CyberCrop.com U.S. Launch
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CyberCrop.com U.S. Launch

CyberCrop.com, an online, cash grain exchange, sought to launch its web site as the e-commerce hub for agricultural producers and buyers and, at the same time, raise its visibility in the marketplace.

Paul Holmes

CyberCrop.com, an online, cash grain exchange, sought to launch its web site as the e-commerce hub for agricultural producers and buyers in May 2000, and, at the same time, raise its visibility in the business, technology and agriculture marketplaces. 
 
OBJECTIVES
 
CyberCrop.com chose Ogilvy Public Relations to help raise visibility of its web site with financial analysts, media and potential customers.  A specific objective CyberCrop.com wanted to achieve with Ogilvy’s help was to receive positive placements in major business publications.    
 
RESEARCH
 
The Ogilvy PR team researched the online grain exchange market to determine the most appropriate approach necessary to provide CyberCrop.com the visibility it needed.  The team learned:
  • The online grain exchange marketplace was crowded, with direct and indirect competition for CyberCrop.com coming from Rooster.com, AgWeb.com, DirectAg.com and Farms.com, among others;
  • Farmers, one of CyberCrop.com’s main audiences, needed to be assured that any grain exchange site was relevant to them on a local level; and
  • To be successful and build trust among CyberCrop.com target audiences, Ogilvy PR needed to position the exchange as solid and trustworthy compared to other “dime-a-dozen” sites with questionable content and little value.
 
STRATEGIC APPROACH
 
Ogilvy PR designed a communications plan to position CyberCrop.com as a leader and innovator in the Internet grain commodities market.  The program aimed to position CyberCrop.com as an open, neutral marketplace.  In order to raise visibility for the client, Ogilvy PR had to make CyberCrop.com stand apart from its competitors – especially Rooster.com, considered the market leader.  Rooster.com and CyberCrop.com were both cash grain exchanges, however, while Rooster.com was funded by two large agricultural conglomerates – Cargill and ADM –  CyberCrop.com remained independent of any industry influence.  Ogilvy PR chose to leverage the unique difference CyberCrop.com had over its major competitor in order to encourage and secure the participation of qualified producers and buyers. 
 
Media Relations
Ogilvy PR conducted a substantial media relations campaign around the CyberCrop.com launch, to communicate the company’s differentiators to technology/business media industry and financial analysts.  The launch activities included executive speaking engagements, media and analyst tours, proactive pitching, and press mailings. 
 
Spokesperson Preparation
Ogilvy PR prepared all company spokespeople, including CyberCrop.com’s CEO Scott Deeter, with extensive media training to reinforce the key messages and differentiators.
 
Creative Mailers
In addition to traditional media relations tactics, Ogilvy PR developed creative ways to grab the attention of key media.  For instance, top-tier editors received a Fourth of July “Picnic Basket” of snacks that represented each of the grains that could be exchanged on the site and the grain belt states in which CyberCrop.com was initially introduced.  Along the same lines, top-tier editors received Halloween pumpkins filled with candy corn to draw attention to the fall harvest.
 
News Desk
Ogilvy PR also launched a “News Desk” for CyberCrop.com, in which company spokespeople were made accessible to the media to comment on timely and relevant topics.  For instance, the e-signatures bill was passed by Congress and signed into law to allow electronic transactions to be legally binding.  Because passage of the bill was critically important to an online exchange like CyberCrop.com, the CEO was a credible spokesperson for a number of media opportunities.
 
 
RESULTS
 
As a result of the media campaign and well-received press kits, Ogilvy PR successfully positioned CyberCrop.com as the first exchange focused solely on a total solution for grain crop transactions.  They also secured positive media coverage in key technology and business publications across the United States.  This was a particularly impressive success for Ogilvy PR at the time considering the skepticism in the media over the declining status of many “dot.coms” and the saturation in the online exchange market. 
 
Two direct examples of positive media coverage that achieved CyberCrop.com’s objective to get positive placement in major business publications:
Business 2.0  ran an exclusive feature on CyberCrop.com and CEO Scott Deeter, stating that the company “hit its deadline, while Rooster didn’t strut out its grain exchange until November,” and noting, “CyberCrop has run with the head start.”
Forbes named CyberCrop.com one of the most promising B2B exchanges on the Internet.
 
The company also received positive coverage through the Financial Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post, eWeek, Reuters, Associated Press, Gannett News Service and in The Des Moines Register and Lincoln (NE) Journal Star – two publications widely read by the agriculture community.  CyberCrop.com was also profiled on “WGN’s Farm Report” and CNNfn.
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