Category: Recruiting

Austin: Social Business Capital of the World

Austin: Social Business Capital of the World

texas bumper stickerIn the summer of 1998, I left the only place I’d ever lived – the East Coast – to start a life in Austin, TX.  The recruiting pitch for Austin (memorialized in the Fast Company article Insanity, Inc) offered the opportunity to be part of an exciting company doing unprecedented things in an unexpected place.  Austin was going to become “Silicon Hills”.  A place where talent would be attracted for the high quality lifestyle and low cost of living, and venture capital would fall like rain.  And did I mention it was 70 degrees in January and the company had a fleet of speedboats?  None of that hurt, either.

The promise of Austin turning into Silicon Hills seemed optimistic even to a gullible college graduate, but I have to admit, it has pretty much come true exactly that way.  Stalwart tech hardware employers like Dell, AMD & Freescale spawned many of the entrepreneurs who went on to found & fund here in Austin launching companies like Bazaarvoice, HomeAway, & Spredfast to name a few.  And this success only attracted more like minds to the city.

Ogilvy doesn’t have a current physical office here and yet, you could say the whole city is our office.  We hold meetings at Shady Grove, Texas Honey Ham, learn about new companies at Dominican Joe’s and I can learn more about what is cracking in town at a barbecue or a shopping trip than I could in a month of conference calls.  Beyond the individuals who work for our company alone, we are part of a thriving community of like-minded social professionals who have chosen for one of a host of reasons to make Austin home.

In the words of Kate Neiderhoffer, Quality of life in Austin is simply higher than in the more fast-paced, cut-throat, nail-biting enclaves of the US. Austin is the perfect mix of intellect, athleticism, family-friendliness, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. And like attracts like: this unique combination makes us the most ripe breeding ground for social business – thinkers and doers. You won’t believe the people you run into at Whole Foods headquarters… People often dream of moving to NYC. Living in today’s Austin makes me wonder whether people will soon dream of someday making it in Austin with the same tenacity.

The part that no one would could have predicted was the fact that beyond “tech”, Austin would attract and develop a huge amount of social business talent (maybe Silicon Hills was meant to become Social Hills).  I am proud to be part of the next phase of Austin’s growth and development into the World Social Business hub.  And I’m especially excited for the coming week – when the rest of the social practitioners from around the world join us for margaritas, inspiration, and a slice of the Austin experience at SXSW.  On behalf of all of us who have gone “all in” on social & Austin, Welcome Home.

This post part of a blog ring of social business leaders from around town, check the links below for the takes of:

Kathy Mandelstein, of IBM and Austin’s Social Media Club

Peter Kim, Dachis Group via Forrester

Aaron Strout, head of location based marketing for WCG and the “stroutmeister”

Greg “Chimoose” Matthews of WCG

“Turbo” Todd Watson of IBM

And brother Spike Jones, of Fleishman-Hillard

5 Desired Traits for Digital PR Pros

5 Desired Traits for Digital PR Pros

Yesterday was my first meeting with Arun Sundhaman from the Holmes Report.  We had a great discussion largely focused on trends that we see emerging across our clients.  He was very interested, however, in some work that we have recently done internally on crystallizing what it is we look for in candidates for the 360 Digital Influence Group.  These are both based on an analysis of what skillsets we’d like to add to our merry band and the qualities that we have seen make professionals especially successful within the group.

If you’re interested in the “5 Traits” that we have identified, please check out this brief video of me walking through the explanation that Arun shared on his site:

New Orleans: Soul Is Waterproof

New Orleans: Soul Is Waterproof

I ended the week with a complete change of scenery – flying to New Orleans to spread the word on Word of Mouth Marketing at the New Orleans AMA. I knew that I would enjoy sharing the WOMM stories that inspire me with a new group of people. What I didn’t anticipate was how much inspiration I would find in the Big Easy. Dinner at K-Paul’s with some fabulous hosts, a morning walk through the Quarter and breakfast at Cafe Du Monde, and some fabulous conversation with the resilient marketers of this extraordinary town put new wind in my own sails.

The night before the presentation, as we were walking down a pretty-full-for-a-Wednesday-night Bourbon Street, Malcolm Schwarzenbach told me not to be afraid to discuss “the storm”. Being a lifelong uptight WASP, I had no intention of bringing up any such thing. Malcolm saying that it was OK to acknowledge the elephant in the room changed the next 24 hours for me. I spoke with my hosts about property valuations, tourism, and the unique challenge of recruiting talent to the marketing and advertising companies within the city.

Before I left, Malcolm shared a recruiting card for his company Trumpet Advertising with this image Jolly Louis on the front and the Ernest Shackleton challenge on the back: “Men (and women) wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” It is a unique touchpoint that highlights Trumpet’s attitude and creativity. Based on the amazing New Orleans tourism video that they produced below, it looks like their efforts to recruit talent have been quite successful. I hope it gives you a taste of how I felt after my brief stay. Enjoy the video but be warned, you may want to book tickets to the Big Easy immediately…

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What’s Your “Deal Factor”?

What’s Your “Deal Factor”?

I often talk about my Dell experience when I’m illustrating lessons learned about direct response, “traditional” online advertising and the power of WOM. When it comes to remarkable recruiting, however, everything I know I learned at Trilogy – an enterprise software company in Austin, Texas. Trilogy deservedly got a lot of ink (e.g. Rolling Stone’s “Wooing the Geeks“) in the late 90s for its recruiting practices and I was lucky enough to ride that train myself. Because of the unique benefits and culture, Trilogy had far more applicants than it could manage. One of the major things that we would probe for in our massive recruiting Saturdays was a candidate’s “deal factor”. Would they be able to handle the Trilogy hours, intentional startup-style 3-to-an-office overcrowding, the unpredictable leadership, and the plethora of wacky ideas (yes, I’m talking to you, Would the candidate thrive on the culture or lose it if Trilogy’s founder Joe Liemandt called an impromptu company meeting and proceeded to speak nonstop for 3 solid hours (survival of the biggest bladder)? Would they thrive with few boundaries or exploit the lack of hands on management by goofing off? This was a critical gate to clear.

While the work environments I have been in since have been quite different – and yes, I do miss the free Dove bars and company speed boats of the dot com days – the only thing constant is change. Because of the speed of innovation, deal factor continues to be something I think about every time I meet a candidate. The challenge is that it is very tough to test for. So how do you make sure you are bringing someone on board who is going to bring up your team’s average deal factor?


I usually craft some squishy questions about being able to impact organizational change, deal with a difficult manager, etc, but I would love ideas on best methodology for figuring this out. You can not ask “How do you deal with change?” head on, because it is oh so easy to say that you are inspired by constant change and oh so hard for it to be true.

The graphic above is based on some personality types I have personally encountered. I think I am at the “Lemonade Larry” waterline and continuing to aspire to the type of enlightenment and evolution that will empower me to be a true driver of change.