SOHO Printing Alliance
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SOHO Printing Alliance

On Tuesday, March 14, 2000 Xerox Corporation announced the alliance of three Fortune 500 companies—Xerox, Sharp and Fuji Xerox—for the joint development of inkjet printing products and technology.

Paul Holmes

On Tuesday, March 14, 2000 Xerox Corporation announced the alliance of three Fortune 500 companies—Xerox, Sharp and Fuji Xerox—for the joint development of inkjet printing products and technology. For Xerox, this alliance was its biggest and boldest move yet in the small office / home office (SOHO) market, a multi-billion-dollar initiative to directly position them as “triple threat” against their competition, Hewlett-Packard (HP).  Text 100 and Xerox Corporation planned and supported extensive integrated announcement activities that spanned time zones and cultures in order to launch the SOHO alliance, an alliance with the potential to grow into a multi-billion dollar business in a relatively short time.  The global scope of the SOHO Printing Alliance announcement required involvement from Text 100 members from Rochester, NY to the United Kingdom to Tokyo.
 
CHALLENGES
 
The most critical challenge was effectively communicating the news to national and international journalists on behalf of the US- and Japan-based companies. 
 
Orchestrating a global announcement with seamless coordination across multiple markets was a logistical challenge faced by all Text 100 offices involved.
 
RESEARCH
 
Prior to the announcement, Text 100 and Xerox conducted extensive research to determine media and financial interest in Xerox’s overall position in the desktop printing market.  Xerox found high interest surrounding its September 22, 1999 announcement declaring the intent to purchase the color printing division of Tektronix, Inc.  At that time, Xerox unveiled a very aggressive strategy to compete head-to-head with HP.  It was determined that the SFX (Sharp/Fuji/Xerox) announcement would capture and build on that momentum as the SOHO Alliance again showed Xerox directly taking on HP. 
 
In addition, Text 100 conducted research to pinpoint key national and international trade and business media, financial media and analysts to help spread the message of this new alliance.
 
PLANNING
 
In order to build up excitement for the announcement, Text 100 seeded the market with Xerox’ product positioning in the personal color inkjet market working to build the buzz.  Text 100 worked to educate the market on what makes an exceptional personal color inkjet printer based on the competitive differentiators of the new product line.
 
Planning for an event of this scope entailed preparation on many levels.  Text 100 secured the venue for the announcement, arranged travel, hotel rooms, video footage as well as an appropriate international timeline and coordinated with executives from all involved companies.  Due to the international nature of the event, Text 100 implemented regular multinational planning calls across several time zones with all groups involved in the announcement.  The international team worked together planning the event schedule, announcement format, theme, international invitation format and press material development.
 
Text 100’s planning for this worldwide announcement included working with Xerox to arrange a WebCast to expand the scope and flexibility of the venue and create the sense of a true worldwide announcement.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
The objective of the announcement was two-fold.
  • Communicate news of the SOHO Printing Alliance to all key national and international media, financial and industry analysts as well as stakeholders.
  • Globally position the companies involved (Xerox namely) in the SOHO Printing Alliance as being at the forefront of inkjet technology.
 

AUDIENCE

 
The key audience for the SOHO Printing Alliance was the national and international media, financial and industry analysts as well as stakeholders. 
 
STRATEGY
 
To address the logistical challenge of communicating the news to national and international journalists on behalf of US- and Japan-based companies, Text 100 recommended a multinational press event in New York City. The event would serve as the centerpiece of the announcement with international and national journalists invited. Included in the invitee list were journalists from the United Kingdom, India, Russia, the Middle East, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and China among others. Those not able to attend would be encouraged to participate via a WebCast or conference call. An additional event was also planned for the following day in Tokyo to accommodate the media demands of Japanese-based Sharp and Fuji Xerox, as well the time difference.
 
EXECUTION/TACTICS
 
The announcement focused on the following key points to ensure credibility: branding, the combination of resources with Sharp and Fuji Xerox to make the company #2 to Hewlett-Packard, and product superiority. 
 
Text 100 Japan was briefed on the announcement in January 2000 and handled all Japanese public relations activity as well as coordination with Fuji Xerox and Sharp.  The Japanese announcement went out at the time of the New York event, prior to the March 15th event.
 
To help with the multinational and cross-cultural logistics and planning, a critical support role was played by Text 100’s Tokyo office. Frequent conference calls and detailed follow-up ensured that no details were overlooked in planning for the shadow event.  Similar roles were played by representatives in Text 100’s UK office to optimize European participation and communication. Supporting press materials were created including a press release, backgrounder, product photos and a technology-based, creative wire photo. Materials were distributed to all event attendees and mailed to a targeted international media list.
 

One of the first—and most significant— results of the alliance was the development of an innovative ink-saving, cartridge design.  To effectively showcase this technology and spark interest, a wire photo was shot at a local Xerox manufacturing site, this was especially important for Japanese press since the product was not immediately available. 
 
EVALUATION
 
Attended by 115 national and international press and consultants, the New York City event, hosted by Xerox CEO Rick Thoman, was a considerable success.  Held the following day, the Tokyo event, hosted by Tokoki Tanaka of Sharp, Gan Kawai of Fuji Xerox and James Miller of Xerox was equally effective, with 78 journalists attending.  Many one-on-one interviews were secured with key editors at both events.  The news of the SOHO Printing Alliance was effectively communicated at the twin events to all key national and international media, financial and industry analysts as well as stakeholders.
 
The overall announcement event achieved global coverage in more than 68 media outlets.  Highlights included being covered twice in the New York Times and three times in the Wall Street Journal as well as the Asian Wall Street Journal.  The wire photo shot was the lead photo on page one of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Gannett Rochester daily newspaper) on the day following the announcement.  Headlines positioned the companies involved as being in the forefront of inkjet technology.  Sample headlines include “Xerox Targets SOHO Users Alliance Plans $2 Billion Campaign to Win Printer-Market Share From HP” and “Xerox to Offer Low-End Inkjet Printer in Bid to Take on Rival Hewlett-Packard”.
 
Xerox executives credited the announcement with “positively changing perceptions among Wall Street analysts” and helping to “change the tone of coverage in the business press.”
 
Xerox director of worldwide public relations Jeff Simek acknowledged the effort as “the single greatest factor in moving the Xerox stock forward.”
 
The event also created positive momentum, setting the tone for the announcement of the first SFX-alliance products three months later at PC Expo.

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