Brown, Rosie - Featured Photos

There Is No ‘I’ in Project Management

All the project management jokes I see indicate that project managers are universally hated. You hear a lot of complaints about nagging emails, endless meetings, spreadsheet worship, inflexibility, indifference, and general inhumanity. Only evil people could possibly fill such a role, right? But the definition of project management is simply “the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.” That’s not exactly evil, especially if you agree that the operative words are “team” and “success.” And this definition outlines skills that most people will have to acquire and use during their careers — regardless of whether they ever carry an official “project manager” title.

Personally, I'd wish for projects that managed themselves. ;)

Personally, I’d wish for projects that managed themselves! 🙂

One of the things I’ve learned in my PM role for Sterling Communications’ creative department is that lots of folks serve as project managers in disguise. No matter your official title, if you train yourself to be communicative, proactive, detail-oriented, and organized, every team you work with will benefit greatly from your contributions. Here are some “evil-free” project management tricks of the trade to help you and your teams succeed: (more…)

Bonham, Mark - Featured Photos

Unleash Your SlideShare Marketing Ninja: 10 Steps to An Awesome SlideShare Presentation (Part 1)

In this two-part series, we’ll walk you through what it takes to become a SlideShare marketing ninja. In our first installment, we’ll highlight 10 steps to creating a great Slideshare presentation. In the second installment, we’ll show you how to actively market that great presentation to generate quality leads for your company.

SlideShare marketing can generate quality B2B leads.
SlideShare marketing is becoming increasingly important to B2B marketers.

SlideShare is quickly becoming a “must have” lead generation tool for B2B marketers, and already more than 40% of B2B marketers use SlideShare for marketing. We have clients who generate more leads from SlideShare than any other source. SlideShare now averages 60 million unique visitors a month and is the 120th most visited website in the world. If SlideShare is not part of your marketing mix, you may be missing out on what could be one of your most valuable, and cost-effective, marketing channels. Here are 10 tips on creating a great SlideShare:


Hawes, Lisa - Featured Photos

Silicon Valley: Ideas “R” Us

"Silicon Valley" premieres on PBS on February 5th.

“Silicon Valley” premieres on PBS on February 5th.

At the Sundance Film Festival last week, one of the most buzzed-about screenings was that of the new Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher. With a second Jobs movie in the planning stage, scripted by Aaron Sorkin from the Walter Isaacson bestseller, Silicon Valley is becoming an entertainment locus for stories as well as the new digital technologies changing how movies are made.

Sorkin kick-started it with The Social Network. Who would have thought a movie about the Internet could be so captivating? Geek culture is suddenly glam. Bravo tried a really bad (in my opinion) “reality” series called Start-Ups: Silicon Valley although most of the 20-something entrepreneurs worked and partied in San Francisco. Mike Judge is currently casting a comedy for HBO called Silicon Valley, which I imagine will have a sensibility similar to that of Office Space, his cubicle-dweller classic.

These shows have dipped a toe in fact but were primarily fiction. If you want insight to the true stories of the pioneers of Silicon Valley —and why they still matter— you have to go back in time much farther than Zuckerberg or even Jobs, to the late Eisenhower era of white button-down shirts, skinny ties, and square black-framed glasses.

On Tuesday, February 5th, PBS will debut a new documentary as part of the American Experience series called —you guessed it— Silicon Valley. It’s the story of the engineers working in the valley’s first semiconductor companies, the ones who put the silicon in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is a hub of immigrants. I know very few second-generation residents, let alone third-generation ones. Most people who live here know only the barest historical facts about the place. They know of the Gold Rush and the Beats and the Summer of Love in San Francisco, but not the details of how a valley of fruit orchards transformed into office parks in just a quarter-century. They may have heard of the HP garage, but not the Shockley lab or Fairchild Semiconductor — the centerpieces of the documentary.  The reason this is important is that 55 years after the “Traitorous Eight” abandoned Shockley Semiconductor to set up Fairchild, Silicon Valley remains the center of innovation. New data from the Brookings Institution shows that the metropolitan area covering San Francisco south to San Jose, including both sides of the Bay, achieved over 16,000 patents per year on average from 2007 to 2011. The next runner up was the New York metro area with fewer than 7,000. Ideas “R” Us, indeed.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, you can watch Silicon Valley on KQED-TV (Channel 9) at 8:00 p.m., followed at 9:30 p.m. by the 2011 documentary Something Ventured: Risk, Reward and the Original Venture Capitalists, which sheds light on the development of a parallel industry without which the start-up culture could not flourish.

I frequently hear people lament they’ve missed a TV show and then query if it’s available on Netflix. Because Silicon Valley is broadcast on PBS, you’ll be able to catch it at least six times this month on multiple PBS stations (KQED repeats its programs on at least three different channels). Most American Experience documentaries are eventually streamed in their entirety via the PBS website, too, although currently only the 16-minute first chapter is available.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the high tech industry and some of its colorful pioneering personalities, I strongly recommend Robert X. Cringely’s classic Accidental Empires in both its 1992 book and 1996 PBS documentary forms. Cringlely will shortly begin a “reboot” of the book by serialization on his blog, as preparation of a new annotated edition and eBook. I read the book and watched the TV series 15 years ago, when I was planning my move to Silicon Valley, and it got me excited to visit Mountain View and Menlo Park. Yes, really!

Lisa Hawes can be reached at Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisakayhawes.


2013 Predictions

Hooper, Patel and Dyor at the WTIA Predictions event.

Last week, the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), a Sterling client, hosted their annual “Predictions” event – bringing together some of the brightest minds in the Seattle tech industry to get their take on what trends and events defined the previous year — and what will be big in the coming year. This year’s panel was unique as it looked at the tech industry from a VC perspective, as all panelists came from various stages in the investment process.

From the traditional VC perspective was Steve Hooper, founding partner at Ignition. Matt Dyor, managing director of the Microsoft Accelerator, spoke from the incubator perspective; and Sujal Patel, former president at Isilon, shared his viewpoint as an angel investor. The panel was moderated by Enrique Godreau III, managing director at GSharp Ventures.

When asked what was one of the most important qualities of a company seeking funding, all agreed that the willingness to listen was important. According to Hooper, “If they can’t listen, they can’t take advice.”

When Godreau asked the panel their opinion as to what trends were on their way out, Dyor was quick to note that zero revenue models are waning. Companies and investors now are interested in monetizing from the start. Patel said that VCs have already funded too many cloud companies, and Godreau noted that that consumer Internet entertainment is overcrowded.

Panelists were next asked what scares them, and most agreed that losing our entrepreneurial spirit would be the demise of innovation. According to Hooper, certain government regulations could threaten an environment that fosters entrepreneurialism. Patel noted that China and India are poised to step in and fill America’s entrepreneurial shoes, should the U.S. lose its entrepreneurial drive. On a related but more local scale, Dyor cited the talent flight to Silicon Valley, should entrepreneurship wane in the Pacific Northwest. Godreau cited an entirely unrelated fear and a valid question: “who owns my ‘data exhaust?’”

When asked which industry is next to be transformed by technology, Dyor answered with “my inbox.” Patel referred back to “data exhaust,” noting that big opportunities await for those who find a way to analyze it and turn into action. Hooper hoped we would continue to evolve phones, citing technologies such as RFID and calling us a “click and done society.” Godreau believed the next revolution was lurking in the education industry, which stands to impede the next generation of entrepreneurs if standards don’t improve.

Next, Godreau asked the panelists what they were surprised hasn’t been fixed yet. Both Hooper and Patel referred to phones again, with Hooper lamenting why in this day and age, we still find dropped calls normal and acceptable. Patel commented on how ridiculous it was that email is still so limited on your smartphone. Godreau laughed at the fact that three way conference calls are still so difficult!

When asked whether there is a social media bubble, both Dyor and Godreau agreed that the next step is finding value. According to Godreau we’ve delivered entertainment, now how to we deliver value?

In closing, Hooper noted that there’s a lot of money to be raised, even in bad times. If it’s a great idea, great ideas get funded.

Patel added that there are so many misunderstood ideas, where no one believes in a product but the founder.

Misunderstood ideas? Sounds like clear messaging and a good communications strategy may be the answer, if you ask me!

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.

Image via


Working smarter for the New Year

As 2013 approaches, many of us find ourselves resolving to do things that better our lives – exercise regularly; eat only locally grown and seasonal veggies; get outdoors more; find our inner Zen – and of course, the age-old improve professional development.

In line with this last resolution, the phrase, “work smarter, not harder” comes to mind. As New Relic’s blog post on this subject states, “Bragging that you’ve worked a 16-hour day doesn’t actually increase your bottom line. Success comes from being smart about how you work, which doesn’t necessarily mean you have to forego sleep and family to be successful.”

So I started thinking (and digging up some research) on some tips of how one can do this. This is especially relevant at this moment in time as I’m jamming on some major client work with some hard deadlines amidst the holiday season (whomever said that things are supposed to slow down during the holidays obviously doesn’t work here at Sterling). Here’s some stuff I’ve learned (some of it, admittedly, the hard way):

Organize yourself – there are tons of tools out there that help keep you on track and prevent your hair from catching on fire. My latest project-management addiction? Asana (big shout-out to our creative director, Kawika Holbrook, for introducing me to this one). It’s a task management application that’s intuitive, easy-to-learn, and best of all, for up to 30 people per workspace, it’s free (note: not a client of Sterling’s – we just happen to really like the application).

Communicate – Be open with your communication with your clients, colleagues, team leads, and yourself. Be clear with your clients about what exactly you’re going to deliver, and manage their expectations. It’s nice to offer them the moon, but not-so-nice when you can’t realistically deliver it. Make sure people know your bandwidth and workloads so that they don’t end up expecting more than you can give them. Playing superhero sometimes backfires when you aren’t able to fulfill what you said you’d do.

Ask for help, ask for help, ask for help – I can’t stress this enough. We want to do the best work for our clients, and in a deadline-driven industry, sometimes half the battle rests in doing stuff ON TIME. Pull in resources when and where you can. It doesn’t make sense for you to be working 60 hours a week, when you can delegate to those around you who have the time and the talent to do the work too.

Understand your limitations – Setting high and lofty goals = good. Setting unattainable goals = bad. Know the difference. And learn when to say no. You may want to be the “yes” (wo)man, but this can lead to over-scheduling and under-delivering.

Learn to prioritize – Figuring out what takes precedent helps you manage your schedule better. This all circles back to communication. As I juggle many projects for many clients, I’m juggling deadlines, expectations, and internal teams. This means I need to figure out what my top priorities are and what can wait so I can make sure I’m delivering the best work possible within the timeframe necessary.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for ways you can start incorporating smarter working into your professional lives. For an even more extensive list of tips, check out Colleen Debaise’s “Ask Entrepreneur” blog.

Jennifer Kincaid can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jennlkincaid.

Photo credits: Say Be And…; AAFP


Will Redbox streaming spell the end for Netflix?

We’ve written about Netflix a few times on this blog. Beginning in July 2011 with their poor execution in communicating a major pricing structure change, it seems this former media darling has been on a downward spiral in the news ever since. And their stock performance certainly reflects this.

But while Netflix’s saving grace has historically been their unique product offering, that differentiation is growing smaller by the day. Amazon and Hulu have been nipping at their heels for a while now in the streaming category, and just today, Redbox announced its beta streaming service will go live later this month and will also include a disc/streaming combo package, not unlike Netflix’s.

In the absence of a proprietary service or unique product, brands must rely on price or reputation to differentiate themselves. Unfortunately for Netflix, at this point the company is neither winning the pricing game or the popularity vote. Had the company handled its initial pricing change better – and its subsequent reaction to the public’s disapproval, they may very well have remained heads above their competitors in the public eye. When consumers are satisfied with a product or service, they have little reason to seek out alternatives. But by alienating their customers, brand loyalty dwindled and Netflix opened the door for their competitors to swoop in with similar offerings.

It will be interesting to see how Netflix will be affected by Redbox’s entrance into the streaming world, considering the latter is already well-known and liked. What do you think? Is Redbox poised to surpass Netflix, or will Netflix find a way to redeem itself in the public eye to keep its customers? Is Amazon still a contender? Or is there a dark horse in the form of another company that we should be watching for? Do you think it will all come down to who offers the most content?

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.

Image via CNN Money.


Amex Small Business Saturday – a Stroke of CSR and Marketing Genius

American Express Small Business Saturday is a fantastic idea, and as this year’s Small Business Saturday approaches, American Express deserves some special recognition. They have successfully created an amazing all-in-one corporate social responsibility / marketing program that absolutely hits the nail on the head in appealing to both America’s hope for a stronger economy and its distaste for the dirty side of consumerism.

You’d have to be living under a rock (or in some other place several years in the past) to not be familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are two perfectly contrived and heavily publicized shopping days that fall on the Friday and Monday (respectively) following Thanksgiving. They are a chance for Americans to stand in line and trample one another to take advantage of outrageous deals on consumer goods and electronics merely one day after celebrating their contentment with what they already have. Bizarre as this practice may seem, it has a real place in our modern economy. The influx of foot traffic into our brick and mortar stores and the virtual traffic in and out of retailer’s websites is there to launch the holiday shopping season with a bang, driving interest in the latest product releases and this year’s must-have consumer goods.

The amount of time and money that big business has poured into creating this beast and the disgusting lengths that individual shoppers go to in order to obtain these hot holiday goods perfectly highlights the gluttony of America’s unique consumer culture. It has caused many to step back and look for ways to improve consumer behavior. On top of this, the prevailing political narrative across both sides of the aisle as been that America’s economy is in desperate need of more jobs and more growth and that, among others, small businesses are a promising source of this growth. Enter American Express.

What if American Express could capitalize on this same enthusiasm in a way that would generate it millions of dollars in processing fees?  What if it could do this while at the same time recognizing the hard work and ingenuity of local businesses and giving disgruntled consumers an alternative to waiting in line to throw their money away to big businesses? They sure as hell can, and did.

American Express launched a very, very well executed campaign that will undoubtedly be taught in marketing classes in top universities for years to come. They started by partnering with small businesses across America, encouraging those businesses to offer special deals only available to American Express card members. They then pushed an enormous advertising and social media campaign that encourages consumers to spend the Saturday following Thanksgiving shopping at these businesses – using their Amex cards. American Express has provided small businesses with a slew of marketing material. They’ve mounted TV, web, and print ad campaigns, and even have gone as far as to provide a tool available on their website, through Facebook, through Twitter – literally everywhere – that identifies participating small businesses in proximity to a consumer’s GPS location. It is a three-way relationship that benefits the consumer, the small business, and obviously, American Express itself.

This campaign should be applauded not only as a marketing effort but also as a brilliant corporate social responsibility initiative. American Express understands that there is probably no other issue that polls better in America then creating jobs, recognizing and supporting our hard working neighbors and small business owners and eventually, using this support to bolster the economy and reverse the economic downturn. The company recognized this, and took advantage of it in a tremendous way.

The result: over 100 million consumers shopped at small businesses the Saturday following Thanksgiving in 2011. American Express is seen as rescuing the economy in a way that seemingly neither of our Presidential candidates could. The company comes across as a fantastic corporate citizen, genuinely committed to helping everyday Americans and rescuing the economy. I’m not alone when I say that suddenly I find myself wanting an Amex, a business of my own, and damnit, I want to go buy a dozen cupcakes from my local bakery right NOW.

Dave Gifford can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@david_gifford.