First Published: June 7, 2014

Last Updated: August 9, 2020

Conference Recap: Part 1

(These were previously 3 separate posts about the conference that I’ve since combined into one)

So, where to begin? Maybe with Friday afternoon. Around 6, I crawled into bed for a quick nap to recharge for University of Delaware’s Alumni Weekend. I woke up at 11…a.m.

That’s right, I slept for about 17 hours. Anytime I sleep for more than 12 hours in a row, I consider whatever came before the semi-coma to be a big success.

So what was I doing before this epic nap Sleeping Beauty would be jealous of? I was at Vocus’s PR and marketing conference, Demand Success. It will always be one of the highlights of my career, for many reasons.

Most importantly, I was a speaker at the conference. That’s right, a freaking speaker. Wanna know who else was a speaker? Randi Zuckerberg (if you haven’t heard of her, maybe you know her brother, Mark). Judy Smith, the inspiration for the (amazeballs) TV show Scandal. Chris friggin Brogan, whom I’ve looked up to as a blogger since I first started reading Problogger years and years ago. And finally, Adrian Grenier, who stole my preteen heart when he was the awkward and adorable bad boy in Drive Me Crazy way back in 1999.

How I Made the Demand Success Speakers List

One Friday afternoon, I was walking into Walgreens and got an email from our account rep at Vocus. A few months earlier, we switched from their PR software to the marketing software, Vocus Marketing Suite.

It paid off. We were selected to be part of a panel talking about how VMS customers have found success. Um, what?

Abby Hammer, Product Marketing Manager at Vocus, would moderate a panel about how customers (namely eZanga and the Autism Society of North Carolina) found success during their first year of using VMS. Through weekly phone calls and presentation planning, I became besties with her and David Laxton.

Demanding Success Means Not Passing Out

I was nervous, to say the least. I went to Demand Success last year and was awed by each and every speaker. Aside from college classes, I had only done one public speaking gig: a PRSSA meeting a few months ago. But that was a shorter presentation, a smaller audience, and I had been in their shoes not so long ago.

But I knew how many people a room at the conference could hold. I recognized that most of the people in the audience would probably have at least twice as much experience in the marketing industry as I do.

So many things worried me:

  • Would the audience see me as too young and inexperienced to be telling them about success?
  • Would Vocus see the stats and numbers behind the activities that qualified us for the panel and be wildly unimpressed, making them regret inviting me to speak?
  • Would I fall on stage in front of a hundred people (it’s entirely too possible with my ankle issues)?
  • Would I fall on stage in front of five people because everyone went to see the more well-known speakers instead?

But I survived, and I actually think it went well. Not only is that a win in and of itself, but it’s also changed my outlook on my career. “Demand Success” isn’t just the name of an awesome conference, it’s my new career manta.

From Now On, I Will Demand Success From Myself

For me, this whole experience was a huge opportunity for self-realization. I think I’ve been looking at success as something that couldn’t really be achieved (yet). While that might have been good for my motivation, striving for something that wasn’t possible meant that I would never meet my goals.

I’m not a person that can live with not living up to potential. I’m very Type A sometimes (though you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at my messy apartment right now). I’m also really hard on myself. At least three times a week, I scold myself for not doing more with this blog. I scold myself for not starting a book blog (I practically read one book per day; it just makes sense). I tell myself I’m not doing enough online networking, guest blogging, reading industry news, etc.

I’m the kind of person who needs quite a bit of downtime reading, watching TV, or hanging out with my family and boyfriend, in order to function. But my expectations always have me feeling guilty for not being more productive with my time.

I’m proud of the fact that I push myself, but recognize that I’m so hard on myself that it probably hinders my success more than helps it. Let’s take those two blog examples. Yes, I don’t have much time for recreational blogging after my mental health time, but there are bigger things holding me back. I don’t write more on this blog because I spend so much time thinking about how to make a post perfect. I haven’t started a book blog because I know I’ll be discouraged when I’m first starting out and not seeing much success yet.

But now I think, “Isn’t the act of moving towards a goal success all on its own?” I may never be able to compete with some of the larger blogs writing about the genre of books I like. That’s okay. Most of those are managed by large groups of authors who don’t have full-time jobs. I should be proud that even one person reads my first post.

How to Demand Success

My new mantra is less about demanding that I be successful. It’s more about reframing how I see success. I need to demand my brain to be able to look at more of my activities and see at least one way that it was a success.

I may only publish a post on this blog sporadically, but at least I have a personal blog. I know a ton of PR and marketing professionals that don’t, even though they know they should.

My first step in demanding success is writing this post. It’s more personal than what I usually publish. It’s more of a rant than an informative piece, like the post that came before it.

These are my thoughts, unfiltered. I’m not even going to proofread this (sorry if there are errors), because I know if I read this again before hitting ‘Publish,’ there’s a good chance I’ll lose my nerve and delete it.

It would make me feel a lot better if even one person can comment and tell me they’ve had this struggle. So tell me, how do you demand success from yourself?

Conference Recap: Part 2

Like I said Saturday, I recently returned from Vocus’s Demand Success conference. It was a pretty big moment for me career-wise, but it was also really, really fun.

Yes, it was exhausting. Yes, the hotel mattress would have been comfortable if I hadn’t had a hip injury and been skipping physical therapy to be there.

But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Some of the key highlights of Demand Success:

  • Finally meeting in person people who I’ve been talking to online for years (I’m looking at you Ben, Stacey, Bree, and Brindisi!)
  • Going to see Phillies play the Nationals with other VIP attendees – it was the first time I witnessed a grand slam in person! And look at this view!
  • Meeting Chris Brogan and getting my book signed by him – if I get a big ego, blame him!
  • Making new friends! I couldn’t possibly list all of the wonderful people I met, but some deserve a shout out. Like the people I feel I spent the most time with: Katherine, Jason, my co-presenters, Abby and David, and my amazing speaking coach, Diane Court.
  • Adrian. Grenier. I’ve had a crush on him for literally 15 years. Not exaggerating.
  • Goofing around on the National Harbor with new friends at the reception. Once again, look at that view.

After practicing my presentation until the middle of the night, I had no problem getting into the groove Thursday morning. Most of my alertness was due to Diet Coke (as per usual), but also from this:

If you know me, you know how excited I was about this. The tap dancer in me has always loved the percussions of STOMP. Also, the loud person in me. Making noise is fun, especially when it sounds good and is expertly choreographed like those guys. So glad I got the “shake your booty” part in my video 🙂

The STOMPers then led into You Mon Tsang, the new Vocus CEO, and the first keynote…

Randi Zuckerberg and Our Dot Complicated World

Sorry, Mark. Randi is my favorite member of your family. Not only was she hilarious (you should hear her first thoughts about joining Facebook), but she was so relatable and had such a great perspective. Did you know she was told it was frivolous for a successful female to have a hobby? I found that her stories about being a powerful female hit closer to home than anything I’ve heard about leaning in.

The focus of her keynote was how, as much as technology can improve our lives, it’s also made them much more…you guessed it, dot complicated. I mean, her friend’s son thinks his grandfather lives in the computer because they Skype so much.

My favorite quote from Randi was, “We need technology to save us from technology.” FOMO – fear of missing out, should be JOMO – joy of missing out (and when my bed and pajamas are comfortable enough, it is). She also talked about the importance of unplugging, which is something I’ve been trying to do a lot more.

Basically, technology – just like most great things – is a double-edged sword. For every way it’s made our lives easier, it’s also made them harder. I purchased her book during the break right after her session, and I can’t wait to read it.’s Journey to Marketing Automation

Yup, I missed Chris Brogan’s session. I missed Sebastian Turner’s session. But that’s okay, because I was on a stage!

As much as I wasn’t sure about speaking in public, I do know that I’m good on a stage (I’m used to doing pirouettes on it, but whatever).

I talked about the challenges eZanga’s marketing department has been facing, and how Vocus Marketing Suite has helped us overcome them. What I’m most proud of is some of the stuff we’re doing with email marketing. In terms of social media, it hasn’t drastically changed what we do so much as how we do it (it’s much easier). But we’ve really stepped up our email marketing, and a Vocus engineer was even interested in talking to us about some of the processes we’ve built!

Note: As soon as my slide deck or a video of the panel is put online, I will most definitely be updating this post to include it!

The Content Boom

After quickly celebrating making through the panel alive, I took a quick break for networking (I mean…lunch) and headed to a panel with Richard Binhammer, Nichole Kelly, Joe Webster, and Christopher Penn.

They talked in a non-buzzword way about a big buzzword: content shock. It would be hard to discuss everything I learned in this one, but here are my favorite tweetable quotes:

  • “The real shock is how much bad content there is out there” – Nichole Kelly (Tweet this)
  • “We hear so much about inbound and outbound. What about ‘stick around?'” – Richard Binhammer (Tweet this)
  • “Think less about audiences and more about fans.” – Christopher Penn (Tweet this)

A few other takeaways:

  • Take it as a compliment when your content gets stolen or pirated, says Christopher Penn. That means that your content is good enough to steal. People don’t (usually) steal crap.
  • Don’t forget that the basis of content is information. Content marketing could even be called information marketing.
  • Create scannable content. People don’t read. Use H2 tags, organize lists with bullets or numbers, and break text up with images and white space. If people can’t scan your content, they probably won’t bother with it at all.

Making Sense of Marketing Automation

Christopher Penn back to back! How lucky am I? Not very, because his presentation on making sense of marketing automation was nowhere near as long as I would’ve sat and listened to him for.

First, he broke down what marketing automation is and who needs it. If you’re looking for just email marketing or social media or landing pages, you don’t need marketing automation. It’s for people who need all of that and more, in one solution.

He used an analogy that explains it better than I’ve ever heard: think of what’s in your kitchen. Think of your email marketing as a coffee maker, your social media as the oven, etc. They all work find on their own, but imagine how much easier it would be if the same device could brew coffee, reheat leftover, bake cookies, and anything else you walked into your kitchen to do.

He wrapped up with tips for using marketing automation to identify holes in your marketing, figuring out why they’re there, and fixing them.

Bonus: he was pretty interactive with his presentation. During his session, he tweeted out a document with click to tweet links summarizing key points (not that it stopped me from livetweeting mercilessly) and included a form to an ebook with more information about the topic. Awesome. Possum.

The State of PR and Marketing Report

Even though this one was more data than insight, it was wildly helpful. Even better, the data was exclusive to Demand Success at the time. Vocus will release it to everyone else later this month.

What made this so great was that some of the data was shocking. Despite how many marketers and PR practitioners participate in content marketing on a blog, very few (a sad 35%) actually find it effective. Content marketers, what are we doing? Never mind. I’m not sure I want to know.

When ranking content distribution channels, the top few were expected: websites, social media, etc. But while I would guess that a blog would be in the top 5 on the list of 10 or so, it came in last.

The problem? It’s not that people aren’t blogging; it’s that their not being strategic enough.

The Paradigms of Fame and Success

The first day in the convention center closed out with a Q&A with Adrian Grenier. You probably know him as Vincent Chase, but he’s a lot more than that. He co-founded, a lifestyle platform devoted to living more sustainably. They convey their message through film, art, design, and food.

The platform has done some really cool things, like collaborating with Ford on the Food Tripping app.. Adrian told us about some of the documentaries he’s produced, and I really want to see some of them. Particularly, Helvetica. That’s right, fellow typography nerds, there is a documentary about a font. I can’t wait to watch it.

Demand Success Day 3…

Recap is coming soon! I’m falling asleep on my computer now, so now that I’m at this stage in my conference experience, I’m not hating that Friday’s schedule was a little shorter!

Phew. Part 1 and Part 2: done. More work than I thought they would be. Demand Success withdrawals are here in full force and today’s Vocus webinar didn’t help as much as I needed it to.

So this post will hopefully knock out two things: finish my series on my time at Vocus’s Demand Success PR and marketing conference (you got me, it will definitely do that), and fulfill some of my “I miss Vocus” sadness. Ready, set, go!

Introducing Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist

AKA the best speaker at Demand Success. First off, his energy and enthusiasm for digital marketing was exactly what we all needed to wake up first thing in the morning (especially for the hung over folks, who he definitely called out as he took the stage). It was contagious, my friends! Secondly, he said some really, really smart stuff about analytics and “precision decisions.”

Sure, as marketers, we constantly hear and talk about the need for content. But sometimes, a blunt slap in the face is necessary. That’s what Avinash gave us. After that moment of shouting, he actually said something you wouldn’t expect from a Google employee: analytics aren’t everything. (That’s one of the things I loved the most about Avinash’s keynote. He spoke the truth and said what he thought was true, even if it wasn’t in his or his company’s favor. He even admitted that for certain goals, Bing Ads may be your best choice!) Companies focus too much on the sale. But, as Avinash put it, the sales department tends to focus on one-off closes, one night stands if you will. But, just like with romantic relationships, long-term connections are better in the long run. That’s why marketing needs to swoop in and draw more attention to the customer journey.

Marketers are a customer’s tour guide through the buying journey. (Tweet this) And because of how the buyer’s journey has changed, we need a new marketing model to accommodate it. Here is how Avinash sees it:

See how customer-centric that is? It doesn’t just consider emotion, like AIDA does. It one-ups that. It looks at what actions are driven by those emotions.

  • When they’re in the awareness stage, they see your company. But that’s about it.
  • When they’re considering your company, they’re thinking about their problems, if you can solve them, and if so, how effectively. They may desire your services at this point.
  • Then they take action. They become a customer, or they don’t.
  • But the journey doesn’t end there, unless it’s a one night stand. You have to satisfy them. Don’t let them regret their action. Make them care.

I love that this model takes customer loyalty into account, because it’s something that I feel like a lot of sales reps may not consider enough.

He didn’t just lay out a customer-centric marketing model. He also talked bout which marketing channels were best for different stages of the journey, and how to measure them. I doubt anyone walked away from this session unsatisfied.

A Marketer’s Guide to Being Too Big for Your Niches

The first regular session I attended was by the wonderful Ann Handley of MarketingProfs. She’s also pocket-sized and adorable, even though I’m pretty sure she’s still taller than me. But, I digress…

As I touched on in my Day 1 recap, there is a lot wrong with content marketing. We’re all creating content, or at least trying. One of my favorite quotes came from this session: “Content marketing is like sex in high school. Everyone says they’re doing it, but few are doing it well.”

And on top of poor content marketing, actual content strategies are as hard to find as a missing unicorn (don’t you love it?).

So, as you’ve heard before, we want to think like publishers…

  • Publishers have a mission. They know what content needs to accomplish.
  • Have pathological empathy for your audience.
  • Build a subscriber model, where readers come to depend on you.

But thinking like a publisher isn’t enough:

  • Don’t build one-off content campaigns. Build a content ecosystem within your organization.
  • Don’t just tell stories. Tell them well.
  • Place lots of small wagers on experiments. It’s the only way to reach your goal of innovation.


Next up was a session that brought out the space geek in me, which I didn’t realize was so geeky. Do you know why and how the flag waves in the footage of the moon landing? I do now!

So, NASA 360 talked about taking news and stuff from NASA and turning it into captivating social content for a new audience: millenials. NASA 360 produces an award-winning broadcast 30-minute television show, vodcast, and related online resources.

They take space stuff and “fun” it up through short video, content bites, and interesting visuals. What makes this content so successful? It creates engagement.

NASA 360 knows what their audience likes, gives it to them, and acknowledges audience members that react. Remember, social is about creating relationships and being…social. Their biggest takeaways:

  • However you measure success at your organization, realize it’s your fans that got you there.
  • Use visuals whenever possible – and I’m not talking about clip art.
  • Celebrate milestones.
  • Ask open-ended questions – they create more meaningful conversation than something that can be answered with just “yes” or “no.”
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor. If you’re having fun with the content, there’s a good chance your audience is, as well.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail (and don’t anger the cat lovers)

I just had to find a way to include that. Moving on…

Olivia Pope Really Exists (Kind Of)

As other sessions appealed to my space geek, numbers nerd, and more, the closing keynote brought out my inner Gladiator. The speaker was Judy Smith, the inspiration for the (amazing) TV show Scandal and the character Olivia Pope. Yay!

Time for a crash course in crisis communications from one of the biggest experts out there. The majority of the keynote was a Q&A, so there is way too much info for this post, but here are a few crisis management and public relations tips:

  • Create a pre-crisis plan in addition to a crisis plan. Companies that do this have a 90% success rate.
  • Don’t try to spin things. The truth will always come out eventually and if you try to hide it, it just makes you look worse in the end.
  • “No comment” sucks. There are at least 20 ways to say you’re not going to comment without using the words “no comment.” Before communicating with press, make a list of possible responses.

So, finally, I’m done recapping Demand Success and can finally start catching up on the sleep I lost during it! Thank you to Vocus for putting on such a great conference!

Which pop star will save your content strategy_