Category Archives: Work

News from Shanghai – Why HB Chooses IPREX and Is Glad IPREX Chooses HB

David Croasdale, Managing Director of Newell PR, Hong Kong, describes the "layered approach" to doing business in China

David Croasdale, Managing Director of Newell PR, Hong Kong, describes the “layered approach” to doing business in China

During one May 2013 week in Shanghai for the IPREX annual meeting, I worked with fellow leaders of marketing firms from around the world. As we collaborated on partner engagement methodology and best marketing practices, I kept asking myself, “Why do we all believe that the IPREX network is more effective for clients than a single global marketing firm?”

So I asked my colleagues, who came to Shanghai from firms in the UK, India, Mainland China, Australia, Hong Kong, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Singapore, Peru, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Malaysia, Canada and the US.

Here are the top five reasons I heard regarding why they believe IPREX is more effective than traditional global marketing firms.

  1. Global agencies with in-depth local market knowledge are better than global branch offices. Many agencies establish offices around the world, but those offices are branches from a single tree. While that might give clients some assurance of centrally located control and command, it often works against true local knowledge and strategic counsel. Our clients’ goal shouldn’t be great translation. It should be uncompromising localization.
  2. Partnership and membership are at stake all the time. IPREX isn’t the kind of organization where you write a check and they let you in. Competency examinations, financial stability requirements, organizational reviews, interviews and agency visits are part of a stringent vetting process. Poor performance in a multi-agency engagement can mean the loss of reputation or membership. IPREX polices the partner agencies’ professional standards. Many offices of global firms are not under that kind of pressure, and it can translate to lower performance.
  3. We work with the partner we choose, not the one we must use. An IPREX partner in India might have the right competency to advance an international campaign. But if it doesn’t, we can choose a different partner that is better suited to the work. We are not obligated to go through any particular channel or office, which means we can choose the right agency for the right job.

    Mayte Gonzalez-Gil

    Mayte Gonzalez-Gil, CEO of poweraxle, Madrid, presents the international “St. Patrick’s Day Campaign” created with several agencies and the government of Ireland

  4. Best practices, globally sourced. The world is changing fast, and the best ideas and practices for PR and integrated marketing can come from any country. Unlike global agencies whose capabilities stem from a powerful headquarters, IPREX best practices come from around the world and evolve every year as the global agencies collaborate and discover new ways to remain relevant and effective.
  5. This is the age of speed. With no institutionalized chains of command, IPREX agencies can often do in a few days what takes global agencies a few weeks or months. We have the case studies to prove it.

The firms I queried in Shanghai represent only a fraction of IPREX’s 70 global partners (with 100 worldwide offices and 1,500 staff), which brings up my top reason: IPREX offers high-quality operations in every major market worldwide.

The resources IPREX partners put into traveling and meeting with each other also dwarf what many international agencies do. This creates collegial peer-group relationships that lead to high-quality work and a lot of fun doing the work. As one IPREX member put it, “If we didn’t believe this allows us to do better work for our clients, why would we be meeting here in Shanghai? And by the way, will I see you in Prague this fall?” Yes, he will.

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Five Reasons I Get Out of Bed in the Morning

Rise and shineOnce again, CareerCast’s list of the top ten most stressful jobs includes public relations executive (number five, after commercial airline pilot). Despite this “status,” I love my job for exactly the factors that do make it so stressful; most days involve a fire drill and I must be an expert in all my clients’ markets and product areas.

A few of the other reasons that I leap (er, roll) out of bed each day:

  1. No two days are alike. The movie Groundhog Day profiles the trials and tribulations of Phil Connors (played perfectly by Bill Murray), who finds himself repeating the same day again and again. Each day at HB Agency brings a new set of challenges to solve and stories to tell. No Phil Connors here.
  2. I see results in black and white. Media success hinges on building relationships between reporters and industry experts. The connections that I forge ultimately lead to “ink” for my clients and their business success.
  3. It rewards my organizational strengths. While a client services role requires top-notch business acumen, it also comes down to achieving the perfect balance of competing, yet equally important, demands. My organizational skills get put to the test daily as I continue to build and fine tune the systems that help me succeed.
  4. It keeps me fresh. I constantly need to push myself and the team to find new angles for existing topics and stories. This keeps me on my toes and fosters stellar creative thinking skills.
  5. I listen to smart people talk. In one day, I set up and facilitated six interviews for the CEO of a publicly traded company. These conversations led to stories in AdWeek, DestinationCRM and Direct Marketing News.

I can’t imagine a day without a solid dose of stress with a shot of result-producing adrenaline on the side.

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Congratulations Graduate! Also, 9 Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You

Colleges and universities have by now had commencement and released their graduates into the real world. For grads, this means it’s time for career pursuit. For employers, it’s time to remember that not all grads are created equal. Read this list of tips for job hunters authored by HB’s Mark O’Toole and find out why dubbed it ‘bitingly hilarious.’ Better yet – check out all the reactions at the end of the post – and add you own.  

Most colleges and universities have by now had commencement and released their graduates into the real world. For you grads, this means it’s time for career pursuit. For us employers, it’s time to remember that not all grads are created equal.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve been in hiring roles and have received thousands of resumes from new college graduates just like you. I’ve interviewed many and done my share of informational interviews – these are the interviews we do when you happen to be the child of a friend, colleague or customer who asks on your behalf.  Sometimes I’ve hired people like you into entry-level positions. More often though, I haven’t.

Read more at BostInno

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Why I get nervous when you call me an expert

In recent months, I’ve heard the following words too many times: “I’m relying on you to tell me – you’re the expert.” During the same period, I’ve been very lucky to:

  • meet with investors I highly respect to brainstorm on product differentiation in the fresh produce industry;
  • help a company figure out how to bring together a community in the medical technology industry;
  • be interviewed and filmed as I commented on how best to describe a cutting-edge higher-education program; and
  • be invited to Germany to lead a group of technology company executives in a multi-day session designed to hone messaging and create a direct marketing initiative.

Shunryu Suzuki

In each case, one or more people called me “expert.”  It made me uncomfortable, because a little voice inside my head kept repeating Shunryu Suzuki’s words of wisdom in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I have experienced the “expert” phenomenon both as the expert and as the one seeking expertise. As “experts,” my colleagues and I meet with clients who want definitive answers, and we work hard to provide such answers.

“Here’s what we should do, how much it will cost, and the results you can expect. Yes, this is the best way to make the most of your marketing budget.”

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In celebration of tomorrow’s leap day, all of us at HB thought about what we would like to do with this extra day.

We asked around the office – what’s on your leap list? Is there a project you’ve been putting off or something creative you have yet to try because you just can’t get around to it?

Here’s what a few HBers shared:

“I would like to write a short story, an activity that helps develop a skill while also quenching my thirst for creation.” – NB & JH

“With the extra 24 hours, I intend to clean my desk. Not just neaten up the stacks of papers, folders and unread magazines… I mean really clean my desk. If it hasn’t been touched in a year, I’ll throw it out. If it pertains to activities older than a year, I’ll throw it out. Now… my Rolodex… what to do about my Rolodex?! Keep it or toss it? That is the question!” – KH

“I want a day to read and delete old emails, do the tasks listed on the Post-It notes lettering my desk and start March 1 with an empty to-do list.” – MO

“If I had a free 24 hours with no obligations, I would sit outside and paint. I use to do this frequently, but no longer have the time to do so. It’s so relaxing to sit under the sun with a cool breeze blowing while laying a fresh coat of paint on a canvas.” – AJ

Now that we’ve shared some items on our leap list, HB wants to know – what’s on yours?

This Wednesday, February 29th, HB will provide half-hour marketing sessions in-person, via skype, or on the phone for anyone who would like free public relations, marketing and branding consulting.

Availability is limited so please email or call 781-893-0053 to schedule your appointment today.


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The Healthy Mind: Effectiveness Through Listening In and Listening Out

It’s a frantic Tuesday morning — I’ve been away for a week and a day, and just had a hellish commute, and my “to-do” list is longer than ever, with far too few items that will really make a difference in the business. An employee asks if she can have a word with me. She’s a rising star, someone who I met when she was still in college and who sought me and HB out to work with us. Of course I have time. We grab a “huddle room” and when the door shuts, she begins, “Look, before I say anything, I want to thank you for all the time you have invested in me, the opportunities you’ve presented, the work, and the training you have put me through. But I think PR’s just not for me. I actually got another job, starting a week from Friday.”

My blood pressure rises. Many words come to mind. I think about the iPad we gave her three weeks ago, the conversation we had a few weeks earlier where she said, “I’m not going anywhere,” and the time a few weeks before that, during her review, when I said, “Now that you’re starting to work closely with our clients, all I ask is that if and when you decide to leave — which is likely to happen one day — you give as much warning as you can.”

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How we work

We recently celebrated one year in our new office in Newton, a space strategically designed to draw people into one, central meeting space for planned discussions, and to several other collaborative spaces where impromptu meetings occur.

Despite our efforts, we are constantly reminded by folks like Jason Fried that meetings and discussions may not lead to optimal productivity. He argues the opposite is true – developing an environment where folks can work without interruption may be better.

The power of conversation

Is he right? At HB, we often say that “nothing beats a conversation.” We believe that issues can be efficiently solved with candid talk.

Similarly (as shared in the his biography), Steve Jobs believed the best work occurs when all parties sit together and hash out a problem – even if this results in screaming matches.

Less or more?

There are certainly times where some “alone time” can allow for incredibly efficient development. However, at HB, we pride ourselves on solving problems together with the client’s best intentions in mind. It’s that flexibility that offers a strong working environment.

So, how do you work?

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If you’re happy and you know it…

Growing up, my mother cooked dinner while watching the daily news. I would say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a news channel that only showed happy news?”

An engineering student at Northwestern University created a Happiness Club. The group spreads joy around campus, helping students smile and laugh during stressful times. From blowing bubbles to handing out temporary tattoos during exam week, the club lifts student spirit on campus. Through the help of Happiness Club, Northwestern builds comaradie, rapport and a successful environment.

In the workplace, laughter and smiling increases effectiveness and reduces stress. At HB, we listen to Pandora (we decided today it was time for Christmas tunes), enjoy fresh baked cookies, have a beer, throw a football and laugh when someone busts a move. These simple tactics alter the collective mood and develop a creative, team-based environment with increased project discussion and team feedback.

So… Smile. Laugh. Giggle. Dance.

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Moving towards simplicity: It’s not that simple

In our complex and confusing world, more and more of us strive for simplicity. It may not look that way on the surface, as we scramble to buy “stuff” (both in stores and online) for our homes: electronics, collectibles, furniture, books, and kitchen gadgets. However, we stroll to the mailbox to find a copy of Real Simple magazine.

Don’t you find that ironic?

Simple Marketing

At HB, we create simplicity. This can be an interesting process when working with high tech, clean-tech and healthcare. My colleagues on the “creative” side distill messaging for websites and promotional content. On the public relations side, we create news opportunities and media coverage with snappy sound bites.

Most of our technology clients are deeply entrenched in Big Data. We work side-by-side with them to tell the story of simplifying business processes. Structured and unstructured data. Industry folks use words such as optimization, streamline, and scalability. Translation: Simplify.

Simple Social Media

In social media, the new buzz is content curation.  Because of information overload, we gravitate towards online newsletters where a team of writers and thought-leaders curate relevant content into one publication with what they deem important.

On Twitter, it’s simple: 140 characters or bust. There’s no place for verbosity.

Simple Lifestyle

Hans Hofmann was an abstract expressionist painter (1880-1966). He said: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

How many times have you heard of people and families who decided to shun their “stuff” and lifestyle? Their destination: A 500 square foot cabin.

Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, several people I know who worked in lower Manhattan and experienced the horror of that day quit their corporate jobs. The commute and pressure of being in the city was too much. A few started their own business, on their own terms. Others decided to spend more time with their young children. Each yearned for a simpler way of life. 

Occasionally my husband Andrew and I (briefly) contemplate packing a few bags and going to Idaho, or some other faraway land that seems a lot simpler. The conversation doesn’t last very long. Cell phones start making funny noises, our kids rant about school or the iPad, and an automated telemarketer is on the phone.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

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The On Project

The clean-technology industry continues to boom economically – and we are fortunate to work with an organization leading the charge in the use of alternative energy, specifically Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). OTEC is a base-load renewable energy production process particularly suited for tropical zones. We have teamed with OTE Corporation to spread awareness about OTEC through “The On Project,” a central hub where individuals with a variety of passions (environmental, business growth, national security, humanitarian), can learn about the benefits of OTEC, including 24/7 renewable energy and clean, potable water.

To raise awareness, HB and OTE Corporation produced two videos which help to tell the OTEC story:

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