“Trending Now” Turns Hashtags into Expert Roundtable

We all know the power of a hashtag. #RedNoseDay – a fundraising, or “fun-raising,” campaign for children and young people living in poverty – has been the top U.S. trend on Twitter all day. Social media provide previously unimaginable visibility to these inspiring initiatives. And when coupled with offline efforts, such as Red Nose Day’s three-hour special on NBC tonight, awareness for pressing issues can reach great heights.

With a head nod to the hashtag, we’re excited to introduce our “Trending Now” event at ISTE 2015. The roundtable brings together education leaders with diverse backgrounds to discuss trending education topics – #edtech, #speced, #cybersafety, and more. In short, it’s taking #edchat offline, providing media with access to expert opinions on the most pressing issues in education.

This year’s panelists include:

  • Jennifer Gardner, Director, IT Finance & Subsidies, School District of Philadelphia
  • Tom Kilgore, Educator, Lewisville Independent School District, Texas (@Tom_Kilgore and founder of #TxEduChat)
  • Gina Piero, Instructional Coach, Worthington City School District, Ohio (@gina_piero)
  • Stephanie Ekis, MS, CCC-SLP, Manager of Education and Learning, Tobii Dynavox
  • Helen Padgett, Ph.D., ISTE Past President (@hlpadgett)

The roundtable discussion is part of BuzzHub, our new series that offers a variety of exclusive opportunities to top-tier media, bloggers, industry VIPs and associations. “Trending Now” will feature a one-hour, quick-hitting conversation, followed by a Q&A session for attendees. Registration details are below.

So, we ask: What topics would you like to hear the experts discuss?

Eventbrite - Trending Now at #ISTE2015

When? Monday, June 29, from 4-5 p.m. ET

Where? Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Rooms 401-403

People Behind the PR: Dusten Carlson

CB&A is an agency that values its team, and we hope you enjoy learning a bit more about the people behind the PR.

1497453_889703420613_4759589863116028370_nDog or cat person? Dog, for sure.

Early riser or night owl? A little of both, depends on the day. Workdays, early riser for sure. Weekends, well...

Best PR advice you can fit inside of a Tweet? Make your message as brief and punchy as possible. #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag

Number one song played on your iPod? Right now, I'm listening to a lot of The Handsome Family. They did the theme song for HBO's True Detective.

What would be your last meal on Earth? If I knew I was going to die, I wouldn't be able to keep anything down.

If you weren't in PR, what would you be doing? Probably trying to write the next great American novel. Keyword - trying.

What is the first meal you learned to cook? Either Pizza Rolls or Ramen (I learned in college, obviously).

Favorite candy? I will pretty much eat anything that has any amount of sugar in it.

Favorite movie? My favorites are kind of on a rotating basis. Right now, I'm feeling Leon the Professional.

If you could have one super power, what would it be? Shape shifting for sure. Imagine what an employment advantage it would be if you could be your boss in that meeting she can't make it to!

Best vacation you ever took? Cancun, hands down.

If you could have dinner with your favorite literary author or character, who would you choose? Ernest Hemingway. Another no-brainer.

What was you favorite part of going to school at Rockford College? Being a Graduate Assistant which allowed me to work on campus and with undergraduate students.


CB&A Introduces BuzzHub, An Innovative Visibility Event To Debut At ISTE 2015

BuzzHub ISTE 2015

At C. Blohm & Associates, we’ve built our name on bringing leaders in education and the media together, and for more than 20 years, our mission hasn’t changed. That core value of increasing visibility opportunities for our clients, who work hard to change the lives of students and the face of the education industry, is still foundational to the work CB&A does on a daily basis. With that in mind, we’re proud to introduce the next phase in our continued commitment to that idea: BuzzHub.

We’ve taken all the successful components of our award-winning Media Central events, and reimagined ways to make the event even more meaningful and relevant to our industry partners. That was the inspiration for BuzzHub, and we’re happy to announce its rollout this year at the International Society for Technology in Education Conference & Expo (ISTE 2015) in Philadelphia.

“After a decade of demonstrated success with Media Central, we carefully analyzed how to enhance the core of our award-winning event with fresh opportunities,” said Charlene Blohm, president of CB&A. “By bringing together companies and industry influencers in a number of diverse settings, BuzzHub generates the visibility our clients deserve, provides the media with ample access to stories and partnerships, and ultimately enhances the education and special needs landscapes.”

BuzzHub takes a mutually beneficial, layered approach to visibility at conferences, offering a variety of exclusive opportunities to top-tier media, bloggers, industry VIPs and companies. The event is the culmination of five aptly named components:

  • Interact Now, one-on-one interactions with tools putting trends into action
  • Trending Now, educator-led roundtable discussions on timely issues
  • Connect Now, after-hours social events offering purposeful networking
  • Breaking Now, news conferences spotlighting major announcements
  • Collaborate Now, focus groups bringing influential minds to the table.

ISTE BuzzHub

BuzzHub will launch proper during ISTE 2015 on June 29 and 30 at the Philadelphia Marriott. Interact Now, Trending Now and Connect Now will run in that order from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. EST. Breaking Now and Collaborate Now will round out BuzzHub’s events on Tuesday, June 30.

You can check out the graphic above, or follow us on social for more announcements from CB&A on BuzzHub at ISTE 2015. You can also check out more at our website (which received a stellar recent makeover, by the way), or shoot us an email at

People Behind the PR: Preston Schmitt

CB&A is an agency that values its team, and we hope you enjoy learning a bit more about the people behind the PR.

Preston PicDog or cat person? Sloth. Seriously, I want a pet sloth.

Early riser or night owl? Night owl who’s slowly but surely turning into an early riser.

Best PR advice you can fit inside a Tweet? Communicate. Clear, timely communication ensures that expectations remain aligned and everyone stays on the same page.

Number one song played on your iPod? True story: I’ve never owned an iPod or MP3 player. On Spotify, it’s probably “Help I’m Alive” by Metric. Songs by Tegan and Sara, Pat Benatar and Lorde are also up there.

What would be your last meal on Earth? Ideally, an elixir. Realistically, a steak.

If you weren't in PR, what would you be doing? Probably working in higher education or sports. Also, writing a book is on my (retirement) bucket list.

What is the first meal you learned to cook? My grandmother introduced me to Ramen Noodles at a pretty early age. The key, she used to say, is to use less water than the package recommends. She was right.

Favorite candy? Skittles. #BeastMode

Favorite movie? Moneyball.

If you could have one super power, what would it be? Teleportation. Life would be infinitely more efficient and accessible.

Best vacation you ever took? A spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Much tennis was played and much sun was soaked up.

If you could have dinner with your favorite literary author or character, who would you choose? bell hooks or Renée Richards.

What was your favorite part of going to school at UW-Madison? The Memorial Union. I spent many hours studying, eating, relaxing and working there; it was basically my second home. Nothing beats a book and drink on the Terrace in the summer.

SXSW Advice for Content Marketers: Know Thyself

Or, more accurately: Know your company. More about this in a minute.

Top brass from several multi-national corporations doled-out this self-awareness advice to a hot, crowded room of marketing professionals – me included – this month at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas.SXSW

Titled “Content Marketing vs. Don Draper: The End Of Ads,” the session set out to explore how “real innovation, creative energy and money in digital marketing seems headed away from traditional advertising.”

In the days after attending this session, I weeded through the murky, abstract ideas presented to identify three actionable steps marketers can take to ensure they’re keeping pace with the General Electrics, L'Oreals and Dells of the world.

Start with your brand. Digital/content marketing activities need a reliable anchor or else marketers risk floating too far afield. Ask and answer: What is our brand?; What does our brand mean to customers?; What does our brand mean to employees?; What does our brand mean to the public?; What do we WANT our brand to represent? These questions are not easily answered, but they get to the heart of what we as marketers are trying to accomplish. If we don’t truly understand our brands, how can we expect to effectively communicate it to internal and external audiences? Know thyself.

Modernize your budget. It’s time for content production/promotion to have its own line item in marketers’ budgets. Content marketing is frequently co-mingled with other miscellaneous activities. Marketers are then often hamstrung by budget constraints when trying to create and promote compelling campaigns that effectively reach increasingly segmented audiences. We can save ourselves future headaches by earmarking resources specifically for that blow-your-doors-off video we haven’t even dreamt-up yet.

Value experimentation. Certain activities are staples of marketers’ mix year after year. Stick with what works. Equally important, though, is experimentation and tinkering. We can nurture creativity by giving our teams time and space to try new things. Retain the new elements that worked, strive to find out WHY they worked and replicate those successes over and over again. With a core of reliable, proven activities, along with fringe activities, we can constantly evolve our winning mix of marketing elements.

Perhaps one of our biggest challenges and opportunities as marketers is the changing media landscape. Audiences are more fragmented each day. The masses are harder to reach all at once, but we can more easily identify and target specific segments. Done well, content marketing conveys powerful brand messages directly to the people we want to influence the most.

What techniques have worked well in your marketing programs?

Charlene Blohm Recognized as Education Trendsetter

etd-ts-win-2015In advance of Autism Awareness Month in April, we are proud to share that Charlene Blohm has been recognized for her dedication to serving the special needs industry. Last week she earned the 2015 Trendsetter Award from EdTech Digest. The annual awards program recognizes bold leaders who work to advance the education technology landscape.

This year, CB&A is celebrating the second anniversary of its Special Needs Division, the first of its kind in public relations. In addition to promoting innovations for people with special needs, our agency devotes resources to spreading acceptance. We'll be wearing blue on April 2 to celebrate Autism Awareness Month, and we encourage you to do the same for Autism Speaks’ annual Light It Up Blue campaign.

The CB&A team is honored to work with companies who believe in our mission to support the education and special needs industries. And a special shout-out to our clients who won EdTech Digest Awards as well: Edsby, Knovation,, Skyward and Karen Billings from ETIN-SIIA. Please join us in congratulating Charlene on the CB&A Facebook page. And we’d love to see a photo of your team in blue next week!

CB&A Selected to Lead First-Ever CETL Summit

Last week, CB&A facilitated the first-ever Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) Summit during the annual Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) conference in Atlanta. We invited Dennis Pierce, founder of Pierce Publishing, and Jaime Sarrio, education reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to lead portions of the Summit.

The Summit focused on communications best practices for education technology leaders. CoSN developed the CETL certification for K-12 district personnel to master the knowledge and skills needed to successfully foster modern learning environments. Through a mixture of group discussions and presentations, participants gained internal and external strategies to help them communicate their technology vision and respond to media queries and crisis situations.

The goal of the event was to help each attendee acquire effective communication skills to gain support for their leadership initiatives from key stakeholders, ranging from teachers to parents and local businesses. Technology leaders learned that it is just as important to gain support for technology-driven education from the greater community as it is from teachers, curriculum directors and administrators.

Participants left the Summit with a sense of empowerment about the future of their districts and the presence of education technology in their classrooms. We are proud to have played a leading role in the inaugural event, and the insights gained will continue to inspire our visibility efforts in support of education technology.

View the photos below for an inside peek of the CETL Summit:

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Three Companies Join the CB&A Family

The arrival of spring brings three new companies to our expanding client family: ORIGO Education, Red Jumper Studio and Toolwire. While we’re waiting for the snow to melt, here’s a short overview of each company and its product offering.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.51.46 PMORIGO Education is focused on all things elementary math education, from traditional printed products to digital interactive resources and professional learning. The company’s feature program, Stepping Stones, blends digital and print resources to deliver a comprehensive, core mathematics curriculum for grades K-5. Stepping Stones is used in more than 100 districts serving more than 450,000 students nationwide.

Red Jumper StudioScreen shot 2015-03-20 at 4.05.39 PM has geared its mobile application toward fostering children’s creativity by helping them bring their visions to life. The Book Creator app helps children design photo books, art books and other ideas they may have. With the ability to add text, images, video, music and narration, the app allows each child to produce his or her own masterpiece. Book Creator has been used to create more than 10 million books across 80 countries.

Screen shot 2015-03-20 at 4.07.54 PMToolwire is designed to help students learn by using a hands-on approach. Since the company’s beginning, the range and scope of its products has grown immensely. Originally, it focused on users’ learning experience. As times changed, the company now focuses on interactive products and recently launched LearnScapes. This program offers video characters, photos and entertaining storylines.

All three companies, ORIGO Education, Red Jumper Studio and Toolwire, share the common goal of providing students with the best possible learning experience while inspiring and empowering teachers. We look forward to sharing their stories (and warm weather) with you in the coming months!

SXSWedu: Moving Forward or Running in Place?

At SXSWedu 2015, much of the discussion was about data: Big data, data privacy, how to use data, who gets see data, and everything else in between. And while data is an important issue that seemed to be the only thing anyone was able to agree on. In almost every instance the example of inBloom was brought up, but in th

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.08.32 AM

e two years since it’s hard to see what progress has been made on this topic. Panels were somewhat stagnant and didn’t offer much in way of solutions for the issue at hand.

There were two exceptions to this however. “How to Create a Data Privacy Policy” provided a strong outline of how to build a privacy policy. While this was directed more at administrators to inform parents and other stakeholders of how data will be used, it was one of the few sessions that the subject matter tied closely to the session title and provided actionable steps attendees could take home with them.

The other session “Who Gets to See and Use Big Data?” stood out due to the liveliness of the panelists involved. While most of the sessions seemed oddly subdued, presenters from LightSail Educationand Noodle passionately took opposing views on the topic and provided thoughtful insights. More of that kind of energy would have been welcome throughout the conference.

The two main themes to come out of the data privacy sessions were “transparency” and “data with context.” The first idea is how vendors and schools need to explicitly and simply state how student data is being used. The second idea is a push to make sure data isn't being presented in a vacuum. Data is going to become a fantastic tool, but without someone willing to step up and deliver actionable steps, the issue will be left spinning its wheels.

The same can be said for the other sessions. There seems to be a real need to push the topics beyond the basics and provide genuine insight into the topics being discussed. As one presenter mentioned, it’s 2015. Most educators and vendors know the internet is a useful resource for classroom instruction and while there are some educators still resistant to moving away from the analog methods of teaching, that number is shrinking, and isn't the audience for this kind of event anyway.

SXSWedu is unlike any other industry event, but it needs to keep pushing forward or it’s going to get stuck in place.

Congrats to 2015 EdTech Digest Award Finalists

The EdTech Digest Award finalists have been announced! The program recognizes the contributions of companies and leaders who work tirelessly to reshape education and create a better learning environment for students.

This year, our own Charlene Blohm has been selected as a finalist for the Trendsetter Award. For more than 20 years, CB&A has specialized in visibility campaigns for the education industry. In 2013, CB&A launched a Special Needs Division, making it the first public relations firm to specialize in this increasingly important market.

CB&A is also proud to share that many of our clients and associates are finalists this year. Each has made large strides in pushing education innovation forward. We wish our colleagues best of luck and many more years of success to come!

Cool Tool Award Finalists

Leadership Award Finalists