PR Interview with Mark Waite, Managing Director of Cohesive Communications
Cohesive Communications are ‘evangelists’ in the world of tech PR, says managing director Mark Waite in this week’s interview. He talks social media, Apple, smartphones, and shares the best piece of business advice he ever received…
About the agency
What areas of PR does Cohesive Communications specialise in?
We live and breathe technology. Not that we’re geeks I’ll have you know, but rather an eclectic mix of tech-savvy communications professionals that relish the challenge of turning technology jargon into business propositions.
B2B is our bag, although at the end of the day we’re all consumers of technology in some way, shape or form and the lines between B2B and B2C are blurring at a rapid rate. Our mantra is simple…..’Create – Market – Impetus’, which forms the umbrella for all our service offerings.
What is different about the agency’s approach to PR?
Quite simply it’s down to our people, our approach and our attitude. We class ourselves as evangelists, helping early stage technology innovators create a presence, under represented brands increase awareness and established businesses break into new markets. This is what excites us. This is what drives us. This is what gives us a sense of purpose.
Many PR companies act as disciples, following the big IT brands, following the news agenda and preaching the corporate line to a ready and waiting audience. At Cohesive we evangelise around innovative and disruptive technologies, we set the news agenda, we stimulate discussions and we drive the debate.
What do you look for in new recruits?
It depends on what the role is. Fundamentally I look for some basic building blocks – enthusiasm, personality and confidence are good traits, topped off with a big dollop of common sense. Yes, it goes without saying that a good academic background is important, degrees, qualifications, etc, but it’s not the be all and end all. After all, I graduated from the University of Life and it hasn’t done me any harm has it! No, I mean, has it?
In all seriousness though, people are what make a business, especially in an industry such as PR, so getting the right people, creating the right culture and providing the right environment is key to a successful agency. The secret is to get the balance right and to work hard and play even harder.
What are the latest trends/issues in the tech industry right now the agency finds it is managing?
One of the hottest topics right now is the consumerisation of IT. The fact that users (employees) are now using their personal devices in the workplace (smartphones and tablets) and the challenges faced by enterprise IT departments in terms of security, compliance and management.
This is a fascinating clash between employee culture on one side and IT control on the other. This is further fuelled by the influx of generation Y types into the workplace, the integration of disparate mobile devices, the explosion of the app, cloud and everything-as-a-service.
Tell us about one of your clients you are working with at the moment. How is the campaign for them going?
One of our most active clients right now is a company called Aerohive Networks, an innovator in cloud-based Wi-Fi and networking for enterprises.
Our early engagement was very much centred on creating a debate around the complexity and cost of traditional Wi-Fi solutions and how Aerohive’s disruptive approach was simpler, more cost effective, and easier to deploy and manage. This architectural debate soon became one of the most frequent topics within the media which we were able to influence, express opinion around and demonstrate thought leadership.
Today, this architectural debate is pretty much won and we have moved the conversations to be more around Wi-Fi becoming the primary ingress technology for accessing corporate information, cloud based services and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications. The ability for IT departments to manage, control and enhance consumer-grade devices in the enterprise, such as iPhones and iPads, and the flexibility of doing this with either an onsite or cloud-based solution.
The campaign is gaining momentum, the market is validating their proposition and their business is growing. In fact we’ve achieved so much success with them that they just poached one of my team to run their European marketing! Hay ho, at least we got a finders’ fee and we have a friendly on the inside.
Is there a potential client you’d love to work for?
It has to be Apple. It has always had a loyal, cult following and I admire the way that it has managed to inspire both professional and consumer users around its products. It is all about the experience and enabling the user, which is what technology should be there for. It doesn’t get bogged down in the techie underbelly of its devices, but instead focuses on what the user can do with them.
I also love the way that it has inspired the app development industry. It hasn’t tried telling people what to do but instead has created a platform for innovation and left it to the imagination of the developers. I also like how it has disrupted the market and how mobile operators and service providers have been dragged along kicking and screaming about the explosion in mobile data. C’mon guys, keep up, you’ve had years to get your networks up to speed!
Sadly though, I don’t think we’ll ever get the pleasure of working with them on their PR efforts. In fact, I bet they have an app for that.
How do you ensure your clients get the right coverage in the press?
The age old adage is still as relevant as ever. You have to get the right story into the right hands at the right time. Luckily we are very adept at sniffing out and developing a good story. We have the relationships with the right people who will have an interest in the story and we know when the time is right for maximum impact.
We are also very good at not getting coverage for our clients! Whether it be quashing a story or rumour, or whether it be telling a client that the story just isn’t strong enough – in a consultative way of course!
How useful do you find social media?
Being a ‘digital immigrant’ I have taken a very sober approach to the whole social media scene. In fact what is social media anyway? It means different things to different people. Some people interpret social media as an extension of traditional media (press), on-line media, bloggers, etc. Whereas, others view it as social networking a la Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I always find myself having to qualify this point whenever I’m talking to clients on this subject.
Anyway, for the purpose of answering this question let’s take social media as being all of the above. In that context it is both a necessity and a valuable tool. The digitisation of the media is driving a new era in public relations where journalists, bloggers (both journalists and enthusiasts) and social publishers (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are all influencing opinion around your client’s products or services.
Do you attend networking events? If so, which are you attending soon?
I look at life as one big networking event. People network every day; you don’t necessarily need an ‘event’ to make it happen. In fact, in my humble opinion, a formal event can sometimes create a false environment and stymie the networking dynamic or make it much more ‘manufactured’ and rigid. I find social network/media channels and informal gatherings at industry events much more rewarding and fruitful.
What is the best bit of business advice you’ve ever been given?
There are a few little gems I’ve collected along the way, all relevant in their own ways…
“Always employ people who are better than you” – this has been fairly easy thus far 🙂
“Work is what you do not where you go” – especially relevant in today’s mobile working era
“Never get your meat where you get your bread” – I’ll let you work that one out yourselves 🙂
My own personal advice that I now impart is…. ”PR is like a good golf swing. The set up is important, the address is key, timing is essential and the follow through it vital.”
[img|jpg|Mark Waite, MD]