Bill Gates Is After Me!

While the world still scratches its head wondering whether Microsoft will ultimately acquire our client, online advertising/adware giant Claria Corp., this week it was definitively announced that Redmond would be gobbling up FrontBridge (pending govt approval), another SHIFT client, in the email security realm... And in related news, also this week, MS became a minority investor in yet another (former) client, Finjan Software.

So as you can guess, this past month whenever a client called me "to discuss something important," my first response has been, "Uh-oh, have you been talking to that Bill Gates fella?"

What's interesting for us to think about - and for all firms - is the topic of "specialization." For some time now we've specialized in IT Security. Rattling off some names, we work (or have worked) with companies like CyberTrust, Vernier Networks, Preventsys, SonicWall, Foundstone, Kaspersky Labs, etc. Now that IT Security is hot-hot-hot (and certainly in Gates & Ballmers' cross-hairs), we have the dubious honor of watching our hard work pay-off as one client after another gets snatched up by big-name players.

Thus the conundrum: should we specialize in certain areas, so that we can leverage our expertise and credentials to attract a slew of start-ups in a sector? - or should we be die-hard generalists, to minimize the chances of losing a bunch of sector clients, one-after-another, in the M&A wave that's sure to occur if our PR kicks ass?!

As usual, my guess is that the answer lies "somewhere in-between" these two options!

Measurement Matters

Sam Whitmore of MediaSurvey, who has his finger squarely on the pulse of the PR industry, discusses our LeadSensor methodology (below). Gosh, I'm starting to think people are finally understanding the unique value we provide to the marketing department! Let's see... which would most companies prefer, lots of clips or lots of lucrative sales?

Any reason they can't have both? Methinks it won't belong before the PR industry in general learns the meaning of true accountability. But let's see what Sam has to say:

"Mirapoint CMO Bethany Mayer is a measurer. She tracks how she spends every dollar -- even on public relations services. That's a big reason why, she says, SHIFT Communications gets her business -- just as it did when Mayer served as Vernier Networks' VP of marketing.

SHIFT's LeadSensor service "helps me justify money for programs because if a program does well from a lead-conversion perspective, I get more budget for that program," Mayer says.

Lead Sensor is "a consultative process" that "tweaks a company's web site capture form, call scripts, CRM and analytics packages," says SHIFT sales and marketing director Parry Headrick. This enables companies such as Mirapoint to gauge the origin of all sales leads -- including those from PR, Headrick says. Mayer analyzes her stats using pie charts created by software.

According to SHIFT's web site, LeadSensor is deployed in a one-time consulting project that typically takes about 20 hours over two to three weeks. When completed, the templates can monitor the:

* Number of raw leads per marketing program
* Number of qualified leads per marketing program
* Number and revenue value of closed deals, per marketing program
* Retention rate of existing customers, tagged by lead source

Says Mayer: "[SHIFT] figured this thing out, and I'm really pleased."

SHIFT is not the first PR agency to discover that PR can and should be measured as a source of sales leads. Horn Group CEO Sabrina Horn wrote this piece three years ago on the topic. Independent consultants such as Katie Paine have been linking PR with sales for a decade.

Yet, at most agencies, it's still all about the "hit". Check out this page from SparkSource Inc.'s web site. Then consider this from Schwartz PR: "Our clients ask us to do many things. Establish corporate positioning. Launch products. Develop executives into expert media sources. De-position competitors. Manage crisis communications. Raise issue awareness. And much more."

To most PR agencies, "measurement" refers to how much coverage they produce for the client. Hoping to tap this opportunity, PR Newswire this week launched MediaSense, a subscription-based service that helps agencies measure their coverage. Some of the larger agencies, such as Text 100, already offer in-house measurement services.

Historically, at least, making the cash register ring is generally considered the client's responsibility. Time will tell whether the Bethany Mayers of the world will raise the bar."

Ode to Owen

Though it had nothing at all to do with PR, some of my best feedback on this blog came from a recent post about our beloved dog, Owen. It turns out that that fairly hilarious tale may have a tragic end. Though just 2 years old, our best friend has been a train wreck lately. He has a herniated disk and just underwent emergency surgery for bloat. His mishaps of last month were our only warning that something was seriously wrong with our pup.

So ... on top of the x-country move of the whole family, buying a new house, helping to run the business, attending umpteen newbiz and client meetings, car troubles, getting the kids settled in Boston, feeling guilty about not blogging, etc., the worst and most stressful episodes of the past few months have been all about our big guy. He's usually our touchstone for sanity: when all else is going wrong, a dopey grin from Owen sets things right. I hope he feels better soon. Meanwhile, here's a pic to give you a sense of our majestic doofus.

Next time, I'll write about something PR-related. Honest!


In case you've been wondering (breathless and afraid?) about the sparse amount of posts lately, it's because I've been moving approximately 1/2 of my life. As of this month, our family will be bi-coastal - with places in the Bay Area and in Boston.

Lots of good business reasons for this, but no time to go into it now. The last bit of packing is underway!

I've been averaging 1-2 posts per week, and hope to get back to that rate again soon, but for the time being the blogging takes a backseat to family/business needs. Stay tuned!