5 Ways the Corporate “Ladder” Is More Like Rock Climbing

Written by Katherine Eckenfels and Erin Mooney

We have all heard the phrase “climbing the corporate ladder.” Many believe career advancement looks like clear-cut rungs that lead straight upward. However, sometimes this path can be a wall full of different options and problems at varying levels – kind of like rock climbing.

      • You learn the art of maintaining balance.
        Picture this – you’re 20 feet off the ground, legs spread as far as they can, holding onto little knobby protrusions coming out of the wall. Sounds like life, right? Let me explain. In order to stay on a rock wall and progress upwards, you have to be balanced. Sometimes this means looking like a starfish, other times one leg is balancing out the opposite arm. Clinging to the wall drains your energy and makes it more difficult to make headway. Similarly, it is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Exercise, family and relaxation rejuvenate your mind and body and enable you to kick butt at all of those areas in life.
      • You embrace the challenge.
        Coming at the wall or your career with a positive attitude is essential. You need confidence that you are going to get to the top, crush that project, or get a promotion from the onset. Starting a climbing route you’ve never done or going into an interview can be daunting. Resolving to get to the top no matter what will wake up your desire to continue when it gets really difficult. Remind yourself how badass you are. Also – it’s totally normal to sweat.


      • You will fall.
        You’re climbing a route that you’ve been working on for weeks. No amount of chalk can make your hands stop sweating. You’re tired and losing your grip. Then, a poisonous thought enters your mind— “I can’t do it.” Just like that, you fall. Life is full of setbacks and failure. The symbol of a ladder, however, suggests that you start your career from the bottom and work your way up. Easy right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but this isn’t Utopia. At some point you will fall. Maybe you’ll lose a big pitch, or maybe you’ll accidentally hit the ‘reply all’ button. Whatever the misstep be, learn to embrace the climb and everything that comes with it. Because the real success comes from the moment you get back up.
      • You build trust.
        Climbing isn’t just about you and the wall, there is also the person at the other end of the rope to make sure you don’t die. (Unless you’re climbing solo, then you’re just plain crazy and let’s be honest you probably will die.) The best teams are those that trust each other and believe in their teammates abilities. In most career fields you have to work with other people, and sometimes those people are the ones that help prevent you from falling.
      • You learn to solve problems.
        In rock climbing each route is called a problem. There’s never one easy way to get to the top and it may take a while to figure out a solution. If you’re in the creative field you can probably relate. When you hit a wall, the best thing you can do is take a step back and get a different perspective. Where did you get stuck? What are all the potential next steps? Once you’ve assessed the situation, you will be well on your way to climbing the top!

Erin transferred from the EMA office in Syracuse to join the Boston team. Katherine and Erin quickly discovered they shared an interest in rock climbing. The two joined a climbing gym and learned to belay together. Now the climbing spirit is spreading through the Boston office.


The Tom Brady Suspension To-Do List

Dear Tom,Tom Brady

We know it’s been a rough week for you and the Patriots. As it stands, you’re looking at a pretty lengthy time-out when the season starts. And since you won’t even be allowed into the stadium to watch, you’re going to have a mountain of free time. What’s a multi-millionaire quarterback to do?

Well, here at HB we know a thing or two about being under pressure, so we pulled together ideas for you to pass the time and keep yourself pumped up during your suspension. And don’t get too deflated at the prospect of not playing for a few games – have a read of our thoughts and get a gauge on your interest.

Let’s start with the obvious: the PR lessons from Deflategate. Our Spring 2015 Intern (and native New Yorker) Ryan Yuffe had some thoughts about how the team could recover from the scandal. It might be time to revisit these – perhaps before the bosses decide to write another 20,000 word rebuttal.

Maybe you’re so disillusioned by the entire affair that you’re considering a career change. Chuck Tanowitz’s thoughts on your old resume might help when you’re refreshing that CV. Your brand has changed a little bit, Tom – you might want to focus a little more on the four Super Bowl rings rather than on the golf club experience.

If you’re thinking of kicking back and remembering the good times with a replay of this year’s Super Bowl, might we suggest including the commercial breaks? They’re usually just as enjoyable as the football (more so if you were a Seahawks fan at Super Bowl XLIX), and this year Julia Bucchianeri reckons we saw some pretty amazing shifts in Super Bowl marketing.

Spring is in the air, Tom and some fresh air could do you some good. Especially if you’re not playing for a while. Why not do some gardening, or volunteer work, or both? We tried our hand with the crew from City Sprouts, and it was a great chance to dig in and do some good. Plus, you might run into your buddies from the Patriots locker room – I heard they’re on gardening leave!

I jest, Tom. I imagine you’re sick of all the attention, and feel like getting out of the country for a while. We can help there, too. If you ask Catherine Ahearn, she’ll probably suggest London, where she spent a whirlwind few days earlier this year with our IPREX colleagues. But if Blighty doesn’t suit you, we can get recommendations from almost anywhere else, thanks to our huge network of IPREX partners in more than 30 countries.

If you just can’t keep your head out of the game, and want to mentor your replacement, we have something to help there, too. Why don’t you share my 6 tips for joining a new team with Jimmy Garoppolo to make sure he’s as ready as can be? (Pro tip: I think Gronk would make a GREAT Patriots Buddy.)

So there are a few ideas to consider during your time off. But Tom, if you’re really not into any of these ideas you can always intern with us this summer. We love it here, and that’s not a load of hot air – here’s a Buzzfeed post outlining just how cool it can be to work at HB.

Yours, with tongue firmly in cheek,

Alex Jafarzadeh

Newly converted fan of the New York Jets,
and stubbornly persistent football* fanatic.

*alright, soccer.

March Madness Ad Spend

For so many of us, March Madness is a yearly ritual: brackets, betting, beer and burgers. And now, the Final Four is just around the corner.

I was curious how much money was spent on advertising during March Madness, but I never would have anticipated what I uncovered. When I think of big-time sports advertising, the Superbowl is what immediately comes to mind. The game is punctuated by event-specific advertising that gets everyone pumped to see the new creative ads and messages. In 2015, Superbowl advertising spend was about $359 million.

capitolone-adBut to top that, television advertisers spend more than $1 billion on March Madness. And Americans spend almost as much gambling just on the Final Four than they to go to the movies in one year.

So it should be no surprise that March Madness is one of the biggest months for marketing opportunities spanning a range of industries: apparel, automotive, financial, food and higher education, to name a few. Because of this, the tournament provides one of the greatest social media marketing opportunities for companies. The NCAA Tournament has grossed a record 166 million total social impressions across Facebook and Twitter and 88% of people use their mobile devices to access March Madness information. The investment on return can be seen in the average game viewership: 9.9 million total viewers. The Kentucky/Notre Dame game peaked with 19.7 million viewers.

Much like Superbowl ads, there are those that are inspirational, sappy, nostalgic and funny. My favorite are the ones that feature past players. If you haven’t seen the CapitolOne ad series, it features Charles Barkley on a road trip with Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson. Hysterical!

So, as you watch Kentucky/Wisconsin and Michigan State/Duke this weekend, which ads stand out to you? Are they effective or do they miss the mark? Are they entertaining or informative? Share your favorite Final Four ad moments with us on Twitter @hb_agency. We’ll be sharing, too!

Brand Lessons from Tom Brady’s Resume

tom-brady-best-pictureOn Thursday, Tom Brady found and posted an old resume.

Yes, that Tom Brady. The one with 3 Superbowl Rings, a model for a wife, great looking kids and always in need of a real High 5.

But what’s most interesting about the resume is how distant it is from his current brand. The image we have of him today is as #12, the stalwart quarterback, the guy we all want to be. But back in 1999 he thought he would be just another college student looking for a job. So he put together the same thing we all do: a resume. I’m sure the college career office guided him through this, teaching him how to dutifully outline his “experience” in the traditional resume format. I’m sure this was sent to a few recruiters who probably never equated the Merrill Lynch intern “Thomas E. Brady, Jr.” with the quarterback who came into a Pats/ Jets game after Drew Bledsoe went down, only to lead his team to a Championship.

Resume for Thomas E. Brady, Jr.

Resume for Thomas E. Brady, Jr.

That’s because these aren’t the same people. Look at the bottom of the resume and you’ll see those “Additional” activities we all have on our resume. Only in this case, the “additional” IS the story. That’s his brand and how he’s known. But we’re taught to drop that down to the bottom.

From a brand perspective I’ve seen companies that try to fit the mold. They don’t want to be too brash or too far afield from their competitors. They want to be safe so they’re taken seriously. It’s certainly a tactic. But to become a brand we need to embrace our true identities. We need to stop thinking about our essence as “additional” and embrace it as our “experience.”

Who would you rather be, Thomas. E. Brady Jr. or Tom Brady?

The 5 Best Integrated Campaigns from the Super Bowl

What makes a campaign great? Something funny or memorable may get shares and likes on Facebook, but does it change the mind of the viewer? How can companies show that their products are relevant to today’s consumers? Here are the five best answers to this question. Heartfelt, positive and sometimes humorous, these SuperBowl ads go down in my book as part of 2014’s best integrated campaigns.

“Dad’s Sixth Sense” by INNOCEAN USA for Hyundai

Let’s start with Hyandai. In a mere 30 seconds, they combine humor, sentiment, and data to depict the innovative Auto Emergency Braking technology in the 2015 Genesis. The clever balance of sentiment and humor gives the audience something to reflect on and something to smile about. It features fathers using their “sixth sense” to save their sons from harm. The distracted teenage driver does not need his father to come to the rescue, the auto emergency brakes prevent them from colliding with another car unexpectedly pulling out in front. Maybe dad is the hero after all; he made the smart choice to buy Hyuandai’s Genesis.

“Life” by Leo Burnett Detroit for Chevy, Promoting World Cancer Day

Chevy also takes the heartfelt route to convey a meaningful and timely message in its “Life” ad for World Cancer Day, which happens today. This commercial not only pays tribute to cancer survivors, it also calls viewers to join the fight. Chevrolet’s Facebook page encourages viewers to “Purple Your Profile” in support of the cause.

“Empowering” by Wunderman for Microsoft

Microsoft’s “Empowering” ad is an inspiring display of technology impacting and improving lives. The ad feels genuine and displays footage of non-actors who use technology to do things that they otherwise could not.

One of the most touching clips is of a woman hearing for the first time without a hearing aid. See more here:

“Up for Whatever” by Energy BBDO for Bud Light

Bud Light’s Twitter is blowing up, making #UpForWhatever a huge hit. Many of the Super Bowl ads feature a star-studded cast, but this one is playful and surprising. I found myself on the edge of my seat, wondering which celebrity would pop onto the screen next, and with which type of farm animal. JK. Although I do not think it is probable that drinking Bud Light will lead me to playing table tennis against famous celebrities/politicians, I appreciate the sentiment. I’m a fan of anything that inspires spontaneity and breaking from the normal routine. In another spark of ingenuity, Bud Light teamed up with Uber, a strategic pair to promote drinking responsibly.

“David Beckham Bodywear” by Nicolas Winding Refn for H&M

And then there is David Beckham sporting underwear for his H&M Bodywear line. Let’s be honest: who doesn’t want to see David Beckham run around in just boxer briefs and a shirt? Check out those thighs! Oh, wait – it gets better, now the shirt is coming off. Hell-o! Oh, it’s not just for our amusement, the shirt has a new purpose: zip lining. Does he do his own stunts? While the eye-candy is an important factor in this campaign, the supporting elements are really what make it brilliant. Not only did H&M release the commercial spot early and have David Beckham meet fans in Times Square on February 1st, this spot is the first ever t-commerce ad. H&M partnered with Delivery Agent to make purchasing products during the ad possible on select Samsung Smart TVs. Read more on Bloomberg and Evigo.

What makes these campaigns so successful is their connection with the audience and the encouragement they give to viewers to engage. All ads are created to sell. What makes these ads unique is that they also elicit reflection or inspire action. These cars are not just cars, they are part of your life and can even save your life. Bud Light encourages you embrace spontaneity and tweet about your adventures. David Beckham motivates you to be part of the first t-commerce experience, and maybe to get back into jogging.

Designing Fox’s Super Bowl Broadcast: Go Big!

Fox used big type in their big game broadcast

The network broadcasting the Super Bowl has the unenviable task of delivering a flawless game presentation. Last night, Fox needed to deliver a broadcast for both football junkies and those simply there for the commercials. How did they stack up?

Team introductions

Featuring Snake Plissken? What a bizarre way to welcome the world into the Super Bowl… with Kurt Russell waxing strangely about the Seahawks and Broncos before they were introduced. Russell’s involvement seemed out of place and the production was overdramatic. Welcome to the big game!

Go bigger

Most of the night’s broadcast felt like a normal Fox football broadcast: the current score graphics, typefaces, and overall feeling matched that of their football brand. However, the Super Bowl-specific graphics stuck out and didn’t belong.

  • The coin toss: An unnecessarily HUGE graphic as the broadcast went to commercial before the ceremonial flip. Yes, Fox used the latest technologies to make it appear like the words were “sitting” on the field… but the size was out of control.
  • Peyton Manning vs. The Legion of Boom: As the Broncos took the field, Fox displayed another giant graphic that “sat” on the field. This one compared Manning’s stats with those of the Seahawks’ defense. Let’s dial down the volume! Important to note: this type of graphic used the vertical space of the television rather than the horizontal space.
  • Opening drive graphics: Once Seattle gained control of the ball, Fox displayed an extremely wide and chunky graphic of their rushing statistics. Later, they showed a similarly-structured one about Denver’s defense. The type appeared too large and the graphic took up too much screen real estate. These extreme horizontal graphics clashed with the vertical ones already used.
  • Inconsistency before and after commercials: First, Fox showed the current score in the bottom left corner of the screen in a vertical fashion. Each team received very few horizontal pixels to display their logo and score. This was the not the way Fox typically shows the score when going to commercials during the regular season and playoffs. Coming back from commercials, they displayed a clunky New York City graphic in the bottom left corner featuring an illustrated bridge and Statue of Liberty. Both of these graphics sets lacked coherence.


Overall, the game felt like a typical Fox broadcast. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman called the action well and the overall graphics package felt ‘Fox-y.’ However, greater graphic consistency – through appearance and size – would have given the broadcast a more cohesive visual experience.

Unfortunately, no visual experience could distract viewers from the slaughter on the field.

There is No Pitch in PR

5959544809_518c9047b5_nIt’s playoff season, and the Red Sox are headed to the World Series to play the Cardinals. Baseball is a pitcher’s game, and as any batter can tell you, pitching is not a win-win scenario. The pitcher is up on that mound with one goal in mind: to strike the batter out.

PR professionals are all about the pitch. Our goal — to mix metaphors (or at least to mix professions) — is to be pitch perfect.

Maybe this is the wrong way to think about things.

Jim Ayraud, CEO and founder of Next Level, Inc., teaches sales, and I had the pleasure last week of attending one of his two-day intensive sales training programs based on the Sandler System.

While he was focused on training us on business development techniques, I couldn’t help but apply what I was learning to media relations as well.

Jim taught us that pitch is a bad word in sales, because it implies that a win for the salesperson is a loss for the buyer, and that’s neither correct nor healthy for us. “There is no pitch in sales,” he says. Jim suggests that sales is more about catching the ball than pitching it. Only the ball is pain.

Maybe PR is too.

Jim taught us ways to catch our prospects’ pain. I think this applies nicely to media relations. What pain are your reporters and editors facing? Get to know those pain points. And you accomplish that through rapport. You can’t build a relationship with a reporter or editor in 2-3 minutes. But you can build rapport. You do this by setting a clear, upfront contract with the contact right off the bat, and then through active listening.

When we focus on the pitch, we’re forgetting the pain. Maybe our pitch can help solve that pain, but maybe not. How will we know, if we don’t ask?

PR people talk too much, and don’t listen enough. You know it’s true. I like to talk. So do you. It’s probably why we’re both in PR. But the best PR people listen more than they talk. They ask about their reporters’ needs, and then find ways to help even more than the latest press release from their client can.

The Red Sox’ pitching has been inconsistent in the post-season. But throughout the World Series, and into 2014, I’m going to remind myself what the guy on the mound is trying to accomplish, and how it’s different from what I do. I hope you do too.

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Social Media Lessons from the Losers

sanchez-fumbleWith baseball’s opening day upon us, I thought it time to take a look at how my favorite sports teams handle social media.

Due to several flukes of childhood, I’m a fan of New York’s major losing franchises: the Jets and the Mets. I know the Red Sox fans like to think of themselves as long-suffering, but you people have nothing on the hapless franchise that is the New York Jets.

How bad are my teams? Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal devoted a front-page story to the Mets’ long-time head of PR Jay Horowitz calling him the King of the Butt Dial. In the first paragraph Brian Costa managed to insult both of my teams at once:

During their disappointing 2012 season, the Jets became known for the butt fumble, caused by quarterback Mark Sanchez‘s unfortunate collision with teammate Brandon Moore’s rear end. Across town, the Mets are countering with a derrière distinction of their own: the butt dialer.

Sure, the teams have their on-the-field problems, and as Todd rightly points out, no amount of “PR” can fix their core “business problems.” Nevertheless, the Jets can certainly do better with the social media efforts. In fact, the Jets could take a lesson from the Mets.

OK, so Jay isn’t the greatest with technology. Costa notes how a few of Jay’s Tweets are rather… um… odd:

…just before the start of spring training, he tweeted a photo of himself shirtless in a swimming pool, buoyed by a tube and a pair of floaties, with goggles over his eyes and a snorkel lodged in his mouth. Other tweets have included such updates as “Hy” and “Congrats to $.” On March 2, he simply tweeted the letter O.

But frankly, Jay’s Twitter feed is awesome. He brings you behind the scenes of the Mets world with quick snippits and pictures that you’re not going to find in the mainstream media. Like, now I know that Al Leiter drinks a TON of Starbucks Coffee.

The Jets, meanwhile, put out a Tweet on the week before free agency began saying “Free agency begins tomorrow. The Jets priority should be _________.” (sic)

No, seriously, they said that. Never mind the grammatical issues, but it gave everyone–fans and non-fans alike–the chance to just beat on the Jets. Buzzfeed went so far as to collect the 25 best responses. One of my favorites? Caitlin Kelly of the New Yorker answered “A new social media coordinator.”

Now, if the Jets had done this in a self-deprecating manner, sure, it could work. This isn’t the first time the social media team has pulled this kind of move. Toward the end of the season, after the “butt fumble” and while the team was going down in flames, the Jets Facebook page continued to be populated with standard-issue rah-rah team images asking fans to “caption this!”

Um… yeah guys… not what you want to do at that moment.

One of the greatest examples of a site that “gets it” is The 7 Line, a site by fans and for fans of the Mets. They get the love/ hate aspect of rooting for a losing team. I love the Born to Believe shirts. They also had a baby shirt a few years ago saying “I was born into this mess.”

So, how can the Jets improve things a bit? Well, besides getting rid of their social media coordinator, maybe they can take a different attitude.

  • Show us life behind the scenes — How about using Instagram or just a cell phone camera to introduce us to the support staff? What about the coaches most of us never see? I’d also like to know about the players. Well, maybe not as much of Brett Favre, but what is everyone else doing? 
  • Bring us to the game — TV is great at showing the field, but the game is more about the people around me. It’s about the tailgating parties, it’s about the parking lot. Whenever I walked up to Giants Stadium there was a line of buses and vans that people use almost exclusively for games. Show me some of that.
  • Acknowledge the failings — Nothing is perfect, certainly not the Jets. Acknowledge that, and not just in official quotes from the the press conference. Show us that you’re upset too. That no, the team isn’t performing the way it should, that you’re frustrated by interceptions, commiserate with me! Be a FAN!

The fact is this: you’re not going to sell more tickets through social media, the best you can do is keep fans engaged while the business puts a sub-par product on the field. You’re not going to sell more items with the product logo, you’re not going to sell out more games, you’re not going to improve the TV ratings.

But maybe, just maybe, you can sell a few self-deprecating t-shirts. Or a bobble head similar to the one CBS Sports proposed that the Mets make for Bobby Bonilla.


Going Green… On the Green

I thoroughly enjoy sports, especially golf (above: my recent trip to Torrey Pines in San Diego with my family). I also enjoy “doing the right thing,” especially when it comes to the environment.

Several sports franchises feel the same way and developed the Green Sports Alliance – a collective group working to reduce the environmental impact of their teams and venues. Their most recent news surrounds FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., home to the NFL’s Redskins. The organization plans to install solar panels in its parking lots which will power the field on non-game days and dramatically decrease the energy needed for home games. Even more impressive, the recently-founded Alliance has quickly quadrupled in size thanks to the addition of our hometown Red Sox and other franchises.

As a Sox fan, I proudly root for the players on the field… and soon I will proudly root for a team that is “doing the right thing.”

An additional thought: I know that golf in particular can be hard on the environment. Read my previous post about how Justin Timberlake sets a new standard for eco-friendly golf, and if you’re a golfer, join me in asking for environmentally conscious practices at your local golf course.

An Interview With Garrett(s)

Fenway Photo

Hello world! I’m Garrett, the new intern at HB. I happen to hail from Illinois; I’m a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign. In order to introduce myself to the HB blog readers I have conducted an interview with myself (below). Under normal circumstances, interviewees are interviewed by an interviewer that is not the same person as the interviewee. However, since the other HB employees are hard at work (as they always are), I have assembled a list of questions to interview myself with. Read on to see the interview, in its entirety.

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