Gainesville Creates A Role Model
Gainesville announced great news at the end of March: MindTree, a software company headquartered in Bangalore, India, with annual revenues approaching $500 million, decided to open its first U.S. development center there. That will translate into at least 400 jobs over the next five years with an average salary of $80,000.
As valuable as the new business will be for Gainesville, it might be more valuable as a lesson and role model in how to rally diverse groups behind one cause. The story is told really well in this article in the Gainesville Sun’s online edition.
Regional and organizational parochialism hampers the pace and success of Florida’s economic development efforts. Greater collaboration as in the Gainesville model will bring a constant flow of success.
South Florida & The Myth of Sisyphus: Will the effort to get South Florida to experience a boom become an ongoing futile passion?
Will The Region Get Past Being On The Verge Of Being On The Verge Of A Boom?
About three weeks ago, I wrote an article suggesting that the successful economic development of Northern Virginia as a global center of the IT industry could be a role model for the successful development of Florida as a major center for life science research, development and commercialization. Those thoughts were based on several weeks of looking at the market and meeting with people who have much more intimate views of the situation than I do. Since then, I have continued to meet with people who enlightened me more, I’ve read more, and I’ve attended meetings where I could hear the views of others. As a result, my initial conclusions have been altered, but only in degree. As the title of this article suggests, the situation is better than I thought, but also worse than I thought. And, I have discovered a very intriguing characteristic.
Things Are Better Than I Thought.
Look around this state. More particularly, look at South Florida (Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Broward, and Martin Counties). That is where I started my effort simply because I live there, and because the situation is so intriguing. You will discover more “green shoots” than you probably imagine exist. There are entrepreneurs, some very much on a shoestring, but some who have been developing their company for the past few years and are starting to hit more significant benchmarks. Although it is far from having the same access to early stage (and later) capital that can be found in Boston or Silicon Valley or even DC, there is an active venture community. Institutions such as Palm Beach County’s Business Development Board (BDB) are hitting stride and achieving some real successes. There is a real energy level that is hidden below the surface, out of view, not part of the South Florida community and consciousness – yet.
My first instinct was to think there was something going on here that could be a real foundation for the area’s emergence as an important center for the life sciences industry. My updated current instinct is to believe that I initially underestimated the level of activity as well as the prospects for growth.
Things Are Worse Than I Thought.
In my first article, I cited five assets that were critical to the growth of Northern Virginia, and I compared the situation that currently exists in Florida with each of those assets. Generally, the critical assets in South Florida are still immature and the certainty of their development is hardly a slam-dunk.
In addition to the immaturity of those five critical assets, I think there is the four following uniquely local issues, any one of which can thwart the opportunities of South Florida if they are not remedied.
- Cutting off your nose, chin, mouth and ears to spite your face: the Florida Atlantic University budget cuts. There is no region of major growth in the US in contemporary history where there hasn’t also been a vital, energetic, growing, research-oriented university. That’s probably true for the world. Why on earth would Florida politicians cut Florida Atlantic’s budget by $30 million and at the same time cap tuition, thereby preventing the university from even entertaining the idea of making up part of the shortfall by charging a higher tuition? The shortsightedness of the state politicians is amplified by the fact that the local business community accepted that situation lying down, asleep. No uproar. No indignation. Remarkable. The business community must come to understand the importance of FAU to the region and act accordingly. “Accordingly” doesn’t mean that they should complain and bitch and moan and think what-a-shame; it means they need to mobilize to make certain that the state provides rational financial support in the future and they also need to start writing checks – big checks – to the university to overcome the shortfall. The growth and viability of FAU is absolutely essential for the growth of the region. The business community and FAU need to be tied at the hip. They aren’t and that is a big problem.
- The over-abundance of 3-person offices. There are numerous organizations throughout the state that have been created with lofty and terrific missions and then under-capitalized and under-staffed. Usually, they are three-person offices, such as the Florida Venture Forum. Take a look at what they are doing – really great job. They are doing it with a three-person office, an executive director (which position has been vacant for the past several weeks and is likely to stay vacant for several more), a great second-in-command Pat Schneider, and one support staff, along with the significant volunteer contributions of time and effort by its members. As active as they are, does that really represent a serious commitment to the goal of increasing the access to and availability of investment capital for Florida start-ups that will create the jobs of the future? The same can be said of BioFlorida, whose mission is “to be the voice of the [bioscience] industry: To focus on creating and maintaining a favorable business and legislative environment for the industry as well as advancing the commercialization of research.” Absolutely should be done. It’s also a three-person office doing a formidable job but under-resourced relative to the need, the opportunity and the prospective ROI. These are not isolated examples. Think of the increased efficiencies if these groups worked in concert, maybe sharing office space and/or other overhead costs such as back-office support. Minimally, they should coordinate their web presence, probably by having an umbrella site that serves as a portal to the individual sites, a go-to site where people can search to find events, organizations, news, etc., all on a real-time basis. Integrate that with social networking and the prospect of real time events.
- The vital need for a simple-to-understand, easy to buy-into, aspirational vision for the area. “Recovery” and “return” are not synonyms. After some period of time, even slow improvements will lead to a recovery, but that doesn’t mean things will be just as before. The citizens, politicians and business community of South Florida are deceiving themselves if the economic development effort is based on tourism and sales of homes to people who have to sell their houses elsewhere to move here. That is not to say that tourism and snowbirds aren’t going to stay critical components of the local economy. But not enough to create a prosperous community with a high quality of life, low unemployment, great public schools, the energy of growth, the restoration of real estate values, and even the creation of new wealth. For that, there needs to be a new driver of growth. I, along with many others, think the life sciences/biotech industry could become that driver, but there needs to be a consensus and then there needs to be a campaign to make that happen. The Six Pillars program has been a necessary preliminary step in that direction. But now there needs to be branding and the creation and articulation of a vision of what is ahead, what success looks like when it is achieved, and what is required to get there. The first audience for that story has to be those who are (or could be) part of the region’s business community because if they aren’t turned on to the vision, it just isn’t going to happen. Furthermore, a handful of leaders need to step-up and say they will take an active role in making that vision come true. Right now, there is not one obvious leader, to say nothing of the dozen or two that are really needed.
- Come to grips with the reality of the geographical situation. If you were creating a market from scratch, you’d design a circle and you’d put most of the vital components in the middle. It would be easy for people to get to meetings, to feel part of the same community, and to “bump into” each other in the ordinary course of events. You sure wouldn’t design a skinny rectangle, such as the entire state of Florida or the region identified as South Florida. To deal with this reality, affinity groups that need personal contacts for relationships to flourish will have to be primarily local and regional in nature while affinity groups that prosper with the sharing of knowledge can be statewide. An example of the first type is the membership of the Palm Beach BDB, where attorneys, accountants, people from academia, entrepreneurs, etc., share concerns about the growth of the area and network on a peer-to-peer basis of living and doing business in the same region. An example of the second type of community would be scientists in the biotech industry. The first community needs to be built primarily (not exclusively) with local face-to-face events; the second needs to be built primarily (not exclusively) online.
The Remarkable Characteristic.
Virtually everyone with whom I have chatted agrees with all the above. So?
Florida cannot feature its proximity to the US Capitol when attracting business, as Fairfax County did very successfully; but it can promote the quality of life -- not just for tourism but for business.
Will The Opportunity Be Realized?
My 40+ year career in communications has been anchored in the Washington, DC, region, and more specifically in Northern Virginia. About four years ago, I began spending winters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. What began as a three-month stint in Florida to escape winter has gradually evolved into a full-time love affair not only with the weather, but the lifestyle here. Recently, upon the conclusion of my non-compete agreement with the DC-based communications firm I co-founded and in which I sold my interests, I began to take a look at this area with more of a business orientation. What I discovered surprised me.
Florida (particularly South Florida including Palm Beach and Broward Counties) today is not on the verge of an economic development boom. But it is on the verge of being on the verge of a boom. There is an important distinction. When you are on the verge of a boom things start moving like a ball rolling downhill and all you have to do is manage its direction and pace and otherwise get out of the way. On the other hand, when you are at the verge of being on the verge of a boom, it’s more akin to pushing the ball uphill to get to the point where everything can happen on its own momentum. That’s no easy chore, nor a sure-to-happen goal.
I saw the same situation about three-decades or so ago when Northern Virginia was transformed from being a bedroom community to Washington, DC. Each day the vast percentage of Northern Virginians commuted across the Potomac to the Federal Triangle to work for the US government. Today, it is one of the global centers of gravity for the IT industry, and more people drive to Northern Virginia locations for their jobs than commute out of it. Despite the failure of the various local governments to develop regional infrastructure solutions to deal with what has become an almost intolerable traffic, jobs have been created, a great school system has been built, cultural opportunities abound, and residents enjoy a great quality of life.
The heart of Northern Virginia’s growth, Fairfax County, currently enjoys a four percent unemployment rate. Florida residents would probably be glad to deal with some of the downsides of growth if they could reach that level of employment.
According to the most recent jobs data (3/13/12), unemployment statewide in Florida was 9.6 percent in January 2012; in Broward County it was 8.3 percent; in Miami-Dade it was 10.3 percent.
Stephen Fuller, Ph.D., of George Mason University, has studied the growth of the Northern Virginia area, which can be reviewed in this report updated in November 2011, which includes the following information:
“Over the 1980-2010 period, Northern Virginia’s population (and households) more than doubled and its employment base increased by 162.3 percent….
“From 1980 to 2010, the value of goods and services produced in Northern Virginia, its GRP, grew from $41.8 billion to $188.6 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars for a real gain of 351 percent.”
How did Northern Virginia transition from being on the verge of being on the verge of a boom to actually booming? And are there any lessons for Florida?
There were a number of assets that Northern Virginia used quite consciously to manage that transition. I do not think any of these was a magic bullet by itself. However, here are five components that proved to be absolutely essential, and in italics are my observations about how they compare to what I have thus far observed in Florida at this time:
- The success of George Mason University was central to the growth of the region, just as the success of the region was central to the growth of GMU. Most importantly, both the administration of the university and the leaders of the business community invested their time and money consistent with a strong unwavering commitment to maximize that synergy. There is no single college or university that appears to have captured the imagination and support of the state’s (or even a region’s) business community. Could there be some sort of consortium that would coalesce supporters from around the state to support programs in a rationally coordinated way, eliminating duplications of efforts when it comes to raising money and maximizing clout to lobby on political policy issues (e.g., budget cuts and tuition policies)?
- An infrastructure of support systems started to emerge. This included organizations such as The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), which offered a forum for tech companies to form into a community, and Mid-Atlantic Venture Association (MAVA), which promoted entrepreneurialism and helped build capital availability, and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) which took a very aggressive role in economic development efforts. In Florida, BioFlorida is playing a similar role with biotech and biomedicine companies as NVTC did with IT companies; Florida Venture Forum is aggressively building the interest and support of the financial community necessary to invest in local entrepreneurs, assuming a role similar to MAVA; and The Business Development Board (BDB) of Palm Beach County, is playing a role similar to the FCEDA, as for example its recent multi-day tour for site selection experts who help organizations decide where to relocate or expand. There are more comparisons. Of course, the current budgets of the Florida organizations are far less than those of their Northern Virginia equivalents, but all organizations start out under-capitalized and under-resourced. Florida can learn a lesson from Northern Virginia by observing how they made events assume greater importance and produce greater consequences: the key to success was that there was no pride of authorship or “ownership.” For example, the 1998 World Congress on Information Technology was held at GMU, but it was supported by numerous organizations that “competed” with each other for membership, money and power. The basic premise was a no-brainer: a rising tide lifts all ships. On the other hand, The World Stem Cell Summit will be held in West Palm Beach in December 2012 – it will be an incredible time for all sorts of organizations to collaborate on maximizing that conference for all their shared vested interests. Will that happen? Similarly, on April 16-17, 2012, the International Economic Forum of the Americas will be conducting their Palm Beach Strategic Forum – what a great audience of influence shapers that will be! What a great opportunity for numerous organizations to overcome their budget and resource limitations by working together to exploit that opportunity! Will it happen?
- Northern Virginia was able to articulate and promote a single “story” – an aspirational vision of what could be. It was simple to articulate and understand: “we can become the global center of the IT industry.” That vision of a clean and growing industry was presented and shared and bought-into by the business community, academia, politicians and activists of all types. There was no cross-messaging. Everyone could “stay on point” because everyone knew what “point” was. Florida has numerous stories, but no single theme. The various geographical segments of Florida seem to have their own set of messages. But nowhere do I see a strong, exciting vision that is easy to understand and that mobilizes people. In the Palm Beach area, the prospect for emerging as an important biotech/bio-medicine center is close to attaining that critical mass of believability and support.
- Northern Virginia exploited the presence of the US government and the benefits of being close to it. The first really major salvo for the Fairfax County Economic Development marketing campaign was a full-page ad in the NY Times (see it at the top of this page) that showed the Capitol of the US and a headline that told a very simple message: “we are close to that.” Florida does not have the US Capitol, but it does have a unique quality of life, as I have observed personally both in weather and lifestyle. I am reminded of when I used to host investment analysts who visited Planning Research Corp., a NYSE IT company where I worked (subsequently acquired). At the end of the day, when walking the analyst out of the building, through our large atrium lobby and massive revolving doors, the analyst would invariably say: “So this is the door your assets walk out every day.” They understood that in a Knowledge Industry business, human assets rather than fixed assets (property, plant and equipment) are most important. Florida promotes the weather and lifestyle to attract tourists. Duh! It should also be used – big time – to attract companies whose employees would love to live here (especially combined with the opportunity to use the numerous universities here to further their own education).
- A group of leaders emerged in the Northern Virginia area that would always step-up to support efforts that would lift the tide that would lift all ships. There wasn’t one leader from each segment (not just one home-builder, or one tech company, or one law firm, etc.), but day-to-day competitors who worked cooperatively in pursuit of regional growth. And they didn’t merely talk-the-talk. They were there when the rubber met the road: when it was time to write a check, lend an employee to make an event happen, call a politician, etc. I still have a lot of people to meet and a lot to learn, but at first blush, there aren’t one, two, three names that always pop-up as the people who make things happen in Florida. In Northern Virginia, you could present a bold idea to the right people at breakfast and by the end of the day that idea would be moving towards execution (with an appropriate budget and resources committed). Without similar leadership, Florida (and regions of Florida) will continue to push the ball up the hill and will never get past being on the verge of being on the verge.
My naiveté about this region may well be showing through in what I have written and what I have observed thus far. If so, I am very anxious to be corrected.
The Lesson For Communications Strategy: Publicity Is “Good” or “Bad” In Direct Relation To The Way You Are Currently Perceived & Your Goals
Rush Limbaugh’s comments about a woman attending Georgetown University Law School being a “slut” because she supports health insurance coverage of contraception costs may well become a case history for the concept that “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Rather than apologize and try to put the statement behind him, Limbaugh is standing behind his comment, and in fact he is fanning the flames and getting more publicity by being even more outspoken on the issue. He obviously isn’t afraid of the publicity about this, so he must be an advocate of “no publicity is bad publicity.” Is he right?
Limbaugh’s apparent goals have always been to gain power and money. Will the “slut” publicity undermine his ability to achieve those goals? In the first few days since going on his “slut” rampage, Limbaugh has lost at least five advertisers from his radio show. If that is the total downside of the negative fallout, the likelihood is that those revenues will be replaced by the new shot of energy Limbaugh has given his brand with his audience.
But what if the publicity continues to mount and the negative fallout grows? Will the publicity then become “bad”? Probably not because this isn’t a Jimmy-The-Greek moment. You’ll recall that sports commentator Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos, better known as Jimmy Snyder or “Jimmy The Greek”, was fired in 1988 by CBS Sports from his post as an football game analyst when he said:
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade’n the big… the owner… the slave owner would, would, would, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have ah, ah big, ah big, ah big black kid see… ”
Everyone who knew Jimmy The Greek argued that although his remarks were racist, he was far from a racist. In the case of Limbaugh, everyone knows his beliefs because that is exactly what he banners. So, what Jimmy The Greek said was out of character for him, but what Limbaugh said was in character for him. Jimmy The Greek was fired; Limbaugh remains on the air and thus far there is little serious talk that he will lose his radio show because of this event.
Here is the net bottom line to Limbaugh:
- He has stolen headlines, which produces more power for him, and he has lost a modest amount of advertisers but he probably will recover those revenues and may surpass them because of the burst of energy for his brand arising from his comments. The consequences to his vested goals (power and money): nominally bad to positive. In those terms, the publicity is “good.”
- He isn’t likely to lose his radio show because, unlike the Jimmy The Greek example, what he said was entirely in keeping with the brand he built. In those terms, the publicity is “good” to “very good” in that it further defines and expands visibility for his brand in keeping with the brand image that existed before this event.
Here Are The Lessons For Corporate Executives Worried Over Whether Some Publicity Is “Good” Or “Bad”:
- If the publicity you obtain, regardless of how controversial, helps produce results consistent with your goals, the publicity will be “good.”
- If the publicity you obtain is also consistent with, reinvigorates or builds your brand definition, the publicity will also be “good.”
Want to receive an email on other posts here similar to this? Click here, enter your email address, and then you’ll have the ability to define the type of alerts you’d like to receive.
- Professor Dennis Murphy authored this guest blog. It is exceptional in quality and importance. As the first guest post in this blog, it sets a very high standard.
The Importance of Understanding How Strategic Communications Plays A Major Role In “Power Is The Ability To Influence”
I am very pleased to present my first guest blog on a critical issue of the use of strategic communications by our nation, especially by our Defense Department. This article is by Dennis Murphy, Professor of Information Operations and Information in Warfare at U.S. Army War College, who has previously served as Director, Faculty Member at the U.S. Army War College, and a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Department of State. This article was originally posted at the blog of the U.S. Army War College, where there are several more important articles about the use of strategic communications. I first saw it at a LinkedIn group discussion that I believe is very interesting — you might want to click the link to that discussion. I want to thank Prof. Murphy for giving me permission to post this. I think it is not only well-done, but also very important reading.
President Obama and Defense Secretary Panetta recently announced a new direction for the Defense Department. Along with significant cuts in funding, manpower and weapon systems programs, the President reemphasized our status as “a Pacific nation.” He repeated this refrain during his State of the Union address on January 24, 2012.
The implications of this policy shift are far-ranging. But it appears fairly certain that we will not be placing any large land forces into the Middle East anytime soon, as former Secretary Bill Gates cautioned against before leaving office. Militarily, our Pacific focus will certainly rely heavily on naval and air forces to maintain stability and deter aggression. But effective strategy relies on the integrated application of all the elements of national power, generally recognized as diplomacy, information, military and economic (DIME). In the case of a Pacific looking strategy the preeminent element employed should be information.
Joseph Nye, former Defense Department official and Harvard dean defines power as the ability to influence. He further argues that influence can be wielded through hard or soft power, where hard power coerces and soft power co-opts. The current status of the Pacific region combined with an era of economic austerity that drives our future military and diplomatic structure seems to point to a soft power approach in the years to come.
Interestingly, using information as power to influence fits nicely into both the geo-strategic constraints and opportunities of the Pacific region. First, employing the information element of power is relatively cheap. Kristen Lord points out that the State Department’s use of public diplomacy to wield information as power is but a minute fraction of the budget of the Defense Department. And while it may seem counterintuitive to the uninformed to consider the U.S. military as a source of information as power, in fact their influence by co-opting can be significant. Each combatant commander develops a long-term strategy and campaign plan (with its imbedded theater security cooperation plan) for that very purpose. These strategies spawn military-to-military relationships and military-sponsored activities that send significant and loud messages to the populations of the region.
The primary influence processes of information operations (IO) and strategic communication (SC) arguably work best in an environment where the U.S. hopes to shape the environment to support their interests while deterring aggression by potential adversaries (known as phase 0 and phase 1 operations in military terms). This best describes the current Pacific environment. Again, these are relatively cheap ways to influence compared to the enormous economic costs of hard power reflected by traditional military hardware and force structure.
Certainly there are real and present threats to U.S. interests in the Pacific region. China’s long-term intentions are unknown, but their policies toward Taiwan, economic expansion in Africa and posturing in the Spratly Islands reflect an expanding regional hegemony. An uncertain future of North Korea remains a significant concern, especially with a new leader, massive army, nuclear threat and economic disarray. These two examples alone call for a strong hard power presence in the Pacific. But at this point in America’s history for the reasons described above, the prudent approach harkens back to Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick.”
You can be certain that the force managers in the Pentagon and throughout the executive branch are busy looking for “low hanging fruit” to cut from the budget. These cuts will be necessarily painful. Using our dwindling resources to enhance information as the preeminent element of power in a Pacific-focused national strategy in this period of austerity seems to make sense. But early signs show just the opposite. Congress recently eliminated the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Information operations and strategic communication expertise is being eliminated in some military professional education institutions. The Army is the only military service that qualifies officers for a career of service in information operations. The other services see it as an additional duty or tour specific function that a generalist can do.
This forebodes a cautionary note: Beware the bean-counters. If we really want to succeed in the Pacific while doing more with less, the information element of power will be a key enabler of success. In an era of shrinking budgets this is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
This is the first in a series of articles that, taken together, amount to a template that can be used for creating a PR Plan & Communications Strategy
Step 1: The Basic Approach
PR and communications strategy plans are unique in many ways, but all the successful plans share certain characteristics. A template can be followed to increase the odds that the plan you create is correct, but such a template cannot be a simple fill-in-the-blanks process. In fact, many of the key steps in creating a plan are intellectual only: preliminary thinking that must occur prior to or during the development of other parts of the plan. And, in fact, that is especially true in the case of the very first step in the process: adopting the right approach.
The first thing you must understand is that this is a creative process. The second thing you must understand is just what that means.
Most people think that developing a PR plan is a creative (as in imaginative) process because they think it is an effort to create the memorable phrase, ingenious promotional event, etc., that will cut through the clutter of competing messages. But it is also creative in a very literal way. You will actually be creating something. In many ways, you will be creating the organization itself.
How do organizations exist? Think of the company that makes coffee cups. You can observe the company’s products, its cups. You can hold them, sell them, and use them. But what about the company itself? How do you observe that? The cups aren’t the company. Pointing to the office building, the manufacturing equipment or the logo wouldn’t suffice as an answer to explaining the existence of the company. So, how do corporations exist? As ideas. Concepts.
Thus, creating the idea — the myth — of the organization is the real goal of a PR and communication strategy.
The organization is largely defined by the qualitative attributes it acquires over time, including its strengths and weaknesses, standards and values, personality, etc. Some of these attributes come to be known as more important and better developed than others. Because the attributes change over time, the definition of the organization – its existence as an idea – also changes over time.
Thus, a PR plan and communications strategy is played-out over time. In that way, it is like a chess game. The next moves only make sense in relation to future moves. The strategy needs to be driven to achieve a well-defined goal. From the very beginning, the first move, you have to see all the way to the end: how you want to win. In other words, the first step in creating the successful plan is to start at the end:
STEP ONE: Describe the idea of the company that will exist when it achieves success. Focus on the qualitative attributes that contribute to the definition of the organization. Do not write your thoughts. Just think about the organization in terms of an idea, a concept. Add details to the concept so that it becomes palpable and real to you as an idea. It will become the goal of the PR plan to turn that idea into a myth.
It all starts with a simple and casual chat.
||on Skype I’m DougPoretz
||e-mail me: Doug@DougPoretz.com