Steve Jobs once told a story at a Stanford commencement ceremony about connecting the dots that led him from graduating from high school to co-founding Apple Computer and his eventual falling out with the Board of Directors. He said you can connect the dots looking backwards, but you cannot connect the dots looking forward. Connecting the dots backwards slowly began to reveal who he really is and what he really cared about. And even though he was rejected for a time by the industry he helped found, he still loved what he did. It is his passion.
Seeing this talk recently inspired me to take a step back and follow Steve’s process of connecting the dots backwards. How if it were not for a lunch with my girlfriend’s mother would I have found my passion for public relations at age 20. So, I decided to re-examine my dots — the successful public relations and social media campaigns I performed for different companies. Here’s a quick recap of some of the companies and how public relations made a difference to their bottom line:
eMachines: An incredible turnaround, eMachines had a perception of using used parts and going out of business. We turned the tide of public and industry perception in favor of eMachines – within three months, the company received several positive media stories and the stock price increased by 700 percent. eMachines went from going out of business to a consumer value brand.
(ISC)2: In this information age where computers run everything from power grids to flight systems and stock markets, (ISC)2 looked to stave off cybercrime by taking an aggressive role in setting global Internet security standards. The organization turned to us to change attitudes about the importance of their professional certification program and computer security in general. The organization grew from 3,500 members to more than 70,000 worldwide. This is a client who has kept their confidence in us for more than 10 years.
Toshiba Notebook Computers: Although Toshiba produced the first battery-powered notebook computer, they began to lose market share as the company’s reputation went from technology leader to technology laggard. We executed an aggressive public relations program aimed at knowledgeable influencers and decision makers by leveraging the company’s R&D innovations and technology integration. The campaign moved Toshiba from a leader in building “boat anchors” to a technology leader in notebook computers.
Archive Corporation: In the wake of a recession, Archive Corporation wanted to increase its visibility and credibility within the financial community. They called upon us to develop an Investor Relations Program to establish, maintain and expand day-by-day communications with Archive’s diverse equity holders, analysts and the media. The stock price reached an all-time high of $14 per share from 4 ½ and the company received more than 15 analyst research reports.
Fujitsu Computer Systems: Can you teach an old doctor new tricks? With its Stylistic ST Series Tablet PC, Fujitsu sought to increase sales and capture dominant position in the burgeoning healthcare technology market with the help of longtime business partner Microsoft and with a PR campaign focused on old-fashioned house calls with a 21st-century twist.
In PR, Silver Anvils are pure gold – and I have been fortunate to have earned seven. The Silver Anvil, the Oscar of the PR industry, is awarded annually for communications excellence. The Public Relations Society of America has honored me, and the companies I worked with seven of them – more than any other PR practitioner in Southern California – as well as with a Bronze Anvil. To earn these coveted awards, a public relations program must meet the highest standards of performance in research, opportunity identification, planning, strategy, tactical execution and results.
I look at these dots of success and think of others: running the international branding program for Texas Instruments, or riding the rocket at AST Research from a small PC enhancement company to a billion-dollar worldwide PC manufacturer. And, I can drop names of companies who I’ve worked with such as Acer, Hitachi, Western Digital, Sanders & Associates, Networks in Motion, and many more.
I learned along the way that there are no two companies alike, every company has its challenges, and each opportunity is unique. And, I appreciate all these companies giving me the opportunity to pursue my passion in making a difference in their company.
As Steve said, you cannot connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect your future. You have to trust in something – “your gut, destiny, life, Karma, whatever.” This approach has never let Steve or me down, and it has made all the difference in my life – even during these tough economic times.
Public relations is in an interesting situation right now with so much of the traditional media world moving to digital media. The thread of public relations is being interwoven with social media, creating a powerful new hybrid form of communications. Instead of only working for coverage in the Wall Street Journal, we are leveraging optimized content for search engines and developing and managing social networks to engage customers and promote content. The tools are changing but the goal remains the same – helping our clients reach their customers.
As I connect these past dots of success and move into a hybrid communications model, will you and your company be my next dot of success?
Tags: Acer, Apple, Archive, AST, commencement speech, dots of success, eMachines, Fujitsu, Hitachi, hybrid communications, investor relations, isc2, laptop, maples, notebook, orange county, PR, PRSA, public relations, Silver Anvil, social media, Stanford, Steve Jobs, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Western Digital