Emerson National Publicity Campaign
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Emerson National Publicity Campaign

With Emerson’s stock price languishing (it hit a three-year low in February 2000) and its reputation threatened, the company needed to set the record straight with a proactive media relations campaign.

Paul Holmes

Emerson (formerly Emerson Electric Co.), a Fortune 121 company with revenues of $15.5 billion in 2000, operates more than 60 divisions and 300 manufacturing facilities in approximately 150 countries around the world. The St. Louis-based manufacturer is renowned for its consistent financial performance and operational excellence, and Emerson has been nimble over the years in quietly adapting to changing technologies, market conditions, and customer needs. As it stepped into a new century, Emerson was in the midst of transformation once again. Having just made several strategic acquisitions and with key internal growth initiatives successfully under way, the company had become a world-class provider of high-technology products and solutions across a range of industries in fast-growth markets. Yet some audiences still held an outdated and incorrect perception of Emerson, seeing it as a stodgy, Old Economy manufacturer of motors and fans. With Emerson’s stock price languishing (it hit a three-year low in February 2000) and its reputation threatened, the company needed to set the record straight with a proactive media relations campaign.

CHALLENGE/OPPORTUNITY

The hurdles were twofold: 1) reputation and 2) relationships. In addition to aligning its image with the reality of its high technology and customer-centered business strategies and offerings, Emerson needed to break through its reputation of being a quiet company that shied away from exposure. As a result of the company’s former approach, senior management was not accustomed to dealing with the media proactively, and it had few existing reporter relationships from which to build. The upside for Emerson was tremendous. Its business strategy was producing great results, which provided a solid base from which to build a media relations program.

PLANNING AND OBJECTIVES

Incorporating its branding research input from customers, employees, analysts, and other core audiences — including MBA students from top-tier universities — Emerson developed strategies and messages to explain the significance of its repositioning and how it affected customers. Then, Emerson’s story was given a focal point by highlighting two of its most successful and timely initiatives: network power and

e-business. Emerson Network Power provides reliable power solutions from grid to chip for vital telecommunications, Internet, and data-based businesses. And the list of Emerson’s leading-edge e-business successes was growing daily, helping the company improve customer relationships, strengthen its supply chain management, and increase productivity. Based on these initiatives, reporters from financial, business, and technology print media were identified.

The media relations objectives were to: 1) Raise Emerson’s corporate profile as a technology-oriented, customer-focused, forward-looking company. 2) Broaden the financial community’s understanding of Emerson’s capabilities and the benefits of investing in a successful company that is repositioning itself for faster growth.

STRATEGIC APPROACH

  • Reach out to print media by conducting desk-side briefings and strategic pitching. Focus on top-tier national and international business print media whose readers influence Emerson’s reputation, share price, sales, and recruitment.

·        Nurture relationships with key reporters whose assignments correspond with the most technologically sophisticated industries in which Emerson products are at work, especially network power.

·        Produce a steady drumbeat of positive news about Emerson and its divisions, brands, and products.

  • Organize an analysts’ conference to explain Emerson’s repositioning into fast-growth markets so the financial community better understands the company’s business strategy.

EXECUTION

Throughout the media relations campaign, Emerson leveraged every timely story or company announcement to broaden coverage. To launch the outreach, Emerson continued the momentum generated by its highly successful analyst meeting at New York’s Digital Sandbox, where it first unveiled the totality of its Network Power offerings, by proactively pitching targeted telecommunications, technology, and Internet reporters who would understand the importance of network power. As the stock price inched up, curiosity about the once-quiet company peaked at The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, USA Today, The New York Times, and other top business publications. While the Network Power story was still going strong, Emerson continued to release news about its other businesses and divisions and began pitching the e-business story. In November, Emerson’s
long-time chief executive officer stepped down, opening another opportunity to weave in the key messages. And in December, e-business and network power were strong proof points behind Emerson’s launch of a new brand strategy, where broadcast coverage came into play for the first time in Emerson’s history.

RESULTS

Emerson’s stock hit a 52-week high of $79.75 on Dec. 8, 2000.

Media and analysts began to tout the company as a good investment opportunity. SmartMoney named Emerson as one of its “Six Stocks Ready to Rally” and Better Investing featured Emerson as an undervalued stock. IndustryWeek named Emerson to its list of “The World’s 100 Best-Managed Companies.”

Emerson posted record sales in 2000, totaling $15.5 billion. It also marked Emerson’s 43rd consecutive year of increased earning and earnings per share and 44th consecutive year of increased dividends per share — a record unmatched by any other public company.

Media coverage of Emerson was greater than any previous year in its history. Research showed there was a significant increase of key message pull-through in 2000. The results of the improved communications were felt throughout the company. A sample of coverage includes:

 

Print Publication

Article

USA Today

Uninterrupted Power is a Top Priority to E-World

The New York Times

Digital Economy’s Demand for Steady Power Strains Utilities

The Wall Street Journal

Emerson Electric Hopes to Fill Need of Online Economy for Reliable Power

Better Investing

Undervalued Prospect is Plugged in to Higher Growth

BusinessWeek

Emerson Electric Jump-Starts Itself

Smart Money

Six Stocks Ready to Rally

Industry Week

The World’s 100 Best-Managed Companies

The Wall Street Journal

Emerson Moves Into Growing Businesses and Gets Second Look from

Wall Street

InformationWeek

Playing for Keeps: Innovation 100 Companies Use IT to Deepen Customer Ties

Fortune

The B2B Tool That Really is Changing the World

Barron’s

Energized!  More Than Just a New Face at Emerson Electric

TheStreet.com

Slow and Steady Emerson is Adding a Little Juice to Its Growth Engine

Forbes

The A List: The Art of Reinvention

 

Broadcast Coverage

CNBC

KMOX (St. Louis)

Bloomberg TV

KTRS (St. Louis)

Reuters

WIL (St. Louis)

KTVI (St. Louis)

WBZ-AM (Boston)

 

NPR 

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