A Rational Approach to Reputation Management
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Holmes Report
CEO

A Rational Approach to Reputation Management

In order to get results with the business and broadcast media outlets, we needed to break Rational out of the technical development-only mode, craft a truly compelling business narrative.

Paul Holmes

 

Since starting with Rational in February 2000, GCG has been relentlessly focused on raising Rational’s visibility beyond development audiences and into broader IT and business audiences.  Prior to our work with Rational, the company had never been featured in the business press, nor had any of the executives ever appeared on major broadcast outlets.  In order to get results with the business and broadcast media outlets, we needed to break Rational out of the technical development-only mode, craft a truly compelling business narrative, target the right media outlets with the most extensive reach, pitch the story consistently and effectively, and execute flawlessly on program execution.  The aggressive national reputation management program garnered exceptional results including features in The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe (Rational’s key local business outlet), as well as multiple interviews on CNN and CNBC.  While PR is only part of Rational’s successful marketing communications campaign, company executives have recognized our efforts as moving the company ahead and key to helping Rational achieve greater success.  In fact, the president of Rational commented that, “The Wall Street Journal feature was the single biggest marketing success the company has ever had.”  As part of this successful year of reputation management, Rational has enjoyed a steady stock price upturn (stock share price increased from $24 to $54, with a $70 high and a 2-for-1 split in September 2000); inclusion in NASDAQ 100; recognition by The Wall Street Journal as “The Company Wall Street Analysts Like Best;” as well as increased sales and revenue (total revenue for Q3 FY01, announced Jan. 10, 2001, increased 46 percent from the previous year.)

OUR OPPORTUNITY

When GCG won Rational Software as a client, our challenge was to raise awareness of a 20-year-old software tools company with little visibility or recognition outside the software developer community.  We knew we had the right raw materials to work with – a financially sound company with impressive revenues, outstanding products and an incredibly business savvy executive team.  As an e-development company, its lineup of products and services was appealing to a few niche trade publications, but the company was in a seemingly uninteresting space and lacked the cache and brand recognition for inclusion in top-tier business and financial media.  We needed to rebuild Rational’s corporate image from that of a lackluster, products-only software company to one of the software industry’s best kept secrets – an up and coming leader earning its seat at the table, keeping company with the likes of Microsoft, IBM and Cisco.

PREPARATION/RESEARCH AND EXECUTION STRATEGY

As part of our program preparation, we spoke extensively with company executives to uncover interesting company stories and tidbits to dramatize Rational’s story and bring it to life with the media.   From those conversations, we crafted tailored pitches that framed Rational’s story in context of how the company’s technology affects businesses today (including using brand name customer stories like Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, and eBay as proof-points to Rational’s impact on today’s enterprises).  One of our pitches on “software as the world’s most important industry” prompted Don Clark from the Wall Street Journal to meet with Rational’s founders, Mike Devlin and Paul Levy.  This meeting led to an article characterizing Rational as a “mini-Microsoft” – according to Clark, Rational is one of “a handful of obscure-sounding companies (that) have quietly built big market capitalizations and market shares, and convinced many analysts that the good times have just begun.”

CAMPAIGN EXECUTION

A critical success factor in securing coverage was establishing a relationship with the most appropriate journalists from each target media outlet.  Once we identified our key targets, we painted a picture for these writers of a company that has blossomed since its inception in 1981.  We focused on what would be seen as most attractive to a business audience and packaged Rational’s story under the theme of, “one of the high tech industry’s best kept secrets.”  Our pitch focused on the fact that for twenty years, the company has been consistently developing quality software and turning a profit through a series of mergers and acquisitions, evidenced by unmatched stock growth and increasing support from financial and industry analysts.

As a result of our outreach, Rational has been covered close to 35 times in the business press, including features in:

  •  The Boston Globe, “Rational Boasts Presence in Mass.” (July 6, 2000) – This article is the result of our pitch to Ross Kerber regarding Rational’s dual headquarters in Cupertino, CA and Lexington, MA.
  • Investor’s Business Daily, “Software: The Steel of the Post-Industrial Age?” (November 9, 2000) – one of the first business features on Rational.
  • The Wall Street Journal, “On the Trail of Microsoft’s of Tomorrow” (November 6, 2000) – result of 6 month of courting and pitching Don Clark on this growing development company.  In February 1999, he said Rational’s business, “doesn’t speak to WSJ readers.”  Nine months of persistence later, this article appeared.
  • Breakthrough broadcast coverage (April 1999 – present):  Leveraging existing relationships GCG had with major broadcast media outlets, we’ve been able to secure close to 10 executives interview for Paul Levy, Rational’s founder and chairman.  Coverage includes executive interviews on CNN’s Squawk Box, CNN’s In the Money, and Bloomberg Forum.  Our broadcast outreach began on April 19, 1999 and has continued each quarter since.  In addition to scheduling these appearances, we’ve handled all the prep work to get the broadcast novice Mr. Levy ready for prime-time.  He’s now a pro.
  • BusinessWeek, “A 20-Year Old Overnight Success” (November 27, 2000) – after many other features on Rational in the business and broadcast press last year, this incomparable feature resulted as a by-product of BusinessWeek’s InfoTech 100.  Rational ranked #15 and was one of two companies profiled.  
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