Peek behind the scenes of the launch of a web 2.0 company – Riya

Munjal ShahMunjal Shah, the CEO of Web 2.0 start-up Riya, is writing a series of posts recounting the first two months following the launch of the company’s public beta.  Riya offers “face recognition technology [that] automatically tags people in photos so you can search for just
the photo you want. In your albums. In your friends’ albums. In our public albums.”

In his introductory post, Munjal provides a taste of what is to come:

The last 60 days has been just a whirlwind. In the next eight/nine blog posts I’m going to recount the last sixty days of Riya in detail. Each blog post will cover a week.

I will recount the days following our launch, the cocaine like high and subsequent crash of the Techcrunch effect, the final analysis on whether Riya’s technology worked, the feedback we recieved from users, the competitors we beat (at least in traffic), the flaw in the Riya business strategy we uncovered, the crisis it precipitated, the concern I developed for the entire Web 2.0 industry as the numbers rolled in, the search for a new strategy as Azhar, Burak, and I sat in a conference room for almost 10 days straight, the customer data that lead us to a counter-web 2.0 and counter intuitive strategy, the board meeting and debate about it, and the first execution around it.

They say consumer Internet companies are all about launching, getting feedback, and iterating. Well, welcome to Riya Iteration 1.

Today, Munjal posted Episode 1: March 21 6am PST to March 28 6am.

Thanks to Tara Hunt for pointing to Munjal’s posts.

Ted Demopoulos wants you for his next book!

Ted DemopoulosTed Demopoulos is looking for people to interview for his next book, What No One Ever Tells You about Blogging and Podcasting: Real-Life Advice from 101 People Who Successfully Leverage the Power of the Blogosphere.

He’s looking for people who will talk to him about about “issues/topics in podcasting, making money from blogs, promoting your blog, blog planning, and more – ANYTHING is open.” He’s already published an initial set of interviewees and topics.

Interested in being in Ted’s book? Email him (ted[AT] or blog your own idea with a link to his post.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I could suggest an idea….

PRSA Counselors Academy: Watts Wacker

Watts WackerCounselor’s Academy ended on a high with a tour de force presentation by Watts Wacker, the celebrated futurist. (Watts describes himself much more entertainingly as a “twenty-first century alchemist.”)

Wacker was at turns humorous, inspirational and thought provoking. I can’t do him justice in one blog posting. You really have to see him. But I’d like to offer some snippets:

“What does the World look like after The abolition of context? There is no context today. The study of what has come before. Studying what has come before will not provide good insight into the future. It used to be that the mainstream would define the future. Now the fringe, the edge, has replaced the mainstream in the Zeitgeist. How else could Ozzy Osborne become a model for fatherhood?”

“People do not know what to trust anymore. People do not believe that institutions are prepared for the future. There’s never been a better time for people to swallow hard, summon courage and take the radical step. In our industry,this will lead to the demise of the traditional ad agency. Because the traditional agencies are unable to step outside of what they know.”

“We can’t stay here. There is a groundswell of people coming up who are saying, I’m ready to go. I just need to know who to trust to take me there.”

“Self selecting social organziation: a thousand years ago, the biggest contribution of Christ was the organization of life around families. Now we are moving to a neo-tribalism, a desperate search of people to find someone like themselves. This is what blogs are about.”

“In the broadcast model, value equalled the size of the audience. … Metcalfe’s Law of Networking Theory: The next person into a network makes everything before it have more value (e.g. fax machines). Every new person in, makes everything have more value.”

“As we move into this self-selecting organization, you have messaging, content creation, networking and commerce creation. The value creation becomes truly exponential. … You’re the ones who can help our clients put themselves together with new self-selecting communities.”

“The media centric life: We no longer define one another through possessions. We now define one another through the media we consume. We are starting to frame social discourse around something other than stuff. This media centric-ness is growing at a precipitous rate.

“All life is mediated. It’s all third person-driven. We should start to think about messaging as a result of that. We are now living in the pluperfect tense. Newspapers no longer write about what happened yesterday; they are writing about what may happen tomorrow. We are living in a future-focussed world.”

“We have new forms of tribal media. When Gianni Versace was shot, there was a cover story on Biker Magazine. That was counterintuitive. But as I looked at this I realized that the mass media tell you what you need to know about, but the tribal media tell you what you need to think about.”

“Post-America Geopolitics: We are seeing the dawn of the post-America era. Australia is an example of a country that spent the past century oriented to the west and now it is defining it’s future in relation to China.”

“Beauty and Earth: The post modern movement has come to conclusion. Just as the Empire Struck Back, so has beauty. In post-modernism, beauty wasn’t to be appreciated; it was to be parsed. … Beauty is coming back. We will have a new relationship with beauty. And the earth will be the recipient of that.”

What would I do if I were you?

“Relationship Theory: We have to really understand this. … The greatest currency in the world is reciprocity. Stop holding stuff back. You must give a view. Sellers should understand that I am never the same consumer two times in a row.”

“Story telling and myths: What can you hold on to in a time of change. Myths are truth stories. … A good story teller tells a story well. A great story teller helps me find myself in the story.”

“From “fringe” to “mainstream”: Malcolm Gladwell told us about one stop on the line; remember there’s a whole train line. Anything that makes it to social convention begins on the fringe. We don’t recognize enough where things are and where they are going. Stop hiring people like me to be a cool hunter for you. Do it yourself.”

“Do right to do well: Adam Smith was right, It’s called enlightened self interest for a reason.”

PRSA Counselors Academy Deb Radman

Day two of Counselors Academy opened with another round of Breakout sessions – small groups of 10 to 15 participants seated around a table for a discussion led by a senior practitioner or an expert advisor.

The first session I attended on “Preparing Your Future Leaders,” was led by Deb Radman, Managing Director of Stanton Communications and a former Chair of Counselors Academy. Darryl Salerno, the President of Second Quadrant, also offered much valuable insight. Darryl is the advisor Steve Cody credits with helping him to develop Peppercom‘s successful formula.

Future LeaderMost of the discussion participants agreed with Radman’s that all people are imbued with somesome leadership qualities. It is the responsiblity of current leaders to help young people to identify and develop the particular leadership qualities each of them possesses.

Of course, some people need more help than others to discover what they have that is special and will help them to lead a team or to run an agency.

Mid-size firms provide an opportunity for people to develop their leadership abilities. We’re in the leadership business: Our work is about helping articulate a vision, helping set goals, planning, researching, advising, persuading, and clarifying. That’s what leaders do.

We must stimulate the people who work for us to consider what kind of leader they might be and what they need to do to get there. Ask employees about who is an aspiring leader? Who do they perceive to be leaders? it’s very revealing.

  • What leaders look like:
  • They have bedrock values.
  • They have the courage to be decisive.
  • Consistent behaviour.
  • They do what they say they’re going to do.
  • They have the courage to be decisive.
  • They enable collaboration by building trust.
  • They create other leaders, not followers.
  • They articulate a clear vision of where they’re going.
  • They choose to lead.

To teach leadership, the people who you are trying to teach must perceive you to be a leader.
You must know what the people in your organization view as leadership qualities; then look at yourself to determine if you have the qualities to lead them, not just to manage them.

Radman emphasized that there is a tremendous difference between being a leader and a boss.

  • Boss drives people; Leader motivates them.
  • Boss depends on authority; Leader on persuasion.
  • Boss uses fear; Leader uses positive reinforcement.
  • Boss fixes the blame; Leader looks for a solution.
  • Boss say “I”; Leader say “we.”
  • Boss will tell people what to do; Leader will entice people to do something.

Leadership is a choice; you must inspire or persuade people to look inside themselves to determine what they want.

PRSA Counselors Academy: Robert French, Josh Hallett, Giovanni Rodriguez

Counselors Academy topped off the first day with top level panel discussion of the future of newspapers and the implications for PR. Robert French and Giovanni Rodriguez originally were to be joined by Tom Foremski. However, Foremski came down with a “bad knee”. So, Josh Hallett was recruited to pinch hit fresh off his all star turn in the Bloggety, Blog Blog session immediately prior to this panel. (After almost three hours on stage in two successive sessions, Josh gets the Energizer Bunny award from Counsellors Academy.)

Giovanni RodriguezGiovanni Rodriguez

Rodriguez asked the audience to think of Blogs as Do It Yourself (DIY) publishing; Podcasts as DIY broadcasting; and Wikis as DIY communities, markets and social movements.

These three developments, with their consumer generated character constitute challenges for both journalism and PR.

Giovanni indicated that he is involved in a work thatthe Society for New Communications Research has initiated to understand these challenges and to become an information resource regarding them. Rodriguez laid out a list of 10 things to watch:

10 Historic decline: “We can’t kid ourselves, newspapers have been in decline for a long time.”

9 Consolidation: “There are now three major newspaper chains in the U.S.A. … There are fewer stories being told. There is a troubling uniformity in reporting.”

8. Metros in trouble: “Some major city newspapers are in trouble. … They are in highly populated centres, but they are not getting the circulation and advertising necessary to support them.”

7. Stocks: “Family controlled papers are disappearing. Publicly held companies will tend toward a similarity of voice” as they seek to maximize returns.

6. The Internet – Advertising: Google’s advertising growth is being drawn from media like newspapers and magazines.

5. The Internet – Debundling content: Craigslist and Yahoo Finance are focused content internet channels that break down the newspapers’ model of bundling content.

4. The Internet – DIY Content: podcasts; wikis; blogs

3. Content across platforms: “The future may be about focusing on the content distributed across all channels. Telling a good story is still the core of journalism. Now, the channels are broader.”

2. Talking about “my” generation:; Ohmynews; backfence; Greensboro101.

1. Investing in “my” generation: “Rupert Murdoch has not done anything with – yet. However, there is no doubt that he and other large organizations are studying social media closely.”

Rodriguez concluded with the observation that, “There are always opportunities for innovation at times of change. … The future of journalism is innovation. Look for the new leaders who understand these ten rules and others.”

Josh HallettJosh Hallett

Josh Hallett’s consulting to both public relations agencies and newspapers gives him a unique perspective on the impact of social media.

Most notably, he is working with the Orlando Sentinel on new media channels. The Sentinel is transferring their columnists and B reporters over to the web.

Looking at the early results, he noted that blogging is having an impact on news gathering and writing. A couple of the Sentinel’s columnists use blogs as opportunities for citizen input on developing stories. Lawyers, interested parties and others comment on their blogs regarding stories. And the coverage can evolve as a result of this input.

In response to a question, Josh added that “In only two cases in the past year have stories been held for the print edition. They post on the blogs that they are working on stories and start to see tips start to come in.”

Josh noted that this development has implications for PR pros as well. As we see the stories develop this way during the day, we may be able to participate in the process of shaping them.

One potential negative impact on the public: “We are getting more and more into the daily need. We can construct our news feeds as content silos in which we do not encounter any news that disturbs you.”

Robert French

The driving force behind Auburn University’s progressive approach to blogging and journalism, Robert French is also a practicing PR pro and a “reformed journalist.”

Auburn is using social media in its classes. And French indicated that this is having a positive impact on the career prospects of his students. In fact, he reported, one student has just been recruited by Edelman in New York to work on the Wal-Mart national campaign. Edelman in New York. A dream job for a new graduate.

So, how are social media integrated into the student’s curriculum?

“All of my students are required to blog,” said French. “They must interact with other PR bloggers. … They must write in their blogs two times a week and they must comment in their blogs two times a week.

“We teach our students to write the new kinds of press releases using wikis,” he added. “Our students have taken to livejournal and They have incorporated SMS into campaigns.

“We practise Experiential learning. We run campaigns for clients in our classes. You cannot graduate unless you have run one of these campaigns.”

French believes that, “More of these programs will pop up in universities and colleges around the world” And he counsels PR executives to look for students who have this kind of interaction.

Robert also reported some recent research findings by both New York University and Auburn on the use of blogs by newspapers:

  • New York University has looked at the major market websites for the top 100 newspapers; 84 were incorporating blogs; some were incorporating podcasts and video.
  • 83% of the newspapers surveyed by Auburn are being updated as events happen on a 24/7 basis.
  • 60% never place anything behind a paywall.
  • 68% do not provide extra services to print subscribers in their online offerings.
  • 35% of their online efforts account for less than 15% of the newspaper’s overall budget — it’s inexpensive to do and many are still wary
  • 69% indicated that their online effort generates less than 15% of revenue — they can’t figure out a way to make money from it

Finally, he observed that the content in print newspapers is beginning to suffer because investigative journalism is being cut and younger, less experienced people are being used as reporters.

PRSA Counselors Academy: Josh Hallett

Josh HallettJosh Hallett‘s session, titled Bloggety, Blog, Blog, provided his audience with an overview of the social media and the tools used to create, view and search content.

Josh began by defining social media as “everything that is said, spoken, written photographed about your organization that is on the internet and that you have no control over.”

He pointed out that the February 2006 Forrester Big Idea report on Social Computing indicated that we have entered an era in which “individuals increasingly take cues from brand loyalists.”

From this, says Hallett, we should understand that, “It doesn’t matter how much advertising I’ve seen. If I hear something from somebody I trust, that’s what I’ll listen to.”

Hallett then provide an outstanding primer on blogs for the audience. His one digression from the orthodox was on the issue of transparency. He objects to the notion of transparency in blogs, suggesting that we can’t have true transparency until you have the ability to search completely into the files, correspondence and circumstances of the blogger – an opportunity we are not about to have.

(On this issue, I can’t agree with Josh. I think that there are enough people out there who know each of us to ensure that any misinformation or omissions would be found out. But, hey, time and experience will prove which view is correct!)

He followed the discussion of blogs with a review of bog search sites (Technorati,etc.) and other social media, including photo and video sharing sites like flickr and youtube.

He challenged the audience to consider why they should care about the people using these services. “Who are these people? And why should I care? Your mother, your sister, your son. More and more somebody you know knows somebody who is blogging.”

Josh went on to demonstrate the relevance to PR of social media by discussing the Sony RootKit debacle and Mark Cuban’s posting of interviews with reporters in order to wrest back control of his statements from the Fourth Estate.

He covered Creative Commons licensing, noting that many bloggers are motivated to share information, not by profit.

Again, addressing the concerns of his PR practitioner audience, Josh indicated that, “Blogs should never be written by the PR department. They should be written by the people who are doing the work.” He offered several examples to illustrate the difference between blogs written with an eye to corporate speak and those written with a genuineness of voice.

He stressed that bloggers can be honest and blunt in their assessments; so be ready for a candid conversation. You must be prepared to take the good and the bad.

In the remaining time, he covered RSS syndication technology (“more and more traditional media are providig RSS feeds”), podcasts, Wikis and Vlogging.

He suggested that, with all of these social media channels and the power of the search engines, paid media monitoring services are becoming redundant. Junior staff can be charged with monitoring the information flows without need of premium services. And the role of the practitioner becomes one of knowing what to do with the information and the social media

He also addressed blogger relations. He advised the audience to be careful to only “send something of interest to somebody you know.” He noted that he uses IM to send information to bloggers. This satisfies their appetite for timely information relevant to their interests. But to use this effectively, you must get to know the blogger you are dealing with.

He suggested that effective use of blogging requires PR practitioners to step outside of their traditional mass audience focus. “Do not think of blogs as a vehicle to get to 5,000 to 10,000 people. Think of blogs as a way to get to 100 to 150 very interested people.”

He also provided some examples of Media bypass – product launches directly to bloggers rather than through mainstream media.

As he wrapped up, Josh suggested that the audience should look at social media not as a technology tool, but as “a communications and search tool — it gives me the ability to find the 10 people in the world who share my passions.”

Finally, he suggested that people should look at Richard Edelman’s remarks about the press release at the Syndicate Conference as a preview of where PR may be going next in its use of new media.

Josh Hallett pitched his session at the perfect level for an audience that included less than five bloggers. About half the approximately 50 people in the room indicated that they use a feedreader. This level of use by senior practitioners suggests that blogging has a distance to travel before it will have penetrated into the mainstream of the public relations industry.

All in all, Josh’s presentation was a tour de force. In 75 minutes, he provided the complete introduction to social media. And even though the presentation ran overtime, no one left the room early. And people kept asking questions. The sign of a great presentation.

PRSA Counselors Academy: Julia Hood

Julia HoodCounselors Academy Steve Cody conducted an interactive one-on-one conversation with Julia Hood, Editor-in-Chief of PR Week.

Cody led off the conversation by noting that the membership of Counselors Academy is predominantly small and mid-size agencies and that these firms have a sense that “PR Week seems to give inordinate attention to the large agencies.”

“The large firms have larger marketing budgets, more staff, huge global clients and better opportunities to get our attention,” Hood responded. However, she added, “We pay an inordinate amount of time trying to cover medium sized agencies.”

On the question of how she believes PR agencies are doing in relation to advertising in getting the seat at the executive table, Hood had a positive message, seeing PR, “Definitely making strides. The thought leadership that is coming out of the PR world is definitely resonating, especially with CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers). … More and more, you can see advertising agencies understanding this. Advertising agencies are bringing PR agencies in earlier and earlier. That shows that advertising agencies realize that they are not doing the total job.  …. For PR, this is the moment.”

The most animated discussion revolved around PR Week’s treatment of the ethical controversies in which major agencies have become embroiled.

Speaking directly to the overbilling scandal involving Fleishman Hillard’s Los Angeles office, Hood initially suggested that, “No agency leader can say, ‘It can never happen to me.’ So I don’t sense a lot of glee coming out of the industry at Fleishman’s expense on this.”

She was challenged aggressively on this position by questions from the audience. One questioner asked, “Where is the institutional control? the tone of the coverage has been allowing them to get away with it.”

To this, Hood responded, “I think we’ve been pretty unflinching about Fleishman’s responsibility. Fleishman, at the end of the day, was not on trial. I don’t think we let Fleishman off easy. There were times when I wasn’t talking to anyone at Fleishman. At times I felt we had a reasonable point of view and they thought we didn’t.”

This answer elicited follow up question, “Have agencies cut you off?” Hood seemed nonplussed at this question and after some hesitation answered that, “I sat with a senior Fleishman person one time and they were not very happy. But we got through it. For myself, I take this responsibility very seriously. Communicate your displeasure, but don’t abandon the normal rules of dialogue.”

Question: “Who is responsible.”

Hood: “The individual is ultimately responsible.”

Question: Why isn’t there more criticism?

Hood: “It’s not PR Weeks job to impose an ethical standard. That’s the job of organizations like the PRSA. I don’t feel the need to come out on this because I’ve seen evidence of the industry dealing with it.”

Hood was also asked about her reaction to recent reports of attempted “pay for play” (allegations made by Robert Reich). “When talking about the issues of credibility and media and PR’s role,” she offered, “PR has to have an interest in preserving the credibility of the media platform and not undermining it. … We asked CMOs whether they would consider paying for media coverage and, thankfully, the vast majority said no. … This is something you have to address every day. And you’ll have to challenge clients who want to take the easy way.  … It’s a very grey area. A daily reality check to say, Is this crossing the line?”

Hood was also asked for her sense of why mainstream media do not accord PR the same level of coverage that they give to advertising. She noted that, “Richard Edelman just did a Q&A in the Wall Street Journal. Crispin Porter + Bogusky [the subject of a cover story in Business Week] is not really an advertising agency … They were on the cover of BusinessWeek because they challenged the conventional mindset of their industry. … Richard Edelman has changed many of the rules of the game by being out there and talking about their clients. … A lot of PR people do not want to talk about their clients. …. What does that do to the PR industry and its own promotion efforts?

“Finally, I think there is still a basic discomfort on the part of journalists in covering PR, because they know how important their relationships with PR agencies are – and they don’t want everyone to know. …. There is a certain amount of plausible deniability going on in the media … As long as those people feel there is something wrong with disclosing that there is a give and take, there’s a problem there.”

Finally, Cody asked Hood to put herself in the shoes of a start-up PR agency and to suggest how she could get on PR Week’s radar screen. She responded “The first thing I’d do is go online and get a copy of the editorial calendar. Six weeks before publication, we decide on what to do the feature on. Idea generation is absolutely critical. … If you see something in the editorial calendar that you have a unique expertise in or a story about, contact the publication.

“The second thing would be to make sure I know who the news editor is and who the features editor is. All the reporters have beats and they will return to the people who helped them the last time. They want people who will get back to them. Be interesting. Be quotable and be prepared to go on the record. Let us know what the trends are. If you pitch us, give us a clear idea.

“You see stories about large agencies because agencies large agencies pitch us.  We need help to find you sometimes.”

To close the session, Cody asked, “Is Pr Week making money? How can firms here who can’t afford advertising help you out?”

Hood responded that, “PR Week is doing quite well. What’s really pushed us ahead are special projects. … I believe that display advertising is not going to be the centre of the universe for PR Week. …. One thing that does bother me is people who want to be in the magazine who don’t subscribe. That level of participation for your trade publication …. you should get at least one subscription for your company.”

Julia, I’d love to subscribe. If I do, can I persuade you to cover Canadian PR agencies?

PRSA Counselors Academy: Tom Hoog clarification

I received an email from Tom Hoog that one passage of my post on his remarks at Counselors Academy may have given the reader the wrong impression. Tom’s email said:

hey Joe just reread the blog—-one thought that might clear up a question—on the fifth paragraph I think it was, I’m not sure if the reader may take away the thought that H&K made some mistakes or the industry made some mistakes—clearly my intent was to say the industry had made some mistakes 

My intent was to faithfully capture the intent of Tom’s remarks, which were both candid and full of valuable advice. I appreciate that he took the time to read my post and clarify this point.

PRSA Counselors Academy: Dick Martin

Dick Martin, Executive Vice-President for Public Relations for AT&T from 1997 to 2003, drew on his experience to offer insights about public relations at the heights of corporate America.

He started by asking “What do we do in PR? Rhetoric? Politics? Ethics? When you start out in PR, it’s all about rhetoric. When you get to the senior level, it’s less about what your client should say. It’s really about what your client should do. And that places public relations in the realm of ethics.”

PR's Brave New WorldHe bemoaned the current state of PR. “Public relations has degenerated in recent years into a series of techniques that could be taught in any trade school. … If economics is the dismal science, public relations has become the merry art of pseudo events and parties designed to work people into a frenzy.”

“Today, there are armies of PR people trying to inflate expectations of company results. … When drawing attention to our clients, be sure that there is something there to draw attention to.”

Looking to the future, he argued that “PR’s success depends on our clients’ success. The very thing that makes our clients successful – their focus on creating and serving customers – can also be a weakness in communications terms. PR practitioners should consider themselves to be the peripheral vision for our clients, helping them to see and deal with the things they may miss because of their single-minded focus.”

Finally, when asked about the pressure at some firms to take on controversial clients, Martin reminded the audience that, “Every person has the right to a legal defence, but not every person has the right to public relations. There are some situations that are so heinous that public relations should not become involved. Every practitioner should ask themselves whether what they are doing is serving the public interest.”

A thoughtful, pull-no-punches presentation by a man who scaled the heights of our profession and lived to tell about his experiences.

PRSA Counselors Academy: Steve Cody

Steve CodySteve Cody, Managing Partner of Peppercom shared his thoughts about the vital role that having a future-driven vision played in the turnaround and success of his firm.

Cody had to reinvent his firm after the dot com bubble burst. Not surprisingly with a name like Peppercom, his client base tilted heavily to technology. And when the bust hit, many of his clients evaporated.

According to Steve, “Complacency is a killer. It’s critical to figure out how to differentiate yourself because the marketplace is rapidly changing.

“Agencies that just keep on doing what they’ve been doing for years are heading for trouble. The field of dreams approach does not work. We all have the same kind of relationships with journalists. … The more you are seen as just an order taker and a tactical media relations operation, the more your business will be marginalized.”

Cody has based Peppercom’s differentiation on “understanding what is keeping the client up at night and understanding the changes in the marketplace and the business.”

Cody believes in the value of street level market research. He regularly calls “eight to nine people to find out what they see as their challenges.”

He has developed services and solutions that respond directly to the client concerns he has discovered.

For example, after 9-11, he was told by many clients and business executives that they were reining in their communications budgets. When he probed to determine what areas were moving forward, he discovered that companies were looking for ways to heighten their security and ability to respond to a security-related event. Seeing this, Cody sought out and partnered with a security company to develop a CrisisRx program. Through Crisis RX, the two partner firms provide clients with a realistic simulation of their crisis plans in order for them to preview how they will perform should they have to implement them in real life.

Other product offerings developed in a similar way include

Pain-based Selling: Peppercom partnered with a sales training organization to provide clients with hybrid sales training that draws on the basic principals of effective communications that Peppercom offers in its traditional media training.

Business Outcomes: a measurement program development in partnership with a marketing company.

Cody and Peppercom use the intelligence they have gathered through their research as the driver for an aggressive promotion program for Peppercom.

“We are very aggressive in treating Peppercom as a brand. From the very beginning, we treated Peppercom as a brand. Today, we treat it like a $25K to $30K / month client.”

He constantly mines the data for use in articles and speeches. And he says there is a constant appetite on the part of business people to hear “what is keeping their peer group up at night.”

“All of our senior people are tasked with asking what’s keeping you up at night? What’s keeping your firm up at night? Then we publish the results. Every two months or so, we have thought leadership articles coming out.”

Cody has taken much the same approach to establishing a blog: first research what others have done, test his own approach internally and finally launch it publicly.

Recently, he partnered with PR News for a survey of the C-Suite’s opinion of PR, further differentiating his firm in a hot area.

And now Cody is drawing on this research to create PepperDigital to help executives close the gap between traditional reputation management and marketing and what they are doing online. Another need identified through research.