How to signal that a company is becoming more dynamic
April 5, 2010 1:34 PM   Subscribe

How do I signal to the trade press that a dull company is "getting hip"?

I'm helping out a company which is in a stagnant, dull B2B industry and wants to signal to the trade press that it's becoming more dynamic/innovative. What can I do to help it send those signals? I'm interested in anything from getting the company to post updates on Twitter all the way through to them developing new innovative products. Suggestions welcome!
posted by runkelfinker to Work & Money (13 answers total)
show, don't tell: press releases about dynamic/innovative things after you've done them will help make people realise the company has changed.

Otherwise it's just telling your schoolfriends "wait and see, next week I'm going to be really cool".
posted by bonaldi at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

That's your concept: Once we were square, now we are hip. That kind of marketing isn't for everyone, but it can work. (In the right hands, it can work either way.) Good luck!
posted by LonnieK at 1:54 PM on April 5, 2010

To follow on what bonaldi said, if you can only say "we're working on getting hip" instead of "look at what we've done/created!", then you run the risk of hyping yourself with nothing to back you. Products may sound great during development, but they may not work out or may not be brought to the market for a variety of reasons. You don't ever want to have to go back to your current and potential customers with a "You know that thing we were working on? We couldn't pull it off."
posted by onhazier at 1:56 PM on April 5, 2010

Best answer: Everyone loves a good story, even (or perhaps especially) trade press in a dull industry. Sharing your hopes is one way to get people invested in your success, so talking about things you haven't delivered on yet could actually help you deliver.

Keep in mind though, that failure can make at least as good a story as success, so don't count on people rooting for you. Therefore, as others have suggested, its good to start out with something concrete that you've already done, in addition to a plausible plan for what's next and why it matters.
posted by Good Brain at 2:18 PM on April 5, 2010

You don't define hip. You act hip, then people notice what you're doing. You must get people to notice what you're doing. Do something. The Old Spice thread from today is an interesting example, in that they're trusting people will find the ads hip. Can you imagine if they issued a press release that said "hey, Old Spice used to be square, but now we're hip!"
posted by davejay at 2:31 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be more transparent. Show how things run at HQ and make sure they are quirky.
posted by lakerk at 3:03 PM on April 5, 2010

Step 1: Be it.
Step 2: Prove it.
Step 3: Do clever nontraditional things that get media attention while reinforcing your company, your brand, and (if possible) what your company does. Might I recommend starting with some wacky yet 100% altruistic charity work? Do some dogooder things that get noticed. Here's a for instance: Years ago, I came up with a charity event to raise money and awareness for a local at-risk kids nonprofit. It was a holiday event. We built a volunteer kazoo band and played Christmas carols while also selling kazoos for $5 each with all of the proceeds going to the charity. The event was called It's A Kazoo Christmas. [I'll probably post it in the metafilter projects this coming summer in hopes of having people take the idea and run with it in their cities]. I'm not saying you should do that, by the way... I'm just using it as an example of something wacky that gets attention for good reasons.

The simple truth is, you don't get to tell people you're hip any more than the lame kid at school got to tell people he was cool. Saying it often serves as proof to the contrary. The worst thing you can do is promote your company as being hip if it isn't because you'll only reinforce negative perceptions people already have. That takes me back to step 1 as mentioned at the beginning of this comment. Want a new image? Be it. Prove it. Then, do things - sometimes unexpected things - to reinforce that image.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 5:20 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Make a video showing your company installing an iPad inside their product.
posted by bonsai forest at 6:15 PM on April 5, 2010

Spam and Miracle Whip are two brands that formerly had a square/tacky/? image and recently did ad campaigns that tried to show how they are now hip. You might look at those campaigns for ideas? Seems like it will only work if your company goes along and if the existing image is markedly notably square.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:40 PM on April 5, 2010

Best answer: The closest analogue to your situation I can think of is UPS rebranding itself as "Brown" a few years ago. What they did there was highlight lesser-known aspects of their business and clearly focus-grouped the hell out of what their customers liked about them.

The key, I think, is making sure that you're not just trying on non-stodginess for the hell of it. If you start a company twitter feed, make it worthwhile for your customers to follow. Post original industry axioms, link to relevant press not just about your company, retweet followers to build loyalty, be open to conversations (@ebertchicago is a textbook example of how to run a personal brand via twitter). If it's just ... "we posted to our company blog, look there" ... there's no point and you're still stodgy. Embrace whatever it is you're trying to ease into.
posted by dhartung at 9:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Decide upon who the company's advocate should be and media train the hell out of him or her. Agreed key messages, consistently delivered across a range of media outlets. Continual outreach, building relationships with stakeholders, opinion formers and journalists. Embrace new media but keep doing it and do it well - a dormant blog is worse than no blog.

The reality is as bonaldi suggests. There has to be substance to this, otherwise all you have is aspiration. If there's no delivery, the company shreds its credibility and ends up in an even worse place, from a reputation point of view. You're going to suggest the development of new products? Steak, please - not sizzle.
posted by dmt at 3:40 AM on April 6, 2010

By the way - I'll note that in my comment above, I was assuming a small company with limited resources. For a large company, I agree 100000% with dhartung and especially dmt.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:36 AM on April 6, 2010

As a former member of the trade press, I would echo bonaldi's response and advise you to be very careful with this. Trade journalists are by and large a jaded bunch. Not to mention that for most of them these days job security is a crapshoot at best. Show them how your client company can help their audience. End of story. If you want to do that in an amusing or quirky way, fine. But beware that they have finely honed BS detectors and itchy delete-key fingers. They will know instantly if there is no there there. So make sure you have real substance, real demonstrable benefit for their readers. Show them something they didn't know, a true innovation, and they will not hesitate to share it. After all, their jobs depend to some extent on the health of the industry they cover.
posted by dust of the stars at 2:31 PM on April 6, 2010

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