Restoring Credibility to a Company and an Industry
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Restoring Credibility to a Company and an Industry

Founded in 1996, Stamps.com is a leading provider of Internet-based postage services. Stamps.com enables customers to print U.S. Postal Service-approved postage with just a PC, printer and Internet connection.

Paul Holmes

Founded in 1996, Stamps.com is a leading provider of Internet-based postage services. Stamps.com enables customers to print U.S. Postal Service-approved postage with just a PC, printer and Internet connection. The company targets small businesses, small and home offices and individuals through partnerships with companies including Office Depot, Microsoft, NCR, Comp USA, PayPal, Earthlink, HP, Auctionwatch and the U.S. Postal Service.
When the dotcom boom went bust, former Internet darling Stamps.com experienced a severe media backlash that called into question the viability of the company and the online postage industry overall. Most Internet companies were being perceived as irresponsible spendthrifts and Stamps.com was no exception. However, most industry influencers were not aware of the company’s significant cash reserves, successful cost-cutting measures or that the company was very close to profitability.
After 12 months of downsizing and a sharpening of the company strategy, Stamps.com was ready to emerge from self-imposed exile and cautiously begin public relations activities once again.
  In December 2001, Stamps.com engaged FitzGerald to bring the company’s messages back to the marketplace. Partnering with Stamps.com management team, FitzGerald Communications developed the strategic communications program needed to address the communications challenges.
The team identified three primary objectives for the program: restore the company’s image; help rebuild confidence in the online postage industry; and lay the groundwork for new product launches in early 2002.
  Realizing the challenge of regenerating buzz in a sector given up for dead, FitzGerald recommended a risky strategy—provide the media with expert commentary on the terrible anthrax poisonings that struck the nation soon after 9/11. Leaning on the product’s unique security feature capable of tracking packages back to the sender’s desktop, Stamps.com executives were pitched as expert resources on the future of mail security.
The media were searching for information and explanations around the attacks to help ease the public’s anxiety and Stamps.com had something intriguing and insightful to add to the national dialogue. All this had to be done with the utmost sensitivity, as watchdogs in the media were quick to expose any company that tried to profit from the tragedy.
As hoped, engaging the media in a back-and-forth dialogue on the subject also renewed their interest in Stamps.com as a whole. Within weeks, FitzGerald secured a CEO appearance on CNBC Power Lunch, full corporate profiles in the The Washington Post, The LA Times, LA Business Times, Investor’s Business Daily and online coverage in the Wall Street Journal.com and Wired.com.
Most coverage used the anthrax connection as an opener that quickly shifted to the company’s status as a “dotcom survivor”—highlighting the strong cash position, smart management moves and steady march toward profitability.
Once the market was primed with the initial success of the proactive program, FitzGerald continued to produce excellent results for the launch of NetStamps—a postage product more similar to traditional postage. The launch was covered by more than 50 outlets spanning various media including consumer, business and trade. Proactive pitching resulted in two more full corporate profiles: Bob Tedeschi’s column in The New York Times and Mark Veverka’s “Plugged In” column in Barron’s. In addition, the positive coverage helped add more than 20 percent to the company’s stock price and attract 350,000 new customers.
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