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At SXSW this year, Porter Novelli was excited to host a different sort of networking event: our first annual #PNSXSWPoker tournament. A donation to charity: water bought players a seat at the table and a shot at the grand prize, a DoubleDown Casino pack. As we had hoped, the Texas hold ’em tournament brought strangers together around tables, giving them the chance to connect naturally without shouting over a crowd — a type of networking that is all too rare at SXSW today.
More than a hundred guests joined us at The Rattle Inn, with all contributions going to drill a well for a Kenyan village. Special thanks to everyone who joined us, and to our partners DoubleDown Casino and Texas Poker Supply. Everyone’s generous contributions will help provide clean water for 200-250 people in need.
I’m a pacer. I take my conference calls from my cell phone so that I’m not tied down and I can pace around whatever office space I have — whether it’s two steps in a cube, up and down the hallway, around my house, around a conference room. People have called me out on it, but I need to be up and moving around to keep the blood flowing, keep the brain functioning, and keep any frustrations in check.
The key to getting through my day is the end of the day before. Before I sign off, I make sure I map out the following day: what my schedule looks like the next day, where I have to be the next day, the projects I have to complete, the projects I have to start, and when I think I’ll have time to work on each project. Depending on what that looks like for the next day (and looking ahead to the following days), I know whether I need to put in extra work that night, wake up early, restructure something, or (very rarely) if I’m able sleep in. That keeps me sane and prevents unnecessary stress when I wake up in the mornings or when I’m going through my day.
I also value the time in my car throughout the day traveling from office to office. For safety and sanity reasons, I am entirely unavailable when I’m in my car. I strive to avoid taking phone calls when I’m in the car, even if that means I have to take early morning meetings or work late into the night. The benefit is that I get time throughout the day (anywhere from ten minutes to an hour at a time) to unplug entirely, regain my sanity, and think without interruption. My car is where some of my best thinking happens.
Trust, accountability, and partnership. I focus not on “how to direct” but on “how to enable,” and through that lens I have to trust that each person will do their part without being micromanaged. It starts with knowing each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and structuring their part accordingly, and then providing sufficient guidance, being fully available to support as questions and needs arise, and trusting that they’ll execute. And holding the whole team accountable for the results — both good and bad.
The partnership piece is critical. Everyone plays an equal role in the success (or failure) of a project or account. It’s not, “oh, that’s an intern task, dump it on the intern” or “I’m above that.” Everybody — especially me, as team lead — needs to be willing and capable to do any sort of task when the situation requires it, no matter how mundane. This pays off in the case of inevitable client fire drills.
I have to plug into many different client tools and processes, so the processes and tools I choose to use personally are critically important. I use Todoist to access my to-do list from any machine (and always keep it open in Tab #3 on my browser); I use Google Drive to organize, share, and collaborate; I use multiple IM clients to keep in touch with team members.
One of the most important ways in which I maintain work/life balance is by recognizing that not everything requires immediate attention — especially things that come through after regular work hours. That doesn’t mean I don’t work outside of normal hours; instead, on those days where works spills over into life, I limit myself to the work I need to do during that time. That helps keeps work and life separated, and I find it’s more sustainable than the always-on approach.
The Caravan’s primary challenge lay in attracting attendees, with a focus on HP’s target 18-34 year old demographic. To reach this audience, the PN team selected geographically diverse cities, focusing on high-traffic retail and tourist areas. The team timed each appearance to attract media attention at certain moments during the journey, and to coincide with likely periods of high traffic. The attention-grabbing centerpiece of the tour was an HP-branded tractor trailer and an activation pod, wrapped like a present, that opened to reveal HP products.
Along with traditional media outreach, the PN team secured 12 influencers to promote and attend the Caravan at its various stops. Using Google and influencer relations software GroupHigh, the team ranked influencers according to their social media and the demographics of their audience. They then recruited top-ranking influencers in each city, including daddy bloggers, mommy bloggers, techies, and fashionistas.
Each influencer received two HP Chromebooks: one to keep for themselves and one to give away on their blog. Before and after attending the Caravan, each influencer promoted the tour and blogged about their experience. Tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts including the hashtag #hpjoy drove visits to their blogs. Meanwhile, the #hpjoy hashtag generated more than 26 million social media impressions.
Influencers provide value not just by garnering impressions, but by acting as third-party advocates who can reach consumers on a more personal level. The high-quality content that comes from top influencers adds credibility to the campaign and, by extension, the brand.
1. Use a reputable vendor
Many vendors offer user-friendly formats (iTracks is a PNConnect favorite). A good vendor will help you set up your guide, recruit participants (if needed), and provide live support.
Most online discussion groups take place over 2-3 days, with only a few questions each day. This allows people to check in at their convenience and respond to posts from other participants. It also keeps the time burden from being overwhelming (daily participation should only take 10-15 minutes). You should encourage participants to check in more than once, and plan questions carefully by accounting for topics that could come up organically.
3. Be conversational and check in often
In an in-person focus group, there are all kinds of conversational and body language cues you can give to make people feel comfortable and facilitate discussion. In an online group, you need to set the tone with your language and your regular interaction with the participants. As moderator, you should check in often, answer questions, and keep the conversation going. The more engaged your group feels, the richer their responses will be.
For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.
Chris Thilk in Chicago, Dave Coustan in Atlanta, and Tom Harris in Raleigh wrote this month’s Feature about updating Wikipedia brand pages, and Christine Sullivan in Atlanta shared Insights on conducting online focus groups. Chad Hyett and Robert Veliz in New York City contributed stories and insights for the Social Networking Stats and Noteworthy News sections, and Amanda Wu provided the latest stats. Bailey Worth and Sarah Parada in Washington, D.C., shared updates and insights on Advertising Trends, and Tara Moore and Kate Caverno in New York City created our case study on the HP Joy Caravan. Andy Stoltzfus in San Francisco stepped into the spotlight for “On Workflow,” with Mike Gallow providing the accompanying photos.
Hannah Harris contributed our cover photo, Sergey Galyonkin provided the Oculus Rift photo, and Yannig Van de Wouwer shared the background of our SXSW Poker write-up, some rights reserved. Some backgrounds courtesy of subtlepatterns.com.
Thanks to Jennifer Laker, John Ciacia, Peter Schiebel, Jeremy Harrington, and Sean O’Shaughnessy from the Platforms team for providing design and development support, and to Lauren Sandelin, Mary Gaulke, Dave Coustan and Tom Harris for editorial oversight and proofing.
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