Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I spent half an hour this afternoon listening to Kevin Kennedy, CEO of JDSU, present at the Citibank financial conference in New York. My objective was to continue to come up to speed on JDSU as a new board member, and also to give Kevin feedback on his presentation. Kevin is a world class CEO and a thorough and detailed presenter - deeply operational and no spin.
At the same time, earlier today, I had lunch with a former Monitor 110 employee who was seeking career advice and we had a chance to do a debrief on what went wrong there (they were a competitor to FirstRain and recently closed up shop). Roger Ehrenberg has already written a thoughtful blog post on their mistakes and I was interested in the color behind the story.
As I walked back to my office from the Citi conference I found myself thinking about the stark contrast in style, how powerful marketing can be when done right but how damaging it can be when over done. There are two recent examples of the latter. Monitor 110's story of how a mention in the FT effectively overexposed them and paralyzed management's ability to get a product out because it wasn't going to meet expectations. And the disastrously over hyped Cuil - where too much PR on day one, before the search engine was ready for prime time, led to such negative press and dropping volume that they may not be able to recover.
When growing a new technology company it's a fine line you have to walk on how much exposure is enough? I like to use customer need as my metronome.
- Does the PR get to the right customer audience?
- Is the message interesting to the target customer?
- Can we back it up - is it truth?
If "yes" then do it, if the answer to any of these questions is "no" then don't do it. I'm an extrovert so I love to tell the story, but I don't believe all press is good press so we work hard to send strong, positive, relevant and supported messages into the market.