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Business

Adapting Our Business Model to Leverage the New Techonomy

For those of us who have worked in the technology space for decades, now is our time. We dreamed big dreams thirty years ago:  technology would become the global engine transforming every industry and entity; it would impact all life on our planet. Those dreams have become a reality. Now we need to adjust our ambitions and—in the case of my organization—our business models to think bigger.

I run Weber Shandwick’s global technology practice. Weber Shandwick is one of the world’s largest communications companies. We, like many professional service organizations, are built around practices which are either vertical in nature—serving a specific industry or sector—or horizontal—bringing a certain capability across clients in any sector, for example crisis expertise. The technology practice’s market has been loosely defined as any company that sells technology-based products and services. We have communications professionals’ offices around the world, helping technology companies to shape and tell their stories.

However, when technology is suddenly so pervasive, so deeply imbedded in the thread of the global economy, it doesn’t make sense to confine our expertise to just the technology industry and its major players. To paraphrase Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick, when any company is a software company, the market opportunity is vast for smart communicators who really get technology.  Weber Shandwick’s global technology practice is taking advantage of this by expanding both horizontal and vertical.  Our business model is stretching to provide horizontal services to Weber Shandwick clients outside the technology sector. We call this offering our innovation work—based on the definition that technology, put to use, is innovation. We apply our technology knowledge to help clients tell their stories on how they are using technology to transform their businesses.

Take our work for Mastercard, a company that is using technology to pioneer how people all over the world pay for goods and services. It has a million stories to tell: from its data centers to its new PayPass payment platform.

We are talking to the CIOs of a number of major clients so that we can understand and tell how they are using technology to drive their businesses forward.

We have a client who is delivering a suite of consumer applications that are transforming the consumer experience. In our Beijing office, we are even doing work for a shampoo brand that needs its science story told. There are technology stories behind the new cars that are rolling off the lines of GM, and its OnStar platform is a tremendous example of the Internet of Things (IoT) in action, as it enables cars to communicate with refrigerators and recommend that the driver stop and fill up on milk. We work with our white goods client to tell the refrigerator’s technology story, and foreseeably could, for our Got Milk campaign client, tell the milk’s story too. These companies need our practice expertise in taking complex technology and science and turning it into engaging stories.

Our horizontal innovation work impacts our vertical technology sector work as well. The deeper knowledge that we gain from living inside these clients’ technology, R&D, and innovation groups is useful to our technology sector clients—we have a greater understanding of how their technology is being applied and their communications priorities.  We are currently building specific service offerings based on the insights we gain once technology is sold, whether to corporate IT or to consumers.

In a world where technology is so pervasive, we need to elevate and change the conversation of our technology clients. The story is no longer about speeds and feeds; it is about how that speed impacts the ultimate consumer. Therefore we partner closely with our consumer practice colleagues to ensure that we have powerful messages and campaigns that make this technology desirable to consumers.  We utilize the multitude of platforms powered by technology to engage directly with consumers through social media. Technology has given us a whole new set of tools and rules to communicate.

For decades, we have been talking about how this or that technology will change everything. Now it has changed our business at Weber Shandwick, enabling us to work differently within our traditional technology sector and to work with any company in any industry to tell their innovation story.

Heidi Sinclair is the president of the Global Technology Practice at Weber Shandwick. She is responsible for overseeing the firm’s work with clients including Samsung, Motorola, Juniper, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.

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