A Year Without Connecting

connecting

I like being known as a connector.

While it’s a term open to various definitions, I see it as that person who develops relationships that bring value to others in one’s network. And yes, sometimes it brings value to the connector directly – maybe it’s a piece of new business or a favor repaid. But that is incidental; those who connect solely for personal gain are merely takers, not givers.

For me, connecting is about being present, being available, being unselfish. It’s hard to maintain all those qualities, and I’ve known many for whom those are unattainable attributes.

The benefits have been wonderful.  I’ve connected clients with similar interests or opportunities to complement each other somehow. I’ve connected friends with groups where I feel they can offer value. I’ve connected colleagues to new opportunities. For a few years, I was even a Connector, a title bestowed upon a group of 200 or so Boston-area professionals as part of Boston World Partnerships, a networking group with a mission to “inform and connect.”

I love connecting.

But for the past year, I stopped connecting. No networking events. No searching LinkedIn to help find matched interests. No speaking or presenting. No creation of content to share with my network. Nothing.

I even played the least amount of basketball in the last 35 years. (Yes, I’ve made a lot of connections on the court.)

It wasn’t intentional, at least not at first. Connecting does not have an off/on switch. It comes naturally, or it doesn’t. It’s in your blood, part of your mojo.

Last year started with a heavy workload at the office, a lot happening at home, and a commitment to my position as chair of The Freedom Trail Foundation. Something had to give.

So first, I (mostly) cut out networking events. I was heads down, moving fast, getting stuff done at work, at home, for the Trail. It felt good to have free time, to know the end of the work day was not the start of the (net)working night. No early morning Chamber events. No late night mentoring activities. A relaxing summer, enjoying nights on my patio or weekends down the Cape.

And then, I started to feel the gap. Fall approached, and with it the usual parade of events and opportunities and activity that fill up one’s calendar. And still I stayed out, though it was getting harder.

And now, a new year. One in which I plan to connect again. Maybe not with the fervor with which I had participated, but finding opportunities high in value and that re-immerse me.

What did I learn, a year away from connecting? Well, that requires a list of course.

Seven Reasons to Keep Connecting

  • Free time is for later – Connectors fill their schedules; it’s their nature. When away from connecting, find an activity to fill your time. I did a few things: I caught up on some television series I had missed (Blacklist, House of Cards, Jessica Jones); I wrote a book of children’s poetry and actually plan to publish it; I coached 7th grade basketball. So I was busy but in different ways. But that sense of professional satisfaction that comes from connecting was still missing.
  • Nurture your network – Without feeding it, a network can wither. Just this week I got a nice LinkedIn endorsement from an old client and friend. It struck me that we’ve had lunch or breakfast three or four times a year for a decade, yet nothing in the past year. I miss that. Sometimes we just talked about kids, other times we helped each other with professional challenges. So stay ready, friend; I’ll be calling soon.
  • Become helpful to your fellow connectors – You hear things when you are plugged in. Maybe it’s a business opportunity for a client or a committee seat for a colleague. But you miss these opportunities when you are absent. Sometimes just being there is critical.
  • Experience the power of social interaction – When you connect with the right group of people, it’s fun. Socializing with a peer group is comforting and rewarding. Why do you think Norm kept going back to Cheers? Or I keep ending up having drinks with Chad O’Connor?
  • It helps to be known – Connecting is one of the greatest ways to raise the visibility of your organization. Being present at events important to you, your network and your business, generates awareness. And it spurs content creation, like this piece about spring break that I wrote after presenting at the first Master Slam.
  • Social media does not cut it – While I’ve by no means abandoned my network, I’ve kept up with it via social media for the most part – I’m pretty sure I’ve read every @HeyRatty tweet. We share Tweets, or post photos on Instagram and we know who our network is and what they are up to, but it does not match the benefit of having a physical presence. Social is fleeting; attending is meaningful.
  • Connecting is global – My agency’s participation in the IPREX network and my role as marketing chair keeps me focused on ways to help partners connect and engage online and off. I can only help make connections within the network better if I am in full connector mode myself.

So I’ll be there, at networking events, mentoring events, reconnecting with old clients, old friends, and will hopefully do it so it has value for my firm and my fellow connectors. See you out there.

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

Exploring Business Opportunities in Cuba

We’ve launched a new thought leadership series with our IPREX partners called Global Perspectives. Each month we will look at a global issue and share our perspective on the business implications and communications challenges involved with the selected topic.

Our first Global Perspectives tackles the changes in Cuba.

Read below for thoughts on doing business into Cuba from IPREX partners around the world.

IPREXGlobalPerspective_Cuba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEIJING  “Closer economic ties between Cuba and the U.S. are to be welcomed, especially as global trading patterns are evolving and becoming much more multilateral. Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years, surpassing US $258 billion in 2014.

“China is the second-largest trading partner of many countries including Argentina and Cuba, and a primary source of credit. That is a massive change from 1990s, when China ranked just 17th on the list of Latin American export destinations.”  Maggie Chan, Director, Greater China, Newell PR

 

BERLIN – “Cuba is a country in transition – that is the impression of two ORCA executives who travelled the country in October and December 2015. A number of small but profound changes are transforming everyday life on the Caribbean island. Small business is gaining ground, Cubans are becoming private employers, and tourism is booming; new resorts are popping up on wonderful beaches. The run on the Cuban market has already begun.

“The German Vice Chancellor recently visited the island, accompanied by a business delegation 60-strong, with the aim to boost economic cooperation. He emphasized that “German firms can offer Cuba very good solutions, particularly in the fields of energy, health, machinery and plant engineering.” As specialists in public diplomacy, we can assist with these development opportunities.  Michael T. Schröder, Managing Director, ORCA Affairs

Cuba1

 

DALLAS  “While U.S. restrictions have eased for certain industries, it is only the first step on a much longer road to normalized U.S.-Cuba relations. There are still strict regulations regarding how U.S. businesses must operate in Cuba.

“It is important that businesses beginning to serve the Cuban marketplace choose a partner that understands the complexities of a market that has been off-limits to Americans for 50 years.” Jody Venturoni, Partner, LDWWgroup

 

FORT LAUDERDALE  “How to do business with Cuba is a major topic of interest in South Florida, where conversations are happening between Cuban and American entrepreneurs.  While the Castro dictatorship understandably remains a source of outrage for Cuban-Americans and others, President Obama’s reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and allowing certain types of trade has generated tremendous interest in the business community.

“Cuba’s potential for airlines, cruise lines, hotels and other travel-related companies is obvious, but will not be realized until the embargo is lifted. Meanwhile, companies of all sizes should focus on cultural exchange and philanthropic work to build the relationships and brand recognition they will need when trade barriers are removed.” Jane Grant, President, Pierson Grant Public Relations

Cuba2

 

MADRID – “Cuba is still a very special economy with two currencies. A gigantic state apparatus controls the commercial activity with a bureaucracy typical of a country that is not democratic. Therefore, any company that wants to invest there must keep in mind some peculiarities.

“Cuba is a country where market prices are imposed, free competition does not exist and tariffs are not the same for everything, even if the imported product is the same. Additionally, the only source of news is the government. Cuba will be a good country in which to invest, but not yet.” Mayte González-­Gil, CEO, poweraxle and IPREX EMEA President

 

MEXICO CITY  “The relaunch of relations between Mexico and Cuba is related to the deepening project of updating the economic and social model driven by President Raul Castro in his country. During May 2014, a Mexican business mission formed by 68 Mexican businessmen representing 48 companies took place. This is a clear sign that opportunities are coming.”Horacio Loyo Gris, Co-Founder, Dextera Comunicación

Cuba3

 

NEW YORK  “The richness and worldwide popularity of Cuban music begs interesting business opportunities that may be had by activating and empowering the island’s wide array of talent and intellectual property in the field.

“Exploring partnerships with U.S. brands and makers of musical instruments and pro audio equipment, U.S. agencies may be able to enter Cuban markets and in turn capitalize on the opportunities to produce, promote and help develop Cuban artists in a worldwide stage, also using them for marketing, PR campaigns and content, much like Win Wenders and co. did with the Buena Vista Social Club, minus all the trade restriction headaches he endured at the time!”  Raul Gonzalez, Director, RGAA PR, a partially-owned subsidiary of French/West/Vaughan

 

SAN FRANCISCO  “Cuba is a long way from becoming a priority consumer market for U.S. companies. Most Cubans make an average of $20 per month. Other emerging markets with an established middle class offer opportunities to U.S. companies without as much uncertainty. However, one of the biggest opportunities for U.S. companies is in the Cuban travel sector. European and Canadian hotels have been doing business in Cuba for years.

“Given its geographic location, U.S. travel would benefit from entering the Cuban market. U.S. companies entering the Cuban market will have a need in Cuba for public affairs, employee recruitment and employee communications. These U.S. companies will also have a need for issues management here in the U.S., as some opposition remains (among Cuban-Americans) toward U.S. companies doing business in Cuba.”  Juan F. Lezama, Director, Mosaico, the Latino Division of Fineman PR

Read more perspectives in IPREX Voices: http://www.iprex.com/iprexvoices/

HB Agency’s Mark O’Toole Named IPREX’s New Chair of Marketing, Member of Executive Committee

Motoole

On the heels of IPREX’s new global president appointment, the international PR partner network elects new members to its global board and committee

 

 

 

Newton, MA – June 19, 2015: HB Agency’s Managing Director of PR & Content Marketing Mark O’Toole has been selected as the chair of marketing for IPREX, the global network of communication agencies.

O’Toole has more than 20 years of experience solving communications challenges for national and international organizations. He also serves as chairman for the iconic Freedom Trail Foundation and a member of OpenHUB, a professional group that welcomes, informs and connects Boston-area businesses.

In addition to O’Toole’s appointment and the recent election of Michael Schröder as IPREX global president, Nick Vehr, president of Vehr Communications based in Cincinnati has been elected Americas president and joins the IPREX global board. Prior to Vehr, Renzi Stone of Saxum served as president.

Vehr’s strategic communications consultancy joined IPREX in 2008. For the last two years, Vehr has served as chair of the Partner Relations Committee, overseeing among other things the development of the network’s new intranet.

In addition to O’Toole’s and Vehr’s appointments, Carolyn Grisko (Grisko, Chicago) becomes secretary/treasurer-elect and Helga Tomaschtik (Lang & Tomaschtik, Vienna) takes over as chair of partner relations.

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

Read HB’s newest blog series, Sip and Share, which features interviews with IPREX partners.

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About IPREX

IPREX is a $250 million network of communication agencies, with 1,800 staff and 120 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines.

About HB Agency

Founded in 1999 as a business-to-business integrated marketing agency, HB’s public relations and creative services have earned national recognition through Bell Ringer Awards from the Publicity Club of New England, Telly Awards, Communitas Awards, Content Marketing Institute and a Summit Marketing Effectiveness SIA Award. To learn more about HB’s branding, marketing and public relations expertise, please visit hbagency.wpengine.com, or call 781-893-0053.

Sip & Share: DH

Lisa Cargill, PR powerhouse and our IPREX partner, shares her proudest professional moment, what makes DH unique, and describes one especially important initiative that she’s worked on getting off the ground in Spokane, Washington (oh, and her favorite beverage of course). 

HB Agency: How long have you been at DH?

LC: This is my thirteenth year! No two days have been the same here. That’s one of the things I love most about my job.

HB: What types of clients do you typically work with?

LC: We have clients in just about every sector, as we are a generalist firm. I especially enjoy working with healthcare clients, public health in particular; so many of my projects are in that space.

HB: Describe DH in 5 words or less.

LC: Talented team ready to help

HB: What makes DH unique?

LC: DH is such an awesome place to work. We’re a team of zealots. The key word in Webster’s definition of the word zealot is “fanatical” – we love what we do and we love our clients. Their goals become ours and we won’t stop until we achieve success. We never compromise and the entrepreneurial mindset our company was founded on 20 years ago is alive and well today.

One of the things that’s funny about our culture is over the years we’ve developed our own language for communicating internally. When we hire someone I always feel for them because it’s like learning a foreign language. Three of my personal favorites:

  • “I’ve got hot snakes” – urgent issues lurking in your email
  • “I’m digging out” – back in the office and buried in to-dos
  • “It’s gonna be a rip snorter” – really crazy day/week/month ahead

In fact, a lot of funny stuff can be overheard at DH. Check it out on Twitter @overheardatDH.

HB: What has been your proudest PR moment at DH?

LC: Earning my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is a highlight for sure. It pushed me to grow as a PR practitioner and helped me demonstrate my knowledge, skills and abilities in a formal way. It was an opportunity to prove to myself (and others) what I was capable of in the PR world. I became so passionate about the process that I now chair the local APR program and guide other APR hopefuls through the process.

HB: We’ve heard about your work with Give Real Change. What was the genesis of this campaign and what was (or still is) its impact on the community?

LC: Like so many urban cores across the country, downtown Spokane, WA experiences chronic panhandling. The Give Real Change campaign was born from the Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) and City of Spokane’s belief that in the most basic sense, panhandling is a supply and demand issue. Past experience and research here showed nearly all chronic panhandlers have housing and food despite what their signs claim, and they use spare change to fuel alcohol and drug addictions.

In short, we set out to encourage people to stop giving money to panhandlers and instead donate to local organizations making a measurable difference in the community. This would not only wane the supply and thus the demand, but would ensure two important outcomes: panhandlers needing support to overcome addiction or other chronic issues would be forced to seek it at local service providers like House of Charity and others (who are no where near capacity) and the dollars from compassionate community members would be put to good use to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable people – meeting the givers’ real intent.

HB: What did you and the DH team do to get this campaign off the ground?

LC: These are just some of the tactics used in the campaign strategy:

  • Partnered with Catholic Charities who connected us with former panhandlers who acted as spokespeople and talked about the realities of where the money goes, how much they made on the streets, and the deception that runs rampant
  • Tools for employers to educate employees who work in the downtown core because they’re often the biggest givers
  • Posters at local businesses, eateries and shopping venues to raise general awareness
  • Bill stuffers in City utility bills to reach a broader audience who live near downtown and frequent it for restaurants, shopping and entertainment
  • A CrowdSwell webpage and app to make giving to charities fast and easy

As expected, the campaign was met with some criticism from people who felt the DSP and City were not being compassionate toward people in need and/or were telling people where to donate their hard-earned money. Criticism is never easy, but it’s why I believe your heart has to be in the work you do. We knew the realities and what the research shows so we had no reason to waiver and if anything, it pushed us to spread the word even more.

Our client was very happy with the campaign, but as we all know, behavior change takes time.  Now that the assets are developed, ongoing pushes will be initiated as funding allows. This effort continues to be just one of the ways the DSP and City are improving beautiful downtown Spokane.

HB: Finally, what’s your drink of choice and why?

LC: No frills. No gimmicks. Just plain, iced, black tea. It meets my three criteria: tasty, less sugar than soda, and enough caffeine to help me function. Mmm.

Lisa at DH (1)

DH is a public relations, advertising and branding agency in Spokane, Washington. They build multi-disciplinary programs that communicate complex ideas in simple, compelling ways. At the heart of everything they do is a strategy built on a company’s market, opportunities and where it can move the needle. Their team is grounded in multi-disciplinary work and campaigns. Please visit www.wearedh.com to learn more or connect with DH on Facebook and Twitter.

HB Agency’s International Partner Network, IPREX, Selects Michael T. Schröder as New Global President

Newton, MA – May 12, 2015 Michael T Schröder, managing director of ORCA Affairs based in Berlin, has been elected Global President of IPREX, the global network of communication agencies.

IPREX_pres_headshot

“I see this presidency as a great challenge and honor. But, after working with Ketchum, ABC/EURO RSCG and Hill & Knowlton for 15 years before founding my own agency, it feels like a very natural development,” said Schröder.

“I really look forward to leading a communication network in which partnership, cooperation and collegiality, rather than margins and profit pressure, characterize our client service.”

Schröder succeeds John Scheibel, CEO of Trefoil Group in Milwaukee, whose two-year term ended at the network’s Annual Meeting in Berlin, May 7-9.

“My executive colleagues from over 70 partners worldwide are entrepreneurs in the classical sense, defined by a deep understanding of the realities, opportunities and challenges faced by companies in regional, national and international markets. The constant sharing of this knowledge seems to me to be the most important intellectual resource that we can provide to our clients. It is worth far more than the network positioning cliché ‘think global, act local’!”

HB Agency is the New England-based member for IPREX, collaborating with partners on marketing and PR best practices, business opportunities, especially within B2B markets, and peer advisory issues.

For more information about IPREX, please visit www.iprex.com. Read HB’s newest blog series, Sip and Share, which features interviews with IPREX partners.

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About IPREX

IPREX is a $250 million network of communication agencies, with 1,800 staff and 120 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines.

About HB Agency

Founded in 1999 as a business-to-business integrated marketing agency, HB’s public relations and creative services have earned national recognition through Bell Ringer Awards from the Publicity Club of New England, Telly Awards, Communitas Awards, Content Marketing Institute and a Summit Marketing Effectiveness SIA Award. To learn more about HB’s branding, marketing and public relations expertise, please visit hbagency.wpengine.com, or call 781-893-0053.

 

HB Agency Grows Public Relations Team with New Hire

Newton, Mass. – April 21, 2015 – HB Agency, a Boston-based integrated marketing agency specializing in high technology, energy and sustainability, and medical technology, has hired Alex Jafarzadeh as senior account executive, adding to its growing B2B PR team. Jafarzadeh will work with HB clients in the cloud technology and data solutions industries.

Jafarzadeh joins HB from a similar role at fellow IPREX partner agency, Fulford Public Relations in Singapore, where he concurrently served as IPREX Regional Director for the Asia Pacific region. He brings with him a wealth of international experience, having worked with major global brands including Qantas, The Macallan and Leica Camera AG.

Jafarzadeh lives in East Boston, is originally from the United Kingdom, and is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, Australia.

For more information about HB, please visit hbagency.wpengine.com or call 781-893-0053.

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About HB Agency

Founded in 1999 as a business-to-business integrated marketing agency, HB’s public relations and creative services have earned national recognition through Bell Ringer Awards from the Publicity Club of New England, Telly Awards, Communitas Awards and a Summit Marketing Effectiveness SIA Award. To learn more about HB’s branding, marketing and public relations expertise, please visit hbagency.wpengine.com, or call 781-893-0053.

HB Agency
Taylor Johnson
tjohnson@www.hbagency.com
781-893-0053

What Happens in London Doesn’t Stay In London