Meet Sarah MacKenzie

October 23rd, 2014 by Anna

Sarah MacKenzie

At McBru, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by crazy smart and fun people. One of our newest McBruvians, Sarah, definitely fits that bill. I recently had the pleasure of talking with Sarah about what she loves about McBru and the great city we’re located in.

Q: How long have you been with McBru?

Sarah: I have been working at McBru since June 2014.

Q: What do you like about working here?

Sarah: I really like the people. Everyone is encouraging, supportive and always there to help you learn more and develop the best work that you can as a team. Everyone is always helping you push yourself to be better. People make sure that you’re equipped to handle what comes your way and reach your own personal goals. Also, there are always opportunities to learn more and do different things than you’re used to. Lastly, I love how the atmosphere is laid-back, yet everyone is very driven at the same time.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about this environment and the work that is involved?

Sarah: It is rewarding to work closely with a client and help them achieve goals. Watching a program progress and knowing you took part in it as a team is really satisfying.

Q: What do you find most challenging about agency work and how do you overcome those challenges?

Sarah: Keeping track of everything you have to do can be a challenge. It is important to stay organized, keep on top of to-do lists, and think about the timeliness of each project. You also can’t be afraid to ask for help ahead of time because it is better to speak up about it. Team members are always willing to help out.

Q: What are some of your favorite things to do in Portland?

Sarah: Hmmm. I love going to Saturday Market and spending time in the beautiful outdoors. I also like checking out the Portland music scene because there are always really great bands performing in Portland. I just like taking advantage of all the quirky things Portland has to offer. Oh, and I love the beer.

Q: Favorite lunchtime spot?

Sarah: Elephants Delicatessen of course — because it’s convenient and tasty.

Q: Favorite thing to do after a long workday?

Sarah: Read.

Q: Go ducks! Tell us about your time at the University of Oregon.

Sarah: I really enjoyed being in Eugene. Senior year I interned in the UO Office of Public Affairs Communications. There, I proposed my own story ideas and conducted a lot of interviews. I was writing about 10 stories a week. I was also a PR intern at the School of Law Communications office, which focused on writing as well. The overall experience at UO was awesome – everyone is so friendly, the school spirit is contagious, and the School of Journalism and Communication definitely set me up for success in the real world.

Q: What made you want to get into marketing and PR?

Sarah: I have always been interested in communication. I was an avid reader and writer growing up. Building a relationship with an audience appealed to me as well.

Q: What led you to Tech B2B?

Sarah: The tech industry is constantly evolving and growing. I saw it as an intriguing place to be. I thought it would be interesting to be on the marketing side of it, instead of just the consumer side.

Stay tuned to the McBru blog for more on Sarah and other fabulous McBruvians!

Welcome to Funland

October 15th, 2014 by Bill

Funland at McBruFoosball throwdownThe Crew at McBru had a pleasant surprise when we came into the office last Monday—a handful of our guest cubicles had disappeared and were replaced with video games and a pinball machine! And the “way-back” corner (formerly used for naps and a bike gear changing room) had been converted into the Lounge (as it’s now known), with a comfy couch, cushy chairs, and a coffee table—it’s now the go-to location for informal meetings and chats. Even the conference rooms got updates, with new area carpets. Add to this a foosball table, and it’s a new, fun look and feel for McBru.

We McBruvians thank Kerry and James for our office makeover—though it’s quite possible, given how often we see them playing it, that Ms Pac-Man was purchased with the two of them in mind.

Stop by and have a look at our new office arcade! Grab the joystick and have a go at Galaga or Donkey Kong, or take a spin at the foosball table. Though be forewarned: Kerry and Sam have been practicing and are looking for victims…

Content is King, but only if your audience can read it

October 9th, 2014 by Jessica P.

SlideShare mobileLast week LinkedIn launched its first-ever iOS app for SlideShare, giving a big boost to the world’s largest community for sharing presentations and other professional content. With 60 million unique visitors a month, SlideShare is a great catalyst in which to distribute your message and get content to your end user. The rollout of an iOS app now offers an even bigger opportunity to reach new audiences.

The new app is designed to put content at our fingertips, and provide a better viewing experience, which is a good reminder that presentations should be optimized for mobile and tablet viewing. After all, we want people to be able to consume our content off of their tiny screens. We know that bringing out the best in presentations can be tough, so what does this mean for mobile?

Readability is key. Presentations should be easy to digest from smaller screens. Share bite-size info, versus 20 bullet points. Imagery should play a leading role and be of high-quality resolution. White slides with 500 words are not going to translate for viewers using small screens. You’ll lose them quickly.

Some tips straight from SlideShare:

  • Go Big: Use font size 16 or higher.
  • Say More with Less: Highlight or limit text on slides to a few key phrases.
  • A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words: Use clear and simple images, and limit to 1-2 per slide.
  • Keep it Simple: Avoid using complicated graphs with too many details.
  • Use High Contrast Colors: Better contrast improves readability on small screens.

Once you’ve optimized your presentation, don’t forget to promote it across all of your key online channels and include a strong CTA. Ready to experiment? You can download the new iOS app for free from iTunes, and its counterpart on Android.

Integrated Communications: Blend Well to Stand Out

September 30th, 2014 by Erica

get-noticedIn today’s ever consolidating and shrinking editorial environment, individuals and companies with something important to communicate are wise to avoid relying solely on third-party editorial channels to communicate their messages. The days of simply briefing analysts and reporters and then awaiting their stories and reports are history.

Now, I am a huge advocate for the value media and analyst influencers bring to the dialogue and the marketplace. I enjoy building these relationships and nurturing them over time with great stories about how our B2B tech clients are advancing in their industries and engendering customer success.

But with the ability to go direct with their messages, companies of all types, whether B2B or B2C, need to harness new communications vehicles to reach their target audiences and influencers in increasingly value-add ways. And this makes it an incredibly exciting time for communications professionals and marketers to be innovative!

As Wendy Marx described in her recent Fast Company article, “the role of public relations has morphed into a bigger job…brands must widen the net and maintain an always-on presence. This means using a combination of third-party validation, along with branded content and social.”

At McBru, we are firm believers in taking an integrated communications and marketing approach for our B2B technology clients. Here are some tips and best practices to help ensure that you have the right blend of social media, outreach to third-party influencers, and content marketing in your integrated communications plan.

  1. Complement your PR efforts with a strategic social media influence, engagement and amplification plan, and back the campaign with high quality (aka, engaging and informative) content. B2B audiences want to be educated and informed, not marketed to.
  2. Go beyond the speeds and feeds of the news to uncover what’s in it for the customer; how can the customer win with your solution? This will help your message stand out and be better received. “Me Messages” are just not as interesting.
  3. How does your message translate to visual aids and supporting content pieces that help your message travel online? This might be a brief and descriptive video, an infographic loaded with rich customer-centric data, or an image slide show that illustrates the many customer implementations of the solution.
  4. How are you reaching those media influencers? The traditional methods still make sense – a short, sweet and very tailored email and perhaps a phone call (if you have a good rapport) – but we also believe in the power of social media to reach media and non-media influencers alike. @mentions are an easy way to get attention for your message and content. If an influencer is following your company, an @mention is a useful tactic. However, be careful not to go overboard; like traditional PR, be targeted, tailored and considerate.
  5. How is your message appearing on your company’s website and corporate blog, and are you taking advantage of paid advertising placements? All of these touches ensure a holistic and synergistic way to communicate with your audiences.
  6. Don’t forget the call to action! With so many messages, what’s your audience meant to do with the information? Make it plainly known and insanely simple. As we know, even in 140 characters, attention spans are shortening and the competition for your audience’s time is increasing. Make your message stand out in the right ways, in the right places.

Taking Tech Videos Beyond Talking Heads

September 19th, 2014 by Hilary
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Revolver’s Partner and Producer Benjamin James keeps the operation running smoothly.

Engineers are humans too.

And humans are emotional beings, even when it comes to the tech world. That’s why creating impactful, exciting content for Tech B2B audiences is an essential component to balance a  communication plan that has the propensity to lean heavily on facts, figures, and logic to sell its products. Here at McBru, we pride ourselves in that balancing act; we’re able to tease out a brand’s conceptual story as well as hold our own when the conversation gets deeply geeky.

McBru recently teamed up with storytellers at Revolver Digital Media Studios on a video project to promote our client Reaction Design’s key product, ANSYS Forte. It allows automotive engineers to simulate fuel behavior in combustion engines by using the industry’s most accurate chemical fuel models. This product typically gets us talking in geek-speak about kinetic models, spark ignition and flame propagation. But for this video we wanted to focus on the reason engineers need it: to stay ahead of the competition. How? Follow the chemistry.

All this talk about fuel and competition got us thinking about car chases and the adrenaline rush that goes with it. So McBru got all TNT with the drama and went full-steam ahead. Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes of the shoot that’s set to be released this fall.

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Setting up for the dialog in the parking garage scene.

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A late night at the office. At 3:00 AM, we closed off a portion of a major avenue to shoot the car chase.

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The alleyway scene was beautiful in a gritty, ominous way.

CEOs and Social Media

September 11th, 2014 by Kerry

Social Media word cloudPR Daily posted an article today about the scant presence of CEOs on social media. According to the article, which cites research conducted by CEO.com and Domo, 68 percent of CEOs are not active on social media. Of those who are active, the overwhelming majority are active on one platform only.

As a CEO myself, I get it. The job is demanding and there are never enough hours in the day to do everything I know I should and could be doing to help drive growth, profitability and success for my firm and my team.

To say I’m active on social media would be an overstatement. I tweet once in a blue moon, engage with LinkedIn a few times a month and use Instagram mainly to keep up with my kids. And yes, I completely understand the value of an active social media presence. I don’t need more data to tell me how well it could impact my business. I just need more hours in the day.

I know I’m not alone in that because McBru does a brisk business in persona building. Essentially, we help executives develop and maintain their online personas and establish them as thought leaders via blogs and consistent, personality-driven, and subject-matter-focused social media presence. We regularly see dramatic increases in Klout scores, followers, fans, engagement of all kinds, plus we hear anecdotally from our clients about new or deepened business relationships that spawn from our work.

Clearly, I need to hire McBru for my own persona building!

An Ice-Cold Marketing Phenomenon with Lessons for Your Next Campaign

August 28th, 2014 by Bill

Rob Shiveley Ice Bucket ChallengeIt’s been the social media sensation of Summer 2014. It’s also a brilliant viral marketing campaign for consciousness raising.

I’m talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, of course, where a camera captures your reaction as a bucket of icy cold water is dumped on your head, and is then shared on your favorite social media channel with a challenge to friends or family to do the same—all as a way to increase awareness of ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been great for expanding knowledge of ALS and boosting charitable donations for the ALS Association (ALSA, www.alsa.org). But I’m not the only professional marketer who has wondered what we can learn from this social media and pop culture phenomenon: In her blog post, Melanie Taylor—a social media strategist at Ogilvy—discusses Five Learnings from the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

The challenge has gone viral in a remarkably short amount of time—one of the first recorded versions was broadcast on June 30, 2014, on the Golf Channel, according to Wikipedia. In less than two months, the phenomena has circled to globe and earned the participation of celebrities and commoners alike, from Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin to the teachers at St. John’s Lutheran School in Lansing, Michigan.

Here at McBru, we even played host to one of our clients as he responded to his own ice bucket challenge.

Ogilvy’s Taylor makes a number of points about how the Ice Bucket Challenge is different from a commercial marketing or branding campaign, but also notes several take-aways that apply “to any brand trying to create a movement.” Several key points:

  • The specific cause matters. The Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t really take off until participants used a call to action, specifically putting the ALS awareness and donation appeal front-and-center of their videos. In fact, there has been intense push-back on social media when ice bucket participants have neglected to mention ALS or ask for donations during their videos.
  • Emotional connection matters. Taylor reminds us that “social media is about storytelling and sharing,” and with a narrative arc that blends a debilitating disease plus friends and celebrities doused in cold water, you have a combo that makes you care and eagerly anticipate your turn to be challenged. Because then you’re part of the story, too. “It’s challenging for brands to reproduce such an emotional experience, but to get this kind of traction, it is essential,” says Taylor.
  • Stunts need time to ramp up. On the one hand, the Ice Bucket Challenge managed to circle the earth in just six weeks. On the other hand, it took six weeks—which would be an eternity if you were a brand marketer and had promised a faster viral timeline to a client. “Most brands don’t employ that level of patience with a program. Instead, they invest in a huge push at launch; and if it doesn’t catch on immediately, it is often deemed a failure,” says Taylor. “True social movements, however, take some time.”
  • When you do the right thing, it resonates. Most of us know someone with ALS, and realize what a devastating disease it is. The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken off because giving money and calling attention to the need for research is, as Taylor notes, “simply the right thing to do. Let’s not forget about it when we move on to the next social media craze.”

Have you taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge? How did it feel to become personally involved and help propel the cause forward? If you’re a marketer, what lessons have you learned from the campaign? Whether or not you have been doused, donated or are cheering for others, it’s an interesting case study in how to stir interest through a grassroots, organic effort that benefits a worthy cause. And don’t forget to donate to the ALSA!

All About Taylor Long

August 4th, 2014 by Jessica

taylor-longHere at McBru, we like to surround ourselves with peers who are wicked smart. Taylor Long is one of those who we consider ourselves lucky to work with everyday. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor to learn more about her background and her responsibilities here at McBru.

Q: How long have you been with McBru?
Taylor: Since December 2013.

Q: What do you like about working here?
Taylor: I would say my favorite part is working with the people—both coworkers and clients!

Q: What do you find most rewarding about this environment?
Taylor: I take a lot of pride in making sure our Influencer Relations clients get the best coverage possible, especially around product launches. Nothing’s better than seeing a client’s name in print!

Q: What do you find most challenging about agency work?
Taylor: Managing conflicting priorities for clients and working under tight deadlines is a challenge.

Q: How do you overcome those challenges?
Taylor: I make sure to meet with each team lead to confirm the deadline and priority for my projects. Then I use a checklist and calendar to order my tasks by deadline and importance. That way I don’t miss anything when work gets hectic!

Q: What are some of your favorite Portland hot spots?
Taylor: I’m going to throw in a shout out for my sister’s store, Crafty Wonderland! They support Portland’s maker community and always have fun handmade goods from local artists and crafters. [Here, Taylor pauses for a while….she has a long list of favorites and takes a little time to consult her Yelp bookmarks.] OK—for shopping, Betsy and Iya, Miss Meers, and Folly are at the top of the list. I’m super jealous of my coworker’s awesome Betsy and Iya rings.

Q: Favorite food cart?
Taylor: Taco Pedaler…mmmmm!

Q: Top brunch?
Taylor: Broder. Hands down.

Q: Favorite dinner spot?
Taylor: Ava Gene’s!

Q: What else do you really love about Portland?
Taylor: I really like the Hollywood theater, because it supports independent movies and comedians. The fact that it’s biking distance from my house is a bonus. I also love Portland Story Theater! It’s live storytelling for adults—kind of like The Moth. The stories you hear are real—sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always amazing!

Q: You’re a U of O graduate. Tell me a little about your time there.
Taylor: I began as a business major and quickly realized that was not what I wanted to do. At the time, I was taking journalism classes as electives, and really liked them, so I decided to change my major to journalism. I graduated with a public relations major and minors in communications studies and art administration. My original thought was that I wanted to work in PR/marketing for nonprofits or the arts, so I pursued internships in both those fields. One that I especially loved was at the Hult Center.

Q: What was that like?
Taylor: The Hult Center is a performing arts venue in downtown Eugene. I helped with social media, public relations and email marketing.

Q: What made this internship stand out more than some of the others?
Taylor: It was my first communications internship and the first time that I got to experience what working in PR is like. I decided that it was something I enjoyed and wanted to keep pursuing; It’s what cemented my love of marketing and PR.

I want to make a plug for the U of O Career Center and Public Relations Society of America for giving me guidance on resume writing, job hunting and networking, which are all skills that can be more important than what you’re learning in class. Knowing how and where to network and how to present yourself in a cover letter, resumé, and on LinkedIn helped me get noticed in the crowded Portland job market after graduating.

Q: You started with nonprofit and arts internships; what led you to Tech B2B?
Taylor: The school of Journalism and Communication at U of O runs a program called the “Portland Senior Experience” out of their Portland office. As a student, you apply for the program, and in your final term they place you at an internship in Portland. I was placed at LaCie, a technology company that makes external hard drives. I never in a million years thought I would want to do tech PR, but I kept an open mind and interned there for 6 months and then moved to full time. I was given a lot of responsibility right off the bat, which made me feel valued. As an intern, I got to go to some great trade shows—such as CES—and I helped grow their social media program from little to nothing to running quarterly campaigns with advertising. I also got to develop my press release writing skills. And I took on the role of writing releases that were more B2C focused for cool products like designer hard drives and USB keys!

I was ready to make the next move career-wise, and then someone from McBru reached out via LinkedIn. It was a great fit, so I made the jump!

Q: How do you feel this move is supporting your professional development goals?
Taylor: At McBru, I’m honing my project management skills and diversifying my skill set. I’ve taken part in projects that are unlike anything I’ve worked on before. I’m also learning about client management and strategic thinking. In short, I see a lot of room for professional growth at this company. I’d like to be a manager some day because I love mentoring young professionals. That is a big part of the culture at McBru—everyone is supportive and willing to share his or her experiences and knowledge.

To learn more abut Taylor, and other McBruvians, keep an eye on our blog to see what comes next!

The Comeback of Email Newsletters

July 25th, 2014 by Bill

emailThere’s a communication technology out there that’s growing fast and opening doors for marketers and purveyors of news and information. It’s called email.

But wait? Isn’t email suppose to be all but dead, a relic of the 1990s and dial-up modems? Turns out email newsletters and direct email marketing is undergoing a renaissance, as they have carved out a valuable niche for themselves amid the unending torrents of social media messages and Internet-based news channels.

Email marketing is making a comeback for a number of reasons, says David Carr in the New York Times.  “Newsletters are clicking because readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.”

With improvements to spam filtering, email now shows up in your inbox largely because you have asked for it – you’ve requested to be included in a mailing list or subscribed to a newsletter. With email, there’s usually some kind of implicit connection with the sender, making it valuable real estate and a good platform for marketers.

Tweet this: #EmailMarketing makes a comeback http://bit.ly/UyXbqJ Targeted newsletters, valuable content finds growing audience

According to Carr, MailChimp, a leading email marketing platform, sends over 400 million emails a day, and is adding more than 10,000 users daily. And a study of 940 global executives found that email newsletters trumped the Internet and mobile apps as a source of news.

Carr quotes Gideon Lichfield, global news editor at Quartz: “Email is dismissed as something old people use. But in the past few years, we have started to see email as a peer to publishing platforms like Twitter, Facebook and the web, one that has its own strengths and weaknesses that we are starting to figure out.”

Of course, the unspoken contract between email publishers and their audience is that publishers are providing valuable and interesting information to their readers, which requires a smart and dynamic content marketing program. But provide that content, and email will deliver readers.

Interested in exploring how email marketing and newsletters can grow your audience and deepen connections with readers? Give us a call.

Can You Beat the Algorithm? Take the Retweet Quiz and Find Out

July 14th, 2014 by Bill

retweetWhat’s it take to get retweeted on Twitter? Three computer scientists decided to find out. They created an algorithm that sorts through flows of social media data to determine which of paired tweets (i.e., “two tweets about the same link sent by the same person”) is more likely to be retweeted. The scientists wanted to find out if certain word patterns, phrase lengths, vocabulary choices and other content variables were predictive for which of two tweets on the same subject by the same writer would be retweeted more often.

After running through some 11,000 pairs of tweets, the algorithm got pretty good at predicting which tweet is more retweetable. Pretty good, but not outstanding. According to the New York Times, the algorithm “can guess which tweet gets retweeted about 67 percent of the time, beating humans, who on average get it right only 61 percent of the time.”
The Times developed a 25-question quiz Can You Tell What Makes a Good Tweet? to measure whether humans can beat big data analytics when it comes to guessing which tweets get retweeted. Take the quiz and see how you perform against the algorithm.

Tweet this: Can you beat an algorithm at picking top retweets? nyti.ms/1pXx7zK via @m_sendhil Take the quiz and find out

So, if an algorithm can predict retweeting patterns, can we use its insights to write better tweets (assuming that retweeted tweets were better, more engagingly written)? Well, not so much.

The study found that asking for what you want is a good strategy: People are very suggestible. Using the words “retweet” and “please” in tweets resulted in more retweets. Using unusual or novel words or phrases also seemed to be predictive of retweeting. However, once you start reusing attention-grabbing language, it quickly becomes less so: “Once an algorithm finds those things that draw attention and starts exploiting them, their value erodes. When few people do something, it catches the eye; when everyone does it, it is ho-hum.”

It seems that longer tweets are more likely to be retweeted than shorter tweets. Of course, given that this is Twitter, you can push length only so far. And don’t start maximizing tweet lengths with the expectation that you’ll automatically get retweeted more often. The upshot is that longer tweets have more content, and more content is more interesting than less content, so content-rich tweets will get retweeted more often. “So the lesson is not ‘make your tweets longer’ but ‘have more content,’ which is far harder to do.”

Turns out that there’s no secret formula for writing tweets that succeed in getting retweeted. Instead, write creatively about interesting content and you’ll get retweeted more often. That may seem apparent, but writing good tweets takes time, wit, and attention to detail to get right. If you want to win at the retweeting game, then you need to bring your A-game.

Let us know how you did on the quiz – and tell us if you have advice on writing tweets that get retweeted.