Steelcase Hits the Trades
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Holmes Report

Steelcase Hits the Trades

In support of the company’s continued dedication to partnering with the best in complimentary industries to jointly research and develop workplace solutions, Steelcase joined forces with IBM to create BlueSpace.

Paul Holmes

In support of the company’s continued dedication to partnering with the best in complimentary industries to jointly research and develop workplace solutions, Steelcase joined forces with IBM to create BlueSpace. BlueSpace is a prototype of the Office of the Future that integrates architecture, furniture and technology into the physical office and takes an entirely user-centric approach to meeting the individual worker’s needs. The project was unveiled in January 2002 and was a main focus of the company’s trade program.
At the same time, Steelcase employees pride themselves as students of the workplace. The company spends nearly $60 million a year on research and development on the ways people work. So in addition, Peppercom was charged with obtaining thought leadership opportunities for Steelcase to demonstrate its expertise on all work-related issues, particularly those pertaining to the physical office environment.
The BlueSpace project presented a unique opportunity for Steelcase to break into technology trades for the first time and to raise visibility of itself among the IT and technology audience. Core to Steelcase’s product strategy is the integration of architecture, furniture and technology. While the company is very well known and recognized as a leader in the architecture and furniture industries, it has never been seriously considered a force in the technology industry. Partnering with IBM provided an opportunity to bolster awareness and credibility of Steelcase with this audience.
Separately, the workplace knowledge tract brought its own challenge of securing positive coverage in the architecture & design trades on the company’s workplace expertise, while not focusing on the financial obstacles facing the company and the industry at large.
Peppercom worked closely with the BlueSpace development team at Steelcase and IBM to develop key messages, a launch strategy and collateral material to support the announcement. The firm also worked with Pam Brenner, manager of workplace issues at Steelcase, to determine the main areas of focus for our workplace knowledge efforts. The goal with both pitches was to secure media coverage in trade publications that reflected the following messages:
· Steelcase’s dedication to providing effective solutions that seamlessly integrate architecture, furniture and technology to support the ways people work.
· Steelcase’s extensive research and development efforts that focus on developing user-centered designs and solutions that allow for flexibility between individual and team spaces.
· The company’s commitment to being a work effectiveness company and providing solutions that enhance innovation, collaboration and productivity in the workplace.
 The general strategies for our campaign included offering an advance to an influential technology publication to break the announcement on the same day the release was distributed. In this case, the PR team decided that the publication would be InformationWeek, the number one IT publication for senior level executives. The team also offered an advance to The New York Times to represent a major business publication.
Following the advance, the strategy was to launch a full-blown media relations campaign specifically targeting architecture & design trades as well as technology trades.
Finally, to increase workplace knowledge coverage of Steelcase in the architecture & design trades, the PR group orchestrated a one-on-one trade media tour that would build and solidify the relationships between Steelcase and those trade publications.
 Peppercom began working with InformationWeek in December of 2001, a few weeks before the news was publicly announced. Aaron Ricadela flew from California to tour the prototype based in the IBM lab in Hawthorne, NY and conducted interviews with both IBM and Steelcase executives. The day the news was announced, the PR team also began an aggressive media relations campaign and scheduled multiple interviews with the trade media.
Peppercom also worked with Steelcase to prioritize the trade media most important to the company for workplace knowledge and thought leadership opportunities. Based on this and in an effort to increase positive Steelcase coverage, Peppercom planned a strategic trade media tour in September of 2002. Our efforts with the trade media on both fronts – BlueSpace and workplace knowledge – were ongoing throughout the year.
A key measure of success was consistent coverage of the company’s core messages in the trade media. As demonstrated in the enclosed packet of coverage, the majority of media placements reinforced Steelcase being a work effectiveness company, integrating architecture, furniture and technology with user-centered products and designs, and helping improve innovation, collaboration or productivity. Key trade media placements included InformationWeek, IndustryWeek, Business 2.0, Contract, Architectural Record, Today’s Facility Manager, I.D. and many others.
One of the most notable placements that reinforced the company’s key messages was Aaron Ricadela’s article in Information Week. Aaron reported, “BlueSpace, as IBM and Steelcase call their creation, tests a few trends that will shape the workplace of the new century. One is increased collaboration. Another is employees’ ability to handle more information-the idea that younger workers accustomed to managing multiple streams of information simultaneously will use those skills to more closely monitor their work environments, and in the process, work more efficiently as individuals and as teams.”
Another major placement included, “The office that revolves around you” by Eric Schoendfeld of Business 2.0. Eric stated, “Researchers at Steelcase and IBM are trying to improve the workspace by mixing architecture, furniture design, and technology.”
These messages, which were included in nearly every trade article, were critical to reinforcing Steelcase’s key positioning.
In addition to a number of placements for Steelcase in the architecture & design trades on BlueSpace and other workplace issues, Peppercom identified that in the four weeks following the Steelcase media trip in September 2002, we uncovered nearly one dozen secured or possible media opportunities with the trade media – four times the amount of coverage and interest received in the two months prior to the media trip. Since September, Steelcase has received positive coverage in Facilities Design & Management and Today’s Facility Manager, with additional articles slated to appear through the first five months of 2003.
All in all, there were a total of 55 placements in Steelcase’s trade media with a circulation of 9,876,975 in 2002.
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