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How effective communications strategies and activities can help establish leadership in respective markets

In the following interview Tony Welz, Founder and Principal of Welz & Weisel Communications discusses 1:1 with Rake Narang, how effective communications strategies and activities can help establish leadership in respective markets.

Rake Narang: Tell us about your business and the work you do. What exactly do you do on a daily basis?

Tony Welz: Welz & Weisel Communications provides technology companies -- from angel-invested start-ups to large publicly-traded companies -- with strategic communications services and content creation. In the rapidly changing world of communications, we are implementing programs that integrate traditional public relations and media relations with social media platforms, mobility platforms, thought leadership programs, events and other activities that create visibility and awareness in front of target audiences.

As a founder and principal at Welz & Weisel Communications, I am heavily focused on client service and staff development. My business partner and I founded the firm so that we could remain involved with our clients, providing the highest levels of service and creating opportunities to set them apart. We have built a team to support these ideals and we work to ensure that everyone on our team is working to deliver the best results for our clients.

On a daily basis, I probably spend 50 percent of my time working with clients, 25 percent of my time working with the media and 25 percent of my time working with our team. Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that our clients are viewed as leaders in their markets, so I am constantly focused on ensuring that our communications strategies and our activities are generating the results they require.

Rake Narang: What are some favorite projects you've completed and why?

Tony Welz: I have been working in the marketing communications arena for a long time, so the scheduled and tactical results, while important, are not as interesting to me as the unique ideas that create valuable and strategic results. Whether it’s a media roundtable, a stunt or a contrarian campaign that pits a client against their larger rivals, I try to think beyond the basic results and create game changing opportunities. When a client gets on board with these ideas and we can really make an impact, that’s when I really get excited.

A few years ago, we worked with the editors of InfoWorld to create a face-off debate between the founder of one of our clients and the CTO of their major competitor, which was also the industry incumbent. The two executives battled each other via email over the course of several weeks. The editors reviewed the resulting transcript and included the most interesting points, providing readers with an inside look into how these two companies were addressing customer needs and how they viewed the future of their industry. The resulting print feature not only created immediate visibility, but helped establish our client among the short list of industry leaders and visionaries.

We have also worked with other, smaller clients to leverage social media to engage competitors and build their brand by contradicting statements made by larger competitors. But, we need to be careful, we need to remain credible, as well, so it’s a balancing act, which is what makes these types of programs so much fun.

We continually work with our clients to position them at the forefront of their industries and as expert resources to the industry. To this end, we look for ways to build relationships with the leading press, analysts and industry luminaries. At several leading conferences, our firm launched closed-door, invite-only poker tournaments, where clients, press, analyst and other industry leaders gather for a friendly game the night before the conference begins. There is only one steadfast rule – no pitching. You are allowed to talk about the industry and even tell people what you do, but you are not allowed to pitch your technology, product or service. We leave that for the conference. This is designed to build relationships, so that the next time someone needs a resource, they think about the people in that room. This has not only created opportunities at those shows, but also created long standing working relationships that deliver value years after the initial meeting.

About Tony Welz

Rake Narang: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your line of work? What core-competencies have benefited you the most?

Tony Welz:
I think one of the biggest challenges in my line of work is traditional thinking. With communications, you need to be creative in everything you do – from the way we approach client challenges to media pitches to basic writing. It’s easy to fall into a pattern where you focus on the workload and the effort required to do the basics and you lose sight of the big picture and what it takes to make a difference. At Welz & Weisel Communications, we encourage our team to do things differently, to share ideas and to brainstorm activities that will help separate our clients from the pack of other IT vendors.

That said, these different ideas can be dangerous. You need to make sure that your actions are credible and not viewed negatively. I really enjoy the technical details of our clients, and start from there when proposing an idea. I want to make sure that it supports the company’s technical differentiators and is credible to the buyer. At the end of the day, if the customer or prospect doesn’t care or doesn’t believe what we are saying, then the activity, regardless of how creative, is a failure.

Rake Narang: When does external PR versus internal PR work better?

Tony Welz: I’ve played on both sides of the PR game – both internal and external. Having an internal person can be essential for a company to really focus its efforts and drive internal activities. However, the internal person also gets pulled in a lot of directions, and while you have the ability to really focus on the company’s communications strategy and messaging, I didn’t always have time to think about how to translate these strategies into creative activities. That’s what a smart external person can offer – the ability to translate the organization’s communications strategies into activities that set the company apart. We are able to singularly focus on a client’s external communications and because we are constantly talking to the key reporters, we understand what they are looking for. This all translates to really interesting campaigns that our client may not have developed on their own.

External PR also extends a company’s reach. For example, Welz & Weisel Communications only focuses on technology companies, so we know just about every reporter in the trade and business press, so when a client decides to move into a new area, we already know the key players in the media.

Rake Narang: What are some of the benefits small and medium businesses can get from external PR?

Tony Welz: New and emerging companies need a team that has industry contacts, business context and creativity. Unfortunately, a lot of the large PR firms, including ones I’ve worked at or with, relegate the smaller companies to their more junior team members, which is a disservice to everyone. We founded Welz & Weisel Communications to provide any size company with the senior level attention that would be cost-prohibitive at a much larger firm. This ensures that smaller companies that need to take a creative approach to their marketing and PR, and who require greater industry context, since they are in a new or emerging space, receive the counsel and execution they need to set them apart.

Rake Narang: How does a company handle a mistake that will be seen publicly? And are crisis communications best handled by external PR?

Tony Welz:
We take the opinion that every mistake will be seen publicly, especially in the age of social media. The best way to deal with a mistake or crisis is to handle it honestly. The truth must be the basis for any communication, especially in times of crisis. You need to keep your integrity. Everyone makes mistakes. Clients, customers and the industry can forgive a mistake, but it’s harder to forgive a lie.

To move forward from a crisis we ask ourselves what we are going to do to 1) fix the problem, and 2) make sure it never happens again. This creates the basis for any communications, whether internal or external. It sounds simple, but getting everyone’s buy-in is usually the hardest part.

I don’t think that either external or internal PR can be deemed the best for dealing with a crisis. It must be case by case. On one hand, the company cannot be seen as hiding from a crisis, but on the other, an external firm can typically get the word out more quickly, and in many cases, time is of the essence. In my experience, it needs to be a collaborative effort, as with most communications activities. If the client and the firm are working together and delivering a consistent message, the industry doesn’t care if they are receiving the information from the internal person or external – as long as the company is available if called on.

Rake Narang: Does the rapid social media growth further strengthen the role of external PR in providing effective results?

Tony Welz:
Social media is definitely having an effect on PR, but I am not sure I’d say that it is strengthening the role of PR in providing effective results. Ten years ago, PR firms only cared about the press. They were our audience. Now, the press is simply one vehicle for reaching the real audiences – whether they are buyers, investors, partners or others. Social media is also a vehicle. For some clients, social media is extremely important, for other companies, social media is peripheral to their business, so we take a pragmatic approach. If key audiences are using a certain social medial tool, we leverage that tool. But, if the audiences aren’t there, then any results generated are essentially a wasted effort.

Rake Narang: What contributions do you feel your work offers to society as a whole?

Tony Welz:
The technology companies that we work with provide services and technologies that not only help businesses and governments stay productive and secure, they also deliver solutions that impact people’s daily lives. Our clients provide 9-1-1 services, text messaging, satellite communications (to the government as well as to the cruise ship industry), secure information sharing, mobile device security, protect government secrets and support government missions, etc. These companies compete in crowded and noisy markets and it is our job to ensure they are heard and that their innovative technologies are adopted by companies and end users to improve, and in many cases, protect lives.
Company: Welz & Weisel Communications

3950 University Drive, Suite 201, Fairfax, VA 22030 U.S.A.
Phone: 703-218-3555
Email: info@w2comm.com
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