Monday, May 26, 2008

Welcome, PR 2.0! But Where Is “Leadership” in the Formula?

Welcome, PR 2.0! But Where Is “Leadership” in the Formula?

We are so pleased that a “high concept” called “PR 2.0” is attracting so much attention of late. After the hysteria of the last decade or so about “ink” and “publicity”, it’s excellent that young entrepreneurs are being educated about the real facts of life in effective public relations. We have always tried to practice this on a one on one basis and are glad for the help reminding people of some important fundamentals about public relations, including the benefits of:

• Having a clear vision
• Articulating it clearly as a “high concept”
• Understanding how your market is shaped and influencing the influencers through the appropriate media
• Relationship-building; and
• Leadership

Leadership is the thing that we believe is missing from the broadly articulated version of PR 2.0. It’s good to have the tactical execution in hand as being explained by PR 2.0. But we think the broad explanation forgets to remind entrepreneurs that they need to define the market – not follow it (you can read about this a lot in this blog (

We hope that with the increased attention to professional PR execution the quality of services provided will go up. Moreover, we hope even more fervently that a few of the entrepreneurs will go the extra mile and really work to lead and challenge the market with provocative and interesting perspectives.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Building a Path to Leadership

I recently was watching a report on CNN's "Reliable Sources" (which is a fascinating review of the media) and was reminded that Presidential candidates are more than ever media-focused and media-sensitive. It made me realize that as a natural consequence of living in a world with 24-7 media coverage, we are all more aware of the media and its importance. And this is particularly notable with younger entrepreneurs with whom we are working: there's more sensitivity than ever to playing to the media ("media" is defined in the broadest way here). That is, before lots of basic company blocking and tackling is thought through, getting attention in the near term is attended to.

Yes, this is the world we live in. But it's worrisome for a few reasons. First, the most basic: it's hard to build a company and it takes lots of time and energy to understand how to build it. Too much distraction with externals can be costly.

Moreover, in addition to this basic concern, so much of the attention paid by these (usually) young entrepreneurs is to the near-term and not the long-term image of their companies. And that is the bigger problem. Just because a young company has a good idea that captures initial attention, how will the company seize the high ground and really define a leading company? Initial hype is not the same thing as leadership.

This is an interesting conundrum. After all, we at Roeder-Johnson often talk about needing to be aware of the perceptual environment. And more than that, it can be maddening to work with more traditional executives who are oblivious to how their companies are seen and really believe that building a better mousetrap will win the game. But, what's the right balance?

Well, of course, the real answer depends on each individual situation. But we believe the answer can be found in clearly thinking through the "path to leadership." That is, what are all the pieces and parts that need to be put in place in order attain long term leadership. A few of the questions to find this path are:

• What needs to change?
• What are you doing and how will it change the market?
• Why is this important?
• Who needs to understand the needed market changes and when?
• Who needs to understand what you are doing, why it’s different and important, and when?
• How will you reach these important constituencies?
• How will you continue to build your credibility?
• How will you continue to build your leadership?
• And more.

There are certainly no hard and fast answers to these questions, but our experience is that it’s important to think them through initially and then refresh them every six months or so – based on the realities that have emerged along the way.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Walk before you Run to Win the Leadership Race

For some reason, the last few weeks have been very exciting for me. I'm not sure why, but it has felt like a particularly rich time to add value to companies by combining experience with new ways of looking at the world and communications.

As I have said before, one of the most energizing things going on today is that with the Internet, you can try lots of new things: the rules are different today. Yes. It's important to remember that human behavior is still the same. But you can reach people so much more easily and in so many different ways.

Our whole goal for clients is helping them achieve leadership. But leadership does not have a hard and fast definition. It means that a company is shaping its market, rather than having the market shaped for it. Beyond that general guidepost, achieving leadership can differ dramatically from company to company.

But, at its core, leadership comes from systematically thinking about how the market will be influenced and then helping each of those influencer groups to move forward. So often, we see that while having high profile attention can have lots of benefits to companies; focusing exclusively on that kind of attention can be very damaging to a company truly looking to achieve leadership. Sometimes, the core constituency that is going to lay the foundation for leadership, will actually be offended by too much high level attention too soon.

That's where experience comes in. It's important to figure out the "layers" of the market and build credibility. And, by the way, no two companies or markets are the same: A company in the "material science" business needs adoption by scientists if they are are doing provocative and transformative things; a company in the software business needs to be adopted by developers before the big business impact can happen; a company in the communications chip business needs to be accepted by systems designers before changing things; a company in the advertising business needs to influences both the infrastructure developers and the "clients" to get their idea accepted. And so on.

The real message here is that understanding how to achieve that lofty leadership goal takes some thought based on a combination of instinct, execution, experience, and new thinking. It's valuable energy to invest for a young company to have a chance to define its own destiny.

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