Fast Company's Fast Talk
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Fast Company's Fast Talk

This program creates a vehicle to accomplish this goal through an intimate “influence-the-influencers” strategy, putting Fast Company in a position to develop the forum for business and economic leaders to discuss and provide real solutions on how to bett

Paul Holmes

Fast Talk is Fast Company's bi-monthly roundtable gathering of the best minds in business from around the world.  These executive leaders meet to discuss the most pressing issues that are unfolding as we speak, and will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of business.  Through a carefully laid out agenda, these leaders discuss what they think are some promising remedies for the issues that keep them — and their peers — up at night.

This program merits recognition because it exemplifies Citigate Cunningham’s ability to not only step outside the box, but jump out of it.  Imagine taking every aspect of traditional PR and throwing it out the window to create a compelling "conversation program" that brings together the most respected luminaries in the business world to candidly discuss their innermost concerns for the economy.  Imagine a print media outlet setting the stage and driving the conversation, actually playing an influential role in the new economy — rather than simply reporting on it.

CHALLENGE/OPPORTUNITY

Fast Company, needed to strengthen its position as a leading, new economy publication among leaders in the business revolution.  Historically, Fast Company has had a strong executive following on the east coast; however, their image on the west coast was not as pervasive.  They were consistently ranked third or fourth after Red Herring and The Industry Standard.  Fast Company has a very different editorial approach and philosophy — they engage their readers by providing perspective and balance on their work lives.  They cover stories that affect people as well as the economy and offer thought-provoking, timely stories on issues in the new economy.  An excellent example is their "Built to Flip" article, which appeared in their March 2000 edition.  This article created a buzz in the industry because it predicted the demise of the dot com prior to the April NASDAQ crash.  While this story captured the attention of industry leaders across the nation, the story got away from Fast Company and they were not able to continue the conversation.  Fast Company came to Cunningham to "continue the conversation" on a broader scale that encompassed the east coast, west coast and beyond.  Looking forward, Fast Company had visions of creating and expanding an enduring dialogue on a global scale — a goal that this program has since helped them realize.

SITUATION ANALYSIS

During the planning process, Citigate Cunningham interviewed CEOs of leading Internet and new economy companies to get a pulse on the industry, which served as a foundation for Fast Talk’s agenda.  We conducted extensive research to identify the optimal target invite list and a venue appropriate to fit the caliber of attendees. The ultimate goal was to create a unique and powerful experience for participants, while establishing meaningful dialogue that would make Fast Company top-of-mind with leaders in the new economy.

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Fast Company was looking for a way to establish itself as a must-have resource on the desk of every new economy leader and create a buzz in the industry.  This program creates a vehicle to accomplish this goal through an intimate “influence-the-influencers” strategy, putting Fast Company in a position to develop the forum for business and economic leaders to discuss and provide real solutions on how to better navigate in the evolving competive landscape, and ultimately, win.

CAMPAIGN EXECUTION
Conduct the first Fast Talk in Silicon Valley: ground zero for the new economy; Create a topic to support Fast Company's September "State of the New Economy" issue; Brainstorm with Fast Company to create a thought-provoking, emotional topic. The winner: "What does it take to succeed in the New Economy?"; Interview 10-15 top industry executives in The Valley to learn what’s keeping them up at night. (leverage the resources of Citigate Cunningham to ensure the interviews would yield critical insight to the issues affecting the new economy); Compile strategic list of invitees and designed unique, personalized invitations (i.e., cell phones); Develop a format to stimulate dialogue.  This includes two "fire-starters," to a mix of 8-10 conversation leaders from old and new economy companies and the Fast Company founder to moderate; Work with Fast Company's reporters to interview each Fast Talk invitee to determine their perceptions of the new economy, their business aspirations, their biggest fears, etc.  Develop personalized gift bags for each invitee including CDs with invitees "psyche up" song and the book they've always been meaning to read but have never gotten around to.

SUMMARY

The response from Fast Talk attendees was overwhelming.  Most everyone who attended asked: "When is the next Fast Talk?  We have to keep talking!"  None of the attendees had ever attended such a unique, focused and fun event. Most attendees felt that the conversation was enough of an incentive to attend.  Due to an overwhelmingly positive reception by participants, Fast Company has made Fast Talk a bi-monthly event occurring around the world, designed to continue the discussion on their own, putting Fast Company in the enviable position of creating the format for participants to network.

In November 2000, Fast Company hosted its second Fast Talk in London. Again, it was a smash hit! The event was covered exclusively by Bloomberg.  Conversations at the Fast Talk have become such a hot commodity, Fast Company is now focusing on repackaging the content for b-roll, newsletters and web site content. All of this after only two events!  With such a buzz surrounding Fast Talk, its quickly become the hottest ticket for new economy leaders around the world.

January 31st marked Fast Company’s third Fast talk, which they opened up further to non-competitive media such as The Wall Street Journal and ABCNews.com.   
Results of this program are largely qualitative, serving to promote relationship-building with credible industry insiders, helping Fast Company re-position itself as a forward thinking resource that knows what's coming next. Through this program, Fast Company obtained face-to-face time with leading, revolution-building insiders that are typically difficult to reach.  This allowed the publication to report first-hand on the issues facing their executive-level constituency, positioning Fast Company as a leading edge, visionary publication that can address the issues facing c-level executives.  From an agency perspective, the program allowed Citigate Cunningham to leverage its own relationship capital to gain a place at the table. 

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