The Best Should Be The Best – Scrutinizing Greatness

The other day we spotlighted a communications firm, the Horn Group, identifying them as on the cutting edge of digital image. Today, I was searching for someone else to exemplify “new age” PR or communication, and have been dumbfounded. Searching odwyerpr’s list of the most successful PR companies, I am actually amazed how few even convey evidence of being in the information age.

None of the top 5 grossing agencies has what one would call “a complete online presence”. Spending 2 hours just surfing the various sites, it quickly became evident that we would have to single out each of the top companies, just to be able to express their relative disregard of a digital image online. So, first up in what will likely become a series, is Edelman, a global communications firm that grossed nearly $400 million in 2007.

The Responsibility of the Best

edelmanlogoBeing number one carries with it a set of expectations. The expectations of clients, potential clients, contemporaries, competitors and business at large demand a perfect digital image. I did not set out to pick on a giant today, a failed expectation led me to it. Expecting a company with over 3,000 employees, an elite clientèle, and a reach that spans 5 continents to display an awesome digital world presence is natural. However, Edelman’s corporate site honestly reflects a wholly different image. It is as if the company deployed the site as a “what if” element, just in case they needed to engage the digital market. Though exquisite in some regards, Edelman’s site is nowhere near being either up to date or as engaging as it should be.

Not exactly the tip of the sword for a tech page

Not exactly the tip of the sword for a tech page

Best of the Best

Make no mistake about it, Edelman has directed resources at the digital image and engagement aspect. Their huge website has superb multimedia aspects (all be it somewhat hidden). A visitor can expect a degree of “world class” experience from Fox News segments spotlighting CEO Richard Edelman, to an excellent Nxtbook entitled Connections (all be it almost 2 years old). The point here is, though the world’s most influential communications firm does engage online, their topical coverage of issues and self branding is not comprehensive nor up to date online. This conveys an “incompleteness” that is both subliminal for some users of the site, and a slap in the face for Internet gurus. Being the best demands near perfection in this writer’s view, I am not wrong in this.

Year old content is not Communicating

Year old content is not Communicating

In or Out of the Kitchen

There is an old saying that goes something like this; “If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen!” So, by way of an example, the Health Engagement Blog of the company professes to be “in the know” as far as how to engage people, and I quote:

Inform in real time – Organizations and brands involved in health need to become more nimble in disseminating information. In the digital era, people expect organizations to provide information rapidly, and they view any delay with skepticism.”

Yet, this blog, though authoritative, has an Alexa of a million and a half, not exactly indicative of the world’s best. I do not mean to inflect negatively on the authors there, but I hope you can see my point. If Edelman wants to be seen as committed to internet engagement, well, you see my point. The content is there, the potential is unlimited of course, but the writers are reaching no one. A lack of commitment to their own dogma and/or know how – obviously.

Summary

Being the best in communications means a blanket commitment to engage across the spectrum. Edelman, is an extraordinary company, with a visionary at its helm. My only explanation for their website not being more “all encompassing” is that the helm is a long way from the trenches of social media and the tech world.

Possessing a great ability and influence has its drawbacks, and my critique is valid whether talking about Edelman and their online elements or a great basketball player who cannot shoot free throws. The difference being that a terrible free throw shooter like Wilt Chamberlain, made up ten fold in other aspects. This is true for Edelman too, but Wilt never professed to being a free throw expert, Edelman is obligated on several fronts to be “everything communication”. Even at the cost of spending some of those hundreds of millions, the Edelman website is THE online image of the company – Image is all you are on the Web – that is all I have to say about that. I leave the reader with this quote from the corporate website welcome page:

“We engage micro-media – bloggers and online conversationalists – who appoint themselves leaders of a category and passionately communicate their real understanding of it.”

And an “up to date” reflection of this and other engagements. 5 years in Internet time is a lifetime.

A report from the Welcome page vintage 2004

A report from the Welcome page vintage 2004

Being The Greatest Is Not About Being Great At Everything - But Almost

Being The Greatest Is Not About Being Great At Everything – But Almost

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Comments

  1. says

    Phil,

    Thanks for pointing out the Nxtbook we produced for Edelman. For what it’s worth, the company’s been more current about producing fresh content. In fact, here’s a link to to an issue we produced for them in Spring of ’08, though it may not appear on the website: http://tinyurl.com/arp8g2

    Though your point is very well taken, perhaps the Edelman site is a sign of the shoemaker’s kids going barefoot. Companies can become so outward focused on their clients that their own brand gets the short end of the stick. Not that this is a good thing – but it can sometimes be reality.

    Marcus

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