Insights about “communications”

1 / 22 / 2016

Social media and public infrastructure: Paradigm is shifting from informing to educating to taking action

blog-1.22.16_240x240I’ve spent the better part of my career communicating about road and sewer construction. Glamorous, I know, but it’s important to educate residents about publicly funded projects.

In the late 1990s, the media informed residents about municipal issues. People listened because they had to, especially if it impacted their bills, taxes or front yard. While the traditional media continues to play an important role in briefing the public about potential impacts, social media is shifting the conversation and motivating people to take action.

Nowhere is this more evident than the unfolding drama in Flint, Michigan. If you’re not familiar with the issue, Flint residents must buy bottled water because the public system has dangerous levels of lead, copper and bacteria. Lester Holt’s NBC Nightly News segment about the drinking water in Flint struck a chord on Jan. 6, and it quickly went viral.

The “gotcha moment” in the story?

When Flint switched from Detroit’s water source to the Flint River, the dangerous toxins could have been treated by adding phosphates to the water for about $100 a day. Anyone who buys bottled water knows that residents are cumulatively footing a bill much larger than $100 a day.

Holt’s story got the nation’s attention. All major news services and publications are covering the issue, and officials on the federal level – and even President Obama – are heading to Michigan to get involved. Celebrities are donating cases of bottled water by the thousands. While building better water treatment facilities isn’t exciting, pictures of young children holding signs that read, “Stop poisoning us,” and “We need clean water,” are.

Nationwide, engineers and elected officials have warned residents that they need to invest in infrastructure for decades. But nothing has had the impact of the Flint case.

When I shared the Flint story on Facebook, several people asked if I had clients in Michigan.


I, like many of the 5 million people who’ve shared the story, recognized that this could have happened anywhere.

Thirty years ago is when action needed to be taken, but it’s not too late. And – thanks to NBC Nightly News, the adorable children in Flint and social media’s sharing power – perhaps residents, not elected officials, will be the driving force.

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

10 / 01 / 2015

Thirty years of change

blog-susanToday is my 30th anniversary at Borshoff. I’m celebrating the big 3-0 exactly one year after the agency turned 30. Yes, I started on the company’s first anniversary. Back when Ronald Reagan was president and Robert Orr was Indiana’s governor. My desk sported a second-hand IBM Selecric typewriter. And the agency didn’t yet offer health insurance.

Today, as they say, it’s a different world. The tools available to deliver communication strategies have multiplied. And the challenges are more complex. To me, the work is more exciting and rewarding than ever.

  • A 24-hour news cycle? Not in 1985.
  • Rumors or rants spreading via social media? Say what?
  • Staff with titles such as “motion graphics specialist” and “front-end web developer”? Not even on our radar.

As communicators, we can be proud that the profession has grown along with a changing world. As an agency, Borshoff has certainly evolved.

We are more strategic today. We are smarter about research, and our clients are too. (Translation: As clients better understand the value of research, they’re more willing to invest in it.) Our plans are more focused and dynamic. (Why did we ever write 30-page treatises?) While our tactics are more varied, we always align them with a results-driven strategy. In so many ways, we’ve become more effective and more analytical. I believe we’re at a better place.

And yet for all the gigabytes and online monitoring, in spite of 6 a.m. emails and constant content generation, and with a smart phone that allows me to talk, text, email, tweet and post instantly – the core principles behind communications excellence have not changed since 1985.

Today, as we wisely meld public relations, brand development, internal communications and advertising, we remain true to these truths:

  • Understand and respect your stakeholders. Listen to them carefully and communicate clearly.
  • Be concerned with identity, not image. Do the right thing and your reputation will prosper.
  • Truthfulness matters.

As Edward L. Bernays wrote back in 1928: “Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.”

True then. True in 1985. True today.

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

4 / 24 / 2015

Four Digital Marketing Trends for 2015

blog-3.31.15As Borshoff’s Digital Director, I look at trends specific to the digital world. Some of these are extensions of what we’ve seen happening during the last few years, and some are entirely new strategies being executed for the first time. Below are four trends that will be instrumental for brands seeking to maximize their digital presence in 2015.

Mobile-First Marketing

With the growing number of consumers using mobile devices to access content from anywhere at any time, marketers will need to focus on mobile-optimized content and social strategies. Mobile ad revenue is expected to more than double to $24.5 billion by 2016. And, mobile ads perform 4-5 times better than online ads (iMedia Connection).

In addition, Google has reported they are placing additional emphasis on whether sites are mobile-optimized, and clarified that mobile usability is relevant for optimal search results. And, mobile searches will surpass desktop searches for the first time in 2015 (eMarketer).

With all this in mind, marketers will need to consider how mobile users are interacting and consuming information, and develop optimized content, mobile ads, and social strategies that are streamlined for viewing on a three inch screen.

Content Marketing

Businesses are realizing that pushing ordinary or run-of-the-mill content does little to attract customers or increase search position. Creating quality content specific to the customer and their journey trumps creating a large quantity of posts they don’t relate to. Provide free articles, eBooks or white papers that offer true value to customers to increase engagement and subscribers. Creating valuable content across multiple channels will build trust, establish expertise and increase the likelihood customers will purchase your product or service.


In 2015, digital marketing personalization is becoming more necessary to rise above the growing content chatter. Innovative tools such as HubSpot, Marketo, and SimplyMeasured have emerged to support personalized digital marketing strategies. Personalization strategies attract customers with content they enjoy, while providing a wealth of data to adjust your strategy. By doing so, you will see an increase in location-targeting capabilities paired with retargeting (ads targeted to consumers who interact with certain brands) to create a more personalized digital marketing solution. A user’s digital footprint can be used in marketing automation to provide more customized, relevant, and valued content.

Visual Storytelling

The use of photos and videos by marketers is shown to yield higher consumer engagement. This is supported by the rapid growth of image based social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and SnapChat that have the ability to connect with people on an emotional level. Successful digital campaigns will incorporate image-based marketing strategies into multiple social channels. Not all audiences will be drawn to image centric advertising, such as boomers, so remember to dig into your audience data to make strategic decisions on the types of content that work best in each channel.

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

2 / 17 / 2015

You’ve Got Mail! (The old-fashioned kind)

SO-blogYes, you are reading a blog about snail mail.

In this all-digital-all-the-time world, has the art of a hand-written, stamped and sent note been lost? I’d like to think not. I consider it ‘good mail.’  It waits there between the daily pile of bills and fliers, a fabulous envelope or postcard from a friend. Good mail brightens the day.

I recently had a year of exciting life events requiring a lot more correspondence with loved ones than usual, and while I chose email on occasion, everything else went out the old-fashioned way. I hand-picked fun stamps at the post office and found cool postcards to convey the invitation, the gratitude, the love and the cheer. The feedback I received signified that the effort was appreciated.

In this fast-paced communication age where everything seems to be abbreviated or rushed, I think a card or note to convey thanks still says a lot more than a thank you text. Sometimes a text is all that is needed, but if someone has gone out of their way for you, a nice note seems more on-par.

How do you connect with others outside of electronic communication when you want it to be more personal?

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

2 / 13 / 2015

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

blog-2-13It seems like we hear about a new cyberattack on a major company each week, including the latest attack on Anthem, which hits close to home as my insurance carrier and an Indianapolis-based company. USA Today reported in September of last year that, “a staggering 43 percent of companies have experienced a data breach in the past year,” including Target, Home Depot, Michaels and Neiman Marcus. That’s up 10 percent from the year before.

The article also pointed out that more than 80 percent of breached companies that the credit information company Experian works with, “had a root cause in employee negligence,” which could include someone giving out their password, losing a USB or inadvertently clicking on an email attachment from a hacker. According to Trend Micro (Nov. 2012), 91 percent of targeted cyberattacks started with a deceptive “phishing” email enticing an employee to click on a link or an attachment.

Why am I, a communications professional, talking about this? Because communications is an integral part of educating employees and supporting an organizational change management initiative to change employee behaviors – and hopefully prevent a cyberattack.

Check out this award-winning montage from a video series we created to help do just that. Too often, cyber security is seen as an IT issue. You can have the best firewall or strongest brick house in the world, but it can’t help you if someone opens the door to your network and lets the big bad wolf in.

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

10 / 23 / 2014

Borshoff earns Diversity Distinction in PR Award

Agency’s internship boot camp teaches minority college students how to stand out, succeed

INDIANAPOLIS – Borshoff’s Diversity Internship Boot Camp has been named “Best PR Firm Diversity Initiative” by The Council of Public Relations Firms and PRWeek.

The Diversity Distinction in PR Awards honor excellence in leadership and promoting ethnic diversity within the public relations sector. The awards were announced Oct. 22 at the Council of PR Firms annual dinner in New York City.

Borshoff launched its inaugural Diversity Internship Boot Camp in 2014. This half-day program for minority freshman and sophomore journalism, public relations and communications students included interactive sessions on standing out as internship candidates, how to build resumes and portfolios, and an overview of skills needed to work in PR/communications.

Diversity Internship Boot Camp also featured a diverse panel of local communicators who shared their internship experiences, professional journeys and career advice.

“We have a long-standing commitment to diversity, and our Diversity Internship Boot Camp is the most intentional representation of our goal to grow the pool of qualified minority internship candidates and ultimately to increase the number of minority employees on staff,” said Borshoff Managing Principal Susan Matthews.

The panel of judges for the awards was comprised of a diverse group of respected professionals working in the fields of communications and diversity and inclusion, chaired by the editor-in-chief of PRWeek. Other award categories were Best Community Initiative; Best In-House Diversity Initiative; and Diversity Champion.

Borshoff’s Diversity Internship Boot Camp is part of the company’s diversity program. This overall initiative helps the agency create and maintain a diverse workplace where individual differences including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, lifestyle, age, disability, religion and culture are embraced and valued.

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About Borshoff

Borshoff is an Indianapolis-based advertising and public relations agency whose professionals deliver results through strategic, creative solutions. Founded in 1984, the agency’s 57 employees work with more than 70 clients in a variety of industries. Borshoff is a partner in IPREX, an international partnership of independent communications firms. In 2014, Borshoff was again named a Best Place to Work by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

9 / 29 / 2014

The Power of Quiet in Communications

katherine-blogHow can you be an introvert and work in public relations? It turns out, introverted qualities can actually be a perfect match for life as a professional communicator.

I recently read a book that made me realize I am not as weird as I originally thought. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, is a beautifully written and researched book that lays out the myths and realities about introverted personalities.

The first thing I learned was the true difference between being shy and being introverted. Shyness is about the fear of social judgment and humiliation. But introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. As Susan Cain describes it:

Introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book. Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes and cranking up the stereo.

Of course, humans are complex beings, so these characteristics rarely hold up 100% of the time. Introverts can and do enjoy a good party every now and then, and extroverts do, in fact, take time to read!

Unfortunately, however, American culture considers introversion to be a problem to overcome, and many of our key institutions – schools, corporations, government – are designed for extroverts.

We’ve all experienced the trend toward collaborative work spaces, an insistence on group brainstorming and self-help books that push us to “come out of our shell.” But the reality is that introverts bring richness and depth to the world that we ignore or push down at our own peril. Consider these findings from Cain’s research:

  • The best ideas don’t necessarily come from gregarious groupthink but rather from the creativity and productivity that come out of solitude. Without introverts, the world would not have the theory of gravity, The Cat in the Hat, or Google.
  • Introverted leaders who lead teams made up of extroverts often find greater success than extroverted leaders. “Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions,” Cain says.
  • There’s never been a correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. You don’t have to go far (read: any number of politicians can serve as an example) to know that the loudest, most eloquent person is not necessarily the smartest.
  • Every major world religion is built on the idea that you have to go into the wilderness to receive the revelation. Without solitude and time for reflection, we would not have the teachings of Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed.

So what do we do with our newfound appreciation for introverts? Cain suggests two simple action steps that can help us strike the right balance.

First, we must stop the madness of constant group work. In my role as a communicator, I recognize and appreciate the value that my entire team brings to our client work. But I also know that no truly brilliant idea was ever formed by committee. People need time to think on their own, and collaboration should follow after that.

Second, we must go to the wilderness. All of us are overstimulated by technology, multitasking and constant chatter from every channel that surrounds us. For introverts, this barrage can be debilitating. We shouldn’t feel guilty for the time we take to reset, and our extroverted colleagues and friends could find the same benefit from a little down time.

Regardless of where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, recognize your own tendencies and appreciate those in your life who are different from you. As Cain put it,

“Today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts – which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are. Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of all Americans are introverts.”

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

3 / 03 / 2014

Boot Camp, the Borshoff Way

diversitybc_formatted for blogBoot Camp. Though the name sounds a little intimidating, our Diversity Internship Boot Camp was such a treat to the students and to us, as hosts. The Boot Camp was part of Borshoff’s diversity initiative, which helps our agency create and maintain a diverse workplace where we embrace each other’s differences including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, lifestyle, age, disability, religion and culture. We believe everyone is important and brings value to the agency.

The purpose of Boot Camp was to teach students about internship opportunities at Borshoff, equip them with the knowledge they need to develop as standout interns, and grow our pool of qualified minority internship candidates. We had the privilege of hosting students – mostly freshmen and sophomores – from Butler University, Franklin College, Indiana University, IUPUI and UIndy. Thirteen students committed half of their Saturday to talk about public relations, communications and design. Several members of the Borshoff team shared advice on how to be standout interns, and the students responded with enthusiasm and insightful questions as we explored effective writing, resume and portfolio tips, social media pitfalls, career paths and other topics.

To help students get the most out of Boot Camp, we enlisted outside help as well. A few of the community’s brightest and most talented communicators – Gene Ford, IU Health; Danielle Neveles, Eli Lilly and Company; Jae Park, Interface; and Gene Rodriguez, WellPoint – shared their internship experiences, professional journeys and career advice. The students’ wide eyes, rapid-fire questions and “ah-ha” expressions were indicators that our panelists hit the mark! And when the panel discussion was over, the students lined up to keep the conversation going.

It was so inspiring to watch the students eagerly soak up information that could one day shape their futures. It made me feel great to play a small role in their journey. And I look forward to doing it again next year!

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

2 / 27 / 2014

Four Things to Consider When Communicating Change

changesThere have been all sorts of articles over the years about obstacles to change and the difference between change leadership and change management. Major organizational change can fail for a number of reasons if the change isn’t planned or executed effectively.

And while communicating organizational change is only a part of what makes major change successful, it’s a critical part that requires strategy, creativity and intentional effort.

Here are four elements to consider as you communicate major change in your organization:

  • Make your employees a part of the conversation. In an ideal world, leaders would make employees a part of the actual planning of a change.  But even if change is pushed down from the top without employee input, making them a part of the conversation as you communicate change can go a long way to ensuring they understand, adopt and even advocate for the change you are trying to make.
  • Address the elephant in the room early.  Change is hard, and it often requires sacrifice or acceptance of the unknown. It’s important to frankly and clearly address any downside when you’re communicating what’s going to take place. Pretending that everything is going to be great and the change will be easy is asking for trouble, and no one will believe you.
  • Repeat, repeat and then repeat again. Just because you’ve told your employees about a change doesn’t mean they get it, understand it and love it after hearing it once. Build some redundancies into your communication plan. You may be sick of hearing about it, but they may not fully grasp the extent of the change after hearing one announcement. Make sure they get many opportunities to hear the message, ask questions and check understanding. And make sure your entire leadership team and supervisors are repeating the same, consistent message, too.
  • Keep it simple and stay linear, but share the end goal early. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too many details, but you want to be transparent and forthcoming. Paint a clear and compelling picture of what your end goal is in making the change, but quickly move back to the current day and walk people through the steps it’s going to take to get there in the short term. Communicating a message that builds from the starting point to the end goal will help people know where they are at in the spectrum of change and the progress they’re making, without getting them distracted by details in the middle.

In the end, change is only successful if it makes sense and people embrace it. They can’t embrace it if you don’t clearly communicate it to them in a way that compels them to join you. If the change is poorly designed, no amount of clever communication will make it successful. Remember, actions always speak louder than words.

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

8 / 19 / 2013

Every second counts, literally

DigitalBlog_240x240“Do you have a second?” I’m asked this question a lot throughout the day. Granted, the person asking never really needs a “second” because what can really be accomplished in that amount of time? Not much, right? But in doing some research recently, my theory was proven wrong.

In our digital world, a lot of information is being shared fast, really fast. In fact, here are some statistics that show just how much is happening every second:

  • 100,000 Tweets
  • 684,478 items shared on Facebook
  • 2 million Google search queries
  • 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube
  • 47,000 apps downloaded from the App Store
  • 3,600 Instagram photos shared
  • 571 websites created
  • $272,000 spent online

Every second! These numbers are daunting to me, as I try to understand the digital revolution. But then I think about my own habits, what I do digitally every day (every second of the day), and it all starts to make a little more sense. Whether I’m discussing a rich media ad campaign with coworkers or uploading my son’s first day of school photos to Facebook, I’m now asking the question, “What am I doing today that isn’t digital?”

When you send your next Tweet or post a photo to Instagram, keep these stats in mind, realizing you too are part of this communications revolution.

2013 digital statistics from MistMedia, Dublin, Ireland:

The views expressed by this employee blogger are not necessarily the views of Borshoff, Inc.

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