DOES BUSINESS NEED A ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SOUL?
11th January, 2007
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Richard Stone, managing director of StoneJunction, a PR and strategic communications agency, hardly ever meets any rock stars. However, he does think that business needs more of them.
Normally rock stars make awful businessmen – take for instance the $510,000 The Beatles spent on Apple Electronics in 1969. Belying the usual rules of business, the Fab Four invested the cash without any real hope of it multiplying. Apple Electronics did however introduce electronic paint, real flying saucers and recording studios with working force fields to the world.
Equally, business people that actually pick up an instrument tend to make fairly dull rock stars, as anyone who has ever witnessed the Fortune magazine battle of the corporate bands will attest. Apologies to last year’s winner, PANTS! who represented ad agency McKinney and performed a twelve minute rock opera.
However, some of the best businessmen carry more than just a little bit of rock star around with them. There are obvious examples; Branson, Gates and Sugar for instance are all talented showmen. In the PR industry we have Mark Borkowski, Chris Lewis and Matthew Freud. Without picking up an instrument, these people have transferred some of the qualities of Bono, Jagger and Gallagher into a world more used to spreadsheets, PowerPoint and red tape.
What they have in common is the capacity for extraordinary creative thought and, more so than going about with a guitar slung round your neck, this is what I mean by being a rock star in business. These three all deliver genuine value to their businesses, not least through the value of the personal brand they create for themselves by expressing creative thought. Before I go on by the way, I don’t doubt that the majority of the stunts these chaps pull are thought up by clever advisors. In fact, I think Branson has a PR agency just to send letters to the FT for him, so active is his publicity machine. However, it takes bottle, style and charisma to put the ideas into practice and function as their mouthpiece.
This willingness to go out on a limb is another characteristic of a rock star in business. Of course, sound planning is essential to all businesses but sometimes a decision based on the evidence of this planning comes down to tapping into the zeitgeist and following your instinct.
However, instinct and creative thought would be of little real value if the right outlet were not available to express them, turning them into impact on the bottom line. In order to harness these qualities, a business rock star needs an understanding of how the media responds to the extraordinary. It’s this recognition, that only by being really creative can we generate truly impressive media coverage that brings the rock star in business real benefits.
So, there are lessons here to be learnt for us all. We need the ability to harness extraordinary creative thought, even it its not our own, we need the bravery to follow it through and we need to understand what the media will do with it once we have put it into practice.
Even as a, predominantly, B2B PR specialist I try to keep these lessons in mind when planning a campaign. No matter how commonplace your product or service, the best way to generate high profile press coverage is by adding a dash of the extraordinary. Imagine how much more interesting our lives would be if we all had a hint of it in us. Perhaps then I would get the chance to meet a few more rock stars.