Everything PR News talks with one of the online world’s most influential leaders, Rick Rudman. The head man at super successful online marketing and PR software company Vocus talks about the “now” and the future of the social web.
By way of a short biography, for those unfamiliar with Rick or Vocus, this 49 year old software veteran and CPA is co-founder, President, and CEO of the most utilized PR & marketing outreach software in the world.
Put very simply, Rick’s company supplies communications professionals with the most valued influence, monitoring, and brand promoting tools in the business. Aside Rick’s and co-founder Bob Lentz’s collective ingenuity in developing these tools, the acquisitions of PRWeb, HARO, and other strategic moves have catapulted the business to preeminence.
Lead By Example
Some 40,000 + organizations worldwide take advantage of Vocus superb set of tools, but let’s hear what the company’s figurehead has to say about selected topics for the industry.
EPR – As one of the true pioneers of SaaS (Software as a Service) Rick, with Vocusgrowing as well as any company in these trying times, what words of encouragement would you offer businesses just entering the cloud?
Rick Rudman – I may be the eternal entrepreneur and optimist, but I think this might just be the best time ever to start a cloud-based software company. Although cloud-based software companies can be difficult to scale up to be a big company, they have pretty low barriers of entry, which make them ideal for start-ups. Cloud computing is also a model that works well for delivering low cost software to the masses which is probably why we’re seeing a surge of really innovative new products pop up every day in the areas of social, mobile and local.
EPR – I noticed in the news recently VocusMarketing just went smart and mobile. I don’t want the question to appear antagonizing, but how come this superb VocusPR tool was not already available for smart devices?
Rick Rudman – A lot of people don’t know this but Vocuswas actually early to the mobile world! We released our first mobile version in 2000 (see our add below left). It turns out we were too early and our mobile version never got off the ground. Now that mobile devices have caught up we decided to give it another try. However, the version we just launched is for our marketing suite, with an emphasis on small business owners who have to try and do marketing on the fly while their also running their day-to-day business.
Rick Rudman – Peter coined the phrase “short burst downtime” a few years ago. It refers to the short breaks in the day that pop up unexpectedly while waiting for other things – like your turn to order at Starbucks or picking your kid up at school. Our mobile marketing software is designed to let people actually use these short breaks to do a lot of their daily marketing activities. Users can respond to social media posts, tweet new content or check out new followers or look at their website traffic right from their smart phone. We’re delivering on the promise of helping people get their marketing done in just a few minutes a day from anywhere.
EPR – Rick, I think a great many people out there are wondering how Vocus, largely a niche service for the PR and marketing industry, can run so strong in such difficult times? Is Vocus’s strength transference from PR, marketing, and ad agency growth? Or is there a lot of “spend” being invested in great tools for the future?
Rick Rudman – Since it’s founding in 1992, Vocus has achieved 19 consecutive years of revenue growth, averaging 40% annually from $200,000 in 1992 to over $115M in 2011. Although we’ve certainly become a market leader in the traditional PR space, our claim to fame has really been in expanding the overall market by selling PR software to marketing generalists and small business owners. We are following that same path again as we expand into the marketing space and sell new world marketing tools, built around online and social marketing, to small business owners looking to replace their yellow pages and other offline marketing spend.
EPR – As an observer in the tech blog world, when you acquired PRWeb back in 2006, I said to myself; “That’s the best $28 million bucks any Web 2.0 company has spent?” Just how big a bargain was that in retrospect Rick?
Rick Rudman – Well, your instincts were dead on! PRWeb was one of the most significant events in our company history, and PRWeb now accounts for 25% of our revenue. More importantly, we are now the leader in online, direct to consumer press releases. According to the latest results from the independent ranking site Alexa.com, PRWeb beats out PRnewswire, Businesswire and Marketwire in terms of online reach and site traffic. PRWeb also brought us into the marketing and small business world. Although many PR people love PRWeb, most of our customers are marketers or small business owners that use PRWeb as to get online visibility and high organic rankings in search engines. With over 35,000 active users of PRWeb, it was an easy decision for us to expand into the broader cloud-based marketing space by adding online and social tools to complement this great SEO tool. So PRWeb has also led us to our future in cloud-based marketing.
EPR – Turning to media Rick, one thing many so-called citizen journalists, Web 2.0 evangelists were concerned about back when was, conventional media convoluting the free spirited blogger sentiment on the web. My question relates a bit to the PRWeb state of the Media report this year. Has traditional business and media steamrolled the citizen journalist? Or?
Rick Rudman – In my opinion, the citizen journalist is alive and well and living on the web on blogs and social networks. I think what sometimes makes this issue a little fuzzy is that the lines between professional media, citizen journalism and populist commentary continue to blur. Is the story the original story, written by a major media reporter, the editorialized story re-posted by a prominent blogger, or the thousands of comments and opinions posted by readers? As Forest Gump said, “I think maybe it’s both”. Either way, the Web and social networks provide people – be they professionals, amateurs or just a person with an opinion – the forum to express themselves like never before. Thoughtful and innovative writing will attract followers and the rest will die in obscurity – regardless of the source. That is the power of the modern social web.
EPR – In that same report, something fairly clear shines through, Patch.com seems to be growing like weeds in a hothouse. To what do you attribute their success, if you don’t mind commenting?
Rick Rudman – I think the success of patch.com speaks to three very powerful forces in today’s online world – content, local and authenticity. In many ways, content is king on the internet today and consumers (and therefore marketers) are looking to create richer content that actually provides real value to people. People are also looking for great local content – information that will enrich their lives because it’s information about where they live. Most importantly, all this content has to be authentic. In the case of patch.com this means local information written by local people – not an outsourced team of people in a far away land trying to tell me what’s happening in my home town.
EPR – Something I read on Yahoo Finance, via The Wall Street Transcript, really struck me where your positioning and the social web are concerned. Let me quote, if I may; “So what matters most in the modern marketing world is not what a company says about itself to consumers using traditional marketing, but rather what consumers say about a company.” My question is; “Did you plan to be an integral part of what some would call a solution to this the marketing shift in your statement?” Are you still adjusting to stay in front of the trend?
Rick Rudman – Vocus started following the shift in consumer buying behavior a while ago. We saw the decline of company-led direct marketing and the rise of consumer-led buying, driven by online search, content and trusted social connections. So I guess you could say we did plan to be a part of this marketing shift. And we are always adjusting to stay in front of trends. In fact, that’s what our new marketing suite is all about – helping companies harness the power of SEO, social marketing and publicity to grow their business.
EPR – I have asked all the business leaders who have come to discuss who their role models were. It would not be fair for me to depart Rick. Who influenced you the most coming up in life?
Rick Rudman – I’ve been very fortunate to meet many people over the years with different strengths and qualities I admired. From family members, to leaders of mine when I was in the Air Force, to business mentors during our incredible run of success at Vocus. I think what helped me the most was having the curiosity to listen and learn from people I respected and to try and take the best of what they were each good at and somehow make those qualities my own.
EPR – And, all the new professionals out there, whether they be in communications or behind the hotel front desk, will want to benefit from your best advice to new professionals Rick. What key point of wisdom would you offer a budding success story out there?
Rick Rudman – You are never too young or too new to have a positive impact and make a real difference. Don’t be intimidated by people who “have been doing it this way for a long time”. Learn from people you respect, exceed expectations and innovate.
I have made it no secret to the industry leaders we interview, their advice and tendencies will be part of a larger discussion. Rick Rudman, like many other thought leaders, provides a lot of insight here – insight about success, trends, and most importantly what some term “disruptive innovation.” Please understand, being a disruptor is not always about instantaneous successes – no, the greatest businesses disrupt continually.
In 2003 Rick Rudman was selected as Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the software category for the Washington, an obviously accurate accolade. Looking at his answers, the last one really sums up what all leadership should be about – “exceeding expectations” is, if you will recall or reason, the zone wherein we all feel fulfilled. Focus is another characteristic many of those interviewed in this serious have exhibited. That commodity comes from being driven and by the passion for what we do – Rudman has this in spades, just read between the lines up there. Nowhere is there to be found a better advocate, analyst, or emissary of the social web – Rudman’s company lives it.
Thanks for your valuable insight Rick. For the reader, expect a lot more from Vocus and its subsidiaries to come.