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    1. 5 Ways to Get Girls to Fall in Love With STEM

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      President Obama recently announced his Computer Science for All initiative to fund computer science training programs in K-12 public schools. But before assessing the need at a national level, entrepreneurs and tech companies have been assessing and advocating for the need for more STEM education on their own; because as we all know…nothing happens without the innovators making it happen. Funding is great, but it has to be coupled with influencers who are advocating and championing change and quite literally getting kids to “fall in love” with science, engineering, technology and math.

      One such influencer, fashion icon Rebecca Minkoff, has become someone I greatly admire in terms of really “getting” the disconnect between what makes STEM appealing to millennials, particularly girls. Not only is she acknowledged as one of the most forward-thinking leaders in fashion when it comes to emerging technologies (hello, smart dressing rooms), last year she and U.N. Women announced a partnership built around their shared commitment to gender equality by creating new opportunities for women in tech.

      In a recent conversation I had with her, Minkoff aptly points out: “The future of fashion depends on STEM, whether in product innovation, wearables, or data analytics and e-commerce. There are tons of women working in STEM now who can help to expose others to what they do.”

      So how do we get girls to fall in love with STEM at an early age? Does age even matter? Caroline Ghosn, Co-Founder and CEO of millennial mentorship platform Levo League, comments, “Every age is an age of influence. We focus on millennials because it’s the largest generation currently in the workforce. We cannot solve the STEM gender gap without solving it for millennials. They’re our first digital natives and they’re willing to learn quickly.”

      Furthermore, every company will someday be a technology company, and the way you attract female talent in a male-dominated environment is by shedding light on the women that already occupy that space. That taken into account, here are five impactful ways to get girls to fall in love with STEM.

      #1 – Embrace the power of storytelling. Instead of pulling the weeds of why there’s a gender gap in STEM roles to begin with, let’s water the flowers that are already there: give girls real-life examples of women who are already succeeding in STEM roles so they can better envision pathways of their own. Ghosn comments, “It can be very challenging to be what you can’t see. Think about it in the physical world. You walk into a room and no one looks like you. Can you relate to them? Do you feel welcome? Let’s stop talking about how men dominate the technology industry and instead focus on the women who are killing it.”

      Through Levo League’s Office Hours videos, career-advice interviews, and profiles outlining women who are succeeding in STEM roles, the platform creates mentorship opportunities for young women that they may not have had access to otherwise.

      #2 – Demonstrate how STEM aligns with hobbies girls are already into. Ayah Bdeir, Founder and CEO of littleBits electronic building blocks, sought out to create a gender-neutral toy meant to unleash creativity and instill a love for STEM through the cycle of inventing. “We get girls to fall in love with STEM by showing them how it fits in with hobbies they’re already in love with. STEM doesn’t have to be this thing that you do. It can exist in any profession, hobby, or activity you like, whether robotics, arts-and-crafts, fashion, or social activities.”

      As a result, she sees girls learning to code by designing interactive games, inventing adaptive keyboards, and solving real-world problems via their littleBits creations.

      #3 – Encourage the exploration of extra-curricular learning settings. In addition to President Obama’s Computer Science For All initiative, The White House Council of Women and Girls has compiled resources for women in in tech, setting the tone for advocacy and advancement in STEM education. But until coding is a regular part of public-school curriculums, we can help the cause by encouraging the exploration of other educational resources like Udemy (I recently started a Neuroscience course!), or General Assembly, all of which are home to a range of one-off and extended courses in data science, computer programming, user experience design, and more.

      Encouraging girls and young women to take initiative in finding learning opportunities of their own can arm them with technological skills that will put them ahead of the game, and fill the STEM education gap now.

      #4 – Don’t focus on one particular age of influence. Although there may be a an age when instilling a love for STEM is key, women of all ages benefit from seeing how science, technology, engineering, and math fit into their existing roles or future careers. Bdeir adds, “Studies show that the age of 8 is when girls’ interest in STEM starts dropping dramatically.”

      But there are still many open windows for showing women how they can benefit from adding STEM tasks to their tool belts regardless of age. Think about the power of a copywriter with design skills, a teacher who can code a website for a student group, or a seasoned chef capable of teaching her staff how to cash out at the end of the night when the power goes out. There’s power in STEM education during every phase of our careers and lives.

      #5 – If you’re a woman in STEM, play your part. From participating in a hackathon, speaking on a panel about women in technology, mentoring a local student, or placing an intern, there are countless ways to get involved today. Rebecca Minkoff took part in an AdWeek panel where she helped to shed a light on the struggles related to female leadership; but you don’t have to be famous to have an impact! Start by writing a Medium article about what you do in STEM and share the heck out of it. Send it to a university or let it act as your own open-call for taking on a mentee.

      The moral of the story?

      We have to encourage girls to engage with technology regardless of their career path, and there are a million ways to go about it. The bottom-line way to get girls to fall in love with STEM is by highlighting how it touches every part of their worlds.

      Originally published in Inc. Magazine.
    2. PART 2: Big Data 101 for PR

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      We know, we know…sequels so rarely live up to the hype of originals, but I can assure you this part duex is guaranteed to deliver as much punch and pizzazz as what came before.

      A few weeks ago my colleague and engineering partner-in-crime, Frank Jing, knocked it out of the park with his succinct and astute overview of Big Data and its role in PR (Part 1). 

      Not only did he touch on what Big Data is and why PR peeps should care about it, he also provided insights into how to think about this phenomenon and three reasons to embrace Big Data now.

      Whadda guy!

      As someone who lives and breathes Big Data on a daily basis (no seriously, I’m currently surrounded), I want to take one step further and provide some actionable ways you can harness the power of Big Data.

      Once you are fixed on the Big Data idea and nailed all the basics, it’s time to identify the challenges or problems you wish to solve and how best to solve them.

      Here are 7 of my suggestions:

      1. List all your current frustrations plaguing your work. There’s a good chance Big Data can solve quite a few!big-data-101-for-PR

      2. Get familiar with the most common terminologies of Big Data. Look up things like predictive modeling, natural language processing, data mining, databases, etc. Treat these words like medical jargons. You don’t have to know them inside and out, but it’s better to know *of* them when your doctor err…engineer…starts using them.

      3. Make it a point to regularly talk with your tech people, but be patient. The language barrier may be high at first, and the same word can (and often does) mean different things in different circumstances, but good data people will be able to translate. Use their expertise to your advantage!

      4. Decide if your Big Data strategy will be DIY or if outside help is required. Big Data means big decisions. The expenses of buying equipment, managing databases, integrating with existing systems, and doing automated analysis can be significant up front. Luckily, there are more and more companies providing customized solutions for Big Data, but it’s worth considering if you have the resources in house to get you up and running in the interim.

      5. Start collecting data NOW! This is an “act first, ask questions later” kind of mindset. Yes, yes, it is crucial to develop a robust strategy for collecting, structuring, and storing data. But big data is an iterative process that begins with collecting data. It’ll be much easier to refine your collection and storage strategy as you go. Besides, storage is cheap and you can always discard what you don’t need.

      6. Figure out what your data is telling you. Obviously, having the data is only half the story. Deriving insights and weaving those into your storytelling is also paramount. I suggest sitting with a data-minded individual and talking through your hypotheses. Starting with postulations can often be the easiest jumping off point to affirm or debunk your subjective hunches.

      7. Keep up with what’s happening in the advancement of technology. The tides change fast, so be sure you know how to surf ‘em. Pick 1-2 tech focused publications and make it a point to do a monthly or bi-weekly deep dive into their coverage so you stay in the know.

      Perhaps most importantly, believe in the power of data-driven decisions. It won’t replace experience and it’s no substitute for human capital or emotional intelligence, but like a great sequel, it can deliver unique insights and give you a fresh new perspective.

      Here’s to the power of Big Data!

    3. 5 Tenets of PRTech + 2015 PRTech Awards Recap

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      Last week in New York, #TeamAirPR hosted the 2015 PRTech Awards to honor the leading minds in PR, Marketing, Technology and Media. Needless to say, the brainpower gathered in one room was staggering. (You can peruse a few snaps of the mind meld here.)

      Everyone in attendance was there to acknowledge that our industry is at a great point of convergence and the future has never looked brighter for PR. The individuals honored were nominated because their innovative work is propelling the PRTech ecosystem forward at an unprecedented pace.

      2015-PRTech-AwardsBesides having an excuse to throw a great party (isn’t that what PR pros do all day anyway?), this was also our opportunity to show gratitude to the folks who are bringing greater visibility to all the opportunities that exist in the PRTech space.

      This is not just about the work AirPR is doing. It’s about recognizing that the work we do wouldn’t be nearly as impactful without all the other amazing companies who surround and complement us. As our sage Chief Strategy Officer astutely quoted (the African proverb), “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

      And we want to go far…really, really far. Which means we are committed to going together.

      In order to ensure everyone is properly equipped to tap into its power, we’ve recapped the 5 main tenets of PRTech below. These are are meant to reinforce the importance of this conversation and cement your adherence to this movement.

      Let’s do this.

      5 Main Tenets of PRTech

      1. Technological Innovation

      Technological innovation is ushering in some of the most exciting shifts the PR industry has seen and we should embrace this paradigm shift that helps us all be more strategic in our communication efforts. Instead of fearing or being overwhelmed by tech, we need to commit to researching new platforms and learning new skills that help us communicate better and measure PR smarter.

      The PRTech ecosystem is quickly becoming STACKED with amazing tools to help PR pros do their job better, so dive in. Every tool in the ever-growing ecosystem is waiting to take PR to the next level.

      2. Access To Data

      PRTech is raising the industry’s “accountability bar” by demanding that PR professionals use data to drive and optimize their efforts. The best part? By tapping the tools and services that stem from technological innovation, PR has more data at its fingertips than ever before.

      Though the volume of data can overwhelming at first, it’s when data becomes the foundation of PR’s decision making process that everyone sits up and takes notice. Data-driven decision making is the key to establishing PR as a significant piece of the digital marketing puzzle and a key driver of business.

      3. Data Literacy

      The ability to read, create, and communicate data as information (aka data literacy) is another key pillar of PRTech. It’s not just about accumulating data, it’s also finding and communicating meaning in the numbers. Luckily, there are number of resources in the PRTech ecosystem expressly devoted to helping PR pros tell stories using data.

      What good is data if you can’t communicate the findings in a compelling and sharable manner? With more tools and resources available than ever, PRTech is rife with opportunities for PR pros to apply quantitative insights to their qualitative work. The future of PR depends on storytellers who can also look at data and infer possible outcomes.

      4. Metrics That Matters

      PRTech shifts the paradigm of the PR silo from “cost center” to “profit center” as the industry begins to have solid metrics to prove the true impact of PR beyond mere brand awareness. PRTech is providing companies and publishers insights into what is working in terms of content and messages. Access to data is allowing PR pros to capture user behavior, engagement, web traffic, and specific interactions across various digital properties.

      Furthermore, PRTech is uncovering what really matters versus the numbers that make the ego feel good but don’t actually provide any true insight. In other words: let’s work smarter not harder.

      5. Relationships

      There is tremendous opportunity in the PRTech ecosystem, but the one thing we can never lose sight of is that relationships are, and always will be, at the heart of PR. Data can provide feedback on what works, but at the end of the day it’s always about people and how they think and feel.

      Jennifer Hirsch, founder of Marked Point, put it best, “PR is a human discipline. Even if you never see your customers, you are having a very real impact on people making decisions. Use your intuition and emotional intelligence to walk in their shoes and then connect to them in real human ways.”

      Data is empowering the industry to tell better stories, prove our value, and reach further. Measurement is providing robust audience insights that are invaluable to content production and social engagement. PR is moving fast and gaining ground and now is the time to harness the power to technological innovation to propel PR into the driver’s seat.

      Buckle up. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

    4. Rick Liebling On The Power of 3: PR + Social + Tech

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      It’s been said that three is a magic number and when you stop to think about it, some of the best things in life really do come in 3’s.

      Three-piece suits…three little pigs…three sheets to the wind…ok, maybe not that last one, but you get my drift.

      In an effort to channel the power of three, we’re taking you on video exploration of the convergence of PR, social media, and technology.

      To lead our triumvirate travels, we enlisted Unmetric’s Head of Global Marketing, Rick Liebling. A veteran marketer with more than 15 years of agency experience, Rick currently heads Unmetric’s marketing initiatives across the brand, product, and content communication strategies.

      The long-time former PR practitioner turned global marketer is rocking at the center of social, PR, and tech, which make him uniquely qualified to speak on the shifts driving the landscape.

      Rick operates under the firm belief that the vast amounts of PR and social media data available can be used to not only optimize all current efforts, but should also inform future decision-making across marketing. HEAR HEAR!

      We sat down for a candid (and enlightening) conversation with Rick where he graciously shared his thoughts around how social analytics, PR measurement, and innovative technology can work together to demonstrate bottom line business impact.

      Here are just a few of the tasty tidbits Rick offered up. All the videos are under 3 minutes and chock full insightful takeaways from one of the best in the biz.


      On integrating social media into the greater PR/comms strategy:

      Rick Tip #1: Bring social media into the conversation early and involve them in the entire process from creative brief to ideation.


    5. LinkedIn’s leading ladies talk PR, tech, and changing the world


      As a career professional, can you imagine a world without LinkedIn? It would be like trying to function without a pencil in a one-room schoolhouse. Ridiculous.

      LinkedIn has essentially replaced the need for business cards, since you can basically use it as a modern day Rolodex. #Connections.

      Furthermore, if you’ve ever looked for a job, hired people, or simply wanted to showcase your savvy skills so that others (maybe recruiters, perhaps former love interests) can continually watch you rise to super star status you’ve certainly benefitted from it. #Compete

      More recently, particularly for those of us who love to hear ourselves speak, the LinkedIn publishing platform is usurping established digital incumbents as a viable channel for sharing news, thoughts, and anything in between (minus the annoying cat photos and celebrity rants). #Content

      Because I’m a HUGE fan on LinkedIn, not only as a utility for my every day professional life, but also as a company, I was thrilled to sit down with a few of my favorite “LinkedIn Ladies” (Sarah Clatterbuck, Erica Lockheimer, and Kenly Walker) to talk PR, tech, and how they are generally making the world a better place.

      Here are a few highlights from the interview, which I highly recommend you listen to below.

      1. Hear about some of the exciting #WomenInTech initiatives going on at the company including World Pitch on June 24th and 25th.

      2. What recent acquisition will enable learning? According to Forbes it may have been the best acquisition money could buy.

      3. Umm, this one’s really important: learn how to make your profile “Anonymous” so people can’t see you’re stalking them. It’s a little hidden, so it’s not you!

      4. Did you know…Journalists actually often do preliminary research on LinkedIn, and CEOs appreciate that journalists do their “due diligence” and are often more willing to chat.

      5. Sarah Clatterbuck (Director of Web Development) tells us how to best use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool.

      6. Kenly Walker (PR) gives tips on using LinkedIn as an “owned media channel” for company news.

      7. Learn about the modernized Girl Scouts and what they’re doing with STEM: “from cookies to computer science.” It’s not your mom’s Girl Scouts!

      8. Want to know what a “Happy Path” is? Erica Lockheimer (Director of Engineering Growth) tells all.

      That’s just the tip of the iceberg…there’s so so soooo much more…

      Be sure to check out  the full interview and give yourself a few more reasons to HEART the world’s leading business-oriented social networking service.

    6. How to Think About Gender Inequality and Diversity in Tech

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      Last fall I attended the very fashionable and mildly geek-chic Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event, now home to “Nadella-gate.”

      There, I observed a sea of 8,000 women aged eighteen to eighty who were there for one express purpose: to understand the technology landscape and future of computing and how it may affect their respective lives–career and otherwise.

      My thinking around gender inequality (in this particular case, with regard to the technology industry) tends to align with GoDaddy CTO Elissa Murphy’s thinking when we sat down at the conference to discuss gender gaps, among other things: “I never got the memo that I wasn’t supposed to go to the computer lab, or play baseball, or do any other thing I wanted to do. Being a girl never had anything to do with it.”

      On the flip side, as Erica Lockheimer, Director of Engineering Growth at LinkedIn, pointed out: “When you talk to younger generations, the stereotypes about being a girl in computing still exist: we’re introverted geeks who lack social skills and just want to stare at a computer screen all day. It’s in everything from the things they watch on TV to what they see on the Internet.”

      What is the truth about why more girls don’t pursue engineering careers? Is it because men are holding them back? Is it because “the system” (that beast! The thing we blame when we can’t identify a culprit) is sending the wrong messages?

      If we put gender aside for a moment, and focus on the benefits of diversity within industries and organizations, the thinking ever so slightly shifts into a solutions-based paradigm. The by-product of this modification is a distinct emphasis on a person’s love for a particular subject matter, area of expertise, or knowledge base that allows them to thrive. Along with continued discourse and a general awareness of “unconscious bias,” I am almost certain that if we focused on the following things, we would see seismic shifts in terms of the number of people (who happen to be female) who pursue careers in engineering and other technical roles.

      EDUCATION: Thinking about computing education as art, rather than just science

      It’s very easy to get stuck in our thinking that pursuing a degree in computer science means one is only adept with numbers. But the truth is that “coding” is actually very similar to learning a language; a language that happens to be numbers based. When curricula systematically approach engineering from the standpoint of science or math, they fundamentally deny those with a propensity for learning languages or a passion for art the opportunity to pursue this path. We have done a disservice by talking about STEM in terms of left-brains, rather than a creative pursuit that requires a different set of skills, often soft skills, in order to master it.


    7. Tech Talk With Sir Mix-A-Lot

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      I get a lot of email. Like, A LOT. My team often teases me that my inbox and calendar look more like an anti-productivity war zone than the carefully color-coded, organized chaos it actually is. There is a method to my madness, people!

      Back in January, I received an email that basically made my year, thus far.

      “Would I be interested in chatting with Sir Mix-A-Lot ahead of SXSW 2015?” Uh, does a bear sh*t in the woods?

      Mixalot02Did any of you know that the “Butt Guy” (as he lovingly refers to himself) is a self-proclaimed tech dork AND a huge proponent of the power of convergence? I mean, it’s like we nerd soul mates or something.

      So after some careful orchestration among the very adept and very thoughtful PR folks from SXSW, I got to sit down for a solid chat with Mix. That’s what I call him now, cuz we’re cool like that.

      I wasn’t EXACTLY sure what I was getting myself into, but then again – that’s the way I like it. Jumping head first into a potential pile of steaming cow dung, hoping my parachute will open up at some point before I hit the ground.

      Needless to say, we had a blast and his publicist emailed me later saying he thought the interview was…and I quote caps and all: “F@CKING AWESOME.” Lucky for you, I did record the entire thing for your listening pleasure.

      Editor’s note: There is some content that has been bleeped out, so be forewarned. And he says the F-word approximately 68 times, but it’s entirely contextual.

      Here’s just a taste of what The Real Mix served up and some of the highlights of our candid conversation:

      • Baby Got Back’s roots actually lie in racial and social commentary, not sex (it was a serious song about women of color)
      • Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 2 favorite 4-letter word expletives (because every one needs to expand their adult vocabulary)
      • His thoughts on the convergence of tech and music (hint: there’s a lot of opportunity and the consumer has never been more empowered)
      • Why Apple is just a giant record label (this guy is not afraid to call a spade a spade)
      • Why he views music as connected content and why a one-and-done mentality equates to irrelevancy (hmm…that sounds familiar)
      • 2 of his biggest failures during his career (pro tip: be wary of dried fruit)
      • Where real wealth resides (it’s not where you think)
      • His favorite tech buzzwords (do you sprechen sie geek?)
      • Who inspires him (besides Ice-T)
      • Why he’s pumped about his first visit to SXSW and what he’ll be focused on accomplishing in Austin

      Have 45 minutes? Check it out the interview now (or download it for a hilarious listen on your next flight!) and make it a great day.

      PS – Tweet to @AirPR and @TheRealMix and tell us what you thought!


    8. 7 years of Intelligibility

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      Happy between week: the most highly anticipated time of year for yours truly. I’m not sure if it’s the lull in work tasks post Chrismukkah, or the anticipation for “starting anew”…but whatever the case, I love this particular time of the year.

      I have jumped – no, leaped (more graceful if you are attempting to visualize) – to the assumption that, like me, you will spend an ample amount of time this week reading, organizing your Netflix queue, business planning for the New Year, and setting goals for how you are basically going to killit in 2015.

      Oh, and obviously you are allocating a wee bit of time for “sale shopping,” because that is the economical thing to do.

      If you’re not doing any of the above, and rather, you are sitting around lazily on the couch eating holiday leftovers, I commend you. You’re my hero. And please keep reading on because, despite your general lack of motivation at present, I believe you can still process the information.

      This between week, I have momentarily set aside my PR hat and dug deep into the recesses of my Philosophy-degree trained brain, which I knew it would come in handy eventually. I would like to pose a theory about the next seven years (it takes balls to make long term predictions, high probability of being really really “off”) – mostly in terms of business and how it may affect us as communicators of digestible information rooted in data.

      The initial philosophizing began a couple of weeks ago when I read a few particularly poignant excerpts from my current obsession: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. German Rhodes Scholar and economic advisor to a handful of governments, E.F. Schumacher, wrote the book and the original version was first published in 1973.

      How’s that for evergreen? I highly recommend it.

      Excerpt #1 (page 89):

      When people ask for education they normally mean something more than mere training, something more than mere knowledge of facts, and something more than a mere diversion. Maybe they cannot themselves formulate precisely what they are looking for; but I think what they are really looking for is ideas that would make the world, and their own lives, intelligible to them.

      When a thing is intelligible you have a sense of participation; when a thing is unintelligible you have a sense of estrangement. “Well, I don’t know,” you hear people say, as an impotent protest against the unintelligibility of the world as they meet it. If the mind cannot bring to the world a set – or, shall we say, a tool-box – of powerful ideas, the world must appear to it as chaos, a mass of unrelated phenomena, of meaningless events. Such a man is like a person in a strange land without any signs of civilization, without maps or signposts or indicators of any kind. Nothing has any meaning to him; nothing can hold his vital interest; he has no means of making anything intelligible to himself.


    9. 4 unlikely lessons from office space trends

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      Part of the beauty of being an entrepreneur is the uncanny ability to roll with the punches, adapt to change, and ultimately solve problems in a creative way. But whether you’re a first-time founder or a seasoned innovator one truth holds constant: markets do not giving a flying you know what about your product roadmap, company valuation, or engineering pedigrees.

      Nope. In fact, the irony of a free market is just how little any of this seems to matter in terms of the ultimate success of a company. Dare I bring up examples of over-hyped companies whose IPOs flopped, over-funded companies who (after years and years) still don’t have an actual profit-making enterprise, or behemoth brands with billions of dollars in the bank who can’t seem to innovate their way out of an open box.

      The point? As much as we try, it’s often hard to predict which entrepreneurial pursuits will wind up being lucrative, and which ones will take their rightful place in the graveyard of good ideas (or terrible ones) that suffered from bad timing, ill-equipped people, or poor product execution. Between all the plans and strategies and intentions of a business lie the actual and tactical components of what often end up leading to a big win; or on the other side of the coin, an ultimate failure.

      Office space trendsLately, as our company prepares for rapid growth, I’ve been thinking about things differently, which basically means more tactically. From hiring to building a culture, what are factors that we need to consider as we prepare for the next phase?

      Last week, I met with two gentlemen from CBRE, a global real estate and investment firm, to talk about office space. You know, to manifest our future digs, which will (obviously) include a yoga studio, a full kitchen, vaulted ceilings, and a spiral staircase. Uh-huh, right. What I learned, however, beyond that fact that the aforementioned criteria would likely send us into early bankruptcy, is just how insightful the statistics and data around office space trends are to understanding the current environment for aspiring businesses.

      You ready?

      From CBRE’s “U.S. Tech-Twenty: Measuring Market Impact” report, here are a few things you may want to noodle on as you build out your empire – which will require plenty of office space: