Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘economy’

2nd BWP Odd Pairing Experiment

Posted by thecastlegroup on September 22, 2010

Sick of the same old events? Boston World Partnerships, an economic driver that I am proudly part of, is hosting its 2nd Odd Pairing Experiment. The first was a great mix of very different speakers, tons of meaningful attendees and an awesome venue. 

This next one promises the same. Here are details. 

Join Boston World Partnerships’ Connectors for our 2nd Odd Pairing Experiment.  Panelists will lead an interactive discussion on the topic of how organizations tell their stories. 

Damon Jones, Global Communications Director, Procter & Gamble, and former Director of Press Relations for the 2008 Democratic National Committee

Howard Anderson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan, Founder of The Yankee Group, and Co-Founder of Battery Ventures

Chris Colbert, Founder of the marketing agency Holland Mark, and sherpa of FutureM

Susan Rodgerson, Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Artists For Humanity

Peter Brown, Chief of Staff to the President & CEO of Partners Healthcare, Former News Director at WBZ-TV 


Dave McLaughlin, Executive Director of Boston World Partnerships and award-winning filmmaker 

When: Wednesday – October 6, 2010 

Where: Artists for Humanity EpiCenter
100 W 2nd St.
Boston, MA 02127 

Time: Registration: 6:00pm -6:30pm
Speaking Program: 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Networking Reception: 7:30pm – 9:00pm 

Fee: $55 early bird & BWP Connectors
$75 General Admission 

To buy tickets, please visit:

Posted in Castle News, Events & Incentives, fun stuff and more, Marketing, PR, Social Media (or the Digital Divide) | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Modest damage?

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 6, 2009

The USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center has issued a report analyzing the recession’s impact on the PR industry. The good news? PR seems to be pushing through today’s economic problems with less bloodbath than previous recessions. OK, so maybe it’s not “good” news, but it’s encouraging.

Think about the dotcom crash. Working in Boston, with its large number of technology companies, in 2001/2002 was not pretty. Large firms got significantly smaller, small firms disappeared, “sole practitioners” filled the streets, and internal PR and marketing teams were decimated. Granted, that recession was not as widespread as today’s, but in this town so many agencies had so much skin in the tech sector, pain was all around.

Did agencies learn lessons from the early part of the decade? I think so. We manage our businesses better, staff more appropriately, and the stronger firms have become more judicious about working with clients that “get it.”

Is there still pain? Sure. Many firms have had layoffs. My “Smith Index*” is running high.  Budgets are lower.

But there is still activity. We are getting a steady stream of RFPs across our primary PR sectors: financial/professional services (they need us more than ever), education, healthcare, consumer goods and travel. The USC report states that financial services and healthcare are two of the revenue growth industries for PR. That’s good for Castle; we started our firm with a focus on healthcare and financial services; while we’ve expanded our offerings, these industries still drive our core PR business.

Highlights from the USC report show that:

  • Three-quarters of firms expect no staff size changes this year
  • Staff compensation will suffer; more than 50 percent expect to freeze wages
  • Digital PR and measurement/monitoring are expected to drive revenue
  • Research is playing a bigger role in PR, further blurring the lines between PR’s role and that of the ad agency, marketing companies and digital firms

What’s next? I’ve always believed that audience-facing efforts should be the purview of PR — websites, digital/social engagement, media, content creation/distribution. And I think the best PR firms will consider how all these elements can work for their clients and emerge from this recession stronger and with a bigger share of marketing mind-share and budget.

*Smith Index: My economic gauge is driven in part by my “Smith Index.” John Smith (name changed to protect the freelancer!) is an area PR freelancer. I never hear from John when things are good. But when I do hear from him with the “do you have any work” e-mail, my stomach churns. John has become a leading indicator for me; when I get his note, it’s usually about six months before wider spread economic issues hit. This time I heard from him in the summer of 2008. Historically, his e-mail has been a pretty good forecast of problems to come. And he was right again. Let’s hope, for all our sakes, that John’s business improves. And John, next time, try getting in touch when business is booming.

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Succeeding is not just surviving

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 2, 2009

I was having lunch with an old friend a few days ago. She is an old friend in every sense of the word, as we have been friends for a long time and she is now retired after a long and extremely successful career building, running and ultimately selling a crisis management firm in D.C.

This friend has successfully navigated her business through every economic downturn since Jimmy Carter was president, always emerging from recession even stronger than when it began. As she put it: “succeeding is not just surviving.”

What I took away from our lunch is this: when external conditions are tough and consumer confidence is ebbing, it is absolutely imperative to “reach out and touch” clients. It is vitally important to connect, listen and, most importantly, express appreciation.

For many companies it’s equally important to incent corporate sales teams and product resellers. It is crucial that the sales force understand and articulate the value propositions of goods and services, and that they are motivated, now more than ever, to put themselves and their sales teams into overdrive.

Call it what you will, “face time” or the “personal touch,” it is essential – and it works. There are many ways to connect with key internal or external constituents – a client, customer, sales manager or senior VP of a major reseller. Here are a few:

1. Pick up the phone. The simple act of “calling for no good reason” can be very significant. “I was just thinking about you and how much I appreciate your business (or hard work if it is an internal person) and your friendship. Tell me how things are going.”

2. “How about lunch?” Lunch, coffee or a cocktail after work is tried and true. You might want to consider a variation of this theme: bring lunch with you. Senior executives are busier than ever, so go ahead visit your customer or reseller and bring a light lunch with you. It’s quick, convenient and demonstrates your appreciation.

3. With spring in the air, golf is always a good option. Invite your customer and encourage him or her to round out your foursome with two guests. For larger companies with national and international constituencies, an event – standalone or as part of a corporate incentive program – is the most efficient and effective way to secure that all-important face-time, show corporate appreciation to customers and to motivate sales teams. The WPO Foundation and the Event Marketing Institute recently released a survey of companies with over $1 billion in revenue and reported that well over 50 percent of the respondents chose event marketing as the communications discipline that “best accelerates and deepens relationships with target audiences.”

To be effective, events do not have to be lavish. They do, however, have to be responsible, tasteful, strategic and professionally managed.

There is another very good reason to consider planning an event in today’s economic environment – value. At The Castle Group we are both planning and conducting corporate events nationally and around the world, and we are negotiating some of the best deals we have seen in 20 years.

So whether you invite your customer for a cocktail after work or to a corporate event across the country, reach out, get face time and you will not only survive the recession, you will succeed.

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