The 12 Days of KF

We love the holiday season. Not only does the entire KF family get together in-person for our annual holiday party, the season also offers an opportunity to catch up with our clients, partners and friends – both new and old alike.

So with this spirit in mind, we present to you the “12 Days of KF” – a fun look capturing what our team has been up to this time of year. Enjoy!

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Three Key Observations From AWS re:Invent

By Danielle Salvato-Earl

There’s no better place to hold a conference than Vegas, baby! From the world-class restaurants and bars to the dynamic people, Vegas has a vibe you can’t find anywhere else.

No wonder it continues to be the backdrop for AWS re:Invent – Amazon’s annual customer and partner conference. As one of the industry’s largest events, re:Invent provides a valuable look at what’s to come in the cloud, regardless of whether you’re an AWS user, prospect, partner, competitor, student, investor, analyst or reporter.

As I attended sessions, walked the floor and interacted with attendees, here are three key observations I made:

1. The cloud has grown up.
Talk about growth! The event has more than tripled in size in just five years – reflecting the prevalence of the cloud itself. As Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services CEO said in his keynote, if the cloud was the new normal in 2014, by 2015 it had evolved into a technology “essential to an organization’s destiny.” Today, the cloud has become a true enabler for business agility and speed, and (if you dare agree with Jassy) immortality itself.

We’ve witnessed this evolution first hand at KF, as the cloud has grown from a niche, disruptive technology to watch, to one of our agency’s core practices. One of our first clients in cloud computing was Appirio, a systems integrator in the cloud’s early days. Our initial strategy was centered on market education. We ran popular campaigns and contests around “What is the Cloud?” and helped launch thousands of t-shirts at Dreamforce. We went on to focus on the business case for cloud computing, to represent Model Metrics, acquired by Salesforce, Successfactors and others, and built our thriving cloud practice into one third of the agency.   

2. It’s high time to innovate or die.
More than ever, traditional long-standing companies like McDonald’s are striving to keep fresh by adapting to the cloud. This entails reinvention of existing business models to leverage analytics, and ensuring that all the right data is accessible when needed.

Indeed, our own clients cater to customers who are leveraging the cloud to stay ahead of the curve. For example, Sumo Logic’s cloud-native, machine data analytics service is used by Scholastic Inc., the children’s publishing, education and media company, to build, run and secure its AWS cloud as it moves away from its data centers. By moving its book orders online, Scholastic has experienced many benefits including corporate growth of 10 percent year over year.   

3. The cloud is coming to a living room near you.
As AI tools like Alexa enter the home, the cloud is becoming a consumer technology, too. Smart home devices in the living room can read us the news, answer questions and more, and it’s all made possible by cloud computing. As AI and the IoT become a closer part of our everyday lives, so does the cloud. I for one, cannot wait to play with my Echo Dot (Amazon gave one out to every attendee)!

Danielle brings energy, enthusiasm and a strong team-player mentality to her role as a director at Kulesa Faul. Her accounts include Sencha, Snowflake Computing, Sumo Logic and Vena Solutions. Contact her at danielle@kulesafaul.com.

Tech Reporters Get Candid at PRSA Panel

By Kelly Ferguson

So what do reporters really think of PR and marketing tactics? I had the chance to find out at a recent panel of tech reporters who spilled the beans. The event was hosted by the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Chapters of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and GitHub, at GitHub’s office space (which is probably what Hacker Heaven looks like).  

Moderated by Sam Whitmore, the panel focused on software development and tech PR, and participants included well-known friendlies we regularly work with: Eric Knorr (InfoWorld), Alex Handy (SD Times), and Alex Williams and TC Currie (The New Stack).

Read on to hear some of the best candid thoughts shared (and note that we’ve edited some for clarity):

“If you’re gonna cold call me, start off by asking what I am working on. Better yet, have your CEO cold call me!”   

“Get to know us. If I know and trust you, I will open your email. For blind emails, make it straight and informative. Give me a hook. Don’t try to be cute, just be straight up.”

I love receiving blogs instead of press releases. Look at AWS and how they use their blog. It’s brilliant and so few people do it. Google also does a great job with that.”

Press releases seem to be written for the client in mind, i.e. we have this product and we want you to buy it. But that’s not my interest. A well-written press release is a useful starting point to jump off and write and do more research.”

“At a user conference, when little things are taken care of, we can better absorb content and write it faster, which, ultimately, is what you want. Also, have food available!”

Show your conference people where the press room is!”

Please, give us the press releases in advance. This isn’t usually an issue, but the most frustrating thing that ever happened to me at an event was when we weren’t given them until the day of the keynote.”

As with all the feedback and tips we get from reporters, we’ll continue to take these insights to heart. In the meantime, we’ll make absolutely sure you know where to find the press room. Eric, Alex, Alex, TC – if you’re reading this, thank you for the inside look!

Kelly Ferguson is a senior account executive at Kulesa Faul. Her PR superpower? Leading media relations from the trenches. Current and past clients include Act-On Software, Boundless, Distil Networks, Influitive, JFrog, Kaseya, Midokura, Pyze and Preempt. Contact Kelly at kelly@kulesafaul.com.

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Reflecting on What We are Thankful for . . . And Giving Back!

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We asked the KF team what they are most thankful for this year. We invite to you check out the answers and be inspired!

In the spirit of giving thanks, we are happy to announce KF is teaming up with Second Harvest Food Bank for our second annual food drive. As part of ethosKF, we will collect food to fight hunger in the local Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Our goal this year is to collect 150 lbs of canned goods – which is the equivalent of 125 meals for individuals and families in need. We invite you to participate by stopping by our office with canned goods now through Friday, Dec. 16.

This is just one of the many incredible ethosKF projects our team has been doing all year long. Giving back is at the core of what we do, and we are thankful for the opportunity to make a real difference.

Research and Measurement: Art Meets Science

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By Thea Roberti, Chief Research Analyst

When someone recently asked me to explain my approach to research and measurement, my response (typical of a researcher) was “could you be more specific?” The question seemed overwhelming – akin to asking a surgeon to explain her approach to surgery or a composer to explain his approach to writing a symphony.

Of course, I don’t think research is on the same level as surgery or musical composition. However, I do see research as a combination of art and science. It is where human meets machine, and it is the marriage of insight and data.

I suppose this outlook on research forms the building blocks of an approach, and when considered in this light, my approach is fairly simple. It hasn’t wavered in 20+ years in this business. It holds true for measurement/media analysis, or for more advanced research, such as luminary intelligence, competitive intelligence, and industry analysis. It is fitting for both traditional media, and the new world order of paid, earned, shared, and owned. The end product or metrics might change, but the fundamental approach does not.

Start by Listening (and clarifying)
One of the first things I learned in library school was the skill of the research interview. It is a skill that I still apply to every project. It is easy to forget this step and to take a research request at face value. Yet experience has taught me that people don’t always ask for what they really want. Maybe they are not exactly sure what they want, don’t have the right terminology to express what they want, or ask for research that they mistakenly believe will get them what they want. A two-way dialogue is critical in order to understand the intentions behind the research. Ultimately, the most important question I can ask is “what do you want to do with this information?” This question cuts straight to the chase and reveals the underlying business goal.

Map and Customize Research to Goals
For research or measurement to be of value, it must be tied to the specific goals of the communications program, which in turn should map to the business goals – what senior leaders expect the marketing communications program to do for the business. I try at all times to avoid the temptation to succumb to vanity metrics or to follow a prescribed research formula. That would be a disservice to our clients.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to research and measurement, and this is one reason that automated tools are not enough.

Fuse Human Analysis with Technology and Tools
I rely on technology, and while I could not do my job without it, I have yet to meet a machine that can replace human expertise.  This is perhaps why the role of the data scientist has become so emergent in the last several years. I do not believe in taking a report that has been automatically generated by an analytics tool and passing it off to a client as research. Having spent time in house at an analytics vendor, I know first-hand where gaps are likely to exist in knowledge and accuracy. I use automated tools to gather information and data, but then I layer human judgement and analysis on top of that data.

Provide Actionable Insight (not a data dump)
Human analysis can provide what data alone cannot – insight. Insight has been defined as “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something.” With a deep and accurate understanding of a company’s performance, their competitors, and the market landscape, we can develop the correct strategy to move their brand forward. Data without insight is essentially useless, what we referred to in the early days of research as a “data dump.” It’s the valuable combination of data + insight that research should deliver.

Incorporate Research into the Program Lifecycle
Ad hoc projects can provide value, but in an ideal world, research is not a random occurrence. It should not exist in a vacuum but should instead be continuously integrated into the marketing program lifecycle.  Begin, for instance, with a competitive messaging analysis to create differentiated messaging.  Next, perform research to uncover new channels and influencers who can help disseminate the message.  Implement measurement to determine if messaging is effective and if it is resulting in greater brand recognition. Take those insights, adjust strategy and tactics, and then measure again. This is one example of how research can be woven into the fabric of the marketing program.

Essentially, research and measurement is about unlocking mysteries – in our work, those are mysteries about a business or market. As Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

Thea is widely regarded in Silicon Valley as an expert research analyst. She provides competitive analysis, industry research, media, social and marketing channel analysis,  and influencer research to KF clients across a wide range of enterprise technologies. Contact Thea here.

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How the Grateful Dead Shaped me as a Business Owner 

By Joanna Kulesa

I admit it. I’m a Deadhead.

It started when I was a teenager. I had become fixated on the Beat writers and poets – Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso. I also had a growing sense that, though I lived in a small town in Massachusetts, I was at heart a California girl. So I did what seemed logical: I hitched a ride to San Francisco, a sparkling city—a promised land in my mind—to follow the Grateful Dead.

I’ve since seen the band and iterations of it more than 100 times over the years. As recently as a few months ago, I spent my vacation on a mini-tour with life-long girlfriends following Dead & Company to three different cities, relishing the fun and laughing about the absurdity of it along the way. The Grateful Dead is in heavy rotation on my Sonos (as well as all kinds of music).

Too many to count have found a counterculture outlet in the Dead and continue to revere them into middle age. From basketball star Bill Walton to Bill Murray to famous venture capitalist Roger McNamee to two U.S. presidents (Clinton, Obama), an interesting range of people are on the proverbial Dead bus.

In addition to positive life influences, I’ve learned important lessons from the Grateful Dead that have shaped me as a business owner in many ways. Here are five that rise to the top:

1. The Grateful Dead always stuck to who they were. They never cared about market trends or making hit records. They had a unique musical vision and they pursued it relentlessly and uncompromisingly. Heck, they went without a top ten hit to their name until 1987, 22 years in. Regardless, they stuck to their path and the band’s popularity soared.

Stick to your vision and integrity, success will follow.

2. Over the course of 30 years, the Grateful Dead never broke up and never stopped loving what they did. After more than 2,300 shows, Jerry Garcia turned to Bob Weir after what was to be their last performance together and said, “Always a hoot. Always a hoot.” What could be better than continuing to have fun at what you do with the people you want to do it with?

Having fun is as important as profits and revenues.

3. The Dead were the pre-eminent jam band. Their long, psychedelic musical explorations – some songs stretching 15 minutes or more – were based on a collective improvisational spirit. This embodied a spontaneous philosophy that assumes no idea is bad and that it’s ok to screw up in the name of risk-taking. I’ve come to believe that this is key to the success of a creative agency.

Stay open, listen. A bad idea or mistake can lead to great success.

4. The Grateful Dead were the original open-source enterprise. They broke with tradition by allowing fans to freely tape their shows and trade them with their fan base rather than fearing their IP/product was being stolen. The Dead’s practices came from a generosity of spirit and transparency. 

Operate from a place of openness and honesty, not fear.

5. No one would argue that the Grateful Dead are an example of the power of community beyond compare. Deadheads traveled to see the band as many times as possible and shared a religious-like fervor about the experience, cherishing the tribal nature of it all. I think of our agency and the industry we’re a part of in similar terms. You have to love the work, but it’s the people and communal experience that make it all truly worthwhile.

 • Your network is your community. Nurture it.

I’m Joanna and I’m a Deadhead. Whether it’s enjoying the band or having fun in business, I hope the music never stops.

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Joanna Kulesa has been building successful agencies in Silicon Valley for 20 years.  Her passion for outstanding client service is matched by her dedication to agency employees—reflected in its naming by Fortune as a Best Place to work for Camaraderie and a Best Place to Work for Women. Contact Joanna here.

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Let’s Get Cultured

By Kelly Ferguson

As we head full speed into fall, here are a few favorites from a great summer season of our agency’s Friday culture roundups, which consist of KF employees’ most interesting finds from the week. Enjoy!

NASA’s awesome retro-inspired posters are promoting its Journey to Mars initiative.

mr-robotHave you been watching season two of Mr. Robot? Here’s how the real hackers behind the show get it so right.

Americans are feeling more generous than ever, with a record $373 billion in charitable donations made in 2015!

An incredible shot of a fish stuck inside a jellyfish after being swallowed whole!

The KF book club is currently reading Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.

As many of us know all too well, sometimes brainstorming isn’t all that effective. Thankfully, there’s a better way to work in groups.

The National Park Service recently celebrated its 100th anniversary – here are 10 record-setting spots.

We love how Skillshare makes learning and education more accessible than ever.

Nick Bilton’s amazing investigative reporting on how Theranos fell apart.

Why the pursuit of eudaemonic happiness is the most fulfilling of all.

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ethosKF Goes Top Chef at Ronald McDonald House at Stanford

By Shannon Campbell

Last week, the Kulesa Faul crew stepped away from our computers, rolled up our sleeves, and gave back to our community for this summer’s ethosKF event at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, participating in their Meals for Munchkins program.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities provides accommodations and community services (like meals and social events) for families with children being treated for life-threatening illnesses at nearby hospitals, and currently has over 350 locations worldwide. People travel from all over to see the best doctors at Stanford, and though the kids are the ones being treated, the families are also in need of support.

Our participation with Meals for Munchkins included shopping for, preparing, and serving a meal to the families currently staying at the house. Not only were we able to cook in their state-of-the-art kitchen, we also had the opportunity to interact with the residents and got a tour of their facility afterwards.

rmh2We were so impressed by what we saw, from game rooms to arts and crafts and even an in-house photography studio for families to take portraits free of charge. We learned that, with the House at Stanford’s recent expansion, it is now one of the largest Ronald McDonald Houses in the world, providing a home-away-from-home for over 120 families.

While cooking is not my forte, it was all worth it to learn a lesson on appreciation and positivity from these families. As with all of our volunteer work, our team walked away enriched by the experience and deeply thankful to Ronald McDonald House employees and volunteers who welcomed us with open arms. We can’t wait to get back to the House at Stanford, and are already brainstorming what to serve at our next meal!

Orange is the New Black, and Other Insights From Content Marketing World

By Lila Razzaqui

Cleveland in early September: hot, humid, sticky…and awash in orange. As Content Marketing World took place last week, the event’s signature color made its way onto taxi ads and banners, as well as hats, ties and socks worn downtown.

More than 3,500 of us came together at #CMWorld for an event focused on the value of multi-platform storytelling to drive brand awareness and engagement. Talks came from brands like Lego and Marriott, and everyone showed up for the closing Q&A keynote with Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame.

#CMWorld brought to light some of the best content marketing that brands are doing today. Here are some insights I gathered from the show:

Content + marketing is not content marketing
Content marketing is much more than content and marketing. It is about creating useful content your audience will actually want to consume, engage with and share.

In other words, brands are being tested for their generosity. And the brand that gives away the most helpful and relevant content wins by inspiring engagement and loyalty from its audience. So what type of content seems to resonate best? Strong opinions and new research.

If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it . . .
Does it actually make a sound? No, and the same goes for your content! You can develop and publish as much great content as you want, but if it doesn’t draw attention from your audience, the effort is wasted.

So take the leap by making the investment to promote some of your best content. The goal is developing a larger audience that your brand can educate, influence, communicate with and potentially draw to your product. It may take time and resources, but making the effort to be heard is well worth the cost, considering the alternative.

The force is with you, but only when you are passionate
Learn from the Jedi: presence and passion are important to success. At its heart, any content you develop should ultimately speak to the soul and purpose of your company.

The benefit is having material your audience can relate to in a way that matters in the long run, and to help ensure it will remain relevant to your brand. Too many B2B businesses still struggle with creating engaging content, and doing so consistently. The latest research shows that only 29 percent of B2Bs are successful in this regard—a figure that should be much higher!

Orange is (really!) the new black
Content marketing truly is the future of marketing. From a PR perspective, journalists are covering more and more beats today than ever before. The result is the creation of new gaps and opportunities where companies can step in to inform target audiences on topics that matter most to them. If done correctly, the audiences are hungry to hear it.

In the end, content marketing is all about providing useful material that your audience actually wants and can benefit from. Imagine what that can do for your brand?

8 Highlights from This Year’s Annual KF Giants Game

By Rachael Davison

There’s nothing quite like a day game at AT&T Park. Warm sunshine on your face, salty sea breeze carrying the aroma of garlic fries, breathless SF Bay views, an electric crowd cheering on our home team, and America’s favorite pastime: baseball.

So what better way for Kulesa Faul to celebrate our people and our company than to get everyone together for a SF Giants baseball game? KF works hard to maintain our incredible culture and our game outing is something we look forward to every year.

We’d love to share some of the fun happenings from our Giants game this year. Here are eight highlights:

1. Angelique wowed us with her Whip and Nay Nay dance (her twins are great teachers). Note: no music was needed.

2. Julie practiced her Italian (and shared her strategy for maximizing on pizza and gelato) before her trip to Italy.

3. Tanya and Jim had an ongoing Snapchat war. We’re not sure who won, but it did involve lots of flower crown and duck filters.

4. The team cheered on our very own air guitar champ, Scott, as he nailed his solo in Journey’s Lights.

5. In search of good beer, Tanya and Marta snuck down to club level and caught an inning at field level . . . shhh!

6. The pigeons on the field made the news. Our team had fun dubbing them George, Gertrude and Philip.

7. Scott and Lila predicted August 31st would forever be known as the date when the Giants would win against the Diamondbacks, build momentum to make it to the playoffs, and win the World Series.

8. To top it all off, our home team won, 4-2! Go Giants!