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Nov. 6, 2009


The rulers in communications are soon going to be "experts—not simply people who blog or tweet, but who actually know what they're talking about," IBM senior VP Jon Iwata told the Institute for PR Nov. 4 at the Yale Club.

Iwata, who heads IBM marketing, communications and citizenship organizations, addressed a room packed with 280 PR executives who also saw GolinHarris founder Al Golin accept the Alexander Hamilton Medal  for lifetime achievement in PR.

[Link to full Iwata speech]

Al Golin appears via video to accept the Alexander Hamilton Medal from IPR.
Photos: Jack O'Dwyer

Golin, who was in Chicago, accepted the award via a TV hookup.

He has created a "rich legacy since founding the company in 1956 that serves as a model of success to colleagues throughout profession," said the citation.

Iwata said companies have been flooding the web with content "But very soon people will be searching not for content, but for experts…who know what they're talking about."

If you show up on the web, said Iwata, "You need to be recognized as an expert…both knowledgeable and persuasive."

Employees Are "Socializing" on Web

Iwata said companies have to realize that their employees are engaging in social media and must craft new policies.

Objections will be raised by CFOs who worry about financial disclosure, general counsels who fear intellectual property leakage, and human resource depts. that engaging in social media will help competitors "recruit our people."

"Everyone will be worried about criticism of management," he noted, but 2010 will be the year that corporations accept the reality of social media.

Jon Iwata
Jon Iwata speaks at the IPR event.

He feels that with the right strategies, social media, like the telephone, the copier, the fax, e-mail and the internet itself, "will become a tool of business. We will establish a responsible set of policies and practices to ensure that it enters business through the front door."

"New Profession" Is Emerging

Iwata said a "new profession" is emerging that combines marketing, communications and corporate social responsibility.

His 3,850-word (five pages) speech did not mention the words "public relations."

Iwata was chair of "PR Seminar" in 2007 when the group decided to drop "PR" and just be known as "Seminar."

Few of the nearly 200 corporate members have PR as part of their titles and this has been true for many years. Only five of the 42 new members in 2007 had PR as part of their titles and this was usually in combination with another title such as marketing.

Iwata said the fusing of marketing, communications and CSR is "not only logical but inevitable because of all the changes in the external environment—the need to speak with one voice across advertising, sales promotion, events, websites, the media, analysts, bloggers and the like."

IBM, with sales of $103 billion and 410,000 employees, has a price/earnings ratio of 12.64. Competitor Apple, with $36.5B in sales and 35,000 employees, has a P/E of 30.85. Microsoft, with sales of $56B and 93,000 employees, has a P/E of 18.50. Hewlett-Packard, with sales of $115B and 321,000 employees, has a P/E of 16.45.


Iwata is co-head of an Arthur W. Page Society task force on "New Media" with Alan Marks of eBay that will "grapple with issues of governance and risk."

The aim is to "emerge with policies and guidelines that all business can adopt," he said.
Iwata also talked about a "new discipline" at IBM that puts together "brand management and workforce enablement," which he noted is the new term for what was "internal communications."

Employees will be "brand ambassadors" but the actual centerpiece of the program is something quite different, called "The IBM Brand System," he said.

IBM Brand System Described

Iwata described the System as follows: "Picture a framework with five columns. From left to right the columns are labeled what it means to look (underlining in original) like IBM, to sound like IBM, to think like IBM, to perform like IBM and ultimately to be IBM."

This becomes the "corporate genome," he said. "Every word, every phrase and description in that framework would be painstakingly chosen … it describes what makes your company unique."

Not only must the framework be developed, he said, but it must be brought to life.

A uniform IBM "look" must be present in all advertising, websites, sales collateral, client briefing centers, all laboratories, offices and buildings in every part of the world, and in IBM's industrial design and trade dress.

Any gaps must by systematically closed so that all IBM employees "become truer to our brand and our values," he added.

Create Product Demand

Another theme of the Iwata "Distinguish Lecture" of the Institute was that companies must not only create products but must create underlying demand for product categories.

He referred to the Michelin Guides created by the tire company more than 100 years ago that gave people reasons to travel more by providing information on hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations.

Apple, he said, does not just advertise but "teaches" consumers to use computers.

"They want you to actually learn everything the product can do because you'll then teach others," he said.

Apple Store's "Genius Bar" are free to customers, he noted. "They don't pitch you. They teach you."

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