Creating a Category Killer
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Creating a Category Killer

Ogilvy PR’s strategic positioning, seamless communications planning, and strong execution paid off for webMethods, whose shares rose 507 percent in the first day of trading in the best-performing IPO of 2000.

Paul Holmes

The Investor Relations group at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide began working with webMethods, a provider of infrastructure software and services that allow companies to achieve business-to-business integration (B2Bi), in December 1999, prior to the company’s scheduled February IPO. Within this three month period, the Investor Relations team developed and executed a plan, prepared materials and provided training and counseling that enabled webMethods to successfully transition from a little known private entity in a relatively unknown space to a leading publicly-traded company.  Ogilvy PR’s strategic positioning, seamless communications planning, and strong execution paid off for webMethods, whose shares rose 507 percent in the first day of trading in the best-performing IPO of 2000 and the fourth most successful IPO in Nasdaq history.  


In early 2000 the IPO market was flooded, with 38 IPOs priced between February 1 and 14.  To differentiate webMethods from other “hot IPOs,” the Ogilvy PR Investor Relations team had to educate the investment community about webMethods’:

Strong business model

Solid management team, and their execution on webMethods’ business model  

Space - As the first entry in B2Bi, a new and fundamentally different space, the webMethods story was not easy to tell.

Future value – webMethods’ widening losses cast a shadow on its significant sales increases.  The Ogilvy PR Investor Relations team was challenged to successfully communicate the future value of the Company, which would be reflected in the share price, to investors within a very short time frame. 


Effective Investor Relations campaigns rely on quality research and preparation. The Ogilvy PR Investor Relations team performed an exhaustive corporate audit of webMethods and its senior management to gain insight into webMethods’ history, its management team, infrastructure, current operations and strategies for growth.  In addition, the Ogilvy PR team conducted extensive research of competitors utilizing analyst reports, conference calls and SEC filings and analyzing their business models, growth strategies and operating histories.  Straightforward research and comparisons were made quite challenging by the relatively undefined nature of the B2Bi space.  Based on the corporate audit and supplemental research, the Ogilvy PR account team was able to develop messages on behalf of webMethods and effectively communicate the company’s story to investors and the financial media.


Messages targeted industry and financial analysts, financial media, potential institutional and individual investors, prospective customers, existing clients and employees.


The Ogilvy PR team quickly identified three core program objectives with webMethods’ management team:

Create a Financial Brand: Positioning and key message points were essential to distinguishing the company from competitors, bridging the gap between corporate actions and valuation and helping to define a new category of software.

Establish Value of Key Non-Financial Assets: With little operating history to draw upon, the importance of developing investor trust in management was key. Rapid and effective preparation of management to deliver messages clearly and consistently was central to building management’s reputation and value.

Develop Effective Communication Channels: An IR infrastructure, IR Web site and disclosure policies were needed to effectively and efficiently communicate the company’s story.


Planning and development of strategies occurred during the first two weeks, ensuring that activity and communications over the next six months was perfectly aligned with webMethods’ business objectives. Close working relationships forged early on between senior management, the company’s underwriters, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Merrill Lynch & Co., Dain Rauscher Wessels and Friedman Billings Ramsey, and the Ogilvy PR team, facilitated this work.  Complementing the six-month plan, weekly checklists helped coordinate work and ensure that all parties remained on schedule.


Leverage Third Party Endorsements: The SEC’s rules for “quiet periods” are relatively clear. Spokespeople had to stick to the messages in the prospectus and provide no forward-looking projections. However, Ogilvy PR worked hard to scan the wires for positive comment from third parties – it then ensured that key media players were aware of such comment.  

Capitalize on the IPO as a Brand Building Event: Significant media attention surrounding the IPO provided a strong opportunity to communicate key branding messages via third parties. 

Build Confidence in Management’s Ability to Lead the Company’s Growth and Achieve Profitability: Since a large percentage of institutional investors decision-making is based on non-financial criteria, establishing confidence in the company’s management team was key to creating long-term premium valuation.

Educate Senior Management and Employees About all Disclosure Issues: The transition from a private to a public company brought many new responsibilities that all employees needed to understand. Improper disclosure during the IPO was a significant risk that the Ogilvy PR team and webMethods effectively addressed.

Handle all Investor Communications and Guide the Company in Developing an IR Infrastructure: As the company grew closer to its IPO, the number of investor and media inquiries grew rapidly to more than 200 per week. By establishing an IR “hotline” and handling all investor communications, Ogilvy PR enabled management to spend their time more efficiently and focus on their roadshow.


With less than three months to plan prior to the IPO date, Ogilvy PR hit the ground running. Research gathered during the corporate audit, the strategic plan developed by the team, and weekly checklists enabled swift, systematic and effective execution: 

Pre-IPO Activities

  • Conducted corporate audit to gain in-depth knowledge of the company.
  • Developed corporate positioning and messages that highlighted and distinguished the company’s product, business model, growth prospects and investment merits.
  • Provided counsel and direction for roadshow presentation.
  • Began outreach to and education of over 100 financial media and industry analysts, while taking care to remain within SEC “quiet period” restrictions.
  • Identified sell side analysts prospects beyond underwriting team.
  • Conducted disclosure seminar for management and employees at multiple locations.

First Day of Trading (February 2000)

  • Managed key financial media for first day of trading without utilizing internal spokespeople as strategic move to avoid disclosure risks and increase appeal of future access to management.  Ogilvy PR placed webMethods in over 50 articles; coverage included CNBC, CNNfn and Bloomberg.
  • Counseled management about responses to media and investor inquiries.
  • Fielded investor/media inquiries.

The oversubscribed IPO was tremendously successful, raising $165 million for the company. The stock priced at $35 per share, up from an original range of $11-13 per share. The 507 percent rise in the first day of trading made this the best-performing IPO of 2000 and the fourth most successful IPO in Nasdaq history. In sum, Ogilvy PR’s strategic positioning, seamless communications planning and strong execution have firmly established webMethods in the media and investment community as a leading brand in the B2Bi space.  As a result of Ogilvy PR’s integrated financial public relations and Investor Relations IPO branding program, the webMethods name carries enhanced value, and the corporate brand is poised for continued growth among the media, financial community and other key stakeholders. Evidence of the strength of the financial brand built by Ogilvy PR’s program lies in the fact that webMethods has been able to maintain a premium valuation since its IPO, despite significant market weakness.

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