Employee Spotlight: Caitlyn Shaw, Product Manager

How Gear Patrol's Product Manager, Caitlyn Shaw, Grows Our Audience, Platform and Revenue

A core member of the team, Caitlyn Shaw is Gear Patrol's Product Manager and focuses on building products that contribute to our platform, audience and revenue growth. To say that she's worn many hats is an understatement — Caitlyn has been a part of the team since 2015 where she's worked on all facets of the business: editorial, social, marketing and now product. We sat down with Caitlyn to talk about GP, her role as the company's first Product Manager and what she's been up to in our new normal.

Hey Caitlyn! So tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you join the team, what roles have you held and what do you do at Gear Patrol?

My time at Gear Patrol began with a summer internship in 2015. After the internship, I was able to contribute to the Style Desk and some other projects while finishing my Master’s. I eventually held the full-time roles of Social Media Coordinator and Associate Audience Development Editor before actually leaving the company for a role at another publication. While it was formative to work in a new environment with such smart and talented people, I ultimately returned to Gear Patrol as Consumer Marketing Manager in 2019. My role is now Product Manager, Growth, and my job is to nourish and cultivate products that contribute to Gear Patrol’s platform, audience and revenue growth.

In moving from editorial to social, marketing and now product, what is one of the most challenging or rewarding projects that you’ve worked on?

It's hard not to mention the most recent project I’ve been a part of, which was Gear Patrol’s CMS migration. Our CEO, Eric Yang, described the project well when he said it was like removing Gear Patrol’s digital backbone and replacing it with another one. The project had many moving parts and challenges — working from home, mobilizing teams across timezones — but seeing our team rise to the challenge and knock it out of the park was certainly rewarding.

Having been on so many different teams at GP, what’s something that you’ve learnt or taken with you at each role?

Understanding what drives my professional decisions early on has helped me make better decisions as I grow in my career. I’ve learned that my diligence, a traditionally positive quality, can become less positive if I’m acting from a place of stress or anxiety. I like to work under pressure and enjoy putting in long hours to take a project to the finish line, but if the pressure becomes anxiety, my decision making isn’t as sound. I understand what it feels like to put 100 percent into a project only to discover that something unexpected has been overlooked, so knowing this about myself has also helped me compassionately relate to other team members and find solutions.

How do you see product evolving at Gear Patrol? What’s next?

Great question! The future is pretty exciting right now. With a few months of working from home under our belts and a brand new CMS with capabilities that we’re still unearthing, the possibilities for iteration and innovation feel endless. My focus for the rest of the year is to balance fine-tuning the products we already have with also launching new ones where there’s a demand for them.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you’ve been working on?

One of my favorite parts of working from home has been mornings sans-commute. On weekday mornings, I do a 30-minute workout via Zoom with my mom and sister, then settle down with a bit of reading and reflection.

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Gear Patrol Wins Big at 2020 Telly Awards

Gear Patrol is proud to announce two prestigious wins from the 41st Annual Telly Awards, the premier award honoring video and television across all screens.

Gear Patrol won the highest honor, a Gold Telly Award, for its branded content video with Hill City. The partnership featured a brand anthem that celebrated the apparel company's story and its involvement in last year's Gear Patrol Stocked, A Product Culture Conference.

In addition, the team took home a Silver in the category of Social Video - Best Use of Vertical Format for our custom Instagram Story, Running New York. Ahead of the 49th TCS NYC Marathon, Gear Patrol showcased the people and places that sculpt the city's running community.

Now in its 41st year, The Telly Awards honors the best in video and television and receives over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents. Entrants are judged by The Telly Awards Judging Council — an industry body of over 200 leading experts including advertising agencies, production companies and major television networks, reflective of the multiscreen industry and includes executives from Dow Jones, Duplass Brothers Productions, Complex Networks, A&E Networks, Hearst Media, ESPN Films, RYOT, Vice+ and Vimeo.

To view our award-winning content, please see here: Gold: Hill City x Gear Patrol & Silver: Running NYC 

Five Key Lessons That Have Shaped Gear Patrol’s Marketing & Branded Content Strategy In Our New Normal

To say that we’re living in a new normal is an understatement. It’s no doubt that our daily routines have fundamentally shifted, the timeline of our economy’s recovery is constantly in flux and it’s near impossible to say that things are “business as usual.”

At Gear Patrol — like many businesses around the world — we’re going through one of the steepest learning curves in our history. We’re figuring out how to adapt to new realities, constantly asking ourselves: “What does our audience truly care about and how can we continue to serve them best? How do we champion marketers to talk about their products? How do we go about continuing to produce great branded content?”

In light of those questions, our team has had to up our game, learning a tremendous amount along the way. Here are five key lessons and insights that have shaped our approach to media, marketing and our audience.

1. Our Mission of Product Journalism Is As Important As Ever

Products are at the heart of everything that we do at Gear Patrol. We not only talk about what a product is and why it's important, but we also talk about product culture — the stories about the people and the products that matter.

At a time like this, talking about products might feel insignificant, and at worst, it feels out of touch. But we’ve realized that we can’t ignore our role as a champion for great products, brands and the people behind them. Our Co-Founder & CCO Ben Bowers puts it best:

“The simple truth is this. The plans and goals we’ve established in a time of calm are not all suddenly meaningless because of a virus. Our mission has always been to help people make the most of their time and money through editorially-driven product recommendations, reviews and buying guides. We call this effort Product Journalism, and right now, amid viral videos of toilet paper hoarding and bogus hand sanitizer recipes, this kind of guidance feels more crucial than ever.”

2. Our Readers Crave Timely Content and Their Consumer Spending Habits and Interests Have Shifted

It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a surging interest in products that help tackle our new at-home lifestyles — kitchen products, cleaning supplies, masks and home goods thrive. But what’s interesting is that our audience is just as interested in watches, the outdoors, cars and more. They read Gear Patrol as a form of entertainment, looking to consume content that feels inspirational and aspirational.

So no matter what product or category we’re diving into, we always think about why a product is important in our new landscape. We focus on how we title our stories, how to craft timely branded content and what medium is best suited to reach our readers. For instance, REI’s Deal of Note did particularly well because we positioned its outdoor sale as a way to achieve close-to-home adventures that feel attainable today.

3. Our Readers Are Consuming Content Differently

The concept of time has changed — what used to feel like a short supply commodity, now feels much more fluid. The hours that were spent commuting in a packed subway or on traffic-jammed roads have been replaced with time spent indoors. And because it’s common for boredom, anxiety and uncertainty to set in, we all turn to devices and spend time online.

As a result, we’ve seen our traffic grow and our readers’ consumption habits change. Our unique users and page views have grown by 15%-20% MoM since stay-at-home orders have been put in place. Our data also now skews more towards desktop use and the times when our audience engages with our content have slightly shifted.

4. Our Typical Playbook For Producing Branded Content Has Been Reimagined

Gear Patrol Studios is renowned for its tried-and-true on-location and in-studio photography and video abilities. To name a few destinations, we’ve been lucky enough to travel to Iceland, Hawaii and the Channel Islands to help tell brand stories. We’re also proud of our state-of-the-art in-house photography studio at GPHQ. But with travel shut down and the office closed, we've had to think creatively on how to execute compelling high-touch branded content.

Our team has had to evolve and become more nimble — our processes are redefined, more time and effort is dedicated to pre-production coordination, and our team has even turned their homes into mini content-studios. Most recently, we published a branded content piece for Casio that was completely shot from our Head of Photography’s Brooklyn apartment that maintains Gear Patrol Studios' high standard for photography. Because our goal has still remained the same: we’re driven to create compelling campaigns at the intersection of product and culture.

5. Our Team’s Sense of Community While Working From Home Is A Priority

Working from home can be hard. The socializing that we do with our coworkers helps make days more fun, pleasant and productive. But now, it’s easy for us to avoid organic in-office conversations and get sucked into our day-to-day tasks.

So instead, teams make it a point to host daily or weekly check-ins. We kick off the day catching up about a non-work related topic — talking about bucket list destinations, sharing funny memes we’ve seen, and taking mindless online quizzes together. We throw virtual happy hours and schedule mid-day coffee chats to stay in touch. Because the truth is, we spend a lot of time at work and, especially in a pandemic, what makes Gear Patrol great and our work worthwhile are the people behind it.

We know that in the near future these key insights and lessons will continue to evolve and we’d love to hear how you and your business have been adapting too. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] to share. And if there’s any support that our team can provide, know that we’re always here to help!

Contact Us at [email protected]

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Employee Spotlight: AJ Powell, GPS Senior Content Manager

How Gear Patrol Studios' Senior Content Manager, AJ Powell, Combines His Editorial and Partnerships Experiences to Create Authentic Branded Content

AJ is Gear Patrol Studios’ Senior Content Manager, leading our branded content work from ideation to completion. An integral member of the Partnerships team, AJ has been with Gear Patrol since 2015 where he’s gained valuable experience by working on both the Editorial and Partnerships sides. I sat down with AJ to talk about his experiences at GP, how he approaches creating content, and how the team is responding to our current situation with COVID-19.

Hey AJ, so tell us a little bit about yourself! What's your experience been like working at Gear Patrol?

I started at Gear Patrol in 2015 as an intern — wearing many hats and contributing across virtually every editorial desk. Not much has changed in terms of wearing many hats, and my experience working at Gear Patrol remains equal parts fun and rewarding work. Over the years I've had the opportunity to experience some amazing things and have seen GP quadruple in size.

In moving from editorial to branded content, what’s one big thing that you’ve taken away with you? Are there any key insights or lessons learned from being able to work on both sides?

For me, the biggest takeaway is that there is no substitute for good storytelling and authentic product journalism. Regardless of topic, client, product or campaign, I strive to take the same editorial approach I honed running the Outdoors & Fitness Desk and apply it to my work with Gear Patrol Studios.

I also aim to put myself in the reader’s shoes. “What would I want to know if I was reading this story?“ Asking that simple question before diving into the production process has yielded some of my best work on both sides of the business.

You’ve created a lot of amazing work for both Editorial and GPS over the past few years. Is there a memorable moment from your adventures in creating content?

Too many to count! I think my most memorable moments were made memorable by the people I was with — whether that was my coworkers, interview subjects, journalists or other people I met along the way. Though if I had to pick one to highlight, it would be producing the Western Slope chapter in Issue 4 of the Gear Patrol Magazine.

With everything that is happening in the world right now, how have you started to think about branded content? What’s the most challenging? Do you see any opportunities for publishers and brands?

I think our CCO Zach Mader said it best: “We can’t ignore our role as a champion for great products, brands and the hard-working people behind them. At Gear Patrol, we put our mission — to help people make the most of their time and money through editorially-driven product journalism — at the heart of everything that we do.“

As far as what's most challenging, I think it's striking a balance between addressing the issue at hand and belaboring the point. We need to come from a place of understanding, but also provide people an escape from the news headlines.

For me, the biggest opportunities for publishers and brands lie in worthwhile online experiences. At Gear Patrol, we’ve moved quickly to develop new ad products that allow brands to authentically reach our consumers. For example, we launched At Home — an editorially-curated newsletter for people looking to improve their lives at home. I also see a huge opportunity with social media and live hangouts. Readers and consumers are looking for ways to stay engaged with brands and remain social — providing ways for them to do this is a huge opportunity.

While we’re all getting used to a new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that are keeping you sane?

Beyond my usual socially distanced outdoor activities and putting in training miles on my gravel bike, my girlfriend and I have a new puppy. She's great and has definitely been a fun distraction from the outside world. I welcome any and all training tips!

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