Marketocracy Media Relations Program
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Marketocracy Media Relations Program

Edelman San Francisco spearheaded Marketocracy’s communication efforts by designing a media relations program that quickly generated widespread awareness for the company and drove membership to its Web site.

Paul Holmes

 

What if you were the best investor in the world, but no one knew it?  Marketocracy posed this question when it launched its Web site on July 17, 2000.  The company’s premise: Despite the fact that the US economy has just experienced the longest bull market in recent history, only 20% of the roughly 4,500 professional equity fund managers beat the passive market indices.  Among the world’s 25 million individual investors, Marketocracy theorized, there must exist a handful of people whose industry experience uniquely positions them to beat the pros.  The company’s mission: to use the Internet to find those people and recruit them to manage real money.  

Edelman San Francisco spearheaded Marketocracy’s communication efforts by designing a media relations program that quickly generated widespread awareness for the company and drove membership to its Web site.  The highly successful program incorporated both traditional and non-traditional communications vehicles and exceeded expectations in a number of ways:

  • Successfully targeted and reached a niche audience segment
  • Generated both media and consumer interest for Marketocracy; created a credible and viable brand for the previously unknown company
  • Achieved measurable business results ahead of schedule
  • Laid the foundation for sustained media coverage in the months following the company’s launch

COMMUNICATIONS OBJECTIVES & CHALLENGES

Objectives: Marketocracy’s #1 objective was to drive membership—specifically 10,000 members in twelve weeks.  To achieve this, Edelman’s communications program needed to:

Position the site for a successful launch; generate awareness among “best investors”

Establish Marketocracy as a unique offering within the online investing space; differentiate the site from investing portals and community funds

Establish Marketocracy as a credible and viable business in the midst of the dot-com implosion

Challenges: As a new company, Marketocracy possessed no brand recognition and needed to build its credibility from scratch.  Headquartered in the CEO’s home, convincing key influentials of the company’s viability would prove difficult but would be essential in preventing other media from taking a “wait and see” approach to the story.  Additional challenges included:

  • Increased competition for “dot-com mindshare” among media, analysts, investors, and other key audiences: many reporters had become cynical about the herds of Web sites claiming to “revolutionize” their respective industries. 
  • Cluttered online investing space: potential existed for Marketocracy to get lost among the hundreds of online investing sites and financial portals already in existence.  
  • Complicated message and business model: the concept was at first difficult for even financially savvy individuals to grasp.
  • Extremely targeted key audience: for Marketocracy to succeed, the site needed to reach a very small subset of the investing community—serious, successful investors interested in managing a virtual portfolio for a three-year period.  
  • Limited resources: Marketocracy had no internal PR staff and a very limited advertising budget; the company’s success was largely dependent upon public relations.

STRATEGIC APPROACH AND CAMPAIGN EXECUTION

Two critical factors paved the way for the success of the Marketocracy program: Edelman’s carefully crafted messaging and our “depth vs. breadth” approach to media relations.  

Messaging : Precise messaging allowed Marketocracy to create an identity set apart from the cluttered online investing category.  The messaging effectively filtered Marketocracy’s audience in order to drive potential members—not just visitors—to the Web site.  Though the site offers numerous investor benefits, final messaging focused on the Marketocracy opportunity and the credibility of Ken Kam, company founder and successful mutual fund manager.  To simplify and focus the story, features such as the site’s online investing tools were downplayed.  These decisions were validated by the results of four types of research:

Consumer focus groups, conducted in conjunction with Marketocracy’s advertising agency

Exhaustive competitive surveys, reviewing positioning practices, product and service roll-outs and media coverage for each company in or near Marketocracy’s “space”

Media audits surveying press reaction to stories similar to Marketocracy’s

Messaging workshops with key Marketocracy executives and stakeholders 

Media : Media focus:  We focused outreach exclusively on top-tier financial outlets/reporters for two reasons: (1) the Internet component of the firm’s story, commonplace to e-commerce reporters, proved in contrast to be a unique and newsworthy angle for financial media and (2) by focusing on targeted financial media, rather than consumer or tech publications, we reached our desired niche audience of serious investors.

Reporter selection:  We “cherry-picked” a select group of influential mutual fund reporters for the campaign based on their familiarity with Kam’s previous ventures.  Building on Kam’s successful track record, rather than the company’s size or revenues, reinforced Marketocracy’s credibility.  It also ensured that coverage of the company—and its importance in the investing industry—would be bullish.  

Limited but not exclusive outreach:  Though outreach was extremely limited, we declined exclusives for the July 17 launch.  Our efforts were complicated by the various publication/column dates of the outlets we targeted.  Launch-day coverage included articles in several longer- and shorter-lead, top-tier publications, a feat which required some juggling.  Launch-day articles helped generate a second wave of broadcast coverage (e.g., coverage by CNBC and Fox News), resulting in a dramatic spike in membership.  

Depth vs. breadth:  Given our focused media approach, press kits mailings were not part of our program.  Instead, in-person meetings with Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and other media ensured accurate understanding and coverage of Marketocracy in those publications most likely to reach our target audience.  Reporters were also encouraged to gain firsthand knowledge of Marketocracy by participating in an invitation-only beta test of the site prior to launch.  

Continued impact:  Because a limited set of reporters were exposed initially to the Marketocracy story, we were able to avoid saturating the media marketplace.  More than seven months after launch, publications continue to cover Marketocracy as they “discover” the company for the first time.  As a result, Marketocracy membership has continued to increase long after the original campaign goals were achieved.

RESULTS

Since its inception, Marketocracy has generated more than 54 million media impressions.  The goal of 10,000 members was achieved by the tenth week of the campaign; that figure tripled to 30,000 members by week 25, significantly exceeding the company’s expectations.
As a result of the Edelman team’s efforts, the media has enthusiastically embraced Marketocracy.  Coverage to-date includes The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Business Week, New York Times, CNBC, CNNfn, and the Chicago Sun-Times.  Marketocracy was named one of the six “Best Investing Web Sites” by U.S. News & World Report, along with such established, industry leaders as Schwab.com, Morningstar.com, and Datek.com.  The site was also recently included in the Forbes’ Best of Web edition.  

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Technology-New Media
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