Stephanie Ross

About Stephanie Ross

Stephanie helps clients achieve their strategic goals. Whether it be content, social or media relations – she is always writing, tweeting or schmoozing. As a native Texan, Stephanie is still getting used to New England winters. However, you can always find her in the city exploring the confusing streets, eating (and drinking) at different restaurants, watching football (yes, she is a Patriots fan!), or on her couch with her beloved cat. She graduated with a B.A. in Strategic Communications and a minor in Political Science from the University of North Texas.

Learn more about Stephanie

Technology & Disruption: 5 Rules of Engagement


Today, innovations in technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence are poised to disrupt a number industries – content marketing included. As unprecedented as it sounds, we’ve seen this many times before.

In 1985, Adobe launched Pagemaker (now known as InDesign), THE app that led to the disruption of advertising, marketing and publishing. Pundits forecasted the death of the designer and writer, as entrepreneurs and marketers began preparing their own ads, brochures and newsletters.

In fact, many of today’s creative directors, content strategists and senior designers all got their start in desktop publishing.

Here’s the thing: the smart agencies adapted.

They mastered the tools and produced designs, content, video and interactive properties that the untrained could never match. Instead of killing professions, this is one of many examples of new technologies fueling the marketing industry with the power to create what had never been imagined.

Now, most of our day-to-day tasks can be automated. Need a mobile site? Google can create it at the push of a button. Need a new display advertising campaign? Push a button in your AdWords account and eight new ads appear – right-sized, well-designed, and likely well-messaged.

What’s left for the humans to do? First, take your head out of the sand. Ignoring reality never helped anyone keep a job. Second, follow these rules when it comes to marketing automation:

While most of us might not think that marketing technology should rule our world, we can benefit from a few rules of engagement. Here are our top five:

  1. Stop resisting: Regularly explore what’s new and how it might contribute to your business and, more importantly, your clients’ marketing goals.
  2. Understand the technology: If a client mentions a popular marketing technology (Marketo, WordStream, HubSpot, Silverpop, etc.) you should know it and be able to speak to its relevance and effectiveness for that client. Otherwise, you’re not doing your job.
  3. Use the technology: Manage a campaign for yourself using new technology. If you specialize in direct marketing, use HubSpot and Marketo, if only to understand how they work. If you help your clients advertise, then you’d better offer a keen understanding of Google AdWords and the technologies that have sprung up around AdWords.
  4. Figure out how your role is changing: For example, AdWords and search have made a huge impact on media planning and advertising. But managing an AdWords campaign, getting the right clicks and keeping your quality score high (among many considerations) isn’t easy. Master this and doors will open.
  5. Understand what the technology is NOT doing: Technology is mostly fact-fed. It lacks the emotional intelligence and empathy humans have and consumers want in the content they consume. 

The human role will never disappear. Mastering new technology will ensure that agencies stay relevant with clients and comfortable with our new marketing partner: the machine.

You’ve Cat to be Kitten Me: A Quick Lesson on Cats in the Media

I recently switched desks, moving to another section of the office.

As I broke a sweat hauling a bookshelf, client folders, pictures and knick-knacks to my new space, I realized how much of my stuff is cat-related.

Cards.
Cat butt magnets.
My day-by-day tear-off calendar.
A sticky note dispenser.

(Mind you, these things were given to me. Okay, except the cat butt magnets.) But it isn’t just the tangible “stuff” that’s cat related, it’s also my social media feeds, news sites, emails, TV news segments, GIFs and more.

We all know that dogs are America’s favorite pet. But, IMHO, cats are the ones that are dominating digital media… search algorithms and Google crawlers aside. Nearly two million cat videos were posted to YouTube in 2014 alone, resulting in almost 26 billion views. That year, cat videos received more views per video than any other content category.

For example, since being posted in 2007, Keyboard Cat has received more than 48 million views (and counting) on YouTube. These countless hours of watching cat videos have led to some interesting research.

In a survey of nearly 7,000 people, the Indiana University Media School measured the relationship between watching cat videos and mood. Overall, participants reported fewer negative emotions such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness after watching cat-related online media than before. They also felt more energetic, and the pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed the guilt they felt about procrastinating (#preach).

These views, videos and memes eventually led to the world’ first CatCon, held in Los Angeles in June 2015. Modeled after ComicCon, the “cat convention” attracted 12,000 people that year. This year, the crowd topped 30,000, plus 162 cats.

In the media, cat-related stories tend to go viral. Per BuzzFeed’s “Beastmaster,” the average feline story gets almost four times the viral views as canine. That’s not even going into the social media behind it.

Hashtagify reports #cat having a popularity score of 76.2 (never fear, #dog is right up there at 75) on Twitter. However, it looks like cats aren’t spending as much time on Instagram. On the platform, #cat has a mere 124 million posts, compared to #dog’s 147 million.

hashtags data by hashtagify.me

So, what’s a marketer to do with all of this information?

  1. Cat content works – well, really anything furry and cute works. Users can’t resist liking and sharing animals on the internet. Even in terms of B2B social media, don’t be afraid to break through the clutter with furry content. A cat GIF is sure to spark more engagement and produce more smiles.

  1. Cats are your competition – there are thousands of memes, GIFs and videos out there competing for attention. Use this as a way to challenge yourself to think outside the box when it comes to your strategy. At EMA Boston, we do our best to surprise people. This GIF was sent agency-wide to express this idea… it’s the perfect example.
    1. Animals trigger the emotional appeal of your brand and there is a direct connection between sales volume and the emotional connection your consumers have toward a brand. Build a friendship with your audience by using good humor or a soft story – remember this Super Bowl commercial?

     

     

    1. Millennials love cats (or cat content). If your brand is looking for a way to reach millennials, a good cat-themed campaign may do the trick. According to a survey by Mintel, 51 percent of Americans in their 20s and 30s have cats. Just sayin’.

     

    1. Marketing can be fun, people. Do we need another super-serious graphic filled with stats about the user journey or decline in white paper consumption? If you enjoy your own company’s marketing, guess what? Others probably will too.

     

    1. As the winter grows darker and colder, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder – Google it) begins to kick in, start watching cat videos. It’s cheap therapy. In the meantime, enjoy this cute picture of my feline friend.

     

How to Survive a Tradeshow on a Broken Foot

The sun was shining. There was a crisp bite in the air that signaled winter was soon approaching. I rounded the corner on Heath Street (riding my beautiful mint green 2016 Genuine Buddy Scooter), on a mission to get to a couple of media meetings, when suddenly… I flipped.

After a brief five seconds on the ground, facing oncoming traffic, the adrenaline kicked in. As people started to crowd around me and help move my scooter away from the Green Line train tracks, I jumped up.

Do we need to call the ambulance?!” one guy shouted at me.

No! Please don’t. I’m fine.” I said.

Luckily, my scooter was unscathed. I hopped back on and very carefully (at 5 mph) got myself to the media meetings and gave the reporters walking tours of two large hotels.

After a weekend of limping around, two x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I fractured four bones on the top of my foot and was sentenced to six weeks in an air cast.

Six. Weeks.

Stephanie Ross sits on her scooter at RSNAWhile the boot put a damper in my wardrobe, it also put a damper in my schedule. I had a tradeshow in Chicago in two weeks, and not just any tradeshow – the largest radiology meeting in the world, drawing 58,000 attendees annually. I was worried I was going to miss it. It was an opportunity to meet face-to-face with my Sweden-based client and a first experience for me with tradeshow media interviews.

I had to go. And where there’s a will… there’s a way.

My colleagues, client and family were reluctant to see me go. Trade shows are on-your-feet, exhibit hall-giant, evening event experiences. Still, I made my way to Chicago and spent three days with my crutches and my client. Was it tiring? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely.

Here are 5 tips for how to survive a tradeshow with a broken foot:

 1.     Triple check with your airline about special assistance.

Call your airline ahead of time requesting wheelchair service on both legs of your trip. Make sure they will have a wheelchair waiting for you at the gate when you arrive. Then, call again to make sure everything is set – wheelchairs, pre-boarding and arrival. Sometimes, they forget to enter it or there is some sort of miscommunication that forces you to not get pre-boarding and hobble alongside the inpatient passengers (I’m looking at you, American Airlines). Pro tip: remember to carry cash to tip the employees who wheel you around – it’s not an easy task.

2.     Rent a scooter or wheelchair

Ahead of your tradeshow or conference, check the website for accessibility services. Most of the time, these large venues allow you to rent a scooter so you can zoom around. The rental was $50/day and it was extremely worth it. I was able to scoot around the tradeshow floor to meet with different reporters and exhibitors (and I was never late, since the scooter was wicked fast).

3.     Wear a comfortable shoe

That’s right. Shoe – singular. You depend so much on your healthy leg when you have a broken foot, it’s important you wear a shoe that’s comfortable. Learn from my mistake: that cute black, Italian leather heel that you thought would even out your lopsided stance doesn’t.

4.     Identify spots for you to sit during slow booth time

Similar to locating the nearest emergency exit when boarding a plane, you should locate the nearest chair, bench, table or clean floor for you to sit. Tending to a booth at a trade show is tiresome – you’re on your feet for hours at a time. If the healthiest feet need rest, you better believe your broken foot will need some too.

5.     Use the boot to network

As I stood at my client’s booth, my foot and I were met with sympathetic glances that soon turned into friendly introductions. I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer the question: “how did it happen?” However, one of the positive outcomes was how many booth visitors we engaged with because of the ugly, gray boot.

Can you wear the boot again next year?” my client asked.

“Sure,” I said, “Maybe.”

(Disclaimer: I’ve been boot-free for 46 days and counting. The boot, however, was unable to introduce me to or attract potential boyfriends. Bummer.)

Burdens of Growth

Written by our Summer 2016 intern, Cara Kingsley.

Boston SkylineRed brake lights illuminate highways, and cars come to a halt in the middle of morning commutes. Rush-hour becomes unbearable with large sums of people packed into public transportation. If commuting feels long now, just wait 15 years…

Cities globally are experiencing the painful impact of population increase. Our growing population has far-reaching implications for cities trying to maintain sustainable living. According to a report from the business group A Better City, in the Boston area alone “another 80,000 cars and trucks will crowd the roads every work day by 2030, a nearly 5 percent increase from 2010 levels.”

Not only will the increase in commuters increase travel time, but it will also cause rapid decay for a city’s roads, transit, air quality and quality of living.

“There are many areas that will need some substantive attention if our infrastructure is going to keep pace with our economy,” said Richard Dimino, CEO of A Better City.

The growing population will need improved:

  • Utilities
  • Waste Management
  • Sustainability (especially regarding air pollution)
  • Housing
  • Transportation

Who’s going to fix these problems?

Thankfully there are companies that are working hard to resolve these issues and promote sustainability. But getting news of these solutions, technologies and research to intended audiences is difficult. While it’s easy to rail at the challenges urban centers face, there seems to be less acceptance of solutions, especially information from start-ups and smaller companies seeking momentum and adoption. So how do these companies reach their audiences?

B2B marketing is complex. The suggestions below can help communicate solutions the burdens a growing population create for urban infrastructure, and can help the companies providing the solution reach influential audiences.

  • Public Affairs: Public affairs as a platform to achieve strategic goals is a must for organizations activating change. Raising challenges and presenting solutions to the general public may drive goodwill and awareness, but does it motivate influencers who can make a difference at a corporate or governmental level? A public affairs initiative can elevate a corporate story from news to cause-related, or uncover opportunities to speak to government leaders influential in specific industries. Pro Tip: “Keep this fact top-of-mind: Behind any public policy challenge, are real people. When policymakers are your target audience, it’s all about the ‘show’ and less about the ‘tell.’ Provide tangible demonstrations of the strong support for a given policy solution and your issue will gain traction within the halls of power. A robust, nimble public engagement program can accomplish this by educating and, more importantly, activating constituencies relevant to policymakers.” – Saleem Cheeks, Counselor, Public Affairs
  • Digital: How well does your website perform when searching for keys words related to your product or service? How accessible is your site across devices? Taking a critical look at your website and SEO efforts, and improving both where warranted, can increase your awareness as potential clients search businesses in your industry. The more convenient and efficient it is to find your business, the more brand recognition and credibility you will receive. For example, there are many companies that help builders and architects comply with the myriad codes and regulations for the sustainable housing market. A strong digital presence helps a business rise to the top of what can be a cluttered environment. Pro Tip: “In this world where the number of devices are multiplying like rabbits, everything needs to be fully responsive. Today, more than half of internet traffic is from a mobile device. If your site isn’t conducive to this environment, then you’re going to lose a huge number of visitors.” –Erin Mooney, front end developer, digital
  • Advertising: Brand your solution with clarity, and in a way that drives affection relevance and trust. A strong brand voice and image drives brand loyalty, and helps prospective customers understand the offerings and values of a company. Sustainability is a popular subject and there is a lot of competition among companies that provide solutions. Pro Tip: “Big ideas rule the landscape. Public art captures attention. Create your own “advertising” channels by owning content when you create, promote, insert and measure… then repeat.” – Kevin Hart, Partner, Creative Director 
  • Public Relations: Driving brand awareness is best done through strategic public relations. Create two-way conversations between you and your public. Ensure your communication is dynamic. Use social media, blogs and other content to stimulate an audience’s interest in your business. PR helps inform consumers and businesses through digital media, media, special events, experiential marketing, content marketing, community relations and more. Pro Tip: Forming the right story – one with resonance and repeatability – and surrounding target audiences with it helps raise awareness and condition the market for solutions to sustainability challenges. -Mark O’Toole, managing director, PR

News and information can travel fast in today’s world. As urban density increases and human travel slows down even more, how will your story rise above the congestion?

HB/EMA Boston Welcomes Three Agencies to Global PR Network

NEWTON, Mass. – March 8, 2016: HB/Eric Mower + Associates, an integrated marketing firm and member of IPREX, the worldwide network of public relations and communications agencies, expands its network by welcoming three new partners: Iris Public Relations in the Middle East, SPM Communications in Texas and Walt & Company in Silicon Valley.

IPREX is a global communications network of more than 70 agencies around the world, recognized as one of the leading networks of independent communication agencies in the world.

Founded in 2009, Iris PR focuses on strategy, innovation and accountable delivery. Combined with its expertise in digital media and corporate social responsibility, this approach has earned the firm clients from a range of B2B and B2C industries including business services, aviation, consumer electronics and retail.

Founded in 1999, Dallas-based SPM Communications, which also has an office in Austin, is top-ranked in Texas in the food/beverage specialty by O’Dwyer’s and in the top 20 nationally. The agency promotes and protects iconic food, restaurant, retail and franchise brands through public and media relations, social media strategy and crisis management. The SPM team is a cross-trained group of former newspaper reporters and TV journalists, social media strategists, nutritionists and corporate communications experts.

Founded by ex-Ketchum Silicon Valley chief Robert Walt in 1991, Walt & Company has created a highly successful operation model based on building marketplace value for its clients. From traditional media relations to high-profile events to cutting-edge digital, Walt & Company’s brand, product and technology programs advance business objectives, sustain market visibility and deliver results for clients including Epson America, D-Link and Ensono.

As the IPREX network expands, HB/EMA Boston continues to strengthen its existing team of professionals by collaborating with partners to deliver deep knowledge, best practices and market insight into global markets for clients.

For more information about IPREX, please visit www.iprex.com.

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About IPREX

IPREX is a $250 million network of communication agencies, with 1,800 staff and 115 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines.

About HB/Eric Mower + Associates

Eric Mower + Associates is a digitally-integrated independent marketing and public relations agency. With more than 250 professionals in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, N.Y.; New York City; Boston; Cincinnati; Charlotte, N.C.; and Atlanta, EMA delivers strategic insights, digital solutions, smart creative, and award-winning results to clients. Part of two global agency networks—thenetworkone and IPREX—as well as the 4A’s, EMA has estimated 2015 capitalized billings approaching $250.

HB/EMA Boston
Mark O’Toole
motoole@mower.com
781-893-0053

HB/EMA Now Part of Public Relations Trade Group ICCO

NEWTON, Mass. – Feb. 15, 2016: HB/EMA, a Boston-based integrated marketing firm, is now part of ICCO, the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, as part of its membership in IPREX, the global communication network.

IPREX has 70 partners operating 115 offices in major markets worldwide, with combined annual revenue of $250m. With 1,800 staff they work across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines.

“PR is often global today, from the most local clients we represent to the most global. IPREX gives us tremendous access to partners around the world, and we expect our new relationship with ICCO to present even more global opportunities,” said Mark O’Toole, managing director, public relations, HB/EMA Boston.

“IPREX is one of the few large-scale networks that have succeeded over time, maintaining our edge by evolving into an information-rich and fast-moving operation that combines global strategy and on-the-ground implementation. As a closely-knit peer group, focused on best practices, we’re looking forward to learning from ICCO,” said IPREX Global President Michael Schröder (ORCA Affairs, Berlin).

ICCO is the voice of public relations consultancies around the world. The ICCO membership comprises national trade associations in 32 countries across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia. Collectively, these associations represent more than 2,500 PR firms.

ICCO Chief Executive, Francis Ingham said: “We are delighted to welcome IPREX to the ICCO family. ICCO continues to grow in size, relevance and vibrancy, and we have great plans for the future. The international PR community needs a unified, truly global voice and our members play a key role in making this happen. That is ICCO’s mission – a mission on which we are delivering.”

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About IPREX

IPREX is a $250 million network of communication agencies, with 1,800 staff and 115 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines.

About HB/Eric Mower + Associates

Eric Mower + Associates is a digitally-integrated independent marketing and public relations agency. With more than 250 professionals in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, N.Y.; New York City; Boston; Cincinnati; Charlotte, N.C.; and Atlanta, EMA delivers strategic insights, digital solutions, smart creative, and award-winning results to clients. Part of two global agency networks—thenetworkone and IPREX—as well as the 4A’s, EMA has estimated 2015 capitalized billings approaching $250.

HB/EMA Boston
Mark O’Toole
motoole@mower.com
781-893-0053