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posted by Kevin Smith Aug 31,2016 @ 02:29PM

Start by Thinking Like a Startup


Established businesses don’t reach out to marketing communications firms like ours when things are fantastic. Typically, something has changed, and not for the better. We get called when sales have dropped, when the brand has become unclear or when past leaders have stepped aside to make way for someone new.

Beyond these conditions, established companies often have other things in common that contribute to lackluster performance. Many times, they lack a clear or a universally understood purpose that drives their organization. We define purpose as an understanding about the difference your enterprise is trying to make in the world.

Examples include:

Johnson and Johnson: To alleviate pain and suffering.

Charles Schwab: To be a relentless ally of the individual investor.

Whole Foods: To provide choices for nourishing the body, the community and the planet.

Without a shared sense of purpose in their organizations, businesses tend to be reactionary. Leaders tend to make decisions slowly. They spend their days, quarters and years trying to respond to shifts in the market, changes in customer or client demands, evolutions in the competitive landscape, and so on. The result is a lack of focus, and the desire to leave open every possible revenue opportunity, product and service line or geographic territory. Not surprisingly, none of these strategies perform adequately.

This dynamic is exacerbated by shifts in today’s business climate. Increasing competition, rising costs of goods and labor, changing customer needs – all are happening at an ever-quickening pace. The good news is that with effective counsel and a willingness to look at making some changes, established companies can become more competitive through a new commitment to their organizational health: taking the time to understand what drives them, what they are best at, and what it takes to get everyone on board with that mission. While it may be more difficult to make these types of strategic redirects in a more mature company, the organization is always made stronger by the effort.

Conversely, we see startup enterprises coming to the table with very intentional thinking as it relates to organizational health. Founders arrive with total clarity about their purpose as an organization, from HR considerations and behavioral expectations to product innovation and customer service. They use purpose as a strategic lens to guide decisions in many key areas.

Corporate Culture: Entrepreneurs understand that a strong culture begins with purpose. They also know that a company’s culture is vital to recruiting talent. Younger employees want more than a paycheck from their employers and demand their work accomplish something that makes them fulfilled.

Product Offering: Should the product line be niche? Appeal to multiple targets? Beyond the market data, effective startups are using organizational intent as a guidepost for making objective and decisive calls.

Sales: When purpose is foremost, so is the selling proposition. Further, expanding from one salesperson to a team is easier when everyone shares a common goal. Successful startups understand the power of a sales team that operates from the same playbook.

Pricing: Should the product be charged at a premium? Or should a certain feature be considered a value-add? Today’s new business leaders know if a price increase means you can better accomplish the mission, yes. If it goes against what the company stands for, no.

Corporate Social Responsibility: No longer a nice-to-do for large companies, startups recognize the importance of aligning their founding principles with work that can be done to support their communities. In mature organizations, CSR program decisions can also be made with the company’s core ideals in mind. For example, Johnson & Johnson provides drugs to underserved communities in the third world.

While startups don’t have the market cornered on building purpose-driven businesses, they are paying more and more attention to the new competitive realities of linking organizational health with business strategy and brand marketing. Firms like ours don’t create a brand’s image. Done well, our job is to reflect what is already there. So when you think about branding, don’t start by thinking about your logo or website. Begin by examining the impact your company wants to make for your employees, your customers and your community. Start by thinking like a startup.

This article originally appeared in the August 15-September 11 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report.


posted by Apprentices Oct 19,2015 @ 11:10AM

Donate to Central Carolina Community Foundation Flood Relief Fund



As National CreateAthon week commences and our beloved city works to rebuild, we were called to do a little something extra. This Thursday and Friday during CreateAthon, we’ll be holding a pledge drive with all proceeds donated to the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Flood Relief Fund.

If you are interested in donating, please consider sponsoring one of your favorite CreateAthoners (listed below). Remember – we’ll be working all day and night, and you can decide how much you’d like to donate for each hour we’ll be working (i.e. $1, $2, $5 per hour). If you're interested in sponsoring a CreateAthoner or even making a flat donation, just click the image below. When filling out the donation form, make sure to put the total amount you'd like to donate – so if you want to give $1 per hour, you'd put $24 as your donation amount. Oh, and make sure to put “CreateAthon” along with the name of the person you’d like to sponsor in the field marked “how’d you hear about this fund?” (i.e. CreateAthon – Teresa Coles).

Have questions? Email or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter

posted by Cathy Monetti Oct 19,2015 @ 10:12AM

CreateAthon, Flood Relief and Good Business

This date marks 28 years since the Monday morning I first opened the proverbial doors of C.C.Riggs, the advertising studio that has become today's Riggs Partners. It is a truth that astounds me even as I look back across the decades to the girl I was then: an optimistic, energetic, enthusiastic copywriter who wanted nothing more than to do great work for clients I admired and whose companies I believed in. What a blessing it is to be young and eager, that is the thought that occurs to me now, thousands of projects, hundreds of clients and a wealth of talented employees and co-workers later.


Something else occurs to me as well. It's the honor of doing the work itself, the trust placed squarely in your hands by those you serve in doing it. This week it will be our honor to serve eight nonprofits as we joyfully take the reins in solving their marketing and communications challenges during our 18th pro bono bonanza, CreateAthon. We'll work around the clock (AKA without sleep) from Thursday at 8am until the last presentation Friday morning. It is intense, terrifying, and exhausting to take on such a challenge and I expect these emotions will be doubly true this year as our hometown of Columbia, South Carolina marches on through the early days of recovery following last week's devastating, historic flood. Nevertheless we asked each other this question.

Could we do more?

The answer is yes. So for the first time ever, RP CreateAthon volunteers are seeking pledge donations for each of the 24 hours we’re working with 100 percent going directly to flood relief via the Central Carolina Community Foundation Flood Relief Fund. Directions and a link for donating are below.

It's a small thing, we know. But as evidenced by CreateAthon--and by the evolution of a small creative studio founded in 1989--little ideas often turn into gigantic blessings that impact the world in surprising ways.

Thanks for being part of it. Your sponsorship, or even a simple share of this post on your networks, will help so much.

CreateAthon 18, here we come!




posted by Apprentices Oct 07,2015 @ 03:41PM

The Power of Good

It’s been a tough week for Columbia and South Carolina in general. Our state has been stretched thin. Columbia native and NBC reporter Craig Melvin said it best: “Some lost everything. Pretty much everyone lost something,” when 5.8 trillion gallons of rain fell across the Palmetto State.

In the aftermath of the destruction that we’ve experienced, I’ve witnessed incredible things. Namely, an astonishing sense of community, stronger-than-normal enthusiasm to help others, and raw desire to get involved with relief efforts—more specifically, to actually get out and do something. Tragedy feels a little bit different when it hits this close to home.

Over the last 48-hours, I’ve seen people come together in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined. The offers for donations (both monetary and material), cleanup assistance, free services, and shelter have been astounding. Perhaps most touching, however, is the way that people are reaching out to one another just to say, “I’m here for you.”

Our community is combatting this damage with the only force that’s strong enough to do so: good. So here’s to all the volunteers, first responders, friends, neighbors, donors, and everyone else who is making a difference. Thanks to your good, kind hearts, we are able to fight proudly through this time of adversity. The power of good is what makes Columbia #FamouslyStrong.

Image courtesy of Experience Columbia, SC

posted by Cathy Monetti Feb 13,2015 @ 05:55AM

A Vibrant Spirit

I was making my way through the rows of booksellers at last year’s South Carolina Book Festival when I saw a familiar face at a booth just to my right. The smile was unequivocally Marvin Chernoff—broad, joyful, genuine—and I walked closer to discover he was promoting a recently released book he’d written about the ad industry. I bought a copy and told him I’d be honored if he would sign it.

I don’t know that we’ve officially ever met, I said as he wrote. But I’d like to tell you something. Not only are you responsible for the development of an entire creative class in Columbia—but every person I know who ever worked for you continues to hold you in the highest regard. Every single one. I aspire to that. And I thank you.

He smiled again, and then said something funny and self-deprecating. I walked away, my new book in hand, and thought how deeply I regret never knowing him well, how I wish I’d had the opportunity—like so many talented ad folks who have done and continue to do great work—how I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn from this trailblazer, a man fearless and committed. Marvin Chernoff served this community, the agency he founded, and every person who ever had the honor of working with him with great aplomb. How the world will miss his vision and passion. But how lucky we are his indomitable spirit will live on in the many, many lives he shaped.




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