Friday, June 10, 2005

Happiest Loss, Ever

If the gods are kind, you'll soon hear that SHIFT recently came in 2nd place for one of the largest & most competitive bids of the year. We're thrilled. There were 12 agencies on the original list, and that list narrowed to 5 firms, and in the end, we found ourselves in the #2 spot. The losers. Apparently, we lost by just 1 vote on the decision-making committee. Heartbreaker!

But as the dust settled, through the grime and grit that smudged our faces, you'd see a bunch of loony, manical grins. We ALMOST won a piece of business that no one in the industry expected us to even compete for! Wotta world!

How did we get as far as we did? The same way we've been able to win every other important piece of business: by speaking Truth to Power, and by demonstrating a genuine passion for storytelling.

When interviewing employee candidates, I am fond of asking, "What did you REALLY want to be when you grew up?" Because let's face it, few kids dream of the life of a publicist. It's the kind of job most folks fall into. For many, a job in PR represents the surrender of a more innocent or ambitious dream.

But as I do a little self-examination I am realizing that success in PR depends on passion. Sure, you might have dreamt of being a Great American Novelist (as I did), but if you haven't lost your passion for the tall-tale, then a) kudos to you, and, b) welcome to PR stardom.

Our team at SHIFT lives for The Brainstorm. We already have a pretty flat org structure, but in The Brainstorm, titles and ego are left outside and we engage in a visceral, no-holds-barred, energetic debate about our client or prospect.

"What if XYZ Company was the star of a movie? At what point in the story arc would we find ourselves?"

... "Now let's go big, and put this in Biblical terms! Our client is David, taking on Goliath: but what happens if David's sling breaks and Goliath comes charging at him? - how will the storyline change, and how would it change our advice to the client?"

... "What's the best analogy for what our client is now going through? Are there any parallels from earlier eras in computing?"

It's story-telling by committee, and it's fun as hell. We brought our best ideas to the table for The Big Bid, and by themselves, our ideas and passion almost brought home the trophy.

Then, we spoke Truth to Power. As noted in earlier posts, SHIFT's business model precludes outsized, "anchor" accounts, so we're always free to speak our mind. After all, if your mortgage payment is never in jeopardy, what have you got to lose?

In this particular instance, at least one fella on the decision-making committee thought that our style was "a little too aggressive" for this Big Company's traditional style. Of course, we'd argue that that's exactly what the company needs right now, but, c'est la vie. Point is, li'l ol' SHIFT Communications beat out 10 of the very best agencies on the PLANET to get to #2. I mean, everyone wanted this gig.

Whomever did win it in the end will have an unprecedented opportunity to do something grand with this client. I hope they don't fuck it up, because like I said, I am passionate about this particular storyline and I know that if handled well, it could literally change the face of enterprise computing.

Damn, that'd be a fun tale to tell.

Maybe next time.

Our day is coming.

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