Last week I attended an event hosted by The HUB, a Washington, DC based non-profit networking group that connects leaders in the technology industry to help inspire business development and innovation. Proof Strategies is the public relations advisor The HUB, as we work with multiple clients in the technology sector.
At the event we were treated to something extraordinary. Michael Chasen, who founded and led Blackboard, Inc. the first e-learning platform to gain wide acceptance – from its inception in 1997 to its sale to a private equity firm in 2011. What started off as a low-budget experiment between Michael and his former college roommate ultimately became the dominant leader in online education software and was sold for $1.7 billion.
Chasen offered five lessons learned from his experience with Blackboard’s marketing communications strategy, which he is applying to his new venture Social Radar. These lessons show you can never stop improving your brand, or your performance.
- Keep it in perspective: It’s OK to be completely focused on your new business, but don’t let it consume you.
- Focus on the business, not the office: It’s more important that your company and its employees have sufficient room to realize your vision than it is for you as the CEO to have the largest office space on your floor.
- Share the vision: Keep communicating your plans, goals and how you plan to get there to the folks who matter most – your employees.
- Constantly seek advice – but be the expert: Its fine to gauge opinions from investors, your board, your family and your employees. But at the end of the day, don’t stray too far from your original inspiration. You could be left with a product that confuses everyone and alienates the base that got you started.
- Realize disruption changes everything – and then it changes everything again: Disruptive innovation is at the root of any successful product launch. Steve Jobs did it by leaving CDs obsolete with the advent of digital, portable music. Rather than rest on his laurels, we all know he’d be on to the next big thing if he were still with us today.
One more thing… when you’re done, do it all again.
After Chasen retired he immediately laid plans for Social Radar and their marketing communications strategy. On college campuses, he saw how students were sharing their locations online. They were using Apple’s Find My Friends app to find their friends. Now there are more than 1 billion smartphones and nearly 3 billion social profiles, both acting as beacons for his new app.
Chasen left me and many others in the audience inspired to achieve great things, but also reminded us how important a role a marketing communications strategy plays. Adhering to the lessons he shared for HUB attendees just might make it possible – but only if you keep your key audiences informed in a way that facilitates recognition from the media and acceptance from your employees and potential investors.