Executive Leadership: Ann Kneifel

Whether it’s crunching numbers or traveling out west, passion drives her actions. For 15 years, Ann Kneifel, chief financial officer, has overseen the balance sheets at Hirons, ensuring that bills and salaries are paid. We sat down with Ann to learn more about her career.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school at Miami of Ohio, where I studied interior design and business management. When you’re that young, you don’t know where your career is going to go. It’s neat to look back at where you started and where your path has taken you.
What was your first job in the industry, and how did your path lead you to Hirons?

After graduating, I started at Sears in the accounting department. (You should have seen the huge computer rooms.) After that, I was the business manager for a dental office. I’ve spent my entire career in accounting, but in different industries. That’s what I love about accounting – all types of businesses need accountants, which has given me the opportunity to serve a variety of organizations.

I joined Hirons when we were in Bloomington, and it’s been a great place for this chapter of my career. Although I am in an accounting role, I love being in a creative environment and seeing new people come in after college because they have fresh ideas. We also have people who have been with the company for many years. It’s a nice mix.

What is something that makes your day-to-day life unique?

Accounting tends to be a very routine job but, because I work at an advertising agency, I never know what is going to happen. I walk in the door and I just never know. Some days that means reading scripts or recording clients’ radio spots. Peyton Manning, the mayor and the governor have been in here over the years. Every day is exciting!

What would you describe as your “time capsule” accomplishment? If you could take only one project, accomplishment or victory with you from your career, what would that be and why?

My proudest accomplishment was earning my Executive MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Going back to school when I was 58 was very challenging. Most of the other students were in their early 40s. I had not been a student since I was 18 years old and I was working full time, so it was intimidating. I didn’t think I could do it. But it’s so important to continue to learn throughout your whole life. My father instilled a passion for learning in me.

What advice would you give to a young professional?

Work hard. Be persistent. You’re going to have great successes and great failures. Work through all of those days with a smile on your face. You can hardly go wrong with a good attitude. Take responsibility for your actions. You’re going to make mistakes, but ride through it.

Whether it’s for work or leisure, read everything. I am a voracious reader. One of my recent favorite books is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s a very well-written book. One of my all-time favorites is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

Of all of the agencies in the industry, what makes Hirons different?

There is a purpose behind everything we do at Hirons. We always strive do the right thing. Tom Hirons goes out of his way to help mentor young professionals. That creates a high-energy environment of hard workers.

Executive Leadership: Rose Durbin

As a witness to the evolution in the media and digital worlds, Rose Durbin paved her way as a problem solver. Throughout her exhilarating and varied media career, she has reveled in the challenges posed by emerging media, from cable television to social media and evolving developments in digital data measurement.

We sat down with our media director to talk about her career path and evolution.

Where did you go to school, and what first drew you into the world of advertising and marketing?

I attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, working in the university’s business office all four years while studying toward a degree in English. During my time there, I learned how important communications and PR were to an organization.

I took my first computer class in 1972 and realized the potential of the medium. With new, innovative technological tools at my fingertips, I knew I had the opportunity to be part of something big!CPC_8197

What was your first job in the industry, and how did your path lead you to Hirons?

I began my career at an advertising agency, in accounting, then transitioned to media, where I found my niche. I moved around to other agencies in neighboring cities. I first worked for Hirons from 2004-2007 and came back in 2013. (We hope for good!)

What is something that makes your day-to-day unique from others at Hirons?

While many of the challenges I confront as media director are technical in nature, I relish brainstorming with the media team to find innovative communications solutions for clients. In an industry that is constantly changing and evolving, it’s key to stay at the forefront of new developments and research.

How has the industry changed over the course of your career, and how have you adapted?

Everything is much more complex. Instead of relying so heavily on just Nielsen for TV and radio, we utilize comScore just as much for any type of digital advertising or placement. With the precision of the analytics that we use on a day-to-day basis, those numbers alone can tell the story for you now.

I appreciate the challenges that come with a fast-paced media environment. Our digital team does a fantastic job of reading consumers and knowing how to communicate with them. They think outside the box. That’s really important to Hirons in general. We really do focus on using the most innovative technologies and ideas to serve our clients in the best way possible.

What would you describe as your “time capsule” accomplishment? If you could only take one project, accomplishment or victory with you from your career, what would that be and why?

I am most proud of executing the integration of cable into broadcast media for clients. In a time where clients were using cable for the first time, I saw it as an opportunity to introduce them to a new era of advertising, one where they can measure success individually. I miss the intimacy of those client relationships from the days before digital skyrocketed. Taking the time to develop those relationships is so important to building a strong foundation for all future work.

Of all of the agencies in the industry, what makes Hirons different?

Hirons is constantly growing and learning, which is something that many of our clients appreciate and admire. For me, it’s refreshing knowing we are always a step ahead and are always improving.

Why Culture Shock Is So Important

By Megan Auger, Communication Management Intern 

Culture shock is defined as “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life or set of attitudes.”

Sometimes this phrase has a negative connotation, but for many of us, experiencing culture shock is what makes us well-rounded and diverse individuals. Whether it’s traveling domestically or internationally, experiencing different lifestyles allows us to begin to understand others’ backgrounds and ways of life. In today’s social landscape, a broader understanding of  others’ differences and beliefs helps us to better communicate and engage.

Let’s say you live in New York City. Taking a trip to Tulsa, Okla., or Columbus, Ohio, would be a major change from the hustle and bustle of the city life you know. The pace of life definitely would be slower, and you might find other differences in social interactions, political beliefs and lifestyle values. However, you are sure to find some similarities, too, which are equally surprising!

Sometimes, the smallest differences can make the biggest impacts on us (like accents or work ethics). These discoveries help us learn about and understand how others live and feel. They also give us a measure to examine our own attitudes and values.

As important as it is to note cultural differences here within the United States, culture shock occurs more often in international travels. Hirons’ very own Hannah Riffle, Communications Management intern, studied abroad in Ireland on a trip that granted her life-changing experiences that she believes changed her view of the world.

“This opened my eyes to the possibilities and diverse ways of thinking. Before the trip, I thought of the world from a national lens. Now, I think from more of a global lens,” she explained.

By traveling to Ireland, Hannah was able to learn about the social norms, religion and lifestyles of the Irish, which broadened her perspective and worldview. “Being abroad made me thirsty to learn more about other cultures and how we interact with each other because we all bring something unique to the table,” she said.

After experiencing such new and unique ways of life, we tend to see things more objectively and accept others for who they are. Even though it may come as a “shock,” it’s a positive one that we can take back with us and use in our everyday lives.

Employee Highlight: Nick Reese

A graphic designer, problem solver and translator are all roles played by Nick Reese, Hirons’ newest creative assistant. His job is to interpret and visually convey an idea, message, brand or product in the most effective way possible. From complex campaign concepts down to simple fact sheets, Nick helps create a wide range of digital and physical visuals for clients. We interviewed the most recent member of the Hirons family to delve deeper into his creative mind and uncover more about his passion for art – at the office and outside of work.

 

How did you become interested in advertising/PR, and how did you break into the industry and land your first job?

I initially graduated from Park Tudor here in Indianapolis. I went on to attend High Point University in North Carolina, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in graphic design and digital communications with a minor in photography. In school, ads were my favorite projects. I love the overarching structure filled with intricacies that branding provides. I also love the emotion an ad can stir within a person. An image, combined with a well-crafted message and intricate thought process, is all you need to make someone grin from ear to ear or cause their stomach to drop. That’s beautiful to me.

I landed my job here at Hirons thanks to someone from RePro Graphix who passed along several names of agencies in the area. I ended up interviewing with Tom and the creative team. Shortly after, I became part of the Hirons family.

 

What are specializations/most important tools of the trade?

Creative is a bridge – and not just between two people. The work you present needs to speak to the client. You have to structure all of the input you receive into a path for the client to follow or a direction for them to go. For them, an adjective becomes something that performs. The client or account manager will use certain terms in an attempt to convey their vision to you. It is important to dissect those words and fully understand what the client is trying to achieve so you can help them reach the goals they have set for the project as well as identify potential flaws and suggest revisions.

 

As a graphic designer, what characteristics do you need to be successful in the advertising industry?

In this industry, it is important to understand that while your art may look good, it may not perform well. Thus, you need to have thick skin in order to handle criticism. The ability to remove yourself from a situation or project and seek out another point of view is crucial, so it is also important to have humility.

 

Do you have any interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?

I collect sneakers – any type of shoe really. Right now, I have around 200 pairs. I’ve been obsessed with them forever. I have notebooks from the third grade that are filled with shoe drawings. Looking back, my obsession with shoes started with a basic understanding of design in terms of form and function. The marriage between the two is the basis of design – something that is both eye-catching and serves a purpose.

 

When and where do you have your best ideas?

Honestly, I have no specific time or place. Sometimes I’m in my car, and an idea hits me out of nowhere. Other times, I’m hunkered down at my desk, and they come to me as expected.

 

What has been the most exciting project/campaign that you’ve worked on at Hirons?

My first pitch was a whirlwind. I had only been with Hirons for a few months, so I was still new to advertising as a whole. Seeing the details and nuances in prepping and pitching and watching it all unfold made me feel like I was watching a choreographed dance by the end. I learned a ton working under Pam and John, and it was amazing to see Tom present. He had everyone on the edge of their seats.

 

Why is effective advertising/PR so important for growth and success of organizations?

I am a firm believer that all problems stem from miscommunication, and I see myself as a translator. In the world of advertising, we have to take the time to study human behavior and learn what works and what does not. We also have the difficult task of capturing a client’s vision and making sure it is well-received by the masses in the most effective way possible. If a problem doing so arises, I keep peeling back layers until I eventually find a communication disconnect.

 

What’s one important tip you would share with anyone looking to go into the agency world?

The “9-to-5” concept does not apply to the agency world. Here, the work gets done when it gets done. It’s a fast-paced environment, and there is no hand-holding.

 

What is the most meaningful part of your job?

Right now, it’s learning. I’m trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible so I can eventually slay this world of creative direction and feel proud of the impact I am making. Luckily, I have great co-workers who have years of experience from which I can learn.

Cracker Barrel’s Hard Lesson

By Emily Hayden, Account Manager

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is learning a hard lesson in social media best practices this week.

A month ago, an Indiana man named Brad left a simple post on the wall of the corporate Facebook page, “Why did you fire my wife?” There was nothing else. Initially, just a few responses to the original post added more details, including that Brad’s wife (now identified as Nanette) had been let go on his birthday after 11 years of service.

Once these details came out, the story went viral, and internet trolls have now taken over the corporate page. The campaign has spread across Twitter and Instagram, with the rallying cry of #JusticeForBradsWife.  Within 24 hours, there have been thousands of posts and comments, and national media are beginning to take notice.

The only action taken so far by Cracker Barrel has been to turn off the ability to comment directly on the wall of its page. Scroll through the comments section of anything that has been posted recently, and you can see how that doesn’t really slow down the wildfire once it has started.

While Cracker Barrel is attempting to figure out a response, we thought this was a good opportunity to point out the value of strong corporate social media management.

First, don’t take the decision to approach social media lightly. If you aren’t prepared to commit the resources needed to properly maintain and monitor your presence, it creates the potential for these PR nightmares. If you don’t have someone highly skilled on your team, hire professionals who can establish pages, create content, monitor and respond for you.

Next, a few safeguards should be put in place on all corporate pages to prevent this situation.

  1. Set pages so that wall posts must be approved by an administrator before going public.
  2. Have a team in place to continually monitor page activity.
  3. Keep an eye on comments to things you have posted. There is no way to filter these through a pre-approval process, but someone monitoring the page can hide inflammatory posts and comments and even ban abusive users from the page.

Last, and possibly most important as far as Cracker Barrel is concerned, respond quickly and accurately to any posts or messages. A simple statement from Cracker Barrel on the original post would have gone a long way in preventing this whole situation. While Facebook and other social streams seem larger than life, real people are on the other end of all interactions, and each has the potential to stir the general public to either hate or love your brand.

Cracker Barrel, we feel your pain and wish we had been there to help prevent it. The Hirons team is ready for any questions you have about social media or crisis public relations.

From theory to practice: The value of real-world experience

By Hannah Riffle, Communication Management Intern 

Would you get into the car with someone who learned to drive only by reading a book? A strong foundation of knowledge does not fully prepare you to sit behind the wheel and hit the interstate. As we heard growing up, “Practice makes perfect.”

CPC_6125Just like driving, learning communication strategies from a book is only the first step in becoming a practitioner. I study public relations at Ball State University, and diverse classes in writing, design, media ethics and campaign management have given me an understanding of important theories. With some basic knowledge, I jumped into my first internship, at a digital marketing agency, where I was immersed in the day-to-day of agency life. Three internships and dozens of classes later, I am creating content and implementing social media strategy for real-world clients.

In my first month at Hirons, I applied some of what I learned in a case study course to compile award submissions for some of the agency’s innovative client work. I used lessons from a media research course to analyze best practices in specific segments of the industry and share insights that would guide future strategy. I utilized findings from a media analytics course to create engaging social media content and evaluate its performance.

My experiences were key to developing my skills and building confidence in myself as a practitioner. I know I have chosen the career path that best aligns with my interests.

Are you studying for a future career in the communications industry? Here are a few ways to apply your classroom knowledge:

Join relevant student organizations at your university. Does your university have a Public Relations Student Society of America or American Advertising Federation chapter? These organizations allow you to make an impact at a local level and engage with thousands of peers across the nation. Plus, when employers look to recruit, these affiliations make you stand out!

Volunteer your time with a nonprofit. No matter where you are in your educational journey, it is never too early to test your skills. Don’t let feelings of inexperience hold you back from growing. The only way to gain experience is through practice. Do you see a nonprofit that could benefit from some strategic social media initiatives? Or is there one that has a story waiting to be told to the media? Sometimes the best experiences come from opportunistic outreach.

Apply for a summer internship at Hirons. Interested in learning more about communications management, digital media or creative services? Check out our available internship opportunities and apply by March 15.

How Many Friends Do You Have?

By Tom Hirons, CEO 

Robin Dunbar makes a compelling case in his TEDx talk that the human mind has the capacity to manage about 150 meaningful relationships at a time. It has become known as the Dunbar number. Hence the question, how many friends do you have?

When Hirons started working with Ruler Foods, a division of Kroger, we knew that Facebook would be a critical platform and that building a network of individuals who like and follow the page would be one measure of success.

In less than a year and a half, Ruler Foods’ page likes went from 0 to 35,579. And they are still growing. That’s good for Ruler Foods and good for Hirons.

President Trump has 22.3 million followers on Twitter. I have 98. But how many friends?

Dunbar views friendships in a series of concentric circles. At the center are your closest friends, primarily comprised of a few family members. For most people, this may number five to seven.

In the next circle are those 10-15 individuals you might describe as best friends. These are people with whom you communicate on a regular basis.

In the third group, Dunbar describes individuals whom you would be genuinely happy to see if you bump into them at the airport or grocery store.

Beyond that are those who might be on your Christmas card list, with whom you might communicate once a year.

In total, 150. Curiously, the math is reliable. Through centuries, across technologies and across cultures, the number is generally around 150. The average number of Facebook friends? About 150. Dunbar holds that this is based on the capacity of the human mind. It’s how we are wired.

Why is this relevant?

Hirons does extensive grassroots and grasstops outreach. Knowing the Dunbar number and other principles, we can more accurately project the number of meaningful contacts we must make to achieve the reach and results we desire over time. We shape content to significantly increase the likelihood that it will be shared.

It also is relevant as we know the capacity of the computer extends far beyond 150. And through customer relationship management (CRM), we can help clients behave like friends, greatly enhancing sales and customer relationships.

Yet the most powerful application might be for each of us in our own lives. Knowing the natural limitations of our capacity, we might work to push the boundaries of those concentric circles. Imagine taking the time to communicate and expand your list of best friends, or those with whom you maintain regular contact. Imagine never avoiding eye contact or hoping someone you recognize doesn’t see you. I write this hoping I’m not the only one who has done this and equally hoping I won’t do it again.

If I can only have 150 friends, let them all be good friends.

Fine-tuning Facebook Ad Data

By Olivia Crum, Digital Coordinator 

More than ever, consumers are engaging with ads across a plethora of platforms. Due to the increase in digital channels, Facebook has expanded its measurement partnerships to increase cross-channel comparability and, later this year, third-party verification. By partnering with companies such as Nielsen and ComScore, Facebook is taking strides to ensure accurate ad delivery data.

Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) is a statistical analysis that measures the impact of media tactics. It specifically allows advertisers to measure performance across media types, enabling comparisons among TV, digital and print ads. Advertisers will be able to determine which ads performed best and which ads yielded the greatest ROI. This information becomes more powerful when used to create subsequent advertising plans.

The concept of MMM originated with consumer package goods advertising. It has proven so useful that Facebook is encouraging advertisers to utilize the analysis to make tactical decisions about future campaigns.

These additions will benefit our advertisers throughout the planning and evaluation process. MMM will allow Hirons to look at all data in a synchronized platform to better evaluate a client’s ad performance. With Facebook’s measurement partners, we can now verify and measure specific outcomes for Facebook impressions. This will better inform us, as well as our clients, as we begin planning future campaigns.

Living a Sustainable 2017

By Leigh-Ann Pogue, Executive Assistant 

With the advent of the new year comes resolutions large and small – ranging from physical fitness to economic growth, stronger relationships to overcoming fears. At Hirons, we not only believe in working in a sustainable environment but also living a sustainable lifestyle. If you are still looking for the perfect resolution (and it’s never too late to start), here are five small changes that can make a huge impact on our environment.

  1. Buy and Eat Local

Supermarkets give consumers the advantage of getting fruits and vegetables year-round. However, this uses an enormous amount of resources. Buying local not only decreases the amount of fossil fuel energy used to transport locally out of season produce but also puts money back into your local economy by creating jobs and competition in the marketplace. And while you’re at it, make sure to pick up reusable grocery bags.

  1. Use Alternative Transportation

Bikes are not just for triathlon enthusiasts anymore. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 26 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the transportation sector. If you live close to work, consider walking or biking during fair-weather months. In winter, consider carpooling with friends, family or co-workers or research your local public transportation options.

  1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Do you have an old college sweatshirt sitting in the back of your closet or a book on your nightstand that you know you’re not going to read? Clothes, as well as other items, that are no longer useful to you can be donated to your local shelter or through organizations such as Goodwill  or The Salvation Army. Also, think about ways to give items around the house, such as bottles, Mason jars and cans, a new life. Just check Pinterest if you need #UpCycle inspiration. Most of all, remember less is more. Practice being a conscious consumer by researching the hidden costs behind purchases and reducing the amount of products you buy with plastic packaging.

  1. Conserve Water

This step is pretty simple: Find ways to reduce the amount of water you use on a daily basis. This is not only good for the environment but also good for your wallet. According to National Geographic, you should opt for showers over baths as baths can take up to 70 gallons of water. Switching out standard shower heads for low-flow models can save up to 15 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower. Other simple ways to conserve water include turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth, fixing leaks, taking quick showers and not running the dishwasher until it is full.

  1. Maintain an Energy Efficient Home

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends conducting a home energy audit to determine how your home uses energy. This will help you determine where energy efficient upgrades are needed – whether it be a new water heater, new furnace filter, more insulation, low-flow toilet or simply a complete switch to LED lightbulbs. Keep in mind that upgrading your home could save 5 percent to 30 percent on your energy bill, which is some serious cash.

I Have a Dream!

By Ana Kotchkoski, Account Manager

Each person shares human dignity with others and therefore all equal rights before the law. That means that no physical or cultural difference can justify any limitations to that equality. In other words, equal rights before the law guarantee the right to be and to think differently.

However, the widespread acceptance of this idea is fairly recent in relation to the thousands of years of human history. Even after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the covenants and conventions that ensure its validity today, we still see many situations in which the physical, cultural and ideological interests of some individuals are used to deny the equal rights of others. In all cases, these situations have been the result of the imposition of some kind of power – economic, political or ideological – of one group of people over another. There is also the assumption by those who are denying the rights that the targeted group is somehow “inferior” and less deserving because of it.

Today, in commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr., let us remember his lifelong devotion to the struggle of African-Americans for equality. Let us remember the violence that he and many others suffered and the discrimination that many still feel today. And let us recommit ourselves to fight for the dream that cost him his life.

Let the bell of freedom ring as the hands of all the men and women of the world unite fraternally.