CrowdOptic Meets Skywalker: Cool Technology Launches With An Exclusive Approach To PR
What if there were a way to see through walls while playing Pokemon Go? Actually, there is — but while he’s “never saying never,” cofounder and CEO Jon Fisher, of CrowdOptic, is unlikely to promote a mass market story like this in a company press release. Instead, the San Francisco-based company has elevated its PR stature by keeping its message close to the vest.
In the coolness factor department, CrowdOptic is hard to beat. The “middleware for wearables” provider has developed a way to identify video by the object the device is looking at, as opposed to the source.
What this means: the company’s patented triangulation technology makes it possible to map to the point of interest — the thing the device holder is looking at. It shows where people and devices are directing their focus instead of simply mapping observers to the spots where they stand.
Imagine the possibilities in a military setting, news broadcasting, a law enforcement incident or a fire. And yes, if someone chose to do so, it could be a killer great technology weapon for playing Pokemon Go.
Since its 2011 inception, the company has amassed an elite set of clients that include Cisco, Sony , Stanford Medicine, the Bronco sports team, CBS Interactive, the U.S. military and the Chinese police departments in Shanghai and Bejing.
According to Crunchbase the company has taken in $10.77MM. Clearly the company and its technology are gaining in traction, yet its July launch event, held at the George Lucas Skywalker Ranch, allowed only a single publication and reporter, from Marin County Magazine, to attend.
CrowdOptic is adhering to a philosophy that advisors like branding expert Chris Collins would love — recognizing that in media it’s often where you’re not covered — the mass media of every newspaper and gizmo site — that matters the most. The mystique of a limited access story can be far more effective in the launch of a world-changing technology than an eyeball-grabbing headline and a “carpet bomb” message intended for mass market appeal.
There is a line between world-changing news and a gratuitous bid for the masses that companies like CrowdOptics prefer not to cross. When it comes to PR, “we prefer quality over quantity,” Fisher says. As a serial entrepreneur — Fisher was also responsible for the development of a company acquired by Oracle that has become Oracle’s Adaptive Access Manager product — he notes that when a highly-placed and accurate article takes hold, the right kind of customers take notice. “You wouldn’t believe the kind of client requests that come in.”
“Knowing where devices are aimed gives the world a signal that hasn’t been seen before,” he maintains. In China, for example, CrowdOptic glasses give police officers (and news outlets like CNN) the ability to see where officers are looking in common. It gives them better awareness and faster incident response. On a broader scale, it becomes possible through the lens of millions of devices to discern when something is significant or interesting more quickly and with more accuracy than ever before. “It is shiveringly different,” he says. “This is a new way to see the world.”
The day-long launch event at George Lucas’ ranch brought together nearly all of CrowdOptics primary customers, he reports. “Lunch, wine-tasting, dinner — in addition to our announcement, the setting was ideal for allowing collaborative energy among clients (“kiritsu”) to occur. In a similar fashion, the company has avoided trade show booths and the accompanying fanfare and card-obtaining strategies that vendors traditionally employ to rise above the din of the crowd. Instead, the team sets up private meetings at adjacent hotel suites and restaurants to conduct private and exclusive events.
Fisher’s PR philosophy is one my own team has employed in many cases as well. As a former agency of record for printer company Lexmark, for example, our team conducted on-site events around occasions like the Kentucky Derby.
Visiting press and analysts were invited to exclusive NDA briefings with company executives during their stay. At the events, barring any SEC-prohibited disclosures, executives provided candid information within a memorable event and venue that was exclusive to a handful of carefully-selected participants. Not only did these events produce working partnerships that were beneficial for years, but the unique energy among analysts and press who are seldom in the same rooms together produced magic as well.
The exclusivity approach to PR is not free, as venues such as George Lucas’ ranch and other high-end locations are not inexpensive nor an easy thing to attain. However, Fisher reports the return on his company’s investment in its recent launch event was a good decision in every respect. It is also valuable to note that a strategy like this does not require a PR firm to employ.
Perhaps the concept of less PR for higher impact is a strategy your company should also deploy.
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