FIVE MINUTES WITH DON SCALES
As CEO of Investis Digital, Don Scales has overseen a rebrand and the expansion of the company as the needs of corporate communicators has shifted. He talks investor relations, digital communications and the new challenges affecting the comms industry
What does the rebrand of Investis Digital mean for clients?
Those who have known us for a while and know of us in a particular space, then there’s a little bit of a re-education on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it differently. I’ll give you one example, we’re working with a pharmaceutical company in the US that is trying to develop these clinical trials around a new drug. What they have to do is attract potential patients and bring them in, so what we’re doing is we’re actually building out the website for this drug and doing all the performance marketing on the back end. Not only can patients find it, they can bring it in. It’s a somewhat new approach for these guys and it’s working really well.
How has corporate communications changed as a result of the proliferation of digital content?
With comms managers today and even IR managers, it used to be they just put it out there and if you saw it, you saw it. But now, there is a premium on a comms manager for their content to be found. So there is a need for comms managers to start thinking about search and how to search. What are the proper keywords? How is my content going to be found? On what devices is my content being found?
How is Investis Digital responding to this?
I would say we’re in a good spot because we’re a little bit ahead of the market. We’re not so far ahead of the market, they’ll never figure it out, but we’re a little bit ahead of the market that if you show them a direction and you show them how it can work, it’s really compelling. The more I can put our capabilities in the hands of the clients so they can do it almost self-sufficiently, the more self-service [it is].
Why should investor relations professionals integrate performance marketing strategies into their work?
You have to assume that they always like to get new investors into the business. Even though they have the target market of the investors, if other people are reading it, there’s probably a side benefit they’re going to bring new investors on. That’s the idea of making sure you’re putting as much of that content as you can into the right hands, at the right time, on the right device, in the right place. That’s what performance marketing is all about.
What are the benefits to clients of a digitally integrated agency?
I look at PR as an area that is one of the last areas to embrace digital. They really don’t. It’s so people driven, you don’t know what digital PR really means. It’s more than just social media tracking. I think there’s a good chance for some people who want to be disruptors to come in and shake up some of the PR stuff.
Trust is built one transaction at a time. If we’re going to have an earnings call, that earnings call is going to go flawlessly. If we have a webcast that has to go flawlessly. If we’re building a new corporate comms site, you launch on site, you don’t have any bugs. You do every one of those, you build a little bit of trust and over time, even later on if something was to happen, you’ve earned your trust. Even if you have a problem down the line, you can go and fix it. It doesn’t ruin the relationship.
How do you approach transactions and acquisitions?
The first thing I do, is I spend a lot of time up front before we even talk deal to make sure that it goes back to that values discussion. I have to sit across the table from the principal on the other side to make sure that we have an alignment of values and the way we look at life in general and business. If they’re looking for a transaction just to cash themselves out, then that tells me something and if I really want it, then I’ll do whatever I need to do. But if someone wants to stay in, you’ve got to talk to them about why you want to stay in what you want to do. If you spend that time up front and get the alignment of value sets up front, then you have a much higher degree of success.
I’ve probably done 35-40 acquisitions in my life. Some good some bad. But if you go in and really look at them in the light of day, the ones that were good were because you spent that time up front. And the ones that didn’t go so well, you probably did a financial transaction when you should’ve been looking at something else.