In the first year of eCharge and Text 100’s cooperation - August 1999 until July 2000 – a foundation for the company was laid. First successes were achieved when introducing the company to the U.S. media, analysts and key industry influencers. eCharge was given credit for taking on Visa and MasterCard and was praised for taking an aggressive strategy in the online payments space. The main challenge for the company in the following year was to prove itself – delivering on the promises that were given during the previous year, mainly regarding the delivery of eCharge Net Account and increasing merchant adoption.
The PR challenge was to aggressively extend the foundation and create the perception of eCharge as the company most capable to take on the challenges in the online payments space – and to create and provide a secure and convenient online purchasing environment. In addition, eCharge needed to communicate that it has a successful business model and thus enormous potential for future economic success. To address this challenge head on, Text 100 used its patented PR methodology to ensure eCharge’s business goals were matched by the PR plan and that the communication of messages to key audiences was carefully measured.
The online payments space was dominated by big names – such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express – and eCharge was at risk of being overshadowed. In addition, as a private company, there was the possibility that certain business and financial publications would not cover eCharge or take the company seriously as a competitor to traditional credit card companies. eCharge was still perceived as a start up company that had to prove its business model and demonstrate that merchants and consumers actually wanted the products offered. This created yet another a challenge for PR team because some journalists adopted a “wait and see” attitude.
According to a Gartner study 64 percent of all charge-backs were the result of online fraud and fraud was 12 times more likely to occur online then offline. According to Forrester Research 39 percent of people online didn’t shop because they don’t own a credit card. These were only a few results of many that demonstrated the strong potential for eCharge’s payment options and the market’s need for eCharge. (For more statistical research data see the supporting materials.)
Text 100 developed the PR plan and the ongoing PR campaign in close cooperation with the PR and marketing contacts at eCharge. Following an in-depth briefing by various members of the eCharge management team a SMART PR plan (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) was created. Based on eCharge’s business goals, Text 100 defined Key Result Areas (KRAs), assigned SMART PR goals and chose SMART tools. In that planning process, Text 100 did a thorough messaging workshop to develop a messaging hierarchy that would represent the company and empower the management team to speak with one voice.
Text 100 bases all PR efforts on the clients actual business goals, thus connecting the PR efforts directly with the clients’ needs. Following this approach the basic PR objectives were to increase visibility and knowledge of eCharge among key audiences. Specific business objectives were:
- Merchants and telecommunications companies know about the benefits to eCharge’s technology and the benefits of its products to consumers.
- Make strategic partners (Telcos, financial institutions and other infrastructure partners) and the investment community aware of eCharge’s brand, the business model and the technology.
- Among strategic partners, the investment community, merchants and telcos the company is known for providing the most secure and convenient online payment option.
- Educate consumers who were “on the fence” about online purchasing.
The strategies/key result areas for the campaign were the following:
- Educate merchants and telcos about the benefits to eCharge technology and offering its products to consumers.
- Generate awareness about the eCharge brand, business model and technology with strategic partners and the investment community.
- Manage eCharge’s reputation with strategic partners, the investment community, merchants and telcos as providing the most secure and convenient online payment options.
- Manage eCharge’s reputation with the local community as an innovative company that offers great potential for success.
Following the SMART PR methodology, Text 100 designed a broad campaign targeting media, analysts and key influencers. Based on the solid foundation established and a profound knowledge about upcoming opportunities, proactive pitching was the key to success. The launch of eCharge Net Account’s trial phase opened the doors for an extensive media and analyst tour across the U.S. A pitching matrix paved the way to coverage opportunities in various media groups. Reactive pitches on the heels of stories published in target media that covered topics relevant to eCharge provided further angles to sell the story. The key to success was the Text 100 eCharge team on the front line, creating opportunities for eCharge’s case – wherever and whenever eCharge could reach a key audience.
Text 100 firmly believes in evaluating the success of its PR campaigns in direct relation to its impact on our client’s business goals. We do this by identifying each of the Key Result Areas (KRA) and setting SMART PR Goals (please see PR Plan in supporting materials) to track our progress. These goals are continually monitored to keep the campaign on a successful track. In addition, in order to provide a sound basis for the measurement of the success, Text 100 uses PR Benchmark to analyze the status at the beginning of a campaign – in eCharge’s case, coverage achieved from August 1999 until July 2000. Each month of the ongoing campaign is analyzed with PR Benchmark and is compared with coverage achieved in the previous year, to provide a proof point of successful developments. First results are:
- eCharge Net Account Tour – press and analyst tour to announce the Net Account trial phase: met with 25 analysts and journalists with 15 different firms and publications to demonstrate the eCharge Net Account and update them on the eCharge business model.
- Established close contact with Jay Sapsford, Wall Street Journal, and were able to deliver briefing about eCharge – company and payment options – as background info in the case of Visa/MasterCard versus the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Submitted a house position paper: Hearing on electronic payment technologies, House Subcommittee on domestic and international monetary policy of the House committee on banking and financial services. The Paper was submitted through a contact to Congressman Jay Inslee (who drafted the digital signature bill.)
- Interview: Ron Erickson, Chairman of eCharge, with ABCNews.com, columnist Marian Fey/ research assistant Mary Campbell – topic: Bush, Gore and small business. The story was about which of the two major presidential candidates would be more beneficial for small U.S. businesses.
In-depth coverage received so far that resulted out of proactive media work:
- Dow Jones Newswires, August 14, 2000: “eCharge building an online global credit card bypass”, written by Paula L. Stepanowsky
- American Banker, September 6, 2000: “echarge picks another Citi veteran as CFO”
- Seattle 24x7, September 15, 2000: “Charge of the site brigade”, by Larry Sivitz (in-depth Q&A interview with CEO and Chairman)
- Infoworld, September 15, 2000: “Credit card companies introduce new security” by Jessica Davis and Brian Fonseca (eCharge was mentioned alongside a story about credit card security issues)
- Card News, December 15, 2000: “eCharge CEO Truett Tate Speaks Out” by Susan Aluise