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Infonet came to Ruder Finn as a multibillion-dollar provider of global-network services that most people had never heard of. Similarly, industry and business opinion leaders were unaware of the company, tending instead to focus on more prominent brand nam

Paul Holmes

Infonet came to Ruder Finn as a multibillion-dollar provider of global-network services that most people had never heard of. Similarly, industry and business opinion leaders were unaware of the company, tending instead to focus on more prominent brand names like WorldCom, Equant and British Telecom. At the same time, however, Infonet’s late-1999 IPO – the second largest telecom offering in U.S. history – meant  that Wall Street was beginning to pay attention, and needed consistent and reliable information. The time was clearly right for Infonet to carve a niche for itself.

Ruder Finn advised that Infonet focus on a finite set of key messages and the utilization of third-party endorsements, while aggressively communicating with industry trade publications and analysts. Out of this baseline program grew a worldwide effort to undertake the task of garnering more media and analyst coverage than Infonet’s foremost competitor: Equant.

CHALLENGE

Even though Infonet had a long history of innovation, the market tended to pay attention to higher-profile players like British Telecom, Equant and WorldCom. Part of the reason for this was Infonet’s fragmented marketing program, which maintained distinct communications efforts in each of the 70 countries where it had operations. Out of this fragmented situation, Ruder Finn was charged with devising a comprehensive marketing-communications proposal. The program was to be coordinated and executed on a global level, ensuring that Infonet’s communications were seamless around the world.

RESEARCH

Ruder Finn conducted a thorough analysis of more than 30 key media outlets covering the global networking and telecommunications space to assess the overall perception of Infonet, its competitors and market trends. Nearly 85 percent of respondents were not familiar with Infonet. Those who were believed that Infonet was a major player in the market, but felt that the company’s corporate messaging was unclear.
Ruder Finn also researched internal perceptions of Infonet. This involved interviews with key executives and the company’s global communications team, as well as a detailed analysis of the industry and financial analyst communities, industry consultants and the press. Primary research included interviews, briefings and surveys; secondary research included analysis of analyst reports and media coverage.

Out of this research came the following campaign objectives:
· Position Infonet as a leading provider of global-managed network services
· Differentiate Infonet from its competitors and surpass them in media/analyst coverage
· Integrate all of Infonet’s communications – PR, advertising, marketing and investor relations – into coordinated campaigns

PLANNING

Ruder Finn developed a master communications program, supported by specific plans for North America, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Asia Pacific and Latin America that were supported by local outreach. Several additional plans were developed to capitalize on each of Infonet’s “hot topic” technologies (wireless, VPNs, MPLS and Voice Over IP).

IMPLEMENTATION

The PR program that Ruder Finn implemented gave Infonet the muscle to surpass its competition in both media and analyst mentions, and develop a public perception as a market leader. The agency supported the four Infonet regions with service launches, executive tours, co-branded Cisco seminars and assistance in regional media relations. Ruder Finn also closely monitored the local outreach abroad, including local-language media relations, trade shows and local speaking engagements, awards submissions and analyst relations.

Ruder Finn also developed a proprietary system that allows the client and all team members to view up-to-date information on global PR activities. This “Grid” can be sorted according to a number of parameters, including geographic region, date, product area and type of communications initiative.

EVALUATION

All top-tier business publications that, when surveyed earlier, expressed little knowledge about Infonet subsequently requested information and eventually covered Infonet in print. Additionally:
2001 was a record year for new client contracts at Infonet, with a total of 386 new clients signed
Infonet’s total number of 2001 media mentions (968 as of December 1) has increased 60 percent over 2000 levels (606). Infonet (122) surpassed its main competitor (71) in monthly media mentions for the first time in June 2001, and again in September and November

In 2001, Infonet (55) has averaged more mentions in telecom and information-technology trade publications than its primary competitor (32). Infonet’s 2001 mentions in industry analyst reports (69 as of December 1) have already tripled over 2000 levels (19)

For each press release distributed, Infonet has average 34.6 media pick-ups, versus 24.9 for press release distributed by its competitors

A positive feature piece on CEO, Jose Collazo appeared in Forbes Global magazine. Other top-tier placements included The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Dow Jones, Reuters, Forbes and The Financial Times.

Jose Collazo appeared frequently on Bloomberg TV and CNBC

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