Relevance: A Lifelong Investment

“The worlds wine cork producers want you to know that they’re sorry” (Pierson).

A front page article in this weekends LA Times pronounced what happens when success meets comfort. The once dominant cork industry has lost 25% of it’s market share in the past 10 years to screw caps and plastic corks. The communications director for the world’s largest cork company noted, “We got the proverbial kick in the pants”. The root cause is a failure to proactively address issues of cork taint, a fungus which negatively affects between 1% and 5% of corked wines. This small oversight combined with over 250 years without significant competition has led to significant loss of market-share in the $290 billion global wine industry.

Similarly, Kodak, the progenitor of photography and ‘Kodak moments’ failed to address changes amidst the emergence of digital camera and film. In fact, Kodak was so entrenched in their methods, they created a means to transfer digital images back to film. As a result of assumed relevance, they were forced to declare bankruptcy in 2012. Like the cork industry, Kodak’s history reminds us that relevance is earned and cannot be assumed.

There is a similar trend affecting higher education in North America. In 2013 the New York Times noted that “One-third of all colleges and universities in the United States face financial statements significantly weaker than before the recession and… are on an unsustainable fiscal path. Another quarter find themselves at serious risk of joining them” (Selingo). As the educational climate changes (think University of Phoenix or MOOC’s – massive open on-line courses), a growing number of colleges are facing trouble ahead.

Anaïs Nin once said, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are”. Whether you are in the cork industry, photography or the bastions of higher education, we all are susceptible to seeing things ‘as we are’ or ‘as we want them to be’. Relevance is earned. Over, and over, and over again!

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



Pierson, David (Dec. 7, 2014). Wine corks look for the old pop. The Los Angeles Times.

Selingo, Jeff (April 12, 2013). Colleges struggle to stay afloat. The New York Times.

Social Media Genius: Walmart’s corporate response to a scathing article in the NY Times reveals the power of effective social media.

Walmart Blog long

A portion of Walmart’s blog response to Timothy Egan, a NY Times writer.

A recent New York Times article harshly criticized Walmart for paying low wages to their employees. David Tovar, the Vice President of Communications at Walmart chose to respond to these allegations by using their blog. By posting a red copy edit of the article, he effectively corrected several points that he believed were inaccurate. The point of this post isn’t to support either the NY Times nor Walmart. Instead, the focus is on the effective use of social media

While Tovar’s response is scathing, the use of their own blog to publicize a response avoids an all-out war of words. The secondary publicity of his response through news articles and blogs (such as this post and over 22,000 likes on Facebook) has allowed others to carry the message on their behalf. This type of coverage could not be achieved by purchasing a full-page newspaper ad.

I get tired of receiving daily emails from people telling me they can provide all my social media solutions. Social media is important. However, it supports strategy, it is not strategy. The simplicity of Walmart’s response demonstrates that they get this!

You can read the full Walmart blog post here.