'Strategic' communications becomes business communications

We're no longer calling ourselves a PR firm

It’s a subtle revision on our website but a significant change in our direction.  The banner across the top of our website pages used to say “strategic communications.” We used that phrase with our logo all the time and it’s still on our business cards until we get a new batch.

But recently we began to question the “strategic” part. After a lot of debate about where we want to go as a company, we’ve changed “strategic” to “business.”

The “aha!” moment of clarity that prompted us to make the change came after a few months of self-examination. We read the iconic book, “Good to Great.” We sat down with our friend Cindy Stynchula, who helps lots of companies with defining their culture, leadership development and strategic planning. Cindy challenged us and forced us to think hard about the direction of The Whittington Group.


If everyone is 'strategic,' then the word no longer says very much.

We also asked ourselves, “What the heck is ‘strategic’ communications anyway? The word has become so overused – like “solutions” and “awesome” – that we question its value in describing what we do. Wouldn’t any consulting firm of any type do things in a strategic way? We don’t think the word is a useful differentiator for our brand.

There’s also a bigger context for this change. We’re no longer going to refer to ourselves as a PR firm. It’s an easy crutch to use in describing our company since a lot of people have at least some broad idea of what a PR firm does. But our agency does many things that aren’t truly “public relations.”

On the flip side of that coin, a lot of folks calling themselves a PR firm aren’t truly comparable to us.  For example, tons of PR agencies primarily do consumer-focused work like retail store promotions and restaurant and entertainment work. That’s just not us.

We’re hard-core business geeks. We help businesses with all manner of communications issues. PR is one of our service areas, and we’re good at it. But we spend lots of time and energy on other (albeit related) services like government relations & public policy, digital media, brand planning, community engagement, corporate and investor communications and others. Business stuff.

And we usually do our work in some fairly complex businesses with dense subject matter – property taxes, pharma, accounting, law, engineering, commercial real estate, construction, etc.

Our re-thinking of who we want to be and what we want to do over the past months clarified so much for us that we recently turned down a chance to do a retail store launch in Houston. It’s never easy to tell a prospective client, “No, we don’t want this project or your money,” but it was easier to do so knowing that this kind of work no longer fits our business.  As “Good to Great” helped us understand, it doesn’t align with our hedgehog concept.

So, we go forward as a business communications firm. Yes, we’ll continue to do a lot of PR work. Very well, in fact. But we don’t define ourselves by leading with PR.

Maybe someday we’ll even start using “BC” for short. Or we may refine it again to something different. Until then, please don’t call us a PR firm. A business communications firm that provides PR and other services is what we’re really about.

-          Eric Whittington