'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

Making Sure Your Organization is Heard

Business groups and trade associations often focus much of their energy on public policy and regulatory issues. Laws, rules and regulations can be established on a local, state or national level. Influencing them requires active effort to express a clear and compelling point of view.

Our client (Rey Chavez, president & CEO of the San Antonio Manufacturers Association, right) talks about NAFTA with a WOAI News Radio 1200 reporter moments before a recent association program. 

Our client (Rey Chavez, president & CEO of the San Antonio Manufacturers Association, right) talks about NAFTA with a WOAI News Radio 1200 reporter moments before a recent association program. 

One way to do it is to engage with appropriate media outlets. Newsrooms and what they report still carry significant weight. Elected officials as well as the bureaucrats who work for them still pay attention and are influenced by the daily ebb and flow of news and opinion. 

And newsroom staffs are hungry for content. Their staffs are stretched thin, so when an organization makes it easier for them to report a story, that organization often has a great shot at making the news. 

How can you do that? Here are are few simple ways that can help make sure your business group's voice is heard when it comes to legislation, ordinances and regulations:

  1. Have a clear message that you can state as simply as possible in 10 seconds or less. Use easy-to-understand language and talk about how the issue affects real people.
  2. When your organization holds and event such as seminar, invite local reporters. For those who attend, make sure to introduce them to the organization's leader.
  3. Coach that designated leader to express your message to any reporter they encounter.
  4. For those media who don't attend, email them a short statement from your group's leader so they can include the quote in their coverage even without attending the event.
  5. For radio news outlets, send them a short (10 seconds or less) audio clip of your leader making the statement you want them to make.
  6. You don't have to wait to hold an event to do any of this. Send text and audio clips to your local news organizations anytime your trade group needs to inject its voice into a public policy debate.

Finally, once your material makes it into the news, be sure to share those news items with your organization's members. It will underscore to them that the organization is standing up for its members and their interests. 

- Eric Whittington



Twitter's New Calendar of Major Events: What it Means

Hear that?

That is the sound of social media managers celebrating the newest social media marketing tool released by Twitter.

Introducing, the calendar of major events! I know, it needs a catchier name.

It’s just a calendar. So what?

Au contraire, my friend. The calendar highlights major events coming in the next month, as well as the projected volume of tweets per event.

Now you know exactly when the best times to tweet and the major events that coincide!

While this might not seem like a big deal, the overall benefit to marketing and social media directors is massive. We all know reach is one of the biggest metrics, and Twitter just told us how to optimize.

Not every event is going to be right for your brand. Your audience (and desired audience) might not be engaged with every major event, but now it is much easier to identify the right ones.

Stay tuned for more updates!

- Casey Whittington