Lessons Earned: When the Competition is Your Friend

diversity hands in

[Editor's Note: "Failure is the mother of success.” Thomas Edison tried thousands of light bulbs before he discovered his life-altering solution. Howard Schultz approached 242 investors with an idea for a chain of coffee shops. Nearly 220 of them refused the concept for Starbucks. It took Marie Curie years before she was able to isolate radium.

In this PRNEWS series, a partnership with the Institute for Public Relations, industry leaders share a difficult lesson. See the previous article in the series

In this essay, Barbara Bates, CEO of Hotwire, discusses the benefits of industrywide knowledge sharing.]

So many PR leaders focus on how to beat the competition within the highly competitive PR industry. Yet I wouldn’t be where I am without a little help from my friends. Sometimes, those friends are also considered the competition. Sharing knowledge, ideas and best practices allows us to push the industry forward, creating opportunities for all.

Meeting – not beating – the competition

The Silicon Valley PR Principals Roundtable started more than 10 years ago. Its goal was to get agencies to talk about common challenges and overcoming hurdles. Though one might not imagine competing agencies sharing, Roundtable members recognized the importance of do this to advance the industry.

The Roundtable continues and is going strong, thanks to Joanna Kulesa of Offleash, who has taken over the gathering. She continues to bring together experts from 20+ agencies once a quarter to discuss everything from the changing PR landscape to catering to a new age of tech-savvy professionals.

Another longtime participant in the roundtable, Fred Bateman, formerly of the Bateman Group, publishes an annual PR salary survey of 38 agencies. It is another example of a knowledge-sharing tool that demonstrates collaboration and supports benchmarking across competitors for the good of the industry.

Coming together for a cause

Collaborating with the competition can benefit more than our businesses. For example, companies collaborate to support important social issues and accelerate change. In the agency world, the annual Earth Day clean-up at Mountain Lake in San Francisco’s Presidio is an example. For the past seven years, the firm Offleash has invited Bay Area PR pros to spend a day together giving back to the environment. A small, but mighty, contribution, Earth Day clean-up shows the impact of an industry working toward a greater goal.

Relationships for success

We’re taught to steer clear of the competition, especially when it comes to revealing our businesses’ successes and failures. Yet, my greatest sources of inspiration were fellow CEOs and industry leaders.

I cherish the relationships Hotwire has with other agencies. From gathering once a quarter to share best practices and biggest mistakes, to joining forces to contribute to a larger cause, many of our accomplishments are due to support from these partnerships. Today, we swap everything from ideas to business leads. We know greater things can happen when an industry comes together.

Barbara Bates is CEO of Hotwire