By Pete Resler
Over the past several months, Preston has been focusing his energy on launching a new communications consulting firm, Intactic, and in his spare time has led a team developing a fresh new slate of programs for the 2015 IABC World Conference.
He was also kind enough to spare a few minutes to chat about how his non-traditional approach is helping to shape how his clients communicate and how you will experience World Conference. Here is what he had to say.
What single word would you use to describe yourself?
Curious. I have always had a learner’s mindset and, as a communications consultant, I am responsible for leading the client through inquiry to really get to the root of issues so we can find solutions.
Does your curiosity compel you to seek out clients in industries that are new to you?
I’ve worked with clients in a wide variety of industries. I’m not sure I seek them out, but I do really love the diversity. While clients’ products or services might be different, their challenges typically aren’t.
Last fall you launched Intactic, your third communications startup. Where did you get your entrepreneurial drive and what is different about this company?
I sometimes think my drive is the result of being an identical twin. When I was very young I started to realize that there was opportunity in taking a different path from my brother. It’s not that my brother and I are competitive; I viewed it as a unique opportunity. Once I saw that taking a different approach might lead to success faster, I was hooked. When I was 16, I wrote a non-traditional personal development plan that put me on the path to where I am today.
Intactic is actually quite different from the last two consulting and creative agencies I helped start. Although there is some overlap, we are breaking new ground for both how we do our work and the kind of relationships we are building with our clients. Rather than seek project work, we are focused on longer-term relationships so that we can build muscle inside companies. Taking this long-view approach allows for us to cause real, sustainable transformation and ensure an initiative is wired for success, rather than hope the company continues the great work we started.
We are also walking our talk. Everything about Intactic, including the technology we use to serve clients and how we set up our offices, considers the latest behavior science for how successful companies work.
What did you learn the first two times that has helped you in your latest venture?
I have learned both what to do and what not to do. Most importantly, I’ve learned the power of a transparent culture, how design-thinking needs to be embedded throughout all stages of a project (not just the creative process), and how important it is to have an agile approach when creating modern communications and when building and maintaining relationships.
You have been an active member of IABC, including serving as SF IABC president in 2012 – 13. Why did you join IABC and why have you remained so engaged?
It’s quite simple: IABC is where my friends are. I tend to hang out with like-minded communicators, and I really enjoy comparing notes with my IABC colleagues. Of course, it also helps that I have been able to find new, interesting client engagements because of my IABC involvement.
With World Conference coming to San Francisco this summer, you are chairing the Program Advisory Committee. What does that entail and what can people expect at the 2015 event?
I wouldn’t be honest if I said that the role was what I expected when I signed up. Either way, I wanted to see the process through, leading and partnering with a group of almost 30 communicators around the globe to architect and select the conference content and help define the overall experience for participants.
I saw some issues with past conferences and I am excited about what the team has done to solve for the challenges. I think we have kept the best elements of past conferences and transformed the rest. For example, we have a wider variety of session types including IABC Talks (TED-type talks with Q&A), 10-minute speed presentations, and even two-hour workshops. We also have a very diverse general session keynote list that includes the CEO of SAP, the CEO of a leading consultancy focused on designing responsive organizations, authors speaking about branding, the “new game of work,” and even Guy Kawasaki!
What are you looking forward to most at World Conference?
The great line-up of sessions. We have so many new speakers this year that I have a sense it is going to feel like a very new conference. I just wish I could be in more than one place at a time.
If you could spend 10 minutes with anyone who has ever lived, who would you choose and what would you ask that person?
I love this question. If I had only 10 minutes, I would have to get a few nuggets that could pay off in spades. I would choose Albert Einstein. He epitomized curiosity and determination. Both are traits that I try to embed into everything I do. Constant curiosity means that you are always seeking insights to course-correct and evolve. Determination is required to maintain focus.