Word on the Street From Three Major Networking Soirees: What I Heard and Learned + Opinion

By October 24, 2019#BOCALife

I’m always busy, but lately, I’ve been busier than usual. Last week was Jackson Square Ventures’ Annual Soiree (thank you, Josh Breinlinger) and GV Communications Summit (thank you, Jodi Olson); this week, it’s the PRSA 2019 International Conference in San Diego (thank you, Ellie Javadi). I attended all three, and each was beyond informative. 

At these events, I listened to CMOs, CCOs, agency owners and VC pundits across a variety of geographics and industries. I thought it would be interesting to look at these three fairly different events and highlight key themes that came up across all venues, either on stage during presentations or what I heard while out and about during the events’ networking lunches and cocktails. 

Theme #1: Recruiting is tough, especially in San Francisco. 

Holy moly, it is hard to recruit, especially in the city of San Francisco. Everyone I spoke with said it’s  so difficult that PR agencies are strategically building offices in other parts of the country to support their hiring needs. Bateman Group, for example, now has an office in Portland as well as other places. Bulleit Group is split, with half of its employee base located in San Francisco and half in Nashville. Hotwire has been touting “pop up” offices in cities where some of its employees are located. Of course, here at BOCA Communications, half of our staff and several VPs are located in San Francisco and the rest are sprinkled around the United States. Along with BOCA’s consumer and emerging markets vice president, Chris Powell, I’m currently building an office in San Diego. Wish us luck! I know it will be a great addition.

As if to underscore all of this, one of San Francisco’s most popular B2B high-tech recruiters said to me recently, “There are no more people in San Francisco. I am pulling people from all over the country and offering relocation packages.” As a person who wants strategic growth for her company, this is concerning because I need talent in order to grow. But I have a plan. 

Theme #2: It’s all about a distributed team + Zoom. 

Given the scarcity of talent in San Francisco, businesses big and small — especially those that are international — must embrace a distributed team, and Zoom is the best way to enable this. Caryn Marooney, vice president of global communications at Facebook, emphasized this point when I saw her at the GV event. 

She shared that when there are conference calls, everyone gets on  Zoom video — even when several people are in the same location. Zoom allows everyone participating to have even footing and contribute regardless of location. International brands in particular need to think this way as well. It makes sense to me, Zoom is now mandatory. (And don’t worry about not being camera-ready. We don’t judge.) 

This Zoom phenomenon is interesting, generationally speaking: Younger employees have no problem embracing video. In fact, they seem to prefer it. Recently, I conducted an interview with an intern over the phone. While on the call, she asked if we could FaceTime. This was a first for me. And the other day, I was at the auto dealer and a young man about 25 was chatting on his phone with his headset, but it was all on video. The reality is that after years of “just ok” video conferencing solutions, we now live in a time where, as long as one has a solid WiFi or 4G connection, quality video is the preferred mode of communicating. 

Today, I interviewed a young, rising PR star, savvy about all things digital, media and social. She told me that her generation think of themselves as digital nomads roaming from place to place with their laptops and smartphones. This trend will only continue to rise. 

Theme #3: Omnichannel communications encompasses influencer marketing, paid media and social.

Historically, influencer relations, paid media and social sat squarely in the “digital marketing department” under a chief digital officer or marketing director. They were siloed disciplines, usually with individual practitioners leading these nascent and undefined new channels. However, a move to an omnichannel communications strategy is redefining where these disciplines exist. 

This came across loud and clear during the GV Communications Summit and the PRSA annual conference. Slowly but surely, these disciplines are shifting to the communications team and being bucketed as part of a holistic omnichannel communications strategy — as they should. 

After all, the communication team identifies and engages influencers and pundits, so why shouldn’t we truly lead the charge? The communications team is working with an ever-shrinking number of traditional media channels, so why not morph as the publications have done? Change is upon us and communications professionals must evolve and provide strategic value to our clients. Nowadays, this is done with smart narratives, good content, and earned and paid media. 

Theme #4: Diversity and inclusion are the way forward. 

With a name like Kathleen Shanahan, I come by my blonde hair and blue eyes honestly. But my Irish name belies my entire heritage: While my dad was Irish, through and through, my mother (“Chief Mom” on the BOCA website) is Argentinian.  

I grew up speaking Spanish and English, having spent my life traveling between Southern California, Mexico City and Buenos Aires. I continue to honor my Latina heritage through my children, who are also bilingual and who celebrate and value the Latin culture in the same way that I do.

I have an entire business plan sitting in the back of my mind that will support and tap the Latin market. Currently, BOCA is actively hiring first-generation Latinos that have a command of the Spanish language. (It’s a passion project for me that I will  leave for another blog post.)

So, where am I going with this? The importance of diversity is near and dear to my soul. I love that companies and associations are truly pushing the agenda. (Salesforce, you rock at this!) My passion for diversity also stems from the fact that I am a woman that has been fighting my way through a male-dominated Silicon Valley. I may not be of color (not in appearance, anyway), but I know how to push through an uphill battle. 

During the PRSA event it was a pleasure to listen and network with folks pushing the diversity conversation:

  • Getting It Right — Diversity and Inclusion in LGBTW and Latinx Communications
  • Diversity Champions and Their Challenges
  • Building a Diversity and Inclusion Brand 

BOCA recently hosted “Bay Area Storyteller of Color” at our office in downtown San Francisco. A closed-door event, journalists and communications professionals from around the Bay Area were able to share their private stories — wins and losses. I am honored that BOCA was asked to host such an incredibly important discussion. And, I hope we have the opportunity to host more like it. 

I’ve definitely had a busy few weeks where I’ve learned so much. I am honored and humbled daily by what I learn, and will constantly be on a quest to learn more and share it all with you. 

Signing off for now…

Kathleen
#BOCAlife

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