How to Maximize the Value of Events

People gathered at a corporate conference

By Leisha Douglass, Account Executive, Karbo Communications

Industry events are beneficial for a myriad of reasons. Not only do they let companies connect with potential customers, meet other like minded individuals and learn new things in their industry, but they are also an excellent way to elevate a company’s or an individual’s thought leadership platform and brand awareness. According to Allied Market Research, the global events industry market is projected to reach $2.1 trillion by 2032. This illustrates the significance of events, despite the evolving landscape over the years.


Trends in the Event Space

Events in 2024 look different than they have years prior. One large reason for that is due to the pandemic when all events were canceled or postponed due to the global virus. Now, hybrid models for events are becoming the norm, with many in-person events now offering some hybrid component to their packages. In addition to offering flexible attendance, events are now hyper focused on the attendee experience. The main goal of hosting events is to attract people and ensure they want to attend your events in the future. While providing compelling and enticing speakers is still highly important, events today also focus on entertainment and recreational activities to create memorable experiences and keep attendees engaged. Take SXSW for example, an annual event that takes place in Austin, Texas. SXSW is a week-long conference featuring numerous keynote speakers, alongside live music performances, a comedy festival and multiple creative art exhibitions. Events that blend business and fun embody the saying ‘work hard, play hard’, making the event worthwhile for the attendee.

Furthermore, we are increasingly seeing organizations strive to create events that provide accessibility to all – this includes keeping attendees with certain disabilities/needs in mind as well as creating experiences that are inclusive and help create belonging. An excellent example of this approach is SaaStr Annual, a B2B software conference that provides an opportunity to win a free VIP pass to their event for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, including women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals and veterans. Interested attendees must complete a brief application and then will be entered into a raffle for selection. It is essential for events to be inclusive of individuals from different backgrounds including abilities, religions, ethnicities, sexual backgrounds and more.


Maximizing the Value of Events with PR 

Events can be very expensive, and companies should plan to dedicate a significant amount of time researching how each event will impact their business in terms of: the audience/attendees, the caliber of companies participating, the awareness opportunities, if speaking will make an impact, if thought leadership or networking is needed, and more. There’s a lot that goes into consideration, however, your PR firm can do all the heavy lifting for you. 

Here are a few ways companies can maximize the value of events with PR:

  • Speaking sessions: Benefits of speaking at an event include capturing attention from a targeted and high-value audience, demonstrating industry leadership with thought-provoking content and elevating your brand/company’s profile with key audiences.
  • Live interviews at events: When partnering with a PR firm, oftentimes they are able to secure the media list of journalists who will be attending that event. After receiving the list, it is crucial to review each journalist to determine if they are a fit for a live interview/meeting during the event. If there is a match, your PR firm can help prep you for the interview. The objective of these interviews is to have a reporter feature your company in their story and to build a relationship with that reporter, increasing the likelihood that they will use you as a source for future articles.
  • Post-show initiatives: Even after the event concludes, there are opportunities to maximize PR efforts around attending an event. One idea is to pitch a byline with the executive/employee who attended the event on lessons learned or top trends stemming from the event. Companies can also utilize social media content from the event for the following weeks/months. This can be throughout pictures, videos, recap blogs, and LinkedIn Live sessions to discuss key takeaways from the event.


Biggest Challenges

One of the biggest challenges with attending industry events is breaking through the noise. Of course it depends on the size of the event, but there are likely going to be dozens of other companies attending the same event who are also competing for a speaking slot, media interviews and networking opportunities. The way to stand out amongst the crowd is to have a defined goal when you enter the event. Having a goal will help you stay focused. If your goal is to secure a speaking session or schedule interviews with relevant journalists, make sure that your pitch is memorable and unique. Reporters are bombarded with elevator pitches during events, so it is imperative to make yours attention-grabbing.


While there are several details to consider when debating attending an event, it is important to evaluate how the event aligns with your company’s objectives and goals. Consider the significance of the event to your industry, the potential networking/speaking opportunities, and the value of the content and the speakers. Most of Karbo Com’s clients utilize our event expertise to help drive visibility that contributes to their larger marketing goals.



The Definitive Guide to Executive Thought Leadership in 2024

Female executive being interviewed for a podcast.

By Madeline Kalicka, Account Director, Karbo Communications

To cut through the noise of the ever rotating news cycle, cutting edge product launches and company news, it is important that the executive spokespeople, also known as “faces of the company,” have strategic thought leadership campaigns running on an ongoing basis. A successful thought leadership campaign will lend itself to unquestioned market authority and recognition, while tangentially boosting your company by proxy. What’s more, thought leadership elevates an executive’s profile, emphasizes their areas of passion, and humanizes brands by highlighting the voices and brilliant minds behind today’s most innovative companies.

This blog will outline key considerations for building and maintaining a strong thought leadership presence – read on to learn more:

Identify areas of interest

The first step to creating a thought leadership campaign is to zero in on your thought leader’s areas of expertise and interest. It is important to align with executives on the topics they are comfortable (and hopefully eager) to discuss with reporters. Bonus points if they can offer a unique or contrary perspective or timely insight that reflects the current news cycle. Topics of interest typically lie somewhere within the technological areas and verticals of their company, but can expand to personal interest as well. 

Sometimes, it’s both! Karbo Com worked with an executive who held unique expertise on edtech marketing and also had a passion for extreme sports. We worked the two into a thought leadership byline, Agile Marketing Lessons Learned from Off-Road Racing, that clearly demonstrated the expertise and actionable takeaways about marketing for the edtech sector, but also gave some flavor to what kind of person our executive is and what really gets her blood pumping. This helped to develop a strong personal brand and differentiated her from the pack, in turn reflecting positively on the company she worked for.

Why it’s important to stay vendor-neutral (there’s a time and a place to be promotional)

Critically important to a successful thought leadership campaign is knowing when to remain vendor neutral and when it’s appropriate to promote your product or company. It’s strongly advised that thought leadership campaigns are vendor-neutral when showcasing the expertise of your spokesperson on a variety of topics or verticals. Most reporters will not be inclined to publish a quote or feature your thought leaders in an article if they’re constantly peppering in promotional details about your company or product. There is a time and a place for company and product coverage, but building an executive’s personal brand and demonstrating their knowledge of the market while providing thoughtful commentary on a trend is not the place for it. Thought leadership campaigns are a great way for executives to branch out from their company narrative and let them address the challenges and forward-looking opportunities that impact their market.  

Keep it interesting by diversifying thought leadership content

There are many great options for how an executive can showcase their thought leadership. From being quoted in an article, to recording a podcast, writing a contributed byline, providing expert commentary on breaking news and even posting meaningful content on LinkedIn – all are viable ways to maintain authority on the market as a thought leader. In diversifying where thought leadership content appears, you can expand audience reach. Try not to lean too far in one direction as a balance of quoted commentary, podcast spots, contributed bylines and broadcast will yield the strongest mix of readers/listeners.

A great option to ensure a steady cadence of thought leadership content is to encourage executives to join a council, like the Forbes Technology Council, or become a dedicated guest contributor to a reputable publication, and publish bylines on a regular cadence. This allows you the flexibility of submitting articles for publication on your own timeline in addition to showcasing creativity around a set of contributor guidelines for publication.

As with any media coverage, it’s encouraged to promote your published pieces on executive’s personal social channels for higher visibility among their personal and professional networks, along with the audience of whatever platform they’ve been featured on.

Secure placements in publications that are relevant for your target audience

This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to know your target audience and understand what publications they read and trust. There would be little impact to a thought leadership campaign if you’re not reaching the correct target audience. When evaluating possible opportunities, your agency will audit media kits, analyze the target audience and ensure the proper fit. 

Reaching the right target audience can be beneficial for future networking opportunities and also for overall brand visibility and association with certain technologies or focus areas. Additionally, being featured on target platforms can have a positive impact on SEO for your company website or personal LinkedIn page as there can be opportunity for backlinking, ultimately making it easier for your target audience to find you and your company with a Google search. 

Longevity of thought leadership

Building a thought leadership campaign that flourishes over time is a marathon, not a sprint. As with the regular news cycle, a thought leadership campaign will ebb and flow. Remember to tackle opportunities that are within your executives’ areas of expertise, with reputable publications and platforms and those that will reach your target audience.

As your company’s executives build credibility and domain expertise, more opportunities are bound to present themselves. It’s a snowball effect that our teams at Karbo Com have seen time and time again. 


Interested in learning how Karbo Communications can build a successful thought leadership campaign for your executives? Reach out to our team at



4 Ways to Use Social Media to Garner Media Attention in 2024

Social media icons on a phone

By Claire Cameron-Johnson, Senior Account Manager, Karbo Communications

In today’s rapidly evolving digital age, social media has emerged as one of the most powerful and strategic communications tools. It empowers companies to more effectively shape their brand narratives, increase the reach of their content and engage with their audience. It’s also a powerful channel for PR professionals to connect with journalists, as reporters increasingly turn to social for story ideas, research, sources, and industry trends. In fact, a 2022 Pew Research survey found that 94% of journalists in the U.S. use social media for their job. To effectively leverage social media for PR and gain media attention, companies should adopt a strategic approach. Here are four key strategies to employ in 2024:

Identify Newsworthy Content

In bids for media attention, brand representatives should have a thorough understanding of important market trends and what each journalist cares about. This often comes down to discerning which aspects of your company or industry are newsworthy—and which are not. Journalists are typically interested in important company product launches, new partnerships, customer success stories, and thought-provoking industry insights on emerging trends. Always publicize company news across your social channels and incorporate relevant keywords and hashtags that are appropriate to your industry to make it easier for journalists to discover and cover your stories. Some reporters don’t mind being pitched via platforms such as  X, but it’s important you do your research externally or through a media database like Muck Rack or Cision to check their communication preferences beforehand. Some reporters have a negative reaction to being pitched via their social channels, so know their individual preferences before you reach out. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of annoying them and coming across as uninformed.

The Power of Trendjacking and Leveraging Hashtags 

Trendjacking involves capitalizing on trending topics, news stories or popular conversations. The power of trendjacking lies in its ability to make your content relevant, timely, and shareable. When done effectively, trendjacking can help your brand become part of a broader conversation, reach a larger audience, and help to establish credibility within your industry. To stay well-informed about current events and industry news, use tools such as Google Trends to identify what’s currently capturing public interest. Trends have a short lifespan—brands should be prepared to act quickly. Share your content while the topic is still hot and you’ll have a better shot at getting noticed. Ensure that your perspective is novel and thought-provoking, so that you’re providing unique value to journalists and contributing positively to an ongoing conversation, versus merely regurgitating existing information.

When you decide to get involved in an industry discussion on social, leverage relevant and trending hashtags. This not only helps your content become more discoverable by journalists who are following or searching for content related to a specific topic or trend, but it also allows you to quickly find out which journalists are commenting on trends. Share and repost their content, while adding your own perspective. Ensure you’re tagging them when you do. This helps to not only increase your visibility with that journalist, but helps to build that relationship over time.

Utilize Social Listening

Leverage social media management tools like Karbo Com’s longtime client Hootsuite to monitor social media conversations and identify trends, keywords, and topics that journalists are talking about the most. This provides you with an opportunity to align your content with their interests and angles. By staying informed about what’s relevant in your industry, you can also leverage sophisticated social listening tools to craft pitches that resonate with key journalists in your industry and increase your chances of securing media coverage.

Build Authentic Relationships

Building relationships with journalists and industry influencers on social media is a two-way street. Research and identify key journalists, influencers, and thought leaders in your niche and engage with their social content. Customize your outreach to the individual. Share relevant news, repost their content, comment thoughtfully, and establish genuine connections over time. These relationships can lead to media coverage and collaborations that boost your PR efforts.

Embracing the power of social media can be the key to success in today’s competitive PR landscape. It requires strategic thinking, a deep knowledge of the market and players, an aggressive approach,  a great deal of groundwork and lightning speed to get ahead. It’s a big job and most of Karbo Com’s clients ask our social savvy experts to drive their efforts.


Interested in learning how Karbo Communications can elevate your company’s social media presence? Reach out to our team at



Rise Above The Noise: Three Proven Strategies for Breaking Into The News Cycle

By actively participating in timely news narratives, your business has the opportunity to address topical issues, showcase your expertise, and establish a distinct and reputable voice that will resonate with your target audience.

However, breaking into the news cycle is not an easy task. You’ll have to vie with competing sources, navigate resource constraints, and weigh ethical considerations. The news cycle is like a bustling metropolis with countless competing voices. To stand out, you need a well-crafted plan and a bold voice that cuts through the noise.

So, what’s the key to breaking into the news cycle? There are three proven strategies:

Prepare in Advance

To increase your chances of breaking into the news cycle effectively, it is essential to plan ahead. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Predict significant news cycles: Study repeat patterns and trends in your industry to anticipate potential news events. For instance, a comms team in the security industry may identify national hacks as an upcoming news item based on historic patterns. This predictive approach will give you a head start in planning your media strategy.
  • Develop pre-approved commentary: Create pre-approved statements or commentary based on anticipated breaking news categories. Having this in place enables faster response times and ensures your messaging aligns with your brand values.
  • Prepare B-roll footage: Identify likely scenarios that could drive broadcast coverage based on your industry. These scenarios will need to be tied to hard news and have a strong visual component. Gather B-roll footage of activities or processes that are related to breaking news in your industry. For example, if you’re in the manufacturing industry, you can capture footage of production lines, workers or machinery in action. Being prepared with visual assets can significantly increase your chances of getting media attention.
  • Hold mock sessions: Conduct mock sessions with your executive team or spokespeople to prepare them for potential live interactions with reporters. Focus on how to deliver key messages quickly and effectively. Avoid self-promotion at all costs. It will turn reporters off from re-engaging when relevant breaking news hits. You will also want to prepare executives on how to use bridging and flagging techniques to maintain control over the interview.
  • Prepare tough questions: Anticipate challenging questions that reporters may ask and prepare your spokespeople to respond confidently and accurately. This proactive approach will help to build trust and credibility with journalists.

One example of how preparation paid off is the case of securing timely press coverage for Brevo ahead of Valentine’s Day. Prior to Valentine’s Day, the KC team pre-pitched a story to TODAY offering expert insight from the CEO of Brevo on how small businesses are reimagining Valentine’s Day during the pandemic.

Provide Real Value

To break into the news cycle effectively, it is crucial to provide real value to reporters and their readers. This means understanding and prioritizing what journalists might need from your company, rather than just focusing on what your company needs from journalists. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Reach reporters at the right time: Understand the current phase of the news cycle and identify the best opportunities to connect with reporters. There are three main phases to consider:
    • First wave: This occurs when a major event takes place. Journalists are racing against the clock to gather facts and publish reports. Providing essential facts and preliminary insights during this phase can position your company as a credible source.
    • Second wave: As new developments emerge, stories take on a new shape. Journalists dive deeper into the topic, seeking insights from subject matter experts and exploring the larger implications of the news. Offering unique perspectives and expert commentary during this phase can help push the story forward.
    • Third wave: This phase involves reflection on the news, in-depth analysis, and evaluating the widespread impact. Different types of news outlets, such as The Atlantic, ride this wave by focusing on in-depth reporting. This phase presents opportunities for bylines that offer thoughtful perspectives that go against the grain.
  • Tips for reaching reporters: Meet reporters where they are. Use various communication channels such as Signal, email, or phone calls to connect with reporters. Remember to always be respectful of a reporter’s communication preferences. If they say don’t call them or don’t pitch them on X, don’t do it.
  • Ensure executive qualification: Make sure your executive or spokesperson is qualified to speak on the topic at hand. When pitching reporters, highlight their background, current job focus, and strong connection to the issue. Reporters are interested in speaking with business leaders who can provide clarity and unique insights.
  • Strengthen your offer: Provide multiple sources and resources to reporters, showcasing your network of experts who can offer unique perspectives. Tap into internal data or research to support your executive’s perspective.
  • Be flexible and accessible: Be adaptable to journalists’ needs. Offer the option to draft and share commentary or connect them directly with your executive. Giving journalists access to key sources eliminates unnecessary back and forth.

One example of how providing value paid off is a Fortune byline the KC team secured for the CEO of Subtext. Immediately following news of a Facebook outage, the KC team offered the Fortune commentary editor a byline from Mike offering a unique perspective on the news. This byline fell within the second wave of the breaking news cycle and offered a new narrative that tied back to Mike’s business expertise.

Think like a Journalist

Understanding the motivations and needs of journalists is vital when trying to break into the news cycle.

Ask yourself the following questions before approaching a journalist:

    • Why does it matter? Clarify why the perspective your offering is relevant for the journalist and the journalist’s audience.
    • Can you provide the right expertise? Explain why the spokesperson your offering has the right qualifications and can offer something of interest to the reporter and their audience. Journalists look for sources that can provide unique and compelling insights.
    • Is the timing right? Timing is crucial. If you’re approaching reporters long after the news has gone live they have likely moved on to cover a new story.
    • Is your spokesperson accessible? Make it easy for journalists to reach the spokesperson. If the spokesperson isn’t willing to jump on the phone at a moment’s notice, you may want to reconsider your offer. Journalists need to move quickly and may only have a few minutes for a quick phone call.

Adopting a journalist’s mindset and considering these questions will help you better prepare for the next news cycle.

These strategies will help you optimize your approach to breaking into the news cycle and enhance your chances of capturing media attention. Remember to stay on top of the news cycle by monitoring relevant news platforms, TV stations, and going directly to trusted sources like official press pages to respond to developments promptly. Finally, avoid being overly promotional as journalists seek sources that can provide genuine insights rather than shameless plugs for products or services.

By mastering the art of breaking into the news cycle, you can establish your brand as a credible and influential voice in your industry. It can also open the door for future opportunities where reporters come back to you for commentary time and time again.

Remember, success in breaking into the news cycle is a continuous process of staying informed, adapting, and building relationships with journalists. By thinking like a journalist and providing value, you can become a trusted source and gain a competitive edge in the media landscape.


If your company wants to learn how KC can elevate your media presence, please contact



Pioneering Public Relations and Digital Marketing through AI Ingenuity

The letters 'AI' on a blue background

By Sian Hernandez, Senior Vice President, Karbo Communications

Artificial Intelligence is dominating headspace and headlines and most knowledge workers are quickly finding that their roles will begin to transform (if they haven’t already). At Karbo Communications, we’ve been working with AI startups for over 25 years, so AI isn’t new to us. We’ve helped drive awareness and success around monetizing AI technology and we’re lucky to partner with enterprise technology companies leading this new wave of AI innovation and discovery. Their work, along with an explosion of consumer AI tools and technologies – from ChatGPT to content creation platforms – have sparked creativity, debate, and action across our team about the role AI can and should play in increasing the efficacy and efficiency of virtually all marketing.

At our agency, we’re committed to deploying AI where it adds the most value for our clients and benefits the work we care deeply about doing, each day. Since the use of AI in knowledge work is largely undefined and unregulated, we’ve formed a group within the company that is responsible for defining how AI is used within our organization and how we extend the use of AI out to work performed on behalf of clients. As part of this effort, we’re consistently examining how AI can (and should) be used to further elevate the brand awareness and media results that we achieve for clients, while upholding the highest security and ethical standards.  We’ve initiated development of an internal code of ethics that provides essential guardrails to ensure the highest levels of security and legal requirements are met.

Considerations About the Value and Importance of AI in Public Relations 

When thinking about the value AI can offer PR practitioners, we see tremendous promise in terms of automating time-intensive research and enhancing creative processes that inform PR strategy, campaign creation and narrative development. Intelligent algorithms that find patterns in data that are undetectable to manual processes – for example, spotting nuanced information hidden in audience sentiment – strengthens the intention and strategy behind the work that we do for clients, and sharpens our ability to make the right connections with audiences.

A host of visual content creation tools – from PowerPoint generators and beyond – means hours spent developing the perfect deck can be dramatically shortened, freeing PR teams up for more important and strategic tasks.  We’re learning from that AI tools are adept at managing tabular data, so performing administrative and operational tasks, like creating budgets and forecasts, can largely be automated and edited versus starting from scratch.

Innovation from our Clients

Our valued clients like Hootsuite, Penguin Computing and Cornelis Networks play important and innovative roles within the AI landscape today.

  • Hootsuite helps customers harness the power of social to ignite their brands and businesses. As a global leader in the social media management space, the company recently launched an AI-powered content generator so that instant captions, post ideas and more are easier to create and more efficient than ever before.
  • Penguin Computing enables customers to capture value from emerging technologies like AI through a rich solutions and services portfolio that spans the edge, core, and cloud computing continuum. Penguin Computing has delivered an AI-optimized architecture and managed services for the AI Research SuperCluster (RSC) — Meta’s cutting-edge AI supercomputer for AI research.
  • Cornelis Networks delivers a high-performance network, enabling the infrastructure performance and scale required to run technical computing (HPC and AI) applications, systems, and workloads. Without Cornelis Networks, some of the world’s most important government research, life sciences, manufacturing, and commercial uses of this technology would not be as performant as they are today.

AI has brought us to a seminal time in PR and marketing.  How our work is performed and more importantly, how we deliver value that enables our customers to win is being rearchitected. Public relations activities that use AI technology responsibly, ethically, creatively, and intentionally will likely be the firms to drive enhanced value around brand and content strategy, community and audience engagement, media visibility and overall marketing value for clients.


Interested in learning how Karbo Communications’ AI expertise can help your company level up? Get in touch.

When “disruption” isn’t enough: Making a fintech brand stick

Fintech employee with a phone and laptop

It’s been almost 30 years since the late venture capitalist, Harvard Business School professor and business theorist Clayton Christensen coined the concept of “disruptive technology” in an article in the Harvard Business Review (and later in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma).  It’s a term that doesn’t seem to go out of style as, to this day, startups still seem to gravitate toward this concept as their key differentiator.  The reality is for fintechs, being “disruptive” is just the barrier to entry, not a branding message.

Financial services has transformed dramatically since the 1990s as companies ranging from banking to brokerage to credit cards to insurance and beyond began to embrace the potential of the internet. In the process of doing so, a whole new category of companies – fintechs – emerged, based on being internet-centric entities. So many of them positioned themselves as “disruptive” or “leveling the playing field” that the terminology became ubiquitous, making the companies themselves practically interchangeable.

But times have changed.  These companies (especially in the B2B space) are no longer “staid”, rather they are looking to break from the pack in a unique way and do so in a way that mirrors their brand promise. One look at the website for the payment processor Square and you might think you’re on the site for Apple or Samsung.  And it’s this type of approach that reverberates throughout their messaging – one based on product simplicity and “people first” rather than the technology.

When it comes to a fintech brand, following are a few more ways to build a brand for the long term, focusing on the customer and not the technology that underpins the business:

  • Creativity can be the calling card of your B2B brand: For decades, B2B brands, including those in fintech, were…how to put this politely…staid. They were focused more on product benefits, cost savings, technological innovation and other business drivers.  But recent research from LinkedIn shows that an overwhelming majority of senior marketing executives (89%) believe brand building is just as important to driving long-term revenue growth in B2B as it is in consumer marketing. Furthering this, more than two thirds (69%) of B2B marketers believe B2B purchasing decisions are just as emotionally driven as B2C. This explains why 81% of senior B2B marketers believe B2B brands are producing increasingly creative campaigns rivaling consumer brands.  So it’s ok to be disruptive when it comes to your marketing.
  • Talk with, not at, your customers/prospects: The issue that so many marketing initiatives (e.g., advertising, direct email/mail, collateral material) is that it’s a one-way conversation. Your business tells them what you want them to know and hope that’s enough to drive their decision.  With the advent of social media through platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, this opens up the channel for prospects to speak directly to the company and learn more about you.  So use that to your advantage. Famed consultant Peter Drucker once said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Through social media, you’re able to find out more about the customer because that person is telling it directly to you.
  • Gamification? Yes, really: For years, fintechs have steered clear of anything that reflects the intersection of financial services and games, believing it reinforces an unfounded belief that there’s a connection between investing and casinos. But recent studies have shown that gamification is becoming a key drive to growing fintech brands – specifically digital banks – because they help forge a connection between the customer/prospect and the company. Modor Intelligence projects the market to grow at a CAGR of 26.5% until 2027, partly due to the fact that companies have seen up to a 700% increase in conversion rates.  And gamification isn’t just the domain of startups either.  BBVA, PNC and Ally have all deployed gamification programs in recent years, and there’s no reason to believe this will change. So look for ways to augment your site through gamification or other features knowing that it might just result in increasing those conversion rates.

Developing a brand in the rapidly changing world of fintech is a huge undertaking. The brand needs to speak to your customers and prospects while differentiating itself from all the other players. Making it stick is even harder, but by building a creative brand, talking with your customers/prospects and deploying programs like gamification, you can deliver on the brand promise people will value for a long time to come.



It Takes Two: Your Part in the Agency/Client Partnership Equation

Hiring a marketing agency is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a CEO or marketing leader. I’m always grateful when current and former clients thank Karbo Com for the important role we play in the success of their companies. As in any relationship—whether it’s a business alliance or a personal relationship— success depends on the quality of contributions of both parties.

Some companies search for an agency as if they are seeking the holy grail of marketing success. They search for a partner that, once hired, will take the reins, and make success automatically appear. Take this laissez-faire approach at your own peril. As you embark on the journey to find the best partner, do some hard thinking about what your company’s willing and able to contribute to ensure a successful relationship.

  • Before you begin the search, outline the specific results you expect. Are you looking to drive well-qualified prospects to your home page? To effectively position your company against competitors? Ensure you’re included in key analyst reports? A combination of these and more? PR and digital marketing objectives should flow from your business objectives. Articulate your marketing goals as a subset of these business objectives.
  • Ensure the key members of the c-suite have a sincere belief in marketing, PR and any program you hope to undertake. While the marketing team may run the program, other groups such as the product management team, sales, and finance, can derail efficacy if they aren’t committed to what it takes to be successful—time, money, subject matter experts, credible success metrics, and referenceable customers.
  • Karbo Com devotes senior resources to our clients daily, but no agency can run a successful effort without the support of an internal advocate that can get them the information and approvals they need. The main contact for your agency must have the appropriate amount of leverage, access and power needed to drive action.
  • Set your budgets before you reach out. Some companies will use the agency search process to determine budget and seek the lowest price for what they view as comparable services. While this approach might feel like it makes fiscal sense, it leaves you more vulnerable to bringing on a partner who is a less-than-stellar fit for your business goals. You could end up investing even more resources in the long run without an agency that is better suited for your marketing needs. Look at what other companies in your category, stage of growth and market position are spending. Acquire budget approval for the entire year. As Regis McKenna would frequently say when I worked at his seminal firm, “It’s a process, not an event.”
  • Be realistic about the challenges you face. Is it limited sales, lack of awareness among prospects, negative social commentary, a white-hot competitor that’s stealing the oxygen out of the room, or a dated, ineffective website? Recommended narratives, objectives, strategies and programs can vary greatly depending on these factors.
  • Can your team acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly? While we expect clients to be true believers, smart partners will be fully transparent and honest with themselves and us. Undoubtedly, your team is a source of wisdom when it comes to your company, products, and the market. Your agency assumes a essential position as well. They will conduct research, have market insight and years of experience that will help you take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges.
  • If your relationship with a previous agency has failed, take an unvarnished look at why. Are there things you learned and want to integrate into your programs? What can you do differently to help your partner succeed? Carry these insights into your agency selection process.

You’ve spent months, probably years mapping out your corporate, technology, product, and business plans. Don’t put all of that to waste by rushing through the agency selection process. Determine your objectives, market analysis, resources and the specific help and performance you’ll need before you reach out to prospective partners. Be prepared to cull your agency options down to an adequate and manageable two to four options, allocate time to brief the agencies prior to asking for a proposal. Give prospects enough time to present a thoughtful, quality response and your team enough time to make a formal decision. If you’re still working with an agency, give them the appropriate amount of notice before terminating your contract. Be aware of how terminating your relationship will affect your business and theirs. Treating them with respect goes a long way towards ensuring a smooth transition between agencies.

Selecting an agency partner is one of the most important decisions you’ll make this year. Don’t short-shrift the process. Finding a PR, content and marketing partner will accelerate the success of your company, making you the hero of your corporate story in the process.

Are You Vulnerable?

Protecting Your Company From Everyday Threats To Major Disasters                  By Julie Karbo, CEO

Bad CEO behavior. An oil spill. A dangerous product. These are the kinds of catastrophes that come to mind when many of us think of the corporate cautionary tale. It’s something that happens to someone else. Not us. Or we tell ourselves that disasters are large and cataclysmic in cause and effect. There isn’t anything on our corporate radar that can do that much damage. And if something does happen, we’ll respond quickly and avert any real damage. We mistakenly think we’re covered.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything it’s that no matter what the size of your company or how healthy your market is, no one is immune from damaging forces beyond their control. In 2019, who would have thought a global pandemic would sound the death knell for an additional 200,000 businesses of all sizes according to the Fed? We’ve seen legacy brands such as Hertz, Neiman Marcus, Gold’s Gym, and J. Crew file for bankruptcy protection. A crisis can be the death knell for even the healthiest companies.

We don’t need to look to a once in a hundred-year pandemic for dangers to companies. To be effective executives, we must broaden how we define and mitigate a crisis.  If a competitor suddenly announced a product that exceeds your product’s features and is backed by top brand endorsements and a high-quality marketing campaign, would that pose a threat to sales? Would a social media firestorm criticizing the company based on a policy or controversial customer action affect your ability to sell and hire? Would an unflattering analyst report damage the sales funnel? How about a problematic funding or IPO effort that could cause a financial crisis? The smart executive team realizes that threats come in all shapes and sizes and at any time. Thorough preparation is the best tool to mitigate even the most damaging market, natural disaster, and global event.

At Karbo Com, we’ve crafted custom crisis protection models for companies from startups to multi-billion-dollar brands. These shields of protection can focus on competitive threats, product issues, stock de-listings, social media revolts, community issues, management team errors or misbehavior, employee misconduct on social media, and more.

There are four critical elements to our unique process:

  1. Threat Assessment Matrix: This stage anticipates any threats to the company that could result in critical damage. This may include product failures, social media campaigns, competitive strikes, a problematic funding or IPO event, executive misbehavior, and more. Karbo Com also conducts an audit of key stakeholders and relevant outside sources such as media and analyst perceptions.
  2. The Message Matrix: In this stage, protective foundational messaging and customized narratives for key stakeholders and personas are developed and tested.
  3. The Playbook: Next, we create a custom playbook. This document will identify players, threat process and mitigation, and proactive and reactive programs and processes.
  4. Post-Threat Analysis and Correction: In the final phase, if a crisis occurs, a thorough assessment of the event and response is carried out and any necessary corrections made.

The crisis plan is a necessity, not a nicety. Don’t get caught in a game of Russian roulette.  The stakes are too great. Assess and prepare to alleviate – and in many cases avoid – threats to your company’s survival. If your company, no matter the size, is interested in learning more about how we can protect you from vulnerabilities, please contact us today:

Celebrating Pride

Happy Pride Month! We proudly donated to the Trevor Project and GLAAD to reinforce our commitment and allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s important to us to celebrate pride year round by creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and culture. Today, we’re highlighting and amplifying two of the LGBTQIA+ voices of our employees by sharing their stories and recognizing their unique contributions.

How long does it take to truly be considered a San Franciscan? Mark Elkins, Karbo Com’s Head of Human Resources and Operations, has been living here for 23 years and is proud to call the city his home. From his perspective, San Francisco has always been the beacon of what life should be: accepting and supportive. Mark’s story began with a TV show called “Tales of The City”.  At the age of 16, Mark watched the show, connected well with what he saw, and was inspired to move to San Francisco one day. Around this time, Mark came out;  first to friends at 16, next his extended family at 18, and then to his parents at 21. Growing up in Salem, Oregon, a fairly rural and conservative community, Mark knew he wanted to move somewhere where he felt more welcomed and accepted. While attending college in Oregon, Mark witnessed first hand hate and discrimination from organizations such as the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance. Witnessing these hateful groups prosper helped propel Mark to find his voice as an advocate with the community. Every year, Mark donates to LGBTQIA+ organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and Lyric. He also marches for equality, does volunteer work, and socializes within the community, which he truly enjoys.

Mark is grateful to have found an accepting, caring, and conscientious environment and Karbo Com. It is exactly the type of place he wanted to work for, in large part due to the fact that here, in his words “being gay is no big deal”. This sentiment is echoed from the CEO and Founder all the way across the spectrum to every member of the staff.  Outside of Karbo Com though, Mark describes the biggest threat to the LGBTQIA+ community as the lack of true equality that is recognized on a federal level. “If you can be fired from your job, prevented from voting, or evicted from your home for being gay, there’s still so much more left to do”. Additionally, more recent reversals of Obama-era policies and a surging homophobic sentiment in parts of the country have made it clear that for many there is still a lot more work to be done, and the fight for equality is far from over.

For Mark, Pride Month isn’t just a time to celebrate, but should also be a time for political activism.”Things are not where they should be and have a long way to go. It’s time not only to be aware but to take action”.

Lately, you may have been hearing about preferred pronouns: whether it’s seeing them on social media, in email signatures, or it comes up in conversation. Karbo Com’s Creative Director, Courtney Stack, has led the charge when it comes to having open dialogues and discussions on this subject matter. Besides her work at Karbo Com, Courtney is also a multidisciplinary artist, working across painting, photography, sculpture, movement, and writing. Courtney’s  pronouns are she/they. Courtney joined Karbo Com in 2019 to launch the agency’s in-house Content Studio, critically expanding service offerings to encompass visual branding, full service social media, photography and video, writing, and more. I asked her to share with me why pronouns are so important on the most personal level.

“I believe that gender is a spectrum. Gender norms conflate anatomy with gender identity, collapsing that spectrum into a limited, prescriptive binary (male, female). The gender binary doesn’t acknowledge human experiences and identities that fall between or outside of those accepted norms. When we limit our understanding of gender identity to the gender binary, we limit our understanding of each other, and of ourselves. When we share our pronouns, we are claiming an opportunity to be better known to one another. We are acknowledging that a person’s gender identity is not something that can be assumed based on the way they look. We are signaling that all gender identities are valid. We are creating space for a more inclusive, diverse, authentic, and loving future”. Courtney’s use of “we” clearly illustrates how important and timely these discussions are in terms of continuing to foster and build a truly accepting and kind environment around us.

Especially when we find it challenging to understand, being curious, asking questions, and learning is a good place to start. As Courtney says, “As a gender queer/fluid person, I appreciate being recognized as such. As human beings, we understand ourselves, in part, through external affirmation. When my internal identity is seen, affirmed, and accepted by others, I feel that I can be myself and lead a more authentic and fulfilling external life. Pronouns play a role in all of that”. There are many pronouns out there. Most of us are familiar with she/her and he/him pronouns. Gender identity terms also include gender neutral pronouns such as they/them, xe/xem, ze/zim, and sie/hir. There are many great resources like GLAAD and the Anti Defamation League if you’re not sure where to get started and want to learn more.

But, why is this important for companies? Company leaders should encourage employees to share their pronouns as well as respect colleague  pronouns to signal acknowledgement and acceptance of all employees, regardless of gender identity. This creates a more inclusive, humane workplace. Best practices so as not to misgender someone are simpler than you might imagine. Courtney put it best, “Don’t assume that you know another person’s gender. Instead, simply ask them. Then use the pronouns that they have told you they identify with when referring to them. “ It’s no biggie. Just ask, “What are your preferred pronouns?” This question is easily posed when meeting someone for the first time, alongside other standard introductory questions like, “What’s your name?” But it’s also a question you can feel comfortable asking of someone you’ve known for a while: “Hey, I realized that we never discussed preferred pronouns. My preferred pronouns are X. What are yours?”

Finally, as we look to the future, there are several examples of actions businesses should take to “walk the talk” and ensure that they are truly prioritizing diversity and inclusion. Businesses can show meaningful, change-making allyship with queer communities by publicly divesting from the corporations and entities that oppress those communities. They can elevate LGBTQIA+ employees to positions of leadership and authority. Businesses can also commit ongoing funds and resources to queer organizations all year round, not just for Pride Month. When businesses are truly committed to supporting queer communities, there are a great number of opportunities for them to effect positive change.

UK Tech Sector Resilience Presents Opportunities for Companies Stateside


A dispatch from Mike King, co-founder of Karbo Com’s UK-based sister agency, Eleven Hundred 


By Mike King, co-founder, Eleven Hundred Agency, London 

When the Coronavirus crisis hit, like any business owner, I was deeply concerned about the financial impact it was going to have. I had serious discussions with my business partner, Claire about the emergency steps we could take, should we see a significant drop in revenue. At the top of our priorities was ensuring all our staff would continue to be fully paid for as long as possible.

It turns out that, in spite of the broader economic downturn that followed, our concerns were unfounded. I feel almost guilty writing this, but the opposite of what we feared has actually happened. Since the UK went into lockdown in March, we’ve seen continued growth in revenue and have taken on additional staff.  

As a PR agency that specializes in working with technology firms, my feeling is that this says more about the resilience of the UK tech sector than it does about our specific company.  And it represents a unique opportunity for tech companies looking to expand to the UK.


Tech Outperforms Wider UK Economy

According to official UK government statistics, GDP fell by a record 20.4% in Q2 2020, the second consecutive quarterly decline following a 2.2% drop in Q1. Admittedly, there are some signs of hope as we come out of lockdown, with GDP growing by 8.7% in June 2020, but there is no doubt that the UK economy has been hit hard.  

In the technology sector, it’s a much different picture. In June, the Financial Times published an article looking at companies that have performed well through the pandemic. The list was dominated by large technology companies.

IT spend in the UK is predicted to rise as tech budgets increase. According to CWJob’s annual Confidence Index, 49% of IT decision-makers believe their companies will increase their tech budgets as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. 


At times of rapid change, there is a lot to communicate.


UK Tech Growth Sectors

This growth in UK tech mirrors our own direct experiences. Changes in working practices and the massive increase in the number of people working from home have boosted areas such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, communications, video conferencing, HealthTech and EdTech. In many instances, digital transformation programs that were already underway have been accelerated, with long term implications on the way we live and work beyond the current pandemic. 

“We are now very much into what many people are calling the “new normal,” said Steve Leighton, CEO of Voneus, a rural community broadband specialist. “The pandemic has forced people to spend more time in their homes which means they’ve had to work, learn, shop, play and relax without going out. A reliable broadband connection has never been more important and demand for our services has never been greater,”

“Business has remained robust during the Covid-19 crisis,” said Chris Lewis, head of group marketing at Livingstone Group. “We help clients save on average 38% on their major software and cloud contract renewals, avoid substantial penalties from non-compliance fees from software publishers and ensure their software and cloud estates are optimized and clients are only paying for what they actually need.  With many organizations now focusing on cost savings because of the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, demand for our services continues to grow and our organization is growing as a result.”

Of course, some areas of the technology sector are suffering. Tech firms that sell to hospitality, leisure and travel sectors, for example, are having to adapt to massively reduced customer demand in the short term with many re-evaluating how they move forward. At Eleven Hundred Agency, we have seen a couple of clients suspend PR activity to reduce expenditure, but this has been more than outweighed by those clients that have increased PR spend to take advantage of market growth. It is true to say that we have never been busier; at times of rapid change, there is a lot to communicate. 

“VAR’s are looking for new and exciting technologies to offer their clients in an effort to stimulate their own businesses and we have signed up nine new reseller partners in the past two months,” said Peter Christou, EVP international sales at BotRx, a cybersecurity firm that protects against automated bot attacks. 


London has outperformed all other European cities, raising more VC investment than Paris, Stockholm and Berlin combined…


UK Tech Start-Ups Continue to Prosper

According to research published in June this year by Tech Nation and, many UK tech startups have continued to attract investment, recruit staff and see positive growth. London has outperformed all other European cities, raising more VC investment than Paris, Stockholm and Berlin combined so far in 2020, with Fintech and enterprise software the two largest areas for investment. 

The UK Government is keen to stimulate this area by supporting start-ups in the UK tech industry. In May, it opened its Future Fund for applications, providing £250m in loans to support growth and innovation in sectors such as technology, life sciences and the creative industries.


US Companies Looking to the UK 

There are opportunities in the UK for U.S. technology firms that are operating in growth areas, but in the current climate, they need to tread carefully. The big difference now is the pace at which we are seeing change. Here’s my checklist of critical steps that need to be taken to increase the chances of success:

  1. Undertake thorough UK research to understand the true size of the opportunity that exists (or doesn’t).
  2. Carefully consider local market conditions. Often these will be similar to the U.S., but with some important local differences, e.g., local competitors, channel set up, regulatory environment, etc.
  3. Ensure the right people are recruited with the experience and skills to fully understand the UK business environment you want to operate in.
  4. Fund the venture properly and provide ongoing support for UK operations from headquarters.
  5. Most importantly, be flexible and nimble. If Coronavirus has taught us anything it is the importance of being able to quickly adapt to changing conditions.


Following these essential steps, U.S. tech companies will be well-poised to capitalize on the continued growth of the UK tech sector.


Mike King, Co-founder Eleven Hundred Agency, London

Mike has more than 25 years’ experience of running PR agencies in the technology sector. He has worked with clients ranging from global tech brands through to innovative, fast-growth start-ups, and has helped many US-headquartered companies expand and grow in the European market. Originally a technology journalist, Mike ran the London office of a small European PR group for several years before founding his own tech PR agency, Johnson King, in 1992. Johnson King grew to become one of the leading European tech specialist PR firms and, in 2014, was acquired by a large global agency. After completing an earn-out, Mike co-founded Eleven Hundred Agency with Claire Ayles in 2018.