In October, Christopher Surdak was awarded with getAbstract’s International Book Award for his outstanding Data Crush. The Information Technology veteran has over 20 years of strategy and information management experience and currently works with Hewlett-Packard, for whom he is their global subject matter expert for analytics, E-discovery and information governance.
Big Data is a current “buzz” phrase in business, referencing the unlimited data we now have access to, thanks in large part, to the Internet and social media, which has made it effortless to capture and analyze information.
We recently caught up with Chris to learn a little more about him and, of course, his views on big data.
gA: Hi Chris. Can you tell us a little about your background and what got you interested in data.
CS: I’ve seen the technology evolve over 20 something years. Not just the technology part but how it impacts society and our behavior. Seeing how this was developing about eight or nine years ago, the engineer in me saw something is changing. Something’s different this time, the Smartphones and social media. So I got very interested in where that was going to go – I started to see the legal implications and regulatory implications too.
Public Relations – noun plural but usually singular in construction, often attributive.
First known use of Public Relations: 1807
As the profession’s or practice’s own name suggests, PR is about relating to the public. In and of itself, PR is therefore social – it is relating a story from one person to another – and relies on what is now known as virality (thanks, Jonah Berger!). These 2014 buzzwords may have the ring of modernity to so many of us, but to PR professionals the concepts have always been at their very core, even if they didn’t have the vocabulary to name them.
While the notion of curiosity has been around since man first discovered fire (or perhaps, since Eve bit the apple), I have been seeing more and more articles focused around this concept and how important it is to have a curious workforce, led by even more curious leaders. While the talents and skills organizations look for change frequently over time, curiosity reigns supreme since it is a staple quality.
Why is a culture of curiosity important for an organization?
TED, founded in 1984 as a one-off event, in Monterey, California, has grown into a global set of conferences sharing “Ideas Worth Spreading” in the technology, entertainment and design industries (hence, TED). The no-longer-than 18-minute talks are live-streamed over the Internet, for optimal “spread,” and are meant to be both innovative and engaging. Few disappoint. And, especially in recent years, TED Talks have gone on to achieve notoriety for their medium and their messaging; not to mention, the messengers, who have included notorious voices of the 21st-century zeitgeist, such as Bill Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Bill Gates, Bono, Larry Page and Sergey Brin… Just to name a few.
Recently, PR Newswire released their list of the six best TED Talks for communicators and PR professionals, which we felt was well-worth sharing with you.
1. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Amy Cuddy
Who: Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, is a researcher and professor at Harvard Business School. She’s known for her work on stereotyping and discrimination, emotions, power, nonverbal behavior, and the effects of social stimuli on hormone levels.
What: Cuddy explains how our body language influences other people’s perceptions of us, how our mind affects our hormones, and how “power posing” can help you “fake it ‘til you make it.”
Why: Her TED Talk, originally delivered at TED Global 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and posted in October 2012, has been viewed more than 19 million times and ranks among the top 2 most-viewed TED Talks.
2. The Clues to a Great Story, Andrew Stanton
Who: The Pixar alum is a film director, screenwriter, producer and voice actor who has worked on favorite family movies, including A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Toy Story (1, 2 and 3), and Monsters, Inc. (In other word’s, his name being listed, had us at “hello.”)
What: Starting at the end, and working back to the beginning, Stanton—one of our generation’s greatest storytellers—shares his top tips for spinning a great yarn, with terrific takeaways, like the “unifying theory of 2+2,” invoking wonder is a story’s “secret sauce,” and “use what you know then draw from it.”
Why: See “Who” (above). Need we say more?
A celebration of this year’s most innovative, influential, and powerful nonfiction works
Every year, the world-class editors at getAbstract read through the most inspiring, outstanding, and enlightening English and German nonfiction business literature available, and choose four recipients of the getAbstract International Book Award. Here is a look at the 2014 winners announced during the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.
Have you ever met someone and immediately thought, “Wow, that person has charisma”? Perhaps you’ve followed that thought up with an “I wish I could command a room like that”. The question of charisma being innate vs. learned is almost as old as the chicken/egg question. For a long time, experts ‘proved’ that charismatic leaders were born, not made.
Companies are always searching for those ‘charismatic’ leaders – the Steve Jobs that was born ready to take their profits to the Promised Land by inspiring and mobilizing employees and fostering customer followership. Today, more and more experts are realizing that this trait can be learned and developed. Read the rest of this entry »
This has been an interesting year for businesses as we saw many shifts in consumerism, marketing, production and the workplace itself. Here, our top 5 business trends that you just can’t ignore:
1. Go Big or Go Home
We began to hear a lot about Big Data over the course of this year. What is Big Data? It’s a collection of data sets that is so large it is difficult to process by traditional data processing applications. It makes our list not only because it is one of the year’s new business buzz phrases but also because clever entrepreneurs and innovators are creating tools and applications that can process this ever-growing stockpile of information that is too large for companies to manage, store and analyze in house, thereby crafting a new technology market.
Read the abstract of Mark van Rijmenam’s Think Bigger.
2. Girl Power!
Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg and her 2013 bestseller, Lean In, we all began to reexamine women’s roles in the workplace, which has become known as the Lean In effect. In addition, the power of women in business is growing—the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 54% over the past 15 years. Indeed, according to Forbes, more than one billion women will enter the workplace over the course of the next decade. Research shows that these women will be more educated than men and will begin to take more of the leadership roles available. Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Marie Forleo are just the tip of the iceberg.
Read the abstract of Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.
Now in its fourteenth year, getAbstract honors ten critically acclaimed nonfiction books from the past year’s business literature. This is the longest-running international business book award program and celebrates English and German-language works. Previous winners include celebrated authors such as George A. Akerlof, Phil Rosenzweig, Jared Diamond and Detlev S. Schlichter.
“I feel honored to have received this award in previous years from an organization that has a reputation for quality analysis and review of business books,” said Robert J. Shiller, Nobel Laureate and Yale University Professor. “It means more to me to receive an award like this than it is to make a bestseller list.” Read the rest of this entry »
Twitter can be a valuable tool for gathering up-to-the-minute collective intelligence and ideas from experts, leaders and conceptualizers. Indeed, the social media platform has changed enormously how we collect and collate information by directly connecting us to the innovators and industry leaders of our day. Our personal commentary on news, insights and trends is thereby not only reliable but immediate and efficient. One of Twitter’s leading benefits, over any other social media platform currently available to us, is that it enables us to network with, and learn from, others.
“Business leaders who truly embrace the concept of sharing and helping are worth following,” says Peter Shankman, who is globally recognized for his alternative thinking regarding marketing and social media, and features on our list of top 10 business leaders to follow. “They’re few and far between,” he continues, “but the ones who understand that there’s tremendous benefit in sharing their knowledge, not only for the good of all mankind, but financially- and revenue-wise as well…they’re the smart ones; they’re the ones worth following and retweeting.”
With this in mind, we identified the top 10 business leaders to follow on Twitter. We considered their influence in society or industry, the quality of their tweets, how frequently they tweet and how willing they are to engage with their network. So without further ado, here are our picks: Read the rest of this entry »
When you’re a small business owner, efficiency is everything. You’re up against the big dogs in the world, so you have to make sure all of your priorities and resources are well-known, because one misstep could make or break all that you’ve worked so hard to build. Deadlines must always be met, but without sacrificing the production quality of your product. This means you have to be on top of the company’s schedule, your schedule and the schedule of all that report to you.
It can be an overwhelming task, to say the least. So here are some tips to help make sure your small business runs like a well-oiled machine.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
When you’re trying to grow a business from the ground up, it may seem like a great idea to take on every opportunity that comes your way and run with it. But you have to prioritize. Which opportunities seem like they have the most potential? Which can you realistically take on without spreading yourself too thin? Only commit to solid opportunities that your time and resources align with, so that in the end, you deliver something that is up to your standards.
Even Your Strengths Can Be Improved
What is it that is driving the most profit to your business? Identify this and then scrutinize it and determine what you can do to make it even better. There’s always room for improvement, and that leads to increased success.
It’s Okay to Say No
Running your own business is a full-time job; you don’t really get to take a day off. So when it comes to being bombarded with side requests from friends, family and even employees, stop a moment and think: Is this worth my time? Do I actually even have time for this? Or, in the case of an employee: Is this something they should be able to figure out for themselves? If the answers are “no” and “yes”, respectively, respectfully decline and eventually you will have established boundaries.
It’s beyond important to have a set list of deadlines in order to ensure that everything is done in a timely manner. Be sure to adhere to these deadlines, because the minute you let a few slide, you’ll soon find yourself buried and it can become difficult, if not impossible, to recover.
Take a Breather
Yes, running a business is essentially a non-stop job. But in reality, you need to allow for a little time to yourself. So while you may be in the middle of a hectic day, make a point to step away for 15-30 minutes. Going nonstop can result in poor decision-making, so taking this time—which you may feel is time you can’t afford to lose—will actually help result in improved work and decision-making.
When the U.S. economy tanked in 2008, it took a while for everyone to come to grips with what was happening. There was so much conjecture and misinformation being thrown around, no one seemed to realize the magnitude of what was occurring—or that anything substantial was happening at all. As the dust began to settle, it became clear that the crash was not an isolated national crisis—it was a worldwide catastrophe.
I bring this up because it serves as a perfect reminder of something financial experts have come to realize on a new level: Borders are more illusory than ever before. My 15 years of revenue-generating business development experience have shown me that the world is no longer comprised of a series of vaguely connected markets. There is only one market—a global one—and those of us who can’t think on a global level are going to lose touch with the modern economic and world situation. Read the rest of this entry »
Losing an employee costs more than developing a new one. U.S. businesses lose $10 billion annually due to employee turnover, and as the economy improves, workers who feel their employers aren’t investing in their professional development are leaving to pursue better opportunities.
So, why are some companies dragging their feet and refusing to invest in employee development? In some cases, it comes down to an insecurity most managers don’t want to acknowledge: the fear an employee may become become overqualified, outgrow his job, and leave the company to pursue a better position elsewhere before a promotion is available. This fear isn’t completely baseless. Young high achievers job hop frequently to earn a higher salary, and on average, leave their jobs after only 28 months.
Withholding professional development from employees is not the right response to this fear; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Employees seek professional development to achieve successful careers, and when companies don’t invest in this development, employees leave. Read the rest of this entry »
Richard Laermer is a New York-based PR veteran with 25 years and four books under his belt. His firm, RLM PR, focuses on helping clients pinpoint perceived competition and break it down with the taste-test approach, i.e. differentiating what the client does versus what the competition is doing. With the right tools (surveys, third-party validation, and advanced market research), Laermer asserts that he can point to what’s failing for the competition in order to redirect customers to the client.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Laermer to discuss his bestselling book, Full Frontal PR, and explains how, 10 years since it was first published it is still relevant.
RL: It never ceases to amaze me that 10 years since it was first published, Full Frontal PR still sells in healthy doses. When you’ve been doing PR for as long as I have, you notice trends in the industry before they’re widely spread. That’s why this era of PR is a little mind-blowing—because what us older PR practitioners do (did!) for our clients is no longer valid. Sometimes I think that we don’t even do PR anymore and what the industry needs is a brand new word to describe it. This has nothing to do with the Internet or the fact that everyone’s a publisher, or even that brands do their own PR by communicating directly with consumers. It does, however, have everything to do with what has always been at the crux of our profession: Content.
PR is, after all, mixing story ideas with angles and hooks, then bringing them to “influential” media who in turn make our clientele into stars, or in some cases, superstars. (However, only when it’s a huge trend with a ton of stories following it does the coverage move any sales needles.)
That said, content is now bigger than ever. And there is so much of it! Indeed, everyone is producing something and, oftentimes, it is impossible to say where it came from. In realizing this through incessant arguments with untrusting/ untrustworthy clients I just got tired of standing up for what we did. Or that we “actually” did it. The derivation of an article or blog post shouldn’t be important. Oh, but it is. In our office we hung a sign to display our distaste for this questioning: “Who Gives A Hit!?!”
Today, I am in the process of reviving the book so people in PR realize their own power, and do something with it. The new Full Frontal PR will be released in early 2014 as a series of chapters, in which I will discuss the most sensible, aggressive and creative tactics that we have to make money for our clients.
Today, everyone’s a guru and a broadcaster, so as a PR professional, how do we use our truly specialized skills to help our clients take down the competition? It is my belief, that the only thing that always works (as opposed to the crapshoot of today that is the “no metric PR”) is ensuring that the third parties we once used to extoll the virtues of our client are now “utilized” to portray the horrific practices of our clients’ competitors. Let me explain.
No one knows what is going to happen to the economy—we just witnessed how easily it can fall off the tracks. Yet we know our clients will always have competitors that will try to eat their lunch. So let’s help get rid of them. That is a tactic that will never go out of style. We have to be the ones who are un-do-without-able.
Traditional PR tends to celebrate a mediocre message that needs to get “signed off” on by too many people. This is the message that people already know: brands saying we’re great, we’re here, we do things that you like, and so forth. But a new voice is waiting to be heard. This is the voice that understands the precise weaknesses in competitors and “perceived competitors”, and knows how to use third parties in order to bring down the competition, thereby making the client the de facto winner.
It’s basic economics that businesses thrive on competition. Successful businesses, however, demonstrate to the marketplace their ability to outthink, outmaneuver, outperform and out-goods and -service the company across the street. It’s time to thrive at the expense of the competition. It’s the new PR. It’s what I call Insurgent PR™.
All you really need to do (I do it every day for my clients) is research, then recognize, what competitors missed the mark on, misconstrued, or mistakenly made matter (or lied about). Then get it out there in every single way possible. Use the online tools available and get those weaknesses known. Removing the competition is something you, as a PR person and expert in this field of newfound insurgency, can take advantage of, and, in doing so, you will make yourself invaluable.
Marc Worth is often billed as being an Internet pioneer. After founding WGSN, the now celebrated trend forecasting website of product development tools for the fashion industry in 1997, he sold it to Emap for a cool £142mn in 2005. Since then Worth has invested in a couple of start-ups, attempted to resurrect cult seventies label, Ossie Clark, and—since 2011—has been working on his design inspiration service, Stylus.com, which is aimed specifically at the hospitality industries.
We were fortunate enough to be granted a tête-à-tête with Worth to ask him about his successes, failures and advice for trailblazing entrepreneurs.
MW: It sounds simple but I woke up one day with an idea. My brother, Julian, and I had a company, Heatseal, which made labels, badges, t-shirts etc. Because of this, we had 10+ graphic designers on staff who were churning out artwork non-stop. However, business had been crap that summer and we had to cut costs in order to maximize the value of what we were doing and I thought that maybe there was something we could do with the designs we were creating… Could we, perhaps, create a website whereby people could download and buy the rights to the artwork? Believe it or not, this very elementary idea was the catalyst for what became WGSN. Of course, we soon realized that this initial concept was not enough but, about three or four months later, we had a product that went far beyond being a graphic library. Instead, it boasted shop window directories, trend boards and so much more. It took us between six and nine months to go to market but we were launched by August 1998, with a product that is not dissimilar to what WGSN is now.
Having spent 25 years in the fashion industry already, Julian and I knew what it needed and wanted. Timing was on our side, we rode the crest of the Internet wave and we had a firm belief in our assessed interest and the industry’s need for it.
MW: Between 1998 and 1999 Julian and I invested a lot of our own money into WGSN but we still had Heatseal. The positive of that was that we still drew an income, the flip was having a weight to carry when—by now—we were so heavily focused on—and invested in—WGSN. So between 1999 and 2000 we sought to raise a lot of money from Venture Capitalists and, in just over nine months, we had generated £20mn from interested investors in exchange for one third of the business. As a consequence we were able to give up Heatseal (which we sold to management) because the future of WGSN now seemed pretty secure.
However, by 2003 the money had almost run out and at that point, now looking back, we took some enormous risks, remortgaging our homes for the second time and so forth. In short, we put everything on the line. We reassured ourselves saying the timing was right… And, thank goodness, we were right. Pretty soon after that, the sales increased and the overheads decreased (from £1.2mn to £750k), thereby making us profitable and “out the woods.” Within six months we became cash positive and in 2004 we were able to buy our investors out for 30p on the pound. We were fortunate; we became very successful very quickly. By 2005 we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse and sold WGSN. But that was part of our plan—we always saw WGSN as a means to an end; in fact our 1997 business plan even states our ambition to sell for £100mn in two years. It took us a bit longer, but we also got quite a bit more than that £100mn. And, in truth, Julian and I had taken WGSN to a certain level, beyond which it required a larger organization to run it. We were also very blessed that we were able to walk out the door the day we sold it. Typically, there is a two-year earn out but in this case neither party wanted it. Thankfully.
MW: My top pieces of advice would be (1) It is essential to look at your competitive landscape. For us, there were already so many businesses in the fashion and eCommerce space, even back in 1998, so we had to establish how we were going to differentiate and stand out from all the others competing for the same money. (2) Leave fundraising as long as you can until you can show traction. Ideas that are pre-revenue wind up giving too much of their business away as they try to raise funds. (3) Choose people who know your space—both its information and its industry. You don’t just want people who will look at the numbers but will understand why your product is important for the market. (4) Make sure you have a market looking for a product, rather than a product looking for a market. If it’s the latter, don’t even bother.
Judith R. King is one of the most prominent and respected names on the New York PR circuit. As the charismatic owner of King + Company, Judith is known for her abundance of enthusiasm, which comes bundled up with her high-energy persona; together, these are unquestionably at the core of her charm. These qualities, alongside her commitment to delivering stellar results for her clients—of course—are undoubtedly at the core of Judith’s success.
Over the course of her career, Judith’s ingenuity and passion for crafting bespoke branding, PR, and social messages have earned her the respect and custom of star players in the non-profit arena (with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Susan G. Komen For the Cure and The Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign among them), as well as consumer brands including household names like Rodale, DreamWorks Classics, Marquis Jet, Ritz-Carlton Club, and David Barton Gym.
When she’s not busy crafting slogans, conceptualizing ad campaigns or writing top-notch marketing materials, Judith travels the country giving media training to CEOs, celebrities and prominent figures who are facing the public eye.
A couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to grab five minutes to sit down with Judith for a quick tête-a-tête during which we picked her brain, learned about her career track, and discovered a little about what makes her tick.
JK: I was working at Dan Klores as a writing and ideas consultant—or a freelance writer—call it what you will. One evening, I was driving somewhere with my parents and my mother turned to me and asked “Judith, do you believe being charming is a career? Because, quite frankly, your father and I do not.” She then continued her diatribe during which she advised me to use all my gifts as well as the abundance of interpersonal relationships I had generated in order to get my career on track. And that is what I did—I started a small PR firm. Of course that makes it sound so simple but, really, simply using my contacts and my friendships, I did it! And I have since grown it into a company that grosses a revenue in excess of $3mn a year.
I got the best advice from my good friends Ian Schraeger and David Barton: you must always look to the word ‘modern’ as the most important concept there is. Meaning, STAY RELEVANT.
To this, I would also add the following advice:
1. Nothing is ever wrong or boring when you have the right ideas—you can never saturate the market enough with good ideas—they’re what keep your company fresh and your clients impressed.
2. Nimbleness is not as important as constantly innovating. You see, PR victories have very short shelf lives so you must always be thinking on your feet. It is essential that you remain engaged with your client and the world around you because you can always learn more. And I have to tell you, I don’t want to ever wake up thinking “I know enough.”
3. Nobody is indispensable but everyone is important, including yourself. Make the people around you feel that and believe it. It’s infectious. Seriously, I wish more people in my position understood that, as a leader, you can’t just command—you have to commend. I believe it’s because of my attitude that my team knows that, while I am the boss and I expect a lot from them, I want their success as much as my own. I can honestly say that for this reason I’ve never come into the office in a bad mood… ever. It’s not fair for bosses to put their own negativity on the people who are just there to do their best for them. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to be kind than unkind; so bring your life to work but don’t make work your life. I believe that it’s essential for both our success and our wellbeing that we all come to work as fully engaged human beings, approaching each new day with a love for it.
4. And last, but not least: Be fearless but not destructive.