Transforming the perception of Software.com from a small Santa Barbara, Calif.-based email player to a global leader in the wireless Internet infrastructure space in less than a year was no small task for FitzGerald Communications. FitzGerald’s relationship with Software.com began in June 1999, when the agency was selected to handle the media and financial relations surrounding the company’s IPO. FitzGerald’s IR efforts landed CEO appearances on Fox, CNNfn and CNBC, driving the stock from $12 to $16 in the first day of trading.
Based on Software.com and FitzGerald’s success working together around the IPO, the two companies solidified their relationship in September 1999 and Software.com’s public relations campaign gained momentum in the year 2000.
CHALLENGES AND RESEARCH
With little to no understanding among the wireless press and analyst communities of Software.com’s critical role in delivering the wireless Web, the company was continually overlooked by these important third parties. Facing fierce competition from Wall Street Darling Critical Path and behemoth Sun-Netscape, Software.com and FitzGerald moved quickly to educate the market. Extensive research was conducted to identify the appropriate media targets, which involved scouring analyst reports and press coverage, as well as conducting perception audits among both audiences to gain an accurate sense of Software.com’s reputation in comparision to its competitors. While this research was essential to conducting a strategic communications outreach, it was also essential the process was quick and timely so that FitzGerald could immediately begin to generate results for the client.
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES
FitzGerald was tasked with the following objective: To brand Software.com’s InterMail platform as the engine behind the Wireless Web and create a perception of Software.com as a leading player in the emerging wireless web market category.
Our strategies to support this objective included the following:
- Create a steady flow of news, including customer wins, partnership and product announcements, thereby establishing Software.com as a player in the Internet infrastructure space
- Build key relationships with the influential press and analysts covering the wireless industry; validate Software.com’s company and product strengths via the testimonials of these third-party influencers
- Strengthen the company’s financial position by leveraging company news, particularly acquisitions, to support an excellent company valuation
FitzGerald first worked with Software.com to brainstorm a series of “rolling thunder” news releases and case studies that highlighted customer success with Software.com’s products to ensure a steady stream of news from the company. FitzGerald also worked closely with Software.com to craft key messages around each announcement and case study that would spotlight Software.com’s key role in the emerging wireless web and support the company’s larger communications objectives.
The press releases and case studies generated by FitzGerald spurred a flurry of coverage and quickly established Software.com as a dominant player in the space. FitzGerald conducted targeted outreach after each announcement to ensure key messages were being communicated to the right media audiences. Key wireless reporters in the wireless trades, such as Kelly Carol at Telephony and Peggy Albright at Wireless Week, began to sing Software.com’s praises. In addition, Software.com and FitzGerald were able to turn skeptics among the wireless analyst community like Andy Seybold of Seybold’s Outlook, Jane Zwieg at Herschel Shosteck and Bob Egan at GartnerGroup into champions via a tailored campaign of persistent outreach and education.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
With each announcement and corresponding coverage, the valuation of Software.com continued to rise, as did its level of recognition among the wireless community. The financial position the company enjoyed placed Software.com in a position to make critical acquisitions such as @mobile.com, Telarc, and Phone.com, further validating the company’s presence in the space. These major announcements afforded FitzGerald frequent opportunities to schedule regular appearances on broadcast programs such as CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” catapulting the stock price to new highs with each acquisition. In particular, the Phone.com merger generated more than 200 pieces of coverage, in both print and broadcast outlets.
With each acquisition, FitzGerald was able to position Software.com executives as thought leaders in emerging wireless markets including unified communications, wireless and instant messaging. FitzGerald was ultimately successful in repositioning this little know email company into one of the most well-know players in the Internet infrastructure space. These accolades are demonstrated by coverage secured in nearly every major business, wireless and IT trade including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Reuters, Industry Standard, Information Week and Wireless Week.