PK: Helping M&E Companies Outperform, Exceed Expectations
When it was founded in 2004, the premise behind Portland, Ore.-based global services firm PK (formerly ProKarma) seemed simple enough: help digitally native companies deliver top-tier experiences, via services centred around design and strong technology.
Nobody could’ve guessed just how big PK would actually become.
Servicing nearly a dozen industry sectors today — helping everyone from healthcare to financial services to retail and media, modernise, improve customer loyalty, and transform their operations — PK now has offices across nearly two dozen countries, with a workforce of 4,500-plus and more than 200 clients across multiple industries.
Jeffrey Thompson, media and entertainment VP and client partner with PK, spoke with MESA about the evolution of PK, its approach to an ever-expanding media and entertainment business, and why data may be M&E’s biggest opportunity (and challenge).
MESA: How did PK first come about, what was the impetus for the company’s launch nearly 20 years ago?
Thompson: At the time consulting firms were largely old school. You might have a management consulting firm that dealt in business strategy or an IT services company that did everything from setting up your mainframe to installing operating systems. Our founders envisioned something different, something that spoke to the promise of digitally native companies like Google and Amazon which were just beginning their ascent.
PK was born out of that moment when experience became digital. Which is why we call ourselves the experience engineering firm. We bring together great design and strong tech to create the moments that matter in people’s lives.
MESA: Across the industries PK serves — banking, healthcare, industrial retail, technology, telecom, transportation and more — the offerings run the gamut, from strategy and design to experience platforms, digital engineering to intelligence and analytics, automation and operations to cloud engineering. Specifically for the media and entertainment space, what does PK offer that’s unique, that makes it stand out against competitors?
Thompson: What is media and entertainment these days? Is it Apple? Is it Roku? These are not companies one typically associates with “media and entertainment.” The reality is that the media and entertainment space, spurred on in large part by the pandemic, is much different than it was even a year or two ago. The competitors are not the same. And so the solutions can’t be the same.
What makes us unique is that we don’t just do cloud or cyber — we do those things — but our work is much more about helping companies outperform and exceed expectations, not just their own, but their customers, partners, and employees. By helping them prepare for an uncertain future, we ensure resiliency, and that’s peace of mind for a lot of people.
MESA: It’s an increasingly digital-first business for media and entertainment companies, a reality accelerated by the pandemic. How does PK go about helping M&E clients use insights to both innovate for digital-first, and create experiences that connect with audiences and engage viewers?
Thompson: We recently came out with our Media Digital Experience Index (MDX). You can download it on our site. It goes in-depth on research we conducted with video streaming audiences. The findings illuminate not only the user experience viewers want right now in a SVOD but also how streaming platforms can foster more human-centred design to create the community, omni-channel, and cross-device experiences people are looking for.
I recommend checking out the MDX to see the kind of insights we bring to every engagement. But what makes us unique is that we’re able to craft end-to-end experiences. We have those strategy and design chops, and then we can go out and build what we recommend, and finally help you run the platforms that are an integral part of operations. It’s all done with an expert eye towards experience.
MESA: How does PK guide API strategies for M&E players? And on the automation side, how does PK help its content clients prepare for (and adapt to) automation technologies used for content production and distribution?
Thompson: The API economy is not something historically M&E has had to take into consideration during product development. That was something tech companies thought about. Now every industry needs to be doing their due diligence on how they can productise their APIs effectively. It’s not just productisation; it’s also how do you manage your APIs in a way that creates experience ecosystems. The days of antennas and cables are over. Smart TVs, apps, dongles, these what we call transmedia experiences run on APIs. And you better be prepared to protect your customer data, because APIs are fast becoming a favourite target for bad actors. We develop competencies in all these areas through proven approaches and shift left techniques.
Every company right now is thinking about how to automate. The pandemic revealed a lot of gaps. By eliminating manual processes, businesses can accelerate time-to-market, reduce risk, or simply allow workers to focus on higher-level job function. Whether that’s in HR to streamline employee onboarding, supply chain management to prevent warehouse slowdowns, or for M&E companies to utilise intelligent automation — AI, machine learning, robotic process automation — to capture metadata in content.
Because many M&E companies are often telecom arms with the infrastructure of a retailer and the needs of a tech startup, the question should probably be what automation doesn’t M&E need.
MESA: Disney, Warner, Fox, Turner, Sony, all have looked to PK for help. What are some of PK’s favourite use case stories in the media and entertainment space, and why?
Thompson: When we helped Disney re-imagine their Disney Movie Insiders loyalty program, for example, we took what was a largely transactional experience geared around points and rewards and turned it into a digitally interactive experience with a dedicated app that helped surface customer insights to create the personalised experience Disney fans crave.
To work with a brand like Disney that’s already a beloved fixture in the imagination of every child and adult on the planet and make it better, for us that’s what being a global digital services firm is all about.
Or when a legacy studio approached us with big data challenges, basically how do we take all this customer data and turn it into something digestible and actionable, we worked with the studio to develop the skills and the tools to, in real-time, determine the right selection of TV and film offerings for the right audiences, optimising their channel mix while delivering a satisfying viewing experience.
That we can help a business re-orient itself in the right direction during a period of so much turbulence in the industry and deliver a better customer experience is a win-win for everyone involved.
MESA: What’s next for PK, what advances and offerings in the M&E space can we expect from you next?
Thompson: You’ll have to work with us to find out. Seriously though, as we watch the M&E space expand and contract, we’re seeing a lot of opportunities for M&E companies to leverage all components of their brands. What we’re most excited about is helping them realise that potential.
Jeffrey L. Thompson is a media and technology executive who has participated in and led digital transformation initiatives from an operational, marketing, and strategic point of view within the media, entertainment and technology sectors with companies that include The Walt Disney Co., IBM, Conde Nast Entertainment, Tata Consultancy and DXC Technology.