What Do You Do When You're Number Two?
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

What Do You Do When You're Number Two?

As the number two maker of high-end networking equipment for telecom carriers, Juniper Networks is Cisco’s biggest competitor, but has traditionally been regarded as a minor irritation rather than a serious threat.

Paul Holmes

As the number two maker of high-end networking equipment for telecom carriers, Juniper Networks is Cisco’s biggest competitor, but has traditionally been regarded as a minor irritation rather than a serious threat. With revenues of $1 billion and $22 billion respectively, Juniper is truly the David to Cisco’s Goliath. In order to achieve its aggressive growth plans, Juniper had to emerge from Cisco’s shadow and be seen as a strategic partner by the telecom industry, rather than merely an alternate to Cisco. When the campaign began,Juniper was mentioned in a mere 9 percent of Cisco’s media coverage.

With a marketing budget orders of magnitude less than its rival’s, Juniper had to emerge from Cisco’s shadow and be perceived as a strategic partner by the telecom industry, instead of a mere alternate to Cisco.partnerships and bring the company into the digital living room—The ultimate goal was the creation of a new market category. 

The team chose to focus on Juniper’s vision of the ‘Infranet’, the next-generation network that would succeed today’s inadequate Internet, enable telecom providers to profit from new services, and give their customers the infrastructure they need to conduct business securely and reliably. Our strategy was as follows: set the agenda and draw Cisco into Juniper’s debate, give the company a human face by using Juniper executives to deliver the message, give our audiences clear, practical guidance on how to transform their businesses and add credibility to our message by securing broad industry support.

The PR team began with an analysis of its audiences, the telecom industry and the competitive landscape, Bite determined four main audiences for Juniper: Senior telecom executives, technology purchasers within telecom companies, telecom purchasers within enterprises (Junipers’ customers’ customer,) and Wall Street’s investors and analysts.

 It was clear that all of the audiences were hungry for signs of when and how the telecom industry would emerge from its prolonged slump. Cisco CEO John Chambers remained tight-lipped on the topic. The team devised a campaign to position Juniper as the company with a clear vision for telecom industry growth. By implication, Cisco would be characterized as the behemoth interested only in maintaining the status quo.

The PR team crafted messages and content specific to each of the audiences and assigned a Juniper executive to each audience, as follows: “The Infranet: Tomorrow’s Smart, Fast, Safe Network”
To address technology purchasers within telecom companies, the PR team cast Pradeep Sindhu, Juniper’s chief technology officer, as the architect of the Infranet and charged him with explaining the vision and garnering telecom industry support.

The team kicked off the campaign with the launch of a blueprint document–the Infranet Initiative–and followed up with the announcement of an industry steering committee,–the Infranet Council–and infranet.org Web site. “The New Breed Of CIO: The Chief Intelligence Officer”

Juniper’s CIO, Kim Perdikou, was tapped to evangelize the Infranet to enterprises via the IT trade media, award nominations and speaking opportunities. Perdikou was positioned as an expert on the strategic role that IT and telecoms could and should play within an enterprise. “The Telecom Industry’s Surgical Recovery”

PR capitalized on Juniper CEO Scott Kriens’ steady stewardship to position him as an expert on when and how a telecom recovery might take place. Kriens painted a picture of how the telecom industry would benefit from the Infranet, and issued stern warnings to those who chose to stick their heads in the sand. PR held regular briefings for Kriens with top-tier business media, and pitched industry trend stories designed to draw Cisco into the debate. A broadcast media campaign placed Kriens as an industry expert on cable news channels on the day of Cisco quarterly earnings announcements; and extensive use of memorable soundbites added to Kriens’ quotability.  

Success was measured by the following: significant increase in Juniper’s media share of voice compared to Cisco, increase in coverage positioning Juniper and its executives as visionary and increase in Juniper focused coverage, measured by its prominence within articles.

Juniper takes a nip out of Cisco. Its share gain has been Cisco’s loss, and its ‘Infranet Initiative’ has won big backers.” BusinessWeek headline, Dec. 12, 2004. One of three BusinessWeek articles in 2004 examining the threat posed to Cisco by Juniper. This contrasts dramatically with BusinessWeek’s Nov. 2003 profile of Cisco in which Juniper was not even mentioned.

Other key headlines included “In Cisco’s Rearview Mirror? Juniper,” Washington Post and “Growing Juniper Could Hurt Mighty Cisco,” TheStreet.com.

Juniper’s percentage share of Cisco coverage increased from 9 percent in Q3 2003 to 36 percent in Q3 2004 Scott Kriens appears quarterly on CNBC’s Kudlow & Cramer to comment on Cisco earnings 

Headline mentions of Juniper in business media increased from 24 percent of the company’s total coverage in Q3 2003 to 31 percent in Q3 2004, demonstrating an increase of coverage focused on the company, as opposed to mere mentions.

The results demonstrate Juniper’s increasing encroachment on Cisco in the media. The company now numbers industry players such as British Telecom, Ericsson, IBM, Oracle and Siemens among members of the Infranet Council. Over the past 12 months, Juniper has also enjoyed quarter-on-quarter revenue growth and has continued to steal market share from Cisco (source: Synergy Research).

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