Marketing Case Histories and Campaign Results
Here are a few brief notes of previous campaigns to help spark ideas and strategies for your current challenge. Although technology and delivery methods keep evolving with the web and other technologies, clear, targeted communications always find their mark.
The PR Battle for an Emerging Standard: RapidIO Trade Association
This association’s chip interface proposed standard moved from an industry ranking of 57th out of 60 to become one of the top three in a crowded field of emerging standards with the help of a two-year PR campaign launched in 2001. There was a large market at stake. Even though the final product would be not be released for several years, our efforts were targeted at convincing design engineers in the embedded and networking market to consider using the standard in the next generation of products they were developing.
By the end of the first year of the PR program, almost every trade article discussing the merits of the two other leading standards, developed by Intel and AMD, also included a description of the RapidIO solution as a viable third alternative. Over 800 articles were published mentioning the RapidIO technology during the campaign. The key messages communicated to designers and executive management at firms that might use the RapidIO interface in their products were the advantages of an open industry standard not controlled by a specific vendor and the technical benefits. We issued a limited number of strategic news releases and generated additional publicity by partnering with association members, briefing industry analysts and arranging one-on-one meetings at trade events, among other activities. Understanding and responding to journalists needs and building long-term media relations were essential to the association’s growing reputation as a stable and important contender.
Communicating Expertise with Effective Newsletter Development: KVB-Enertec
In government-regulated industries like utility and process environmental air monitoring, system performance is often defined by an oversight agency and it can be a challenge to differentiate one company’s products from its competitors. This is where a supplier’s knowledge and understanding of complex regulations can be a vital asset. Customers face millions of dollars in fines and lost revenues if they misinterpret the rules.
KVB-Enertec had limited marketing dollars but wanted to stand out from the crowd in this highly-competitive field. With its substantial history, the company needed to convey the value of its 25 years of experience and wanted to emphasize an internal structure that gave customers direct access to the expertise of its staff. We developed, managed and wrote a semi-annual newsletter focusing on how customers interacted with the company in this way. Each issue featured customers who had completed major projects. Product-oriented articles provided useful technical information, much of it from customers talking about their specific installations and experiences. An ongoing “Mind Over Matter” column bylined from a top executive described initiatives within the company to make its knowledge base readily available to customers. After two-years of steady publication, the newsletter contributed to the company’s eventual buyout by a global enterprise.
Developing and Promoting Better Cybersecurity Practices
M3AAWG, the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (www.m3aawg.org), is where the industry comes together to work against bots, malware, spam, viruses, DoS attacks and other online exploitation. It is a collaborative association that develops best practices for the industry, provides public affairs commentary on how proposed government policies will affect the online industry's anti-abuse processes and partners with other organizations to protect online users.
Having started with the organization just a few months after its founding in 2004, I have written its news releases and marketing communications materials, public website copy, edited its best practices technical documents and public policy comments, and produced the videos hosted on its YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/maawg. In 2009 and 2010, I oversaw the production of an international consumer survey on spam and malware then edited the findings which are still being quoted in the press today. Celebrating its ten-year anniversary in 2014, the organization has grown into the largest global industry association working to protect users and the internet from abuse. Here are a few materials from our efforts.
Winning Analysts Over: Internet Business Services Initiative (IBSi)
An early proponent of Web services in 2000, the IBSi was formed by 14 independent application service providers on the cutting edge of providing inexpensive access to software through the Internet. The group came together as a trade association to better communicate the advantages of their services to midsize and large corporations. There was a limited budget and significant competition from well-financed challengers.
The media and analysts outreach program we developed and managed was focused on building long-term relationships to establish the credibility of the new organization. We arranged briefings by the association’s officers with analysts from Forrester Research, Gartner Group, Giga International, International Data Corp. (IDC), Yankee Group and other major research firms. Our efforts with industry journalists led to articles about the organization’s new approach in important trade media and also created publicity opportunities for the association’s members that were managed to reinforce our key messages.
As a result of our efforts, an IDC analyst spoke at an IBSi-sponsored Web seminar we developed for the industry. The trade association, which doubled in membership, also was featured in the prestigious IDC “Trends to Watch” forecast report written by the firm’s top analyst each year, an unusual reference for an organization that was less than a year old. My work for the IBSi also included developing and orchestrating a member survey, one of the first benchmarks on Web services in the industry, that received exceptional media attention for a startup organization. I wrote press materials, web content describing the technology and developed materials positioning the online service approach against other technologies.
Using PR to Reposition a Company: Kofax Image Products
Kofax started life as a supplier of “under-the-hood” OEM cards for networking PCs with high-end scanners and had pretty much thrived “under the radar” of most business and computer journalists. Anticipating that its major customers would eventually move away from hardware-based imaging solutions, the company opted to develop its first software applications. To successfully launch the new product line, Kofax needed to be repositioned from a hardware designer that was known by only a few industry insiders to a widely-recognized software developer.
The public relations program to introduce the Kofax Ascent line of imaging software applications focused on publicity opportunities related to industry issues and emphasized the company’s years of experience. It included an intensive bi-coastal media tour to introduce analysts and journalists to the company’s executives and products; a press event and one-on-one meetings at a major trade show where the products were launched; and an ongoing media relations program. Within a few months, articles describing the new software products and the campaign’s key messages had appeared in all the targeted trade publications and Kofax was well on its way to being recognized as one of the leading developers of high-end image processing software. The PR activities also were leveraged to highlight the company’s other products which were featured in round-ups and topical articles for the first time. The added credibility from the effort contributed to the company’s CEO election as president of a prestigious trade association the following year.
Using Feature Articles to Sell Multimedia Management - Internationally
Like many industries, the broadcast operations market was in a state of flex in 2000. New technologies promised new economies of scale but innovative vendors needed to win over customers' resistance to restructured modes of operations. Industry experts were talking about turning smaller broadcast stations into market-driven, more efficient operations integrating TV with internet and video-on-demand options but station owners facing tight operating budgets, programming issues and government regulations often were often reluctant to implement new processes.
I ghost wrote a series of feature and technical articles published in U.S., European and Asian industry trades describing the gains and rationale behind a new approach to broadcast content management developed by an Academy Award-winning vendor. The articles took the high road and were intended to support future sales of a new product under development. The contributed articles described how and why broadcasters have the advantage in the media battle for consumer loyalty and why they need to develop creative strategies to ensure future stability. The eight-month effort helped the company maintain a leadership position in the field, led to several speaking opportunities for executives and helped solidify customer relations.
Customer User Story
Introducing the First Web-Enabled Phone: CIDCO
The CIDCO/InfoComm iPhone was the first telephone to provide access to the internet. The challenge was explaining to reporters that users could actually view and move through web pages from a small screen embedded on the phone's console with strategically placed navigational buttons. The launch at CES in 1997 included a press breakfast, in-booth celebrity appearance, and one-on-one appointments with influential journalists and industry analysts. It took months of preparation, including close coordination with the iPhone software developer, who was an equal partner in the venture. For the CIDCO campaign, we went with a "retro" theme, including lava lamp key chains on invitations to the media, referencing the appearance of lead Fleetwood Mac singer Mick Fleetwood in the CIDCO booth. The result of all our work was national business and consumer publicity as magazines and newspapers highlighted the first phone to be named the "iPhone" (no affiliation with Apple) in stories of up and coming technology featured at the always competitive CES.
Communicating Expertise through Events: Vision4Media-Journeys Project
In our society, we rarely discuss unpleasant topics in public, especially anything related to death or grief. But the executives at Vision4Media deeply understood the toll unacknowledged grief can exert on the individual. Their personal commitment was to share the experiences of those who had successfully gone through this often painful process, and realized personal growth from it, when they made the Journey's Project DVD, Journey of Loss . . . Discovery of Hope . . .The Challenge of Grief. As part of an ongoing campaign to bring this subject to the public's attention, we organized a half-day conference on dealing with grief, inviting recognized speakers to address various components of the issue. The conference was developed on a minimal budget yet attracted about 200 healthcare and religious professionals along with individuals in the midst of dealing with grief themselves. The conversation continued far beyond the afternoon presentations, however. A columnist for a major newspaper also attended the event and wrote a detailed article that appeared on the front page of the Sunday health section, starting a dialog on the subject with thousands of local readers.
Campaign Sample: Orange County Register Article
Using PR to Build Credibility for New Scientific Techniques: Analect Instruments
Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is an efficient and fast measurement technique used to identify and quantify unknown chemical components based on a system of splitting and rejoining light with precisely aligned mirrors. However, even a slight vibration can skew the readings, so consequently, most traditional spectrometers have been limited to use in the controlled environment of a laboratory. That was the case at least until Analect Instruments replaced the vulnerable moving mirrors with its patented technology. Integrating this process-grade spectrometer into an online system, Analect began offering accurate, real-time monitors for previously hard-to-measure processes such as plastics or batch food manufacturing.
Developing the first public relations program for the company, we focused on communicating benefits as well as explaining the science behind the technology to build credibility and educate process engineers on this new approach. One of the company’s most important assets was the expertise of its product development and management team. On the other hand, a major challenge was the difficulty of proving the validity of the concept since customers rarely talked about their operations publicly for competitive and security reasons.
Our PR efforts included a program of ongoing contributed articles to vertical trade publications detailing how the technology was applied in a variety of processes. We worked with the company’s engineers and scientists to develop technical papers presented at major conferences outlining various aspects of the science. News releases and other press materials emphasized benefits and were specifically targeted to each industry. As we briefed analysts and journalists, FTIR began to be recognized as a feasible technique for directly measuring processes on the manufacturing floor, dispelling the widely-held concept that the instrument could only be used in a controlled setting. Process FTIR monitors became a standard category in many analysts’ research reports and Analect was often recognized as the leader in the field, even over larger firms that had entered the market.