How not to foible a fact check opportunity

Fact Check Faux Pas
Fact check faux pas

How not to foible a fact check opportunity

Understanding the value of courtesy reviews, and how to master this earned media skill

If a media contact offers you an opportunity to fact check their work, consider it one of the holy grails of media relations. After all, media are not required to afford you this courtesy in advance of broadcasting or publishing their pieces. But every once in a while, especially if you have developed good rapport and mutual trust with the contact, they will give you the opportunity to check for accuracy. The following guide will help you take advantage of the opportunity and avoid common missteps, so it isn’t your last.

Understand the purpose of a media fact-check

When you have the opportunity to review a piece before it is published, keep in mind it is not time to line edit the writing or ask media to include more of your product key messages. After all, the media want and need to maintain their credibility. That credibility is exactly why you want them to report on your product or company. A piece that sounds like an ad isn’t how they accomplish that. 

Clients often struggle to withhold suggested builds and subjective recommendations for editors because they want to make the most of their publicity. It is important to provide the feedback they are looking for – clarification or confirmation of the facts – rather than try to help them write their piece.

What not to ask during a courtesy review

Certain types of feedback should always be off-limits, as they could insult your media contact and deter them from working with you in the future.

  • Overall story angle. Editors may not share the full piece in context, and they often share only the portion that mentions your client. Either way, clients should not attempt to change the overall angle or voice of the piece. This is predetermined as part of an editorial calendar. What is more – it is their art – where they add value for their reader.
  • Expanded product messaging. This cannot be emphasized enough. When media requests a fact check, they are offering an opportunity to confirm that the product messages are factually correct, not for feedback on the context in which those messages are framed.
  • Competitive comparisons. In the world of marketing, clients like to avoid direct competitive comparisons unless there is unquestionable and irrefutable evidence. Even then, lawyers tend to revise competitive mentions when the piece is under legal review. These types of comparisons are what media do, though, and it is why they are trusted by their audiences. Customers expect companies will always rank their own products above competitors. They look to media and other influencers because they have an outside vantage point.

These are not exactly the most comfortable discussions to have with a client, but they are important. They help clients see the situation from a different vantage point and respect the delicate nature of media relationships. Media relations should complement your overall marketing communications program. It gives you credibility and helps to build brand awareness. But with that opportunity comes some loss of control that can be difficult for brand marketers.

R+K’s Amy McEvoy, head of Earned Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help strengthen media relationships for your brand, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: What Does it Mean for Your Marketing Program?

Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: - Impact on Marketing Program
Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: - Impact on Marketing Program

Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox: What Does it Mean for Your Marketing Program?

Google announced it will phase out 3rd-party cookies by 2023. We’ll review what this means for brands and how they might adjust their marketing programs.

UPDATE: This post was originally published on November 9, 2020. On June 24, 2021, Google announced that they are delaying the phase out of cookies to late 2023 (rather than early 2022 as previously announced). This should allow the industry more time for both Google and the industry at large to fully roll out and test alternate solutions before cookies are removed. Rhea + Kaiser will provide additional insights and recommendations related to this news as it develops.

In a January 2020 blog post Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering at Google, announced Privacy Sandbox, a project designed to phase out 3rd-party cookies on its Chrome browser. It will take two years, with 3rd party cookies fully phased out by 2022. In the meantime, Google is working on alternative solutions that will make consumer data more secure but still allow for targeted advertising.

With this announcement, many of our peers and clients have asked what this means for their brands, their marketing strategy, and their own personal information. We’ve outlined our take on this news here.

What does this mean for marketers?

Programmatic advertising – which helps us target the right audience regardless of where they are – relies on 3rd party cookies for targeting and measurement. We explain the difference between programmatic and endemic advertising in this Marketing to Farmers post. These cookies are designed to follow users across the internet, tracking their behaviors to generate virtual user profiles. This is a powerful and effective tool for personalized advertising and conversion tracking but created concerns for consumer privacy.

So why mess with a good thing? By eliminating third-party cookies, Google better protects user data. It’s a move that forces the industry to adapt and come up with new ways to track conversions and target users. Consumers get greater protection, and programmatic publishers get alternate means of monetization.

Google Chrome represents 69% of online activity on desktop and 40% on mobile. Given that the leading mobile browser, Apple’s Safari, already prevented the use of tracking cookies in 2018, the ability to use 3rd-party cookies will be virtually gone when Google completes this transition in 2022.

What are some potential outcomes?

  • Google’s intended outcome is that 3rd party cookies become obsolete and replaced with a new universal solution that protects consumer data. One solution being tested: storing individual user-level information in the browser.  This allows access to certain information via an application programming interface (API), which allows apps to borrow data and interact in a specified way. This means the conversion would be tracked, but the user data would not be passed back. Several APIs have been proposed to solve for ad selection, conversion measurement, and fraud protection. One proposed API is a “trust token” designed to anonymously authenticate a user and distinguish them from bot traffic.
  • Publishers will likely try to scale/monetize their 1st-party data, through first-party cookies and by asking users to log in with an email and provide additional demographic data, allowing for more granular onsite targeting. 1st party cookies are not affected by these changes from Google, as this data is obtained through some form of consent or direct relationship with the user.
  • There could be a shift towards contextual targeting. Even if behavioral targeting is lost, it will still be possible to target a user based on keywords, time, and location. It will become increasingly important to make sure that ads are tailored to that context, since they can’t be personalized directly to the user. Premium publisher content may also experience a resurgence.
  • Brands may choose to leverage their email and CRM data more actively for targeted advertising.

What does this mean for our brands and yours?

The burden of finding an alternate targeting methodology largely falls on Google and a brand’s digital partners. Over the next two years, they will work together to develop solutions that allow some of the same capabilities as 3rd-party tags (behavioral targeting, conversion tracking, frequency capping, etc.).

At R+K, we’ll address this with each of our partners to understand and evaluate the new solution that they provide. Some programmatic partners have already anticipated this cookie-less shift and have robust data sets for targeting that are not reliant on 3rd-party cookies. Depending on the viability of these new solutions, there could be a shift in our recommendations for digital investment toward partners with robust 1st-party data or alternate forms of targeting (in particular, Social and CTV/OTT).

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Earning favor with earned media contacts

Media credibility
Media credibility

Earning favor with earned media contacts

A look at the importance of media credibility and tips for developing a mutually beneficial relationship with journalists

“Please don’t ask me to write an advertisement.” That’s the most common piece of advice I have received from editors and broadcasters over more than two decades in communications.

That’s why it has become one of the first pieces of advice I give any client or potential client when they want to develop a media relations program. For some, it’s an “ah-hah” moment, while others are briefly disappointed when they realize they had planned to approach earned communications the same as paid, albeit subconsciously.  Other clients aren’t quite sure what that advice means.

Understanding media credibility

The truth is, Earned and Paid media complement each other, and one can’t replace the other.

Paid media works through the traditional push marketing approach, reaching customers earlier in the sales funnel and building awareness. The message and placement are guaranteed. Earned media is a pull marketing approach that builds credibility and trust of the brand/product among current and potential customers who are further along in the sales funnel, helping them finalize their decision.

There’s a reason that Earned media builds credibility and trust of your brand. Your customers trust that certain media and influencers only report on what they have vetted themselves – what they believe to be true.

How did those outlets, editors and broadcasters earn that reputation, with some even becoming celebrities in their own right? Because their audiences trust them to tell impartial stories about topics that are interesting and important to them. Media often talk about competing products in a single piece. They discuss the good as well as challenging features of a product in their own words, not verbatim as it appears in a product ad that might be on a facing page. Media won’t sacrifice their hard-earned credibility by being a brand’s mouthpiece.

Keep the news new

Which leads us to another piece of advice we get from editors and broadcasters. “Provide us with new information.”

It sounds simple enough, but it’s easy to lose sight of that golden rule of media pitching. To sweeten the deal, give media something they can’t get from reading your latest press release or product label. They’re writing for an audience, so give them something compelling that adds value for their readers.

For example, imagine that one day you read about a new piece of technology and it sounds incredible. The biggest thing since Apple introduced the iPhone. You’re eager to learn more. The following month you come across an article about the same technology in the same media outlet. There’s even a video accompanying this article. The words might be different from the previous article and the video is pretty cool, but there is nothing new. You still don’t know when it will be available or how much it will cost. It’s frustrating so you stop reading that particular medium.

But what if that subsequent article included research from an independent think tank about how much this technology can improve efficiency? The article still includes some of what you already know, but the new information is continuing to grab your attention and build your interest.

Now, consider that same scenario but replace you with your customer and the incredible new technology with your product. It’s unlikely that potential customers want to spend their valuable time reading or hearing the same information about your product.

Earning your space on the page

We covered several examples of how not to work with journalists. But what are some ways to get their positive attention? How do you keep news new and give journalists what their audiences crave? One approach is releasing data and research about your product or category, especially if it comes from a third party. Another consideration is the element of human interest; tell the story of a customer who uses your product or take them behind the scenes of how an idea became an invention.

Above all, earning space in media coverage means building relationships with editors and broadcasters. Learn about their beat, their preferences, and what they’ve already covered. Make an effort to engage with them before you say, “Here’s a press release; please write about my product.” Get to know how they work. Learn what they want and need from companies and agencies. Follow them on social media and share their content on social media.

Building this type of relationship not only helps you develop better media relations materials to improve the odds of coverage, but it also keeps you more top-of-mind when editors and broadcasters are looking for sources. By establishing a mutually beneficial relationship, you’ll give your brand longevity with earned media.

R+K’s Amy McEvoy, head of Earned Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help build media relationships for your brand, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Digital 101: Cookies

Cookies privacy policy
Cookies privacy policy

Digital 101: Cookies

Exploring the world of audience tracking and what to expect from new privacy policies

You’ve determined how you’ll find your audience and developed creative assets for various digital channels. Now how can you identify and track your audience to determine who sees your ad, if they convert and – at the risk of losing them after one exposure –where they go next? Cookies are the digital breadcrumb that make all this possible.

So what is a cookie? A cookie is essentially a text file tied to the user’s device that is passed back to their browser upon loading a website. Here’s how it works:Cookies privacy policies

  • You visit a publisher’s site.
  • That publisher places a cookie in your browser which follows you offsite to wherever you go next.
  • The publisher then serves you an ad from one of their advertisers.
  • You click on the ad and go to the advertiser’s site, but don’t convert.
  • The advertiser places their own, different cookie in your browser.
  • You keep browsing, until the publisher serves you a retargeted ad.
  • At that point, you click on the second ad and take a conversion action on site (like a purchase or an email sign up)

Cookies have enabled the publisher and advertiser to track these conversions to attribute them to ads, as well as record the number of times someone has seen an ad. Other cookies may be placed by ad tech vendors across multiple websites, allowing that 3rd party to track and aggregate behavior data that can be sold for advertising, as we discussed in our blog post about targeting.

In the past, users were given no warning, explanation, or opportunity to “consent” to this process. Then last year, Google announced it would phase out 3rd-party cookies on its Chrome browser and, similarly, Apple announced users must give permission for IDFA tagging, which works like cookies but on iOS in-app browsing.

Policy changes show the pendulum has swung in favor of consumer privacy. The California Consumer Privacy Act (or CCPA) ensures that consumers have the right to opt out of data collection, to have the data collected about them disclosed, and the right to have their data deleted. That’s why you’ve noticed websites serving you popups that fully disclosing the use of cookies, providing a privacy policy that elaborates on how they are used, and making sure that users have opted in before collecting data. In this blog post we covered why publishers and app developers are less than enthusiastic about these changes.

But not all cookies are going away. First-party cookies – which advertisers and publishers collect directly from their customers or site visitors – will stay. They will continue to track on-site behavior including language preferences, what’s in your shopping cart, what pages you visited on the site.

So what is the future of digital advertising in a post-cookie and post-IDFA world? For starters, contextual targeting – which doesn’t bring the same data privacy or tracking concerns – is now more attractive. Programmatic, on the other hand, is up in the air.

Third party audiences built on cookie-based aggregated web behavior will lose tremendous scale or disappear. Programmatic targeting of other list-based audiences will be difficult until a new solution is in place for identity matching – linking customer profiles across devices, publishers, advertisers, and data sources – to be able serve ads to specific users. The top digital data and advertising companies are working together on new privacy-compliant solutions  that will solve for both the issues of targeting and cross-channel conversion tracking that were previously facilitated by cookies.

In the meantime, there are immediate steps that our clients and potential clients can take to future-proof themselves.

  1. Maximize collection of first-party data, but always with customer consent, and provide value in exchange for the data. You’ll start to notice more publishers ramping up on this by requiring users to log in or authenticate before they are able to view content.
  2. Unify the data across your organization and customer touchpoints to create a holistic customer profile.

R+K’s Maggie Mattheessen, Digital Supervisor, Paid Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help prepare your brand for a world with fewer cookies, including reviewing your brand destinations for compliance, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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What is effective creative marketing?

Effective Creative Marketing
Effective Creative Marketing

What is effective creative marketing?

The Creative Effectiveness Ladder emphasizes the role of creative commitment in marketing success

It’s no secret, clients want agencies to prove ROI. They want to see the numbers that show them the work they are paying for is effective. Don’t get me wrong, ROI is important for agencies too. It’s how we show our clients that we’re valuable to them. But what does it mean to be “effective”? The Effectiveness Code, a 2020 whitepaper from James Hurman and Peter Field on behalf of Cannes Lions and WARC, set out to discover exactly that.

The Effectiveness Code addresses a critical issue in marketing– there is no industry standard or universal definition of effectiveness. How are we supposed to measure how effective our work is if we don’t even have a way to talk about it? In an effort to create a framework by which to measure effectiveness, The Creative Effectiveness Ladder was born.

According to the white paper, “The Ladder identifies the six main types of effects that creative marketing produces, setting them in a hierarchy of levels from least to most commercially impactful.” While developing The Creative Effectiveness Ladder, effectiveness experts Hurman and Field made another discovery: marketing effectiveness is heavily influenced by a campaign’s degree of Creative Commitment.

Creative Commitment is defined by the combination of media budget, duration, number of media channels and – a fourth, highly impactful element, creativity. Hurman and Field found creatively awarded campaigns are much more effective overall. As our fast-paced, content-rich media landscape grows, it becomes harder to capture and keep consumers’ attention. Advertisers must push for work that is not only strategic but engaging and entertaining. We have to counsel our clients and help them understand big, creative ideas aren’t risks; they’re necessary for delivering ROI.

Download The Effectiveness Code white paper here.

R+K’s Ryann Flynn, Associate Creative Director, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help you execute more effective campaigns, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Digital 101: Digital Media Classifications

Digital Media Classifactions
Digital Media Classifications

Digital 101: Digital Media Classifications

A beginner’s guide to different types of digital media

Once you’ve located your target audience and determined how to reach them, it’s time for the fun part: the creative! The best ad formats for your campaign will largely depend on your messaging, but you should also consider the audience you’re targeting and the placements you’re purchasing.

When talking about digital advertising tactics, we use a matrix of targeting options (programmatic, contextual, social, and search intent) and ad formats (display, video, native, and audio) to create highly descriptive classifications like “programmatic video” and “endemic display” to optimize ads.

This cheat sheet (click to download) offers a quick definition of each classification. These encompass the most common digital ad formats at a high level, but can be adapted to classify other types of unique units.Digital Media Classifications

Programmatic

  • Programmatic Display – Static or animated ads targeted to the right audience across the web
  • Programmatic Video – Video ads targeted to the right audience across the web
  • Programmatic Native – Ads that look like a piece of content on the page (think: the advertorials of digital), targeted to the right audience across the web
  • Programmatic Native Video – Native video ads that match the format of video content on a page, targeted to the right audience across the web
  • Programmatic Audio – Audio ads targeted to the right audience across the web. They can run across streaming audio content, such as Spotify, Pandora, or sports broadcasts
  • OTT/Connected TV – Video ads targeted to the right audience across a variety of OTT streaming (without cable) services and devices

Contextual

  • Endemic Display – Static or animated display ads within category-specific sites
  • Endemic Video – Video or animated display ads within category-specific content
  • Endemic Social – Static or animated display ads promoted on category-specific social pages
  • Endemic Social Video – Video or animated display ads promoted on category-specific social pages
  • eNews – Ads within a publisher’s eNewsletter content, or a dedicated eBlast to their subscribers
  • Non-Endemic Display – Static or animated display ads within the content of a specific site. This is a contextual buy on a specific site that’s not related to the brand category
  • Non-Endemic Video – Video ads within the content of a specific site. This is a contextual buy on a specific site that’s not related to the brand category
  • Podcasts – These ads are usually a live read by the host and non-skippable, so more engaging than a regular audio ad. Sometimes they are accompanied by a display banner. They can be purchased via a network where you advertise in bulk with a group of podcasts on a particular topic or that hit a certain demographic

Social

  • Social Display – Static or animated display ads promoted by a brand’s page to a specific audience
  • Social Video – Video ads promoted by a brand’s page to a specific audience

Search Intent

  • Search – Advertising within the results of a search engine query based on the keyword
  • Google Display Network (GDN) – Display or video ads targeted to the right audience across Google’s network of sites​. They are similar to programmatic ads since Google’s network is so large, but they’re keyword and bid-based
  • YouTube – Video or display ads on YouTube promoted by a brand’s account to a specific audience

In our next post we’ll review how to track and engage with the audience using cookies.

R+K’s Maggie Mattheessen, Digital Supervisor, Paid Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about optimizing your creative media assets for different channels, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Digital 101: What is digital targeting?

Digital Targeting
Digital Targeting

Digital 101: What is digital targeting?

How to find the right digital audience for your ads

We’ve covered the privacy changes at Google and Apple extensively on this blog, including the impetus for phasing out 3rd-party cookies on Chrome, Apple requiring apps to obtain user permission before tracking IDFA, and what the changes mean for advertisers. But many of our readers who are not in the trenches of paid media may still be saying, “wait, what are cookies and how do they work?” or asking, “then what are my audience targeting options?” So, we decided to take a step back and get back to the basics.

In the next few posts, we’ll review types of data, digital media, and digital targeting, including 3rd party data alternatives that still allow for targeted advertising. We hope the information will be helpful as we adapt to the fast-changing digital world.

We’ll begin with the concept of digital targeting to find the audience most likely to engage with your brand. The following primary digital activation categories align with distinct targeting methods.

Digital Targeting

  1. Programmatic: Runs anywhere the target audience is found. These are the ads that appear because they are purchased in an aggregated, automated way.
  2. Contextual: Runs on specific websites or content based on the topics that you know are important to the audience you’re trying to reach. When they’re category-specific (e.g. agriculture), we call them endemic, but they can also be other site-direct buys, like aligning with weather content.
  3. Social: Identified through sharing and dialogue, but also user-supplied information.
  4. Search or Intent: Targets hand-raisers based on biddable keywords.

This brings us to data – the valuable tool that makes targeting possible. While some of this data can be layered with other tactics, it is most largely applied in programmatic to purchase a highly specific audience.

  • Geo – IP address data makes geo-targeting possible, ensuring that your message runs only in a specific geography. Geo-targeting can be done broadly at a state level or narrowly by zip code. This is not the same as geo-fencing, which sets a tight perimeter around a defined location or set of locations and serves ads to users once they have entered the fence (and after) based on data derived from GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, or cellular data.
  • 1st party – Also called advertiser data, 1st party data is information that a brand collects directly from their customers or site visitors and activates on for the purpose of retargeting site visitors with personalized ads. 1st party data is considered the most valuable data because it comes directly from the source, so you know it’s accurate and, because it comes straight from your audience, you know it’s relevant to your business. Another benefit of 1st party data is that there are minimal privacy concerns because you know exactly what permissions were agreed to.
  • 2nd party – Also called publisher data, 2nd party data is someone else’s first party data. Similar to the data an advertiser might have, publishers have data about their own customers or subscribers and those who visit their website. That is the value exchange for accessing free content. Because 2nd party data is purchased directly from the company that owns it , there is quality transparency.
  • 3rd party – This data is information collected by a non-affiliated website or service that is then aggregated and sold. A large amount of 3rd party data is collected by ad tech vendors tracking users across websites via cookies and aggregating behavioral information to sell to advertisers. Other data may be based on surveys, purchases, or search keywords. The big downside with 3rd party data is that there is less transparency because you don’t always know how it was sourced or defined, it’s not exclusive, and the quality can be hit or miss. There is high quality data out there, but you have to be careful when selecting vendors to find out exactly what data they’re using as their sources.

An effective digital campaign will likely include a mix of multiple data types, depending on the objective. First-party data is best for customer retention and cross-selling, and 2nd and 3rd party data can identify prospects and increase reach. Meaningful impact requires a truly integrated approach, where a solid creative strategy inspires compelling messaging that anchors a campaign and resonates with the target audience.

In our next post we’ll review digital media classifications: the types of digital ads you can run once you’ve identified and located your audience.

R+K’s Maggie Mattheessen, Digital Supervisor, Paid Media, contributed to this post. If you would like to learn more about how Rhea + Kaiser can help put your brand in front of its target audience, contact our Business Development Director gtomaro@rkconnect.com.

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Remote Possibilities: What We’ve Learned in One Year of Working from Home

Working from Home

Remote Possibilities: What We’ve Learned in One Year of Working from Home

On our remote work anniversary, we review the surprising and valuable lessons we’ve gained

On April 28, 2020 we posted about what we had learned in six weeks of working from home. We couldn’t have imagined then the long haul ahead of us. Today, one year after the reality of COVID-19 set in and Rhea + Kaiser went fully remote, we look back on what has in some ways been a blur, and in other ways a defining moment in our lives.

From a professional standpoint, we all began our remote work experience with some skepticism and trepidation. Would we be able to maintain the same level of productivity without the ability to convene in person? How would we stay focused with all the distractions of home life? Could we find our creative energy in isolation? Would our relationships suffer when all communication relied on technology? Only time would tell.

Today we reflect on one year (and counting) operating as a fully virtual agency. Though we look forward to reuniting in the office, we also recognize what we gained when we were forced to adapt. Here are some of the unexpected bright spots that shone through the chaos.

Collaboration

We have always tried to view our clients and partners as an extension of our team, and strived to be considered an extension of theirs, but changing the way we work brought us closer than ever to that reality.

Our newfound proficiency with Microsoft Teams fueled new methods of collaboration. Chat messages with internal team members now live alongside those with external contacts. Seamless screen and file sharing make us feel like we’re sitting around a table together. And video calls promote a level of participation unmatched in typical phone conference calls.

What we lost in the inability to drop by a coworker’s office with a reminder or pass out a status sheet for a team, we gained in organization and project management skills that will continue to foster collaboration and efficiency when we’re back in the office.  

Humanity

Family members get sick. Children whine. Dogs bark. Furnaces fail. These realities of our private lives are not new, yet it took a pandemic for us to realize we don’t have to hide them. The backdrop of our personal lives is inescapable in remote work. Through this new perspective we gained a tolerance and understanding of natural disruptions, as well as a sense of being in this together.

One R+Ker put it perfectly when she said “this year brought humanity back to the workplace.” We have enjoyed getting a peek into each other’s lives, and the reminder that we are more than just our professional titles. We are all human. Whether it’s the needs of young children or day-to-day errands, we all realize and respect that the things that need attending to don’t have to come at the expense of our productivity or dedication to our jobs.

On the flip side, our professions are now more tangible to our families and roommates. Children see what we do every day when we’re not with them and have a better understanding of important concepts like the value of a job. Spouses and roommates see our workday firsthand and have more context around the stories we tell about our 9 to 5.

Communication

As we adapted to remote work life, “work from home” became “work from anywhere with a good internet connection.” We realized that effective communication is more about the channels and skills than the physical setting, and work from the lake house or a relative’s home can be just as efficient as work from a home office.

Though we appreciate this newfound flexibility, we also miss the human interactions we once took for granted. In the office, relationships naturally develop in the hallways before and after meetings or in the kitchen during afternoon coffee breaks. Without this luxury, we’ve become more mindful of purposefully connecting with one another. We’re more excited and motivated to reach out to colleagues, partners, vendors, journalists, and each other, and we realize the benefit of turning on our video to build relationships and comprehension.

Most importantly, the challenges of the last year have expanded what we communicate about. We have a renewed clarity that our professional work is not what makes the world spin, and each of us has unique struggles from time to time.

Rather than squeezing in a quick hello at the top of a call and diving into the task at hand, the pandemic has reminded us to ask each other how we’re doing and check in with intention. Our shared anxiety about global challenges has made it more natural to ask for help and ask how we can support each other.

Today, the return to “normal” is a glimmer on the horizon. Though it may not look like it did before, we will celebrate our eventual return to the workplace. And while we wouldn’t have wished for the hurdles of the past year, we celebrate the lessons in collaboration, humanity and communication that will enhance our work and private lives in the future.

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Five Things I Learned During Work from Home Country

Working remote from India
Working Remote from India

Five Things I Learned During Work from Home Country

When mandatory remote work is a blessing in disguise

Working remote from India

Of all the things that went viral in the year 2020 (pun intended, of course), “Work from Home” seemed to prompt innumerable notions and opinions, and many hashtags of course. At R+K, like many agencies, working from home was fairly uncommon prior to COVID, but was immediately adopted in March 2020. The challenges and isolation of the quick transition to remote work caused anxiety and stress at first, but eventually became the new normal.

Of course, we all miss meeting our colleagues for coffee breaks, but the flexibility of working from your own space can bring new and exciting experiences. With time we all figured out a way to make remote work productive. In my case, I made it work from another country. From November 4 to December 7, I worked remotely from my home country of India. Here are five things I learned through the experience.

1. Ask anyway.
With the growing panic over the pandemic around the world, I yearned to visit my family back home in India. I was hesitant to broach it with my supervisor who, like everybody else, was dealing with the casualties of balancing work and home life in this new environment. But to my surprise, she reacted positively and even encouraged me to go ahead with the decision. Had I not asked, I would have missed out on a great opportunity.

2. Settle in and trust the process.
In any new scenario, don’t rush to perfect everything at once. I took time planning my trip and schedule and always kept my supervisor informed on my travel dates and time zones. When I arrived in India I took a week off to settle down, recuperate, and put on my designer hat to design my temporary workspace. Then I was ready to go! A new work environment can be daunting at first, but it always becomes familiar quicker than you think. Having a favorite plant, pen stand, or a family portrait from your old workspace can go a long way toward making you feel comfortable.

3. Smell the routine.
Following the same morning rituals and creating familiar smells can help get you mentally on track in a new environment. While I was in India, I didn’t do anything without my morning coffee, just like at home. Working between time zones, I even decided there is no right or wrong time for a coffee (not even 8 pm)! I recommend working out your time zones and setting reminders for the first few days to get accustomed to your new routine and what your colleagues might be experiencing on their end. During the process, ask questions and strive for updated feedback every day.

4. Never compare. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Tuck away your thoughts of self-doubt and give yourself a chance to grow. Performance pressure and comparisons can be frustrating, especially when everyone is adjusting to new work environments with varying hurdles to overcome. Remember you are doing just fine with what’s on your unique plate, and so is everybody else. Focus on your own situation and how you can make the best of it. Ask questions, maintain regular check-ins with your team and supervisor, and hey – a virtual party never hurts!

5. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Our scientists are striving every day to defeat the pandemic, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not over yet, but hope is on the horizon. In the meantime, cherish working from your cozy space and the other flexibilities remote work has allowed. You never know what you’ll miss when you’re back in the office.

working remote from India

With good communication, the possibilities for what may work for you are endless. I am thankful for my supervisor and teammates who always had my back and enabled me to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m grateful to have ended 2020 on such a high note with the fantastic R+K team and family by my side. This is my pandemic story, and I would not have it any other way.

My closing advice is to take a break, breathe, and amaze yourself with the possibilities of cans over cants. And don’t forget to mask up!

By Afsha Iqbal, Digital Traffic Coordinator

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Apple Picks a Fight for Fun and Profit

Apple Privacy
Apple Privacy

Apple Picks a Fight for Fun and Profit

Three ways technology giant Apple benefits from the privacy controversy

We recently wrote about the impending Apple iOS 14 privacy updates which, with the goal of providing more transparency and privacy control for iPhone users, will severely limit advertiser targeting. As we prepped the blog post to publish, a colleague questioned why Apple would do this in a way that caused so much uproar, creating conflict with advertisers, developers, and other influential companies like Facebook. My answer? Why wouldn’t they?!

A refresher: 

  • Companies like Facebook and Google make money by selling ads; their products are free.
  • Apple makes money by selling (expensive) products; they (mostly) don’t sell ads.

For Apple, a company deeply invested in the privacy controversy as a marketing strategy, the conflict is a “win” as it furthers their desired position in the minds of consumers and the marketplace. It was Apple’s Tim Cook who famously reminded us in a 2014 open letter “when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”

The concept isn’t new. It’s how the broadcast industry existed for years. Unlike in some regions (the United Kingdom for one), broadcast TV and Radio have always been completely free in the US.  Broadcasters made money by selling their audiences to advertisers.

Apple has tried advertising and it hasn’t worked out. But most analysts would agree they’re doing pretty well right now without it. When they do need to revisit the ad-supported model, they’ll try again, on their terms. But for now, Apple sells shiny expensive hardware and services.

Facebook and Google also sell hardware – I own some and love it, but the great waterfalls of cash that rain down on those companies come from selling all the data they have on you.

Because Apple is not terribly invested in mining your data, they can lean into the idea of privacy. They own enough of their ecosystem that building its walls a little higher can be spun into a customer-friendly innovation and market-defying differentiator. In this position, they win in three ways: 

  1. They can adjust iOS 14 and rightly say they are handing their customers more control over their data and privacy.
  2. They start shining a spotlight on the business practices of their big-tech competitors, which don’t often do well in the spotlight.
  3. Facebook understandably throws a tantrum, giving Apple’s new privacy initiative a ton of free publicity.

There are many other fascinating and revealing dynamics, many of which are well outside my wheelhouse. For instance, tech developers have mostly lined up with Facebook, who has volunteered to go to battle for them. That’s not a small thing. Apple depends on those developers for their customer experience. But the Facebook/developer alliance presents a natural contrast to an Apple/consumer alliance. That’s a publicity win for Apple as well.

Unlike many of our blog posts, this post is opinion-based, so I’ll close with one more. I believe Apple is making the right bet and time will reveal Facebook, Google, and other free internet services to be on the wrong side of many issues. In the near future, there will be no more convincing consumers to sacrifice their privacy. In the battle over protecting consumer privacy versus collecting more personal information, the eventual winner is clear. That’s a fourth “win” for Apple.

By Grant Cassiday, Executive Director, Paid Media

 

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