XTC—Examining the Change: Changing the Relationship with Risk

Credit: Cole Patrick
Credit: Cole Patrick

In our previous two posts we’ve explored the dynamic of ingenuity over innovation, and ways to activate customers as influencers. But one of the more prevalent trends in tech marketing and PR this year is the extent to which tech marketers are targeting specific vertical markets.

What’s interesting is that many of these verticals are traditionally risk-averse, such as health careautomotive, and manufacturing. It’s usually because they  find themselves caught between opposing mandates such as regulatory concerns, public safety, security and financial risk on the one hand, and the need to deal with massive disruptions from new business models and competitors on the other. And if these traditionally conservative industries don’t embrace the risks that technology represents, they’re in trouble.

Gartner calls this “Digital Business Advantage,” and in a recent report, they make some fairly startling predictions. By 2017 …

  • 20% of all market leaders will lose their dominant position to a company founded after the year 2000 because of a lack of digital business advantage
  • 25% of all companies will lose significant market share because of “digital business incompetence”
  • Corporate strategists will begin conducting daily competitive scans because of a loss of sustainable competitive advantage

In other words, embracing technology risk is no longer a luxury. Fast followers have to become fast evolvers, or else they risk extinction.

But what if these organizations could change their relationship with risk? What if they could apply that same calculating conservatism they usually apply to examining technology ROI and instead calculate a different cost—the cost of doing nothingCertainly, it’s often difficult to predict the hard ROI from deploying a relatively new and unproven technology. But it’s much easier to predict the impact of not changing course when new competitors are emerging and already starting to eat away at your market position.

And what if companies began to count their organizational learning curve as a corporate asset, as well? That’s the other untold story in technology today—the fact that in many cases, we are still learning the appropriate use of these new technologies. But it takes time to figure out the best possible uses for a new technology, and all too often companies and industries assume that the first few uses are the only uses. And this leads to a gross undervaluing of ROI. But in a world where change is the only constant, it’s the fastest learning curve that wins. Where’s the ROI equation for that?

That’s why today many progressive companies are re-examining their relationship with risk. CIOs and CTOs are beginning to accept that the downside of innovation is nothing in comparison to the downside of not evolving. And progressive tech marketers are beginning to engage customers in co-creating value propositions. Because a great technology in the hands of an ingenious customer probably has applications far beyond what the vendor ever had in mind.

Next week, we’ll look at engineering for expectations, and embracing human assumptions as a core design principle for your tech PR campaign.

XTC—Examining the Change: Ingenuity over Innovation

At our 2014 Tech MarkScreen Shot 2014-09-11 at 12.02.01 PMeters Playbook event last week, we previewed a number of themes we see emerging in tech PR this year that we will be examining in more detail on this blog over the coming weeks. Namely, approaching customers as influencers; changing the relationship with risk; engineering for expectations; and the rise of small data over big data.

But one of the biggest trends we see emerging is the rise of Ingenuity over Innovation. And as “innovation” is now center square for buzzword bingo in tech PR, it’s worth a closer look.

Here I’m defining “innovation” as the creation of a brand new component that’s never been seen before, and “ingenuity” as the creative recombination of existing components into something more useful. The wheel was an innovation. New. Impressive. By itself, useless. Then some ingenious soul took two wheels, put a stick through them and set a box on top, thus creating a cart. Also impressive. And immediately useful.

The problem with innovation is that it usually happens in a time of surplus. The wheel only came along after we’d learned to farm and store food and discovered free time. But ingenuity happens in moments of great need, when a difficult task needs to be done right now and we simply have to make do with what we have.

That’s the reality we face today.  And that’s why we are entering an era of ingenuity.

The good news is that ingenuity is an inexhaustible human resource. You see it at work today in key verticals such as automotive, healthcare, manufacturing and financial services. These sectors have to be cautious around innovation, given the regulations and cultures that govern them. But they must adapt to disruption to survive. So they don’t default to spending time and money on innovation for its own sake. They find mind-blowing new ways to use things that have already proven to be useful—and trustworthy.

Perhaps the most liberating thing about ingenuity is that it allows us to challenge the myth of scarcity. Too often we as a PR community begin our pitches with cost, complexity and risk. Without realizing it, we perpetuate a zero-sum game that assumes we just don’t have enough to work with now.

But what if we in the tech PR community could flip the script on scarcity and pose the viral question, “What if we do have everything we need? What if we just need the ingenuity to make better use of what we have?” What impact would it have if together we started telling the ingenuity story? Imagine the dialogue across entrepreneurs, technologists, economists and influencers around the ingenious utilization of the plethora of proven innovations at our feet.

Now that’s a story worth telling.

Stars of Silicon Valley Shine at B&O’s Fireside Chat

Let me start by simply saying this…our event last week was not your average, boring tech industry get together. In fact, there was nothing average about it.

Headlined by luminaries Charlene Li of Altimeter Group and Mike Weir of LinkedIn, and bringing together the hottest Silicon Valley companies and influencers including OracleTeradiciVentyxLyrisNarusBitcasaCheck PointNexGateSkype and YouEye, B&O’s inaugural Tech Marketing Playbook Fireside Chat was a great event filled with cool people and awesome content.

Discussion outlined marketplace shifts that impact how technology companies go-to-market and sustain their position, and offered sage advice on strategies and tactics that every tech marketing and communications professional should have in their playbook.

We will be continuing the discussion on this blog over the coming weeks/months and look forward to working with you all to build out the #PRPlaybook. You can also stay tuned into what’s happening in our world by following us on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.

In the meantime, here are 10 reasons why Blanc & Otus is the hottest ticket in town:

1.  Hardworking, smart and fun – B&O has the best team ever.

B&O Staff


2.  We know how to fill a room.

Tech Marketing Playbook Fireside Chat


3. Who says tech PR trends have to be dull?

Josh Reynolds, Charlene Li, David Meizlik, Lori Shephard
L-R: Charlene Li, Altimeter Group; Josh Reynolds, B&O; David Meizlik, NexGate; and Lori Bush Shephard, Clarizen


4. Our gents know all about creativity, authenticity and fun – just what every successful social media program needs.

B&O staff
L-R: Neil Torres, Bill Rundle, Neil Desai, Simon Jones, Charlie Passero, Andrew Padgett, Drew Smith, all of B&O


5. We delight our guests with 5-Star Service AND the best Chardonnay.

L-R Karen Hartquist, Candice van der Laan, Deborah Hellinger, all of Oracle
L-R Karen Hartquist, Candice van der Laan, Deborah Hellinger, all of Oracle


6. We know who matters and have exceptional list management skills.

Event name tags


7. The ladies of B&O know how to work it – whether it’s PR magic or a little black dress.

L-R: Stephanie Kaye, Natalie Pridham, Ivy Chen, Joan Touchstone, Christine Pai, Danielle Tarp, Kristin Reeves, all of B&O
L-R: Stephanie Kaye, Natalie Pridham, Ivy Chen, Joan Touchstone, Christine Pai, Danielle Tarp, Kristin Reeves, all of B&O


8.  Two words: client lovefest.

John Philpin, Lyris and Danielle Tarp, B&O
John Philpin, Lyris and Danielle Tarp, B&O


9.  Our messaging skills are strong enough to stand on their own.

B&O banners


10. Making Josh look smaller than Charlene Li takes talent, but we know how to play with perspectives.

L-R: Josh Reynolds, B&O; Charlene Li, Altimeter Group; Mike Weir, LinkedIn
L-R: Josh Reynolds, B&O; Charlene Li, Altimeter Group; Mike Weir, LinkedIn

Wendy Allen

Smiling in the Face of Disruption: Welcome to Above the Fold

B&OAt B&O, we’re celebrating. New clients. New employees. New services. And new results for existing clients. A lot has changed and we are only just beginning.

And of course we don’t have the monopoly on change. It’s everywhere we look as technology creates new industries and redefines old ones.  For those of us crazy enough to sustain a career in tech PR, isn’t that what makes our jobs so fun? It’s this questionable relationship we all have with adrenaline and the rush of never quite knowing what’s going to happen next that compels us.

Knowing that change is happening is one thing. Understanding what matters is something else. It requires the courage to speak plainly. The curiosity to lean into new ideas and differing opinions. The candor to fearlessly and openly share lessons learned from successes and failures. And while it sounds like a daring combination for an industry defined by spin, it’s exactly what we are about.  Simply put, we believe that when tech PR professionals act as a creative collective of equals, we discover the resourcefulness, tenacity and experience to not only handle disruption, but to rock it.

It was this culture that made me want join B&O last August. It’s a culture that’s defined by authenticity. We believe people operate at their best when they’re encouraged to show up … I mean really show up. That means our people don’t leave their personalities at home. We don’t waste energy acting like somebody else all day. Instead, we bring everything we are into the office, where it’s put to good use and celebrated. And that means we each play to our individual strengths and combine forces to form an unstoppable tribe of equals who come through for each other and stare disruption in the face.

In the coming weeks and months, that’s what you’ll see more of on this site: disruption. Discussions about it, research about it, and a celebration of it. Starting March 27 you’ll also see my new blog series, “XTC—Exploring the Change,” in which we take a fresh trend each Thursday and turn it inside out.

So welcome to our new website. Welcome to our new blog. Welcome to our tribe. This is going to be fun.