It’s amazing how survival has a way of tuning one’s senses.
That was the situation for our U.S. operation back in the 2011/2012 timeframe. It calls to mind the famous line from Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
It was time for our U.S. operation do things differently.
The underpinning of this massive overhaul involved the hiring of Steve Burkhart to take the U.S. reins as general manager. I concluded after serving in the dual roles of U.S. GM and global CEO since the Agency’s founding that we needed a fresh voice to lead the U.S. charge. Plus, I didn’t want Albert Einstein calling me insane.
I was just as passionate and optimistic about the Agency. I was even more determined to put the Agency on a positive trajectory. But I needed to channel my energies in a different way.
The gift of desperation.
At the core, we still have the same mission that puts the No. 1 emphasis on the client and service delivery. And we still have the same egalitarian culture that emphasizes teamwork. What the U.S. management team — Steve B., Kymra Knuth, and Steve Jursa — has done is establish a deep sense of accountability that underpins our core values.
There’s still “care” in the Agency — care for clients, care for the work we do and care for each other. But there’s also the expectation of high-level performance and the discipline to make changes when an individual doesn’t fit.
Recognition from the Holmes Report as a finalist for the Tech PR Agency of the Year offers another proof point that it worked. Out of literally hundreds of PR agencies focused on the technology sector, the Holmes Report judged us as the one of the top five in the country.
Certainly, the ability to win new accounts and drive revenue growth is part of the picture. We’ve enjoyed 30+ percent growth the past couple years with another double digit growth projected for this year.
Reflecting on the recognition from the Holmes Report, three pillars set the stage for this success.
The first pillar comes in the form of the leadership changes and creating a culture of accountability that I’ve already discussed.
The second pillar involves differentiating our offering. Every PR company with a pulse touts storytelling expertise, but it tends to be a squishy concept. We’ve been able to walk the talk, building out a storytelling methodology that serves as the foundation for how we develop content in client campaigns, our storytelling workshops and internal training.
As another means of differentiating our offering, our campaigns emphasize the building of online presence and search engine optimization (SEO). It turns out that high-quality content — that informs, educates and even amuses, ideally with a unique bent — is synergistic with SEO. High-quality content gets shared, and these signals (from shared content) go a long way in determining what Google serves up for a given search. Along this line, we’ve established an in-house SEO team to address the technical side of the discipline. Even with content driving our approach to SEO, there’s still a certain amount of technical rigor required on the execution side.
The third pillar focuses on our own brand and reputation. In competing against much larger shops, it’s important that we punch above our weight and show we’re good stewards of our own brand. With this in mind, we retooled our corporate identity baking the classic story arc into our logo:
And we bulldozed www.Hoffman.com, creating a new public face to the outside world that showcases the our approach to storytelling — conversational language, anecdotes, visual storytelling, etc. — as well as a distinctive point of view.
Beyond the website, we apply the same tenets of thought leadership to our own brand building as we do in client campaigns. One of the more visible efforts comes out in SlideShare and decks like “Return of Storytelling vs. Corporate Speak” and “The Blurring Line Between Digital Marketing and PR.”
Of course, these three pillars might as well be made of cotton candy if we don’t execute our campaigns and generate the type of results that clients care about. It was gratifying that the Holmes Report highlighted our ability to execute: “… the work that Hoffman does is among the most sophisticated and creative in the tech sector.
I’m equally proud of our care for clients. I saw this play out over the past weekend when our Fremont account team went the extra mile on a Saturday to ensure the success of an interview with the Wall Street Journal scheduled for early Monday. It paid off with an 810-word feature published yesterday.
This same “care” underpins our work across the world. It’s tough to quantify. It’s impossible to leverage in new-biz reviews (every PR agency claims to be client-centric). But it absolutely differentiates our offering.
Kudos to the entire team, not just in the U.S., but in Asia and Europe — our cross-directional support is another unique characteristic — for making it happen.