Credible Context

John Berard

In Context

The old model of communications is just that, old. It used to be that the most important quality was to be responsive without saying too much. Better to smooth the way for the unencumbered pursuit of corporate goals than get caught up in divisive scientific, cultural and social battles. As Michael Jordan is reported to have said, Why would I get involved, “even Republicans buy shoes.”
That won’t do any longer. Customers now expect companies to have a point-of-view. When that view is popularly or passionately held, it can lead to increased revenue. Just do the math. While smaller groups can exert outsized influence (like electing a President with fewer votes), commercial success relies on reaching the widest market.
Self-interest is leading many companies to not avoid but to engage. Taking a stand on matters of broad public interest, like climate change, diversity, privacy and immigration reform, can be good business.
This is new behavior for many companies. Made difficult because just changing spots won’t make a lion a leopard. Credibility needs to be rooted in context — the sum of culture, market place practices and product value over time. Context, and the credibility it can confer, cannot be created as much as revealed.
Credible Context is more than a methodology for communicating in a noisy, data-driven market. It is a strategic approach to communications, at a time when consumer trust is elusive and finance, government and technology are reshaping our world.
In founding this consultancy, I drew upon my experience in the financial and corporate communications landscape of New York City, the issues-driven meeting rooms of Washington, D.C. and the technology arenas in San Francisco.  In doing so, I have created a context for helping companies find their voice.


John Berard

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What we do

The primary goal of communication is advocacy. When we speak, it is with the intent not just to be heard but to be understood and supported in our effort, too. The current media landscape, marked by the social media which makes any one of us a publisher, makes special demands before acknowledging credibility that can influence the market. Credible Context can help companies, candidates, institutions, advocacy groups, even government meet those demands through a process of discovery and presentation. The result is a communications platform built to engage and lead. It must be more than authenticity, more than transparency, because even though in the heat of a competitive moment or lured by what’s “new and improved,” context can be obscured or ignored, sooner or later, the market asks questions that require answers rooted in context. This is how the market comes to see companies as credible. And once the world is willing to view a company as credible, marketing accelerates. Context is the next evolution of effective communication. It is the ante for successfully motivating the market place.

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3 years ago

Credible Context

How we talk about privacy is as personal. That can make it hard to write rules to cover us all. Yesterday, Common Sense Media convened a few people to talk about what might help get Washington State's privacy law over the line on its third try in three years.

University of Washington professor Ryan Calo got me thinking broadly about what can be very personal. He said, the privacy harm "is the perceived or real use of information about you, against you." Simple, understandable, inclusive, measurable, manageable, easily repeatable.

Even though it seems we have a long way to go, we have come a long way already. At a panel discussion long ago at a tech conference that no longer exists, a marketing exec noted to appreciative nods that state drivers' license data, which included height & weight, could greatly help promote diet companies.
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“As a chief Privacy Officer I need insights on trends and relationships, not only what’s down the road, but around the corner. John has informed, actionable perspectives that could only come from someone with passion, intellect and trusted relationships.”

- Russell Schrader, former Chief Privacy Officer of Visa Inc.


“John understands markets and business. His thinking is strategic and he’s a master of communications.  That makes his counsel practical, insightful, innovative and valuable.  I found him to be highly collaborative with senior executives and staff.  Of the communications advisors I’ve worked with, he’s the best.”

- Jeffrey E. Ganek, former chairman and CEO, Neustar


“As an actuarial consulting firm advising some of the most visible public retirement systems John has provided essential guidance to us when we have had to communicate with the media on very sensitive issues dealing with public perception in a political environment. He helped us to understand and navigate these issues in a way to keep our message clear and unbiased.”

- Gene Kalwarski, CEO and President, Cheiron


“Standing out among larger and more visible competitors was an essential task. By helping us understand the mindset of our customers, John brought us to the marketing value of focusing on outcomes rather than worry about company size or legacy. This differentiation led to growth and a properly valued acquisition.”

- Kelly Rodriques, former CEO, managed services provider, Totality

Signature BioScience

“Context is about connections – between people, concepts, industries and perspectives. Berard can identify, uncover and exploit them better than anyone I’ve ever worked with.”

- Jesse Ciccone, former Director, Corporate Communications, Signature BioScience


“Calm, astute and inventive, John helped chart a new and favorable course for the introduction of new products, a higher profile for executives and attention to the strengths of our company.”

- Mary Cocoma, former Director, Corporate Communications, Sapient


“John Berard’s insights and observations helped Oracle’s communications team anticipate and prepare for changing market conditions and develop an effective and timely media response.”

- Bob Wynne, former VP of Corporate Communications, Oracle

SHL Systemhouse

“John’s intellect and experience are second to none. He applies both on his client’s behalf with a relentless consistency and credibility that delivers superior results. At a time when we were confronting bigger and better funded competitors, John helped us earn market standing.”

- Harry Schlough, former Senior Vice-President, Corporate Strategy & Marketing, SHL Systemhouse

RKO General

For over two decades John has counseled me and my companies on complicated and uncharted areas in very public media arenas. He helped me at RKO during protracted FCC license challenges then at Tele-TV, an early attempt to deliver interactive television and a joint venture of three U.S. telcos. Be it the influence of politics on corporate decisions or understanding how technology will redraw industry alliances, he has been a valuable counselor.”

- Monie Begley, former Senior Vice President at TeleTV and Vice President, RKO General

San Francisco Food Bank

“I call John Berard when I have an idea or issue that I need to build support for. Whether he’s helping to craft a message or advocating for an issue, he knows who I should call and how to lock in their support. John transforms concepts into critical communications that move people.”

- Paul Ash, Executive Director, San Francisco Food Bank

Market Street Railway

“John was an asset to our board because personally, he saw the value in volunteering and professionally, he understood the interplay among politics, policy and public relations.”

- Rick Laubscher, President, Market Street Railway


“I have twice relied on John to help guide two different companies in the best way to deliver and describe our commitment to privacy.  It is too important an issue to forego he kind of expert advice he offers based on long experience and quick insight.”

- Gil Dudkiewicz, CEO & Co-Founder, StartApp

Data Guidance

“An essential part of our work with John drew on his insight to the needs and urgencies of business executives responsible for guiding their companies through the fast-evolving requirements of privacy and data protection best practices.  His ability to connect day-to-day activities to these larger trends helped grow our market and our reputation.”

- David Longford, CEO, Data Guidance

What we've done