Strategy is one of the most abused, misused words in the entire lexicon of business. Ask 100 executives what strategy means and you’ll get 150 different answers. In this six-part series, we’ll look at how to choose a PR strategy based on visible, measurable criteria and a meta-strategic framework. Today, we’ll examine the innovative PR environment.
Recall that our framework for choosing a PR strategy is based on two dimensions, pace (how fast things change) and voice (how easy it is to be heard):
The innovative environment is defined by a slow pace and the ability to have a strong voice, to be heard clearly. The reason why it’s slow and strong is that you’re in uncharted waters. There are no competitors, and there’s no story to be had because the space is so new. This is the space of the first personal computers, when people didn’t even know what they were. This is the space of the hybrid car in 1999, the space of the Internet of Things in 2012, and the space around drones last year. No one is quite sure what to make of these nascent industries, and thus there’s an opportunity to capture a commanding lead through innovation.
The defining characteristic of the innovative environment is one in which not much is happening. No one is talking about the products, services, or ideas you have. If you’ve heard the term ‘blue ocean strategy’, that defines the innovative PR environment very well.
The upside is that gaining share of voice in an innovative PR environment is relatively straightforward; since no one is talking about the space, there’s little to no competition. The downside is that no one is talking about the space, which means that gaining the attention of influential publications and journalists is exceptionally difficult. Few publications will be calling you because they have not heard of you or the space you represent.
How To Choose An Innovative Strategy
In the innovative environment, dedication defines whether you win or lose. You have to stick with your message and persist against very difficult conditions. It can be incredibly demoralizing and disheartening to not have anyone pay attention, care, or return your calls.
What strategies and tactics fit well in an innovative environment? Because you’ve got time on your side (relatively speaking) and your biggest obstacle is awareness, you can afford to invest in messaging, build a robust content marketing library, court and identify influencers, and do tons of outreach.
When planning against the innovative environment, front-load everything. If you succeed, you’ll want to ensure you have enough of a commanding lead to continue dominating the conversation. If your message doesn’t resonate, you’ll need enough material to continue chipping away at resistance for a long time. This is the origin of the “10 years to become an ‘overnight’ success” concept.
For example, the tablet computing market was nascent from 1993 onward with Apple’s Newton tablet, but didn’t take off as a commercial success until 17 years later with the Apple iPad.
Where You’ll Go Wrong
The biggest mistake in innovative PR is mistaking your space for being truly innovative when it’s actually traditionally competitive or chaotic. If you attempt an innovation strategy in a traditional environment, working on the assumption that you’re truly different when you’re not, you’ll never make a dent in competitors’ share of voice. If you attempt an innovation strategy in a chaotic environment, by the time you’ve built and front-loaded your messaging arsenal, the environment will have changed and rendered your preparations moot.
The second biggest mistake in the innovative PR environment is not having the capability or desire to sustain your messaging over time. It’s easy to give up, to pivot, to do something else, or to run out of money and resources, especially if you’re in a startup environment. Be sure you’re not a sprinter showing up for a marathon.
In the next post in this series, we’ll look at what it means to cooperate with your competitors.
How to Choose a PR Strategy
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology