In December 2017 a community nonprofit organization made a big news splash with a flurry of prominent media coverage around the local hunger issues it was grappling with. This coverage included a front page Guardian article that was featured prominently in Internet news aggregators, such as Google News and Drudge Report. For Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties this coverage wasn’t due to luck. It was the result of a comprehensive and well-executed public relations plan. About a year later, now seems like a good time to tell the story behind that story.
Branding an organization, or in the case of my work with Molecular Imprints rebranding a company, can deliver important benefits. A new logo, visual style guide and website are a nice start, but particularly for deep technology, business-to-business companies that’s not even close to enough. A new brand needs to match new messaging and positioning, which are then integrated with communications outreach, in order to reshape how influencers, customers and potential partners view a company. In the case of Molecular Imprints, comprehensive rebranding helped position the company for an important customer deal and the ultimate acquisition of its semiconductor business unit by a partner in that deal and one of Japan’s leading companies, Canon.
Improving investor communications can drive multiple expansion. Oftentimes the impact of better IR is hard to measure, but sometimes the benefit is clear cut. The latter was the case with one of my first consulting clients, for whom I leveraged my investment buy-side experience on behalf. When I came to KLA-Tencor, one of the leaders in the semiconductor industry, the company was suffering from a lower valuation than peers, due largely to a lack of communications in general and a compelling investment story in particular. But obvious and not-so-obvious elements were present to turn things around, and move them from a laggard to a leader — not just in their investor relations program, but also with respect to their relative stock valuation. And that was exactly what we did.
A small French technology company was responsible for one of my most difficult communications consulting challenges. They wanted to see an article about themselves in a leading American business media publication, like Forbes, Fortune or the Wall Street Journal. Realizing that goal, wasn’t going to be easy. Not only were they not an American company, but they also weren’t listed on a U.S. stock exchange. So, I couldn’t pitch them as being of interest to readers, because they could buy the stock, or as some interesting made in America story of entrepreneurship or innovation. What’s more, the nature of their business and technology was also an obstacle. The company, Soitec, manufactured silicon on insulator (SOI) wafers for the semiconductor industry. Engineered materials utilized in the semiconductor manufacturing process aren’t exactly the type of topic most Americans frequently discuss amongst themselves, even those inclined to talk about business issues.
For the USB and IoT announcements, the Synopsys product teams had been willing to answer my oftentimes probing questions, collaborate in developing story angles that would be of interest to the editors, and speak to issues that might not be their top priority with an editorial community that has different priorities. Maximizing coverage required not just a spirit of partnership between myself and a product team, as well as the in-house PR team. It also required understanding we have an external partnership with the media, where we need to balance the message we want to communicate to customers, with the interests of the readership editors are serving. But sometimes, internal priorities take precedent over external considerations, and in the third quarter of 2015 that was going to necessitate a bundle of coordination, with some other announcements.
On its face an announcement on a new product portfolio from a leading technology company, addressing the hot topic of the Internet of Things, should be an easy story to garner interest. And the truth was I could easily have gotten a lot of briefings for them from editors and analysts. But briefings don’t always translate into coverage, and those influencers were going to ask the same question I was asking right out of the gate. “What is new here?” It turns out several products in the announcement were “new.” But I pressed, what is new here, in terms of new for editors and analysts, i.e. we have not publicly announced it before? In terms of products the answer now became there was no new product that hadn’t been announced in the past few months. That was going to be our big obstacle.
Maximizing publicity around announcements in the technology industry, requires more than just regurgitating to editors why a company thinks their announcement is important, and then leveraging media relationships to schedule some interviews in the hope of an ensuing wave of coverage. To positively shape perceptions, to the greatest degree possible with a savvy customer base, requires some strategic thinking and tactical creativity. In the recent third quarter of 2015, I helped Synopsys, the leading semiconductor design and IP company, to blitz the trade media with more stories from a single company than they probably wanted to hear. But by creatively tailoring our announcements to topics of interest to their readership, we achieved extensive coverage. And first up for some creative thinking in Q3, was connectivity.
The reason for the failure of the Facebook initial public offering can be summed up in a single word, mobile. Problems at Nasdaq, investment banker miscalculations, a share structure tailored to strip shareholders of traditional rights, concerns over the leadership abilities of a CEO actively articulating his disinterest in making money or even one of their biggest advertisers in General Motors pulling out on the eve of the deal because Facebook advertising was deemed ineffective certainly didn’t help. But all of these issues could have been overcome. What could not be overcome was the inability to communicate a viable mobile strategy.
With the holiday season of giving now upon us it seemed the perfect time to write a post on designing a corporate contest or giveaway. The best corporate contests draw interest, clearly distinguish your company and educate audiences about your products. Of course doing all that is easier said, and many companies resort to giving away pens or bouncing balls featuring their logo at trade show booths. Nevertheless the contest giveaway this year of a client I work with serves as an excellent case study of how to creatively market not just a product, but a new technology, and to go beyond the traditional trade show in doing so.
Revised Q1 GDP was released last Friday showing anemic 1.6 percent growth. This came on top of still high unemployment rates and plummeting home sale numbers. It is safe to say that reality hasn’t just mugged the Obama administration’s recovery summer PR campaign aimed at the midterm elections, but knifed it and left it for dead in the gutter. To keep this post apolitical, spread the criticism around and also mix a few metaphors, the Bush administration itself crashed and burned when the president pulled the PR stunt of landing on a carrier deck after the invasion of Iraq under a mission accomplished banner. Both cases illustrate the dangers of trumpeting future successes before they have been realized. Credibility tends to be far easier to keep by being conservative in one’s promises then it is to get back once lost.