Alcoa Inc. selected Edelman Public Relations to help with the launch of a new online business-to-business exchange it was backing with the support of seven additional metals industry leaders. The objective was to position the new venture as an independent company and burgeoning leader in a competitive, highly fragmented market and to leverage Public Relations momentum to attract other companies as equity partners in the venture. The Edelman team managed the new company’s entire Public Relations efforts from the start, even before the new company had selected a name, headquarters, CEO, executive team or technology platform. After executing a highly successful announcement about the company’s formation and creating the company’s first Web site, Edelman continued an aggressive integrated marketing and PR campaign, including media and analyst relations, thought leadership, Web site materials development and advertising design and placement designed to reach industry suppliers and distributors as well as technology business audiences. Edelman’s coordinated and tightly integrated efforts resulted in a high level of awareness about the new venture, as evidenced by the addition of 12 new industry partners, hundreds of top-tier media placements and numerous feature articles and executive speaking platforms at nearly 30 industry conferences by year-end 2000.
In late March 2000, a group of eight companies comprising some of the world’s largest specialty metals producers, distributors and suppliers came together with the purpose of forming an online business-to-business exchange to serve the metals industry supply chain. This company would be one of 600 new “b-to-b exchanges” or “marketplaces” formed in an 18-month period through May 2000, according to The Industry Standard, and one of more than a dozen such exchanges serving the U.S. metals industry. The differentiator of the new company was to be the breadth and depth of products and services offered by a wide group of leading companies in the industry. With the new venture having only an advisory executive team and no permanent executives, headquarters, technology platform or company name selected yet, Edelman was charged with announcing the formation of the venture in a mere five weeks, in order to quickly attract the interest of additional investor partners and potential customers and suppliers. Post-launch, Edelman’s objective was to implement an integrated communications strategy to continue building momentum toward the site’s first transaction launch, scheduled for the fall.
Edelman conducted an upfront analysis of current dynamics in business-to-business e-commerce and the metals industry in order to make strategic recommendations for announcing MetalSpectrum. This research included an exhaustive competitive communications analysis and published information from technology business industry analyst groups and consultants. Overall, the research summary supported the findings that business-to-business e-commerce is the “hottest segment of the Internet economy,” with intense competition in the metals market.
Edelman’s strategy was to rapidly deploy a full complement of integrated communications – online and through traditional channels. The initial announcement needed to convey the new company’s value opportunities and positioning to several audiences, including the financial analysts following the six public companies backing the venture, while generating maximum coverage about the formation of the company in the business media, industry trade publications and online media outlets. Two late morning conference calls were planned for launch day, one with the financial analyst community and one for news media, to occur after the announcement hit the wires.
After the launch announcement, there needed to be a sequence of integrated communications, including media and industry relations, thought leadership and advertising, to sustain momentum and further establish the site as an independent company, while building toward the beginning transaction phases of the online marketplace, scheduled for Fall 2000.
Formation to Launch Announcement: Edelman first conducted a messaging session, followed by media training, with the executives who would be serving as acting spokespeople for the venture until the permanent executive team was formed. As new partner companies were added to the venture before the launch, Edelman was able to quickly brief new partner spokespersons on the messaging strategy and launch announcement plan.
During the five-week pre-launch timeframe, Edelman wrote press kit materials, developed a company logo (the new company name, MetalSpectrum, was learned two weeks before launch day) and created and designed a placeholder Web site at www.metalspectrum.com, which would remain dark until the press release crossed the wire early in the morning of May 2. The Web site contained background information for the press and other interested parties about MetalSpectrum’s value proposition, partner companies and acting executives, including a video featuring the partner company executives discussing the reasons for forming MetalSpectrum. Before launch day, Edelman arranged pre-briefings (under non-disclosure) for MetalSpectrum executives with several influential metals industry association directors, technology industry analysts and key financial analysts, in order to gain third-party support for the venture before the media launch.
Due to the sensitive material nature of the partner companies’ financial investments in the new venture, it was imperative that the news not be leaked to any outlet prior to the release distribution at 5 a.m. EST on May 2. For several days prior to the launch, Edelman sent cryptic e-mails to alert reporters of a major industry announcement and conference call to occur on May 2. The Wall Street Journal reporter following specialty metals was offered a pre-announcement exclusive to publish an article about the venture on launch day. Once the release had hit the wires on May 2, target reporters were contacted individually to invite them to participate in the conference call and schedule follow-up interviews with executives as needed, on the phone or in person from New York. More than 20 media representatives from business, technology and metals industry publications participated in the media conference call and approximately 25 financial analysts participated in the analyst call.
Post-Launch to Present: After the May launch announcement, Edelman continued its aggressive media relations and industry awareness campaign, by securing briefings for MetalSpectrum executives with financial and technology industry analysts and metals industry consultants and associations and securing numerous interviews for company executives to discuss the company’s value proposition, technology, leadership and benefits for users. Edelman issued a continuous flow of news releases to announce milestones including the formation of the company Executive Team, addition of new partner companies, selection of technology partners and the formal launch of the e-marketplace’s capabilities, less than six months after the initial announcement. Through a thought leadership campaign designed to highlight MetalSpectrum executives’ expertise in business-to-business and metals industry issues, Edelman submitted applications for executives to present at industry conferences and crafted byline articles to place in industry publications.
Edelman launched MetalSpectrum’s first print advertising campaign in August 2000. Edelman’s Design Communications team worked closely with the PR team and was involved in every facet of the campaign, including writing and designing each of four ads and researching and buying space in appropriate venues in a total of eight purchasing and metals industry publications.
The rollout Public Relations campaign executed by Edelman for MetalSpectrum has been an unqualified success. Since the initial May announcement of the company’s formation, MetalSpectrum has appeared in more than 250 online and print media and analyst reports in the metals trade media, business media and technology business publications. Company executives have been interviewed for feature articles in a wide range of media including Bloomberg TV, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, American Metals Market, Information Week, Modern Metals and The Industry Standard.
To date, MetalSpectrum executives have been invited to give keynote and roundtable presentations at more than 30 metals industry, economic and business technology conferences across the globe. Due to the PR efforts and industry “buzz” surrounding the first announcement about MetalSpectrum, the company’s Web site received approximately 5,650 visitors in May, and visitors steadily increased over the following months as anticipation for the marketplace’s transaction launch in October heightened.
Much of MetalSpectrum’s progress since its formation can be directly attributed to the PR campaign, as its visibility in the metals industry led to increased participation from potential partners and investors. In the weeks following the May launch announcement, MetalSpectrum recruited 12 additional prominent companies to join as equity partners and established technology partnerships with leading software providers, enabling MetalSpectrum to offer customers more choice and availability of product and more ancillary services. To date, the company has registered more than 200 companies as users of its marketplace.