We help global B2B brands talk about innovation
Established companies face a mediascape that is structurally biased toward tech startups, which makes it hard to achieve recognition for their innovation. No amount of money, content, or creative storytelling can overcome the assumption that big businesses will be disrupted.
So we change the terms of the conversation instead, both in substance (talking about innovation in processes, policies, and people, as well as tech) and scope (talking to media and other influencers outside Silicon Valley).
Founded in 2003, Arcadia Communications Lab is a boutique communications agency that specializes in helping global, publicly traded B2B brands play to their strengths, and therefrom realize latent value by using earned and owned content to talk about innovation both to internal and external stakeholders.
We’ve proven our proprietary approach with dozens of client engagements, working with category leaders in agriculture, automotive, CE, computer hardware, energy, entertainment, industrial equipment, IoT, insurance, manufacturing, non-profits, semiconductors, software, transportation, and retail.
Innovation communications is all that we do, and our services fall into three broad areas:
Replacing storytelling with news sharing
We don’t believe in telling stories better, but finding better stories to tell, so our creative approach is to look to the totality of our clients’ work to invent a coherent, memorable, and newsworthy communications strategy. We take news announcements and embed them in ongoing narratives that are anchored by news that’s worth publicizing.
Bringing technology to new audiences
A lot of owned content tends to hide in on client websites, or in technical journals; we act as editors, and sometimes as outsourced managers of entire production processes, to recast it — mainstreaming the topics and issues embedded in the technologies, and mining it for different angles — for a variety of new and different stakeholder audiences.
Involving employees as participants
Employees can be a brand’s best communicators, but only if they feel informed and involved in the larger issues and purposes on which a company is focused. We work with clients to transform internal communications from being a channel for repurposed marketing communications, and become instead a platform that inspires employees.
Whether we’re working on a publicity strategy, internal communications plan, or big picture creative challenge, our approach is consistent. Here it is in a nutshell:
A big data context engine
We see journalists, bloggers, and other opinion-makers as customers, not simply messengers, which means we strive to understand not only their personal proclivities, but what qualities constitute their understanding and expectations for innovation. Our proprietary Context Engine collects and aggregates this data, and then informs our clients’ strategy development. We call it ‘outside-in’ strategy.
Once we understand the context for innovation in a particular industry, we partner with our clients to develop a strategy that directs and links its activities to that reality. This means we work with operations, not just communications and marketing, to identify the content that will accomplish our differentiation goals. Nothing has intrinsic value for us, yet everything has potential uses. Actions speak louder than words.
Our approach to creativity isn’t to focus only on tactical techniques to deliver content, but net new creative approaches to how it’s produced. This can include recommendations for new partnerships, programs, or even changes in product functionality or services offerings. The overriding purpose is to maximize our clients’ opportunities to participate meaningfully in conversations about innovation. Less ‘me too,’ and more ‘only us.’
An actionable roadmap
We don’t deliver plans promising “to work with key media,” or “position you as so-and-so in front of employees.” Our initial engagements produce actionable roadmaps that start with communications goals — what, where, and when we want outcomes — and then work backward to specify the actions, required work, cost, and likelihood of success for each step. Clients can use it on their own, or we are ready to help deliver it.
A better approach to placing content
Unlike agencies that expend endless hours ‘working’ with media to try and make client stories fit their needs, we get most of that work done via our Context Engine at the start of our engagements. This means we have a far better understanding of who will use what (and when), and rely on our Content Tool to aggressively manage its delivery.
We’re constantly innovating communications technologies and approaches, and our clients get visibility into this work (and often participate). Our latest projects are exploring public engagement on cutting-edge technologies such as AI, autonomous vehicles, and smart cities (essays are posted at A Cross of Silicon), and looking at the emerging world of customers who see themselves as owners (podcasts can be found at The Brand Populist)
Our Client Successes
Unlike other agencies, we don’t reveal client names, but we’re happy to share examples of our work.
Artificial IntelligenceOur client wanted to make an industrial equipment robot prototype relevant to the innovation conversation in its category.
Our proprietary analysis gave us two key insights: First, the big players in the category were seen as likely victims of disruption, and there was high awareness of just the sort of tech our client wanted to demo (from startups). Therefore, we recommended that it pivot its positioning to benefits and context, and position the introduction as the start of an ongoing experiment that mainstream media and other stakeholders could follow.
We also suggested that it name it something (aka IBM’s Watson), instead of being limited by its quasi-secret code nomenclature standards.
The “news” was this reimagining of the company’s position on innovation, taking it out of the limited realm of technology announcements, and into a narrative that would give it future opportunities to tell, and thereby strengthen its story.
Autonomous VehiclesOur client had a significant presence in developing and manufacturing autonomous vehicle technology, but did so with little recognition beyond industry insiders.
We used our ‘outside-in’ strategy to identify the messaging roadblocks and opportunities, and from it prepared and facilitated a day-long workshop for the company’s C-Suite to engage them in developing the strategy for a fundamental shift in the company’s communications.
This fact-based process yielded numerous, sometimes wildly creative ideas (such as reimagining a smart car as a body of reflexes vs. a brain on wheels) but, more importantly, it got the senior staff focused on what the media needed to hear from them.
The resulting action plan encompassed messages, targets, and timing.
Charitable GivingOur client was a leading NGO involved in development and empowerment issues, and needed help reaching a larger audience of potential donors and partners.
We reimagined its messaging, which had focused on thoughtful and detailed reports on its many activities, to reveal instead its ongoing innovation in problem solving, with a strong emphasis on life and community impacts. Our plan was to think less like an institution, and more like a startup (in which companies would invest).
The new narrative required bottom-up change, from a website redesigned to provide access to innovation proof points, to topics and author voices that boldly asserted experimentation and results.
The premise that “doing” drives authentic thought leadership proved to be very powerful.
Cyber SecurityOur client provided cyber security as a component of its equipment and services offering, and wanted to carve a unique position for itself.
When we analyzed the public conversations about digital security, it was clear that there were many voices saying much the same things, perhaps because much of the content was glorified brochureware from technology firms.
So our plan called for true thought leadership: Taking positions on current events, even risking challenges to the Status Quo, and sharing customer insights intended to benefit the broader conversation.
We established a system to flag potential topics and, when the client was interested, research and write drafts (and provided overall editorial support).
EventsOur client planned to open an innovation center, and wanted to tell tech media about it.
Our analysis produced an ugly, if not unsurprising fact: There had been dozens of similar events the same year, so making an announcement of its intentions to innovate wasn’t enough. Instead, we developed a narrative linking its event with a bigger public issue (micro grids and renewable development), even at risk of missing the breadth of technologies the innovation center would explore.
The point was to make the announcement about a topic that mattered beyond the narrow interests of technology followers, and thereby open up many more opportunities to talk about it (with newfound relevance).
We created the content, and worked the event.
Internal CommunicationsOur client needed to engage is employees scattered around the globe on the bigger purpose and impact of the company’s innovative work.
So we innovated the internal communications platform, giving new roles to its social media tool, wall monitors/videos, and weekly email newsletter. What informed these changes was a declaration that content would no longer be repurposed marketing communications and news releases, and instead be bespoke stories that were created from an employee’s POV.
Once our client outsourced its management to us, we aggressively implemented the declaration that we’d reached together. External news and technical details became stories of empowerment, accomplishment, and real world change.
We also researched and wrote/produced the weekly lead stories and videos.
Internet of Things
Internet of ThingsOur client created an industrial Internet of Things strategy and digital platform, and wanted to stand out among its peers.
Our ‘outside-in’ approach helped develop a new approach to the positioning, going beyond the typical buzzwords of big data and creating value, and instead grounded it in the productivity and ROI goals of its customers (i.e. it wasn’t about embracing the IoT, but doing business better).
We also worked to distill its strategy into bite-sized concepts that could each prompt supporting content, most notably incorporating its various product and service offering announcements. This made its IoT strategy an umbrella for its ongoing business.
We then drafted its trade show display content, and the strategy’s description for the company’s annual report.
NamingOur client had created a connection device that promised to transform millions of other industrial devices into IoT-enabled machines, and wanted this ubiquity of purpose to come across in its communications.
Our approach was to invent a shorthand reference to the functionality of the device, drawing on commonly-known consumer technology. We worked with our client to prioritize those functions, as well as its various services/platform offerings that supported it (and quantified its real-world impact), so there was a cogent and compelling case about a truly unique and needed innovation.
We drafted the announcement materials, and pitched the story. When we talked with stakeholders, they often offered up the descriptive we’d chosen, without us even mentioning it.
NewsOur client announced a product innovation almost every other day, yet couldn’t get recognized in its industry category (and saw startups with no customers or revenue stealing the limelight).
Our first bit of advice was to stop issuing so many releases, and refrain from using the word “innovative.” Our experience is that if you have to say that you’re innovative, you’re probably not.
Then, we collaborated on researching and understanding the topics, technologies, and timeframes that were most high regarded and valued in their trade and mainstream media spaces, and worked backward from those insights to develop an editorial plan (ranging from content, to nomenclature and timing).
To help illustrate the shift, we rewrote a few months’ worth of content with the new paradigm in mind. Not only did this drive home the legitimacy of the approach, but when we shared some of the old news with media (with the client’s blessing), they often responded with “How did I miss this?”
PrizesOur client funded a research prize for innovation in its industry, and asked us to help bring that message to a wider audience of potential partners and customers.
We studied the marketplace for innovation competitions, and shared our findings with our client: They’re quite common events, and are usually one-time news stories, too, if at all. So we collaborated to understand the deeper purpose and effects of the endeavor, and found that the ongoing implications for both the company and the prize contenders evidenced amazing proof points of innovative thinking and action.
We developed a plan that reimagined the prize as a year-long effort, prompting numerous and varied opportunities to publicize its conduct. We innovated the innovation prize.
Smart CitiesOur client was a major player in the development of smart city technology, and wanted to stand out for its efforts.
Our proprietary ‘outside-in’ approach gave us unique insights into how (and where) the smart cities topic was covered, and it was clear to us that the narrative was almost exclusively focused on technology innovation, and then finding civic purposes for it. The stories were about what’s possible, not what’s necessary.
We collaborated with our client to invent an entirely new narrative, grounded in a goal of improving the quality of life for people. This gave us the framework to develop everything from a website to track progress, to partner-focused storylines to support our client’s vision.
Social MediaOur client wanted to use social media to connect with its customers. The catch was that it sold incredibly complex technology products to B2B customers.
We took a step back, and analyzed its innovation from the perspective of what topics it touched, problems it addressed, and accomplishments it evidenced. The resulting insights led us to develop a new approach to its use of social media, whether textual or video: product and research news was presented in terms of external relevance, not the importance it represented to the company.
We developed the content.
StrategyOur client had a nuanced position on Internet security, and wanted to communicate with a broader universe of stakeholders.
We developed a strategy to “brand” its approach to security with a memorable term, and used it as a lodestone to create a variety of communications tactics, from co-opting news on cyber attacks and creating engaging trade show displays, to sponsoring a “first hacker” live event/video for thought-leaders to enjoy.
We developed the ideas, plans, and budgets.
Technical JournalOur client produced a substantive, relevant technical journal for informed consumers, and asked us to help bring it to a wider audience.
We developed a multi-level strategy to address this need: Creative changes to the publication itself yielded more engaging story headlines, and moved some of the more technical content to “sidebars” so the stories were easier to read; summary versions of the stories were crafted for Linkedin, Medium, and other blogs; pithy posts were made for Twitter.
This meant that we found new value in the work our client was already conducting.