I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my nearly two-decade career in communications. I’ve gotten to help quite a few organizations determine their communications strategy and how best to go out to their audiences. I got to get in on the ground floor of a revolution in how businesses communicate with their publics as first blogging, then “social media,” then digital became an integral part of communications and marketing. (Some, if they’re being generous, might suggest that between my work with IBM and that with General Motors, I played a role in shaping how companies use social and digital platforms.) I’ve gotten to speak at hundreds of events and conferences, on five continents and in more than 20 countries. Yes, it’s been a remarkable run so far, one I am grateful for every day.
And yet, there is one move that I haven’t made yet, one that has always made me take a deep breath and smile when I thought about it. But as the greatest hockey player ever once said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So today, it’s time to take that shot and make that move — whether I call it a leap of faith or just one small step for a man.
Introducing Christopher Barger Communications
I’m proud to announce that I am going out on my own and am forming my own consultancy: Christopher Barger Communications. After 5 years in the agency world and almost 20 in the communications business, I’ve decided to test my entrepreneurial wings and hang out my own shingle. I am looking for the flexibility to take on clients who aren’t always on the hunt for a new agency relationship, but nonetheless have need of strategic communications planning as well as digital marketing strategies.
Many brands are doing outstanding work in digital communications, but haven’t necessarily connected their digital plans with their larger communications and business strategies. Many others have highly effective overall communications and marketing strategies, but haven’t translated these as well to digital platforms. Still others are still a bit flummoxed by the rapidly changing digital landscape and still consider content marketing, digital marketing, and online influencer communications to be something of a “black art.” (I’ve actually heard someone at a major corporation refer to it as such, I’m not just being dramatic.) And there are some, whether start-ups, non-profits, or small businesses, who don’t think they have the resources to bring on top tier strategic communications and digital content marketing help. I’m going into business to try and be a resource for all of these.
There are plenty of digital “gurus” out there who are too quickly caught up in being the first on a shiny new platform or breathlessly reporting on the latest developments in the social media influencer fishbowl. There are even quite a few strong digital practitioners who understand how to develop content and messages for digital platforms in an effective way. But few of these practitioners have the background I’ve been able to build in developing broader communications strategies that align with business objectives, or have sat at the decision-making table as marketing and communications strategies, brand narratives, and messages are developed.
Similarly, many top corporate communications strategists are strong at their craft and can build traditional messaging and communications plans, but still view digital with a sideways glance. They don’t always recognize that it isn’t just the platforms we use to communicate or market that have changed, but that the environment and audience expectations of us have changed as well. There is a greater need for storytelling — as opposed to messaging — than ever before, and digital platforms are not the only area in which storytelling is important.
I have been straddling those lines and placing a foot squarely in each camp for more than a decade. And that’s what I’m offering to clients and organizations: strong strategic communications development that ladders to business objectives, combined with strategic digital expertise honed at some of the biggest organizations in the world.
Staying Aligned With Voce Communications
Even as I go out on my own, I am proud to be maintaining my alignment and connection with Voce Communications, which I have called home for the past five years. Voce is home to some of the smartest communicators — and some of the flat out best people — I have ever had the privilege to call colleagues. I have enjoyed every minute of my time with Voce, and I am a better professional for having been there. So I am very happy to be staying connected to Voce and to continue working with Voce clients and Voce people. I’m keeping the regular clients I have as part of my work with Voce, and will continue to work with them just as I have been; for them, this transition will be seamless and there won’t be any changes. When Voce clients may have need of senior level digital or strategic counsel, I’ll be available to them when or if Voce feels that it makes sense. If a new client comes in to Voce where it makes sense for me to work with the new client team, I’ll be part of it. From strategic communications counsel to planning digital and content strategies, I’m still part of the Voce Nation, and will work closely with my friends there to keep doing the great work we’ve all been doing together for five years.
Make no mistake, this is not a divorce; it’s more like my leaving the nest to go out and get my own place, all while still being welcome at Mom & Dad’s house, where they’ve kept my room free and looking like I left it, for the times when I come back home.
The Voce Communications team are among the best you’ll find at communications strategy and execution across the board, from media relations to influencer relations to digital content strategy — especially in the tech industry. Voce also offers one of the best web development teams you’ll ever see, a relative rarity within a PR agency; the platforms team at Voce is responsible for some of the biggest websites on the Net and some of the most trafficked blogs in the world.
I couldn’t be happier or prouder to still be called a Vocian, and to maintain my relationship with this amazing agency.
An Exciting Alliance With Scott Monty Strategies
When I was at General Motors, one of the things that made me better, made my colleagues stronger, made our programs better, and pushed us to excel was the presence of Scott Monty at Ford. Scott was pushing the envelope and breaking new ground in all the work he was doing, and we dared not get too comfortable or relaxed lest Scott leave us behind.
Scott and I were often portrayed as “frenemies” during this time, but the truth was that we were always friends — before our time with Detroit automakers, during our competition, and have remained friends in the years since. But beyond being friends, we also have a deep mutual respect for the other’s abilities — and a very similar approach to how we build strategies, narratives, and content.
Scott’s been successfully on his own for more than a year now; Scott Monty Strategies is one of the best resources for insight and thinking on the communications, marketing, and digital spaces available to practitioners in our field. And as I’ve talked with Scott over the past month as I prepared this move, it became increasingly exciting to consider possible opportunities to work together. And that’s what we’ve decided to do.
As of today, Scott Monty Strategies and Christopher Barger Communications will be aligned to team up on client work that are beyond the scope of either single organization or that require the thought leadership of each team.
We’ve each had senior executive roles within Fortune 10 companies and have been party to the strategic planning, tactical execution and business focus behind marketing and communications efforts. At the same time, there are a number of corporate communications executives who are quite talented with traditional messaging and communications planning, but are having trouble with some of the finer points of digital. Perhaps they understand that digital is important, but have trouble conveying it to a team that’s been raised with traditional marketing or communications training. Or perhaps their own expertise is now taken for granted internally and they need the validation and support of an expert third party.
That’s where we’ll come in.
This partnership makes sense. We’re both rooted in the need to align communications and marketing strategies with business objectives. We both understand that effective communications and marketing must today be built on strong storytelling based on classic storytelling techniques and understanding of audience behavior, while leveraging the unique characteristics of every platform or channel. And we both have lots of experience bringing these concepts to life with some of the biggest companies in the world.
We are prepared to put our extensive experience to work together for the right opportunities. Services include:
- Public speaking
- Strategic communications planning
- Corporate storytelling
- Message development
- Crisis communications
- Executive coaching
- Influencer relations
- Creative tactics
Whether we can help you with advisory work or a speak to your team at a corporate event, you’ll be getting decades of industry experience from two executives who have worked for agencies and corporations alike, with a high degree of success.
The Sky’s The Limit
Like any entrepreneur starting their own business, I have a vision and a plan for where I want this to go… but life and business will take their own paths and I’m sure I’ll have to pivot some in order to make things work. But I’ve long been interested in running my own show… and like Gretzky said, you don’t make the shots you don’t take. So I’m taking my shot. Christopher Barger Communications is open for business.