Unless you were working in logistics, you probably didn’t think much about the supply chain before 2020. But as it did in so many arenas, the pandemic changed everything: today, port closures and canal droughts are part of our everyday consciousness. And when it comes to supply chain technology and visibility, companies have little excuse to still be in the dark.
That’s where Big Valley’s Dan Branley and Peter Rydell come in. Peter and Dan are seasoned pros in our Media and Influencer practice. And, with my deepest apologies to Aretha, these fellas are no “chain of fools” when it comes to supply chain; they know a heck of a lot about this industry area, from current events to hot tech, as well as media strategies for supply chain companies competing in the space. I sat down with them to learn a bit more about those trends and predictions, as well as best practices for companies trying to tell their own supply chain stories.
How did supply chain media relations become one of your specializations?
Peter: Before Big Valley, my experience had more to do with feeling the impacts from the consumer media side. One of my former clients was a large electronics manufacturer, and we were constantly having to navigate challenges based on shipping and product availability and knowing where each unit was and when. The supply chain issues they faced had a direct impact on how we framed our whole media relations engine. Since then, I’ve transitioned more into enterprise tech and have latched onto the supply chain as it is such a great example of where so much cool innovation is happening.
Dan: The first supply chain account that I ever worked on was for a company called FLEXE, which made waves for introducing a platform that helped companies share warehousing space based on seasonal peaks, which helped those companies avoid a lot of waste. At the time, they were a startup readying for launch, and I had a lot of success helping them secure coverage in several major outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Bloomberg, which helped them get on the radars of investors, customers, and partners.
Let’s talk about hot topics in the supply chain. What’s changed, what’s new, and what will we be talking about in 2024?
Dan: As recently as a year ago, shippers were still playing catch-up after the pandemic. That meant that shipping was in high demand and freight providers could charge a premium for their services. A year later, shipping volumes have dropped dramatically – as consumers have been hit by inflation and are spending less on ‘things’ (though not experiences) – and that’s made it a shipper’s market when it comes to shopping for best service prices.
We’ll probably see a slower-than-usual 2023 holiday season as well, with some trucking companies going bankrupt; there just isn’t enough demand for the same kinds of services they’ve experienced in previous peak seasons.
Peter: I’ll add that real-time visibility has also become table stakes since the pandemic. Everyone has it now. So the next step will be, how do we get more into predictions – changing unknowns into knowns – and preparing appropriately? We’ll start to see that shift in 2024.
And, of course, we’ll continue to see growth in AI in 2024 – especially in the supply chain, which is so data-intensive. AI will help these companies analyze and process all that data in real time and make actionable decisions. I predict that investment will absolutely continue in those types of products.
Dan: Agreed; we expect that AI will dramatically transform supply chains in 2024. In fact, a recent survey found that 70 percent of shippers are planning to increase their technology spend on AI during 2024. In addition to what AI will do with data, we should also expect that it’s going to improve the human experience as chatbots become more conversational and truly helpful in supporting customers.
In general, I expect the industry to stabilize in 2024; we’ll get to whatever the “new normal” is for the supply chain.
In your experience, what are reporters usually looking for regarding supply chain news?
Dan: Among mainstream business press, the majority of requests we get are for data and commentary on breaking news, including labor strikes at major ports around the world, product shortages, and shipping volumes. Industry trades ask us for subject matter experts who can share their expertise on emerging trends. And lately, we’re also getting requests for bigger picture analysis of how the logistics category as a whole is faring in the current economy—especially given the recent headlines that struggling companies like Convoy, Flexport and Maersk have generated.
Peter: Our team was chatting the other day about the difference between “urgent,” “important” and “immediate.” When you’re working with business-oriented outlets on supply chain news, it feels like everything they want is immediate – the statistics, the data, the commentary. They want it yesterday or else it’s out of date.
What should supply chain companies be thinking about when it comes to media? How can they set themselves up for success?
Peter: Because these outlets want information as quickly as possible, companies will do best if they are set up to respond with fresh data and executive commentary at a moment’s notice. Reporters also appreciate being able to speak with customers, so having those relationships set up and ready to go is helpful.
Dan: They should have a compelling point of view on the industry and be willing to share it in newsworthy ways. Reporters tend to glaze over and lose interest when executives provide overly conservative and middle-of-the-road answers. Supply chain executives can set themselves up for success by speaking candidly and, as much as they can, sharing provocative views that inspire reporters to keep coming back for more.
Is there anything the media doesn’t focus on much, that you wish they would?
Dan: Twenty years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see company profiles—and by that, I mean in-depth features on a single company that’s especially newsworthy. These days, they’re a rarity, as features that involve multiple businesses in the same space are perceived as more “balanced.”
Where should people go to learn more about the supply chain?
You can learn more about how Big Valley helps supply chain technology companies grow, win and lead.