Best of Show: Standout Products of Natural Products Expo East 2013

ExpoEast2013Panarama

If you haven’t been to either Natural Products Expo East or West yet, it’s a must attend for good-for-you-foodies as well as those looking for products that take an environmentally friendly approach to consumerism.

With thousands of vendors and products to see and only four days to try to see them all, here are just a few standouts from the food category I came across in Baltimore while there on behalf of Kimball Communications:

B’More Organic When I heard “organic skyr smoothie” my skepticism kicked into high gear. Then I was told it was ideal for those, like my brother, who are lactose intolerant. Sure, I thought. Then I tried their Mango Banana Skyr Smoothie. Stunningly good, loaded with protein and good for you. I took a bottle for the road-trip home.

Conti Gourmet Coffee I can’t say enough good things. Roberto “The Coffee Man” serves a great cup of coffee, keeping me fueled for the entire show. I’m ruined for Starbucks from here on out.

Epic This was the biggest surprise for me at Expo East. Epic’s 100 percent grass-fed, animal-based protein bar caused me some hesitation. However, at the urging of others, I tried the Bison bar and was remarkably surprised at how good it tasted. I’ll be ordering a box this week.

Gelato Fiasco This group from Maine was a lot of fun. We talked a little about social media, and a lot about their awesome gelato. While they are primarily in New England right now, I fully expect to see them on a store shelf here in Pennsylvania area soon. They are definitely worth stopping for the next time you are in Massachusetts or Vermont.

Late July Organic Snacks Celebrating 10 years in the organic, non-Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) snack space, this established player still has the power to surprise with its new a tangy and impressive new Sub-Lime Multigrain Snack Chip. I’ll be looking for this one in my local grocery store.

NoTatoes This super-young start-up made quite a big buzz at Expo East with delicious Cassava Tortilla Chips. Keep an eye on this company. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing them in a lot more stores soon.

Sibu Sura A micro-batch chocolate producer out of Maryland (using 100 percent organic and fair trade cacao beans from Peru), Sibu Sura not only offers some of the best chocolate from Expo East (I tried just about all of the chocolate available), but their mission of social good and environmental friendly packaging make them a distinctive standout in any crowd, including at Expo East.

Suzanne’s Kitchen Amazing pepper jelly. I’m a connoisseur of sorts where pepper jelly is concerned. I once drove to Virginia because I heard a company there did a good job with pepper jelly and I wanted to verify it.  By far, Suzanne’s is the best I’ve ever tried. I picked up a jar of Pepper Jelly Heaven from my local Whole Foods on Sunday night to snack on while watching the finale of Breaking Bad.

Wild Poppy Juice Company I gave up soda and fruit drinks almost 20 years ago, but this organic craft fruit drink – which offers just a hint of soda-esque texture – made me think I was missing something amazing. The Organic Peppermint Lemonade was a surprising discovery, and one worthy of singling out as a Best of Show from Expo East.

There are so many others worthy of a mention, but only so much you’ll want to read on your tablet or smartphone. Be sure to check out our video round-up (posting shortly) of other impressive stand-outs from Expo East.

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Natural Products/Health Foods Division Launched at Expo East

Kimball Communications today announced the launch of a new natural products/healthy foods division, a move designed to clearly define Kimball’s specialization in this growing industry.

With a formal launch planned for Jan. 1, 2014, Kimball began discussions this week with clients at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore.

“The natural products space is still an emerging market and public relations and social media are ideal strategies for companies to build trust and brand loyalty among consumers,” said Rod Hughes, vice president at Kimball Communications. “Natural products are almost never impulse purchases. They are selected with great intention, so coverage by the media can be the third-party endorsement consumers are looking for when evaluating purchases.”

Social media is also an effective way for natural product consumers to share their stories – and an opportunity for companies to put their brand story in the hands of the consumer, Hughes said.

“When Rod Hughes joined us a year and a half ago he brought very valuable natural products experience and public relations success with brands that are now nationally known,” said agency president Gary Kimball. “Expo East is a perfect time for us to launch a natural products division.

“Public relations gets beyond labels and gives brands the opportunity to talk about unique ingredients or certifications that distinguish the brand while also educating consumers about the healthy product marketplace,” Kimball said. “This engenders trust and loyalty because natural product consumers do lots of research before they buy. It also helps build a distribution network by demonstrating to retailers a brand is in the public eye.

About Kimball Communications

Kimball Communications is a results-driven, public relations agency with offices in Easton, Pa. and Charleston, S.C., dedicated to serving the individual public relations needs of every client. Founded in 1995, the agency provides innovative public relations and social media solutions to a variety of clients. Visit us on Facebook or on Twitter.

Sometimes Bigger PR Agencies Are Just Bigger

At big agencies, you're paying for the overhead ... and all those chairs.  Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At big agencies, you’re paying for the overhead … and all those chairs.
Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Sadly, this lesson is sometimes lost in the process of evaluating public relations agencies. Often the bigger agency is selected because they are seen as “the safe bet.”

However sometimes the safe bet with PR agencies isn’t always the best bet and the little guy is overlooked to the detriment of the company conducting the search. To those companies, I offer six reasons they would do well to consider small agencies like mine.

  1. It’s Personal, Not Just Business. Working with a smaller agency, clients typically have direct access to the agency president and senior staff. So do the agency’s employees. This means ideas aren’t just top-down, and everyone has a stake in the success of the account.
  2. What You See Is What You Get. The better-run small agencies have less staff turnover, especially at the senior level. So the folks you meet at the new business pitch meeting are the folks actually doing the work for your company. That almost never happens at big agencies.
  3. Small Agencies Are Built By Big People. Small PR agencies are populated with PR pros who left big agencies to focus on good work instead of billable hours, or by established journalists who bring a well-honed reporter’s eye to the story-craft of public relations. Big agencies are not the only bastions of talent.
  4. Budgets Don’t Drive Success. Small agencies have less overhead then larger competitors. This means smaller agencies work toward success, not billable hours. At larger agencies, clients with small budgets are often relegated to a few hours of work per month, led by the most junior, least experienced staff members.
  5. Flexibility and Responsiveness Are Watchwords. Small agencies usually don’t have “big” accounts to fall back on, so ensuring every client feels like the only client is the hallmark of a well-run small agency. This means responding promptly to clients, and being able to adapt well to changing priorities.
  6. It’s a Business of Personality and Ideas. Success – with big or small agencies – is predicated on the people on the account and the ideas they generate. In this area, size is not a factor. One smart, industrious solo PR pro with good ideas and a little elbow grease can be as valuable to a client as an army of well-polished and mildly talented PR practitioners. As Twain said, it’s about the fight in the dog.

This isn’t to say all big agencies are bad and all small agencies are good. It’s simply why smaller agencies should not be disregarded as a “best bet.”

I’ve heard too many stories from clients and co-workers alike about companies that chose big PR agencies based purely on the idea they were a perceived safe bet. (As the saying goes, “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.”) These same folks, after prolonged discovery periods and big “start up” fees, came to find bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes bigger is just bigger.

Innovative Office Products Launches Busby™

Popular USB Mount Unveiled at Neocon Now Available, Begins Shipping To Consumers

EASTON, Pa. – Sept. 16, 2013 – Innovative Office Products, Inc. (www.LCDarms.com), today announces Busby, the world’s first flat panel monitor mount with built‐in USB ports, is available and has begun shipping to customers. A video of Busby in action details the convenience and ease of use of the product.

Busby

“The Busby prototype was a huge hit at Neocon in June,” explained Joe Tosolt, president of Innovative Office Products. “Since then, we’ve received a lot of calls and emails wanting to know when it will be available, and that time is now.”

Busby integrates four USB ports into a flat-panel monitor mount, providing convenient access for charging and connecting all USB-enabled devices without consuming additional desk space.

“The USB ports are right in front of you, completely unobstructed,” said Tosolt. Busby combines easily with flexible mounting arms and eliminates the need for adding additional hubs to laptops. For those working on computer towers, Busby eliminates the need to move the tower or to crawl under desks to find available USB ports, potentially damaging the computer itself in the process.

The mount includes power cord and computer connections in the back, and four USB ports in front. It is compatible with most flat panel monitor arms made by Innovative.

To order Busby, please call (800) 524-2744.

About Innovative Office Products, Inc.
Innovative Office Products, Inc. (www.LCDarms.com) blends function and style that improve ergonomics, save space and increase the flexibility of the modern office. Based in Easton, Pa., Innovative Office Products offers mounting solutions that range from flexible radial arms to space-saving mounts for desks and walls.

Marketing on the 9/11 Anniversary? Don’t

“When in doubt, leave it out.”

This was the sage advice of one of my first journalism professors in college. It served me well in everything from sussing out facts for news stories to drawing up guest lists for family parties. It’s also good advice for brands and organizations to consider as part of their social media policies, and their approach to anniversaries of remembrance like Sept. 11.

This week – 12 years from the attacks of Sept. 11 – we saw far too many businesses using social media to remember the fallen while also making sure you remember their products.

On The Crisis Show, which aired on the anniversary of 9/11, I joined Shel Holtz and host Rich Klein to discuss these efforts. We highlighted some of the more thoughtless attempts to newsjack the 9/11 anniversary, as well as the reactions those efforts engendered. It’s a cautionary tale of how even the best intentions on social media can fail without sound strategy, planning and a crisis response plan.

What we saw on social media on this anniversary was how tone deaf some brands can be, and how few plan for all potential outcomes. The list of offending brands – both exploitative in their efforts and those just trying to mark the day as best they could while failing in the attempt – is too long to include here.

The best advice I can share is beautifully summarized in a short online article in The Atlantic. The writer, Derek Thompson, took a page from my journalism professor’s book and offered one simple rule for advertising on 9/11: Don’t. This rule applies equally well to marketers, social media practitioners and PR pros.

The events of that day still haunt us as a nation. So brands should consider honoring the day with a moment of silence, time off for employees to participate in the National Day of Service Congress called for in 2009 or by making a charitable donation. But don’t market such efforts or your products and services. Those who mourn don’t need to hear from brands on this day.

Next year, when we mark the 13th anniversary of our national loss, I encourage brand managers everywhere to follow the prescient advice of my old professor: When in doubt, leave it out.

What’s one more social media platform?

There is such thing as being on too many social media platforms.

When new platforms are introduced, too often companies and brands feel the need to jump on the “exciting new platform” bandwagon. By the time agencies like ours are called in, we find important research, including audience and competitive analysis, wasn’t done. If you don’t have the advantage of working with a public relations agency to help establish or advance your social media strategy, at least ask the following questions before adding yet another new social platform to your list of things to manage.

webtreats / Foter / CC BY

Before you decide to jump on another platform, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Is my audience on the platform I’m thinking about joining?
  • Will my audience be receptive to the new platform I’m thinking about joining?
  • Does it make sense for me to join the new platform? (For example, if you’re thinking about setting up a Pinterest account, but you do not have any visual content to share, it probably does not make sense to join yet.)
  • Do I have relevant and interesting content to post? Will others view my content and will it be shareable?
  • Do I have the extra time and resources to devote to this new platform? Take into account how long it will take to set up, the cost of the graphics for the platform, daily monitoring, creating valuable content, etc.
  • If I create a new account will I be “present?” Sometimes companies create an account and then forget about it or they simply don’t have the time. Having an account where you’re invisible may not send the right message about your company.  Don’t be a robot. Be present.

You don’t need to be on every social media platform to succeed at social media. Sometimes less is more.

If you do not have the resources, time or your audience is not on a certain social outlet, it does not always make sense to be on that platform. It’s better to invest your time on a few social platforms that make sense for your business rather than being on several platforms where you’re not able to devote your the time.

Which platforms make the most sense for your business? Have you had more success on some platforms versus others?

Photo credit: webtreats / Foter / CC BY

TeenCentral.Net Celebrates 15 Years of Helping Children

Peer support, information, anonymous access to trained counselors are hallmarks of one of the first, oldest online safe havens for kids

OREFIELD, Pa.TeenCentral.Net, one of the earliest online safe havens for teens providing information, resources and access to trained counselors, celebrated 15 years of operation at a gala event on the Orchard Hills campus of KidsPeace on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.

Nearly 50 attendees helped recognize the work of TeenCentral.Net, including the site’s staff, volunteers, local business patrons and guest speaker Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen for 2013, Katie Schreckengast.

TeenCentral.Net’s director, Dr. Julius Licata, spoke of the hours of dedication from staff and volunteers, donations and support from businesses and individuals that help TeenCentral.Net operate, and the real-world impact of TeenCentral.Net’s work.

“As philanthropic endeavors go, we are having a tremendous impact,” Licata told the evening’s attendees. “We’re helping children with a range of issues like self esteem and bullying, while also playing an important role in stopping all-too-prevalent violence in and around schools today.”

Licata helped launch TeenCentral.Net with the help of the late Ginger Papp, a 32-year employee of KidsPeace to whom the evening was dedicated. He said he is looking forward to continuing to help teens from ages 11 to 18 all around the United States through TeenCentral.Net.

As Licata noted, TeenCentral.Net has helped more than 500,000 teens and parents throughout the United States since its launch in 1998.

“And just like the children we help, we continue to grow and adapt to the world around us. TeenCentral.Net added three new communities just this year: a section for foster care children, children of military families and children seeking to learn more about many of the world’s religions.,” noted Licata. “At fifteen, we’re just getting started.” The official anniversary of TeenCentral.Net’s launch is Sept. 8.

ABOUT TEENCENTRAL.NET
TeenCentral.Net is a unique prevention, intervention and aftercare Web site developed by KidsPeace, a national not-for-profit mental and behavioral healthcare charity headquartered in Lehigh Valley, Pa. TeenCentral.Net’s mission is to help teens safely and anonymously tell their stories and receive sound advice within 24 hours from specially trained volunteers and counselors. All postings by teens and volunteers are reviewed by Master’s level clinicians before appearing on the site. To learn more, visit TeenCentral.Net.