Why Boston Matters In The Solar Conversation

Solar innovation is vital in Boston and New England.PlanetSolar Boat pic5

As part of its mission to build stronger relationships between scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators in Massachusetts and Switzerland, swissnex Boston will welcome PlanetSolar to Boston’s Fan Pier for her inaugural visit, June 22-26.

swissnex Boston is hosting a variety of business, media, and educational events to celebrate PlanetSolar’s visit to Boston In partnership with University of Geneva and Presence Switzerland. Read its Boston-area activities here:

The schedule includes:

  • “Build your own solar boat” children’s workshops at Boston Children’s Museum;
  • DeepWater expedition presentation at the Museum of Science, Boston;
  • A Swiss-Boston Clean Tech Night of Networking with leaders from clean tech, government, innovation and academia;
  • “From the Alps to the Atlantic: Water in a changing climate,” a scientific conference with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

The first boat to travel around the world exclusively powered by solar energy, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar features 29,160 solar panels and produces zero gasoline or CO2 emissions. When she arrives in Boston on Saturday, June 22, she will be docking for the seventh time on her 2013 world tour after visiting Rabat, Morocco; Las Palmas, Spain; St. Martin; Miami, FL; and New York, NY. Boston is one of only three stops PlanetSolar is making in the United States – especially relevant due to swissnex’s mission and Boston’s engaged solar community. She will make nine more stops before returning to her departure site of La Ciotat, France.

Boston, recently ranked second behind California in the United States for leadership in clean technology industries, is a perfect location for PlanetSolar. The innovative, clean technology research that PlanetSolar and the University of Geneva are conducting align well with swissnex Boston’s missions and values. As the global leader for world-class science, education and innovation, swissnex believes in creating and facilitating opportunities for collaboration within these industries. This is one of many collaborations swissnex Boston has coordinated, in addition to its well-known Venture Leaders program which provides 20 high-tech entrepreneurs an opportunity to boost their commercial presence.

HB Agency is proud to play a  part in this extraordinary event in the local clean-tech community.

For more information about events and PlanetSolar, visit http://www.swissnexboston.org/planetsolar-deepwater-expedition-in-boston


Posted in Hart-Boillot | 3 Comments

Avoid Insanity. Write a Business Book.

This post was first published on Commpro.biz.

Albert Einstein’s quote about the definition of insanity has become a cliché. Yet it still applies to many of us in business, where we repeat the same things over and over again expecting a different result. Or expecting people to suddenly understand because we say it again. Whether we make widgets or sell services, many of us think that everyone should understand the basics of what we do. They should “get it.” But they don’t and they won’t, and we are fools to expect it simply because we live what we do every day. So if, like me, you’re sick of saying the same thing over and over again, write a book.


I’ve been running HB Agency, an integrated marketing firm, for 14 years. A few years ago I realized that the word “story” seemed to mean something different to every person I ran into. It drove me crazy to hear someone say “story” in reference to a tweet, a blog post, a press release, and even a data sheet.

I kept asking, “What’s a story?” And for each person I asked, I got a different reply. It was especially infuriating when clients asked my colleagues and me about story creation in business, and we all had different answers. Even worse, our answers changed over time.

So I decided to write a book. Twenty years ago that would have been a momentous decision. I would have had to create an in-depth summary, reach out to agents for a year (and maybe not find one), wait for the agent to find a publisher for another year, and then write several hundred pages with a mass of references and annotations.

Continue reading

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Automatic toilet roulette and other event lessons

Beware of bathroom stalls

This month’s Blog the 13 post is on the subject of trade shows and event marketing. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve worked on, seen or participated in countless events developing strategies, building audiences, creating experiences, and generally making live and digital events sticky, memorable and profitable for our clients. I could bore you with statistics, strategies and tactics but you can Google that kind of data. As I thought about what to write, one thing kept coming to the surface…the day it happened. 

Orange County Convention Center: I’m helping run a major event for a client and HB is deeply involved in making the experience happen. To give you an idea of what was expected, on day one I was responsible for escorting major sponsors to VIP areas, adjusting and creating signage for way-finding, contributing to critical decisions related to fire marshal issues, tearing down a room and re-setting it with the help of 20+ Freeman employees minutes before a presentation, and assisting in all measures of attendee happiness. In addition, I was recruited as a rope puller for Cirque Du Soleil and yelled at repeatedly by an angry man named Yuri, “Pull! Pull! Pull!,” so that his performer would fly through the air over a bar at an evening party.

It’s day two and there are 10,000+ of the nicest IT, storage and data center professionals you’ll ever meet parading through the halls to attend technical sessions. In between sessions, the halls and particularly the bathrooms are overwhelmed. I don’t want to be crude so let’s just say that the men’s “facilities” are being punished to the breaking point. And I have to go. Badly.

I begin to search out a relatively clean, uninhabited loo. I walk a few hundred yards. No luck. A few hundred more. No luck. The OCCC in Orlando is absolutely enormous so I set my sights on a completely different area maybe a mile away. As I walk, I encounter fewer and fewer people until I find myself alone, standing in front of a bathroom, praying I’ve found glory. I step inside and the minty freshness and twinkling porcelain is like a mirage but welcomingly real. I open a stall to my liking, slip in and… Then it happens.

I’m on the pot for only a moment when something goes wrong. A sound I’m familiar with has suddenly and without notice shocked my senses. Surely it’s only a sensitive automatic flusher. But no, it’s much, much more than that. A high-pressure violent torrent of water has erupted beneath me sending a vortex of fluid upward between my legs, over the rim from every angle, and in a nano-second covers me from waist to toe.

I kick the stall door open, fumbling to my feet I find myself in the center of the bathroom, my pants at the floor. Of the fifteen or so stalls, I’ve chosen the one with a disdain for common decency and an anger rooted in years of punishing conferences. I’m in shock, drenched, and naked with one thing on my mind… What the fuck just happened?

I pull my pants and myself together. I wash my hands because that’s what you do, even when you’ve just waded belt deep into toilet water. As I walk another half mile to my hotel, I try to ignore the stares and odd looks as much as the squishing sound my shoes make as I stride. I enter the lobby, hop in an elevator alone, thankfully, and exit at my floor. How nice, the cleaners are in my room… somehow they know to just leave immediately.

The story pretty much ends there. I throw out my shoes, pants, shirt, etc. I return to work to a slew of questions… “Where’d you go?” and “Were you wearing something different earlier?” I tell the story over lunch and people are laughing to tears. To this day, I’m reminded occasionally by those present to beware of automatic toilets.

Conclusion: If you’re involved in an event of any kind, expect the unexpected. Avoid automatic toilets. Bring a few pairs of comfortable shoes, a sense of humor, willingness to do whatever it takes to make the event a success, and hopefully you don’t fall victim to bad luck.

Posted in B2B Technology, Blog the 13th | 6 Comments

Congratulations graduate! Here’s why I won’t hire you

Eleven reasons why I will never hire you

At HB, over the past 14 years, we have received thousands of resumes from new college graduates. Too many had the background to make the cut or at least garner a second interview. But disastrous interviewing skills brought them down.

Here’s our take on what went wrong and how to improve.

Please share with any graduates in your life.

Posted in Business, Culture | 3 Comments

Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching Tech Journalists

Houston Astros v Boston Red SoxI recently went to the PubClub’s “meet the media” event – Tech Panel: Pitching High Tech Reporters featuring Mike Farrell of the Boston Globe, Greg Gomer of BostInno, Maryfran Johnson of CIO magazine, Dan Primack of Fortune, and Dan Rowinski of ReadWrite. Whether you are newer to the profession like me, or a grizzled veteran, there is always something new to learn about how to best pitch tech reporters.

Here are my takeaways:


Have an interesting subject line headline AND first pitch line. For those journalists   who have email that allows them to see the subject line, what you write might be enough to inspire a story.

Make sure you know reporters with whom your client already has a relationship. Simple advice, but PR pros trying to prove they have the right relationships may never ask.

Pitch beyond the editorial calendar. Giving a journalist a great idea outside of mandated ed cals can catch their eye and let them know you’re following news trends. Be creative!

Follow reporters on social media. Tweets, status updates and comments can potentially grow into story ideas and you can better grab reporters’ attention. Primack specifically said “If you see I’m tweeting a lot or responding to comments, engage me there. If I don’t respond to you, then you’ll know with a certainty that I’m not interested.” Understanding what motivates journalists to share on social media can help you understand how to best approach them. If a reporter is active on Twitter, Facebook or other social media outlets, use that to your advantage and pitch them there rather than by email or phone.


Assume your pitch is important enough for the editor-in-chief; that’s a recipe for disaster. Instead pitch the proper beat reporter. Your news will have a higher chance of getting a response.

Send lengthy email pitches; they will usually be ignored. Keep it short and sweet. Any email pitch longer than 200-to-300 words will get deleted.

Send an unformatted email pitch. Anything you can do to catch a reporter’s attention, do it! Bold it! Underline it! Italicize it!

Be afraid to send images with your pitch. Infographics and other images are a welcome way to spice up what can be deemed as another generic/boring email pitch.

Tech reporters receive dozens, if not hundreds, of pitches every day from PR people. Follow these do’s and don’ts to make your pitch stand out.

Happy pitching!

Posted in Media Relations, Public Relations, Social Media | 3 Comments

Summer Reading

To say that I hail from a family of readers is an understatement. The only thing that my divorced parents have in common is their passion for reading. Breakfast with either of them involves a newspaper and maybe five words.

While I consider myself an avid reader, I struggle to make reading a daily ritual, except during the summer. As I did during elementary school — when it was required — I begin the summer by making a summer reading list. With Memorial Day behind us, summer has unofficially hit New England. So I hit the bookstore (yes, the actual store!) this week to get my stack started.

On my summer 2013 list:

Lean In. Sheryl Sandberg.
I held on tight for months, leaning away from the cloud of chatter and activity around Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial book. What convinced me to loosen my grip on the rail and let myself ride the wave? A respected acquaintance posted this on Facebook:

I keep buying the book and sending it to anyone who should read it… the male executive committee of our company, numerous business partners, friends, and family, I believe I am up to 75 books sent out to the world. This is such an important piece of work and one that all need to read and talk about. I no longer feel alone in my corporate experience, thanks to Sheryl!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Stephen King.
As a PR pro, I devote much of my week to writing via content planning, editing or actual writing. Although I haven’t read any of his fiction (well, maybe once during a college summer…), I adored King’s smart, engaging contributions to Entertainment Weekly, whose column I still mourn. During my bookstore tour I discovered this gem. A combo plate, if you will, it offers practical tips as well as an inside glimpse of King’s writing experiences.

The Icarus Deception. Seth Godin.
Let me first admit that I had forgotten the specifics of the Icarus myth. In case you need a refresher: Wearing wings crafted by his father, Icarus did not heed Dad’s counsel to play it safe. Icarus flew too close to the sun and plunged to his death.

Godin reminds readers to get out of their comfort zone. While Icarus went down in flames, Godin reminds his audience that getting outside of your comfort zone can lead to success and creativity (not flames).

The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout.
My summer pages will certainly include many fiction selections (most likely at the beach!). At the top of my list is this suggestion from my mother. Strout spins engaging stories with complex characters; her Pulitzer-winning Olive Kitteredge was a past summer read.

Curious to learn more about the HB shelves? Check out our summer reading Pinterest board and follow #SummerReadingHB on Twitter.

I would love to hear about your summer reading list. Friend me on Goodreads or tweet me at @perrinmcc so we can exchange titles.


Posted in Books, Business, Culture, Hart-Boillot, Writing | 8 Comments

News from Shanghai – Why HB Chooses IPREX and Is Glad IPREX Chooses HB

David Croasdale, Managing Director of Newell PR, Hong Kong, describes the "layered approach" to doing business in China

David Croasdale, Managing Director of Newell PR, Hong Kong, describes the “layered approach” to doing business in China

During one May 2013 week in Shanghai for the IPREX annual meeting, I worked with fellow leaders of marketing firms from around the world. As we collaborated on partner engagement methodology and best marketing practices, I kept asking myself, “Why do we all believe that the IPREX network is more effective for clients than a single global marketing firm?”

So I asked my colleagues, who came to Shanghai from firms in the UK, India, Mainland China, Australia, Hong Kong, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Singapore, Peru, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Malaysia, Canada and the US.

Here are the top five reasons I heard regarding why they believe IPREX is more effective than traditional global marketing firms.

  1. Global agencies with in-depth local market knowledge are better than global branch offices. Many agencies establish offices around the world, but those offices are branches from a single tree. While that might give clients some assurance of centrally located control and command, it often works against true local knowledge and strategic counsel. Our clients’ goal shouldn’t be great translation. It should be uncompromising localization.
  2. Partnership and membership are at stake all the time. IPREX isn’t the kind of organization where you write a check and they let you in. Competency examinations, financial stability requirements, organizational reviews, interviews and agency visits are part of a stringent vetting process. Poor performance in a multi-agency engagement can mean the loss of reputation or membership. IPREX polices the partner agencies’ professional standards. Many offices of global firms are not under that kind of pressure, and it can translate to lower performance.
  3. We work with the partner we choose, not the one we must use. An IPREX partner in India might have the right competency to advance an international campaign. But if it doesn’t, we can choose a different partner that is better suited to the work. We are not obligated to go through any particular channel or office, which means we can choose the right agency for the right job.

    Mayte Gonzalez-Gil

    Mayte Gonzalez-Gil, CEO of poweraxle, Madrid, presents the international “St. Patrick’s Day Campaign” created with several agencies and the government of Ireland

  4. Best practices, globally sourced. The world is changing fast, and the best ideas and practices for PR and integrated marketing can come from any country. Unlike global agencies whose capabilities stem from a powerful headquarters, IPREX best practices come from around the world and evolve every year as the global agencies collaborate and discover new ways to remain relevant and effective.
  5. This is the age of speed. With no institutionalized chains of command, IPREX agencies can often do in a few days what takes global agencies a few weeks or months. We have the case studies to prove it.

The firms I queried in Shanghai represent only a fraction of IPREX’s 70 global partners (with 100 worldwide offices and 1,500 staff), which brings up my top reason: IPREX offers high-quality operations in every major market worldwide.

The resources IPREX partners put into traveling and meeting with each other also dwarf what many international agencies do. This creates collegial peer-group relationships that lead to high-quality work and a lot of fun doing the work. As one IPREX member put it, “If we didn’t believe this allows us to do better work for our clients, why would we be meeting here in Shanghai? And by the way, will I see you in Prague this fall?” Yes, he will.

Posted in Business, Hart-Boillot, Media Relations, Public Relations, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

People Like Pictures, So Start Pinning

blog-the-13thImages are powerful tools that can be incredibly useful and advantageous in marketing. We see more and more brands leveraging this power through various social media outlets. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide companies with engaging and personalized tools to optimize customer interaction. And there’s Pinterest, an image-sharing, graphics-oriented, ecommerce-enabled social platform.

People really like pictures, so here at HB we’ve stepped up our Pinterest game. Here are the top 13 tips and facts we want to share with you before you start a Pinterest page for your business.

13 Pinterest tips

How has your company used Pinterest to engage customers? Do you have any tips to share? We would love to hear them.

Posted in Blog the 13th, Hart-Boillot, Public Relations, Social Media | 3 Comments

The Real World Disconnect Plaguing PR Degree Programs

GraduatesSpring is finally here and graduation is right around the corner. Now is the time where the soon-to-be PR graduates are seeking interviews for their first jobs right out of college.

But are they armed with the right information to impress an employer and, more importantly, express real-world awareness when discussing their upcoming professional lives.

Too often, our PR degree programs are failing our future professionals. While theory and mock PR plans are wonderful learning tools, too many graduates hit the job market without any idea of the demands and needs to a job. As employers, we are likely to embrace the graduating student who understands ed cals and media lists and pitch angles over one who espouses research methodologies and the best way to annotate copy.

While preparing for the interview is important, it is not the first, second, or third step to landing (and succeeding in) your first PR job. College degree programs are designed to prepare students for the “real world,” right? But do they?

My recent article, featured on The Agency Post, titled An SOS Flag for PR Degree Programs, addresses these issues and provides PR students questions to keep in mind throughout their education, while debunking post-graduation preconceived “truths,” and shares my opinion on how PR degree programs can be improved.

What’s your experience? Are public relations in higher education hitting the mark or not?

Posted in Hart-Boillot | 3 Comments

13 Cures for Marketing and PR Phobias


Few of us are familiar with triskaidekaphobia, a fear or a phobia concerning the number 13. A seemingly irrational fear, it is rooted in myth and history as far back as the Babylonians and Vikings. But the superstitious among us may find evidence in the phobia: Apollo 13 and its ill-fated mission, hotels without a 13th floor, and the fact that enough people call in sick or delay travel on Friday the 13th that it costs an estimated $1 billion in productivity. Proof enough to avoid tempting fate? Regardless of where one falls on the “fear” scale, we frequently cling to long-held practices for fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or the inability to self-actualize.

As marketers, we need to get over our phobias – next time you face a tough situation, try one of these 13 techniques for breaking out of your comfort zone.

  1. Take the lead. Stepping up to embrace new challenges yields opportunities to add and build that you would not see from your current vantage point, especially with projects that fall outside of your job description. Leading can be uncomfortable, yet is almost universally rewarding.
  2. Send a note. I recently received a note from a colleague who works in a different department at my agency. His intentions for sending the note? Perhaps to build a bridge for a more trusted relationship, or possibly as a personal growth exercise in communications. This note prompted me to circle back to him and suggest we connect at lunch. The note pushed us outside our respective comfort zones and may well result in a strong relationship and the benefit of shared ideas and perspectives.
  3. Read. Simple? Not necessarily, if you read “big.” Bill Cosby remarked that he read in chunks – between 2-3 hours at a time – which seems difficult given today’s frenetic schedules. How about scheduling reading like you would a workout? With regular practice, reading will become a more meaningful pursuit, forcing you to reflect on the material versus consuming easy-to-digest, fit-it-in-when-possible, and generally less meaningful mass-media.
  4. Network. As marketers and communicators, we pride ourselves on providing advice to our clients to help them communicate with prospects, customers and influencers. We give them prescriptive nuggets daily. But when it comes to the first and most powerful channel – talking face-to-face – we often reflexively and irrationally pull back. Instead of approaching a networking event as a task or a ticket punch, challenge yourself to approach it as an exploration similar to traveling to a new country. Consider how your curiosity is piqued when meeting new people in your travels – are you not a better listener, absorbing what they say, and treating the experience like a gift to be remembered?
  5. Order something different on the menuliterally. Granted, this is not a technique for marketing excellence, but more so a straightforward and repeatable trial-run for stepping outside your comfort zone. It also provides an opportunity to explore new cuisines and even cultures. The point is that familiar habits such as ordering a salad or hamburger at a restaurant reinforce and telegraph our safe zones. “Ordering new” provides a self-administered jolt so that you can more easily make other, less comfortable out-of-zone decisions before.
  6. Seek out and surround yourself with excellence. When asked recently about his success with Virgin Airways, Richard Branson, its bombastic entrepreneur/CEO remarked that he surrounds himself with people who are smarter than he is. Quality is contagious; investing time with talented, creative and critical thinkers elevates everyone in the room, particularly you.
  7. Tell a joke. Writing and communicating with the purpose of entertaining is challenging, because it relies on the ability to distill a story down to its essence. Easy? Not really. Successful comedians like Jerry Sienfeld are keen listeners, building in feedback loops to relentlessly fine-tune this communication skill. Launching a joke can recalibrate our “tell-meter” into a “listen-meter,” bringing critical listening skills to play as we think about the joke and its impact, deliver it concisely and for effect, and after, listen to the audience’s reaction.
  8. Look around. What aren’t you seeing? We typically approach problems with familiar tools, yet they may not help find the path to success. I felt a particular frustration recently when working on a personal project, as I had envisioned the path to success ahead of time. As I tried in vain to craft a part of a wooden table, I met a serious setback. The moment of recognition came when, nearly throwing the work piece aside, I realized that I had ignored the most straightforward and elegant approach, too eagerly rushing down the wrong path because it’s what I knew. As I laughed to myself with the realization that this small epiphany had illuminated the way, it became a reminder to re-examine and pay attention for subtle clues that are not immediately recognized at the outset.
  9. Feel free to duplicate the wheel, but make sure it’s round. Or put another way, feel free to dig into your archive of ideas that you spent time developing – those ideas were original at one point. Our growth imperative in making them better comes with effectively adapting and improving upon them.
  10. Can you handle the truth? Jack Nicholson’s famous line from “A Few Good Men” makes for great mock-client/agency conversations; honesty can place both marketers and clients in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. While keeping an eye on their goals and uncertainties, dare to go over the wire with clients, sharing your honest feedback and ideas. If you feel they can’t handle the truth, frame and deliver it neutrally or, better yet, by demonstrating understanding of their viewpoint and position so they recognize that you empathize with them. The journey is not as treacherous when you travel with an ally.
  11. Make it spontaneous and original. Are we creating art as communicators and marketers? A colleague recently approached a client with an original idea, well out of the client’s typical comfort zone. The was delighted, and provided the green-light for the project, fully accepting the concept and prospect of an unknown outcome and appreciating the creative edge it brought to the business.
  12. Slow down. Sit and meditate. By doing so, you can recalibrate your internal clock, and  approach tasks with a new sense of prioritization and a clearer understanding of their true urgency and value to your clients. Slowing down can also help to more easily step into the other suggested techniques.
  13. Self-actualize. The path to achieving growth, including recognizing the roadblocks and understanding and moving out of your comfort zone, requires taking the first step and accepting uncertainty. The Psychology Foundation has a summary guide that explains these points, all of which can be applied to our professional lives if the intent is there.

What makes you suspicious and are phobias holding you back?

Posted in Design, Hart-Boillot, Public Relations | Leave a comment