Bring It On!
Author: Chris Boehlke
October 23, 2018
I used to have a colorful ceramic tile in my office that said, “Never too old to be a chile peppa.”
This week, I am proud to be named one of The Holmes Report’s “25 Innovators of 2018.” In other words – they named me an official chile peppa. And that feels really good.
I don’t have the tile in my office anymore. Not because I no longer have the tile, but because I no longer have an office. And the path that led me to no longer having the office is the same one that led me, I believe, to this great Holmes honor.
Over the last several decades, PR has seen more innovation than most industries see in several lifetimes. The base upon which PR was founded was the highly controlled “three national TV networks and two papers in every town” model. But media was already splintering into thousands of analog shards by the time digital hit. And now it has become an infinite number of unique digital particles. Of even more import – peers are the new third-party influencers. We’re proud of the innovation we bring to our clients in how to succeed in this very different world.
But that’s for another blog on a different day. Because the innovation I’m actually most proud to be recognized for at this time is: how do we organize these days to grow the people and the teams to create PR excellence in this new digital world? How do we enable and empower a new generation of chile peppas?
I spent the first chunk of my career learning how to manage within the campuses of the largest multinational PR firms – the kind with a fancy office in every major market around the world. I spent the next chunk running my own operation of one major office and a handful of small ones. Those were all amazing times and great learning experiences.
But now it’s a whole new dimension. For the last several years I’ve been immersed in the most exhilarating experience of all – designing how to run a virtual PR firm. Our goal has been to exceed the results of our physical counterparts, and we’ve done that. We’ve won many awards for our performance, including PR Week naming us Outstanding Boutique Agency of 2018. And we’ve grown to nearly 30 people in less than five years.
It’s the ultimate world of innovation. People say, “Oh, you’re remote.” No – we’re not remote at all. Remote is when most people come to an office and a few work “remotely” from home – removed from the action. We come to work every morning on our laptop, with Zoom video, emails, Slack and a number of other apps open throughout the day, and all dive headlong, together, into the action.
We’ve thought through every detail of how people work together and how that needs to translate to a digital environment. While some aspects might lose a bit of the physical benefits in translation, the majority of them actually gain benefits over the physical. We are fine-tuning every aspect of digital personal interaction, and, in the process, we’ve created the most intimate, team-oriented environment in which I’ve ever worked.
I’m fortunate to have lived my life so far on “an innovation high.” I can’t imagine any other way to live. As a kid, a blank piece of paper was so exciting it would make me hyperventilate. My favorite quote has always been, “Only when you learn how to see the invisible, can you do the impossible.” Every day there is some magic opportunity to do things a bit differently than people expect. Including me! I never fail to amaze myself. Sometimes in a bad way but usually in a good one.
We are living in the most exciting times ever and taking our PR profession to new, meaningful places never dreamed about a few decades ago. Together, we are a proud and vital world of ripening chile peppas.