Employee Spotlight: Meg Lappe, Creative Project Manager

How our Creative Project Manager, Meg Lappe, Creates Content in the Midst of COVID-19

Behind our site, magazine, videos, social, branded content and much more is our Creative team. They're the geniuses behind the hyper creativity that happens across our digital and print. So we sat down with our Creative Project Manager, Meg Lappe, to talk about how we produce content in the age of our new normal.

Hey Meg! So tell us about yourself. What do you do at Gear Patrol?

I’m currently the Creative Project Manager, where I oversee all the projects that the creative team touches — whether that’s video, photo, or design. I focus on building and optimizing workflows, and making sure that our team delivers great content while sticking to deadlines. Before that, I worked on our overall brand strategy and aimed to connect social, video, and editorial content. And prior to that, I was on the editorial team, as a Staff Writer on the Outdoors and Fitness desk. Gear Patrol has provided me with the opportunity to have a unique role roadmap where I'm constantly learning, which has led me to my current position.

How do you juggle staying on top of so many moving projects? How do you navigate between Branded Content and Editorial?

A lot of different ways, but writing it all down is crucial. Asana is a miracle worker — I live and breathe by the project management tool, so I can easily see what the team has going on this week and many weeks to come. The creative team also had long-standing weekly team check-ins, which became increasingly necessary when we adjusted to working from home. Instead of in-person, they're all on Google Hangouts. Despite the virtual presence, nothing quite beats face to face time, especially when collaborating with so many different departments all working towards the same goal.

What’s been your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far?

Too many to count! The first thing that comes to mind is our Gear Patrol Magazine. As someone who loves print, seeing Issues 14 and 15 come together remotely was very different, but inspiring. Both creative and editorial created a brand new set of rules to get this beauty from drafted to designed to press. That was a team effort.

On the GPS-side of things, I'd have to say the eBay Video about identifying fake watches and our seven Guide to Life videos in partnership with Lexus. While each one gave me the opp to flex different muscles — casting, propping, working with freelance videographers — it also meant the creative team had to figure out what shooting in a COVID-world looks like. With our new normal, it has been a challenge to project manage so many different moving pieces without being able to check-in with people in person. But, the flip side of that is the team is hyper-aware of the importance of over-communicating, stays on track with Asana task assignments, and has really stepped up to get projects across the finish line no matter what. It's been really rewarding to watch videos produced totally remotely go live, and I'm excited to see what more we can do in the future.

Any fun things you’ve been up to in quarantine?

Yes! I’ve recently rediscovered the West Side Highway in New York City and love walking by the water. With social distancing, it’s easy to get stuck indoors but I make it a point to physically leave my apartment at least once a day. The sunset pairs really well with to-go margaritas or negronis.

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Employee Spotlight: Nghi Ho, Sales Planner

Employee Spotlight: Nghi Ho, Sales Planner, on Gen Z Marketing

A vital member of our Partnerships team, Nghi Ho is a Sales Planner at Gear Patrol. We sat down with her to talk about her experience at Gear Patrol, best practices for Gen Z marketing and even her favorite meme.

Hey Nghi! So tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do at Gear Patrol?

I’m an Advertising Sales Planner at Gear Patrol and I handle campaign management from pre-sale, through production, and post-sale. Basically, that means I wear a lot of different hats and get to flex a lot of different muscles! I love being able to build relationships with our clients, from putting a proposal in front of them, WOWing them with a story only GP can tell, iterating and working together on a product that aligns with our brand and supports theirs, and putting something of value in front of our audiences.

As the resident Gen-Z member of the team, how do you think your perspective influences your work at Gear Patrol?

Coming to Gear Patrol right after graduating from Boston College, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my coworkers who’ve shown me the ropes of our industry. As a small-mid sized publisher, the trust and responsibilities that I have are unrivaled. I am able to take ownership of projects and am grateful for a team that continues to support me along the way.

But at the same time, as a young WOC, working at a men’s lifestyle publication, I bring a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective! I’m heavily in tune with what it’s like to market to a younger audience and what it takes to captivate that audience.

Speaking of marketing trends, what have you seen that especially resonates with Gen Z?

There are a lot of methods for successful marketing and I’ve noticed the following resonates strongly with “kids my age”.

  • Engaging Marketing Campaigns with Real People — Gen-Zers want to see real, relatable people in marketing campaigns. An authentic story-telling approach is so important, which is something our branded content team, GPS, does so well. Paint a story with broad strokes, explore how products impact and inform our lifestyles and focus on how they can improve them.

  • Content That Captivates... And Quickly! — Another important marketing trend is content that immediately gets your attention. So many people are starting to talk about TikTok, but there’s still a lot of opportunities on different platforms — especially Instagram Stories and Facebook that call for engaging and beautiful storytelling.

  • Authentic Social Justice — Be a business we can look up to! Businesses and brands can seem like lofty structures that are so far removed from the people it is serving. Social justice is incredibly important to my generation and we carry this through all that we do. We want to positively change the world through our work, so we want to shop brands that can do the same. Using your platform to take a stance shows care and connection to your consumer base. I’m proud of the work we do at Gear Patrol and our stance with Going Beyond Products and our editorial shift to highlight more marginalized groups — it’s small steps we can do as a company to help push us forward.

  • Mobile-First Marketing — As the most hyper-connected generation, digital, online, and mobile-first marketing will be vital to your strategy! We purchase through apps, on social media and mainly on our phones. The majority of my purchases that I’ve made within the past week have been made through my mobile device. So, if you really want to attract attention from us Gen Z-ers you'll want to create mobile videos, mobile-first eCommerce sites, or other phone-based experiences that cater to them. Grow your social media presence and make sure it is prominent!

As our Gen Z expert, we like to end our weekly RevOps meetings with a fun word of the week. What's your favorite meme?

This is my favorite segment of our weekly Revenue Operations meetings. I introduce a new slang term that my generation use. STONKS is my favorite meme — but honestly, no one gets it. My generation loves taking phrases and adding some new energy to it!

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Partner Spotlight: Charles Ng, Orbitkey's Co-Founder

Partner Spotlight: Charles Ng, Orbitkey Co-Founder on EDC, Design and the GP collaboration

At Gear Patrol, we're constantly focused on products that improve our lives and yours. And one of those products is Orbitkey's Key Organizer. Launched in 2013, the Australian brand's flagship product is a tidy and compact way to carry your keys.

We sat down with Charles Ng, Orbitkey's Co-Founder and Design Director to talk about EDC, Design and the Gear Patrol collaboration.

What inspired you to start Orbitkey? What do you enjoy most about it?

It started in 2013 when Rex, my business partner and I grew frustrated with the distracting key jingles, and the problem of the keys damaging personal belongings. Being natural problem solvers, we decided to tackle the issues with traditional keychains head on.

Fast forward 9 months later, after countless hours of development and numbers of prototypes, decided to launch it on a crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. By the end of the 30-day campaign, we gratefully had 5,000 people believe in our vision – to help everyone carry keys better.

Having pushed the idea of the Key Organiser for a few years, we start to realise that at the core, we believe that when your life is more organised, it is easier and better – and that has been our north-star ever since. In short, our vision is to help as many people as possible by creating clever organisation solutions.

Being design led, we are always excited about coming up with a unique solution to a problem. It’s hard work but the excitement when we finally land to a solution and seeing it in real life – it’s a feeling that gets us, everytime!

Creating things that impact someone’s lives positively, even in the smallest way possible – and hearing this from that person, first hand through emails, social media or public events like a design market. It’s an amazing thing that inspires us to do even better.

With EDC products being such an important part of our daily routines. What goes into creating a brand and a product that encourages someone to use it every day? How do you think about design and the user experience?

Being a product design-led brand, it is very important to us that we have products that are uniquely Orbitkey.

The fact that a lot of the team are in similar demographics as our main audience also helps a great deal. A good sign of a great product is when most of the team members are excited about it.

We try to create something that adds value and we would use ourselves – Something with a great balance of quality, aesthetic and function. Products that feature a very clean aesthetic with minimal branding, resulting in understated elegance that you can carry everywhere confidently.

We take great care and pride in what we do and we want our customers to feel the same way using our product.

We’re really excited about our collaboration on the limited edition Orbitkey. What inspired the collaboration with Gear Patrol? How has the process been working with our Store team?

So are we, and a lot of our customers – they have gone really well since we launched it last week.

Being a long term reader of Gear Patrol, we knew there was a strong alignment between the two brands and we were really excited to be given the opportunity to work together on this special project in a very collaborative manner.

With the breadth of knowledge in products and culture, the Gear Patrol team led us to explore the use of new materials such as Saffiano leather on our range for the very first time. We haven’t looked back since. It is one of the main reasons why we love collaborations.

Outside of your professional life, any fun projects or hobbies that have been keeping you occupied in our new normal?

We love our food and coffee here in Melbourne. Having been in lock-down for a few months now in Melbourne, Australia – it has been pretty challenging to dine out and enjoy meals at our favourite restaurants.

So how do you get around that? Almost by accident and necessity, I rediscovered my love for cooking and I’ve been experimenting with re-creation of some of my favourite restaurant meals. It’s not perfect but it’s as good as we can get right now! :)

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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 advertising@gearpatrol.com to share. And if there’s any support that our team can provide, know that we’re always here to help!

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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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