Week 2 at XRC Labs

Katheryn Thayer: Forbes
Date: 10/27/2015 (Tuesday at 7:00-8:30PM)
Track: How to be a Great Company
Topic: Strengthening Your Company PR: Culture, Infrastructure, & Communication

Description: How well do you know PR? How do you do PR in tech? Katheryn Thayer, Senior Director of Sponsored Special Features at Forbes, demystifies PR land and journalism.

Katheryn Thayer Bio:

XRC ThayerKatheryn Thayer


Senior Producer for Special Features, Forbes

Katheryn Thayer is a devotee of new media. As a Senior Producer for Special Features at Forbes, she helps shape and brainstorm what’s next on the web. Katheryn seeks out stories on how social media, mobile technology & big data are changing culture as we know it.

Session Notes

  • A PR agent can be a beneficial catalyst but may also create a barrier.
  • How journalists are motivated:
  • Journalists are paid on page views
  • Journalists are likely to revisit stories, rehash
  • Questions journalists are asked or ask themselves:
  • What do people google? What influences SEO?
  • How quickly can I gather facts on this?
    • To help this process, put as much info on your site as possible
      • A writer’s next steps to research a story:
        • google company, search company about page, visit social channels
  • To create a story that is deemed relevant and high-value:
  • Read the news:
  • Know what is happening in your space
  • Spot trends ex: atheleisure
  • Use tools to harness info. Ex: Google trends, Google keywords, trend analysis, Tweet deck
  • Join the community
  • Physically & digitally – Go to events; participate in online discussions via social media and blogs
    • Don’t just talk about yourself but share industry trends that will tell people you are an industry expert
    • Twitter analytics can be helpful to find out what topics are trending
  • Pitch your story
  • Don’t just put out a generic story across a bunch of publishers
  • Know how to differentiate news vs story vs just facts. Journalists are interested in stories and news.
  • Explain something
  • What can you add to the conversation? How can you clarify a topic?
  • Read journalists’ stories, continue the message.
  • Considerations when reaching out to journalists
  • Start email/letter with what is relevant to the writer. Determine relevance by looking at how the writer is categorized and what they historically write about.
  • When writing an email, be sure that the email is formatted for easy readability and has a concise message including brand names, stats, and words/phrases that can account for SEO trends
  • What is your goal in reaching out to the press? Raising money? Sales?
  • How to get a foot in the door
  • Journalists appreciate an informational sit down to get to know what a person is like and what their company is like.
  • Social Introductions: reach out over social media on what is relevant to something the journalist wrote about and provide valuable information, links, events that he/she can go to
  • Low-pressure conversation starters – Send an invite to an event that may be interesting to the writer
  • Align your brand: if you know someone in the community, have them reach out on your behalf. Feel free to reach out to writers in your network.
    • Founders should reach out directly as few journalists interact with founders. This will allow the story to be clear and direct from the source.


  • Are press kits relevant? Yes, helpful for SEO
  • Are bloggers journalists? Very comparable
  • How should they be approached? Bloggers are more open and generally more accessible
  • Should gifts be sent? More for bloggers; good idea it to invite people to show rooms or fittings or demos where possible
  • When does it make sense to start introducing PR? Best to have early traction before publicist
  • Does it matter if I send the same story to many writers? Be cautious and be ready to have multiple stories with differing angles for different publishers/writers
  • What is the best way to hook a journalist at a party? Be human, be social, don’t start selling/pitching. Be cautious as everything can be on the record.
  • Is it ok to reach out to journalists with questions? Journalists like to be considered an expert so asking questions about their readership can be helpful


Al Sambar: Kurt Salmon
10/28/2015 (Wednesday at 7:00-8:30PM)
Track: How to be a Great Retailer
Topic: Next Generation Retail Economics: Retail or Not? Customer Experience, New Supply Chains, Personalization

Description: What are the particular economics a retailer must manage in an interconnected world? What are the key KPI’s that drive retailer valuations and success? Should you do retail at all?

Al Sambar

XRC SambarManaging Partner, Retail and Consumer Group, Kurt Salmon

Al Sambar leads Kurt Salmon’s North American Retail and Consumer Group. For more than 20 years, he has been providing retailers and consumer companies with strategic planning, organizational design, consumer insights and operating performance improvement services, with deep specialization in omnichannel retailing and global brand management. He writes frequently about innovation in retailing and apparel brand management and is regularly cited in leading publications including Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Session Notes:

“Omnichannel is a buzzword that describes how I have to integrate and make available all of my offering. It is still a prevalent term in traditional brick and mortar retailers.”

“The single most important large trend is the combination of globalization and connectivity.”

“How to take your brand global is a really important question, but your brand still needs to act locally.”

“I buy something I WANT from somebody I TRUST.”

“Digital is transforming everything.”

Advice for entrepreneurs:

  • There is no formula. The only thing an entrepreneur needs to be is self-aware.

Most e-commerce product recommendations are specific to ONE channel. So it leaves the questions of a context to WHERE?

  • Can you communicate how you will drive your product?
  • OWN the customer experience
  • The Dupont Model

Today you can’t be just a store anymore: Store → Web → Mobile → Social. For brand activation this is REVERSED.

Example: Bonobos has one of the worst in store conversion rates, but it doesn’t affect them due to their web and mobile presence.


Jeff Madoff: Madoff Productions
10/29/2015 (Thursday at 7:00-8:30PM)
Track: How to be a Great Brand/CPG:
Topic: Building a Brand: Design and Infusion of Technology

Description: Make it and they will come rarely works. Understand how brands are built in this omnichannel world. You will learn:
(1) What is a brand?
(2) How do you go about building a brand?
(3) How do you know if you are building a brand successfully
(4) Online vs offline — where do you start

Jeff Madoff

XRC MadoffFounder and CEO, Madoff Productions

Jeffrey Madoff is an American director, photographer, writer and professor living in New York City. He is the founder and CEO of Madoff Productions. His film and video work includes commercials, web content, music videos and documentaries for various clients such as Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret. His online videos for Victoria’s Secret won the coveted Webby Award in 2009. His documentary films about Brooke Astor and Martha Graham have received notice in The New York Times. He directed a music video for UK recording artist DJ Fresh, which was number 1 on the MTV dance charts for four weeks in England and has had millions of views on YouTube. Madoff teaches a course, Creative Careers: Making a Living with your Ideas, at Parsons The New School for Design.

Session Notes:


  • Background: fashion designer
  • Madoff Productions: first client: Halstead- videotaping fashion show
  • Adjusting messages to keep up with existing trends
  • Technology has always been changing
  • For Storytellers/content creator, vehicle doesn’t change
  • Good content brings self-attention
  • content delivery


  • “Educate yourself”
  • Technology has brought faster delivery
  • Branded content
  • Breakdown the walls of businesses and disciplines- “They’re all the same”
  • “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it’s worth doing”
  • All technology as a tool
  • Is technology worth investing in?
  • People get complacent
  • Falling behind: Many companies don’t know what business they are in
  • Connect the dots
  • 3D TV: “Be careful of jumping on a bandwagon too early”
  • “A Brand is telling a story”
  • Pharmaceutical companies are great at telling a brand story
    • They sell generic brands at a huge markup
  • Successful brands create a relationship with the customer
  • Global recognition is the strongest asset a brand can have
  • “We are at a constant hailstorm of data so the most precious point is our attention”
  • The strongest brands have missionaries (brand ambassadors)
  • Compelling narrative is a promise of a better future (happily ever after)
  • Constant, consistent process
  • “Brands are a marathon process – it doesn’t just happen”
  • Come up with a brand that you can sustain
  • Branding is how you get your message out there

[Reprinted with permission from XRC Labs]