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Fireside chat with Mark Naples, Managing Partner at WIT Strategy

Who is Mark Naples?

I’m the father of three young children and a perpetually curious, mostly skeptical, orthodoxy-deconstructing strategist.

Tell us more about your role in WIT Strategy?

I started WIT Strategy with an eye to the consultancies I had worked with in DC back in the 80s and 90s, such as Kearns & West and Ogilvy & Mather. These companies solved problems for their clients with domain experts who were great communicators who would challenge those preventing success using public affairs strategies like Stakeholder Communications, or grassroots lobbying, along with the usual congressional / regulatory lobbying. I was mentored by two White House Press secretaries, Jody Powell and Margaret Tutwiler, along with Ken Kearns and Steve Rabin, along the way. My intention all along was to create a white-glove consultancy like these, specializing in narrow domains where we could make a big difference.

What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?

The most rewarding part is the juice anyone who does what I do would probably say – seeing the fruits of your labor on the pages of the NY Times, Wall Street Journal or other outlet, and hearing from clients that we’ve moved the needle for them. Knowing that you’ve driven a narrative for a client over the fullness of time with peaks like that can be very fulfilling.

At the same time, such a thing is very difficult to achieve, and few clients understand that it requires a level of engagement that isn’t anything like buying advertising or selling a product. Managing to get a client’s client to go on the record to help our client’s business is almost invariably part of that engagement, and the calculus it requires can be very difficult.

Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?

I would have started my firm a year or two earlier. Right from the start, in 2002, it has been a fire hose of new opportunity. 430+ clients later, we’ve been part of nearly $10B in liquidity events for our clients and helped create industry verticals, which is fantastic.

What’s your key strategy for the development of your company?

My team is filled with very smart, senior people who have tremendous domain expertise. So, keeping everyone engaged and owning their book of business while remaining part of the larger group has always been at the heart of our “business strategy,” if not our actual ethos. We’re all doing this because we enjoy it. I’m confident that there are no exceptions to that on our team.

What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?

We were built for the pandemic in some ways, since everyone has their own office setup. I’ve exited our leases and will encourage us to be together only virtually for the time being. We’ve always enjoyed coming together as a group. But that will just have to wait. Our team’s productivity since March 2020 has increased, if anything. I’m very proud of each one of them.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

I was asked this question in 2007 on an iMedia panel, and it fascinated me how many people swamped the stage afterwards because my simple answer was Google News Alerts.
These alerts enable to me understand how a given reporter thinks about any set of issues in a matter of minutes, informing how I’ll approach him or her or maybe whether I will at all or not. I engage with our trade and business reporters all the time, perhaps 5X as often as I pitch any of them. Remaining engaged in a dialogue is crucial to doing what we do effectively. Nobody on our team ever cold-pitches reporters. That would make us just a PR firm.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

  • Chesapeake by James Michener, which I’ve been intending to read for years;
  • Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which I’m almost finished, and am fascinated by;
  • The Obituary Writer by Porter Shreve, which I read years ago and intend to read again soon;
  • Why Religion? by Elaine Pagels, the heartfelt, tragedy-filled memoir of the theologian who most influenced my academic career. Her book The Gnostic Gospels started it all for me during my sophomore year of college.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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