SXSW starts in just a few short days and if you’re like many, you may be beginning to twitch, having left some of your pre-festival planning to the last minute. Whether this is your first time down in Austin, or you are an interactive junkie, following are a few last-minute tips to help you get the most out of your experience.
Peruse the Schedule
And by peruse I mean study. View the links, read the panel descriptors, the whole nine yards. If you haven’t logged onto sxsw.com or downloaded the app, hurry up and do so and then study the schedule as if cramming for a high school exam. If you don’t spend some time doing this before you arrive, I can guarantee that you will be overwhelmed by all the panels and workshops and may just throw your hands up and look for some good BBQ instead.
Plan Your Attack
Think through what you hope to accomplish at SXSW. Write down three goals and the best way to accomplish them. Note the sessions that look most interesting, the people you’d like to meet, how you’ll get from one venue to another and most importantly when (or if) you’ll sleep.
Pack for All Kinds of Weather
This year’s forecast calls for temps that range from the high 30’s to the mid 70’s. Down jacket or sandels – you decide. Must haves include an umbrella (this weekend looks to be rainy), comfy shoes, battery packs and portable chargers and an extra bag to bring home your swag.
Practice Your Pitch
SXSW is the ultimate marketplace. Make sure you’ve perfected what it is you’re selling and who you need to sell it to. With upwards of 30,000 festival attendees your elevator speech has a lot of competition.
Prepare to Party
Yes, many people go to SXSW to learn, to network and to build their business. But they also go to have a good time. There are almost as many parties as there are sessions on the schedule and those are just the officially sanctioned ones. Make sure you preserve enough energy to hit the party circuit enjoying the free food, drink and music.
And whatever you do, don’t miss Allison+Partners Late Night Saloon, featuring the Cronut® and Dominique Ansel. You can register at: bit.ly/AllisonPRsxsw
The first time I attended SXSW I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of events listed in the conference agenda, let alone the panels, workshops, networking opportunities, parties and brand activations I had to sort through once I arrived in Austin.
I wrote about many of the good ideas I discovered, and my favorite, hands down, was Apple’s iPad2 popup shop. You can read more about this and other activations that caught my eye here.
Yes, SXSW is an event filled with ideas. Some of what you see and hear are good ideas. Others are not. This year, my firm, Allison+Partners will collect, curate and share the best good ideas and bad ideas captured at SXSW. Who knows, we may even introduce one of our own.
Be on the lookout for fun teaser questions designed to get the conversation going and please join in and tell us @allisonpr when you spot a #GOODIDEA or a #BADIDEA.
See you all in Austin. #GOODIDEA
The perfect way to celebrate mom on Mother’s Day is the subject of much debate and discussion among families everywhere. Marketers promote special Mother’s Day items, television shows create entire episodes around the holiday - I particularly liked this week’s episode of The Middle where Frankie tried to take control of her own gift and wound up with a pair of yellow pants - and millions of Facebook users change their profile picture to that of their mom.
Is it about the gift, spending time with mom or is there some other way that better recognizes all that mom means in the lives of those that she loves? One might argue that it’s a combination of all of the above, especially if they themselves are a mom.
This year I heard about a limited edition collection of hand-painted artisinal chocolates from Godiva that struck me as the perfect combination of gift, recognition and celebration of mom. Called "The Heart of a Mom Collection," each piece embodies a defining virtue of motherhood - generosity, unconditional love, warmth, patience, giving and strength.
Warmth, a golden-colored heart made out of dark chocolate and filled with honey ganache sounded particularly delicious to me. But what I liked most about Godiva’s collection were the words that they chose to define motherhood. As I reflected on Godiva’s selection of virtues, I thought about my own mother and words I might add to the list if I were to describe her virtues - bravery, compassion, loyalty, reliability, selflessness.
This morning, Jacob gave me an early mother’s day gift of a hand-painted tile with his own version of mom’s virtues - “Magical, Out of this World, and More Awesome than Dad.” While there was no chocolate involved, his selection of virtues were just as delicious.
How might you describe your mother’s virtues?
The other night I had the privilege and honor of joining a number of my new colleagues from Allison+Partners at the PRWeek Awards, one of our industry’s biggest and most prestigious events. The agency was a finalist for Brand Development Campaign of the year for the work that we do for Best Western and also was on the short list for Midsize Agency of the Year.
At first, I wasn’t sure if my asking for a seat at the firm’s table was such a good idea after all. This was day four on the job for me and I was only just starting to learn people’s names - would hours of small talk with people I barely knew be fun or exhausting? As it is, many people I know often dread industry events and look for the earliest opportunity to duck out. So what a welcome surprise it was to find out just how much fun my new co-workers are.
Our CEO, Scott Allison, was the first up that evening, presenting the inaugural Communicator of the Year award to 15 year-old Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl and activist who has become a global symbol of empowerment for her efforts on behalf of education and women’s rights. The team cheered for Scott, and their enthusiasm and support was both genuine and contagious.
As the night progressed and the agency awards drew closer you could feel the team’s energy and excitement building. The firm had worked really hard on its Agency of the Year submission and was proud of both its accomplishments over the past 12 months and its entry. While we didn’t win this year, the team went out together afterwards - not to drown their sorrows, but to celebrate the honor of being top five in our size.
One long-time employee summed it up best in an all staff email, saying “I remember when we were looking to be in the top 50, then top 20 and top 10. Now we’re in the top 5 WORLDWIDE for our size. That is so awesome!”
The company’s motto is “It’s About the Work,” but could just as easily be “It’s About Spirit!”
Catch it if you can. I’m glad I did!
Tomorrow morning I will wake up early and joins the millions of other commuters heading into Manhattan as I embark on the next stage of my career as Chief Creative Officer at Allison + Partners, an international communications firm driven by a collaborative approach to innovation and creativity. When I accepted the position and shared the news with my sons, Sam assumed as Chief Creative Officer I’d have to do a lot of coloring and promised to help with any and all coloring projects. While my new role won’t likely include much coloring, it does promise to be filled with exciting and interesting challenges. The story of how I got here is one worth telling.
The communications business is an interesting one, and its pace doesn’t often allow for a deep breath. Anybody who’s been doing something for 15-20 years deserves to, and should, take a step back and reboot, which is exactly what I did nine months ago when I left my post as President of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. I knew then that my kids needed more time with me and that I needed time to reflect on what about this business I really enjoyed. What I didn’t know, however, was how valuable a learning experience my time off would be.
I don’t think I realized the value of a sabbatical until I had this time to focus on me and the journey I was undertaking. My time with Sam and Jacob was more enjoyable without the daily work stress and deadline pressures. I was able to be truly present when with them. I also was able to identify and build an incredible support system, both personally and professionally, with the flexibility to meet my girlfriends for coffee or lunch on a more regular basis than at any other time over the last 20 years.
While I networked with many people in the communications industry, from public relations and branding agency executives to advertising creatives and in-house corp comms folks, it was those who didn’t work in communications who were able to provide a valuable outside-in view. Of the many amazing people that I met, it was the lawyers, CFOs, sales executives and CEOs whose experiences and perspectives greatly contributed to my own understanding of what makes me tick - a love of brands, bold creative thinking and a refined aesthetic. I was invited to join the Executive Forum, a highly selective c-suite level networking group, where I found a group of people who consistently reminded me not to compromise when it came to “Lisa Next.”
In the end, my journey and the learnings I uncovered along the way led me to a leadership position at Allison + Partners, where a creative focus outweighs the operational responsibilities that have been the primary driver over the last ten years of my career. My family shared this journey with me, and I believe my kids have a much better sense of why mommy works. Sam may think my job involves a lot of coloring projects, and “coloring outside the lines” may in fact be a part of what I will be called upon to do, but the fact that he has my back may be what matters most.
I started using Instagram a few years back. I posted a few pictures but never became a regular. Until now.
In the beginning, the site was about the purity and beauty of the images captured. And there are still many who use Instagram solely for that purpose - my husband being one of them. But now my kids, and all their friends, are on Instagram and using it in the way that many of my generation use Facebook, twitter and Pinterest - to connect and share things they like.
More than half of what the kids post are things they find on the Internet - screen shots from “I Funny,” images they create using Versagram, or photos of the latest from Nike (the one brand that seems to have great traction with the 12 and under crowd). Yes, they post pictures of their friends, but very few compared to the hundreds you’d find on my teenage niece’s feed.
We are insistent that our kids’ accounts be private (as do most of their friends’ parents) and have suggested that they only accept followers that they know. That seems to have fallen on deaf ears, as the kids (and not just mine) seem to be in a race to build up followers. In fact, they are creating and posting their own version of banner ads asking people to “Follow Me Please!” and then accept follow requests from virtually anyone in their expanded circle - parents, friends of friends, friends’ siblings and their friends, etc.
The kids also use InstaMessage and InstaCap, engaging their friends and increasing the interactivity of their experience. It’s not unusual to find entire conversations among a group of friends often having nothing to do with the original post. And, since much of what’s posted is Wi-Fi dependent, the kids tend to upload multiple posts to their feed in quick succession.
It’s been fun to watch and get caught up in their posting frenzy. Since my kids joined Instagram, my own photo feed has tripled. You can follow me at LISAWROSENBERG Please!
We were just on vacation in Mexico. While all of us love the concentrated family time, my kids are of that age where they do think about and miss their friends when we are away. In the past, it resulted in some discussion around what they’d pick up as gifts and then they’d move on. This trip, FaceTime changed all that.
My kids don’t have cell phones yet (despite their pleading), but they each have an iPod touch. And while they aren’t great on a telephone (not many nine year old boys are), FaceTime allowed them to be in touch with their buddies in a way previously unthinkable.
It allowed them to share and connect the way their generation is used to - visually and in realtime. I watched Jacob and his friends spend time each day, not just talking about what they were up to, but doing things together, thousands of miles apart. They had pancakes together, cheered each other on playing video games and picked out gifts for each other.
This was a first for us and both interesting and fun to watch. My parents saw only the boys spending more time connected to an electronic device, but in reality it was the connection to their friends that really mattered to them. For all the criticisms placed on the overuse of electronics, if technology can deepen friendships and strengthen relationships, then I’m all for it!
It used to be that the number of catalogs I receieved in the mail would increase dramatically as the holidays drew closer, with special offers and flyers for upcoming sales weighing down my postman. This year, my inbox was hands down the winner, with new messages coming in daily and sometimes hourly, offering me the chance to take advantage of Black Friday specials and pre-Cyber Monday sales, without ever leaving my house or even turning on my computer.
Those retailers with whom I have a relationship have done a brilliant job of making it increasingly easy to browse (and buy!) must-have gifts for everyone on my list. On Thanksgiving morning I was laying in bed talking on the phone with my sister when she asked me what I’d gotten my niece for Chanukah. When I mentioned the robe and scarf we’d picked out, I was promptly reminded of how a six-year-old viewed clothes as a gift. While continuing our conversation, I opened an email from Target offering me advance access to Black Friday deals and picked out and purchased two Lego Friends gift sets. I also picked up some of the electronic items on my own kids’ wish lists, also on super special.
I think favorite shopping experience so far this season has to be with Amazon. When I woke up Saturday Morning, I scanned my email and was excited to see the absolute perfect gift for my husband featured as the Amazon Gold Box Deal. I hadn’t even been looking for a gift for him, but it was too perfect and too good a deal to pass up. And all it took was a click on my cart and then a click on the purchase button - too easy and too good to be true? Nope - Amazon already sent me an email saying the item is on it’s way!
Two holiday seasons ago I wrote about the battle between Black Friday cash and Cyber Monday credit. This year, my bet is that mobile shopping, which for many retailers started as early as Black Friday eve, will take a huge dent out of Cyber Monday sales.
How and when did you start your holiday shopping?
Today was my birthday and the best present I got may have come from Starbucks - a card wishing me a happy birthday and a drink, any drink, on the house.
In today’s digital world where data is king, this year’s birthday demonstrated that personalized marketing is tops on the list for brands looking to cement a connection with consumers. Celebrating a customer’s birthday or marking a rite of passage isn’t exactly new - in fact, twenty years ago I worked on Gillette’s birthday program where young men would receive a Sensor razor when they turned 18. What’s different about today’s efforts is the multitude and magnitude of good wishes and special offers that are showered on consumers.
In addition to the e-cards and notes from friends not on Facebook, my in box was filled this morning with birthday greetings from brands. There were coupons and discount offers - both Delta and Jet Blue both offered me $50 off a Getaway vacation package referring to this as “our gift to you.” Useful only if I were in the market for a vacation, but nice to be acknowledged as a long-standing member of their loyalty programs. A bit more perplexing was the birthday greeting and special offer I received from Princess Cruises, as I’ve never sailed on one of their ships. I’m guessing that somehow their data showed I am booked on a competitors’ ship later this month.
Then there were the physical cards that came in the mail, offering steals and deals from stores that I frequent. Particularly helpful will be the 20% of your entire purchase offer from Modell’s. I had been planning to take my kids somewhere else for sneakers and cleats, but that card caused me to have a change of heart.
And then there were those brands that weren’t asking me to spend anything in order to receive my birthday gift. Red Mango who added 500 points (or $5) to my Club Mango account and Sephora who asked me to swing by a store or their web site for a “sweet gift” of Fresh’s Sugar Kisses Mini Lip Duo - for free!
But the reason I loved my Starbucks gift best, was when I stopped in to pick up my free drink this morning, my local barista looked at my card and then looked me in the eye and wished me a happy birthday!
Four years ago my computer (a Dell) suffered a tragic ending when I was a victim of the blue screen of death. In need of another computer quickly, I had gone to my local Best Buy and purchased an HP Pavilion Elite. Sunday night, this computer also met its maker when it caught on fire.
Yep, my computer caught on fire. I was in the process of downloading pictures when all of a sudden I smelled something burning and then saw smoke. Not one to mess around with fire, I quickly turned the computer off and called 911. My local fire department came and checked things out, determining that the computer’s fan motor was the source of the smoke and had burned out.
Instructed to not turn my computer back on, I quickly called HP to assess my options. After asking if there was any “damage to person or property,” I was promptly told that the part was no longer available but that a case manager would call me back to “negotiate” within 24 hours. It’s now been almost 72 hours and I’ve not heard from anyone at HP, despite the promise that my case would be escalated. A wonderful lesson in how to quickly kill brand loyalty.
So once again faced with the need for a new computer quickly, I decided to take another chance with Dell. Initially I feared it would take two weeks to get a computer built and shipped, far longer than I wanted to wait. But after a quick scan of Dell’s website, it looked like my view was outdated.
I decided to call their 800 number and had the pleasure of speaking with John Doyle, a friendly and knowledgeable salesperson who took the time to understand my family’s computing needs. We’d been on the phone for quite some time and were in the process of finalizing my order when our call was disconnected. Not having written down his name or phone extension, I grimaced, thinking I was going to have to start all over with another salesperson. Two minutes later I was pleasantly surprised by a call back from John.
And better yet, my new computer from Dell arrived today, before I ever heard back from HP. I’m sure you can guess what I’ll recommend the next time someone asks about buying a new computer. This experience once again proves that exceptional customer service delivers tremendous payback to the brand.