SXSW: My Office on Mars

March 16, 2015

sxsw-twitter-marsMore than anything else, SXSW is a realm of possibilities; the promise of a smarter and more transparent future. Austin is teaming with change-agents, event-activators and dynamic speakers – meaning everyone is bound to come away with something different. The sessions you attend, conversations you have, and gut insights you carry back to your native office all shape your purview of what transpired. Personally, I’ve noticed three themes at SXSW:

1. The acquisition and development of talent is the only battlefield.
In Brant Bonin Bough’s session, “Turning Talent into Rockstars” he nearly brought the house down when he said, “If you train them they will leave … if you don’t, then they will stay!” Acquiring the brightest minds is an omnipresent struggle that trickles down from the world’s top employers. How can we compete? His answer is to train. He noted that only four percent of current professional staff is being trained in digital technology. That number will have to rise exponentially for companies to compete in a not-so-distant future. Another related panel, which discussed, “Quantifying Workplace Happiness and Culture Fit,” left me with another eye-opening insight about talent and culture:

  • Two-thirds of the people you hire will not last 18 months, mostly due to culture fit (click to tweet). If you were to open an office on Mars, who would you send? Identify your best brand ambassadors and foster that mindset so it spreads throughout your company

 2. Leadership permeates into everything. As leadership goes, so does a company.
During “What It Really Takes to Win in Business,” aka “The Brawl in Hall 5” Jack Welch and Gary Vaynerchuk sparred, hugged, kissed and cursed their way through a discussion that, in and of itself, was a master-class in leadership. Some takeaways for all managers and leaders to keep in mind:

  • Always let employees know where they stand. Internal transparency is just as vital as external
  • Always deliver on what you say
  • Always be yourself and inspire that comfort level in others

3. As technology becomes more ubiquitous, the human touch will become even more vital.
A Hootsuite conversation dubbed,Don’t Hire Robots: The Human Touch in Social Mediainspired me to ponder that marketing, in its purist form, is perhaps the most emotive of all pursuits. The world’s connectivity has not only created a web of information, but a web of collective emotion. A connective digital tissue where only the truest voices earn the privilege of a pedestal. We must all continue to not simply “go through the motions” of social marketing, but embody a truly human brand voice. Social media marketing IS an “in-person” pursuit.

Remember to check out Ketchum.com’s SXSW social hub for the latest from the conference and join the conversation with #KetchumSXSW.

Brad Simon is Vice President, Online Communications within Ketchum’s Corporate Communications team. When not in the New York office he’s raising Grayson and Gabrielle, trying to improve his Elo rating and slowly caving into his wife’s persistent demand to binge watch The Wire. brad.simon@ketchum.com