Articles Written by the Edge Marketing Team

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation, better known as GDPR, came into effect in May 2018. Just a month later, the state of California passed into law the California Consumer Privacy Act, nicknamed California’s GDPR. The CCPA, scheduled to take effect in January 2020, creates sweeping new rights for Californians and onerous transparency and other obligations for businesses handling their information.

While it’s natural to make the comparison, calling the CCPA California’s GDPR may be a bit of a misnomer. The two laws share some key components, yet differ in several aspects. If your company created a compliance program for GDPR, you may be a step ahead, but you’ll still want to take a thorough look at the new CCPA, adapt internal processes where needed and train employees to understand and appropriately handle information requests from California contacts.

CCPA in Short

The CCPA was created in response to high-profile data breaches, as well as the increasing trend of mishandling personal data by brokers and marketers. Designed to protect consumers from the mishandling of their private data by giving the consumer control over what data is shared or sold, the law will take effect January 1, 2020. By that date, qualifying businesses need to make their data protection and user privacy policies compliant with the new regulations or risk stiff penalties.

Under the CCPA, consumers have the right to:

  1. Know what personal information is being collected on them.
  2. Know if their information is being sold and to whom.
  3. Opt out of that information being sold.
  4. Obtain a copy of their personal information.
  5. Receive equal service and price regardless of whether they exert the above rights. A common example of this would be loyalty programs, which often require customer registration to earn benefits.

Will CCPA Impact Your Business?

The CCPA applies to any business operated for the profit or financial benefit of its owners, which:

  • Has annual gross revenues in excess of $25 million.
  • Derives 50% or more of its annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information.
  • Buys, receives, sells or shares for commercial purposes, alone or in combination, the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers, households or devices.

If one of the above is true, and the organization collects the personal information of anyone in California and controls the purposes and means of processing that information, then that business is subject to the CCPA.

The owners of a small or regional business outside the state of California might initially conclude that they are likely not subject to these rules. However, the definition of “personal information” under this law is fairly broad. Any business with a website will likely have information on visitors’ IP addresses, browsing information and/or geolocation data. These data elements are considered personal information under the CCPA, so having an active website accessible to Californians can make your company subject to the law.

Comparison to GDPR – A Few Key Differences

If your organization is already compliant with GDPR, it may be easiest to think of the CCPA in terms of the elements that are different from that regulation. An important caveat here is that the CCPA is still evolving, and amendments currently under consideration may change the ultimate form of the regulation.

  • CCPA is not in its final form. GDPR is fairly well-established, detailed and in active use. The CCPA is not complete, and some legal experts say it’s overly complex. Debates on several amendments are ongoing. On September 6, the California legislature passed amendments to the state’s data breach notification statutes and information security statute. Amendments in process will require an up or down vote of both the Senate and Assembly before they can move to the governor for signing. So it’s important to keep an eye on the evolution of the law and pending amendments, some of which may impact decisions on data governance that companies need to make soon.
  • Processing vs. Sale of Data: For data collection and processing to be compliant under GDPR, one of six legal bases for processing data must apply: consent, contract, legal obligation, vital interests, public task or legitimate interest. Consent and contract are “opt-in” bases. The CCPA does not have a concept equivalent to “basis for processing.” It provides consumers with the right to opt out to prevent businesses from selling their personal information. “Sale” is defined as selling, renting, releasing, disclosing, disseminating, making available, transferring, or otherwise communicating orally, in writing, or by electronic or other means, a consumer’s personal information to another business or a third party for monetary or other valuable consideration.”
  • Nonprofit Organizations: GDPR applies to any organization that collects the data of EU residents, irrespective of whether payment is required. The CCPA is different in that it applies specifically to businesses. The CCPA defines a business as any legal entity (e.g., corporations, associations, partnerships, etc.) that is “organized or operated for the profit or financial benefit of its shareholders or other owners.” U.S. nonprofits are exempt from many data privacy and security regulations, including the CCPA, experts advise.
  • Consumers and Households: While GDPR is specifically focused on all data related to the individual EU consumer or citizen, the CCPA considers both the consumer and household entities. The CCPA doesn’t clearly define the word “household.” Until that term is clarified, providers should consider it broadly in compliance efforts. For example, a business may assume that two unrelated individuals sharing an apartment are considered to be in the same household for the purposes of the law (though in many cases that information won’t be known to the business). The challenges of compliance are evident here, and amendments to it – or removal of the term – have been suggested.
  • Fines: Under GDPR, an offending business may be fined up to 20 million euros, or up to 4% of its total global revenue of the preceding fiscal year, whichever is higher. Depending on the offense, civil penalties under the CCPA may be up to $2,500 per violation or $7,500 per violation for intentional violations. The law states that damages will be calculated on a per-capita basis. Each user whose profile is illegally processed, sold, etc., will represent an independent violation. So, for example, the sale or disclosure of a database with information on 10,000 California residents could incur a fine of up to $75 million. However, enterprises have 30 days after receiving notice of noncompliance from the California attorney general’s office to cure it, and only thereafter are they subject to an enforcement action for violating the law.

Actions to Take Now

The CCPA may change shape a bit before January 1, but it’s a good idea to get on top of it now and identify any data management processes, or even application changes, that may need attention to be compliant by January 1. First steps include:

  • Determine whether your business is subject to the CCPA.
  • If the CCPA applies to your company, get executive-level support and begin an internal education program to help employees understand the new laws.
  • Consult with in-house legal, compliance or outside counsel for advice on meeting requirements.
  • Take an inventory of existing data: know what personal data your company is collecting and why, where it is stored and which people (partners, third parties, vendors etc.) it is shared with.
  • Identify existing methods for customers to make data requests. The CCPA requires two means of access for consumers: a toll-free number and a web form request. Create or update these to be compliant.

Keep up to date on amendments and changes to the CCPA. Some good resources include the following:

  • The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) offers many resources, including an Amendment Tracker on CCPA amendments.
  • The state of California attorney general’s office website offers background on the law, timelines and public information on data privacy.
  • Am Law 100 law firm Norton Rose Fulbright offers Data Protection Report – a series of posts on evolving law and compliance topics in data privacy.

At Edge we help technology and service providers build brands and grow client relationships. While we are not legal consultants on GDPR or the CCPA, we help clients meet their own compliance efforts by supporting marketing communications, public relations, marketing automation and website design.

Creating good content is hard. Not only is it difficult to set aside time from your busy day to write, but it can also be a struggle to come up with topics that are interesting, compelling and appealing to your target audience.

Great content can drive more traffic to your website, enhance your company’s reputation and convert more website visitors into prospects. Good content can help move prospects through the marketing funnel and turn them into leads for your sales team.

That’s why, when you strike upon a good piece of content, you should try to recreate it in several different formats so it can get in the hands of more prospects – in the format in which they prefer to receive information. Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

  1. Webinars – Make sure the “record” button has been hit at the start of your next webinar. Once the webinar is complete, send that recording to a company that will transcribe the discussion. (Good news! GoToWebinar now offers transcription services.) Spend a few minutes writing an intro and a conclusion, then present the transcribed webinar content as an article available for download on your website. You can also take large sections of dialogue, edit them for readability and add a title for instant blog posts. Remember that the webinar recording and the associated slides can be two separate pieces of downloadable content on your site as well.
  2. Articles in the press – Did you recently contribute an article to an industry publication? Take the topic you covered, but expand on what you wrote to meet the publication’s length limits. Most likely, you were restricted to 1,500 words, but don’t you have so much more to say? You have just created a new article for download on your website.
  3. Articles on your website – So that article you just created? It can also become a series of blog posts. Break the content up into logical and shorter sections. Add a title, introduction, conclusion – being sure to say this is post one in a series on the topic! – and a call to action and you have several weeks of new blog posts.
  4. Blog posts – Review your past blog posts for evergreen content. Is a topic still relevant and fresh? Simply repost the blog. At the end of every year, look at your website analytics and create a “Top 5 Blog Posts of the Past Year” blog post, which includes links to and a sentence about the topics of the best of your blog posts.
  5. Presentations – Did you recently create a presentation for a client that uses industry statistics and information to help explain your company’s products or services? Gather those facts and now put them into an infographic using one of the many online creative tools like Piktochart.
  6. Graphics – Take those stats from your presentation and infographic above, then use a tool like Canva to create a single graphic for each stat. Eye-catching and informative graphics can be coupled with hashtags on social media to generate awareness for your content.
  7. E-books – Have you written several articles and blog posts on the various aspects of a single topic? Organize them logically into a larger piece and you have just created an e-book that can be downloaded from your site.
  8. Emails – The copy from your highest-performing blog posts can be copied and pasted directly into your email tool – for instance, MailChimp – and blasted out to your prospect database with a call to action to download a related piece of content.
  9. White papers – An extended white paper can be edited to remove information specific to your product or service and turned into a much shorter article that can be pitched to industry publications. It can also be broken down into shorter blog posts that include a call to action to download the entire white paper.
  10. Never stop promoting your best content. Track your website analytics to verify your most-used pieces of content and continue to promote them via social media, email, calls to action on your website and blog posts.

Repurposing exceptional content gives you a way to quickly and painlessly reinforce your message and strengthen your thought leadership position on a topic. You’ve already created great content… now go forth and repurpose!

If you’re like most people, doing media interviews isn’t on your list of favorite things to do. With the right mindset, though, interviews don’t have to be a painful experience.

Of course, it’s important to do your research to learn about the media representative and their publication, so you can go into the interview with a well-thought-out message you want to present to the readership audience; however, preparation isn’t the only trick to showing the world that you’re an expert in the field. It’s equally important to exude confidence and professionalism, and show that you’re taking the interview seriously.

When it comes to interviews, some basic etiquette will go a long way.

The following tips will help ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward on your next interview.

  1. Speak slowly. It’s easy to start speaking too quickly when you’re nervous. If you know you tend to be a fast-talker, make a point of slowing down your words when speaking to your interviewer. Not only will you make sure you’re getting your point across, you’ll also seem more confident while doing it.
  2. Don’t mumble. In addition to speaking slowly, it’s important to speak clearly. When you mumble your way through an interview, you’ll seem nervous, unconfident, unprepared, or all the above. Be sure to enunciate clearly when answering questions.
  3. Don’t ramble. While you rarely want to just give one-word answers, rambling is another common side effect of nervousness. Silence may seem uncomfortable, but there’s no need to fill the space with unnecessary words. Once you’ve said what you want to say on a given point, stop speaking so your interviewer can go on to his or her next question.
  4. Don’t fidget. If you’re doing the interview live or via webcam, fidgeting is another signal that you’re nervous and lack confidence. If you know you tend to fidget in interviews (or in general), remove possible temptations that might make you unconsciously do so: Don’t wear uncomfortable clothes or dangling jewelry, and pull your hair back if you have a habit of playing with it. Settle into a comfortable, attentive position and stick with it.
  5. Watch out for “uh”s and “um”s. Filter your responses of these sounds and other filler words. If you feel that you are at risk of using these excessively, do a few mock interviews and record yourself. Listen to your responses closely, and practice again and again until you no longer fall back on these filler words.
  6. Make sure your connection is good. These days, many interviews take place online or over the phone rather than in person. If you have an interview coming up, make sure you have a quiet place to take the interview where your connection is strong, and test the connection with enough time to spare if you need to adjust. The last thing you want is to be disconnected in the middle of an important interview.
  7. Avoid speaker phone. Putting the phone on speaker is second-nature to many people at this point, but it’s a bad idea when you’re on an interview. Not only does it make your connection less clear; it opens up the possibility of unexpected interruptions. You don’t want to have to explain odd sounds or have to repeat yourself because your interviewer can’t hear you.
  8. Don’t eat while talking. We live in a multitasking world, and it may be tempting to try to squeeze in an interview over your lunch break. While that may be fine timing-wise, make sure your lunch and interview don’t actually overlap. Even if your interviewers can’t see you, they will definitely be able to tell if you’re eating on the other end of the line, which will call into question how seriously you’re taking the interview.
  9. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something your interviewer asks you, be sure to get clarification. It’s wrong to believe that asking questions makes you sound dumb, and asking for clarification is far better than answering the wrong question.
  10. Ask if they need anything repeated. You want to leave an interview feeling confident that you’ve answered all the questions and given your interviewer everything that they wanted. Asking if they need any more information or need anything clarified before you wrap up is the best way to ensure that they have the right information for the article.

Interviewing doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. By following basic etiquette, you’ll feel more relaxed, come across as confident, and wow the world.

Corporate public relations is a critical and ever-evolving function, but its foundation remains focused on creating and maintaining a favorable image for your organization. While that effort includes several areas of discipline, communications and media relations are among the most important. The rise of social media and digital technology that advances one-to-one contact via data-driven ad targeting, email campaigns and other direct marketing channels has left some companies forgetting how important and valuable more traditional mass communication is for getting their message out.

In the current political climate, the phrase “fake news” is often applied to unflattering coverage and those who produce or share it. But in fact, journalists take a great deal of pride in fact-checking and certifying the credibility of their sources before publishing anything. Their reputations are among their most valuable assets because they need credibility in order to be trusted by sources in the future. Most journalists do not have a lot of incentive to manufacture news they cannot stand behind.

Those who are trusted to deliver news and information with integrity are important partners in your corporate public relations strategy. Earned media coverage is valuable to organizations seeking to expand brand awareness or change public perception. In professional services markets like legal and accounting, we rely on the media to share information about relevant news and events and to educate the audiences about the latest industry technology, innovations and trends.

When an objective third party covers your news, cites company leaders or specialists as sources or subject matter experts or publishes content authored by those experts, it adds a level of legitimacy to the message beyond what is typically achieved through self-promotion. The media can be a great friend, so it’s important to know how to make the most of the opportunities offered through this communication channel.

Here are some tips to increase earned media coverage:

  • Do research before outreach. Know your media targets, their publications or platforms, their audience(s) and the type of content and topics in which they’re interested.
  • Be respectful of the media. Their time is valuable, so don’t overshare or inundate them with information that isn’t of interest to their audiences.
  • Share relevant news. This includes mergers or acquisitions, company updates such as financial reports, expansions, product and service introductions or upgrades, significant milestones, key new hires and other news and events of consequence.
  • Keep earned media educational, informative and objective. Save the sales pitches for marketing materials, advertising and other paid media coverage.

Take of advantage of any invitation to be interviewed by editors or reporters, whether for them to learn more about recent news, to serve as a resource for a story they’re working on or perhaps to perform a product demonstration. These are great opportunities for your organization, but there are some additional things to remember:

  • Always confirm meeting logistics including dates, times and places to ensure you don’t keep them waiting.
  • Make sure all technology and connectivity are in proper working order so there are no delays during a demo or a bad phone connection. If either party indicates difficulty hearing during a call, offer to dial in again to improve the connection and limit the possibility of any misunderstanding.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Know your key talking points and have a polite and professional response ready for any questions that cannot be answered for any reason.

Most importantly, know that you are always on the record! When talking to the media, whether in person or by phone, email or another channel, unless otherwise indicated everything shared is assumed to be on the record. So do not overshare or say anything you or your boss wouldn’t want published and attributed to you!

When in doubt, consider enlisting the help of a qualified public relations firm. In addition to having expertise in communications and messaging, PR professionals will leverage their media relationships and work on your behalf to secure coverage that will expand your brand and create the market perception you seek.

Tips for increasing the click-through rate of your enewsletter campaigns

We all know that email newsletters are a key component of any business’s sales strategy. We carefully determine our enewsletters’ design and cohesion within our other marketing collaterals; however, what we may not consider are the finer details of how to make our enewsletters yield the most response. How can we increase the likelihood that our enewsletter will be opened, read, and relevant enough to our readers that they actually engage?


Be mindful of including too many hyperlinks in your emails, as this acts as a trigger for many spam filters to deliver your message, not to the Inbox, but to the dreaded Junk folder.

Enewsletters that include buttons for sharing on social media have a 158% higher click-through rate vs 115% the previous year, according to a study by email marketing specialists, GetResponse. Including links for sharing your content on social media makes it easy for your readers to disseminate your information for you, broadening your reach, and increasing the likelihood of engagement.

Also, according to Dean Levitt, Chief of Culture at MadMimi Email Marketing, the first link in an email gets the most clicks in more than 90% of emails. Make it count; don’t bury the lead! What is your ultimate goal in sending this email? Ensure that that first link aligns with your goal.


Be mindful of your email’s intro. In Outlook, for example, you’re able to view the first few words of an email without clicking on it. Preview the email yourself, to ensure that what you see is engaging, and isn’t something your readers will scroll past or, worse, delete unread, such as the alt text of a header image or logo. It’s easy to personalize a greeting with any number of email merging tools; there’s no longer any excuse for generic salutations.

Previewing the email also gives you an opportunity to view the email on multiple platforms: iOS vs Android, mobile vs desktop, MAC vs PC, Google Chrome vs Safari, etc. Take the time to optimize your reader’s viewing experience and decrease the chances of them scrolling on by.


According to a compilation of data from 14 studies by email marketing experts such as MailChimp, the best days of the week on which to send emails and have them perform are, in order, Tuesday, Thursday, and Wednesday. The best times of day are somewhat surprising: The emails that receive the most clicks are sent at 10 a.m., between 8 p.m. and midnight, 2 p.m., and 6 a.m. For me, this definitely checks out: Right or wrong, I know that the last thing I do before I go to sleep is putz on my phone, checking email and socials, and it’s often the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning as well. Yes, this is poor sleep hygiene, but that’s a whole other topic. The point is that taking the time to read emails is often how we start and end the day. Experiment with A/B testing, to determine what yields the best response from your readers.

A few last things to consider when determining your company’s enewsletter strategy:

  • Aim for quality, not quantity. If you’re unable to swing a quality enewsletter once a week, consider moving to a bi-weekly schedule, or even monthly. It’s better to be proud of your content than to just push something out for the sake of doing so, and it will be obvious when your content is padded with filler. Consider outsourcing this if need be, to someone whose sole responsibility is to create compelling content for your customers, based on your direction.
  • Create an editorial calendar: Include a list of previous topics, so you can see what you’ve already covered, and ideas for future topics. Assign accountability for each issue, and determine the resources and reference material necessary for fulfillment each month.
  • Ensure your email campaigns are in compliance with anti-spam legislation, such as GDPR and CASL, and include your company’s contact info and an option to unsubscribe. Yes, that is required.

While there’s no “secret sauce” to ensure your email campaign will accomplish your goals 100% of the time, keeping these suggestions in mind will help your odds!

Public relations is a powerful tool for influencing and changing behavior, but most companies don’t think of PR as a means to generate leads. After all, it’s hard to measure the effect an editorial placement or a graphic has on leads. Organizations often don’t want something that can’t be correlated to sales. How do you use PR to get leads? Strike a P.O.S.E. – through paid, owned, shared and earned media!

Paid Media

Paid media is simple to understand: It’s PR that you pay for and refers to external marketing efforts that involve a fee-based placement. This includes branded content, display ads, Google Ads, social media ads and other advertising. It boosts the performance of your “free” media. Paid media is one of the quickest ways to drive traffic and a good way of opening doors – even if just a crack – that would otherwise stay closed. Paying to promote content can help get the ball rolling and create more exposure. Be sure to test your paid media. For example, LinkedIn and Twitter often perform well for B2B media. Start with a small budget and see how you do.

Owned Media

Owned media is content you create that is unique to your brand. It exists to educate, inform and even entertain your prospects. This includes your website, blog posts, white papers, case studies, videos, e-books and social media channels. The more owned media you have, the more chances you have to extend your brand presence. This is perhaps your prime opportunity for utilizing calls to action and landing pages. Your content should compel viewers to want more, to take action. Having these calls to action will encourage them to sign up for a demo of your product, speak with a sales person and hopefully convert to a lead.

Shared Media

No matter what you’re selling, the bottom line is that people, not businessesare buying your products or services. And people are on social media. It’s where we research, get product assistance and socialize. It’s our culture. Shared media is content which is specifically designed for user-generated circulation. It primarily encompasses social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms to distribute content. Being active on social media is not enough. Simply sharing content for the sake of visibility will not in itself generate leads. Sharing should connect your audience with a call to action.

Earned Media

Earned media is the equivalent of online word-of-mouth and the vehicle that drives traffic and engagement around a brand. It is usually seen in the form of viral tendencies: mentions, shares, reposts, reviews, recommendations or content picked up by various media outlets. Earned media provides critical, third-party endorsements for your company, product, service or management team. As opposed to advertising or direct marketing, communicating through a journalist provides valuable and sought-after credibility that other forms of communications cannot match. While there are different ways a brand can garner earned media, good SEO, content strategies and established media relationships are the most controlled and effective. This is perhaps the most desired type of media since others are essentially doing your PR for you.

Influencing audiences to take action is what public relations is all about. This makes PR a great tool to improve lead generation. It may be tempting to only try one media channel at a time if you have a limited time and budget. You might think that pouring all of your resource into say, paid media, is the best way to go. The reality is that in order to get leads, paid, owned, shared and earned media need to work together.

Is your creativity kaput? Wrangle it back into working order with these four tips.

The aliens have arrived – and they’re angry.

The one with the most arms, taller than a bodega, comes at you. You spit on the ground, casually reach for your weapon, and …


Wait …

Where is it?

Your holster is empty. Your sling holds no bow. And the knife in your boot is gone.

Your oomph is kaput.

I’m not talking about productivity, or willpower or actually fighting aliens (although we’ve all been there, right?). Instead, it’s that secret ingredient that makes a lot of what we do stand out – creativity.

Creativity plays into your job no matter what your title. A leader finds a delightful way to excite a team. A designer delivers an intriguing ad inspired by an everyday item. A marketer finds an overlooked service to monetize.

Everyone needs creativity.

But what do you do when it goes missing? When you’re slamming your head against a corkboard trying to brainstorm your way out of a problem and all you’ve come up with is “Ask Carl”?

Here are four ways to wrangle that creativity back to work.

Visit the upside down.

Creativity thrives with new experiences. But patterns sneak into all of our lives. We build them for comfort, for sanity. You get up at the same time. Drive the same routes. Buy the same groceries at the store down the street. Cheer on the usual heroes on TV. You get the idea.

If you’re feeling low on creativity, visit the upside down. Challenge the way you experience life – in small or large ways.

Walk backward.

Ditch your smartphone for a day.

Talk to a stranger in the checkout line next to you. (You get the best stories from strangers. A wedding planner once told me that her Chow Chow ate a chicken and “got the taste of blood” before showing me an itinerary.)

Swap desks with someone, or take a project to a conference room or coffee shop. If you regularly work from home, sit in a different room. My personal favorite: Go to a friend’s house and work there for a few hours.

Say yes to things you normally wouldn’t. Yes, I’d love to go to that Linda Ronstadt concert. A workshop on Ayurveda? Sign me up.

You get the idea. By shaking up your common patterns, you’ll reinvigorate your creativity.

Jolt your senses.

Does the smell of brass polish remind you of your high school marching band days? Or does the sight of a forest make you sigh happily? Our senses have a keen hold on our brains. Beyond their day-to-day activities of helping us interact with the world, they stimulate memories, moods, and mojo.

Unexpected smells in a familiar place can jump-start inventive thoughts, like eucalyptus, lemon, clove or cinnamon. If you’re feeling really adventurous, find some not-so-friendly smells like a dumpster or wet dog. (Something will definitely come up that way.)

Don’t forget sounds. Switch out your phone’s ring tone. Ask a coworker to pick a playlist for you. Listen to a foreign language. Or take the opposite route and go quiet, letting small sounds pack a big wallop.

Museums and art galleries stimulate vision, much like puzzles with optical illusions or finding designs and colors that inspire you.

Let taste pop you back into the creative zone with new cuisines, hot peppers, craft cocktails or delicate sweets. The more unusual, the better.

And don’t forget touch. Get a massage or manicure. Stroke a starfish at the city aquarium. Dig in the dirt or wade in a pool.

Move it, move it.

Yes, I just referenced a cheesy song to make a point. (I’ll wait if you want to Google it. Just remember to add “I like to” ahead of “move it, move it.”)

Sometimes physical activity is the best way to break through the cobwebs. Learn a new dance move. (I believe in your floss.) Take a walk or go for a hike. Ice-skate. Try one of those places that use a big fan to simulate skydiving. Jump on a trampoline. Engage your body in a new way.

Indulge the “why”

Curiosity fertilizes creativity.

Humor that part of you that really wants to jump down the rabbit hole. Find a subject that intrigues you – whether small or large – and spend 10 minutes or more, depending on your schedule, looking into it. How do you make pasta from scratch? How do family trees help police identify criminals? Why does helium make your voice go higher? Explore your way back to creativity.

Recapturing your creativity is all about the new. Have fun!

On February 9-12, 2019, ALT, the Association of Legal Technologists (ALT), held its second annual ctrl ALT del conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, bringing together nearly 100 legal tech vendors, consultants, and law firm IT and KM specialists to discuss current developments in design thinking. The goal of the gathering was to foster collaboration among professionals in the legal technology field and build on the momentum of the new organization’s first conference a year ago.

The two main days of the conference offered four excellent keynote speeches, followed by in-depth panel discussion from a variety of perspectives. Zach Abramowitz, CEO of Reply All, spoke about new legal service delivery and the technology underlying today’s new legal service offerings. Shawnna Hoffman, Cognitive Legal Co-Leader of IBM Global, addressed artificial intelligence and ways for attendees to better leverage AI tools to their benefit.

Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation, addressed security and privacy, with a specific focus on developing security strategies and leveraging technology to execute those strategies. Finally, David Cambria, Global Director of Operations for Baker McKenzie, spoke on adoption and change management, outlining ways legal technologists can maximize their impact and user adoption by identifying the right tools and leveraging change management techniques.

Following each of the keynote speeches, Andy Peterson, co-founder of the consulting firm Design Build Legal, led panel discussions that probed deeper into the ideas presented at the conference. These sessions were also a valuable opportunity for attendees to collaborate on design thinking principles through small group exercises.

The Highlights

While many interesting and thought-provoking ideas were presented and discussed over the course of the four days, a few things stood out as real highlights of this year’s conference. The first was an overarching call for legal technology professionals to adopt new ways of thinking about technology and innovation. Lawyers and law firms were tasked with engaging in collaboration and considering different viewpoints in order to start thinking differently about the various technology possibilities offered in the marketplace.

To that end, Zach Abramowitz used his session on new legal service delivery to address how law firms can strategically position themselves to capitalize on new potential markets that might not have previously been on their radars. In encouraging this shift in mindset, he likened law firms to killer whales who have learned to adapt and beach themselves in order to catch prey. The panel discussion that followed highlighted the need for firms to analyze their own internal structures and processes, not just the available technology options, recognizing that sometimes that means developing internal innovations in order to remain competitive.

Change was also a central theme of Shawnna Hoffman’s speech on AI. Rather than simply discussing the benefits that AI can bring to legal practice, she also focused on some of the biggest risks and struggles lawyers face when it comes to implementing and using AI tools. Among the highlights were having enough good, clean data, taking the time to understand new technology and how it works, being proactive in thinking about regulations that will impact new technologies, and developing a clear idea of the benefits you plan to gain by implementing new tools.

Finally, on the privacy and security front, Dennis Garcia laid out a compelling list of 20 considerations that legal technologists and attorneys should always keep in mind as new technologies continue to emerge in today’s data-driven world. Among them were understanding the data you have, developing detailed security policies, investing in training, being aware of potential threats, implementing an incident response plan, and working with specialists both internally and for external security audits. Ultimately, the goal is to gain your clients’ trust when it comes to handling and securing their data.

Looking to the future, ALT is pursuing a plan to increase membership in 2019, with a goal of hitting 500 members by the end of the year. As part of that initiative, ALT has added a young leaders committee in the hopes of reaching out to younger technology professionals and encouraging them to join ALT’s ranks. Given the building momentum and the high quality of this year’s speakers, we should expect to see great things from the next ctrl ALT del conference in 2020.

Special note: I would like to personally thank Dave Umlah and the ctrl ALT del conference team for making this event happen. It is a unique environment and I can see the value of continuing down this path for legal IT leaders.

Open any industry newsletter or visit a news website and you’ll see announcements on the latest industry merger or acquisition. Companies merge or acquire other companies for a variety of reasons, perhaps to fill product or service gaps, broaden their geographic reach, obtain strategic technology or grow revenue. Given the high rate of M&A activity in technology, those of us in the legal or accounting technology industries will likely be involved in an acquisition at some point in our careers.

A merger or acquisition presents unique marketing challenges. At the heart of it, the merging of two organizations, no matter how carefully planned, brings strategic, logistical and cultural pressures that must be recognized and addressed in order to avoid confusion, errors, loss of customers or loss of key employees. Whether you are a company founder, executive or marketer, it’s important to plan the transition so that the two organizations smoothly combine as one.

Create a transition team that includes all functional areas of the company.

This should occur when the deal is agreed on, but prior to the effective date. The cross-functional team will identify and make plans to address issues in the areas of products, services, support, human resources and more. Marketing is a key participant in that team; their role is to develop and manage communication of consistent messaging surrounding the event.

Clarify marketing roles and relationships.

In an acquisition, every department faces the potential for confusion about overlapping roles, processes and responsibilities. Marketing leadership, as early as is practical, should communicate the roles and responsibilities to all members of the newly combined organization. Make it clear that “renegade” communications are not allowed. The message must be carefully controlled during the transition.

Address branding/rebranding issues.

Review and update the parent organization’s branding architecture, that is, the structure of brands within the organization.

In many cases the brands and corporate identities of the two organizations don’t easily fold together. Work with the executive team to understand the strategic goals behind the acquisition. Let the longer-term strategy and your knowledge of the market perception of each company or product guide decisions on branding or rebranding. If a product road map or long-term product strategy is available at this point, consider that outline of future offerings in the brand architecture.

Identify key audiences and tailor the message.

Most marketing organizations spend the lion’s share of their time focusing on customer or client audiences and the messages we direct to them in advertising, product collateral, social media and the like. In the event of an acquisition, it’s important to consider all audiences for whom this acquisition could be of interest or whose relationship with the parent company might be affected. Expand the messaging platform to include employees, sales channels, technology partners and prospective new hires, as well as clients of the parent company and the acquired company. A truly personalized message will be tailored for each of these constituencies. Work across the company with sales, support, HR and other departments to be sure that communications of the change are positive, detailed and offer additional resources for those who want to learn more. An internal FAQ document can be an effective way to quickly answer the most common questions.

Plan website updates to announce the acquisition.

At a minimum, the websites for the parent company and the acquired company should be updated to announce the acquisition to each new visitor. These changes typically go live on the day of the press release announcing the acquisition. In addition, if the value proposition for the new combined organization has changed, copy edits will be in order. Consider how the website(s) will help educate the market on the merger or acquisition and on the branding changes. Determine a transition timeline, (typically 3-12 months) when both sites will remain live, while the site of the acquired company will encourage visitors to move to the parent site. At a future date, the site of the acquired company will have an automatic redirect, sending visitors immediately to the parent site.

Take inventory of marketing assets.

The day the acquisition is announced, visitors to your website should find current content – product and service briefs, white papers, case studies and other assets that carry the current brand and contact information for the company. It’s not unusual for an acquisition to involve review and update of 100 or more pieces of content. Prioritization is key here; be familiar with site analytics to understand which pieces are most frequently downloaded and therefore a higher priority for updates. Lower-priority pieces might be pulled and put in a work queue for updating.

Build a PR and media relations plan.

All activities surrounding the launch of the newly combined organization will key off the PR announcement date. The messaging platform developed for the transition will inform the PR message and content as well. In addition to a press release on the acquisition, work with a media relations expert to strategize on garnering coverage of the announcement, including executive interviews or topical articles on trends or technology in your target market segment.

Build a social media plan.

Review content and activity levels of both companies on all social sites. If the parent account will become the primary account for the newly combined organization, update the branding, description, logos, etc. Refine the list of hashtags and terms, and create a social media policy to reflect those choices. As the transition progresses, merge the accounts of the acquired company into the parent account. This is relatively straightforward with Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Instagram and Twitter are a bit more complicated. Set your bio to redirect all potential followers to your permanent account. Post a “We’re moving” alert for several weeks to encourage followers to move to the new account.

Publish a project timeline with assigned owners.

While juggling the first eight efforts on this list, be sure to assemble a detailed project plan with a list of tasks by category. Each task should include an owner, approving person (if required) and deadline. Regular meetings or calls with the transition team will keep everyone up to date and allow opportunities for new questions and tasks to surface.

Plan the celebration!

In a well-managed transition, the real work and planning happen in the weeks or months leading up to the public announcement of the acquisition. Communicate continuously with employees about the strategy, messaging and changes they can expect to see. Engaged employees will generate great energy behind the transition if they feel they are a part of it. Be sure to add a line item in the project plan for an internal company celebration of the launch – icing on the cake, so to speak, after all the hard work is done.

Some of the most successful – and fun – client relationships we have at Edge Marketing are the ones in which we, the marketing experts, work directly with the sales lead at our clients’ companies. As marketers, it is our job to know the industry better than anyone else and, when we work directly with sales, we can give them exactly what they need to engage their target audience.

Aligning the goals of the sales and marketing departments sounds simple and obvious, and yet many companies just do not do it. Often, the reason is either structural or traditional: these are – or have always been – two separate functions, and the CEO has never held either accountable for being synced.

You might be saying to yourself, “Why bother?” From our experience, when sales and marketing are aligned, salespeople have better leads to work with, and marketing is able to prove return on investment. Still not convinced? According to the TAS Group, companies whose sales and marketing department goals line up have 36 percent higher customer retention rates and 38 percent higher sales win rates.

A new year is coming and if your sales and marketing functions are not yet working in tandem, now is the best time to start. Here are a few ideas to help your organization move forward:

  1. Start at the top. The executive team or CEO of your organization should set the goal and work with sales and marketing to create realistic, achievable objectives. And don’t just do this once at the beginning of the year to kick off the new initiative. Leaders should regularly monitor progress and make sure teams are working together towards targets.
  2. Meet regularly. It is important for sales and marketing teams to get together regularly to exchange information. This is the time to discuss developments in the marketplace, listen to challenges and opportunities and define solutions to problems. It is also the time to work to refine ideal customer personas and create content to help drive them through the marketing and sales funnels.
  3. Invest in good technology. A marketing automation system that integrates with your CRM will not only keep your sales and marketing teams organized and productive, it will also be able to give you vital information such as conversion points from marketing-qualified lead to sales-qualified lead, velocity of conversion from visitor all the way to closed sale, return on marketing investment and much more.
  4. Define (or redefine) a lead. With good technology, you will be able to pinpoint when a lead converts from marketing qualified to sales qualified. This knowledge enables sales teams to be more efficient with their efforts, because they are contacting a lead when that person has indicated readiness to make a purchase. The process of redefining what a lead is may reduce the quantity of leads within your organization but will increase their quality.

All companies need marketing expertise to generate, nurture and score leads, just as much as they need successful sales teams to foster customer rapport and close deals. When activities between sales and marketing are aligned, companies will generate more revenue, and everybody has more fun.