TowerGroup consistently acknowledges CK’s role in improving TowerGroup’s stature and sales. President and CEO, Mark Sievewright, has said that CK’s efforts have “significantly enhanced our business and market standing.” In an era of budget cut-backs, TowerGroup plans to increase its investment in communications in 2002. From our perspective, there are few greater validations of quality, impactful work than this.
TowerGroup (owned by Reuters Plc) is a growing industry analyst firm based in Needham, MA, that focuses on the impact of information technology on the global financial services industry. By early 2000, TowerGroup had established a good reputation among its narrow client base of technology vendors and financial services institutions as a firm with insightful, actionable research and highly experienced analysts.
Yet from a competitive point of view, TowerGroup was having trouble breaking through to a larger market—particularly when the industry analyst community was largely defined by such “800 pound gorillas” as Forrester and Gartner Group. The challenge was to put TowerGroup on the map—to raise its visibility and stature to the level of its larger competitors—in order to drive sales and growth.
- Senior executives of financial services institutions (CEO-suite and top IT decision makers)
- Senior executives of businesses that support financial services institutions (technology vendors)
- Major consulting firms that service the global financial services industry
- Leaders of major industry groups (i.e., American Banker’s Assoc., Securities Industry Assoc., etc.)
Position TowerGroup as the premier provider of thought leadership regarding the impact of technology on the global financial services industry
Build a “critical mass” of awareness about TowerGroup within the financial services industry and general business community, to drive sales and validate the company in the eyes of prospective clients
Significantly increase number of analyst quotes, data citations and full feature stories on TowerGroup research in “top-tier” business/general media outlets
RESEARCH AND PLANNING:
Before initiating work for TowerGroup, CK took the following steps in partnership with its new client to: 1) assess internal attitudes and procedures relative to public relations; 2) establish work flow processes to ensure efficiency and consistent communication; and 3) discuss expectations and set mutually agreed upon goals. These activities included:
- Conducting an in-depth quantitative and qualitative media analysis to document the prior frequency of TowerGroup’s appearance in key press outlets for Q1 2000 (prior to start of TG/CK relationship)
- Conducting a working session with TowerGroup senior management to refine core corporate positioning and messages (this activity was repeated at the start of 2001, and will be again in January 2002)
- Working with the client to identify which analysts and research areas would be most effective in increasing TowerGroup’s visibility among top trade and general business media outlets (this activity is also repeated as new analysts and new research areas are added to the growing firm)
- Planning/leading a series of full-day media training sessions for key groups of analysts, as well as conducting condensed media training sessions by phone when new analysts join the firm (sessions have been ongoing)
- Establishing effective working and reporting processes to facilitate the flow of information between client and agency—and to ensure that each employee of TowerGroup is aware of the role and impact of PR on the business (see attached examples of: Project Status grid, weekly coverage reports; quarterly media assessments; press release criteria document distributed to all analysts; results reports for specific projects; etc.)
Following a series of meetings with senior management and each major practice group, CK developed a comprehensive program to address both communications objectives. Starting from “square one,” CK employed a “building block strategy” (see pyramid graphic), comprising three tiers of executional activity:
- Foundational/Ongoing Presence Building Activities
- Research-Supported Activities
- Leadership Activities
CK worked first to establish the foundational/ongoing communications activities necessary to support a robust media presence (i.e., story mining, segmented media lists). From this foundation, CK launched research-supported media outreach (i.e., data-driven press releases, support for analyst speaking engagements) and ultimately leadership-oriented activities (i.e., leveraging TowerGroup CEO appearances, placing high-level bylined articles).
CK began by establishing a “gold standard” suite of foundational activities, including:
- Building/maintaining comprehensive press list capturing financial services trades, technology trades and general business press
- Developing annotated list of the key trade/general business publications to be targeted in order to achieve communications objectives (document updated approximately every 6 months)
- Reaching out on one-on-one basis to critical trade contacts to reinforce TowerGroup’s expertise areas, and to secure opportunities for bylined articles (pubs. targeted include American Banker and UK’s The Banker)
- Leveraging data-driven press releases to cultivate relationships with key contacts at horizontal technology and general business (such as Computerworld, InternetWeek, Business Week, The New York Times, etc.)
- Maintaining increasingly active TowerGroup “newsbureau” (proactive pitching/reactive handling of press requests)
- Promoting news from TowerGroup’s Annual Conference and analyst participation in other major industry events
In addition, CooperKatz developed a new promotional vehicle for TowerGroup: the research “note alert.” This two-paragraph emailed alert re: new TowerGroup research was designed to overcome a critical challenge: how to get “information overloaded” press to pay attention to TowerGroup research, begin to anticipate the arrival of new research announcements, and get on the phone with TowerGroup analysts.
EVALUATION OF SUCCESS (QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE)
Between mid 2000 and late 2001, this ongoing business-to-business campaign has been extremely successful in significantly raising TowerGroup’s profile and overall stature among primary and secondary audiences—as well as in driving research sales and supporting TowerGroup’s continued growth, despite the current down market.
TowerGroup has seen a significant increase in total media exposure. Comparing the same three-month period for 2000 and 2001 (Q1—January through March), total press coverage of TowerGroup increased by a factor of five. Total “hits” for Q1 2000 was 65. Total “hits” for Q1 of 2001 was 322. Total “hits” for Q3 of 2001 reached an all-time high of 453.
Coverage specifically in “top tier” or general business press—a major target set by the client—also significantly increased: from just 21 mentions in Q1 of 2000 to 83 in Q1 of 2001. September 2001 was the strongest showing to date for general business press coverage, with 106 mentions in a single month.
There has also been a major increase in the number of articles written specifically about TowerGroup research (rather than simply quoting an analyst in the context of a larger piece).
Most importantly, since the start of CooperKatz’s relationship with TowerGroup in mid-2000, TowerGroup overall sales have risen by 79% (source: TowerGroup; this figure was generated by comparing sales figures for May 2000-October 2001 with the pre-CooperKatz timeframe of May 1998-October 1999).
TowerGroup’s sales force has underscored to CK how this increased media presence, coupled with CK’s weekly coverage reports, have assisted them in closing sales.
TowerGroup’s analysts indicate that “cold calls” to firms while conducting research have become easier.
CK has received significant positive feedback from TowerGroup’s senior management re: the business impact of PR.
Members of the press continue to be vocal in offering positive feedback re: TowerGroup’s research and attention to fulfilling press requests (Caselle Bryan-Low of The Wall Street Journal; Daniel Kruger of Forbes; Kathleen Hays of CNN Money; Lucas Mearian, Computerworld; Ross Finley of Reuters; and many more).