Sheltonite Spotlight: Wesley Fang

Shelton Interactive is nothing without its team members. In this continuing series, we will showcase the individuals that make up our darling startup.

To start off, its only appropriate we start by introducing our newest member, Wesley Fang! Wes (for short) is our new Sales & Marketing Coordinator. Hailing from this fabled city, Wes was kind enough to answer the onslaught of questions that we prepared. Based on his answers below, you be the judge whether or not we made the right decision! [Spoiler: we did!]


What’s your nickname? Wes

What realm do your reign from (hometown)? Native Austinite, born and raised

What’s your favorite thing(s) about Austin? People, local coffee shops, entrepreneurial spirit, and tacos

What was your childhood dream? To be able to dunk

How do you usually pass time on the weekend? Avidly reading, reflecting, and spending time outdoors… Whole Foods and Mozart’s are my stomping grounds.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? Dark roast coffee

If you could only have three apps, what would they would be? Instagram, Mint and Bible App

What are your thoughts on #whaling? It’ll be extinct in a month.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? California

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Why are design agencies so expensive?

In order to answer that question I feel I have to first explain why some design work is so inexpensive. There are a lot of designers in the world. There are probably even more people that aren’t really designers but know how to use Photoshop or Illustrator.  When you have more designers than you do jobs you end up with a lot of freelance artists that simply want to create at any price. This passion to create and acquire any form of graphic design work often results in freelancers charging very low rates just to get some work. Creativity can be a curse. If you have a passion to create, you’ll almost do it at any price because you simply aren’t happy unless you are doing it. With so many people in the industry willing to do design work for a low price you essentially drive down the market value and perceived cost. So when you are shopping for designers I wouldn’t use the quote from your friend’s cousin as the basis for comparison. That expensive agency quote might be closer to what you need. Here is why:

Advantages of Using an Agency

You get more talented and trained designers.

Now back to our original question. Agencies spend a substantial amount of time finding creatives that have been thoroughly vetted and proven their abilities through very polished portfolios, strong client communication skills and ability to think strategically to identify and solve problems. In this highly competitive, highly cluttered world of micro-media (See Rusty Shelton’s blog on micro-media) you need a uniquely defined message delivered with well-strategized design in order to stand out.

Not all design is created equal – and not all customer service is good. The old adage “You get what you pay for” could not be any more true than in this scenario.  Working with freelancers is riddled with risk of not getting a quality product that comes from a place of strategy and research, sudden disappearing acts or sporadic email communication, or getting a product that does not set you up for success for years to come. To be clear, not all freelance design work is a risk. There are definitely some very talented and very capable freelance designers out there. The only glitch is they are probably expensive, and may be hard to find.

You get a team instead of just one person.

At an agency you are often getting a team of experienced people that work together to brainstorm the best possible approach to your product.  Shelton Interactive is a very team based environment where no one works in a vacuum. Projects all come together very collaboratively, with every team member’s insight and experience.

You get your website finished on time.

Agencies also come with more accountability to client deadlines. The mission at Shelton Interactive is to deliver the best agency experience under one roof – and the number one pillar of that mission is our customer service and client communication.  Of course, since a website is an extension of your brand, your input and participation in the process is crucial. We create a timeline and help the entire team drive towards the goal, but look to our clients to help pull all of the content together. This approach ensures that the content represents your message, and we guide you every step of the way through creating that overall brand message.

We really can’t say it better than our clients:

“Their creative work is fresh and innovative, packed with exciting ideas. I particularly like their ability to readily grasp what I needed, their attention to detail and their quick response time. [The] team of exceptional specialists is a joy to work with. I highly recommend Shelton Interactive with five soaring stars!”
Susan Noonan, MD, author of Managing Your Depression

If the success of your brand is a top priority you really need to ensure that your identity is in good hands – or better yet an experienced, strategic and communicative team. If you value your identity then take value in the people that help you create it and remember that you get what you pay for.

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Our Web Process

Have you ever wondered about what happens while your site is being designed? The Shelton Team has worked hard to develop our process that makes it painless to deliver you a great site. Check out this Infographic to see step by step what it takes to get your website up and running.

Katrina is a Graphic Designer & Content Strategist at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on twitter: @katribear_

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Web Client Spotlight: J. E. Fishman, Bomb Squad NYC

Our vision here at Shelton Interactive is to start conversations that matter, and sometimes those conversations are about great fiction! Shelton Interactive has teamed up with passionate storyteller, J. E. Fishman, on one of our latest agency projects: “Bomb Squad NYC” Series.

Bomb Squad NYC Series

The fact that Fishman has spent numerous hours researching the activities and history of the real NYPD Bomb Squad and happens to have an apartment the street from the precinct of these everyday heroes are just a couple of reasons this exciting series is based so closely on the real thing. Being the only fictional series about this group of cops makes these books captivating reads for anyone interested in bomb squads anywhere.

Bomb Squad NYC homepage screenshot

BombSquadNYC.com

Creating BombSquadNYC.com

Do you hear ticking? The pub date for the first installment in the “Bomb Squad NYC” series, A Danger to Himself and Others, is just 11 days away, and we are literally counting down the days! Using a cast of fictional characters, the Bomb Squad NYC books dramatize the real-life challenges of the oldest, busiest, and most technologically sophisticated bomb squad in the world.

Since Bomb Squad NYC is so closely based on the real thing, one of the major goals with this site was not to create just another “book website”, but to give readers a place to really immerse themselves into the stories. Like all dedicated authors, Fishman has developed unique personalities and preferences for each of the characters, and with those details, we created Bomb Squad’s Finest. These character profiles put a face to the name and give a close-up snapshot of what makes them tick. (You know you were waiting for a bomb pun.)

Every book in the series is vetted by the current NYPD Bomb Squad commander, Mark Torre, so you can be sure that the equipment, technology and general bomb squad tech way of thinking accurately mirrors real-life. The website offers readers a chance to educate themselves on the various acronyms (essentially another language) and the gadgets used by real bomb squad techs. We created a glossary for users to search a term from the book and see its definition and sometimes a photo.

Dynamite ebook cover

DYNAMITE: A Concise History of the NYPD Bomb Squad

For those readers who want an even deeper understanding of the real NYPD Bomb Squad, we created an historical timeline going all the way back to the invention of dynamite. Through his research, Fishman dug up so much information on the history of the NYPD Bomb Squad that he published a 94-page e-book, DYNAMITE: A Concise History of the NYPD Bomb Squad, which is available on Kindle for just $4.99 (or visit the site and sign up to receive a free download!)

Our goal with every website we create is to create an experience for visitors – to offer resources, recommendations, and a fun, or interesting way to take a deeper exploration of your content. We’ve discovered that keeping your audience engaged with your website means doing more than just creating a digital poster ad for the book and the author.

Let us know how you think we did on BombSquadNYC.com in the comments below. We’d love your feedback.

Amber McGinty is Web Director at Shelton Interactive. Connect with her on Twitter: @ambermcginty.

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Spring-cleaning: LinkedIn edition

Yes, it’s only the beginning of February and, down here in ATX, we have experienced several “snowpocalypses” (funny how you can have a snow day in Austin without any signs of snow), but it is never too early to start thinking about some spring cleaning. Before you give your dog a bath or go through that creepy Snowbabies collection, take a few minutes to clean up your LinkedIn profile. I guarantee it will be easier than cleaning out that messy garage of yours.

Customize your URL

Customizing your LinkedIn URL is a great way to send people directly to your LinkedIn page and, let’s be honest; it makes you look SUPER professional. We’re all about that professionalism.

Here are a few simple steps to customizing your LinkedIn URL:

1. In the top navigation, hover over Profile. Click Edit Profile from the drop-down.

2. Just below your profile picture (no selfies, please), click Edit, located next to your current LinkedIn URL.

3. We are now on your Public Profile page. In the far right sidebar, look for the section titled, Your public profile URL.

4. Click Customize your public profile URL and set a custom URL in the popup box that opens.

Improve your Headline

The LinkedIn headline, also known as your billboard, one-liner, first impression, pick-up line, prime real estate, and the list goes on. LinkedIn auto-populates headline with current job titles and many don’t take the time to change this headline.  You get one shot to announce who you are and what you do, make the most of it.

Two questions to ask yourself when improving your headline:

1. What is your purpose? To get a job, acquire clients, draw readers to your blog, leverage yourself as an expert online? You may be the world’s best cat-sitter but that headline just won’t do if you are looking for a job in finance.

2. Who is your audience? Is it potential employers, clients, big name connections? Don’t forget the audience you’re addressing.

Add links to websites

For search engine rankings, one golden ticket is linking to other sites. Search engines love external links and we all want to be numero uno, right? Here’s a quick update that will jumpstart your journey to the top:

1. In the top navigation, hover over Profile. Click Edit Profile from the drop-down.

2. Just below your number of connections, click Edit Contact Info

3. Your contact info section will expand to show a multitude of options.

4. Select the blue pencil next to websites and fill in the URL’s.

LinkedIn is like a genie; they only offer 3 URL’s. Make the most of this opportunity by linking to your website, company site, blog, podcast, online publications or a online resume.

The key to LinkedIn is to continually ask, what is my purpose and who is my audience? Take hold of the ability to customize your page and call your connections to action!

Do you have any other fancy LinkedIn tips? We would love to hear your thoughts on LinkedIn and ways to improve our profiles. You can do this by leaving us a comment below.

Lauren is a Social Media Strategist at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on Twitter @lolo_king.

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2014: The Year You Get It Together, Man

Have you had a chance to implement any of your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Ha! Right?

I like to think of January as the month of goals and February as the month of investment. In my personal life, that means actually purchasing a gym membership and stop gabbing about it. In my professional life, that means getting the tools I need to get it together and start being intentional about my organization systems.

As a pretty serious Type A weirdo who freaks out over pens and paper and file cabinets, you wouldn’t think it takes much coaxing for me to establish systems to keep emails, notes and client files straight. But hey, even rainbows need a little encouragement from time to time. So, here’s what I’m thinking for 2014 – I am going to make this year my most organized yet. All you unorganized hooligans should take notes:

Email

For those of you with professional email accounts who have empathy for the ’38′ unread messages badge when it means 38 questions, not 38 J. Crew and Warby Parker newsletters – listen up. Transitioning from Gmail to an email application was the best decision I have made since marrying my husband and adopting a Persian kitten.

Mac users with OS X 10.7 Lion or later, Mac Mail is where it’s at! Here’s why:

  • The reading pane organizes messages in threads – which is just… amazing. This keeps your unread messages list short and manageable. Here’s another eye-opener: when you’re reading emails from the bottom-up, you won’t get caught answering an email from someone who, shortly after sending their first request, sent a second email letting you know they don’t need your response.
  • There is also a seven-flag reminder system, which you should feel free to get real nerdy with. My favorite part about the flags is that it allows me to read emails and mark them for specific action to address later. My inbox is no longer a holding area for actionable messages, and let me tell you, that feels great! Flagged emails can be filed in their forever home folders and referenced when the time comes with one click.

So you have a Mac with OS X 10.6 Mountain Lion or earlier? Yeah…that’s a bummer. You can’t view messages in threads or use fancy flags…but there’s still hope! You should check out the Sparrow app! There is only a one-star reminder system, but you will get the threaded feature, plus fancy styling and killer Google integration.

Calendars and Notes

In 2013, I would have told you that paper calendars, notes, and storage could be just as effective as electronic ones, but this year, I’m just not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I will always love crossing items off my floral-framed to do list with my Gelly Roll pen. – I’m just finding it harder and harder to justify with the killer cloud-storage apps that are available these days. That cloud… it’s something else! While I can cart my iPhone and iPad around on meetings or to the coffee shop, it probably wouldn’t be acceptable for me to tow my pink file cabinet behind me with a modified dog leash. Here’s what I use to keep everything available at my fingertips:

  • Dropbox. An oldie but goodie. If you’re still backing up files on CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, floppy drives… stop torturing yourself! If you aren’t backing up your files at all – I have no words for you. Talk to me when your laptop is stolen and you drop your iPhone in the toilet in the same week.
  • iCloud and Google Calendars. Pick your poison and drink up! iCloud and Google cals both integrate seamlessly with Apple products to make you forget you ever needed a personal assistant.
  • Evernote. I was an early Evernote adoptee but ditched it for a while because it got a complicated. I was pleasantly surprised when I recently downloaded their newest version and was greeted with a simplified and intuitive revamp. Available on most devices, I no longer need to tote around my beautiful notebook to meetings and conference calls. I guess it is coming full circle – I have always been a faster typer than writer (thanks to primary school keyboarding classes – do kids even know what cursive writing is these days?). Oh yeah, and the cloud power means I can jump between desktop, phone, tablet and laptop without skipping a beat.

I hope you slow down this February and think through the steps to making your New Years Resolution successful. What will you invest in?

Whitney juggles web project management, human resources and billing at Shelton Interactive. She tweets and grams @tummies.

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New Year, New Goals

A new year is a great time to work on change for yourself, your department, your family or your organization or company. Change can be difficult to implement personally, much less company-wide. As we move into the new year, I am looking for ways to help myself, my department, our company and our clients have just as much of success in 2014 as we did in 2013.

A user-friendly and beautifully designed website, paired with a strategic marketing platform can be a great way to launch, refine and reach goals throughout the new year. I absolutely love helping clients do this. To continue doing this, I will need to make new goals, implement them and refine them each year. Web design is a fast-pasted industry, and as the Internet and social platforms progress and new devices enter the market, website and marketing strategies must adapt.

Here are a few goals that I am working to reach in the new year:

Utilize Tools That Make for More Efficient Designs

Photoshop is a great design tool, but not always necessarily a great web design tool. A Photoshop composition is a visual representation of what a website could be, but not a functional one. Photoshop also has a couple shortcomings. Every time I see the Mac beach ball, or the spinning wheel of death, show up on my screen I cringe because it usually means Photoshop is about to crash. Other issues such as text rendering to the web and lack of interactivity quickly show that it is not necessarily best used as a canvas, but rather as a palette instead.  My goal is to explore tools such as Mockbird for internal content communication, Froont and Style Tiles for quick design mocks and Typecast to explore various type combinations. I hope these tools will help me work more efficiently and effectively with our clients and within the web department.

Learn More About Coding and Animation

I am a web designer – that means that I design a mock-up for the website that the web developer then uses to code the site and make it function on the Internet. So that I can be more proactive in anticipating site aspects that may be difficult to code, and more effectively communicate website interactions, I am working to regularly learn more about the development process through online sites such as Codecademy and Skillshare.

So many new design trends come and go, but it is clear that web designs are becoming much more animated. A couple trends that we consistently saw in 2013 were one-page scroll sites and parallax scrolling sites. To provide lively websites that excite clients and show off their message in a fun way, I plan to learn more about the time and efforts to make effects like this work from a design and development standpoint, and learn programs such as After Effects and the Photoshop’s frame animation features that allow me to communicate animations more effectively with a developer.

Learn More From Our Clients!

Shelton was founded in 2010. This month marks one year I have worked at Shelton and I have seen this company grow tremendously. My work here feels like it has meaning – not only in that a lot of our clients are helping the world become a better place, but also that every project I’ve worked on has felt that it was helping our company and our clients grow. This year I had the pleasure of working with so many talented leaders such as Tom Rath, Bonnie Marcus, Rodger Dean Duncan and Doug Conant among many others. One of my goals is to read more of our knowledgeable and successful clients books, blogs and other content so that I continue to provide exceptional results for my company and our clients in the new year! What are some of your big goals for the new year?

Tiffany is a designer at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on Twitter @tiffanystepp.

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Should we aspire to be like DiGornio Pizza? – How much humor should fill your Twitter feed

On Thursday, Dec. 5 the hills were alive with the sound of humans typing on Twitter. Carrie Underwood had traded in her cowgirl hat for Austrian milkmaid braids to star in NBC’s live broadcast of “The Sound of Music,” and everybody had something to say about it, but one company’s tweets stood out among the masses: DiGiorno Pizza. Yes, a frozen pizza company’s live Tweets of the event were arguably more entertaining than singing nuns and dancing children. Check out some of these gems:

The next day their Twitter genius was picked up by Buzzfeed and other media outlets, all singing the praises of whoever the masked social media crusader was behind the DiGiorno brand.

But the whole pizza-infused marvel made me think: How much quirk and crazy should we be putting into our tweets and online presence? Should we all crank up our wit and try to become the next Internet spectacle? I, for one, am a complete goof in person. I love humor, jokes, yelling loudly, creating a scene and doing embarrassing dance moves in public. However, when it comes to my “personal brand” and how I represent myself online, I lamely hide behind publishing industry re-tweets and quick mentions of books I enjoy, like a wimp. SNORE. I bore myself just thinking about it. So, I have to wonder, should I aspire to be like DiGiorno Pizza? Should we all aspire to be like DiGiorno Pizza? (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence in a serious manner. What has this world come to…)

To answer this question, I traveled far and wide to seek out the top experts in social media that the world has to offer – aka, I asked Shelton Interactive’s very own team of Twitter experts in our social media department.

So, team:  How much humor should professionals, brands and people who want to keep their day jobs put into their Twitter and public social media accounts?

Richard:
The amount of humor an organization or brand should include along their social media accounts depends on a variety of factors including:

  1. Its target audience
  2. The manner it communicates with the target already (through more traditional means)
  3. The type of information it seeks to communicate to the target on a daily basis through social media.

It’s through this understanding that you can see why news organizations and fast food companies don’t take on the same voice. 

Brandon:
I think you can work and have fun. So, as long as the job gets done, have as much fun as you can.

Anthony:
It’s best to have some type of balance. In this case, for a brand such as DiGiorno, who doesn’t have a variety of conversations to initiate, it was an excellent idea, which was well received and garnered some much needed publicity outside of the frozen meals space.

Lauren:
Don’t take yourself too seriously but, at the same time, don’t do anything that will make you lose credibility. Be human and be real. But of course, it also depends on the voice of the brand. So, a brand like Skittles may want to be silly and loud. While a brand like Louis Vuitton probably doesn’t want to do the same. Most of Shelton Interactive’s clients aren’t a brand but a person, so they should be who they are and use their own voice without trying too hard to be too serious or too funny.”

Shelby:
Whether a brand or an expert: be yourself. Now, that may mean being a little tempered at times. In the early days of social media – does that make me sound old? – I heard it put this way: Your grandmother wouldn’t have thrown open the barn door and yelled, “Hey y’all I’m preggo.” So, there probably is a point at which one can over share or cross the line. Don’t be that person. Here are a few practical things to consider:

  1. Mind your manners
  2. Consider the long-term effect
  3. Keep your audience in mind
  4. Be yourself
  5. Remember number four, but have some fun tweeting, pinning and facebooking a storm

So what about you? Do you let your crazy out online? Have you ever regretted it? Or, do you always play it safe and keep it classy? Let me know what you think! We would love to hear from you.

Katie Schnack is a publicist at Shelton Interactive. You can follow her on Twitter at @katieschnack.

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If Birthdays Were Publicity Campaigns…

I turned 25 years old this week. I’ve had many people lament the fact that I was semi-dreading this landmark age, arguing that I’m still a “baby” and that 25 is still young, but that positivity is not a mutually held emotion. A mere 365-days-or-so ago I was fighting tooth-and-nail to hold on to that “early twenties” moniker – call me “mid-twenties” back then and you’d lose the privilege of calling me a friend as well. But, alas, time is indefensible, and I must face the fact that I can now legally rent a car, the last age-restricted achievement until I reach senior citizen status – unless, of course, I want to run for President, in which case, look out world in 10 years.

Instead of going into the depressing details about why I’m not thrilled about turning 25 – I haven’t achieved what I thought I would at this point in my life, I’m not a millionaire(?!?!), I’m very single, my parents pay for my insurance (and my cell phone… and my Netflix), I owe more to the government in student loans than I’ve made cumulatively in my life, I live 1,500 miles away from my friends and family in this foreign place they call Los Angeles … but I digress – instead of boring you with my self-loathing, I thought I’d have a little bit of fun. If the significant birthdays I’ve had up to this point in my life were publicity campaigns, what would they look like?

Age: 0
Campaign Title: Cute Explosion
Media Angle: He may have tested his family’s patience and held out for a 14-hour delivery, but damn if he wasn’t fashionable in his tardiness. This little chubster is destined for greatness. Give the Chosen One 25 years on this planet and he’ll already be a multi-million-dollar success; a true gift to society. You heard it here first.
Outlets Pitched:

  • CNN – Yes, the masses need to know.
  • ESPN – He’s the second coming of Bo Jackson, shout it from the rooftops.
  • Forbes – Zuckerwho? Travis Wilson on the business scene, y’all.
  • Buzzfeed – He’s number one on the “Cutest Babies Ever Born” compilation.
  • YouTube – His colic cry will go viral.

Age: 13
Campaign Title: Someone Alert His Parents That He’s Grown Up
Media Angle: The first decade of his life was mostly a harmonious time between him and his loving parents. However, being the oldest child, said “loving parents” don’t quite realize that he’s independent now. Parents are stupid and unnecessary.
Outlets Pitched:

  • SheKnows – Please tell his mom that SheKnows nothing.
  • HuffPo Parents – Movie ratings are just a suggestion, right?
  • USA Today – New studies show that it’s impossible for anything bad to happen to teenagers when their parents aren’t around.

Age: 16
Campaign Title: Life in the Fast Lane
Media Angle: Drive like a butterfly, sting like a bee. You can’t ground what you don’t see. Sorry Mom and Dad, it’s time for this little caterpillar to sprout wings.
Outlets Pitched:

  • Car & Driver Magazine – The roads seem a bit sexier today.
  • America’s Most Wanted – Speed limits are just a suggestion, right?
  • Seventeen Magazine – Hide ya sisters, hide ya wives, cuz he’s giving everyone a ride out here.

Age: 18
Campaign Title: Indestructible
Media Angle: The king amongst peasants is officially an adult. Didn’t we warn you this was going to happen? Mr. Wilson is still on track for greatness. Mark my words: by the time he hits his mid-20s, you’ll know his name – if you don’t already)
Outlets Pitched:

  • Cigar Aficionado – Smoking is cool, right?
  • Forbes – Just FYI, he’s now eligible for your yearly “30 under 30” list.
  • Princeton Review – Who wants me to grace their campus’ presence next fall?

Age: 21
Campaign Title: Barkeep … Another Round
Media Angle: He finally gets to enjoy his first – LOL – sip of alcohol! As a responsible young adult, he knows his limits, but people just keep buying him drinks. What’s a boy – nay, man – to do? He will, of course, deny all free drinks because accepting them could mean that this night is abou1a paodj3 !@ aid adbv7gheun adf shots!!!!!!
Outlets Pitched:

  • WebMD – His mouth is dry and his head is pounding. Is he dying?
  • YouTube – Please remove that video.

Age: 25
Campaign Title: Shhhhhhh!!!
Media Angle: Ho hum, nothing to see here.
Outlets Pitched:

  • TMZ – Who the hell leaked this information to TMZ? Seriously, I need to know. Was it Enterprise Rent-A-Car? Avis? Those self-serving vehicle pimps.

I recently had an exchange with a friend that went something like this:

Me: Ugh, I’m almost 25 years old.
Friend: You’re still a baby.
Me: I need to do something to mark this quarter/one-third life crisis.
Friend: You mean like packing your bags and moving 1,500 miles away from all of your friends and family with two degrees and no job?*
Me: Yeah, kinda like that.

*Approximately 4 months before this conversation, I had packed my bags and moved 1,500 miles away from all of my friends and family with two degrees and no job.

Now that I’ve gotten this life-crisis out of the way, I guess the only thing left to do is celebrate. I may joke about my life like it’s a struggle, but I really couldn’t be more blessed to be surrounded by people who truly care about me. As far as that success that was guaranteed to me by those crazy media outlets on the day of my birth? Well, check back in in another 25 years:

Age: 50
Campaign Title: What Hill?
Media Angle: Over the hill means nothing. This warrior is climbing to heights previously unfathomable.
Outlets Pitched:

  • Time Magazine – Person of the year, 2038
  • GQ – Looking good at 50
  • SheKnows – How can he be a better father to his daughter? Because she’s 13 and thinks SheKnows everything.

Travis Wilson is a Publicist at Shelton Interactive. Connect with him on Twitter @HeyMrWiiilson.

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Everybody Should Want to Be a Cat

Long before we sang praises for the legend of Al Gore, creator of the Internet, a majority of disciples believed that the www and the countless data therein was a gift from our feline friends. While you Generation Kyle XY-ers find this hard to swallow due to “factual evidence” supposedly uncovered, one has no reason to believe otherwise since the sheer amount of influence during the early years of the internet was by cats. From Napster to basic multimedia, cats publicly established their reign at the top of the pop-culture food chain, controlling any and all conversations happening online.

While we’re not sure what caused faith in our once all-powerful four-legged swaggerbeasts to wane, it’s no longer uncommon to think that any previously held belief will be without Dementors dissenters. Maybe it was because their little paws couldn’t churn out the level of propaganda needed to remain domineering; maybe it was because they themselves felt exploited by the empire they helped create. Whatever the reason, they decided to jump in the passenger seat of the vehicle they helped engineer for the information super highway.

Serving as a firm reminder amongst the still ever-prevalent onslaught of cat videos, VICE’s acclaimed documentary, Lil Bub & Friendz, reiterated that the human species isn’t at all absent from feline rule. Profiling the Internet’s most famous cat, the film chronicles the life of Lil Bub, an adorable perma-kitten who from humble beginnings as the runt of the litter rose to internet stardom. Including cameos from other famous Internet celebrities such as Grumpy Cat and Nyan Cat, Lil Bub’s adventures also brought to light how Internet stars emerge and are managed after the fact.

Like many other owners, Lil Bub’s best buddy, Mike Bridavsky, didn’t predict success when he put up a photo of his newly adopted, adorable kitten online, nor was he prepared for the amount of success of being her owner. Success came overnight for Lil Bub, and Mike experienced the limelight as well being her caretaker.

From a marketing perspective, this comes as no shock. When promoting a purrrr-sonality or brand, no amount of time and research can predict the target market/general population’s exact reaction to a particular client’s offering(s). However, to say this work is unnecessary is far beside the point.

Examining the myriad of cat enthusiasts in the documentary, you don’t see individuals who are hell bent on success trying to manufacture viral videos. Rather, you see ordinary people who are fixated on sharing their passion — better yet, their other half. It’s this innate form of expression and desire to communicate to the public sphere that truly shifts the odds of celebrity in their favor.

So when I tell my clients to be themselves online, I mean exactly that: communicate online just as you would do offline. Yes, a message needs to be properly manipulated and packaged for a particular platform or audience. Yet, with the right positioning, its root core should resonate with users regardless of where they hear it.

While it’s safe to assume Internet stardom is something significantly less than 15 minutes of fame — especially since many are unprepared for stardom — the documentary points out the people behind the scenes employed to prevent that from happening. Meme Manager Ben Lashes happens to be one of these people.  He manages some of the today’s most prominent Internet sensations, including Scumbag Steve, Chuck Testa and Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.

As social media continues to mature, more are turning to community managers and the like to prolong their business and reach new targets. While this is something that won’t change in years to come, it’s wise to consider how people’s perceptions may change when the marketplace becomes overcrowded with individuals and brands clamoring for attention. When selecting an agency for representation, the final decision should be based on the firm’s willingness to listen and its commitment to cater to the core consumers. Only through that type of representation will a brand take advantage of and sustain its nine lives.

Richard is a Social Media Strategist at Shelton Interactive. Follow him on Twitter @RMRicondo.

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Welcome to The Age of Micromedia

My first job out of college was with a book publicity agency in Austin, Texas, and, at the risk of sounding like an old man, it’s amazing to look back and think about how different things were.

The year was 2004 and the agency I joined subscribed to “Bacon’s Media Directories,” which housed “up-to-date” media information in three-ring binders that were passed around the office and added to a computer database wherever possible. Most of the time, if a producer or editor changed jobs, we broke out the White-Out, changed the contact info and the binders were good as new.

That was almost a decade ago, but we are in a different lifetime in terms of PR. Over the past 10 years, book PR reps have found themselves at the intersection of three industries that have been completely turned on their heads – PR, book publishing and journalism. In short, everything about the way promotion is handled has changed.

My colleague and the head of our strategic partner firm, Barbara Henricks, likes to say that in the media world of 2004, major media outlets were like boulders, encircling the public. These boulders made decisions to let in whatever information they deemed worthy of consumption and if a book, product or message wasn’t covered by “traditional” media, it was very difficult for us, as the public, to hear about. Word of mouth existed, but it took a lot longer to take hold because it happened in physical proximity – dinner parties, church, etc. – instead of via social networks that transcend physical connections.

Then comes the internet, followed by social media, which took a collective sledgehammer to those boulders, spreading out pebbles all over the ground and leaving those major media outlets casting a much smaller shadow over the public. As those pebbles scattered, so did our attention, fragmenting the way we consume media.

Thanks to our newfound access to high-quality, niche information, many of us now prefer to pay attention to the more specialized pebbles, which may be smaller, but give us exactly what we want, as opposed to the “traditional” media outlets who – thanks to shrunken newsrooms, have less local coverage and an increased reliance on wire services – aren’t able to.

Stone-age analogies aside, the pebbles are still scattering and they are forming a brand-new media environment.

Welcome to the age of Micromedia.

What is Micromedia?

Everyone. Literally, every individual, business and organization is a Micromedia outlet, whether they know it or not. Everyone with an iPhone can be one part cameraman, one part humor columnist, one part radio host or whatever kind of media outlet they would like to be.

This isn’t anything new.

We have always been Micromedia, even before the internet or social media came along and gave us an amplifier. Before the internet, we primarily influenced two groups of people – those in our direct physical space and those friends and family members we communicated with over the phone or via letters. Those people who wrote for a church newsletter or sent out a yearly holiday update to their “list” might have influenced more people in that environment, but for the most part, we had to go to a lot of dinner parties to be a true influencer.

Fast forward to today – there are still some Micromedia who primarily influence in “pre-internet” way (physical environment/friends and family), but the vast majority of Micromedia are now influencing exponentially more people than ever via the Internet. Some Micromedia have grown their audience so large that they rival traditional media in terms of reach while others influence several hundred via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Both matter tremendously to anyone looking to get a message out.

How can you succeed in this environment?

Much of this is about mindset. The information economy has truly arrived, but the main problem is that most people approach promotion as if the boulders still rule the day.

A different approach is needed from both marketers, who should be working with their clients to help them grow their own Micromedia platform, and individuals, businesses and other entities who must embrace the opportunity in front of them.

Some reading this article will say, “We have already changed; we’re building meaningful relationships with bloggers and getting excellent coverage. We have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and we’re getting more active.”

Those are good first steps, but it’s not enough.

Think like a media outlet

I often ask people to think about their digital platform as if it is their own media brand – their newspaper. Readers judge a media outlet by the value of its content and pay attention to those that entertain and inform them. We increasingly put our social media connections through the same filter we use for media – we all have friends, family and other connections that we gloss over when scrolling our Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed because we don’t value their content. We lose interest for an infinite number of reasons that range from constant promotion to an endless stream of baby pictures. At the same time, we pay particular attention to certain individuals or brands because their content entertains and/or informs us. We get value from their updates and, in exchange, we give them something that truly matters in this information economy: our attention.

In this world of Micromedia, it doesn’t take much for us to change the channel. Because we have more options, we expect more than ever from those we pay attention to. One bad post, one off-target tweet or one too many promotions and attention wanes, or worse, disappears – often forever.

Think about what kind of newspaper you would value subscribing to. We certainly wouldn’t subscribe to a newspaper filled with ads, selfies or me-first content. We also wouldn’t subscribe to a newspaper that is delivered without any consistency – once or twice a month just wouldn’t cut it. We subscribe to newspapers that provide interesting and entertaining content. Those that feature interviews, reviews and other news we can use – the kind of information we can put into practice that day-to-day make our lives better.

You may be reading this and thinking “aren’t newspapers dying, Rusty?” Yes, but they are dying because of format, not content.

If you are reading this blog post and want to grow your audience moving forward, you would be smart to think like a media executive who isn’t tied to any one format, but has a great product – his or her content – and is willing to work to grow an audience.

Here are four questions to ask yourself as you begin plotting your strategy:

  1. Which channel(s) should I focus on?
    There are an endless number of options when it comes to growing your audience. I often see people either spread themselves too thin by trying to create a presence on every social network they can find or focus all of their efforts on the channel they know best (typically Facebook). Both are huge mistakes because neither is driven by the question you should be asking, which is: Which channel provides the best intersection between my skills/passion and my audience?For many speakers, a podcast is the perfect intersection for them while many authors prefer the simplicity and familiarity of a blog.We have seen successful Micromedia channels built across every single platform online, so don’t feel pressure to follow the crowd down a certain road. The thing all of the success stories have in common is a singular focus on providing content of value to an audience in a consistent and unique way.

    The right channel for you is one where your audience and your interest/skills intersect and your success often depends on the ability to make the right call. But hey, that’s why you’re the executive.

  2. How am I encouraging people to subscribe to my Micromedia outlet?
    Every time you do an interview with a media outlet, be it a radio station or blog, they have essentially invited you onto their platform and allowed you to reach their audience. Those who have the audience have the leverage and you have to work hard to get permission to join them on their platform either via earned media (interviews) or paid media (advertising).Those individuals, businesses and other entities who aren’t building their own direct audiences as Micromedia outlets force themselves to either advertise or hope to get permission from those who have built an audience via savvy PR efforts. This is expensive, time-consuming and increasingly hard to do as the media environment changes. Those who continue to rely on these tactics put themselves in a very precarious position moving forward.

    You must build your own subscriber base. This doesn’t necessarily mean charging people to subscribe (in fact, it probably doesn’t), but it does mean setting up a framework within your primary media channel (see question #1) that gives people a clear reason to join your subscriber base.Each time you give a speech, do an interview or reach an audience, your focus should be to not only entertain and inform them in that setting, but to give them a clear reason to convert to your subscriber base. If you are a speaker, you should have a free workbook or other download on your website that extends the audience’s interaction with your message and gives them a reason to join your list. If you have started a podcast, you need to have a call to action as part of any interviews or speaking engagements you do that gives people a clear reason to subscribe.

    The bottom line: When you are on someone else’s platform you need to give their audience a clear reason to head across the street and join your subscriber base as well. Without that call to action, you’re going to see a temporary spike from that exposure but very little long-term value. Attention is fleeting but subscriptions give you leverage.

  3. How can I use my power as a Micromedia outlet to build high-value relationships?
    One of the most empowering things about embracing your opportunity as a Micromedia outlet is the realization that you can use your audience to help others and build relationships with them.Sticking with the newspaper analogy, you must go beyond the op-ed page that dominates most blogs to think more like a journalist. If you’re looking to provide consistent value in a certain topic area, you need to feature a variety of content, from coverage of the latest news and statistics in your field to interviews with other experts making waves in your industry (even if they are competitors) and features of companies or entities that your audience can learn more about. In short, the more you feature others on your Micromedia outlet, the more you give others a reasons to point their audience to your channels, which is a win-win for everyone.

    As an example, imagine you are a would-be novelist working on your very first thriller. You don’t have an agent or any connections at all in the book industry and you have no idea how to start building your platform.  By embracing this Micromedia model, instead of focusing your blog only on your own perspective, you could start a weekly interview series where you bring in thriller authors and do a text Q&A with them about their latest book. At the end of a year you would have 52 new potential relationships among top thriller authors, many of which will have pointed their audience to your blog to go read their interview. As a result of this series, you not only have likely opened many doors for yourself in the industry via these connections, but you also have likely grown an audience on your blog of like-minded readers.

    An additional example, focused on a business without a book to sell, would see that business focusing their interview series on influencers in their industry. Let’s say you run a leadership consulting company and over the past few years your blog has been an op-ed page featuring only your perspective on leadership development. You probably have very few readers and your blog feels like hard work every time you force yourself to write a post. What you really want is to grow the business and build new relationships, so flip the script and focus your content more on others in the leadership space. You could run a similar interview series where you spotlight leaders and, with each interview or feature you post, you not only build an authentic relationship with the person you featured, you also give them a reason to learn more about you and point their audience to your site. The person featured wins because they get exposure, your audience wins because they get valuable content from a leading authority on the topic and you win because you have built relationships in both directions (subscribers and business development targets).

  4. How can I leverage the power of Newsjacking?
    In 2009 Forrester Research released a report that said between the years 2000 to 2008, 1 in 4 media jobs disappeared. That study looked at a period of time prior to the great recession and most would put the number of media jobs that have disappeared at closer to 50 percent.As a result of newsrooms shrinking, you have fewer people covering more stories than ever before. From a PR perspective, you have fewer media members to target pitches to, which means that those media members are getting more pitches than ever before.

    Barbara and I recently spoke with a journalist at CNBC who runs a section of their website and she said on a normal day she receives more than 1,000 pitches for coverage. Media simply don’t have time to filter through pitches and, as a result, are increasingly taking a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach to potential guests and publicists. In many ways, Google is becoming an expert’s best publicist.

    David Meerman Scott, one of my favorite authors and commentators on the changing media environment, coined the term “newsjacking,” defined as “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”

    In the previous question, I looked at the value of going beyond the op-ed page to build relationships with people, but you also need to focus much of your content on breaking news and recent developments in your industry. In doing this, you not only provide value to your audience, who want to discuss the latest developments in your industry, but you also widen your net for media members who are searching for experts to speak on a certain development.

    We are beginning to see some of the most high-profile media opportunities for our clients come as a result of them responding to breaking news via a blog post with thoughtful, smart commentary on the topic. Three things affect the likelihood that your timely post will attract valuable inbound media requests:

    • Timeliness – You can’t wait 48 or even 24 hours to respond to breaking news. This is a challenge for many of our clients who have plenty on their plate, but the quicker you can respond, the better.
    • Visibility – If you post your response on a large platform like Forbes, HBR or HuffPost, you have a higher likelihood of attracting top media to it based on the SEO those sites provide. Another thing that affects visibility are keywords, so don’t bury the timely connection in your blog post, as it will make it harder for search engines to pick up the connection. Instead, make sure you use the key terms in the blog title.
    • Add a press room – If you do the first two things well, you may have a journalist looking for a way to get in touch with you, but many people make it very hard for journalists to connect with them. It’s not enough to have a contact form on your website – remember that most journalists are on deadline and need a source quickly, so they don’t have much confidence that filling out your contact form is going to get them a quick answer. Add a press tab on your website and include direct contact information for yourself or your publicity team. You can also include links to recent media hits and downloadable images related to you and your book. If you don’t want to add a press tab, add a press contact on your contact page – an email and phone number to ensure a journalist can reach you easily if they want to.

What I love about this Micromedia approach is that it allows you to leverage the ongoing power of existing media outlets to begin growing your own channel. As the head of a digital PR agency, I want our clients to receive as much ongoing value as they can from our efforts, and the best way to do that is to grow a subscriber base that you own the connection to. Not only does it give you leverage to share your own ideas, but it also allows you to grow meaningful relationships with your audience.

The key is to think more like a media executive than a marketer – the most important opportunity is not the short-term sale, it’s getting subscriptions.

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Design is personal. But it shouldn’t be.

If you are a designer then you have probably heard this phrase before: “I’ll know it when I see it.” What this means is the client has a personal preference for the design he/she is looking for but doesn’t quite know how to verbalize it. It’s like going window-shopping at the mall. You aren’t sure what you are in the mood for but when you see something striking on a mannequin you say, “that’s it.”

This method works fine when you are shopping for clothes, furniture, or wallpaper – but it can often get in the way when you are working on a design. I think one of the biggest challenges as a designer is bridging that gap between a client’s personal preferences (let’s face it, they have to like it or they won’t bite) and what is best for the project and above all the customer.

The first thing the client needs to avoid is viewing the design piece as art. Art can be interpreted in many different ways. We may not be able to explain why we love a certain artist or painting, we just know we do. Design is a little different.  Design needs to serve a specific function. The meaning cannot always be up for interpretation – we want the customer to derive a specific conclusion or take a specific course of action. This is not to say that design cannot be or is not artistic. But art can be subjective and that is the nature of its purpose. Design needs to be objective – we need to know what it’s doing and how well it’s doing it.

As a designer I try to find a balance between this state of objective and subjective interpretations. When I meet with clients I take in the surroundings, what they are wearing, the style of their home or office – if it is even an option to see these places. Getting a good gauge of a client’s personal style will help you deliver something that they love, subjectively. But don’t take this too far. You need to match that style with what is right for the project and the target market. What are the goals of the project and is a picture of the client’s dog really the right approach? There is a very good chance your client is not the target market. Finding the balance where the design is right for the target, meets the goals and the client feels like it speaks to them and what he/she likes is where the magic happens.

Here are a few tips for when you approach your next design project:

  • If you are the client, try to stay objective in your interpretation of the design. Consider what your goals are and who the target market is. You may love pink and black together, but is that really going to appeal to your audience or just you?
  • Limit feedback to a few people who you trust can observe things objectively, without letting their personal preferences interfere. Everyone is going to see things differently – unless you are trained to think objectively or fully understand the goals it’s very hard to ignore personal taste.
  • If you’re a designer, find a way to balance what the client’s personal tastes are against what is right for the design. “I’ll know it when I see it” is challenging design feedback but using a little intuition and observation alongside the rules of great design will always yield a solution.

Allison is Lead Designer at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on Instagram @abright138.

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Recap: ATX Startup Crawl

crawl (krôl) v. – To move in a prone position with the body resting on or close to the ground, as a worm or caterpillar, or on the hands and knees as a young child.

When excessive amounts of food and beer are consumed in a short timeframe it’s no wonder why countless adults are reduced to this infant-like form of travel. Vision and judgment are impaired, pant buttons are on the verge of launching into orbit and loud groans spill from jammed agency corridors onto the city streets. You’d think you fell into a scene straight from The Walking Dead. However, friends, what I’m describing is no television show, but none other than the ATX Startup Crawl.

A couple of my fellow colleagues and I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual ATX Startup Crawl which featured over 70 startups from all walks of the Austin tech scene. The focal point of this gathering of tech geeks was hosted by the self-described “entrepreneurial center of gravity,” Capital Factory.

The evening was full of chatter regarding the latest innovations in the tech sphere. The startups represented ranged all the way from social media management giant, Spredfast, to the up and coming My Tennis Lessons which pairs aspiring players with experienced coaches in their area. Representatives from each startup fielded questions from individuals who were intrigued, puzzled and even looking for potential career opportunities.

This event could not have been possible without the startups and agencies that were gracious enough to play host to the evening’s events. Capital Factory, HomeAway, Spredfast, and Spanning, among others, transformed their respective office space into buffets, gaming stations, photo shoots, nightclubs and more.

Other than a full belly and a mild hangover, my main takeaway from the 2nd Annual ATX Startup Crawl is that if you have an idea, no matter how big or small, run with it. You never know if you’ll find yourself in the right place at the right time.

Anthony is a Social Media Strategist at Shelton Interactive. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyaguilar.

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10 Reasons Why Professional Photographs Should Appear on Your Website

You strive to be professional and knowledgeable in the workplace, and your website needs to reflect that. Using quality photography—in addition to great design, of course—is a necessity in this visual world. The next time you’re tempted to skimp on the professional photog., consider these 10 reasons to go pro:

  1. Appealing visual content is sticky content. Let’s face it, people now are more likely to linger on a website when the photographs are intriguing and compel them to click around the site more—people like pretty. Not only will this make them see more of what you have to offer, but it also gives your conversion rate a chance to skyrocket.
  2. First impressions are formed within seconds. Quality photographs can make your site—and your brand in general—stick in the viewer’s mind as professional and credible.
  3. Your face is part of your brand. A professional head shot will not only flatter you, but will also make your customer see you as more trustworthy, sincere, and well practiced.
  4. These photos can be used in other places than your website. You can use them all over your personal and professional social media accounts, especially ones like LinkedIn and Facebook where profile pictures matter most.
  5. In general, photos get more engagement out of users than text posts, videos, or links. Using good photography of your products and services will help you market to a much larger audience when given the chance to be shared and liked by friends and family of existing customers. Bonus: shared images are basically free advertising. Free advertising just because you used a good looking photo? Glorious.
  6. People no longer want to just browse a website, they want to experience it. Photographs not only show the visitor what you offer, but can also make them want to act. Consider a bakery website, for example—quality images of cookies and fresh pies not only make me want to rush over and buy a slice (or five), but also demolish everything in my path to get there.
  7. Great images will stick with your viewer much longer than words will (source). Images go directly into long-term memory, and can be called on when thinking about a particular business or company. Make sure your business conjures great images and compelling content when thought about.
  8. Image colors matter. Exposure to certain colors and images directly effects our emotions, changing the way we think and how we buy. Professional photos can make your visitor understand your product or service more, giving them reason to feel more comfortable in their investment with your company.
  9. Professional images can capture authenticity. Hiring a professional to take photos of your team in action will get you much more real and authentic results than searching a stock photo site. People know when they’re looking at staged photos, so don’t try to fool them with an image of people high-fiving in suits with big, flashy smiles. They won’t buy into it.
  10. People in general are more visual, and rarely read something all the way through. Give them something to skim, whether it is a bulleted list—like the one you’re reading right now—or a photograph representing your hard work, it will stick with them longer and is more likely to give you a great return on investment.

In the end, all you really need to remember is this: pretty is powerful. The more professional, compelling and enticing your site’s photography and other imagery are, the more business you’ll conduct over time.

Katrina is a Graphic Designer & Content Strategist at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on twitter: @katribear_

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Web Client Spotlight: Tom Rath, Eat Move Sleep

Shelton Interactive has the fortunate opportunity to work with a variety of experts in fields such as health, business, education, leadership, Christian living, fiction, children’s books and more. One of the biggest reasons I love what I do with my time everyday is the wonderful people I have the chance to interact with and truly get to know. We choose to work with clients that have something valuable to share with a majority. Shelton Interactive exists to start conversations that matter. With this post, I am excited to introduce a new series of blog posts where we highlight one of our latest projects.

Last week, we launched a website and social media campaign as well as a PR campaign in collaboration with Cave Henricks Communications for Tom Rath, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wellbeing, Strengths Based Leadership, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and How Full Is Your Bucket?, as well as other business books. One of the common denominators of all of Rath’s books is the fact they are loaded with data and research results, and his latest book, Eat Move Sleep, is no exception.

Creating EatMoveSleep.org

One of the bigger challenges of the website portion of the project was coming up with a sleek, fast way to search the many cited resources Tom used to conduct the research for Eat Move Sleep. In the back of the book, there are over 400 resources – many of them online – and Tom engaged us to create an interactive Reference Explorer for readers to use as they read the book. Readers can use the Reference Explorer to search by book chapter, reference number or keyword, then read the articles that support the advice given throughout the book.

On the website, you’ll also find downloadable files catered specifically to share with your family, your book club, work team or church study group. Thousands of people are making the decision to make small choices to create big changes, and those who want to commit to the challenge can receive perks and add their name to the growing list of people joining Eat Move Sleep.

Tom also engaged another development group to create a web app that gives users the ability to customize an Eat Move Sleep Plan after creating an account and answering a series of quick questions about their existing daily habits. The app saves the user information for quick reference later, and sends daily tips to their inbox to help them stay on track.

Eat Move Sleep

As a runner, I consider myself fairly healthy, but after reading the book and creating my own EMS plan, I realize that I still have a number of smaller bad habits that are affecting my health! This project has been so fun to participate in, but more importantly, it’s helping me better myself. Eat Move Sleep has opened my eyes to several simple choices I can make to increase my energy, improve my mood, and perhaps even extend my life. Learn more about how you can make small choices to create big changes by visiting eatmovesleep.org today!

Amber McGinty is Web Director at Shelton Interactive. Connect with her on Twitter: @ambermcginty.

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How is it one o’clock already?!

During a regular day at the office of Shelton Interactive, it’s not uncommon to hear, “You guys, it’s almost October. Where has this month gone?” or, “When did noon roll around?” Phrases such as these have become somewhat of a joke between our employees, and are used as an underlying attempt to lighten a stressful situation that would otherwise be intimidating.

Jokes aside, it’s all fun and games until somebody misses a deadline. The PR industry is rapidly growing—recent statistics show that within the next 10 years, the rate of change in employment will increase by 21 percent. So, what does that mean for publicists now? It means a consistent increase in the amount of tasks handed to us on a regular basis, and consequently, a high demand for exceptional time-management skills.

In my opinion, time management should be included in the definition of a “publicist.” It is such a fundamental part of our job that often goes unnoticed. Between handling media and client relations, writing for press and keeping an eye on breaking news, sometimes it becomes tricky to find time for a lunch break!

In order to avoid some stressful workday situations like missing a deadline or forgetting about an important call, here are five time-management tips that, as a PR professional, I do daily to increase my own efficiency, and minimize stress as the day progresses.

  1. Make a to-do-list. Start off your day by thinking about what tasks are at hand. Organizing thoughts on paper ensures they won’t be forgotten in an hour. Warning: Keep realistic expectations for yourself! Biting off more than you can chew may mean trouble ahead. Our client Gary Keller has a thing or two to say about that – really only one thing. Check out The One Thing and the power of hyper-focus.
  2. Keep your inbox squeaky clean. This is a relatively new task for me, but incredibly helpful none-the-less! Creating inbox folders for each client or campaign you’re on allows for quick access to messages you may need to re-visit in the future.
  3. Exercise some self-control. We live in a digital age, and have the ability to access an incredible amount of information with just the click of a button. However, just because it is available to us does not mean YouTube and Facebook should be open at all times. Close the distractions until it’s break time!
  4. Brain fart? No problem! As a public relations professional, working with a team is an extremely important part of our daily routine. Take advantage of having other people around you. If you need to pick someone else’s brain to get out of a writing slump, go for it!
  5. Prioritize, prioritize, PRIORITIZE! Yes, I’m yelling through all-caps. To me, this is the most important part of time management as a publicist. I’ve always been taught that if you find yourself overwhelmed in a sea of assignments and don’t know where to begin, start with whatever has the soonest deadline, and then go from there.

What are your pro PR tips for time management?

Sara is a Publicist at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on twitter @smpence31.

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Media training: TV

Congratulations! You’ve got the call/text/email that you’re going to be on television – it’s what you’ve dreamed since you could sit too close to the TV set, it’s what you’ve been practicing for in front of your mirror, it’s what your poor dog has had to endure for years, and now it’s finally here and you are thrilled. Or maybe not? Most of us probably never thought we’d have our…er, thirty seconds in the limelight. Whether it’s the local news or CNN, now is not the time to get cold feet. Now is the time to put on a spiffy outfit, practice your talking points and read this awesome tip list that will help you ROCK THAT INTERVIEW!

1. Know your stuff. This is the easy part! If you got the interview you should already be an expert! You wrote the book. You’re a doctor. You’ve got an MBA. You started an organization, etc.  So Prepare, and be confident. What do you want the listeners to do with the information you’re giving them? Know what that is and make it easy for them.

2. Speak in bullets. This keeps the audience alert to what important points are. Be succinct and keep in mind that TV (and this applies to radio as well) works often times in short sound bites so keep things to around 30 second clips.

3. Don’t say “the book.” For example: “It’s like I prove in my book, T-rexes were extremely clever and taught their offspring ballet.” The listener tuning in mid-interview may think, “Wow! I’ve got to buy that book!” but they have no idea what that book is. But if you had said, “It’s like I prove in, The Dance of the Dino’s…” they’re going straight to Amazon.

4. Sit up. Sit still. Get on the edge of your seat. Practice it. Have a friend film a fake interview and check yourself out if you can.

5. Red carpet style? No. The day you go on TV isn’t the day to try out your new checkered shirt – or any intricate pattern for that matter. Think neutral, but not white, black or red. Keep it clean and wrinkle free. Men, make sure your suit fits properly.

Overall, common sense applies. Have some energy, but don’t get crazy. You will get better with practice.

But, Andrea, being on TV is terrifying! Look, I’ve been there (What? You have? No Way? Yes Way! #humblebrag) Look, you know what you’re talking about – you’re going to be fine. And even if you fall flat on your face it’s going to make a hilarious Youtube clip. Good luck!

Andrea Sanchez is a Publicist at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on Twitter @andreavsanchez.

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News Monitor like a Pro: Confessions of a news-junkie publicist who flipboards over news tools

Let’s be honest, we’re all nerds in our own right, and if you don’t think so, you’re deluding yourself.  Sure we may not all hole ourselves up in our parents’ basement and game at all hours of the night, but if you have a “thing” you geek out for: You’re a nerd!

Here’s mine: The news. I can’t get enough of it, and it’s been that way since I was a child. There are days when I feel like I was made for the world of publicity and public relations, because I really can’t get enough. As a child, my dad and I would watch James Carville and Mary Matalin duke it out on political shows – it was a sad day when they left  CNN. Honest to goodness, I had a childhood crush on Dan Abrams, ABC News chief legal affairs anchor. And I once had a friend make the following comment: I can’t wait to get in my car so I can listen to Kai Ryssdal.  That’s the kind of company I keep! And to be honest, I can’t either. He is pretty awesome, if you haven’t checked out “Marketplace.”

But for the burgeoning publicist or aspiring – or even accomplished – expert source, in an environment where news is 24/7, how does one keep up? I have found a few news tools to be effective for monitoring and keeping up to date with the goings on in our fast-paced, ever-changing news cycle. Here are a few of my faves:

  1. NewsMap screenshotNews Map – Perhaps my favorite tool, news map gives a quick, real-time snapshot of the news cycle using the Google News Aggregator. This word-cloud like, visual news map can be customized by beat, from health, to business, world news and beyond. It allows readers to check out headlines from other places around the world. With this one site, it gets me out of my one-news-source rut and lets me look at a diverse set of news organizations at one time. It’s my go-to and a real keeper.
  2. Flipboard logoFlipboard – Design fans will rejoice over this slick, get-lost-in-the-flip news app. You can easily customize the beats you want to see. It’s so fun and user friendly, you might find yourself lost in the news for hours – I exaggerate, but I find it to make the news really accessible.
  3. Pulse logoPulse News app – A former Shelton Interactive intern – shout out @PhilofAustin, aka Philip Loyd – turned me on to this app. Recently purchased by LinkedIn, Pulse streams content for more than 750 media partners and displays them in a photo-based grid that’s particularly well suited to smartphones and tablets. It allows users to tailor their news feed by picking the sources and subjects that interest them – similar to Flipboard.
  4. Google logoGoogle Alerts – While different from the above, Google alerts provides a very important tool to both public relations professionals and experts alike. Want to keep track of what’s going on in a certain industry or with a specific topic? Get Google Alerts. It’s an “old” but trusty tool in the PR toolkit and can be valuable in staying current on specific topics – even on possible media hits you may not know about. Professional tip: Try keeping an alert for your name, industry, and product and/or company. While not as good as a formal clipping service, it will catch media clips that you may not know exist.
  5. iHeartRadio logoiHeart Radio – Need to do a little show research? IHeart Radio might just be the spot to check out. As a bit of a talk-radio junkie, this is my one-stop for radio shows outside my market. You’ll find everything from morning radio to talk to custom music stations.

I hope these tools prove to be go-to sources for all things news. How do you take your news? We’d love to hear about other news-junkie tools and resources. Signing off, the girl who can’t get enough “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” America’s news quiz show. Yep, it’s a thing, and I love it.

Shelby Sledge is Shelton Interactive’s publicity director, overseeing their publicity and social media teams. Follow her on Twitter @shelbysledge.

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Manage Your Lists! And other MailChimp musings

As we have mentioned, WE LOVE MAILCHIMP! Our love seems to swell daily… it just about quadrupled in June when they released the “new Mailchimp”, complete with freebies and highfives, not to mention comics and resources and scavenger hunts, OH MY! I’m tellin ya – this is that “swept away to the top of the Eiffel tower” kind of love.

One of my favorite things about our lover named MailChimp is that, even after all this time, he still surprises me. Like just the other day – I noticed a little something called groups. I had previously used segments to target messages to certain subscribers within a list, but had never come across these “groups” in my adventures. But hey! I would rather be late to the party than stuck on I35, am I right?

Let me tell you about these groups. Have you ever wanted to send a message to some, but not all, of your subscribers? Maybe they were workshop attendees who put their name on your clipboard and wanted to receive your newsletter, but you also wanted to send them a personalized note about how jealous you are that they get to live in Austin all year long? Or maybe you wanted to give your peeps the option to receive quarterly newsletter updates instead of monthly ones? Heck, maybe you just really like to categorize things… you might have listed “alphabetical order” on your online dating profile… no judge! For all these reasons and more, you should be using groups!

What’s so great about groups?

Maybe you only have a few hundred subscribers now, but eventually (hopefully soon!) you will exceed MailChimp’s free account cap of 2000 subscribers. Well, let me tell you, all of those lists you have going aren’t helping. MailChimp adds the total subscribers from all lists to determine which billing bracket you are in, including duplicates. That means you could be billed twice for the same subscriber if they are added to multiple lists – no bueno senorita! To avoid this, try to keep just one list and use groups to categorize your subscribers. It sounds messy, but you will thank me at billing time!

Why can’t I just use segments?

I know those of you who are already hot-and-heavy with MailChimp are going to ask this very question. Hey lady, calm down! I will tell you.

In my experience, segments can be hard to create, organize and reference. At least since “new Mailchimp” has been on the block, groups are a lot more visual and user-friendly to use than segments. I also think they are easier to find in the Campaign Builder.

Oh – and here’s another reason:

Subscribers can assign themselves to groups when they sign up!

I know –  genius! Say, for instance, your audience is diverse and you cater to multiple areas of interest… likeee… A clothing store that sells both Men’s and Women’s apparel. Next month you are having a mega sale on all Men’s apparel, but you don’t want to flood your Women’s audience with reminders about it. On your signup form, you can use groups to include interest options for your subscribers – in the form of radio buttons, check boxes, or dropdown menus. Done & done. Sure – this could have been done with segments – but it would have involved some legwork and coding skills, and probably a few hours of research.

You should also know that groups can be used for internal segmentation, too. When you create a group, you have the option to exclude it from the signup form, which feels fun and black-op or something. I like to call these “secret groups” and explain that I know nothing about them when asked.

Alright, alright, I have been a little hard on segments today, I should tell you that they still have their place and that you shouldn’t count them out of the game just yet. The best way to use segments, in my very humble opinion, is for one-time targeted messages. An example of this would be that time you had a paid club appearance in Las Vegas and you wanted to make sure your local fans had ample notice to get in before they started charging a cover. #reallifeproblems.

Want more?

Here is some general info on lists for you young-lovers.

Here is an article that explains the function of groups much clearer than this love note did.

Here is an article from MailChimp’s blog on how to create groups – including video!

Here is a little overview of segments from MailChimp’s features page.

Here is a honest-to-goodness real-life story of how the pros manage their lists (with gratuitous shots of Billy Reid’s delicious aesthetic).

Here is what a postal chimp’s toosh looks like.

This is not a sponsored post. We are not affiliated with MailChimp in any way.

Whitney juggles web project management, human resources and billing at Shelton Interactive. She tweets @tummies and snaps.

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How Do I Deal?

Recently, there has been a renewed focus on the amount of stress we are under, what it does to our bodies, and how much time we are (or are not) taking for rest and relaxation. My Feedly, LinkedIn Home Page and favorite news sites have new articles each day on tension, happiness, productivity, and rest.

It does not takes much convincing to make one believe that we all live busy lives. My coworkers here at Shelton Interactive are parents, grad school students, marathon runners, and members of extracurricular organizations, all in addition to working full time. Our wonderful clients are balancing work, family, book writing, blogging, and starting new companies, just to name a few.

All of the articles I see are talking about this busyness. They serve as great reminders to actually stop and combat the pressure caused by my drive to work and constantly be productive. But, the question is no longer whether or not I should manage the stress in my life; the question is, “Where do I begin?”

Everyone seems to have his or her own take on how to cope with the urgency of our world. Some recommendations I’ve seen are meditation, kickboxing, or a month-long fast from the Internet (yeah, right!). Some advice is unique, while other advice is repeated, and sometimes the different pieces of advice outright contradict one another. However you choose to go about it, the shared conclusion is that we all need to take time to disconnect and recharge. But, which method of renewal is best for you?

After reading many different articles, and trying out various pieces of advice, I found that these factors will all have to be considered when answering, “How do I deal?”

3 Constants

1. It can be done frequently.

  • You should be able to do this at least every other day, if not daily.

2. It makes you feel focused.

  • You can feel focused by limiting the number of stimuli to one or two things.

3. There are no expectations.

  • No one is asking anything of you, you don’t feel hurried (unless running sprints is your happy place) and there is no pressure.

3 Variables

1. Time of day.

  • In this Fast Company article, Paul DeJoe says that he finds contentment and balance in waking up early. How early? 4 a.m. early. Other great times are during your lunch break or at the end of the day.

2. Level of productivity.

  • Some of us are like DeJoe who, in his Fast Company article, says that he likes a place of “productive peace.” This may include cooking breakfast, exercising, or playing guitar.  Others need to be completely still and seek out activities such as meditation or watching the sunrise. Either way, the activity should produce an inner peace.

3. Level of energy.

  • Do you find renewal through high levels of exertion or using minimal amounts of energy?  JC Deen, a fitness professional and writer, challenges his readers to meditate daily. He says that he has “not experienced this much joy with my work in a very long time,” all because of meditation. On the other hand, there are numerous articles proving that exercise is as beneficial mentally as it is physically.

So, how do I take a step back in order to recharge and fuel myself for another day in the world of social media? My two methods are waking up early and swimming. I like to wake up with enough time to walk my dog, get ready slowly, and cook myself a great breakfast. In the evenings, I like to swim. The pool is one of the only places I go where I am forced to not have my phone because, unfortunately, my phone has become like another limb.

What do you do release stress and experience moments of fulfillment and renewed focus?

Lauren is a Social Media Strategist at Shelton Interactive. Follow her on Twitter @lolo_king.

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