Trendspotters: PR Industry Vet Doug Poretz on New Startup, Innovation and Surviving "Creative Destruction"
In the spotlight: Doug Poretz, Co-Founder and Chairman, Nuuko
Serial entrepreneurs are addicted. To change, innovation—and always being ahead of the next big trends. Doug Poretz is no exception. He co-founded Nuuko after selling his interest in Qorvis Communications—the integrated public relations, public affairs, advertising, online marketing firm based in Washington, DC that became one of the largest and fastest growing of its kind in the nation. For half of his forty+-year career in communications, he focused on investor relations and corporate communications, in-house as part of senior management for three public companies (two NYSE, one AMEX), and for scores more companies on a retained basis.
So what is his new venture all about? Still in the start-up phase, the Nuuko site is a marketplace where enterprises can find the expertise they need to address their critical issues, challenges and opportunities. The experts all have C-suite level credentials and have been vetted to verify their credentials. Expertise is offered in a wide variety of industry verticals, skill area horizontals and to respond to topical issues by the experts who coalesce into “clusters” for marketing and, as appropriate, to deliver service—the enterprise can choose to retain a single expert or a team. The terms of the assignments (not jobs) are negotiated between the enterprises and experts; Nuuko provides all the tools, resources, methodologies, etc. needed to make the relationship successful.
Read on to find out what lessons and trends Nuuko suggests for communications and marketing professionals:
According to your site, we are currently experiencing one of the greatest periods of Creative Destruction. What is this—and how can we as communicators help our clients cope with it?
By “Creative Destruction,” we mean that not only are new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking and prioritizing being created, but in the process they are actually replacing—or destroying—the existing ways of doing things, often including “immutable laws.” (Mark Johnson, founder of Innosight and author of “Seizing the White Space” has done a series of videos for us on this topic; here is the link to one of them.) This is happening because of the convergence of some very fundamental changes, among which are the revolution in communications (which we believe is underrated and misunderstood), the expansion of the global economy, the economic and political legacy from the near melt-down of the financial and capital markets in the Fall of 2008.
You can’t go through so much fundamental change, occurring at an ever-accelerating pace, without major disruption. In our case, we think what is being created is a new way that enterprises can access and work with experts, and what is being destroyed is the ways enterprises are organized at the C-suite level especially.
One way communicators can help clients cope with this is to help them understand the full scope of the communications revolution—and that isn’t simply the emergence of social media and tools such as Twitter. When you take a very long and expansive look at how the human animal has changed communications, you can see a four million year journey where communications was tyrannized by space and time—that is, the very early hominids communicated by pointing and pantomiming even before there was a voice box or larger brain (see Michael Tomasello’s work at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, and especially his book “The Origins of Human Communications”).
This meant that people had to be in the same place at the same time to communicate. The story of the evolution of the hominid is in many ways the story of how we changed communications so that we could communicate over longer distances with time becoming increasingly less important. After this four million year quest, the human animal has basically won: time and space have been eliminated as influencers on communications, and we think that is the real communications revolution.
We think that focusing on a tool such as Twitter to try to characterize the communications revolution is tantamount to discussing the process for making furniture by focusing on the power drill—it’s just too narrow a perspective. When our clients take a really robust view of how communications has changed, there will be a mindset that allows for true integrated communications, the erasing of silos defined by distribution channels (e.g., PR vs. advertising vs. events) and greater emphasis on simply getting out messages that resonate to the targeted audiences.
What top trends do you see streaming into Nuuko that are impacting the enterprise/business?
We’re not certain. But right now, it seems that we are getting most interest from executives who want an intervention of sorts—they want experts they respect to take a look at their company and their industry, their strength and weaknesses and opportunities and engage in a high quality discussion with them about their business from a “first responder” approach. They want to hear: This is another way of looking at your business … Here is an opportunity you may not have seen … Have you considered this? … Here is a trend that can impact you … etc.
In other words, we’re seeing executives attempting to gain a clearer understanding of things versus more data about things. We think the best way they can get that is from people who have been there/done that/at the highest levels. We also think they want this help quickly, without bureaucracy, at a fair (not necessarily “cheap”) fee. We think those attributes, delivered simultaneously, define the market for “expertise” as compared to the market for “consulting.”
What new PR initiatives and/or techniques are you using to drive the Nuuko story? Anything specific to social media?
We do not know what we will ultimately rely on most to promote the Nuuko story. We are using video for sure because the “thought-leaders” we want to feature for our visitors would rather give video interviews than write a white paper … we also know our visitors would rather watch a one-two-minute video that downloads then read an extended article … and we know that a well-promoted video will do wonders for search engine listings. So, videos are a big component of our promotional efforts. But we are also testing all sorts of social media. And the traditional press release still has a major role and can produce dramatic consequences. Plus, the construction of the website itself is part of the communications/promotions effort. So we are trying experiments in all those arenas.
Nuuko certainly taps into the “crowdsourcing” concept made possible by social media—what other trends have changed communications the most since your Qorvis days?
We’re not certain that “crowd sourcing” as currently understood is the way it will be ultimately understood. In reality, “crowd sourcing” is still a nascent concept that is being developed and has a long way to evolve. We see all these trends sort of like the “globs” inside a lava lamp: They expand and contract as situations warrant; one glob bumps into and seamlessly merges into another glob and in the process it all changes. That is what I think is the biggest trend over the past few years: the fluidity and unpredictability of change.
So we think the biggest challenge is to keep saying to yourself: “This is only the beginning … there is more dynamism … this ‘solution’ that is very hot today isn’t the ultimate solution.” In other words, it’s sort of like golf in that once you think you have it all understood you realize that there is more to learn and you have a long way until you get your game down right. The worst thing a communicator can do right now is to think that what you see is what you get; instead, what you see is only a prelude to what you are going to get.
How do you recommend old-school communications pros navigate the new age of social media, Drudge Report, and bloggers?
The same way you teach some kids how to swim: Throw them in the deep water and tell them that if they don’t figure it out they will drown. You can read about swimming, even take lessons on the deck surrounding the pool, but until you get in the deep water, all that is just book-learning and may be helpful—but it ain’t swimming until you get wet.
When the Nuuko comms cluster is engaged—what is the biggest request?
We do not know yet. We’re still a start-up. And our customers are in start-up mode with us—in other words, they are trying to determine how best to use us at the same time we are trying to determine how best to serve them. If we listen well, we’ll understand it well. However, right now, we haven’t heard enough and we haven’t had enough experience to listen as acutely as we need to listen. We’re getting there fast, and we are confident we’ll get there, but it won’t happen by next Thursday.
Published: June 23, 2011 By: