family comes first. Work doesn’t come second. They must come together. 

o The conversation must surround caregivers and breadwinners, not framed as men vs. women. Caregivers must be valued and know that it is possible to handle personal obligations even with a significant workload. 

o For millennials a larger paycheck isn’t the most important aspect of their career. They want a balance between money and meaning.  

o Re: Yahoo’s latest announcement – do they understand what public relations is? 

People are far more productive when allowed to have a flexible schedule. 

o If you’re caught up on email, your priorities are not in the right place. 

o Following the panel, I spoke with Susan Isenberg, Global Health Chair and GWEN Steering Committee member. We discussed her take on the panel and how the lessons can be brought to GWEN: link to video

Insights about Innovation: David Sacks Fireside Chat – David Sacks, COO of Yammer, offered his four tips when launching a new product – all relevant when a team addresses a new client launch. 

o Hook – what’s going to interest consumers? 

o Market need – are you solving a problem? 

o Distribution strategy – how will people find out about you? Is there a potential viral component to help spread the news? 

o Network effect – how do you create it so others won’t copy you? 

Elon Musk Keynote – Elon Musk spoke about his work with SpaceX, but as a PR pro the Tesla NY Times review was top of mind. The only thing Musk would have done differently was making the rebuttal he sent to the NY Times public editor to make the situation more clear. Other than that, he stood his ground explaining he readily accepts critical reviews – what he does not accept is false reviews. The focus of the keynote was Musk’s ongoing quest to send people to Mars – the audience was even treated to the first viewing of his company Space X’s reusable rocket. Musk explained the US is a nation of explorers and people must understand it’s possible to expand space exploration. It’s not a question of will, it’s a question of way. When asked to share his biggest mistake, Musk said putting too much focus on a person’s talent versus their personality. In order to have a good partnership, colleagues must have a good heart, end of story. 

Life on the Line: Tweeting the Drug War – There are thousands of people missing in Mexico – social media gives a face to the missing. Tweeters share photos and information about people who have disappeared in Mexico. Mexico has the most reporter deaths of any country – many are threatened for covering the drug war, but politicians do not step in. Citizen reporters are the only way to communicate and keep communities safe (#reynosafollow).  

What’s so funny about innovation? Like brands, stand-up comedians must consistently deliver fresh thinking for their audiences to relate with. Ultimately, will the community jump or board or not appreciate what’s put in front of them? Former Digital Director of The Onion Baratunde Thurston joins as a presenter and with Paul Valerio of Method Inc., a research-based company. 

o Know your audience through research, then ignore their advice.

o Data does not replace insight. Insight is the bottom line that provides innovation. 

o Keep it fresh. 

o Develop your own point of view. 

o Don’t expect everyone to get it. 

o You can’t test your way to a decision. We may be killing potential great ideas because we judge too quickly or just follow the crowd. 

o Overall, Thurston explained that competitive analysis can be reframed. Approach instead as what are the possibilities – what collaboration can come from this? 

SXSW Preview

Not in Austin? Not a problem! Check out these tips from Stephanie Wonderlin of Momentum Factor and Founder/Producer of Tweetheart TV.

As a first time South by Southwest attendee, there are plenty of activities grabbing my attention. Here’s a preview of a few sessions that are top of mind. See you there? 

What’s so funny about innovation? Like brands, stand-up comedians must consistently deliver fresh thinking for their audiences to relate with. Ultimately, will the community jump or board or not appreciate what’s put in front of them? Former Digital Director of The Onion Baratunde Thurston joins as a presenter.  

Cory Booker: The New Media Politician – Cory Booker will discuss the role of his social presence in being mayor and specifically, how Twitter has connected him with his community and kept him accountable.  

Beyond Work/Life: Changing the Debate & Making Change – Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlantic stirred up plenty of conversation on the balance of work and life. Slaughter will discuss a more integrated approach to help women and men excel both professionally and personally. 

The Future of Social: From Location to Utility – Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley will discuss how location-based services have evolved and what’s to come from these platforms.

The Big Power Shift in Media – BuzzFeed Founder Jonah Peretti will offer advice on how ideas can reach millions and how to adapt to the shift of portals, search and social. 

Follow me on Twitter (@StephanieFlo) for what’s happening on the ground.