One company’s prescription for failure or why I don’t know what I am talking about

June 20, 2014

Perhaps my biggest joy of being in public relations is that every day, I am fortunate to work with a different business that views the world in a unique light and can offer new insights and learnings that I can use to grow as a professional.

And then, there are the others. Companies locked in their own desperate struggle with the same old, same old. Unwilling to listen or to change, they defend the status quo out of a misplaced notion that change acknowledges some failure of the past.

Take last week, when I was summonsed to a sales call by a technology provider that really had no interest in learning anything new, and went out of their way to let me know it, challenging and criticizing my every recommendation. They showed a stunning lack of awareness of contemporary public relations and communications, all the while contending they knew it all. They obsessed on the inconsequential, while dismissing imperatives. At one point, debating the role of magic in marketing. Man, I wish that was a joke!

I walked away, head shaking, with the realization that the seismic shifts in communications that most companies have come to embrace over the past five years still haven’t shaken some companies to their senses. After the sales call, I came up with a manifesto that every internal marketer and public relations professional should know in the new world order of communications:

  1. Know your most important search terms and key words. My sales prospect repeatedly told me that they understood SEO, yet they could not cull from memory the key words that power the online searches for their product. Without that intelligence, there is no strategic plan or direction and PR professionals can’t even begin to craft and optimize a message.
  2. Understand the role of content and content marketing.  Here was a company selling a technical product and yet published little to nothing on the topic. Their idea of content was a few YouTube videos that were poorly indexed so no one will ever find them, including search engines. “Content is too hard to create and not effective for us,” they told me. Right. Keep on not selling product, then.
  3. Don’t dismiss the power of traditional media coverage. The company started the meeting by touting a recent positive review they received in a small-read trade journal. But when pressed to identify the media that their idealized audience read (CTOs and CIOs), blank stares. Another miss, to be sure.
  4. Don’t make me argue the value of social media. They laughed at LinkedIn, calling it a job fair. And in fact, the vice president of marketing had only 61 connections on the social media platform. Never mind that I shared with them case studies of technology clients that regularly receive 800 shares on information they release on LinkedIn. “It’s worthless,” they shouted.
  5. Quit already with this notion that you are unique and what works for others won’t work for you. We came to the meeting with best practices culled from major technology clients of ours. No use. They weren’t interested. They dismissed that experience and contended that their solution was unique. Yes it is. My other clients sell products!
  6. Stop the insanity of doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The company poured its limited marketing efforts down the rabbit hole of diminishing direct mail returns, contending that direct mail works because no one was doing it. More likely, no one is doing direct mail because it doesn’t work. Yet they preserve the practice for one very simple reason: “That’s the way we have always done it.”

My greatest joy in life is coming to work each morning with the promise of learning something new while working with great minds here inside Gregory FCA, as well as those inside our clients’ businesses. Renewing and re-energizing, my work gives me the resolve to try — no matter how obstinate the worldview or closed the mindset — to share the new principles of PR with whoever is willing to listen.

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