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Startups Are the Word That You Heard

In a recent piece on Forbes, How to Not Get Left Behind in Startup Land, contributor David Tao discusses the trials and tribulations about working for a startup. Tao says that people need to understand that “practically all startups will go through several phases of change before they find that magic intersection between great idea and sustainable businesses.” And he should know; over the past two years Tao has had four different jobs in the startup world.

Redspin Inc.'s Start-up Week Presentation

For others, startups are a way to start over. Take former advertising exec Tom O’Keefe, who for the past 20 years worked for DraftFCB. In an article posted on April 9 on Advertising Age, O’Keefe discusses how 10 weeks ago he made the decision to move to a startup. Why? Because he wants to become excited again—by ideas and by building something that’s meaningful. It’s a feeling that resonates with many startup entrepreneurs.

Recently, DGC spent time at Penn State University’s Start-up Week, an annual educational get-together of company founders and CEOs, started by Penn State alum and Weebly CEO David Rusenko.

The goal of the event was to provide insight to students about what it means to found a startup and to inspire them to start their own companies.

Throughout the week, Penn State students heard from Rusenko, Reddit/Hipmunk co-founder Steve Huffman, Exec founder Justin Kan and Scribd/Parse co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, just to name a few.

During our time there, DGC sat down with David Carlino, a Start-up Week presenter and Penn State alum, for a look at the life of an entrepreneur.

David Carlino (DC):  Hi, my name is David Carlino and I’m an IST graduate of 2009. Since then, I’ve worked for Network System Architects, Inc., which was a small seven-person company in Colorado Springs. After that, I moved to Redspin, Inc., which is a security company and my focus is on policy and analysis for companies.

DiGennaro Communications (DGC): Why was it important for you to attend Start-up Week?

DC: I think when I was at school, specifically IST, I thought the only option for a job was to work for very large corporations, which at the time, I thought was what I wanted to do. But since then, I’ve realized that I do like to have a little bit of ownership over my work, and I tend to not get that necessarily in the large company environment the way that I’d like to.

I wanted to come to Start-up Week to represent a small company rather than starting your own company, because for me, it’s a much better fit. I have a lot of the stability that I look for and also the opportunity to have ownership over my work. I have a little bit more responsibility, which sometimes is daunting, but for me it’s very rewarding.

DGC: Do you credit where you are now to IST?

DC: I do. I often tell people about my major that was designed with professors teaching us through experience, rather than having a teacher tell you, “This is exactly how it should be.” IST professors let you flounder for a bit, and until they know you can’t get it, you won’t get the answer from them.

In my role, currently, there’s not someone I can usually go to to ask for advice. That’s frustrating if you’ve never done that before, but IST provided me with a lot of experience and the know-how as to what to do to learn about things I might not know about and apply them to situations I’ve never seen before.

This way it’s not as frustrating as it is exciting because I realize I can do it if I keep with it. IST really gave me that level of confidence in my ability to solve problems, and also gave me a lot of experience trying.

DGC: Would you attend Start-up Week next year?

DC: Sure. I would love to. It’s always fun being at IST; the staff is always welcoming. They’re always very friendly. The experience overall was very well organized and very easy to ask questions and get answers.

What are some of your experiences with entrepreneurism? Let us know in the comments below!

4A’s CEO Nancy Hill Sits Down with Forbes CMO Network


Nancy Hill, President-CEO of the 4A’s since 2008, sat down with Jenny Rooney, Forbes CMO Network editor, to talk about her tenure leading the 96-year-old trade association. Hill was the first woman to hold the position but insists: “When I first took the job, all of the reporters wanted to make the story about the fact that I was the first woman. I had to really turn the reporters and get them to understand that no, it’s because I worked in Baltimore, St. Louis, Los Angeles, [and] San Francisco, in all manner and sizes of agencies… That’s why I got the job.”

Other highlights in the interview are as follows:

  • In the past two years, the 4A’s has been gaining members rather than losing them
  • The 4A’s successfully collaborates with the IAB and the ANA on the privacy initiative and the three associations built the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), which now serves 1.3 trillion impressions a week with a small icon, informing consumers about how particular web sites use information gathered from “cookies.” Hill says the icon has 34 percent awareness just a year after its launch
  • Diversity. Hill says agencies understand more and more that inclusion is good for business
  • Talent development. Many industry execs say advertising is not a destination career any longer, and Hill admits that “we have an awareness problem among young people” but adds that the talent issue is multi-faceted and not limited to advertising because young people are more attracted to tech start-ups.
  • Collaboration with client-side executives. The 4A’s conference, Transformation 2013: The Idea Effect, takes place in New Orleans in March and has more CMO speakers than ever before. Hill says marketers and their agencies have a stake in issues such as, the agency review process, procurement, compensation models, and patent assertions

Hill tells Rooney that a lot of work has been done around the patent issue, also known as “patent trolling,” and member agencies can expect to hear more from the 4A’s about how it is combating the problem.

Forbes Shares “Aha” Moments of America’s Top Entrepreneurs

Image via Forbes

We’re in the throes of election season where topics like job creation and unemployment rates are being thrown around by candidates, pundits and citizens, alike. Did you catch last night’s debate?

While both sides of the aisle have ideas for change, Jim Clifton, the Chairman of Gallup, suggested that what we really need is more entrepreneurship inspiring people to start companies and grow organizations, ultimately leading to more job opportunities.

Well, ForbesAlan Hall recently spoke with 100 founders of growing businesses about the “Aha” moments that solidified their decision to move forward with their entrepreneurial initiative -– what inspired them, how they did it and ultimately, how many jobs they created in the process.

Our very own Samantha DiGennaro weighed in, explaining that after 15 years as a corporate communication executive at global companies where corporate politics “starved her soul,” she knew she could build a better alternative. And so, DiGennaro Communications was born.

Read on to be inspired by the experiences of 99 other talented entrepreneurs in “100 Founders Share Their Top “Aha” Moments — Guess How Many Jobs They’ve Created So Far?”

And the Oscar Goes to… Cirque du Soleil!

Anyone else think the Cirque du Soleil performance was one of few shining moments at last night’s Oscars? While 84-year-old Oscar arguably fell a little flat last night, Cirque – soaring above the Hollywood elite – seemed forever young. Who could know the organization is more than two decades old?

That consistent “freshness” is something Xerox CMO Christa Carone describes as the “secret sauce of Cirque” in her recent Forbes piece. Read more here for lessons from Carone on how big brands can be similarly remarkable and magical in their marketing.

Extreme Couponing vs. Expired Couponing

Who doesn’t love TLC’s Extreme Couponing… But have you tried Expired Couponing? Come on, you know you’ve tried to get 50% off a second shampoo with last year’s coupon…  How’d it turn out? Barbara Apple Sullivan, founder of the brand engagement firm Sullivan, thinks there’s a lesson to be learned in how expired coupons are handled. According to Barbara, the willingness to honor an outdated voucher largely depends on the cashier’s gender: Male cashiers will accept them. Female cashiers will not. (mental note for future trips to Walgreen’s)

So what gives?

Barbara suggests that the male/female divide in Expired Couponing might have larger applications in the business world:

Based on this “coupon test” and many years as a manager, I’d venture to say that, more often than not, women take action according to the letter of the law while men are more inclined to flout rules to be true to the spirit of the law. Women are rule followers and perfectionists. They want to be right. They dot I’s and cross T’s. But that is not always the way to win the war—particularly a war that’s being fought in a world of masculine values.

This purely anecdotal “research” may sound like a sexist generalization but I point it out because women who want to be leaders can start by recognizing what it means: Sometimes it’s not only okay to bend or break the rules – it’s critical to your professional success.

What do you think? Ever broken a rule in business?  Did it turn out poorly or does it usually work to your benefit in the end?

Check out Barbara’s full article on here: Women and Rule-breaking: Why It’s Essential for Business Success 

Social Media and Your Volunteer Sales Force

Most companies today have jumped on the social media bandwagon. They have a Facebook fan page, a Twitter feed, and perhaps a variety of other sources like blogs and photo-sharing sites that distribute a wide range of information to a community ready to see and listen. Yet, not all companies have figured out how to engage their community in active discussion or turn those followers into buyers.

And let’s face it. Social media is fun, but it is also a time-consuming process that demands a great deal of energy. Today’s companies want (and need) to understand how to make social media work for them to help improve customer relationships and provide a return on their investment.

With this in mind, Dave Balter, founder and CEO of BzzAgent, set out to share a few tips with on what large and small companies can do to facilitate online and real-world conversations. Discussions that work to boost loyalty and (perhaps even more important) create a volunteer sales force to achieve greater success.

Check out what Dave has to say here and let us know if you have any tips of your own.

Are You Saving Trees?

Interesting news came out of the publishing world in recent weeks, with Hearst Magazines announcing a deal to begin selling three of its magazines – Esquire, Popular Science and O, the Oprah Magazine – for the iPad, using Apple’s subscription model. That came shortly after Time Inc.’s announcement about its Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune titles, and was immediately followed by today’s news that Condé will soon offer iPad subscriptions to its Vanity Fair, Glamour, The New Yorker and others. Seems every major publisher is getting on board. The challenge, however, is how to get advertisers to do the same.

You’d think the ultra-targeting of ads that technologies like tablets offer, and the ultra-effective types of ad units publishers are developing for the digital realm, would help lock the deal. The challenge is how to count a digital subscriber relative to a print edition subscriber when it comes to determining ad rates. According to The New York Times, the Audit Bureau of Circulations has said that each digital subscription should count toward the rate base — the number of copies used to sell advertising. At the same time, publishers still demand a much higher premium for a print ad versus one that appears online.

It’s an interesting situation and one that I’ll leave to the advertising world to shake out. As a PR guy, there’s a similar issue to grapple with tied to earned media and its value, as dedicated online content delivered by publishers becomes more robust. Forbes’ CEO and CMO Networks, The New York Times’ Media Decoder, and Fast Company’s 30 Second MBA are just three of many highly influential online destinations we work with regularly to help showcase the vision and leadership of our C-suite clients. When a video interview posts to such a site, or breaking news hits there first, we can tell within minutes that the marketing influencers and brand decision makers we’re trying to reach are, in fact, paying attention to the message, sharing it with others, etc.

Despite the proven effectiveness of these types of placements as part of a broader thought leadership strategy, the fact is that many C-suiters ask that our efforts on their behalf focus almost exclusively on securing opportunities on the printed page. They believe their inclusion in a Fast Company printed edition story, for example, will carry a higher perceived value among prospects, clients, employees, investors and business partners than even deeper editorial coverage that would appear on We have a multitude of evidence that suggests otherwise, including their own admissions that they’re consuming most of their business reading online today. It doesn’t seem to sway them – yet.

What about you? Do you find yourself more engaged, persuaded, impressed, etc., by a story or mention that appears in print rather than – or in addition to – online? For me, the answer is a definite “no.” In fact, other than diving into that beautiful thing that is the Sunday New York Times every week, my life has become so “digital,” the impact of one distribution channel versus another has entirely faded away. I guess I’m saving a lot of trees. How about you?

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