Monday, September 28, 2009

"Find the Language"

I met recently with a wonderful man and superb entrepreneur, James Currier, who founded (or co-founded) Tickle (acquired by Monster), Ooga Labs, Wonderhill and others. He is supremely thoughtful and has been through several rounds of entrepreneurial education, so he has a pretty clear vision of really happens in start-ups and lots of credibility.

After his years of founding and running companies, James shared with me that he sees his primary job as CEO and founder to be to "find the language" that clearly articulates what his companies are trying to accomplish. He believes this because finding the language is at the heart of understanding what a company truly is.

Boy, do we agree! As you know if you have read this blog in the past, we believe that "words matter". The process of coming up with the simple, "High Concept" that fundamentally explains why a company is important is critical to the process of creating a successful business.

I was excited when James expressed his viewpoint. In addition to being very strategic, his years of experience have also led James to be very practical: there's no point in having a company that represents an elegant concept if it isn't a good business (I am putting words in his mouth but I think this explains his viewpoint).

This perspective is important to us because we see WAY too many companies that believe they need to choose EITHER thoughtful positioning OR a good business. We believe that good positioning is all about how you can be most successful.

When we met, James further explained that the process of finding the right language can be stage-related: the first stage is find the right specific thing that a company does well right now; and then, over the longer term, broaden that out as the vision and mission of the company broadens. More of James' practical view of the world.

Thank you, James, for helping us think clearly as well!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Be Provocative -- But Don't Mistake it with Bad Behavior

We are big advocates of being provocative as part of a well-conceived communications strategy. Sometimes, the best way to get people to wake up to a need for change is to challenge conventional wisdom. Ask questions, throw down the gauntlet to established forces, change things up.

That said, in the past few days, we have all been exposed to bad behavior that has gotten a lot of attention: A member of Congress calling the President a liar in the middle of an important speech to the joint members of both Houses; and (admittedly, at a much more mundane level) a singer rudely interrupting an acceptance speech at an award show to advocate for one of the other contestants.

Don't get me wrong. In both cases, the parties in question completely have the right to comment loudly to express their beliefs; That's what makes this a great country. What bothers me about these two episodes is that both of them resulted in front page news. And, in turn, that could encourage acts of rudeness and bad behavior rather than constructive discussion. I am not sure of a solution, but feel compelled to raise the question.

So, what are some ways to provoke debate as part of a communications strategy?

-Present your products in a way that clearly explains the shortcomings of current approaches and asks the market to question the status quo;
-Make speeches that ask the right questions about conventional wisdom;
-Do point-of-view editorials and press releases raising these interesting questions;
-Embark on educational programs that cause people to wonder if current approaches are the right ones;
-Use social media to lead the market to ask the questions; and
-Lots of other ideas.

Please, just don't count on bad behavior to accomplish your goals.

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