E911 In The Wake Of September 11
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E911 In The Wake Of September 11

Since 1996 mobile operators have been tackling the idea of building Enhanced 911 (E911) location services into its networks that will enable public safety officials to more easily and accurately locate people who make 911 calls from mobile phones.

Paul Holmes

Since 1996 mobile operators have been tackling the idea of building Enhanced 911 (E911) location services into its networks that will enable public safety officials to more easily and accurately locate people who make 911 calls from mobile phones.  Today, many mobile operators are dragging their feet to get the emergency-dialing technology up and running.  For SignalSoft, a provider of location-based and emergency services, this has meant critical delays in sales.
 
When the tragedy on September 11th occurred, E911 services were brought to the forefront of the public eye and many people raised the question, “Would E911 services have helped saved lives or locate missing persons during the disaster?”
 
SignalSoft faced two main challenges: to be seen as a leading provider of the location-based service solutions and to provide answers to questions surrounding E911 emergency services in the wake of the disaster. Educating journalists, analysts, investors and customers on the need for these services and exactly what they can bring to operators was critical. With this in mind, SignalSoft and Metzger Associates Public Relations developed a timely strategic communications campaign to educate the public on the need for enhanced 911 services for mobile phones.  
 
The results from the campaign were above and beyond all expectations. Journalists now have a much better understanding of the need for emergency and commercial service deployment by mobile operators worldwide, and stories on E911 are peppered throughout newspapers, television news broadcasts and trade magazines. In addition, analysts now estimate an even greater need for the services and investors continue to drive the SignalSoft stock that rose immediately following the campaign.
 
CHALLENGE/OPPORTUNITY
 
Immediately following the events of September 11th, SignalSoft asked Metzger Associates to design an appropriate campaign to educate different audiences on the current state of emergency and location-based services. Their executives were frustrated by the misinformation appearing in the media. Metzger Associates was faced with the challenge of conducting an important educational campaign that spoke to a critical issue — without appearing opportunistic.
 
Research revealed that the media, analysts, investors, partners and customers SignalSoft was looking to educate were scattered throughout the country. In the wake of the disaster, many people including journalists, were reluctant to travel and found comfort in staying close to home. Metzger Associates had to come up with the appropriate strategy to reach a geographically dispersed audience. Also, because it is a complex market, it was quickly determined that a vehicle was needed that would provide for one consistent message for all audiences: media, analysts and investors.
 
PLANNING/OBJECTIVES/MEASURABLE GOALS
 
Metzger Associates recommended engaging in a live, interactive Web conference designed to educate the media on the current E911 situation. This medium would encourage interactive conversation about the impact and benefits of future commercial location-based applications worldwide. In addition, it would allow participants to view the seminar from their personal computers and eliminate the need for travel. Participants would see and hear the same presentation, delivering one consistent message to all attendees, establishing a source for better understanding of E911 and location-based services.
 
Metzger Associates strongly counseled that SignalSoft focus the presentation on emergency services across the globe and future commercial applications of location-based services. It was critical that the event was not billed as simply a conversation about E911 wireless calls on September 11th.
 
Since our goal was to educate audiences on E911 and to increase awareness for E911 services, Metzger Associates counseled SignalSoft executives that the resulting press coverage could be limited. The barometer of our success would
be measured in 3 ways:
  • E911 would emerge as an important issue facing Americans; there would be increased media coverage on the topic and stories that appeared in the future would contain more accurate information
  • Analysts would generate reports that explained the market for location-based services in accurate ways
  • Investors would tune in to the Web conference and would better understand SignalSoft’s market opportunities
 
STRATEGIC APPROACH
 
To educate media and analysts on the current state of E911 and to discuss the significance of location-based services for mobile operators in the wake of the September 11 events
 
To utilize a web conferencing service as an interactive communications tool for analysts and media from across the country to attend a live “press conference” and hear the information without the need for travel
 
To increase the target audiences’ understanding of the location-based services market, specific to E911, by creating an educational presentation
 
To brand SignalSoft as a leader in location-based services and establish its executives as experts who can provide information on E911 and commercial location-based applications
 
EXECUTION
 
The live, interactive Web conference took place on November 5, 2001. During the presentation SignalSoft’s CEO referenced data and statistics from the Federal Communications Commission on the current state of emergency services worldwide. This information underscored SignalSoft’s expertise and knowledge of the wireless industry and addressed the need to deploy E911 services into networks in order for public safety officials to more easily and accurately locate people who make 911 calls from mobile phones.
 
An invitation was sent to the key target audience a week before the event and a press release and pitch letter were issued over PR Newswire the morning of the conference. Of the journalists, analysts, investors and customers invited to the online conference, 85 participated, nearly 850 percent above the original goal of 10 participants. As a result of the Web conference, SignalSoft developed new relationships with publications key to SignalSoft’s market including Navglobe, Wireless Business Technology and Wireless Future. Additionally, on the day of the event, SignalSoft received 25 hits on the online archived conference located on its Web site and generated new relationships with top telecom analysts such as iGilliot, IDC and Datacomm Research Company.
 
Metzger Associates used the conference as an avenue to secure more in-depth follow-up interviews with media at key trade and business publications, as well as top-tier industry analysts. These interviews, held with key publications and analyst companies such as Wireless Week, The Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera, Front Range TechBiz, Mbusiness, Datacomm Research Company, Frost & Sullivan and Ovum emphasized the understanding of location-based services and the need for emergency-dialing applications. Outreach done surrounding the event focused on E911 as a trend story and encouraged editors to learn more about how new technology would help locate subscribers making 911 calls on cell phones.
 
RESULTS
 
Since the Web conference, hundreds of trend stories have been written about E911, creating continued public awareness. In addition, SignalSoft received media coverage in five publications, a great coverage result given we promised awareness but not specific SignalSoft company mentions. These resulting stories in Wireless Week, Boulder Daily Camera, The Denver Post, Front Range TechBiz and Mbusiness had clear, accurate information on how these solutions will help save lives in the future.
 
We also met our second measurable goal of gaining more analyst coverage and understanding. As a result of the Web conference, industry analysts from Datacomm Research Company, Frost & Sullivan and Ovum further realized the need for emergency services and conveyed a new understanding of location-based services. For instance, in a report just following the Web conference, research analyst Brent Iadarola at Frost & Sullivan stated,   “As competition intensifies in the mobile telecom marketplace, wireless carriers are developing location-based applications as a means of service differentiation. Mobile location services provide a means to build customer loyalty and satisfaction while opening a new revenue stream." 
 
Finally, we met our goal of ensuring investors understood that SignalSoft was playing in a large, emerging market. As a result of the Web conference, SignalSoft’s stock opened at $2.85 on the morning of the Web conference and closed at $3, indicating investor support for SignalSoft’s applications for mobile operators.  Throughout November of 2001, SignalSoft’s stock continued to rise and most recently closed at $4.80 in late-December of 2001.
 
In addition to meeting the 3 measurable goals, Metzger Associates’ work on the Web conference received rave reviews from SignalSoft executives, investors, customers and partners. We invite you to review our results section where we have included testimonials from SignalSoft’s PR manager, VP of marketing and investor relations counsel.
 
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