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The Risk vs. Reward Of Being True to Yourself


For anyone who knows me personally, it’s fairly well understood that I’m not for everybody, which is something it took me quite a long time to make peace with. Like anyone else, I want to be liked but the reality is that I’m regularly off-color, my choice of analogies tends to be less than ideal, I can be rather overzealous in my pursuits, and my body odor leaves something to be desired.

Our agency is very much the same. We have been noted to push the envelope — hell, we push the box when it’s filled with rocks — we present non-traditional ideas, tell our clients when we believe they are wrong, play ping pong, drink too much, and thus we’re not for everyone or every brand. It’s something that organizationally we came to grips with that before even opening our doors and all the while managing some very challenging reputational issues faced by clients in energy, financial services, taxes and other fun verticals.

I was reminded of this recently when I was asked by a well-funded technology startup’s CEO — someone I have somewhat of a personal relationship with — to send him via email a short-list of what I felt his company needed to do from the outset in terms of communications assets. I responded with this email:

Thanks. As you requested, if I were starting up your new brand this is what I think you need:

  1.  To quote Roger Daltrey, “Who Are You?” He was high a lot so he also forgot to ask, what do you stand for? How do you articulate what you bring to the table. Worry less about the standard block and tackle “Mission” statements of yesteryear and focus more on simply saying who the hell you are. But this takes awhile to flesh out and process. To define your brand. We would do this with you and use this language throughout every aspect of your marketing materials – website, print collateral, business cards, media pitches, etc. 
  2. To quote Darrell Hall and John Oates, “Private eyes, they’re watching you.” When they peep through the hole in your shower to see you, what do they see besides, well, a light-in-the lap old man? We need to craft you a visual mark (logo), a color palette, and these things will be consistent throughout all marketing materials. 
  3. Allan Parsons Project once penned “Eye In the Sky.” They were forecasting the Internet! Or as George Bush would say, “Internets!” Hello website! Yours really sucks and I’m assuming it’s a place holder. We need one that really tells a story, connects prospective clients with you, and helps convert. It does not have to be a deep site nor overly complex I’m guessing.
  4. Remember when your favorite band, Men At Work, were singing “Who Can It Be Now?” You know why? They didn’t know who was looking for them or how to get them to where they needed ’em. Terrible play here but once the website is done we need to set up a search engine optimization program so that you pop up on relevant web searches when people are looking for relevant products.  
  5. My soul brother Rick James sang “Give It To Me Baby,” and he was probably referring to print collateral that sales people give to clients when they meet them. That, or sex, but I’m betting on a nice pamphlet. We’re talking one piece that you can use over and over. 
  6. Does it really matter who sang “Radio Killed the Radio Star?” Oh yeah, it was the Buggles. Anyhow, you need a video that tells the story of how your technology works in 2 minutes, can be used as a centerpiece of the website, and can easily be sent to prospective clients and people who are shorter than you. 

There are other things we can talk about — PR, social media mgmt., targeted digital advertising — but these are the fundamentals to kick off with. Let me know if you want to discuss.

Is every request for information or are all emails to prospective clients handled in this manner? Of course not. We have plenty of conservative clients and half the battle is knowing what can be said to whom. But am I ashamed of this in any way? It’s on our company blog – you tell me. But the bottom line is that there is risk and reward to being true to yourself and we’ve accepted that risk with open eyes.

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