Generating Demand for Palm Handhelds
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Generating Demand for Palm Handhelds

Just after Palm’s launch of its m500 series handheld computers in March 2001, media and consumer circles were buzzing with excitement about the new products. Sound like a PR blessing?

Paul Holmes

Just after Palm’s launch of its m500 series handheld computers in March 2001, media and consumer circles were buzzing with excitement about the new products. Sound like a PR blessing? Maybe so, but there was a challenge: Palm also needed to drive sales of its existing products.
Silicon Valley public relations firm A&R Partners developed an integrated media campaign to raise consumer awareness and the “cool factor” of Palm’s existing product line. The campaign expanded its audience outreach to include new consumer groups, and its media outreach to include radio as well as national print and broadcast outlets.
The objective of this campaign was straightforward: to increase sales of Palm handheld computers in Spring 2001, with an emphasis on elevating consumer demand for the Palm m100, IIIc, Vx and VIIx series handhelds, as well as their software applications and add-on components.
While Palm handhelds appeal to a mainstream, broad audience of customers, A&R zeroed in on several market segments new to Palm with very specific, tailored messages for this campaign. In addition to targeting top-tier mainstream business and consumer media, the team focused on media markets serving fashion, youth lifestyle, family and health & fitness.
A&R’s nationwide Palm Demand Generation PR campaign required an editorial blitz in print, online and broadcast outlets. Throughout March, April and May, the campaign capitalized on consumer-spending holidays – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations. A&R developed theme ideas to support the promotions: “Palms for Moms,” “Palms for Pops” and “Palms for Dads and Grads.”
After confirming the availability of Palm handhelds for promotional use, A&R researched and finalized the media target list. For the first time, Palm included radio targets in its media outreach, focusing on NPR and 100 stations featuring news, rock and morning programming in the top 10 U.S. markets. The list also included national news outlets plus the top television stations, general consumer and consumer tech publications, and daily newspapers.
The team wrote lively, compelling pitches to grab the attention of busy journalists. The pitches profiled different kinds of moms, dads and grads and described just the right Palm handheld—with accompanying software programs and accessories—to fit their needs. The pitches highlighted uses for the specialty markets targeted.
One family pitch profile targeted “The Maternal Gourmet.” According to A&R, “She is passionate about food. She can pack a five star lunch in 10 minutes. She can recite the top restaurants in the 20 largest cities in the world. Her ideal nighttime read is Thomas Keller's newest cookbook. The device of choice: the Palm VIIx handheld, outfitted with a QuickLink Pen, so she can scan recipes from her cookbook and beam them to friends. Stock it up with e-versions of Zagat 200, to give her dining guides for 22 U.S. cities; FlowerFarm, which allows her to wirelessly order fresh flowers for the dinner table; the PocketWine List; and HandyShopper, to keep track of what she needs to make that crab and asparagus soup.”
To get the attention of radio stations, A&R put together “Palms for Moms,” “Palms for Dads” and “Palms for Grads” promotional packages, which gave the stations air-ready copy points, ideas for contests to engage their listeners, 1-2 Palm handhelds to use as giveaway prizes and suggestions for promoting the contests and handhelds on their station Web sites.
With the Palm marketing/communications teams, A&R developed a simple, consumer-oriented one-page overview of Palm handhelds as gifts for mothers, dads and grads. The overview was sent with the promotional Palm handhelds.
The firm also:

·    Prepared bulleted profiles with customer gift suggestions.

·    Included a fun list of “things Moms/Dads/Grads can do with a Palm handheld.”

·    Developed different versions for different kinds of media – broadcast and print. Pitched proactive, new stories but also took advantage of gift guides and other seasonal calendar opportunities.

·    Pitched TV and radio broadcast heavily:

·    Developed a Palm Spring product B-roll that featured Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation Day theme shots.

·    Pitched national television programs, talk shows and game shows.

·    Offered product gifts for the audiences.

·    Pitched radio personalities with the promotion packages.

·    Used regional customers to pitch local daily and TV stories. 

·    Prepared outline of shots; sent to all of the top broadcast stations.

·    Tapped into paid and wire opportunities that were nationally syndicated to gain quick turnaround: PR NewsWire FeatureWire, NAPS and CollegeWire. Focused on fun graduation-oriented features and included interesting vertical applications for study guides, health, fitness, entertainment or travel.


The firm also pitched fashion, travel and education markets, positioning Palm handhelds as ideal gifts for the fashion-conscious, focusing on m100 series handhelds and trendy accessories. A&R also played up the fashion, travel and educational angles for newspapers at top 100 universities nationwide.
The agency encouraged baseball aficionados to use the new “Beam Me Up” Palm beaming kiosks at Pac-Bell Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. Fans updated their Palm handhelds with player profiles, scoring sheets, team stats, and more. And the PR team worked with Palm’s web team to add a special section dedicated to season gifts on the Palm home page.
With approximately 250 broadcast, print and radio targets, the team earned more than 100 placements overall.
Palm’s first nationwide radio PR campaign was an unparalleled success in the top 12 U.S. metropolitan areas, from New York to Los Angeles to Dallas. Thirty-three stations held highly promoted contests to give away Palms for Moms, Dads and Grads, resulting in 1,100 Palm references in 10-second live and pre-recorded radio plugs. Palm received $300,000 worth of free prime drive-time airtime and Web space for a cost of less than $30,000, which included the cost of the products given away as prizes. That is a remarkable 10-1 ROI. All of the participating radio stations said ratings rose during the promotions, and many directors asked to participate in future promotions.
Television highlights, meanwhile, included prominent play on the Today Show and CBS Saturday Early Show, among others. The “Beam Me Up” story angle scored local airtime on ABC, FOX, CBS and NBC news affiliates.
General consumer placements included feature stories in top outlets, including the Associated Press, BusinessWeek, New York Times, Time, USA Today, US News, Wall Street Journal and more. A&R also placed stories and photographs in nearly all the top fashion magazines, including Cosmo, Glamour, GQ, InStyle, Mademoiselle and People, as well as teen publications Teen Vogue and The Source. “Beam Me Up” angles made the Los Angeles Times, Forbes ASAP, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and CNET.
Palm was so pleased with the success of the campaign that the company immediately requested additional demand generation campaigns from A&R for the back-to-school and holiday seasons.

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