In today’s increasingly interconnected world, companies need to rely on other companies beyond their four walls to succeed, even if they compete in certain markets. This is called “coopetition,” or, in other words, cooperative competition. The term actually dates back to 1996 from the book of the same name. What makes it work is when there is a congruence of interests that mutually benefits collaborators, even when they compete in other spheres.
Technology Coopetition –
Today, as cloud and IoT continue to rise in prominence, the opportunity for tech companies to connect with one another and collaborate is an increasingly viable option. More often than not, they find themselves working together with companies that are competitive in some ways. Elias Khasner, an analyst from Gartner, specifically points out in this recent article that major cloud providers, in particular, are shifting in this direction now more than ever. Why? Because customers are moving toward a multi-provider approach where they are using one vendor’s platform to meet certain needs and another one to provide for different application functions. By doing it this way, they are essentially getting the best of both worlds.
Public Relations Coopetition –
A meeting of Bay Area tech PR agencies organized by the PR Council started me thinking about coopetition among tech PR agencies. In the PR world, agencies have traditionally relied on companies in complementary industries to fill holes in their offerings. For example, agencies might partner with either a video production agency or even an advertising firm to make sure their clients’ needs are being met to the fullest.
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The challenge at the top of everyone’s list at the PR Council meeting was attracting and retaining talent, which is a great example of coopetition at work. Given the limited talent pool, agencies compete with each other for talent. However, we all face competition from a large number of startups and big tech companies. In other locations, going "in house" is often viewed as a more conservative choice. In the Bay Area, in-house means the top tech companies like Google and Apple, as well as startups that from a distance can appear like eventual unicorns with potentially valuable options.
To keep our top talent in the Bay Area and not lose out to “the big four” or enticing startups, our group began sharing strategies for employee retention at the meeting. For example, it is essential to focus on the importance of continuously growing our own teams by starting with strong internship programs and investing in employee development to keep the talent pipeline running.
Even though we didn’t solve all of our problems, we did take comfort in the fact that we were not the only tech nerds in the PR universe. Sometimes, knowing you are not the only one facing unique challenges is enough to get you ready to fight another day – even if it is with your peers. Viva la coopetition!
For other insights on Silicon Valley and Tech PR, check out: Voice of the Valley: Communicating in a World Where Unicorns Again Are Rare Beasts