Behind the Headlines With Emily Ann Hodges
Emily Ann Hodges, marketing & PR lead at Kiip, knows the importance of innovation, and believes that her company, which helps brands provide in-app rewards to spread awareness, is on the cutting edge.
Here, she discusses Kiip’s tremendous growth over the past year, her approach to PR in the tech industry and the evolution of consumers in today’s digitally-focused world.
How did you get your start in PR?
I studied journalism with a few PR courses sprinkled in between at St. John’s University in New York City. After graduating, I lived abroad in Paris and Seoul and landed gigs to write for expat magazines, manage social media platforms, photograph events and interview professionals.
So, it wasn’t too unusual that I attracted a hybrid social media-content-PR role when I returned to New York City. The job was at UncommonGoods, an e-commerce site, and because of my experience abroad — it came pretty natural for me to wear multiple hats.
Even though I had little experience in the PR industry, I worked alongside the talented Gaby Dolceamore who quickly showed me the ropes. Before I knew it, I was pitching emails every day to magazine editors, learning how to efficiently track my efforts and collect contacts and building campaigns with social media influencers.
It was a role where I could utilize my writing and creative skills, yet challenged myself to the never-ending ebb and flow of failed pitches and successful campaigns— or vice versa.
In the world of PR, nothing is certain — and because I’m someone who craves a bit of mystery, I knew I wanted to pave my career path in that direction.
Currently I live in San Francisco and work at Kiip as their marketing & PR lead. We help brands reward everyday moments in apps and games— because who doesn’t love free stuff?
Tell us about Kiip’s approach to mobile marketing.
Our approach is simply to respect the user.
Instead of disrupting potential consumers with random banner ads or bombarding their screens when they click on a link or button — we seamlessly create brand awareness by rewarding users after they achieve a moment in-app.
We define moments as a period of time when the consumer has completed an action. We catch that user when they’re feeling positive; it’s a special micro-moment when a brand can step in and reward the user with something that’s relevant to what they just accomplished.
Just finished logging in a run? Here’s a free sports drink. Leveled up on a game? Here’s a free NERF gun.
This differs from most moments-based approaches because there is a feeling of accomplishment and delight. Marketers can tap into this “high-five” moment which provides more off-the-charts superior engagement than standard mobile advertising.
We need to make advertising more like needs-addressing. If you can provide users with something that they really need or want in the moment, consumers will care less about blocking ads and more about sharing information to make it better.
According to Kiip’s blog, the company saw a 230 percent growth last year. What do you think contributed to that growth?
The answer to that question is that Kiip’s software development kit (SDK) simply works and produces the results brands and developers want to see. And on top of having a 24-year-old mastermind of a CEO, we have an exceptionally talented team that is improving Kiip’s product, creating brand relationships, growing our presence at industry events and reaching out to developers every single day.
Another huge factor is that last year, the ad blocking controversy blew up. Brands quickly realized that their strategy to slap ads across websites or apps came to a screeching halt. 2015 was the year for thousands of brands to find a solution that could immediately prove positive results — that solution was Kiip.
Notable 2015 highlights for Kiip: we launched two loyalty programs — MasterCard’s Priceless Surprises and Taco Bell’s Explore, ran a successful Campari & Lyft campaign that earned us a Mobile Media Summit Award and increased our mobile moments from 3.4 billion in 2014 to 6.3 billion in 2015.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
Transitioning from e-commerce PR to AdTech PR — two completely different worlds.
When I entered into the tech industry, I literally felt like I was learning all over again. But soon enough, I was able to integrate my former skills to the new processes I’ve currently learned.
There’s quite a different approach when pitching to Oprah Magazine to place a beautiful, handmade pillow in their holiday gift guide versus convincing a Fast Company editor to write an entire article on a start-up’s innovative — yet intangible — SDK product.
It’s a lot easier to pitch about practical, everyday items that anyone can see and hold; at times a simple photo would just do the trick. At UncommonGoods, I literally had different products to talk about every single day. If an editor didn’t want to talk about one product, I could easily pitch another.
At Kiip, my job is to keep our one and only product relevant, fresh and innovative year-round. It’s quite a challenge, but the benefit is that I’m constantly utilizing my creative thinking when coming up with new angles and story pitches.
How do you think PR has changed over the years?
The tremendous rise and success of social media platforms over the years has monumentally changed not only PR, but the marketing industry as a whole. It is no longer just seen as something fun that people use, but mandatory tools for brands and companies to leverage off of and create campaigns and relationships.
As a marketer and consumer, I find myself searching for companies on Facebook, journalists on Twitter and brands on Instagram before I even begin to think to use Google.
Social media is the most powerful weapon any brand, marketer or journalist can use. Brands can generate revenue, measure success, collect customer behavior and follow competitors closely. Media and PR pros can publish their content, track trending stories, pitch each other, collect real-time visual content and build an influence and heavy following.
Love it or hate it, we live in a world of hashtags, and it’s here to stay.
What do you see as the most important parts of a successful brand strategy?
Being consistent with your brand’s story, knowing exactly who your audience and customers are and never losing sight of your goals.
Do you have any advice for those looking to begin a career in PR?
The beautiful thing about paving a career in PR is that you’re able to jump into any pond you personally find interesting: fashion, politics, travel, film, tech, beauty, non-profit — the list goes on forever. You’re never trapped in one particular sector. If you dislike working in PR for one company, that doesn’t mean you won’t love it in another.
Keep in mind that every business, big or small, eventually needs to hire a PR pro to get their product or service out into the public eye and to create consistent brand awareness. And if it looks like a company doesn’t even have a PR team during your job search, do what you do best— pitch them. PR 101: never underestimate a cold email!
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…a published author. There’s still time, right?
3. The last movie I watched is…”In Bruges.”
4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…Beyoncé, a hot cup of coffee and an editor’s response to yesterday’s pitches.
5. My guiltiest pleasure is…traveling.
6. My biggest pet peeve is…when my significant other always finds a random or inappropriate moment to reference “Wayne’s World.”
Image via Emily Ann Hodges
Communications Best Practices
Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.
Cision Product News
Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.
Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.
A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.