Wellington Group Marketing & PR Has Merged with Integrate Agency

Ready. Set. Grow!

Creating the First Fully Integrated Digital & Traditional Marketing Firm in Texas

We’re proud to announce that WGPR has merged with Integrate Agency, a Houston-based public relations and social media agency. Our newly merged agency will assume the Integrate Agency name and brand, and we’ll be led by Wellington Group’s CEO, Robbie Wright, and Allie Danziger, founder and president of Integrate Agency.

Our small team of 20 will be expanding to more than 30, and we couldn’t be more excited. More team members mean bigger, better and, dare we say, integrated, work for our clients. From traditional public relations to social media and a full array of digital services, we know that this marriage of expertise will bring increased results for our clients.

Who is Integrate?

Integrate began life in 2009 as the dream of Allie Danziger, a young and ambitious PR account executive in New York City. She wanted to shake up the industry through digital tactics that were new at the time.

After pioneering a successful social media department at a real estate-focused PR agency during the height of the recession, Allie caught the entrepreneurial bug. She started by freelancing for clients across the country, consulting with PR agencies on how to merge social media into their work, developing distinctive marketing campaigns, and training executives on digital strategies.

Allie’s work for a few quickly grew into retainers for many. Swapping her comfy PJs and home for a power suit and brick-and-mortar office, she formed the thriving agency that Integrate is today.

And thrive, they have. Since its inception, Integrate has been recognized by PRSA Houston, IABC Houston, and AMA Houston for its award-winning client work, as well as being named the Top Mid-Sized Agency of the Year from PRSA Houston in 2014.

Between Allie’s entrepreneurial gusto and the impressive company she’s built, it’s easy to see why Integrate is a great fit for WGPR.

Why the Merger?

The simple answer? We wanted to grow smarter, faster, and stronger. The opportunity to become Texas’ very first fully-integrated digital and traditional marketing firm was one we just couldn’t pass up, especially in the current marketing and media landscape.

More than anything, this merger is about combining the respective strengths, talent and expertise of the Integrate and Wellington teams to deliver unparalleled service to our clients, both present and future.

What Does This Mean for Our Clients?

Our clients will receive the same level of service that both agencies have always provided. In fact, it might even get better! We will now be able to offer public relations and digital marketing services that are even more data-driven, based in strategic thinking, and seamlessly integrated.

Change can be both nerve-wracking and thrilling, so we’re eager and anxious to begin our work as one cohesive team. The wild ride has only just begun!

Setting Goals in the New Year

4 Tips to Help You Set and Achieve Your Annual Objectives

 

The close of a year and the birth of a new one traditionally serves as a time for reflection and excitement. It’s important to look back upon your successes and shortcomings from the past year, as this then lays the groundwork for building anticipation about what is to come.

That’s right – as clichéd as the concept might be, engaging in a goal-setting exercise for your business can serve as the launching pad for success throughout the entire year.

Yet while goal-setting may seem straightforward on its face, you need to set yourself up to define, attain, and then surpass those goals. So whether these goals are for your personal or professional life, we’ve assembled a few helpful pointers for getting yourself on the right path to achieve them.

1) Prime Yourself for Success

It may sound silly, but it’s important to take a moment to celebrate your achievements from the past year. No achievement is too big or too small! This is a great way to get yourself in the right headspace to dream big as well as provide perspective on the goals you want to set for the new year.

Your seemingly lofty goals could look much more achievable when you list out the things you were able to accomplish last year, and this exercise should definitely get you pumped up and ready to conquer the new year.

2) Refine Your Goals

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a big picture goal?
  • Is it the same as last year, or has it changed?
  • Are you excited about it?
  • How close are you to achieving it?
  • What are you doing to accomplish that goal?

You must have a big picture goal, so you should find time to create one or thoroughly revisit the one you already have. That process could even look like this:

  • Imagine where you want to be this time next year.
  • Focus on the outcome first.
  • What do you want to see happen?
  • How do you want to feel?
  • Why are those outcomes important to you?

Describing and documenting the way you want to feel and why is key to this process. For example, say your goal is to meditate every day, and the “why” could be “to reduce stress.” Even if you only meditate a few days a week, you will likely experience a reduction in stress. This way, though you may have “failed” to reach the goal of daily meditation, you did achieve your goal of reducing stress – and that might have been the most important goal all along.

Remember, there are usually many paths to reaching a goal. Flexibility is essential in your approach, especially if you focus on the “Why” over the “What.”

 3) Determine How You Will Get There

Once you have refined your goals, you need to ask yourself: “What needs to be true for this to happen?”

From here, we start to work backward from the conclusion to the present day. If your goal is to hit $2 million in annual revenue, you should calculate how much you need to bring in every month, and then break down what work is required to bring in that monthly revenue.

The process can feel overwhelming, which is why we suggest breaking your goal up into deadlines throughout the year. For example, “To hit $2 million in revenue, we need to bring in 3 new accounts by July.”

These deadlines give you a chance to regularly evaluate your progress so you can adjust as needed. And this leads us right into our next tip:

 4) Hold Yourself Accountable

Having both a visual reminder of your goal and a way to track your progress will help focus your efforts. This could be something as granular as a project plan on a spreadsheet with monthly or even weekly tasks broken out, or it could be something as big picture as a vision board.

In addition to documenting your goals and tracking your own progress, we recommend you make your goals known to your inner circle so they may hold you accountable as well.

Don’t let another year of progress pass you by! Ultimately, goal setting boils down to recognizing where you’ve come from, setting definitive objectives, creating a clear path forward, and holding yourself responsible. You will be surprised what you can achieve by taking these simple but effective steps.

May you reach the goals you set, and cheers to the new year!

Our Favorite Campaigns of 2017

As we look back upon 2017 year here at Wellington Group, we wanted to get a holistic view of the year on an industry-wide scale. We feel that reviewing the work of our competitors and peers can help us improve upon our own. Self-evaluation is an essential way to generate constructive criticism for you own work, especially at the start of a new year. Read More “Our Favorite Campaigns of 2017”

Digital Marketing Trends for 2018

Digital Marketing Trends 2018

 Trends to Look Out for this Year

The digital marketing world is constantly evolving. New social platforms, technologies, and trends affect the way companies and brands portray themselves and drive traffic online. As a marketing and public relations firm, we always want to stay up to date with the newest digital marketing trends – check out a few of the up-and-coming trends we are most excited to see develop in 2018. Read More “Digital Marketing Trends for 2018”

How Can I Make My Best Impression When Networking?

Our Top Tips for Standing Out When It Matters

Attending networking events can be intimidating, even more so for the inexperienced, because we all want to make a good impression. But with the right tools, you can both enjoy the event and be successful with your meet-and-greet attempts.

Networking is so much more than the exchange of business cards and handshakes. It is about creating lasting relationships with people who can help nurture your talents and further your career.

By cultivating and nurturing this network of like-minded professionals, you have a ready-made collection of friends and confidants who can provide assistance, introduce you to new opportunities in your field, and connect you with the resources you need to succeed. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to provide your network that same help!

Keep these six stellar tips in mind, and your next networking experience will be much more successful and rewarding!

1. Listen

This may seem obvious to some, but it is very easy to forget to simply listen when you are in the moment and on a roll discussing the work you do (much less when nerves take over). Listening is also a key component to nurturing a relationship with the people you want in your network.

Of course, it is necessary to talk about yourself at networking events, but if you don’t listen, it’ll be very hard to create a relationship with new people. Listening helps you collect vital information so you know the appropriate people to call when you need advice in the future. People are also likely to be impressed and feel appreciated when you show interest in learning about them and their work.

2. Your Elevator Pitch is not an Advertisement

Elevator pitches can feel rehearsed and dry if you don’t make them an organic part of the conversation. If you move straight into your clearly memorized pitch right after introductions, it will feel like a commercial interrupting your favorite television show or podcast.

Instead, insert your elevator pitch into your discussions in a conversational manner, rather than making it sound like the stock presentation you repeat at networking events.

3. Share Personal Stories

Sharing a personal story or two can really start off networking relationships on the right foot. If you hope for these people to hire you one day or to help you find a job, they need to know you – not just what you’ve done.

This point also relates to Tip #2. If you can naturally weave your elevator pitch into the conclusion of your story, you’ve hooked your conversation partner with something personal before you reel them in with the pitch!

4. Smile

This is another obvious tip, but an authentic smile can really brighten up your conversations. If you come across as nervous or stressed, it may make others feel uncomfortable, but a winning smile can help ease tension and can be very inviting. Smiling is also known to improve your mood and relieve stress!

5. Follow Up

Always, always, always follow up. After events, it’s vital you reach out to your newly-found network! This helps you nurture the relationships and ensure they remember you. It’s hard for busy professionals to keep track of all the people they meet at networking events, so following up can help you stand out in their memory.

Send an email that includes your name, a personal detail you shared with them, and something unique about them from your conversation to spark their memory and grab their attention. Remember, you’re not the only one following up with them, and yours is definitely not the only email in their inbox. Make an impression!

6. Use Your Network to Network

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your network. If they don’t know the answer, they may know someone who does! This can quickly expand your network. The professionals in your network have valuable networks of their own, and they are usually happy to share contacts if you’re not afraid to ask.

Keep these tips in mind at your next networking event, and we’re sure you will succeed in all your efforts to meet other professionals. You may even run into someone from Wellington Group, and we’d be happy to help you expand your network and create new, lasting relationships!

What We’re Thankful For

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s easy to get caught up in the tiny details of our day-to-day lives and not look at the bigger picture. At Wellington Group we have much to be thankful for, so we wanted to take a minute to thank all the people who have helped our work family grow this year.

To our clients:

Foremost, thank you for choosing us to be your partner! It is an honor to work with you and help you achieve your business dreams. We love working with so many different clients across a variety of industries and are thankful our clients have given us a diversity of projects to work on. There’s truly never a dull moment in this office!

Because we work with such great clients, we wanted to highlight a couple of the community-focused events some of them are participating in during this season of giving. Sanctuary Spa is participating in Small Business Saturday on November 25 to support local businesses in Houston, and Rescued Pets Movement is hosting their Fur Ball event on December 2 to celebrate animal lives saved. We are proud to join with them to have a hand in making an impact on our community.

To our team:

Thank you for being such a great group of people to work with! Wellington Group has grown and changed a lot in the past year, and we’re thankful for our continued dedication toward expanding our company’s skillset. Recently, we brought aboard Adam, our new Senior Content Strategist, and Taylor, our new Senior Account Coordinator, to the Wellington Group team.

To our communities:

Thank you to our neighborhoods in both Houston and Austin. It’s been a tough year for Texas, but we feel so lucky to have roots in such resilient and giving cities. Seeing not only the Houston community come together, but the whole state in a time of great need, is inspiring to say the least.

Looking back on how 2017 is going so far, it’s easy to count our blessings. With engaging clients, fun team members, and exciting communities surrounding us, we at Wellington Group feel like we’ve hit the jackpot. Taking a step back and thinking about what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving season is a perfect way to remind yourself of all the people and events that have shaped this year.

Three Key Intern Takeaways

Intern typing on laptop

As a Marketing & PR intern for Wellington Group, I’ve had the chance to be involved in much more than I initially thought. No day in the office is the same and every project presents a new challenge or opportunity. Here are the three overarching takeaways I’ve learned from being an intern at Wellington Group.

Get involved – and quick!

At WGPR, things are always fast-paced. Different clients have different needs and everyone is quickly working on different tasks, ranging from social media curation to campaign development. I learned that to really understand all that WGPR does, I needed to ask a lot of questions and get involved in every opportunity I could.

When I first started as an intern, I was involved in the initial public relations campaign brainstorming for one of WGPR’s clients, University Christian Church. From there, I stayed involved with the campaign development and I have now seen the entire development process all the way to campaign implementation! This has been one of the best learning experiences in seeing how an agency operates, and it taught me to constantly look for new meetings and projects to sit in on.

Everything is a learning opportunity

Being a marketing & PR intern definitely involves a great deal of writing. Writing is such an important skill in the communications industry, and it’s a skill I’ve been able to practice throughout the entire internship. Everything from blogs to social media to press releases have taught me a lot about tailoring a message to a specific client. Through various blogs, social media posts and press releases, I learned a lot about tailor a message to a specific client.

I’ve learned that feedback is key to improving, and every time I have written something I’ve always received constructive feedback. I have seen my writing skills improve in just the few months I have been interning with WGPR. Every minor edit or track-changed correction has been a learning opportunity to make me a better writer.

Diversify your skill set

WGPR is a digital marketing and public relations agency, so the team is always involved in a lot of different projects. Everything from pitching to media outlets to SEO development can be found at the office. With so much work to get involved in, I really had to think about where my interests lie and where my work was needed.

Throughout the internship, I have had weekly check-ins, which have given me the opportunity to share what projects I like, what I want to continue doing, and what other areas of the business I want to dive into. I have learned to be open and communicative about things that interest me and because of that, I have gotten to learn from a variety of projects and clients. In just two months, I have been able to work on various projects across five different clients!

I think the most important aspect of any internship is to make sure you are continuously developing both yourself and your abilities. Always look for a company that wants to grow with you and help you succeed. Interested in an internship or job at Wellington Group? We’re currently looking for awesome candidates for Spring 2018. Send your cover letter and resumé to hr@wellingtongrouppr.com.

What is Conversion and Why is it Important for Your Business?

Online conversion is one of the most important measures of success for all businesses, but what is it? It’s simple. A conversion occurs when a visitor to your website completes a desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase. The percentage of total visitors who convert is called your conversion rate. You want to monetize the traffic that is coming to your site. These are not all the ways consumers can convert online but are some of the most popular forms of conversion.

Conversion rate (the percentage of users who take the desired action) is one of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) because the ultimate goal of a business is to make a profit. These desired actions should essentially drive consumers down the purchase funnel (pictured below) so they will eventually make a purchase. The purchase funnel includes different stages of conversion consumers have with brands before they purchase or become brand loyal. For example, during the awareness or familiarity stages, conversion goals could be to:

  • Secure X number of email signups
  • Increase engagement on social media by X%

It’s important to have an effective conversion strategy in each area of the purchase funnel which will ultimately lead to purchase and then most importantly, loyalty. During the awareness stage, you want push website visitors to view your products and become familiar with your brand. Driving consumers to customize products and add them to their carts is essential in the consideration phase. Your brand then has the opportunity to become top of mind in consumer’s consideration set. These phases should eventually lead to purchase and then loyalty. Loyalty is crucial in conversion because you want consumers to keep coming back to make more purchases.

Why is Conversion Important for Your Business?

Conversion is important for any business for one key reason: as conversion rate increases, profit increases. This can mean driving consumers directly to purchase or driving them down the funnel towards purchase and loyalty. Either scenario will eventually lead to a profit benefiting your business.

Could your company benefit from a strong conversion strategy? Give us a call for a free consultation.

5 Spooky PR Nightmares

Spooky pumpkins

 

The world of public relations includes everything from content strategy to media relations to social media management. Arguably, the most intimidating tactic in the PR toolset is crisis management. To get you spooked for Halloween, we wanted to touch on five PR nightmares that still send chills down our spines.

 

Volkswagen’s Emissions Omissions

Volkswagen (VW) is still trying to recover from their 2015 scandal when it was discovered the company used cheat software on their cars to falsify emissions tests. While the company came out with a public apology right after the scandal was made known, it was still not enough to keep the VW brand intact. Volkswagen had created a brand centered around clean diesel and antipollution initiatives. Lying on their emissions test was not only illegal and unethical, but it undermined their entire brand and the reason why a lot of consumers purchased VW vehicles.

PR Takeaway: Your brand’s public image is everything. People work with companies and buy products because of the brand – undermining that brand goes against a company’s entire business strategy.

 

Fake Accounts at Wells Fargo

Starting in 2009, Wells Fargo employees created over 3.5 million phony deposit accounts and credit card applications under customer names. If that wasn’t bad enough, CEO John Stumpf came out with a public statement saying the company culture did nothing to encourage such activity, which directly went against employee accusations that the company placed unrealistic goals and pressure on employees. If Wells Fargo wasn’t already in a bad spot with consumers, Stumpf not taking any responsibility made the situation worse.

PR Takeaway:  The owner or leader of a company should always be involved in consequences. The leadership of a company acts as the guiding force for the company’s actions and needs to be involved in both the good and the bad.

 

Delta Airline’s Embarrassing Tweet

To celebrate Team USA beating Ghana 2-1 in the 2014 World Cup, Delta Airlines posted a tweet with the image of a giraffe next to Ghana’s score. While there are giraffes in Africa, there are no giraffes in Ghana. Many people online caught on to Delta’s mistake, pointing out the irony of a global company not knowing more about one of the countries they fly to.

PR Takeaway: Think before you tweet! Anything you post online can be subject to public scrutiny. Make sure your posts are thoughtful, truthful, and backed with information or research.

 

Pepsi’s “Tasteless” Advertisement

Probably the most recent blunder is Pepsi’s advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner. The advertisement was accused of being an insensitive and tasteless portrayal of current social movements in the United States. Pepsi did end up pulling the advertisement and issuing a public apology, but only after the advertisement had gone viral online.

PR Takeaway: All PR or marketing efforts should go through several rounds of approval. The Pepsi advertisement was created in-house by Pepsi’s marketing team. It’s always safer to have a new plan or product go through many different reviews by people both in and out of the company.

 

Rhode Island Forgets Who They Are Online

In a social media promotional video for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, viewers voiced confusion when images of a place other than Rhode Island showed up in the video – footage of Iceland. The Commerce Corporation quickly realized that somehow, non-Rhode Island footage had been mixed into the video on accident. The Commerce Corporation apologized and labeled the event as a mistake, but only after people got a good laugh out of it.

PR Takeaway: Review, review, review! While you may look over something dozens of times, it is always best to have multiple people review. Double, triple, or quadruple-checking is always okay!

 

We hope these PR nightmares not only gave you the chills for this Halloween, but gave you lessons to learn from as well. These are only five examples of the countless PR blunders that have happened throughout history. Comment below with some of your scariest PR nightmares and what you learned from them.

Google AdWords 101

What is Google AdWords?

Google AdWords is a paid advertising service that allows businesses to bid on certain keywords in order for their specific ad show up in consumer Google search results. Google AdWords is based on a CPC (cost-per-click) system, where you, the small business, are only charged if someone clicks on your ad. This allows you to optimize search and create effective campaigns to draw attention to your business. In addition, Google AdWords is now more than just search ads. You can also run display ads, YouTube video ads and in-app mobile ads. So how does it work?

1. Create your campaign(s)

Depending on the type of business you have, you may want to create one or more campaigns in Google AdWords. For example, if you are in retail, you may want to have one campaign for shirts and another for pants to separate your budgets for each item.

2. Create AdGroups

You should have multiple AdGroups per campaign that contain related keywords. Each AdGroup will contain one or two ads related to the group of keywords. You can set a bid/price for each AdGroup or individually for each keyword.

3. Choose your keywords

Keywords in each group should be related to the title of your AdGroup. Keywords vary in price depending on other bids being placed on the words, so choose wisely. Don’t forget to choose negative keywords as well! These are keywords you do not want your AdGroup or campaign to be associated with.

4. Set your goals & optimization tactics

Choosing a goal such as increasing website traffic or driving conversions is essential to a successful AdWords campaign, and you don’t have to choose just one! You can optimize based on these goals using tactics such as increasing CTR (click-through-rate) or increasing consumer engagement. As you build your campaign, the Google AdWords platform will give you feedback and tips based on your goals and optimization tactics.

Why should I use it?

So, what? Why will this help my business become more successful? Consumers Google everything. They Google where to eat, where to shop, where to get their haircut, how to get somewhere, etc. Consumers Google so much that “google” is now an accepted verb in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. As of February 2016, Google holds 64 percent of the market share in search, meaning that 64 percent of consumers use Google as their primary search engine. By not optimizing and creating search campaigns on Google, you are missing out on 64 percent of searchers, and if you’re not using search campaigns at all, then you are missing out on all of them. How are consumers supposed to find you if they Google and your business doesn’t pop up? Further, if you are not one of the first five results to pop up in their search engine results, most consumers won’t take the time to scroll down far enough to see your business.

We know how important search is for your campaigns. Need help designing your strategy? Let’s talk.

Top 5 Trends from IBE New York

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since we packed up our bags and headed to the Big Apple for an amazing three days at the Indie Beauty Expo. The expo kicked off with Connect Indie, a day full of seminars on everything from funding your business to PR and marketing tips. The following day was open to the public so beauty enthusiasts could come experience products, talk to brand reps and shop to their heart’s content. Day three was dedicated to buyers, press and industry professionals, like us. The expo went by like a whirlwind, leaving us with sore feet (heels were a bad idea) and some key takeaways to bring to our clients. Below are five of the biggest trends we took away from Indie Beauty New York.

1. Indie beauty is in

There’s a reason the Indie Beauty Expo has grown exponentially over the past five years – indie beauty is huge right now. Increasingly, we’re seeing a shift in consumer behavior away from big beauty brands, like Maybelline, L’Oréal and Cover Girl, toward smaller companies with unique stories and more ethical practices. Buyers are picking up on this trend as well. At the expo, we spotted major buyers making deals left and right with these smaller, primarily founder-owned companies. Going booth to booth, we asked people if they’d had any interest from buyers. Many had talked to industry titans such as Sephora, Target and big department stores. The excitement from owners and founders was palpable; it’s a great time to be in the beauty biz.

The next time you walk through a major store, look closely at the brands on the shelves. The big brands will still be there, but there will likely be a good selection of indie beauty brands on display as well.

2. Everyone loves a founder story

During Connect Indie there were a few press panels where journalists from big names like Allure gave us their treasured secrets and tips to get their attention – every PR person’s struggle.

The biggest theme from these panels in regard to grabbing attention and getting journalists to write a story on your brand was founder stories. Journalists are constantly looking for interesting and unique story angles. A unique and compelling story about how the founder started the business is a great way to get noticed. Another interesting thing to note: journalists are more likely to respond to your pitch and set up an interview if the pitch comes from the founder or CEO themselves.

We met with several brands that had incredible founder stories. One that really stuck with us was the story of Dana Jackson, founder of Beneath Your Mask. Dana started her all-natural, nontoxic line after she was diagnosed with a severe form of lupus. After her diagnosis, she began her life-changing journey towards health. She wanted to reduce her exposure to harmful chemicals and repair the damage done to her hair and nails; thus, Beneath Your Mask was born. Her transformation is incredible. Compelling, right? Hers is an excellent example of a story beauty journalists would love to cover. It’s inspiring and emotional, and getting the word out could benefit many others struggling with skin problems or chronic illness. Read Dana’s full story here.

3. Find a way to stand out

You are likely the 700th hand lotion company to attend IBE, so how are you going to differentiate yourself to grab the attention of that buyer, journalist or shopper? You have to find a way. The booths that garnered the most attention and traffic had some sort of “wow” factor that passersby couldn’t resist stopping to check out.

We helped our client, Source Vitál Apothecary, set up their booth, and let me tell you – it was spectacular. They transformed their small exhibiting space into a beautiful facial cocktail bar, complete with beakers and vials, string-up lights and plenty of product samples for attendees to experiment with. Of course, your product will make or break you, but presentation is everything.

4. The future is digital

If you have an Instagram account, you likely follow quite a few influencers who correspond to your particular interests. Influencers have large, loyal followings and as their name suggests, their opinions carry a lot of weight.

You can have a stellar product, but what does it matter if you aren’t getting the word out about it? Consumers are often looking for the next best thing, so how are you going to make sure your product is it? Digital influencers should be your go-to. Beauty bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers are constantly trying new products to review and share with their audience. Trust is critical in the beauty community. Once an influencer gains the trust of their audience, they go from simply having casual viewers to a loyal following who look to them for sound advice.

By getting your product into the hands of a single digital influencer, you gain not only their support should they love your product, but the attention of their following as well. Don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful, well-put-together PR package in the right hands.

5. Invest in the right PR team

A common piece of advice we heard during the sessions and panels at Connect Indie was to spend the time and money to develop your brand and get your name out there. Because indie beauty companies are typically small, foundational elements of the business like determining product sales, distribution, packaging costs and shipping, typically take precedence. It’s easy to put efforts like PR and marketing on the backburner when you’re doing everything yourself.

That’s where working with an agency comes in handy. When you’re working with a PR and marketing team you trust, you can breathe easier knowing you and your brand are in good hands. Whether you need help developing your brand story or simply need to get your name out there, outsourcing those efforts will leave you with the time you need to fully focus on your business and everything that goes along with creating amazing products.

Handling Communications During A Disaster

This article was originally drafted for Forbes.com by our CEO, Robbie Wright. See the original here.

Hurricane Harvey dominated the news cycle for weeks and will likely remain in the mainstream media for months to come as we learn more about the extensive rebuilding efforts. In the same week, Hurricane Irma barreled up the state of Florida and there were two other active hurricanes, one in the Atlantic and the other in the Gulf of Mexico.

Like other agencies, we had to have hard conversations with our clients about the best way to respond to these national disasters, walking the fine line between contributing to a charitable cause and self-promotion. While we don’t want our clients to come off as opportunistic; we also can’t remain silent. We have to find a way to add our voice in a meaningful and respectful way.

This matter has been especially weighing on our team and we feel we have a unique point of view to offer. As an agency, our work family was heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Our Houston office was forced to shut down nearly the entire week we were under Harvey’s shadow. Two of our employees were forced to evacuate and one lost her home.

When the storm was hitting hard, I looked out my window to see my street transformed into a river. Feeling uneasy, I sent an email to the rest of the team asking their opinions on (for lack of a better word) capitalizing on hashtags that were inevitably trending. What is the best way to respond? How should we advise our displaced Houston clients? What about clients who were unaffected?

The short answer is: Don’t make it about you.

Use Thoughtful Messaging

Once you’ve got that out of the way, it’s important to remember there is nothing wrong with giving back via a charitable cause. Charities are desperate for resources and business has to go on for you and your clients. Make sure the message you craft is tactful and highlights the charity and how others can help. If you choose to send proceeds of a product or service to a charity, be thoughtful about the charity you choose and how the donations will be used. Make sure your offer is significant enough to warrant your inherent self-promotion or else you run the risk of being accused of profiting off a natural disaster.

Give Back

We have a spa client in the Houston area that thankfully had no damage — employees were able to get back to work there fairly quickly. Another spa in the area offered free services to first responders, which was a great idea, though we knew our client did not have the resources to follow through on that kind of offer. They desperately wanted to give back to their own neighbors, a feeling we now know well, and they chose to do so by offering 25 percent of service fees to an amazing local charity. In their messaging on social media, they came from a place of understanding and comradery, saying they were glad to be back to work providing the city some much-needed relaxation and hoped to be able to give back monetarily while doing so.

While many companies have chosen to take a similar approach in donating proceeds of products or services, we encourage you to think outside the box and find other thoughtful offerings that might be unique to your business. Another client we have in the Houston area is a natural body care line. In addition to monetary resources, shelters had a desperate need for hygienic products. This client was in the unique position of being able to help in a direct way. They quickly began packing bottles of body wash and ended up hand delivering 20 gallons to local shelters.

Be Flexible

Keep in mind any events or plans you or a client have coming up and be cognizant of current events, adjusting as needed. As an agency, we had an opening event for our Houston office planned a few weeks after Harvey hit. Invites had already been sent out and we didn’t want to put this event on hold, though we didn’t want to seem insensitive to the climate. Instead of canceling, we chose to pivot the event. Putting our heads together, we figured out how we could use the event to give back to the community. The event took on a new theme and was largely focused on gathering donations for local charities.

Anyone who has been part of something like a natural disaster knows that anything helps. If you aren’t thoughtful and genuine with your approach, it will show — which could hurt you or your client’s brand. We encourage you to become part of the conversation during trying times, as long as it is in a meaningful and respectful way. Just remember: Don’t make it about you — highlight the charity, be thoughtful and pivot if needed.

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Books to Read by the Pool

Summertime is meant for sunbathing by the pool with a good book. Although after you’ve read the same Jane Austen novel for the fifth time, you start to question what else might be out there for you. Here are some of our top book recommendations for some easy summer reading.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
By: Mindy Kaling

Are you looking to indulge in a light and easygoing book that will make you laugh out loud? Well, you’re in for a treat with this one. Actress and comedy writer, Mindy Kaling, tells her life story – from childhood to how she ended up in the world of show business. Filled with funny anecdotes, Kaling narrates the novel as if she’s your best friend guiding you through her experiences. From friendships and romance to bizarre Hollywood moments, Kaling is incredibly relatable and will surely entertain you if you choose to spend some time reading her story.

All the Light We Cannot See
By: Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See is a New York Times Best Seller that has captured the hearts of many readers. This coming-of-age story follows the lives of a French girl and a German boy during World War II, from childhood to after the war. It has been praised for being so beautifully and vividly written that you might forget you’re in the year 2017 because you will be so immersed!

How to Win Friends and Influence People
By: Daniel Carnegie

If you are a workaholic and feel guilty about reading for leisure, consider checking out this classic self-help book. This novel was originally published in 1936 but is still relevant to the professional world today. Dive into the pages of this book where you’ll find helpful tips on how to be successful in your professional life. Relax by the pool and work at the same time – certainly a “novel” idea!

Sweetbitter
By: Stephanie Danler

Sweetbitter is the story of a young woman who moves to New York City to start an exciting life. This book will give you a peek into the wild world of the New York food industry as a young person in her twenties experiences romance, parties, and a little scandal on the side. Get your fill of drama this summer with a novel instead of a TV screen!

We hope you take time to relax and read a book this summer! What are some of your favorite summer reads?

Beat the Heat: Best Swimming Holes in Texas

Summer in Texas is a unique experience. Living in the city, brunching at trendy spots and shopping downtown can be fun, but come late afternoon, the 96 degree weather starts to hit hard. Texas heat is very real, but our great state supplies us with swimming holes to keep us cool and entertained.

Barton Springs

This swimming hole in the midst of the city of Austin is a whopping three acres of pool, and is kept at 68 degrees year-round. Considered one of the most popular swimming holes in Austin, this pool is spring-fed and open from 5am-10pm, with the last two hours being free admission. The guests of Barton Springs are a diverse group of people and are a microcosm of the Austin people and culture. You will find yogis practicing on the hill, families splashing around with their children and plenty of people laying out in the sun or jumping off the diving boards.

Jacob’s Well

Located in Wimberley, Jacob’s Well is the endpoint to an underground natural spring that provides clear and cool waters perfect for those hot Texas days. This swimming hole is usually open from 10am-8pm during the summer months, but we recommend calling ahead about hours to plan accordingly. Jacob’s Well is a great place to day trip on a hot summer day off, and has plenty of areas of shade for bringing a picnic and some pals.

Hamilton Pool

Take a drive to Dripping Springs and visit Hamilton Pool, a swimming hole whose natural beauty gives off major lagoon vibes. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes because you will be doing a few minutes of walking to get to the pool area. Expect a beautiful 50 foot waterfall, and a shore area to lay out soaking up sun rays. The times of admission to this pool vary according to weather conditions, so take the time to call beforehand to ensure they’re open and waiting for you!

Krause Springs

Venture into Spicewood and you will find Krause Springs, a privately-owned swimming hole by the Krause family for over 50 years. There are 32 springs feeding into the large natural swimming hole, and the water is kept at a chilly 68 degrees year-round. If you are feeling extra adventurous there is also an opportunity to camp to fully immerse yourself in the Krause Springs experience.

Bull Creek

Another Austin gem is Bull Creek, an entire 11 miles of water, trail and climbing spots. It’s located in North Central Austin, and has been serving as a place for people to cool off as early as the 1950s. This area is dog friendly, and provides areas to bring a picnic and spend a hot summer day outdoors. Swimming in the creek, volleyball courts and walking the trails are all attractions that will make for an entertaining day in the hot Texas sun.

What are some other fun swimming holes to visit in Texas? Let us know in the comments below!