The Warriors Down Year Has Lessons for Marketers, Communicators

No matter how successful or “invincible” a team, company or superstar marketer seems to be, times change, and life is defined by both peaks and valleys. Just ask the Golden State Warriors. Indeed, Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr’s “teaching” year also has instructive lessons for professional services companies.

Over the last five seasons, the Warriors were considered the premier team in the NBA – making it to five straight Finals and securing three championships. As the wins and rings piled up, it seemed like the dynasty could last forever. But, just as the team was about to upgrade their castle to sparkling digs in San Francisco, the pendulum of life swung in a different direction. Superstars suffered significant injuries. One, still injured, bolted for Brooklyn. Veterans moved on, and gravity set in. As of early December, the Warriors are 4-17, dead last in the Western Conference.

Kerr summed up the situation succinctly in a recent New York Times interview:

“I don’t want our mind-set to just allow failure to sink in,” Kerr said in an interview. “Because we all read stuff, we all hear stuff and we all see stuff. Players have it at their fingertips on their phones, and all the chatter out there is, ‘All right, so the Warriors are going to be in the lottery.’ But we can’t succumb to that. We have to fight and scrap for every win we can get.”

Kerr’s mentality is one that professional services companies would be wise to adopt when faced with similar predicaments. There are “superstar marketers” and true “rainmakers” and sometimes they leave or retire, sometimes they have bad or busy years, and sometimes the magic just doesn’t work like it once did.

Managing transitional or lean years can be difficult, but also part of fostering a new era of success. Here’s a quick playbook for professional services companies:

These are the players you have.

Kerr might pine for the departed Kevin Durant to be back on the team (and healthy), or for Steph Curry’s wrist to miraculously heal overnight. Neither are going to happen. And so, he works with the players he has. Professional services marketers and communicators can see industry superstars – such as the person always quoted on an issue. But, by focusing on and credentialing the talent within, real progress is possible.

Give the kids a chance.

When senior-level employees leave a company, younger talent behind them is often thrust into new roles. Some are more than prepared to take on the challenge, while others are not.

Here’s Kerr on his dynamic from a San Francisco Chronicle article:

“It’s totally different,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, our rookies have basically been the 13th or 14th man. Their whole job has been to watch the veterans in front of them, and our job has been to work with the rookies before or after practice. … But now you’ve got to go war with them, and they’re not ready.”

In slower/leaner times, it is important for companies to nurture their more junior team members and make sure they are put into situations where they can succeed and feel they are contributing.

Try new things.

With bandwidth comes time to tinker. With a demanding rainmaker on “hiatus,” a professional services marketer or communicator can explore options like targeted blogs, podcasts or building strengths in areas that have historically been weaker. With Kerr’s young, raw squad, he and his staff are likely drawing up plays that are untested – and learning about themselves and their players in the process.

Re-focus on the fundamentals.

Some players are natural talents, with skill complemented by practice. Others are just raw talent that need careful molding. When time allows it, teams and companies should evaluate their systems and processes to weed out inefficiencies and find new pathways for success. Almost every team has a “Team Way,” – “Warriors Way,” “Sharks Way,” or “Giants Way.” This is both a mission statement and an operational manual – from the G League to the NBA, Low A baseball to MLB.

Be patient.

If companies can adjust expectations while building for the future, they will be in the best position to succeed for years to come (and get back to their “winning” ways). While the Warriors might come back to form when their top talent returns from injury next year, they might also struggle next year or find that they have a new superstar in the making. No doubt time will change the game. For marketers and communicators drilling dry well after dry well in terms of initiatives and campaigns, struggles will end – provided a strong foundation is in place. The Warriors used to be a perennially dreadful team with seasons totaling only 17 and 19 wins back in the late-90s and early-2000s. It took time, along with a new ownership and focus, to find sustained success.

No one outside the Bay Area feels bad for Warriors fans. The team had a run that few enjoy, and surely some will revel in these new struggles. It’s now far easier, despite a gleaming new arena, to get tickets for home games and – at least for this year – the jerseys, hats and tees are getting less wear. (It’s the 49ers’ time!) Still, real fans of all aspects of the game – the good and the lean years – are showing up and getting loud. The games have to be played, and the team needs its fans.

Similarly, professional services companies can have spectacular runs only to have the forces of fate – time, changes to the law or regulations, personnel departures – alter the near-term output and impact of marketing and communications efforts. This does not mean it is time to stop trying, nor is it an invitation to wait for a superstar or two to organically develop. It’s a time to dial-in, try new things, develop raw talent and focus on long-term growth strategies.

Joey Telucci

December 3, 2019 at 9:32 pm Leave a comment

Running on Empty: Why Running and Marketing After a Hiatus is Challenging

I like to think of myself as a runner. But, honestly, I’m an inconsistent runner. This on again/off again dedication has consequences and parallels in professional services (proserv) marketing. Let’s explore.

In running: When you haven’t run in a while, it’s much harder to get going again.

In proserv marketing: If your brand has sat on the shelf and had little activity, it’s difficult to raise short-term awareness.

In running, your legs and back are stiff and you’re much more quickly out of breath. Frankly, running is pretty miserable after a long layover. Sometimes I think to myself, “Why am I even doing this?!”

In marketing, lack of activity means that your brand’s image awareness atrophies. After just six months of letting up on dedicated investment, it begins to slide off the radar of your target audiences. When a brand push resumes – in byline articles, advertisements, third-party commentary, social media and other initiatives – opportunities are harder to secure and overall ROI feels low, to the point of questioning the process.

You simply can’t turn on and off your brand awareness. You need to keep the tap open. And, if you don’t want sore legs after running around the block, you need to lace up your shoes more often.

In running: Your mileage is low when you put your running shoes back on, and it doesn’t feel like it will ever go back up.

In proserv marketing: When you start marketing in earnest after a long hiatus, the total number of activities and positive outcomes is often fairly low.

The tools to run – whether around the block or a 5K – are the same, the clothes, the shoes, etc. And, in terms of total effort, the early days of running often feel more challenging than when you have been doing it for a while and are actually going on longer runs. The same applies to marketing. Getting going again is challenging and often involves many fits and starts and some dead ends. Your time “spend” may feel high, even though months later it will be more but feel like less. The process, in each case, leads to results.

In running: When you start running again, you can get early delusions of grandeur.

In proserv marketing: Early success can get to your head and set unrealistic expectations.

There are really, really good runners – super-fast sprinters and distance runners with unbelievable endurance. However, for the most part, there are people like me – 5Ks are great. 10Ks are a little ambitious, and anything longer than that requires more training than I have time or interest. It’s important to keep perspective: finishing races is great. Winning them or going from a 5K to the Boston Marathon isn’t realistic. It’s far better to set and consistently achieve attainable goals.

What’s the parallel? Well, writing a byline article for a bar publication isn’t a direct stepping-stone to being quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Running and marketing are iterative processes that reward your effort. One can go from couch to 5K to the Boston Marathon, just as one can go from an accounting trade to the New York Times. It takes effort, skill and some degree of good fortune. (It also helps to have a coach.)

In running: Not running tends to be bad for your waistline.

In proserv marketing: Not marketing tends to make your brand complacent and sluggish.

Running is good for a person on many levels, including burning a lot of calories and shedding some summer excess or winter “lining.” If you don’t run, as a person who runs for exercise, you tend to get heavier, slower and more tired – a trifecta of sloth!

Consistent marketing keeps company and personal brands agile, attractive in the marketplace and renewed. Brands that sit on the shelf go out of the public’s mind, lose out on business development opportunities and fail to attract talent.

Runners should run, regularly. (Trust me, I know.) And, professional services brands should market, regularly. Both just make good sense.

Michael Bond

November 21, 2019 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

What Can We Learn from “Pierre Delecto?”

Pierre Delecto, we hardly knew ye! The delicious, and somewhat apolitical, news out of Washington, D.C. that Utah Senator Mitt Romney, for some time, had a secret Twitter account under the pseudonym “Pierre Delecto” is instructive for any professional who has deployed a side social media account – people can often find you, and what you have liked or written will be scrutinized.

Secret accounts and code names are not unique to Romney; just ask “Wayne Tracker” a/k/a then ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. These accounts can be innocuous, but they also often contain:

  • Hyper-political commentary.
  • Follows and likes of “laddy” material, such as accounts for cheerleaders.

This social media activity has appeared on public, masked and quasi-private channels. All begging the question, “Can I just be myself (whomever that really is) on social media?” In short: not really, at least in some regard.

For individuals delivering professional services (e.g., lawyers, accountants, architects and others who bill by the hour), personal reputation – trumps everything (and it could be argued that this is even more pronounced for consultant-types than for business-to-consumer executives.)

But wait you say, “There is nothing wrong with me liking cheerleaders or applauding or chiding a politician!” This is true, fundamentally. But, would you make such comments in a one-on-one meeting with a client? Would you hang a cheerleader swimsuit calendar up in your office? I’m guessing not.

What if my account is masked or private? This is better, but we all, like poker players, have tells. Romney gave a lot of clues, but one of the biggest was that his account followed his family members. (Wait, aren’t we all following Tagg Romney?!?) Following a family member creates a breadcrumb trail: If a sleuth is trying to find you, they search your full name, then your last name. If your family member pops up – particularly your spouse – the searcher checks that person’s followers and can often ferret out a target. And, even private accounts leak some information out.

The bottom line is that you should be able to publicly stand behind all your social media activity and likes.

If you are trying to keep a secret or side social media account, be prepared to own up to it like the Mittster, “C’est moi.” Or, better yet, just don’t do it.

Michael Bond

October 29, 2019 at 7:34 pm Leave a comment

Lateral Move Media Coverage: Be Realistic

Hey, why don’t our lateral partner announcements get coverage in The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times? The simple answer: you aren’t Robert Mueller.

Half the battle with providing public relations services involves setting expectations, and lateral announcements are no exception.

The business of law, despite being a massive industry, remains opaque to most “business” reporters. They are generally tapped to follow multiple different industries, and admittedly, law firms are very different corporate structures. Lateral moves are important for firms and clients, but also fairly common and prima facie not very material to the outside world.

Who will generally cover lateral moves? – The legal trade media.

Will the business journals? – Sure, but increasingly these are paid spots.

Will daily newspapers? – Rarely. Outliers like The Washington Post’s “Appointments and Promotions” do exist.

What about community newspapers – Sometimes. Be sure to tell your communications team your hometown and ask that they look for hyperlocal outlets.

Will alumni publications – Often. The “Class Notes” section is where moves will generally appear. Sometimes alums are profiled in stories, but this is rare.

Well, who does get covered in national publications like the Journal or the Times? Bob Mueller.

Who else?

High-profile political appointees, regulators and politicians entering private practice, generally. Sometimes high-ranking law firm leaders lateraling are mentioned, but not often.

“On the Move” mentions and lateral profile articles are important tools for conveying firm direction and boosting profiles. And, there are still many good and attainable options for visibility. Let’s just not carried away.

Fun passage on Mueller’s move from the Times story:

On his first day back, Mr. Mueller had a somewhat simpler puzzle than determining whether a presidential campaign engaged in a sprawling criminal conspiracy with a foreign power.

“He’s just being refreshed on how to use the computers,” Mr. Novick (Robert T. Novick, a WilmerHale managing partner) said. “If he’s doing any more than that, I’d be really impressed. I doubt it’s a highly revenue-generating day.”

Stars, they’re just like us!

Michael Bond

October 2, 2019 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

If Only Scrooge was a Business Roundtable Member: Professional Services Companies Wise to Ape Group’s Progressive Pledge

The Business Roundtable – a star-studded group of U.S. businesses – on August 19 announced a new definition of what a corporation should be, noting that they should operate for the “benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.” This is a significant policy shift from the hardline definition that a corporation should be focused solely on financial profit. For professional services companies, the move is also meaningful: when you have no physical widget to lure in customers, reputation and messaging are everything. And, increasingly, no one wants to do business with Ebenezer Scrooge.

Scrooge may have been a deft businessman, judging by the wealth he had on hand, but he was terrible to his employees and only cared about money. Scrooge’s money-lending business was no doubt lucrative, but where was his social mission? Where were his progressive employee benefits? Was it a diverse and inclusive business? All-in-all it appeared to be a miserable place to work, helmed by a miser and with a singular focus on profit. It seems unlikely that Scrooge was good at attracting and retaining talent (Bob Cratchit’s misplaced loyalty aside). In a competitive marketplace, it’s quite possible that a “warmer” competitor across the street – even with a 0.001 higher rate – might peel off much of Scrooge’s business. Your business may not be Scrooge’s, but do others see all the good you do, for employees, the community and your clients? If not, it’s time to work on your messaging.

Taking a page from the Business Roundtable, consider pledging and messaging your good. Here’s an adapted set of planks:

Delivering value to our clients. Professional services companies’ raison d’etre is to solve problems and help businesses succeed. (Some might even call this “Bringing Business to Business. See what I did there?) Your company’s messaging should showcase these successes, blending the tools available with examples of their real-world application.

Investing in our employees. Businesses of all stripes have made great strides expanding employee benefits and working toward fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. These efforts need to be championed. And, if your firm is behind the 8-ball, it needs to get going. Other businesses and consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets in favor of workplaces where employees feel safe, respected and *gasp* happy. Tell the world what your company believes in. Have values and live them.

Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. You’re on your own on this one. However, you can rest assured that failure to do the right thing will ultimately lead to bad PR (or legal action).

Supporting the communities in which we work. Most companies have great, employee-driven initiatives that build houses, feed the hungry and help the world. By telling these stories professional services companies humanize their professionals and showcase their commitment and care to where they are and the good they do.

Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. Long-term, mission-focused operations and messaging create a solid reputational base that helps a professional services firm when bad news happens. Taking the steps now to create a runway for regularly messaging positive developments creates intangible but impactful value.

Scrooge’s intervention was drastic. Professional services companies need not travel through dimensions nor commune with the spirits to see how purely profit-driven policies have impacted their image in the past and how they will continue to do so in the future. Just like the members of the Business Roundtable, why not evaluate your organization and ensure you are doing well by your employees, clients and communities – all while remaining focused on business development and profit?

Michael Bond

September 5, 2019 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

To Speak Like the Best You Need Prep Like the Best – Prepare, Practice and Perform for Optimum Public Speaking

I recently went to the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) educational program, “Training the Trainers for Public Speaking Success” to gain knowledge on the tools, tips and techniques for preparing lawyers to give a presentation – whether it be at a bar association meeting, conference, webinar or another event. Moderated by our own Traci Stuart, the panel included public speaking experts’ David Adams, Founder, Revenue Wise; Marianne Fleischer, Founder, Fleischer Communications; and Doris Pickering, CEO, Silicon Valley Speaks.

From left: Traci Stuart, President, Blattel Communications; Doris Pickering, CEO, Silicon Valley Speaks; David Adams, Founder, RevenueWise; and Marianne Fleischer, Founder, Fleischer Communications

As marketers, we know that every speaking engagement is a potential business development opportunity; however, getting our clients to understand the intricacies of preparing a successful, revenue-generating talk can sometimes be challenging. Even the most experienced speaker has their quirks and bad habits, and presentation coaching can go a long way in getting the most out of an engagement – both personally and professionally.

No matter the type of presentation, all participants involved have a set of goals. Whether you are the presenter or an attendee, the universal goal is to come away from the presentation with something that you can use for personal betterment. Adams outlined four goals for each side to keep in mind, stating: “An audience member wants to: 1) learn something; 2) apply what they learn; 3) enjoy themselves; and 4) evaluate people to hire. On the other hand, the speaker wants to: 1) generate new leads; 2) secure new clients; 3) build their relationships with existing clients; and 4) build their brand.”

In order to achieve these goals, presenters must understand the specifics of the opportunity (length, topic, audience demographic, etc.). Fleischer emphasized the importance of fine tuning the presentation to discuss what is at stake for those listening and what they can take away from doing so. The more targeted a speaker can be, the better the presentation. In order to make the subject at hand more engaging, Fleischer encouraged the use of an anecdote. “Anecdotes can be a great presentation technique,” she said. “Tell the story by identifying a clear plot, a twist to make it interesting, a resolution and lesson learned. This is far more appealing than posting a text heavy slide, and the audience will retain the information better.”

Focusing on engagement and brevity, a slide presentation must be in line (timing-wise) with what the presenter is saying. Once a slide is projected on the screen, the audience will immediately begin to read it and will likely tune out whatever is being said. Pickering mentioned that since members of the audience read at different levels and speeds, putting up slides with bullets, sub-bullets and sub-sub-bullets will make the presentation extremely difficult to follow. Instead, she suggested that slides should only highlight the key points and be used as visual aids.

While keeping the presentation succinct is key to maintaining the audience’s attention, it will be useless without the right delivery. For any of us, it is important to know what we do when we are presenting. “Presenters should video themselves to point out a nervous tick and have something tangible to view in order to stop it,” she said. “If someone tells you that you are talking too fast, believe them! You have to be conscious of your speed, and practice speaking slower.” Fleischer added that an audience must hear the presenter and believe in what they are saying. Awareness is key and taking the time as a speaker to practice a presentation and its pace multiple times beforehand will help fight those habits. Nervous energy can also be identified and eliminated by the presenter by methods including walking on a stage or quietly grabbing the fingers of their fidgeting opposing hand to remain centered and calm.

Ultimately, it all leads back to getting the business cards of audience members after the presentation is over. But how is this done? Adams mentioned that every presentation needs a great hook to start a dialog. Three go-to hooks to use are: 1) a scored worksheet/assessment; 2) a guide or whitepaper; and 3) a free or flat-fee service. Each of these can give the audience some incentive to pay attention or a reason for the presenter to reach out after the session concludes.

As with anything in life, the more you do something, the better at it you become. Helping a speaker understand what worked and what can be improved on is critical to them wanting to present again and mastering the craft. Oftentimes, presenters focus too much on the negative and although they may say they don’t have the time to practice, it really is their job to do so. Pickering often tells clients to use their commute as a time to practice their presentations. In order to be totally comfortable on stage, especially if something does not go according to plan the day of, you must be totally prepared. This comes with repetition. Getting new clients is the end game and marketers need to drive the point home to them that speaking engagements are business development opportunities.

— Joey Telucci

February 26, 2019 at 5:24 pm Leave a comment

Scrubbing Down Social Media: A Common Lesson in 2018

Everything is permanent when posted on social media. Let me repeat that. Everything. Is. Permanent. We’ve all succumb to the temptation to drive likes, comments or retweets, writing off-the-cuff remarks for a following or to express oneself in a given moment. The problem is that those fleeting posts – some of which may have been written ten years ago when you were a snarky teen or college student – can come back to haunt you in your professional life.

Recently, a variety of public figures – including high-profile entertainment executives (e.g., James Gunn, director of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise) and athletes (e.g., Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner) alike – have become the target of internet trolls scouring through their accounts to dig up posts from years ago that contain insensitive and/or offensive language. While those with followings in the hundreds of thousands or millions make headlines when their old posts resurface, it is something that all professionals and their brand keepers need to be aware of – even if those posts do not become a discussion topic on CNN.

While social media encapsulates our lives on a daily basis in 2018, we can forget that it has only been around in its current form for 15 years or so. The vast majority of us use it much differently today than we did in 2008, and while this isn’t an excuse for offensive posts, those posts are not always reflective of the person in the present. I can sit here and maintain that no one should ever post anything that could be deemed even mildly inappropriate; however, we are all humans that make mistakes. Every employed individual needs to understand that while speech is free, it is not free of potential consequences. Inappropriate behavior, even in the past, can hinder business development.

For professional services companies, it is imperative to conduct a “social media audit” of  employees to know what negative content may be lurking out there. Not all offensive content is created equal; however, most will not be as blatant as Gunn’s or Turner’s. Posts about politics, song lyrics, sports trash talk, among others commentary, may not be representative of the image a company wants to project.

To really drive this message home, firms should host training sessions with the marketing department, HR department and general counsel. If they can get in front of the problem by emphasizing the importance of “scrubbing down” a social media account, while stressing individual First Amendment rights, they can put themselves in a better position to avoid a crisis in the future. In these sessions, they can counsel employees on proper social media use and the company standards for posting.

Are certain topics off limits? What type of language is tolerated? Would they be comfortable with a client seeing this particular post? These are important questions for professional services companies to consider as social media isn’t going away anytime soon and the internet has a long tail – that can come back and smack you.

Joey Telucci

August 21, 2018 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

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