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KCSA Blog
What You Might Not Know about KCSA’s Corporate Culture
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May 9, 2013
By  Rachel Peck

Read this firm’s blog and you’ll get a sense of the work we do at KCSA.

You’ll learn about market trends and the changing social media landscape, how emerging technologies and ever-evolving platforms continue to change the face of communicating corporate messages.

But there’s something you’re missing. It’s something that—as I prepare to leave the firm to pull a career 180—I feel uniquely qualified to explain. The people here are special.

I imagine that every office is fueled by a love-hate relationship with its corporate characters. There’s the guy you can count on to spend thirty minutes talking about last night’s workout and the woman who persistently forgets her keys. There’s the detail-oriented manager and the laid-back coworker who’s getting ready for happy hour by lunch.

That’s all, more or less, true here. And KCSA isn’t perfect.

But as I’m cleaning out my snack drawer and preparing to leave, I’m struck by an unavoidable truth: despite our –isms and idiosyncrasies, the people here are kind. Good. Smart. They care about their clients and they care about their work. They stay late to finish projects and wake up early to triple-check. And they like each other. They laugh in conference rooms and dance at each other’s weddings and bring you along when they buy their first puppy.

If you are lucky enough to work with the folks at KCSA—as a client, partner, co-collaborator, or team member—know that you’re not just working with a firm. You’re working with some pretty great people who actually want you to succeed.

People I’m shamelessly and nostalgically and mushily unafraid to admit I will truly miss.

Enjoy their work and enjoy their company.

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Journalists and Public Relations Professionals: Working Together for the Good of the Story
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April 12, 2013
By  Caitlin Kasunich

If someone would have asked me five years ago what I’d be doing with my life at this point in my career, I never would have imagined that I’d be working in public relations. In fact, for most of my (young) professional life, I’ve actually been on the other side of the spectrum: in journalism as a reporter. Over the past couple of years, I’ve reported on pretty much every topic that there is to cover for a variety of interesting outlets, both national and international—from online news start-ups and sports to travel blogs and investigative stories. I even wrote obituaries for my first beat during college.

After getting my master’s degree in journalism, though, I decided to cross over into public relations territory, where I could still be connected to journalists but help to further their work and mission in a different, but still meaningful, way. Although I initially felt nervous that I wouldn’t belong in this new and challenging environment, I quickly realized that many, if not all, of the skills that I had learned as a reporter allowed me to understand PR on a much deeper level than I had originally anticipated.

Understanding the importance of deadlines, paying acute attention to detail, writing in a clear and concise manner and developing story ideas and angles that are both newsworthy and timely are all key journalistic ideals that effective public relations professionals strive to achieve and abide by, as well. In order to be successful in their respective fields, journalists and account executives, for example, also need to master the art of time management, prioritization, multitasking and editing. Both need to recognize the importance of working as part of a team, as well as acting alone.

Perhaps most importantly, though, those in PR and journalism are ultimately working toward the same end result—telling a compelling story that people will enjoy, learn from and remember. Consequently, public relations professionals and journalists should work together as much as possible to develop lasting relationships that will prove to be beneficial for both parties. When working with a reporter on a story, I always try to be as helpful and approachable as possible, and if there’s something that I don’t know the answer to, I do whatever I can to find out. And now with the proliferation of social media, journalists and public relations professionals have the unique ability to reach audiences on a much larger scale across a multitude of platforms.

News, from both a journalistic and public relations standpoint, is, at its most basic level, all about people and the stories that they have to tell. Collaboration and communication between the two industries will not only provide more opportunities for people to tell their stories, but it will also enable those stories to obtain the kind of value, recognition and power that they deserve.

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Rumor has it the NCAA Tournament decreases productivity. Talk to me after earnings!
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March 28, 2013
By  Phil Carlson

Last Wednesday as I sat in my apartment having breakfast, I was watching a morning talk show where I am usually updated on which celebrity couple is having a child or some idiotic dance craze that is sweeping the nation via YouTube. However, on this day, the talk show hosts were discussing something which I found interesting. I was informed by them that it’s that time of the year where the world according to Matt Lauer / Diane Sawyer slows down and productivity at work is decreased due to the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament (feel free to insert your own political joke here). Well Matt and Diane, let me say one thing, don’t ever tell that to an investor relations professional, especially when we are finishing up with year-end earnings and swinging right into and issuing first quarter earnings.

When it comes to year-end and quarterly filings, publicly traded companies are labeled under three categories: 1) Large Accelerated Filers, 2) Accelerated Filers and 3) Non-Accelerated Filers. For many micro-cap and small cap companies they are considered non-accelerated filers and their 10-Ks are typically filed on or right up to the deadline. This year it is April 1st. Below are requirements and deadlines for the categories public companies fall under:

Category of Filer

Deadlines for Filing Periodic Reports

Form 10-K Deadline

Form 10-Q Deadline

Large Accelerated Filer

($700MM market cap or more)

60 days

40 days

Accelerated Filer

($75MM or more and less

than $700MM)

75 days

40 days

Non-accelerated Filer

(less than $75MM)

90 days

45 days

According to the SEC, 10-Ks are to be filed 60 days after the end of a company’s fiscal year for large accelerated filers, 75 days for accelerated filers, and 90 days for non-accelerated filers. Large accelerated reporting companies have a public float of more the $700 million while accelerated filers are reporting companies with a public float of at least $75 million but less than $700 million. Large accelerated and accelerated filers must also meet the following requirements:

  • has been subject to the periodic reporting requirements of the Exchange Act for a period of at least 12 months
  • has filed at least one annual report (such as a Form 10-K)
  • is not eligible to file small business forms (such as Forms 10 KSB and 10 QSB).

A “non-accelerated filer” is a reporting company that has a public float under $75 million or that fails to meet other criteria for an accelerated filer.

So with most micro and small cap companies, once we have finished with year-end reporting we bounce right back into earnings mode with first quarter numbers for fiscal year-end companies, which this year are due by May 15th.

So is this a busy time of the year for those of us the investor relations field? You bet. Productivity downslide? Not a chance. Am I saying this because I picked Georgetown to win it all and I could care less who wins the tournament now? No way. I have earnings scripts and press releases to work on. Plus, I don’t want to be stuck inside watching basketball during my free time, it’s finally Spring!!!

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The JOBS Act- Full employment for PR and Marketing Firms?
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March 27, 2013
By  Lewis Goldberg

Last year the federal government passed what could be a transformative piece of legislation known as the Jumpstart Our Business Act (or JOBS Act for short). This piece of legislation is intended to help small businesses grow dramatically by allowing them to access new capital from the markets.

This legislation also has potentially sweeping ramifications for the financial services industry. Hedge funds, private equity funds and other organizations that invest capital on behalf of high net worth individuals now have the ability to reach out to others of that ilk and to begin to market.

Until now hedge funds could not directly market to investors; and investors they actually could communicate with had to be accredited investors, people with more than $1 million in assets and making more than $200,000 annually.  Under the new rules this all may change.  More importantly, hedge funds and the like will be able to communicate through the mass media.

Now I can’t imagine that the BlackRocks of the world will be advertising on The Voice, but you will see a battle for mindshare targeting investors who buy ETFs or mutual funds.  You’ll see fund managers on CNBC, FoxBusiness and CNN touting their strategies and their take on the markets.

The key question for financial services organizations in this new paradigm is: how do you effectively communicate and differentiate yourself from other hedge funds, from other private equity firms, in ways that go beyond just talking about return?

KCSA has made its name in working with money managers like Stanley Crouch from Aegis Capital, Forefront Capital, and others helping them use strategic communications to tell their stories to help them differentiate themselves and most importantly, to help increase assets under management.

The key element for any financial services firm to think about is how does the client want to be known and perceived when communicating with potential investors? How do they want to define themselves? How do they actually use strategic communications to recruit limited partners, investors and even employees?

People hire people, and while return is important, the people or PERSON who manages your money is key.

For the hedge funds, private equity funds and others that are looking at the JOBS Act as an opportunity to reach new investors, learning how to communicate about strategy, philosophy and culture is vital.

According to LXE Marketing, a partner firm to KCSA and an expert in marketing for hedge funds, there will be nearly $500 BILLION spent on marketing in the coming three to five years by hedge funds.  LXE’s Steve Saltzstein believes that these funds will need to court potential investors in new ways, mixing in experiential marketing, public relations, social media and advertising.  Spending this money wisely, and with a partner who understands the rules of the road, has a track record of being successful in helping clients increase AUM.

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Philosophical Musings on Coverage
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March 21, 2013
By  Samantha Wolf

It’s like the proverbial tree in the woods:  if you secure coverage but your target audience doesn’t read it, does it count?

Try not to spend too much time philosophizing on this mind bender, there is a set of tactics to help ensure that your coverage does, in fact, make a sound if no one is there to hear (or read) it at first.

This is something most PR folks have to address on a regular basis with clients – while securing great coverage is wonderful, it is often what you do after the third party piece runs that helps move the needle. 

Facing issues such as this one and understanding how to address this challenge is one of the (many) upsides of working for an integrated communications firm: the combined expertise of all departments helps understand how to amplify successes in one sector in different ways.  Getting the most bang for your buck with coverage often relies on a series of marketing and social media tactics to further reach a company’s target audience. 

Some tactics include:

  • Put it on your website. Every company should have a newsroom on its site with a blurb about the piece (or the full piece if rights allow) and a link to the entire story. Once this section of the site is established, when you do repurpose content, for example on social media, you can link back to your site for additional promotion. When a potential customer or investor goes to read the piece they will already be on your site if they want to poke around for more information.
  • Share it on social.  Coverage makes great content to disseminate on social channels – from LinkedIn and Twitter to Facebook and beyond.  It helps validate what your company or executives are doing that makes you best in class.
  • Tell the people know you.  Do you have a friends and family email list?  Maybe a database of current and potential clients / customers?  Let them know how smart the media thinks you are or what a great product a publication said you have – create an HTML emailer and send to these lists.  One note of caution: don’t send them a piece a week, be judicious when blasting to this list and consider packaging more than one hit at a time.
  • Pitch more!  Did you get a great print hit?  Congratulations!  But, no, that doesn’t mean you’re done for the day. Often TV follows print in terms of the stories they run. Look at the piece and see how you can make it a broadcast story and pitch away.

At the end of the day, securing positive coverage on behalf of a client is always a beautiful thing. However, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how that one piece impacts the company or brand as a whole, and it is important to seize the opportunity and make sure your story is heard – trees or no trees.

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Open Office concept vs. Working from Home
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March 19, 2013
By  Garth Russell

Recently the new CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer banned Yahoo employees from working at home.  This has struck up a very interesting conversation in the media and companies around the country about the value of being in an office environment.  Even in my household the benefits of working at home are a common topic as my wife sometimes works from home on Fridays and would cherish the opportunity to do so more often.

At the root of the argument is the value of collaboration in the workplace.  Collaboration is something that has made many companies in Silicon Valley successful, and those companies have led a revolution in office design with open office concepts now prevalent in offices from New York to San Francisco (including KCSA’s NY office).  In my opinion, the idea of working from home flies in the face of what an open office concept tries to accomplish in terms of collaboration. So I find it difficult to envision a “working from home” corporate culture to be successful in an industry that relies heavily on collaboration among co-workers, including the tech industry and even the PR industry.

In the world of IR and PR, collaboration is a very important part of our success as a firm and as individuals.  The ability to casually be drawn into a conversation where a co-worker might believe you are able to offer specific insight, is not something easily replicated in a “work from home” environment.  I’m not saying a person at home couldn’t jump on a phone call if needed or respond to an email; however, it wouldn’t be as casual of an occurrence as what is experienced in the office.  The ability to let ideas or counsel flow freely between colleagues as they walk down the hall, pass in the kitchen, or grab lunch together isn’t possible from your desk at home.  Furthermore, the mentoring of less experienced colleagues by the partners of our firm occurs much more frequently because everyone is working side-by-side.

I often hear fellow KCSA’ers say they get so much more work done at home because there are no distractions or because they saved time by not commuting, and that may be true.  However, I believe they only see benefits because of two reasons:

1.) They work from home so sparingly; there is no loss of collaboration at the office

2.) Collaboration isn’t something that you necessarily miss immediately, so they only recognize its loss when they fail to see the benefits.

Remember, collaboration isn’t just to your benefit; it might be to the benefit of others.  So while the person at home is getting a ton of work done because there are no “distractions”, their colleagues are not benefiting from their counsel and therefore aren’t providing the quality of work expected by the company or its customers.

The point that I believe is missing from the argument to work from home is that it all depends on the job.  At the end of the day, the specific requirements of a job should determine if a person can work from home 1 day a week, 5 days a week, or not at all.

Plus, if we didn’t come into the office, we wouldn’t be able to go to Wolfgang’s after work.

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And the Truth Will Set You Free
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March 12, 2013
By  Jeffrey Goldberger

After years of working to protect the reputations (and sometimes egos) of CEOs, boards of directors and companies, it was refreshing to read the resignation letter of Andrew Mason, founder and now, former CEO of Groupon.  With simple and unexpected candor, Mr. Mason stated, “I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention.”  Was it shocking that Mr. Mason got fired; probably not, since Groupon (the Company, its CEO and stock) had long fallen out of the good graces of Wall Street since its IPO in November 2011.

The only surprise was that Mr. Mason admitted the TRUTH.  But even more surprising was the fact that the Company allowed this to happen.  In the world of corporate America, demonstrating a united front and adhering to the ‘party line’ is the norm.

While I know better than most that it is appropriate, for a multitude of reasons, that companies and their management teams go to great pains to take the high road, every once in the while it would be nice to be told the truth – the good the bad and the ugly.  This is especially true for shareholders who by virtue of owning the stock are entitled to know the truth.  But in the litigious society in which we live, corporations are handcuffed to make sure not to impinge someone’s reputation and incur the wrath of the legal community.

As the following real-life examples suggest, more often than not, companies and their outgoing CEOs say all the right things… when they probably wanted to say something else.

Party Line: “I believe that this is the right time in the development of the Company to transition to a new Chief Executive Officer.”

What they probably wanted to say: “I have been using the Company as my personal piggy bank and stealing from employees and shareholders for years.  A few weeks ago, I got caught.”

Party Line: “I would like to thank my fellow directors and management…”

What they probably wanted to say: “I’m the fall guy for an inept board, management team and poorly executed business plan.  I can’t believe that the board has chosen to throw out the only person in this organization worth his salt.  Thanks for nothing!”

Party Line: “I reached the conclusion and advised the Board that the time was right to begin a process to identify my successor.”

What they probably wanted to say: “I never would have reached this conclusion.  Are you kidding!  I’ve been making a seven figure salary for the past 10 years and during this time have yet to step foot on a commercial aircraft.  And you expect me to help find my replacement?  You know where you can shove it!”

Party Line: “On behalf of the Company’s management and board of directors, we wish Mr. X all the best in his future endeavors.”

What they probably wanted to say: “Just get out.  You’re dead to us!”

Party Line: “I am leaving the Company effective immediately to pursue new opportunities.”

What they probably wanted to say: “Opportunities.  What opportunities?  You’ve bloodied my name and reputation.  What opportunities await me?”

While speaking the truth is not always popular, in business, as in life, I think we’d all be better off over the long term if people were more honest with each other.

Similar to removing a Band-Aid, just rip it off!  Absorb the short-term pain and move on.  While the immediate pain might be excruciating, it’s certainly better than doing it slow.

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The West Wing and the Power of “Communication”
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March 5, 2013
By  Rachel Peck

Earlier this month a friend suggested I start watching The West Wing, so I hunkered down with a bag of frosted animal crackers and my Netflix Instant Queue to begin what would quickly devolve into a Rob Lowe induced hibernation.

I’m now re-emerging from the binge with a clear directive: If you work in, with or around the media, watch The West Wing.

The show is a completely re-energizing statement about the power of “communication.” I say “communication” (in quotes) because it’s a nebulous concept—it can mean anything from issuing an official press release to branding an organization in the wake of a crisis to analyzing a person’s body language on a coffee date.

The West Wing affirms the power of “communication” in all of its aforementioned iterations.

Let me back up for a second. I work for a communications firm on behalf of diverse clients. When my job is at its best, I have a unique opportunity to say something important—and say it well. There have been moments in which I’ve been able to transmit information in a totally practical and tangibly commodifiable way. I’ve used words to sell something, convince somebody or make something better.

The West Wing’s ethos reverberates within that possibility; the show examines and extols what it means to materially “communicate” an idea. To get in a room with some smart people and use words and stories to not only say something, but to actually CHANGE things. DO something. It’s not all hot air. Or maybe it is hot air—but it’s hot air that’s being effectively channeled to fly a bunch of really cool balloons. There’s a purpose and a point, and the words are the power.

I found myself genuinely inspired by that intersection, that space where action and articulation are mutually constructive and at work for the public good. The show offers a realization through which I think we can all approach our work: “Rhetoric matters. Words matter. Spin matters. That’s influence. That’s effective leadership.”

In a legendary exemplification of this principle, at the end of the first episode we’re introduced to the President as he barrels into a room, overrides his political adversaries and re-focuses his staff with stories. He was communicating. And he was brilliant.

Whether it’s on the East side or from the West Wing, that’s what we do—what we can and should do—as “communications” professionals. Turn ideas into action through words. Do the right thing and say the right thing; do the right thing by saying the right thing.

I challenge us all to spend some quality time with The West Wing, confronting and re-imagining the potential of that power: the power of “communication.”

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‘Like’ and the Power of Social Media
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November 14, 2012
By  Jeffrey Goldberger

How often in life do you say that you ‘like’ something? “I like your hat, I like the smell of the ocean, I like the Green Bay Packers.” While sometimes you mean it, other times you simply say it to be courteous. Most times the lasting effect of this comment is fleeting at best, but every once in a while, the effect is long lasting, meaningful and compelling.

Such was the case in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

As the extent of the devastation became clear, a number of my friends (informally referred to as the Group of Eight) from the New York marathon and triathlon community got together to see if they could help the victims of this epic storm.  As the backdrop to this discussion, on the Saturday prior to Sunday’s running of the annual New York City Marathon, Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, President and CEO of New York Road Runners, cancelled the race – and rightly so.

In short order, this team of endurance racers determined that it was their civic duty to pool their resources and obvious overabundance of energy and will to organize an effort to support the citizens of Staten Island, one of the hardest hit communities in New York.

With time working against them, a Facebook group called New York Runners in Support of Staten Island was formed to get the word out to potential volunteers and fundraisers.

The Original Group of Eight

And boy did the word get out!!!

Created on Saturday evening, by the time the organizers woke up the next morning, the group had attracted more than 500 Facebook ‘likes.’  And by the time the group came together on the Staten Island Ferry on the New York Side, more than 1,300 volunteers were on hand, eager to board the ferry to assist fellow citizens who were (and continue to be) in dire need of help.  Armed with 15-20lb backpacks filled with batteries, clothes, toiletries, and other essentials, these volunteers put the cancelation of the marathon into proper perspective, and hit the ground running – and I mean running – from St. Georges terminal in Staten Island to points throughout the area – some running as far as 8 miles each way!

Week Two of the Relief Effort

Today, the Facebook group boasts 5,833 likes and, more importantly, is being talked about by 16,576 people on Facebook.  This effort also resulted in a tremendous amount of media coverage, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Huffington Report, The Today Show, Businessweek and countless others.

Being a communications professional, I certainly understand the power of social media, but it was amazing to experience firsthand how a simple, well-constructed idea can take off.  Social media is a way to communicate with large and disperse audiences that will continue to gain traction as a means to influence, organize and create change.  I suspect that we are in the early innings of what will prove to be an extra-inning game.

So, the next time you say that you ‘like’ something on Facebook, remember the multitude of ‘likes’ that came together on the heels of one of the most epic storms to hit the Eastern Seaboard, and resulted in an outpouring of humanity for the sake of humanity.

To help us continue to support the citizens of Staten Island, please join us on Facebook and on our next trip to Staten Island.

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Rookie Mistakes: 4 Life Lessons You Can Learn From My First 6 Months in the “Real World”
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October 24, 2012
By  Rachel Peck

I’m quickly approaching my six month anniversary in the working world and, along with copious amounts of business cards and an internal clock that stubbornly wakes me up before 9:00am every Saturday, I’ve acquired a bit of worldly wisdom. Granted, most of that wisdom has come from making traumatizing, cringe-inducing mistakes, but in the spirit of over-sharing, I invite you to laugh at—and learn from—a hand-picked selection of said slip-ups.

The Moral: Plan Ahead

The Mistake: As I was cold-calling media outlets to pitch a client as an expert source, I found myself establishing a nice rhythm. Dial number. Scroll through the spreadsheet to read the reporter’s name. “Can I please speak to…?” Pitch the story. Until I came to a name I can only describe as a puddle of consonants, as though someone fell asleep on a keyboard and called it a name. To this day I maintain that it is physically impossible to quickly read and then say the words – “Can I please speak to [insert random characters here]?”- without laughing. With a name like that, you’ve got to plan ahead.

The Moral: Value Your Time

The Mistake: I work in Midtown East. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment in Washington Heights. This was a mistake.

The Moral: Be a Team Player

The Mistake: For the first twenty-something years of my life, I was assured that using the first-person singular pronoun is a perfectly acceptable way to communicate. “I’ll be right back.” “I like your shoes.” “I’m thirsty.” But in a client-serving business, you work on collaborative teams—so in the professional world, it’s not “I,” it’s “we.” “We’ll be right back.” “We like your shoes.” “We’re thirsty.” Suffice it to say it took “us” several schizophrenic emails to fully internalize this best practice.

The Moral: Always Weigh the Consequences of Your Actions

The Mistake: When I moved into my cubicle, I took the opportunity to act like a fifth grader at summer camp and make new friends by stocking my desk with candy and snacks. (Fine, this was only 25% of the reason I stocked my desk with candy and snacks…)  Well, it turns out that what seems like a good idea in the Duane Reade line is a bad idea when you find yourself staring down a bag of chocolate for eleven hours a day. Enter: gym membership.

So I guess it’s true that the “real world” presents a steep learning curve. And sometimes the curve feels more like a cliff. But I’ll take some degree of comfort in the fact that my own professional rookie mistakes have revealed life lessons we can all learn from. You’re welcome.

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