It feels counter to the job of a journalist to be in the communications world. To hear that there is an effort to help more comms people trade notes, share stories and prepare curated responses is selfish.
Sean is trying to convince me that he's wrong. The company developed a marketing, public affair and government relations strategy. He was an adviser to the Obama White House on digital strategy and communications. His latest bet is a startup called Mixing Board that helps clients avoid the BS PR stuff by bringing together communications and marketing leaders in one place.
Mixing Board brings together current, rising and seasoned marketing leaders to trade notes on everything from how to message a startup to how to announce a stealthy business debut into the world. It offers different programs based on different needs, but mostly focuses on scaling mentorship with executive advice from companies like Airbnb, American Express, Facebook, and the Obama White House. The community has over 200 people in it.
The company doesn't want to be an alternative to a PR agency but instead wants to help comms people within organizations level up through mentorship support The head of comms within a startup isn't a startup client.
It is free for comms leaders to join the mixing board. Companies pay the startup money to help with an executive search through a community-sourced recruiting operation. The startup splits a finders fee with the member who made the suggestion, and it is a much greater return than the karma points we all collected for free for many years.
The current market is different from 10 years ago, when communications experts mostly stayed in their own lane and competed more than complemented. The power of employees has increased in the last few years. He said that people talk a lot about its impact on social justice issues and that it has an impact on organizing. It can be dead on arrival if companies and organizations ruin marketing campaigns that are not based or centered around the truth.
To get change, employees are some of the best sources. The shift in power is an opportunity for companies to focus on their truth and make their employees better.
The evolution of what a comms person is in charge of today is one of the tailwinds that Mixing Board seeks to exploit. We tend to think of comms as media relations. Editorial strategy, community moderation and events are part of the job. A comms person could be involved, behind the scenes, to make sure things run smoothly.
Comms is now in a leadership structure that is more and more like that. He said that he has a lot of peers who like the marketing below them. The marketing team is reporting to the comms person. The job is more important than the comms think.
The example of Mixing Board was given to me by the man. The members will discuss how to communicate with employees. Don't be afraid to be clear. Don't make a big deal out of it. Don't say this is the last time we're going to do this because if it's not you're really screwed.
If you can get the internal audience right, it will go okay, and it will be okay. The internal focus should be the rule and what will center you.
Coalition is a network built by and for operators. In a world where they may not be hiring as much, both business efforts bring experts together in one vertical and build on the needs of the founder. Coalition is trying to scale that advice outward by putting companies with experts, while mixing board is trying to level up a career.
Reforge, which sells cohort-based programs, led by executives, was noted by the founder. We're trying to figure out how to get expertise out of organizations. He says that it can be used to create a flywheel of talent development and opportunity.
The companies want to productize something that was informal, sharing advice, and building a true community.
Community isn’t a buzzword, it’s a challenge
Recent examples show that it can be difficult to balance efficacy with incentives in a startup. When it hits 2000 members, what does it look like? There needs to be buy-in, proven value and natural synergy to make networks work, even though they can scale.
The team is defining and building a community now that the mixing board has been launched. The Mixing Board raised $350,000 in a pre-seed round. The startup has time before it needs to make money, offer self-service tools, and raise more external financing.
Network isn’t a dirty word