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The Telecom Prescription for Success
Paul Holmes
Holmes Report

The Telecom Prescription for Success

Marconi, a global provider of advanced broadband communications solutions based in the U.K., faced the difficult task of breaking into the U.S. telecom market during a severe economic downturn in the sector. Hill & Knowlton used SuperComm 2001 as a platf

Paul Holmes

Marconi, a global provider of advanced broadband communications solutions based in the U.K., faced the difficult task of breaking into the U.S. telecom market during a severe economic downturn in the sector.  Hill & Knowlton used SuperComm 2001 as a platform for turning this virtually unknown (in the U.S.) company into one of the main stories at this key telecom show.  As a result of our work, Marconi’s U.S. coverage during SuperComm 2001 increased over 200% compared to 2000, with 37 corporate stories and seven product news stories, achieved with only four news releases.   Marconi reached the #2 spot in terms of quality of coverage generated with less than half the number of announcements its competitors had issued, and achieved the highest number of feature placements in stories of anyone in the show.


The challenge was to raise Marconi’s profile without significant corporate news that would be relevant in the US marketplace.  While they had several significant products to announce at SuperComm 2001, they risked being lost in the ‘noise’ of a big show as they were not considered a “premier”, or even an “up-and-coming” company in the US market.


The overall objective was to raise Marconi’s visibility in the highly competitive U.S. marketplace and to attain a “top three” position. 

Part and parcel to this objective was to establish Marconi as a thought and market leader and introduce CEO-Designate John Mayo to the US market.


Using a proprietary research methodology called Vision & Voice™, Hill and Knowlton determined that Marconi was not on the radar of American business and telecom media and analysts.  The research further revealed that companies seen as leaders in this arena were usually the ones perceived as having superior technology and innovative products.  Awareness of Marconi was limited and understanding shallow, moving them up to “top three” status would be a significant challenge.

The strategy that emerged from this research had two parts:
· Seek to shape the debate about the category – find ways for Marconi to define the terms by which it and its competitors would be measured
· Refocus communications on the key technologies that were media and marketplace hot buttons – and use them to differentiate Marconi from the pack

To establish Marconi as a thought and market leader they would need to shape and lead the discourse and debate on a hot and relevant topic.  To that end H&K employed Roper-Starch Research. Marconi sponsored a “State of the Telecom Industry” survey polling over 200 U.S. enterprise and telecom carriers on the current state of the telecom industry. This research was used as the basis to stage a Marconi-hosted forum, at SuperComm, titled Prescription for Success.  This forum provided a platform for Marconi and its CEO-Designate to present the research and lead a discussion about the challenges facing the telecom industry.


The strategy was totally counter-intuitive—and that’s what set it apart.  SuperComm is the premier telecom industry showcase in North America and getting coverage there usually depends on launching a new product or service.  While Marconi had several significant products to announce, they became a secondary strategy at the show.  Even though John Mayo, Marconi’s CEO-Designate, had no established credibility in the U.S., Hill and Knowlton recommended a top-level issues platform, propelled by the Prescription for Success Forum, that would place him and Marconi in the show’s spotlight.

The  “State of the Telecom Industry” survey helped position Marconi as a thought leader that could provide insights into the whole industry, not just another company promoting its products at the show. The results were announced on the first day of SuperComm, June 4, 2001.

To elevate the findings and introduce the CEO-Designate, H&K then created the Prescription for Success Telecom Forum featuring Mayo’s first U.S. appearance, a leading telecom economist, a commentator highly regarded as an influencer within the industry, two Marconi customers, and moderated by Jack Smith, formerly of ABCNEWS.  Marconi emerged an instant leader


Build and Enhance Brand and Proposition: The Prescription for Success telecom Forum supported Marconi’s messages to the marketplace.

Enhance Awareness of Products and Services: Marconi’s product specialists met with over 37 reporters and analysts to discuss the company’s new products and technologies.

Establish New CEO Visibility: The Forum provided CEO-Designate John Mayo the perfect venue to introduce a forward-thinking company, with a new mission (the umbrella theme).


Hill and Knowlton’s US launch program for Marconi successfully raised the profile of a company that was virtually unknown in the US market and placed it among the most visible companies at the show, and in North America including: Nortel, Cisco and Lucent.  Marconi’s CEO-Designate, John Mayo also emerged as a thought leader who grasped the main issues on the telecom sector and as someone who would lead his company successfully through these trying times.

Hill and Knowlton’s SuperComm program set a new standard for establishing a company identity and reputation at a major national venue

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