The Wilbert Group Blog

Posts by Caroline Wilbert

10 Tenets of Wilbert’s Wellness Program

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A few years ago, I began down the complicated road of creating a wellness program for The Wilbert Group. Everybody loved the idea of a wellness program and it took us about five minutes to coin the name – Wilbert Wellness. Cute huh? We immediately envisioned #wilbertwellness under pictures of us wearing Fitbits or eating organic almonds.

Creating a program that was meaningful proved more difficult. I made the mistake of trying to copy other companies, as well as letting enthusiastic and well-meaning employees implement one-off ideas. We divided into teams and had a contest to see who took the stairs more. We invited in a nutrition expert and a yoga teacher for lunch and learns. One vice president on our team spoke about how to choose healthier snacks. We got juices delivered to a staff meeting. We replaced office candy with fruit. While none of these ideas were bad, we were just throwing out tactics without a clear objective. It felt forced and silly. People rolled their eyes. Sometimes I rolled my own eyes.

At the start of 2016, we took a step back. I started asking the bigger questions. Why should a company have a wellness program? What does wellness mean in the context of an office environment? How do you create a program that is truly meaningful for employees with diverse needs and wants? I continued to read books and case studies and ask questions to friends and mentors, but I stopped trying to copy what other companies were doing. I now wanted to create something uniquely suited for our firm.

My journey toward WilbertWellness 2.0 was in parallel with my own journey into meditation, mindfulness and yoga. I was trying to become the person I wanted to be, and create the company culture where I wanted to work, all at the same time. I have landed on some working answers to the big questions, some basic beliefs that are the foundation of our program. From there, we have together slowly started to implement policies and programs.

The basic tenets for Wilbert Wellness 2.0:

  1. A good wellness program should make people better at their jobs – more motivated, more focused, more creative, more willing to take risks and work hard.
  2. A wellness program is about helping people be their best whole selves at work, so it must have tentacles that stretch into physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness.
  3. People need breaks. People need breaks in the course of a day (e.g. a walk around the block at 3 p.m.) and they need breaks in the course of a year (i.e vacations). Nobody who has been staring at a computer underneath florescent light for 12 straight hours is going to be his or her most creative.
  4. Most people enjoy working hard, as long as there are opportunities to recharge and renew. People like to be challenged; a certain level of stress can feel good, as long as it isn’t overwhelming and relentless.
  5. People want others to notice when they do excellent work.
  6. People crave connection and an understanding of how their work contributes to the company’s larger goals.
  7. It is possible to be kind and empathetic, even when giving tough feedback.
  8. If people exercise, eat well, get enough sleep and take care of themselves physically they likely will be more energized and creative than if they do not do those things.
  9. Programs must be customized. A journey of wellness is going to be different for everyone. A company should support and encourage the journey but not dictate the path. (e.g. Just because I practice yoga doesn’t mean I should require the entire team to practice yoga together. That would be annoying.)
  10. You need buy-in at every level. That means the boss needs to walk the walk, and it means that employees at every level should have decision-making power in the wellness program.

What we have today:

  • A Wilbert Wellness stipend. All employees receive a $100 monthly stipend to spend on their own wellness journey. It can go to ClassPass or a membership at a Pilates studio or massages or Weight Watchers or a life coach coach or running shoes. Again, we encourage a journey but don’t dictate the path.
  • A refreshed office that includes new, creative spaces so people can get away from their desks, whether to be alone or to be together in a cozier, more informal way. We turned an office into a cool den with a sofa, chairs, rug, lamps and we added a large, inviting table to the kitchen.
  • Commitment to Excellence awards. We regularly hand out cash bonuses to employees who demonstrate their commitment to excellence by working together, building relationships, generating results and/or thinking big. Again, this is a way to acknowledge when people do a good job.
  • A culture that encourages balance. There is no way to guarantee a PR professional won’t have to work long hours occasionally or manage a crisis on a weekend. Our jobs are inherently busy, stressful and unpredictable. But we strive for a culture that strives for balance. Take breaks. Leave on time when you can.

We don’t have all the answers but I certainly have learned from my mistakes. Our program is not a gimmick. Our beliefs about wellness provide a framework to make decisions, invest resources and manage employees. And I am committed to doing my best to create a program — and company— that truly helps people be successful at work in a sustainable way. I am grateful for the people who work here, profoundly grateful, and I want to keep them here as long as I can.

How to Build a PR Program Around an Industry Event

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In every industry, there are key events that provide an ideal time for companies to tell their stories to B2B audiences. We have many clients in retail real estate, and every year the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) hosts two major events, one in Vegas in May and one in New York this week. The industry gathers in a focused way– providing the ideal platform for a company to increase brand awareness, strengthen thought leadership and share news. For each of our clients, we begin months in advance pondering the question: What should we do at ICSC?

This week, North American Properties is giving virtual reality tours of the soon-to-be renovated Colony Square at its booth, and we built a program around that which includes an innovative 360-degree video to share on social media, and inviting journalists, including ICSC’s Facebook Live team, to visit the booth and experience the virtual reality tour. Avalon in Alpharetta, which is preparing to double in size early next year, is heavily featured at the conference, and we created custom social media graphics about the expansion. And Avalon was selected for the cover of the December issue of Shopping Centers Today, ICSC’s magazine, due to an award win we secured, earning NAP buzz heading into the conference.

For our newest client New Market Properties, we set up interviews for CEO Joel Murphy with key journalists including Commercial Property Executive’s Suzann Silverman. Joel is also being interviewed by ICSC on its live Facebook feed and we are leveraging the event’s hashtag #NYnDM to grow New Market’s still-new social media program. We are setting up meetings for client Bayer Properties with key journalists from Chain Store Age and Shopping Center Business. We also secured coverage in Shopping Centers Today’s show daily for Bayer with an update on The Summit at Fritz Farm, a mixed-use development opening Spring 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.

So, what is the best way to use an industry event to create a PR moment for your company? Here are our top five tips:

  • Plan. As part of your yearly PR planning process, decide what events will be a focus and begin creating 360 strategies around those events well in advance.
  • Generate pre-event coverage. Pitch stories so your clients will be in trade and business publications before and during the event. You want people already talking about you when your plane lands.
  • Set up meetings with journalists and have something compelling to share with them. Find out from the event’s organizers what media will be attending. Reach out to reporters and editors in advance and set up meet-and-greets for your executives. Arm your executive with talking points and something newsworthy to share, such as research or insights on an industry trend.
  • Consider releasing news. If your company has a new deal to announce or fresh research to share, peg it to the event. You can share it with reporters on the ground, tweet it with the event hashtag and generate buzz during cocktail hour.
  • Get social! Most events have hashtags that are widely used, providing an ideal time to grow your following within the industry and build relationships with influencers.

 

A Season of Thanks

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With Thanksgiving approaching and the year’s end in sight, my thoughts have turned largely to gratitude. We have had a year of change at The Wilbert Group. I am now the sole owner of the firm. Many members of the team have taken on more responsibility. And we’ve hired a new group of rockstars, including people with hardcore digital content/social media savvy.

While our change was good, it was not always easy. Change is rarely easy.

We could not have done it without our clients.

The best thing is we did not just survive 2016, we thrived. We grew our revenue, our client roster, our capabilities and our team. And perhaps most importantly, our partnerships with our clients yielded tremendous results. Whether landing media hits in outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today and Bloomberg for client Revenue Analytics or rolling out a sophisticated social media/content program for EA Homes or helping Randolph Williamson launch a website, we delivered. That’s what it’s all about.

Our clients have believed in us. They’ve trusted us to tell their stories. They’ve helped us really go deep and learn their businesses. We are thankful and we work hard every day for every client to earn that trust.

So before we lock up the Wilbert offices and turn our attention to family gatherings, turkey and pecan pie, we are rolling out a series of videos, with individual members of our team talking about our clients and the successes we’ve had this year. The theme is thankfulness.

Here’s a sneak preview, with account executive Hank Sforzini talking about client Fisher Phillips.

You’ll be seeing these, along with case studies, pop up in your social feeds (if you follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – and I hope you do!) during the next week.

As a firm, we are stronger than we were a year ago. We owe that to our clients.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How Mark Bisnow Did the Impossible: Built a Profitable Business News Outlet in Today’s Market

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When Bisnow first came to Atlanta in 2009, Mark Bisnow hired me to write for the commercial real estate e-newsletter. I had left the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was freelancing for a variety of companies, including Coca-Cola. It was a fun few months putting my reporter cap back on, and I was intrigued by the model. Mark wanted breaking news, lots of photos of people (not traditional head shots!) and witty, not-too-serious writing. He understood commercial real estate is a people business and he played to that.

Quickly, I was too focused on my own entrepreneurial dreams (i.e. The Wilbert Group) to freelance, and Mark needed a full-time person anyway. He hired Jarred Schenke who has done an incredible job and made Bisnow an important player in the Atlanta CRE news game. Bisnow nationally has done very well also and has developed a lucrative events business to complement its e-newsletter model.

Yesterday, Fortune broke the story that a private equity firm paid $50 million for Bisnow. As so many media companies struggle to stay relevant and turn a profit, entrepreneur Mark Bisnow started a media outlet, grew it and sold it for a pretty penny.

Here are four reasons I think he was successful:

  • He understood he needed to go niche (and not try to be all things to all businesspeople)
  • He played to people’s shrinking attention spans and desire for visual content
  • He got that email is still a very important channel (Snapchat is cool, sure, but the power of email is way under-rated)
  • He hired good journalists and gave them clear direction
  • He married lucrative events with business journalism

The good news for all of us who love CRE news is that Bisnow and Jarred will continue to operate as usual.

Congrats to Mark Bisnow and team on their success!

Exciting news for client, North American Properties

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It’s been an exciting week for our client North American Properties, which purchased Colony Square in a deal that closed Monday. The Wilbert team, led by account executive Liana Moran, secured coverage in outlets ranging from The Wall Street Journal to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to Creative Loafing to WSB-Channel 2 to GlobeSt to Bisnow.

NAP also launched a social campaign, encouraging people to share their ideas for Colony Square with the hashtag #ReimagineCS. Our digital strategist Rebecca Hartman is using Zoomph to track the number of times #ReimagineCS is used. After only three days there have been 140 posts with #ReimagineCS and 266,228 social impressions.

140 posts – that’s a lot of social chatter! But what’s our favorite Tweet?

This one, of course…

Always good when a client is happy!

Ed Baker leaves the Atlanta Business Chronicle; Part of his Legacy is a Great Alumni Network

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Big news today in the Atlanta newspaper world: Ed Baker is retiring as publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle after 30 years. Reading the news got me thinking about what a great alumni group the Chronicle has.

Ed Baker, Atlanta Business Chronicle

Ed Baker, Atlanta Business Chronicle

I worked at the Chronicle in the late 1990s as a reporter. Though my time there was brief (less than two years), it looms large in my mind. The Chronicle launched my business journalism career, I made a lot of friends and most importantly I met Tony Wilbert. Back then Tony was just the best beat reporter I had ever met. Now he is my husband, the father of my three children and my business partner at The Wilbert Group.

 

We worked with some great people at the Chronicle who are still close friends – like Erin Moriarty, now a freelance writer; Matt Gove, now Chief Consumer Officer at Piedmont Hospital; and Julie Bryant Fisher, now VP of marketing at the Atlanta Community Food Bank. (Julie and I still get to work together because I am lucky enough to be on the advisory board at ACFB.)

 

And I have also become friends with so many people through the years, who worked before me at the Chronicle. People like Anita Sharpe, who left the Chronicle for The Wall Street Journal and is now Bloomberg’s bureau chief in Atlanta; Jason Kelly, now bureau chief for Bloomberg in New York; and Kelly Greene, who spent many years at The Wall Street Journal and now works in content strategy for BlackRock.

 

And there were a lot of interesting people who came after me too, with whom I bonded over our mutual Chronicle-ness. I became friends with Kate Carter, who left the Chronicle to become a teacher and then an entrepreneur. And Mary Jane Credeur, who went to Bloomberg and now works at Transwestern.

 

Baker leaves behind good people at the Chronicle, as well as an alumni network doing super-cool things across Atlanta and the country.

 

I am not sure Ed ever forgave Tony and me for leaving the Chronicle for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but we are certainly grateful for our time there and especially for all the cool Chronics (current and former) we know.

 

Lots more great alumni to mention: Dean Anason, now at American Banker; Scott Trubey, now a reporter at the AJC; Walter Woods, now the Atlanta area director of marketing for Hyatt; Evelina Shmukler Burnett, now a reporter at Mississippi Public Broadcasting; Elizabeth Drachman, communications manger at DAI; Michael Wall at Georgia Organics; Marcy Frank, a communications VP at Credit Suisse in New York. I could go on and on. There are so many great friends and what a blessing to be part of this alumni group. Google has nothing on us!

AJC editor leaves and NYT strikes deal with Facebook; both stories demonstrate how news distribution is changing fundamentally

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Two stories this week — one local and one national — serve as a reminder that the way consumers get information and news is fundamentally shifting.

On the local friend, AJC business editor Charlie Gay announced he was leaving for a corporate communications job at Delta. That a journalist is becoming a PR guy is hardly a new concept; most of our team started out in newsrooms. What’s interesting is the job Charlie is taking. He’ll be working on a news site that Delta is creating, so that it can tell its own story. Coke has done something similar with Coca-Cola Journey. We think it is brilliant; with today’s technology landscape, all companies can and should be their own media companies. The key is to create content that is compelling, useful and relevant to your key audiences. Journalists like Charlie already know how to do that.

On the national front, a handful of high-profile media companies struck an industry-changing deal to distribute content on Facebook. As The New York Times reports, the deal is a delicate but necessary balance for traditional media outlets. Vivian Schiller — a former executive at NBC, The New York Times and Twitter who now advises media companies and brands — put it this way: “That’s where the audience is. It’s too massive to ignore.”

I read several compelling so-called Instant Articles that popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday, including this NYT story about a Brazilian aerialist’s tragic skiing accident. And today, I got sucked into this Coca-Cola Journey piece about the backstory of the famous ‘hilltop” commercial. Both pieces are well done, and as a consumer, I don’t really care where I found them.

As a PR professional, this is an exciting time. At The Wilbert Group, we are working with traditional journalists in new ways, and we are also helping clients tell their own stories.