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High Road's Social Media Division Misfires At Launch

“Marketing Magazine”: reported today that “High Road Communications”: is “opening a digital communications division.”:
Here’s how High Road explained the new division in their press release:
bq.. High Road Communications has synthesized agency talent, experience and passion in VOX, a new social media and digital marketing division. The firm’s VOX team consists of seasoned communicators who specialize in the online and social media spaces. They provide a potent mix of traditional media relations skills and forward-looking technological knowledge to deliver effective, relevant and results-driven campaigns to the audiences that matter.
p. Kudos to High Road for doing this, it is indeed a much needed service and I’m sure they’ll do fine with it.
bq.. The High Road VOX team creates and delivers services including:
* Blog/ chat/ forum relations – targeting online journalists, enthusiast and special interest sites
* Online community relations – engaging online enthusiasts, brand Ambassadors, and promoting positive community partnerships
* Experiential marketing – creating innovative programs that deliver direct-to-consumer, grassroots and hands-on experiences
p. There’s *one big problem with this* that puts their “seasoned communicators who specialize in social media” in question.
The problem? “”:

Vox is the upcoming social media site from industry leader “Six Apart”: Company founder “Mena Trott”: talked about the roots of Vox “on Vox back on June 1st”:
Of course this begs the question – how could a group of social media experts go with a name that is being used by one of the top companies in the space as their “MySpace Killer”?
Should High Road do a quick about-face and rename now, or do they run the risk of having to say things like “Vox believes that Vox will have a major impact on the industry. No, not our Vox, Six Apart’s Vox.”


  1. Ross Rader
    Ross Rader June 23, 2006

    I’m just wondering why they had to go and capitalize the damned thing. I mean, its three letters after all. Why not let the word speak for itself instead of trying to use typographical sleight of hand to inject more meaning into the word….

  2. Justin
    Justin June 23, 2006

    Thanks for the good wishes with our new division. We aren’t anticipating any confusion between our communications services and a blogging platform that share the same name. Apparently Vox is pretty popular name right now:

  3. Ken Schafer - One Degree
    Ken Schafer - One Degree June 23, 2006

    I would agree that many products can share a similar name, but given that both your Vox and Six Apart’s Vox are in the social media space, I think you are underestimating the problem.
    For example, imagine you are speaking at a conference on social media with someone from Vox. I can see lots of confusion where attendees say “oh, I’ve already heard someone from Vox speak, I think I’ll see another session. Or event organizers might not be willing to put both of you on the same panel when you’d love to be there.
    Taking a step back, if YOU had a client come to you saying “we really like this name but another big company in our space is launching a product with the same name a few months from now. We don’t compete directly for customers but we’re definitely lumped in the same category for mind share in the media and for event organizers. What should we do?”
    I can’t imagine you would say that was a good idea, yet here you are saying that. And that’s why I think some will question your judgement on this.

  4. Ken Schafer - One Degree
    Ken Schafer - One Degree June 23, 2006

    Another thought just occurred to me – how do I find you (vox) on the web? One of the biggest problems for operations with generic names or those shared with other companies is that you get so much noise when you try to search social media that you end up being essentially invisible.
    In six months, if I hear about Vox as THE hot company to talk about when it comes to social media and I do a Technorati search, am I going to find the 100 references to your fine service or will I find MILLIONS of links to everyone talking about or pointing to
    The more I think about this the worse it gets. Why not go with “MySpace”, that’s a clever name.
    OK, that’s a bit snarky. OK, that’s a LOT snarky.
    But it’s not personal.
    I’m really pointing this out a) to get you to change your brand now so you can avert disaster in six months or so when Vox is huge, b) to do it in public to help others not make the same naming mistake, and c) to show that social media inherently means you need to be able to deal with pains-in-the-butt like me if you want to play the game.
    BTW, is there a blog for Vox or an official URL? I wanted to point to your side of the story and all I could find was the press release. Send me a link to your blog and I’ll add it to the original story.
    You have a blog right?

  5. Justin
    Justin June 23, 2006

    Just to clarify on “our” VOX ;-)…
    This is an internal division at High Road Communications, so we don’t
    foresee the same issues you’re raising. Basically, our brand revolves
    around High Road & that is what we’ll continue to position ourselves as.
    For us, VOX is simply a good descriptor for our social media & digital
    marketing division, instead of always having to say “social media &
    digital marketing division.” Imagine hearing that 30 times in a
    conference presentation!
    You can find us at; currently we have the press release
    and a short description of our VOX services along with our other service
    offerings. We welcome people to get in touch with us if they have any
    questions… we’d be happy to answer them, talk about what we do, what
    we’ve achieved in the past and where we see the PR industry going.

  6. Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel June 24, 2006

    Hi Justin,
    I am glad to see you are in on the conversation. I also have a very high respect for High Road. I was hoping you could point me to some of your social media experts’ Blogs, Podcasts, etc… I would love to see the thought-leadership and would welcome the additions to my feeds.
    If it’s anything like Inside PR or Trafcomm News, I’m sure it will be awesome.
    Best of luck on this great new adventure. I look forward to your links.

  7. neilio
    neilio June 24, 2006

    In High Road’s defense (not that they need anyone to defend them but themselves) “MySpace” is a pretty specific brand name, where as “vox” is a fairly common word from the English language. It’s true, though, that if you’re going to choose a name for your product or service, you probably want to avoid one in the same space as yours. As Ken pointed out, Vox has been publicly known for a while.
    I’m curious, though: how exactly does a PR firm move into what they’re calling “social media and digital marketing”? What exactly does that entail, anyway?

  8. David Bradfield
    David Bradfield June 27, 2006

    Neilio wrote: “How exactly does a PR firm move into what they’re calling “social media and digital marketing”? What exactly does that entail, anyway?”
    From my perspective, every PR agency that offers “full service” should be learning about this space and embracing new opportunities to reach the niches. Social media, or whatever you want to call it, is an integral element of the future of PR. It’s a neccessity.
    PR and communication professionals have specialized for decades in generating coverage in “uncontrollable” media and other venues through relationships with influencers such as journalists, analysts and opinion leaders. It takes a true professional to understand what will add value and create a unique angle or perspective that makes an organization/product/service contextually relevant, timely and reliable.
    In the new communication climate, understanding who’s who online, what they write/talk about and providing information that is useful and adds depth or variety to their perspectice is key to successful public relations.

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