Lately, every political pundit with access to a laptop or teleprompter has hit the streets with their pet theory on why House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary challenge to an unknown, underfunded newcomer.
The models “explaining” Cantor’s defeat are legion: he wasn’t conservative enough for his district; he represented status quo in a year of change; the issue of immigration proved toxic; there was skullduggery at the ballot box; yada, yada . . . thousands of words, hundreds of articles and little consensus.
The truth is simpler. And it applies not only to politicians; it should serve as a cautionary tale for the private sector – industries and individual companies alike (especially if they, like Mr. Cantor, are leaders).
I can sum up the whole Cantor thing in 8 words: HE WASN’T ENGAGED WITH THE RIGHT STAKEHOLDERS. PERIOD.
Though it was less than 75 miles away from his Capitol office, Cantor didn’t travel back to his district much. He was focused on an important part of his job – being a good leader for his party in Congress. He spent long hours engaging his House colleagues to negotiate bills, amendments and proposals. That meant staying in DC. And when he did go home, he didn’t interact in ways that positioned him well with constituents. There’s a big difference between going to the local TV station for an interview, and going to a community fish fry and working the crowd.
Reporters seldom tell you they don’t like what you’re doing, or how their aunt can’t find a job, or she isn’t getting her veteran’s benefits. Voters do. All the time. No public officeholder likes being taken to task – it takes time, energy and a thick skin – but that’s how the system works. Voters didn’t think Cantor was listening to them, and rather than continuing to listen to him, they paid attention to someone else.
But that’s not why David Brat won. He didn’t win. Eric Cantor lost. Brat was just the alternative.
That’s why I work with as many clients as possible to help them understand and communicate with their stakeholders (even those who disagree). I’ve told virtually every client I’ve worked with the same things:
1. Look at the forest from the ground up, not just at the tallest trees. When it comes to understanding stakeholders, nothing is more fundamental than an audit of the players that affect a particular business. Fans and critics. Customers and activists. Too often companies define the stakeholder universe as the same ten customer groups, suppliers/vendors or opinion leaders that they’ve dealt with for years. That list is about as valuable as last week’s movie listings. It can lock you into a cycle of activities that may not get you anywhere with your current stakeholders. Refresh. Refocus. Be objective and thorough and you might discover new opportunities – and uncover new challenges before it’s too late.
2. Find out what matters to others and be active in those areas. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Think about the last time you were dragged to an event – dinner, ballgame or ballet – by a friend or loved one and it turned out to be less painful than predicted. In fact, it may even have been, (gasp!) fun. Enjoyable or not in the short-term, it was probably beneficial in the long run. That holds true for stakeholders too. Understand what matters and motivates them, then find ways to be relevant and active in those areas. You don’t have to agree, but even when stakeholder communications require significant effort, it seldom goes to waste.
3. Give others a reason to work with you, not against you. Think playground. Nobody wants to play with the kid who won’t share the ball, bullies others or doesn’t deal squarely. How you engage with allies and critics – through both public and private communications channels – can set a tone of cooperation (or at least coexistence). Common ground doesn’t mean retreat or capitulation. Sometimes it just means emphasizing areas of overlap rather than disagreement.
You’re only as strong as the relationships you build. Taking time to foster the right stakeholder relations can help any politician, business leader or organization ensure they have a base of supporters to tap when they most need help. And that they’re not blindsided by a competitor who is forging those bonds.
I didn’t know what to expect when I entered Powell Tate’s Events Center for the band PTO’s first indoor gig ever last Friday night. Relieved of client responsibilities for the week, this reviewer was amped up for a great show and PTO more than lived up to its billing.
PTO, made up of four current and former Powell Taters, offered up a soulful sojourn through the decades. PTO lead singer Dan Jacobs’s rendition of “Purple Haze” made the incredibly tricked-out stage seem more like a 1970’s trip than the really cool PR agency happy hour I was attending. Jacobs’s depth as a singer revealed itself on Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man.” When Jacobs crooned “but it was not your fault but mine,” the audience marveled at his ability to manage up.
Bassist Peter Carson – who boldly invited his wife and 15-year-old daughter to hear him sing, “Can't catch me cause the rabbit done died….” – got the crowd revved up when he led the band on a romp through Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” Carson moved to rhythm guitar for the number showing adept musical diversity for a relative newcomer to rock’s stage.
Juxtaposing the newness of Carson’s beat was the grizzled shredding of lead guitarist Chris “Bruiser” Grimm. Grimm’s musical roots emerge throughout many of PTO’s numbers reminding me a bit of John Cale during VU’s days as Warhol’s house band. Grimm’s lead guitar guided concert-goers through a rock-of-ages 14-song set that showed amazing diversity.
PTO’s defining feature might be the tightness of the band’s music. For guys with stellar communications careers, their transitions were flawless. Much of that credit is due to drummer and former health policy team member, Matt “Wojo” Wojkun. Wojo’s solo transition from “Sunshine” to “Don’t Look Back” mesmerized and captivated the sold-out crowd enjoying Ben’s Chili Bowl half smokes and tasty beer.
But it was when PTO broke into the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” that you knew an anthem video must have been in the making. The band was kickin’. The crowd was rockin’. And it was only 6:30 on a Friday.
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manella appeared on Fox & Friends to launch the P3I initiative and celebrate the Army Reserve’s birthday.
As strategic communicators, we accept a challenge and then use every tool in our toolbox to achieve success. One of the most effective tools we have is to find supportive partners. Strong partnerships can turn headwinds into tailwinds, and help bring success more firmly within reach.
This year, Powell Tate was presented with this challenge: help the Army Reserve launch and promote a signature platform with businesses, nonprofits, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Reserve’s Private Public Partnership Initiative (P3i) is a way for the organization to work with private partners on projects that are mutually beneficial to soldiers and companies, and ultimately to the nation. The program was in its infancy and largely untested, so our challenge was to help the Army Reserve communicate P3i’s benefits and recent success so that mass audiences would understand and target partner organizations would consider engaging.
Together, Powell Tate and the Army Reserve chose to focus on two key areas as the primary vision of the program:
1) Employ soldiers by pairing them with civilian companies; and
2) Help soldiers refine their already sharp skills by partnering with global companies and NGOs for unique training missions that could benefit soldiers, partner organizations, and in many cases, developing nations.
To maximize exposure for our story, we rolled out P3i on the Army Reserve’s birthday (April 23rd). We partnered with three organizations – Hiring Our Heroes, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Council on Foreign Relations – and collaborated with them to convene forums that highlighted the value of P3i directly to important audiences.
By linking the campaign to the Army Reserve’s birthday, we extended the reach of the campaign through traditional media, including a broadcast segment on Fox & Friends, and engagement on the Army Reserve’s Facebook and Twitter channels. As a sign of the campaign’s success, the Chief of the Army Reserve’s Office has been inundated by companies—large and small—who are interested in supporting the initiative. Through the power of partnerships, we not only took P3i across the finish line, we also set a firm foundation for the ongoing success of the program.
Spring 2014 Intern Class: Albin Sikora, Chris Hershey, Crystall Gabriel, and Kelsey Taylor
Our first assignment as interns came during orientation: plan the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day for Powell Tate and our partner agency, KRC Research. It was our first week in the office; we didn’t even know where the bathrooms were and we were being given the lead on a project.
As the weeks went by, we began to establish relationships with our account teams, take on additional responsibilities and learn more about the company. We saw firsthand that Powell Tate and KRC are dynamic organizations that reflect the interests and expertise of their employees. And we quickly learned that our Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, in this office, was not going to be a day of babysitting, but an opportunity to share with the next generation the fundamentals of public service and the cutting-edge work Powell Tate and KRC employees deliver each day.
Through the event planning process, we not only ensured that we would make the day memorable, we also learned how to work together, prioritize, and delegate responsibilities in the midst of juggling many other new and exciting projects. We tailored our Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day events to align with the National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day 2014 theme, “Plant a seed, grow a future,” and highlighted key components of the work we do at Powell Tate and KRC.
We created a robust marketing plan to drive registration and raise awareness of the program within the office. Some of our most inventive ideas included developing promotional stickers, which we placed on every soda can in the office. We also designed humorous memes and posters, which we displayed in the office’s common areas. Finally, we ordered supplies for the day, including t-shirts, name tags, journals, colored pencils, award certificates, food and refreshments – all while staying under budget.
In order to create a fun and inclusive environment, we organized activities, including a branding exercise and a mad libs game, that encouraged the children to work together, learn about the important work that Powell Tate and KRC conduct and, keeping in line with the “Plant a seed, grow a future” theme, ask children what they dream of becoming when they grow up.
We captured the day’s events on video and produced a short film with the help of our digital team. Then, we played the film at the final event of the day – an ice cream social. It was a wonderful way to share with the whole company what Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day really is: an opportunity for children to learn about their parents’ work and to explore their own interests.
The day was a success and also a surprise. Not only did the children learn about careers they might want to pursue, but we interns learned new skills that will enhance our own work. Everyone involved made this a fun and educational day.
Watch the Shatterproof PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MjIOx5YFj0#t=12.
Imagine waking one morning to learn your child died from drug-related causes. After a seemingly endless cycle of tears, hope, anger and despair your child is gone – one of the many children lost to addiction in this country each year.
The battle is over. You researched doctors, rehabilitation programs and treatment centers. For years, your family struggled with the stigma of addiction, lack of resources and confusing or often misguided medical advice. And now your son or daughter is gone and there is nothing left for you to do to help your child.
This nightmare of loss and pain is a reality for far too many families in the U.S. But rather than retreat and surrender, parents across the country are mobilizing and working together to increase awareness about addiction in memory of their beloved children. They are sharing their stories and calling for national policies to help other parents avoid similar tragic endings.
One such father is Gary Mendell. After losing his son Brian to a ten-year battle with addiction, Gary reflected on the years of desperation and pain and felt a calling to address the profound public health crisis on a national scale.
Investing his personal money and building on his experience as a hotel executive, Gary founded a new organization called Shatterproof to help the 22 million Americans who struggle with addiction. He left the company he founded and committed himself full time to increasing resources to protect children from addiction to alcohol and other drugs and to address significant gaps in funding, research and policy.
Other parents are joining this movement – paying tribute to their children by helping others. Despite having lost so much, parents are banding together to demand national attention on the issue. And as policymakers, advocates and medical leaders hear firsthand from families, they are starting to give addiction the attention and commitment necessary to reduce the deadly impact of this disease.
There is much work to do to truly make a difference in addiction. However, the chorus of courageous voices of parents is sparking an unprecedented national call to action.
Powell Tate is proud to support Shatterproof and its work to prevent, treat and ultimately end addiction.
What was the first thing you thought about this morning? Exactly! It wasn’t content marketing. And if it was, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. To be honest, content marketing wasn’t the first thing I thought about this morning – and it’s part of my job.
Here’s the thing: customers don’t care – I mean really care – about content marketing. At least not consciously. But they do care about organizations that add value to their lives by entertaining them, solving their problems or making them feel like they’re improving the world.
It’s a hard reality but it’s true. So why do we do “content marketing” you ask? We do it because it is a means to an end. Creating content marketing strategies is great – and I’m not saying that because it’s part of my job. It’s great because it’s integral to helping organizations add value to their customers’ brand experience.
Before I continue, let’s define content marketing (and there are plenty of definitions but I like this one from Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer best):
“Content marketing is using any type of content (newsletters, blog posts, white papers, videos, Tweets, podcasts, wall posts) to attract an audience you wish to market to. Capturing their attention through great content gives you the opportunity to present calls-to-action to them to purchase or try your product or service.”
Content marketing alone is not a magic bullet that will break product sales records or suddenly change the public perception of an organization or even make the media write positive stories about a company. What content marketing does do is help to achieve sales, public perception and media coverage goals through increased social media marketing ROI.
Alone, content marketing isn’t the answer because you’re only providing attention-grabbing content. Providing that content is the opportunity, not the objective.
So the next time I’m drafting a content marketing strategy, just know that I’m fully aware that no one cares about content marketing strategy as much as they care about my clients’ products, corporate citizenship and reputation. And I’m not complaining, I’m just saying.
We may not be able to control the headlines, but we can create engaging content that alters perceptions and shifts the conversation.
If you’ve read the news lately, you know there’s an extensive debate about the potential effects of exposure to radiation from medical imaging procedures. These intentionally shocking – and sometimes misleading – stories are resonating among key decision makers in Washington, D.C. And despite the proven benefits of medical imaging, the industry must constantly battle legislative and regulatory threats from Capitol Hill.
Powell Tate works with the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) to change the conversation about medical imaging. In this effort, we launched Imaging Forward, a multi-channel campaign that highlights the groundbreaking innovation in medical imaging technologies and the impact of these advancements on patient care.
Though MITA’s ultimate goal is to shift policymakers’ thinking about the value of medical imaging, our approach is to spark ongoing conversation on multiple platforms through media outreach and social engagement online, as well as across more traditional communications channels such as creating print materials for visits to Congressional offices. In addition, we are building relationships with third-party organizations – including physician groups, patient advocacy organizations and industry associations – to ensure that our collective message about the importance of imaging innovation is successfully communicated.
So far, these tactics have worked well. We’re seeing great engagement with our micro video series spotlighting innovative new imaging technologies. Additionally, our first-ever Vine video – which was distributed on Twitter and promoted to D.C. influencers – generated more than 10,000 impressions with a relatively low cost-per-engagement in its first month. Now that’s a step in the right direction.
View the Imaging Forward website here: http://www.medicalimaging.org/imagingforward/
View the Vine video that Powell Tate produced here: https://vine.co/v/MKH2erVIbBY
Evan Von Leer and Amil Husain
Whether it was watching one of The Hunger Games movies on the silver screen, tuning into The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones on TV or viewing one of the most popular streamed events from the 2012 London Olympics, at some point over the past few months you have been exposed to the sport of archery. In August 2013, we began working with the Archery Trade Association to capitalize on this recent growth in popularity to build a new generation of youth archers throughout the United States.
The result: Release Your Wild, a campaign that leverages digital platforms and pop culture to connect teens and tweens to each other and to the stores, camps, leagues and lessons that will help them start their archery adventure.
On November 5, 2013, after three months of online focus group testing, message and visual design, and website and social channel design and development, we launched Release Your Wild.
An intensive focus group research process informed the development of the campaign’s branding, construction of a campaign landing page, and creation of shareable content that has helped us create an engaged community of nearly 90,000 teens and tweens on Facebook within the first four months. To build that audience, we relied on a mixture of shareable social content and video content, paid digital advertising, earned media and online influencer engagement.
A strategic paid acquisition and engagement strategy helped build an audience that is more than 90% within our target demographic—13-17 year olds, skewing slightly female—and keep them interacting with every piece of content we publish. Earned media efforts to raise awareness about the campaign and archery among youth landed mentions in SELF and The Daily Beast. And a targeted celebrity/online influencer outreach component resulted in a video spot with popular YouTuber Lia Marie Johnson, one of AdWeek’s “Biggest Young Stars,” which has been viewed more than 145,000 times.
We are able to track the campaign’s progress and success over a wide range of key performance indicators, including engagement on Release Your Wild social channels and the thousands of interactions on the Release Your Wild web page – whether it is a user clicking a piece of social content on the site, or entering their zip code to find a nearby archery retailer where they can buy their first bow and start their archery adventure.
Check out Release Your Wild on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest.
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Nan Palmero.
Now that a couple weeks have passed since the interactive portion of South By Southwest (SXSW), what stands out as the Next Big Thing?
Wearable technology? Sure. The SXSW tradeshow floor was a sea of start-ups touting new ways to make clothes “smarter.” 3-D printing technology? Absolutely. Oreo set up an installation that printed edible cookies customized by Twitter’s trending topics at any particular moment. (If that doesn’t make sense, it’s okay. I stood there mesmerized by it but didn’t really understand it myself.)
But with Julian Assange and Edward Snowden as conference speakers — both by video, of course — it’s no surprise that in addition to technology hardware, the big themes this year were big data and privacy. (Are you sick of hearing the term “big data” yet?) On the privacy front, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee noted that the Internet can simultaneously be a tool for both freedom and oppression. “There are certain rights that should be more enshrined,” he said.
Beyond technology and the Internet, see if you can spot the theme with these three conference speakers:
- Statistician and writer Nate Silver said his biggest fear with his new FiveThirtyEight project is that his inflated stardom will make it too easy to venture in ill-advised areas. "When you’re somebody’s boss, you don’t get pushback on your bullshit ideas,” he told attendees.
- During a question-and-answer session with fashion entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso, someone asked how she deals with complicated issues at her vintage clothing company Nasty Gal. Amoruso replied, “When confronted by a problem, I ask a lot of people what they think.”
- And then there’s astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who made “curiosity” the theme of his keynote address. “Kids turn over rocks. It’s how they learn. We tend to tell people the answer and that denies them the opportunity to find out.”
The common theme? Question the world around you and surround yourself with people who question you. Perhaps that idea isn’t the Next Big Thing, but it’s certainly something that can help us discover what is.
[Left to Right] Lance Hill, Meredith Ressi, Gil Bashe, Kirsten Axelsen, Dalal Haldeman, and Carissa Caramanis O'Brien
Employer-sponsored health insurance gained traction and really arrived on the scene during World War II, when it was recognized as an employee benefit, a recruitment tool if you will. Oh, how the times have changed. Now, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), universal health coverage is in sight, and it’s critical to reach the consumer and not just employers and businesses.
So, what does this change to consumer-based health insurance marketing mean for communications professionals? I had the opportunity to grapple with this question when I attended the Future of Healthcare Communications Summit in New York City on February 25. The summit addressed the challenges associated with communicating directly to consumers and the important role communications professionals play in the evolving ACA landscape.
The cadre of communications experts at the summit represented all facets of the healthcare space, from pharma and health insurance companies to agencies, consumer researchers, and public health professionals. With such expertise on the panel, I was bound to leave with all the tools and knowledge needed to help my clients succeed in this new arena. However, as many in the healthcare world know, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
A common theme throughout the summit was that no one patient journey is the same, as we should know and appreciate. To meet this challenge, Dalal Haldeman, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Johns Hopkins Medicine mentioned, we need to “connect, connect, connect,” and consider partnerships to expand distribution of our messages. In other words, it is our job and responsibility as communications professionals to analyze the formative research to understand barriers, tailor messages, and tell the story in a way that appeals to a broad audience but that also resonates with the individual.
Another challenge is communicating about the Affordable Care Act from the politically divisive aspects to its ever-changing path. Kirsten Axelsen, vice president of worldwide policy of Pfizer, preached patience, noting that just like it takes time for clinical guidelines to become practice, it’s going to take time for the Affordable Care Act to be fully implemented. Through this process, it’s important to underscore benefits and accessibility, from who is eligible to receive benefits to the power of preventative care. There are opportunities to focus on quality measures in place that reflect the needs of the patients. The more we know about the consumer and patient needs, the more we can target our messaging, and fully engage those audiences.
Certainly these are just a couple of insights on how we can strategically approach communications in the new healthcare landscape. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well.
Amphibious Warship Forum - Feb. 11, 2014
Capturing the attention of Members of Congress and Washington media is always difficult. Which is why on February 11, Powell Tate brought the importance of U.S. Navy amphibious warships directly to Congress and the media with a forum held in the Cannon Caucus Room of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The event highlighted the value of amphibious warships to national defense and the importance of funding for the continued construction of these ships. Representatives of the U.S. Marine Corps and Members of Congress spoke on the importance of a strong U.S. Navy amphibious warship construction program to national defense and the industrial base, while suppliers provided demonstrations and displays of the parts and products they manufacture for amphibious warships.
Amphibious warships are vital to the mission of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines, making it possible for Sailors and Marines to respond swiftly in times of crisis, from major combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. But continued reductions in the U.S. defense budget threaten manufacturers across the U.S. that provide parts and products for all types of military ships, vehicles and aircraft.
The forum, “Preserving the U.S. Navy’s Most Capable Warship,” also served as the inaugural event of the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition (AWIBC), a new grassroots supplier organization established and administered by Powell Tate on behalf of our client, Huntington Ingalls Industries, the U.S. Navy’s premier shipbuilder.
More than 110 people were in attendance including the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, several Members of Congress, Congressional staff, media and defense analysts. The event secured significant media coverage and achieved the client’s goal of engaging Members of Congress and Congressional staff in a conversation about Congressional funding for the program.
View photos from the event here: http://bit.ly/1dG1PFE
View the video that Powell Tate compiled for the forum here: (Credit and thank you for video footage: Smithsonian Networks’ Mighty Ships, Huntington Ingalls Industries and the United States Navy)
Jim Holland, from our parent company Weber Shandwick, recently wrote a great piece for Government Executive about how government agencies can effectively communicate using social channels.
It’s a great read because it maps out four key elements of an integrated social marketing or public education campaign:
- Increase the likelihood of change by involving our social networks
- Break through the clutter with a powerful and emotional platform
- Activate a diverse array of influencers and keep them engaged with content
- Surround your audience with both traditional and digital tactics
As Jim affirms, following these steps can help government agencies successfully leverage today’s digital communications tools to drive action and impact.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Ron Cogswell
While the polar vortex is keeping temperatures chilly (ok, freezing) in Washington, D.C., lawmakers have returned to Capitol Hill where legislative action is heating up.
In 2014, Congress will focus on legislation that it must pass, such as appropriations, as well as bills that serve to drive both parties' political agendas before this year’s midterm elections. I don't expect the bipartisanship that emerged with the budget deal at the end of 2013 to continue, so a major tax reform bill, gun control or new climate initiatives aren't likely to make it to the President's desk. Congress does need to pass legislation that lifts the debt ceiling before the Treasury Department's borrowing authority runs out on February 7. While Democrats want a clean debt ceiling bill, and Republicans want to extract spending cuts as a concession to lift the debt ceiling, both parties have a shared political interest to avoid an ugly debate.
If the bipartisanship that emerged at the end of last year does continue, immigration reform is the one major piece of legislation that stands a chance of becoming law. The business community supports it and the legislation would help the GOP politically with Hispanic voters.
In addition to the legislation that Congress must pass, you’ll likely see an array of “message bills” that are designed to help further each party’s political interests. Beyond the unemployment insurance benefits extension currently on Congress’ docket, Democrats will focus on other economic equity issues such as increasing the minimum wage. Republicans will attempt to keep the focus on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) roll out. A critical test of the fault lines between the White House and Democrats on the Hill will be the extent to which Democratic Members support legislation that modifies provisions of the ACA. Some vulnerable Democrats may seek to adopt a "fix it; don't nix it" approach in the face of the continued GOP efforts to repeal or defund the law - an approach frowned upon by the President, who sees it as a slippery slope that could eventually gut the new health care law.
Other issues that Congress could address include fast-track trade promotion, National Security Agency reform and new Iran sanctions if bilateral talks fail to produce any results by the May deadline. Also, five new Federal Reserve Board governors - including a new #2 to fill Janet Yellin's post - must be nominated and confirmed this year. This could change the make-up and direction of the Central Bank.
As with all election seasons, by about mid-summer, any serious policy work will need to be wrapped up as Members focus attention back home on their re-election campaigns. That said, every congressional vote this year will be viewed through the prism of midterm elections as incumbents seek to return to Washington and challengers seek to define those they are trying to replace.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s top priority focuses on opening up his country to entrepreneurship and innovation. And it’s the same for the Prime Ministers of France and Finland (the Finns are already masters at this).
That’s why both countries co-hosted the second-annual Moscow Open Innovations Forum with Mr. Medvedev.
The Forum brings together thousands of government ministers, CEOs, academics and people active in "innovation" worldwide – from start-ups in Silicon Valley, to investors in London and California, to technology "incubators" from Paris to Moscow.
Representing, Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick, I was invited to talk at the Forum about reputation management in social networks. On the panel, we had the strategy head of one of Russia's biggest consumer banks – Sberbank – along with experts from Berlin and Moscow. It was a great session with lots of lively audience interaction.
The innovation landscape has become quite hot – and quite controversial – in Russia. As oil and gas revenue drives less economic output, there are high hopes for innovation. Russia is now calling on its long tradition in science and engineering – harking back to the Soviet Union and the space race era – to bolster its economy. However, these efforts are controversial, as some Russian elites believe too much of the state's limited resources are going to “flagship” innovation projects, like the Skolkovo project championed by PM Medvedev.
No matter what direction the state pursues, there is plenty of opportunity in this space. Everyone wants to be Silicon Valley. Everyone wants to be MIT or Stanford. Everyone wants to crack the code that these giants created: how do you turn academic invention into entrepreneurship and commercial success? How do you forge those transformational alliances between universities, start-ups, investors, funders and business?
To help drive these cutting-edge partnerships, we must leverage our insights into social networks and digital opportunity - where reputations are forged and broken in seconds. We have to project into the future of communications and be poised to catch our partners and clients as they land in this new space...
From left to right: Dieter Herbst, Honorary Professor, Berlin University of the Arts; Leslie Hobbs, Head of Communications, Reputation.com; Mircea Mihaescu, Director, Strategy, Sberbank of Russia; Sergey Mitrofanov, Chief Executive Officer, Pulsar Venture; Michael Stopford, Executive Vice President, Weber Shandwick
From left to right: Sergey Mitrofanov, Chief Executive Officer, Pulsar Venture; Ludmila Dobarina, Chief Correspondent, RIA Novosti, Moscow News; Michael Stopford, Executive Vice President, Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog as well as the Social Impact Blog.
Our third-annual BSR conference came to a close last week, bringing an end to three energizing days of networking, plenary sessions and workshops. What came through loud and clear at this year’s conference was the degree to which BSR’s network has developed over the past 21 years, and how this network has served as a powerful catalyst for inspiring solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.
From expanding efforts to promote worker safety in global supply chains, to understanding how businesses can best operate in a climate-constrained world, it’s that promise of collaboration and impact that keeps BSR members coming back year after year.
As we leave the annual BSR conference to again focus on our own challenges with a renewed sense of purpose, here are a few additional key insights and takeaways.
- Numbers matter. Innovation and new ideas are important, but to make true impact, we must scale solutions. In one session, Seth Goldman – co-founder, President and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea – discussed his decision to accept a major investment from Coca-Cola in order to “democratize” a lower-calorie drink option. In another, a speaker referenced Thomas Edison as a powerful example of the importance of scaling solution. Although Edison wasn’t the first person to come up with the light bulb concept, he was the first to be able to take it to scale.
- Anyone can be a leader. During our working lunch with Arizona State University and Triple Pundit, the Weber Shandwick team participated in a great dialogue about what it means to be a leader in sustainability. The consensus was that there is no shortage of ways to be a leader. They key is to choose an issue you want to lead and an issue you are best equipped to lead. Once you’ve discovered that issue, push for innovation, drive engagement among employees, consumers and other key stakeholders and communicate the impact of your programs.
- Solutions to our most critical challenges can come from unexpected places. We heard from the CEO of Participant Media, Jim Burke, who demonstrated how movies and documentaries are drivers of social change. Who would have thought we could develop a framework for inspiring social change using the movie industry as our guide? To drive understanding and inspire action, people need to relate to an issue area.And storytelling, whether through cinema or otherwise, is the method to make it happen.
- The time is now. Perhaps the most powerful moment at BSR 2013 was Mary Robinson’s plenary discussion. Mary is the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation and former President of Ireland. As a self-declared “elder” in the social change movement, Mary spoke through the lens of her decades of experience. She recalled hearing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and being motivated by his powerful call to action: ”the fierce urgency of now.” While the issue may be different, Robinson pointed to this same sense of urgency in calling upon businesses to work with stakeholders to lead on climate justice.
Thank you to everyone who played a role in this year’s conference – we look forward to seeing you next year at #BSR14 in New York City!
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