The blog was lucky enough to meet David Maister while David was still writing his first books about managing and promoting service businesses.
Maister was then at Harvard Business School and had come to Montreal to run a two day workshop for the WORLDCOM Group of which the blog’s firm was then a member. This by the way was not the telco WORLDCOM group but was a network of independent PR companies around the world.
At the time it was common for service businesses to heavily promote themselves through media relations – as indeed it was for many companies in many industries. Some still do it, of course, and business pages are full of op eds and media releases from spokespersons for various accounting, legal and consulting firms demonstrating that there is often far more spin in the business pages than in political coverage.
Listening to Maister back then was a complete revelation. His thesis was compelling: service businesses should develop unique intellectual property through research or other techniques; promote it in a targeted way through small seminars and board room events; publish it as a special report and direct mail it; and then go on the conference and speakers’ circuit to promote it even further. With a good piece of IP you could get up to 12 months promotion and then the cycle would start again.
The blog found it remarkably successful and actually won lots of clients through the strategy. Indeed, along with the advice from a client that he didn’t buy services from supermarkets (referring to people who promised to do everything), it was probably the best and most practical business marketing strategy we ever came across. Indeed, the firm not only used it to promote itself but also used it to promote clients.
In a way speakers’ bureaux work on a similar principle, except in this case it is the individual speakers who are leveraging the IP they have built up over the years through experience, a bit of celebrity and lots of expertise. Maister came to mind this week when a long time friend and colleague, Ray Kennedy, mentioned that he had set up a new speakers’ bureau, Professional Speakers Bureau, although it was aiming for a boutique section of the market. Small, hands on, select list although he was looking to expand the list of the right people came along.
Ray Kennedy has been one of the legends of PR in Australia having worked in consultancy, for large global corporations such as Ford, and helping establish a variety of start-ups. The bureau stable includes speakers MCs and facilitators such as Bruce Guthrie, John Silvester, Jane Kennedy, Pete Smith and Trevor Marmalade with the full list available at www.prospeakersbureau.com.au or through Ray at 0418 316 944.
Incidentally, Ray Kennedy is also one of the many people who started in PR after the Melbourne morning paper, The Argus, folded. Fondly remembered by many, the paper provided what turned out to be a pioneering generation in the PR industry. A number of the former Argus reporters (that’s what journalists were called back then) were interviewed at a long get together recently. The interviews, focussed on the future of the print media, will be broadcast on the ABC 7.30 Report in Victoria on this Friday (14 June) at, of course, 7.30 pm.
Incidentally also, back in Montreal David Maister talked about the fact that when he left the UK it was at a time when there were still strong class feelings about East Enders – particularly their accents. This was before both the television soap; the advent of barrow boys to the markets; and, the spread of cutting edge contemporary designers and art galleries in the area (even though Lucien Freud was there and knew the Kray brothers). He also talked about the fact that accent was still important in the US and southern accents – at least in the north – provoked similar attitudes as East End accents did in the UK. Class and its signifiers have a long life!