Paul Holmes 26 Feb 2003 // 12:00AM GMT
Arbor Networks, a technology startup entering the crowded security market, needed to properly launch and build name recognition in the business and trade press and thus attract potential customers. The positive buzz surrounding startups in the 1990s had turned with the economy, and media coverage had become more negative and elusive. The Arbor public relations team met the challenge by developing and executing a launch plan tied to the anniversary of the Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that crippled Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon.com and other high-profile companies, earning Arbor instant credibility and name recognition that resulted in coveted spots on both the Red Herring’s and Network World’s Top Ten to Watch in 2001, seven speaking opportunities and dozens of major articles.
Challenge: Arbor Networks is a small, privately held company attempting to sell protection against computer-born DoS attacks to major Internet Service Providers, Web hosters, large enterprises and government agencies. Though a new solution to a critical and yet unsolved problem, a startup selling into the enormous service provider center faced more than one hurdle, chief among them being lack of credibility.
Solution: The Arbor team counseled management to delay the launch until a comprehensive communications plan could be developed and set in motion. The team conducted extensive research into market size, trends, competitors, followers, influencers and opportunities. When the audit was completed, the team facilitated a strategy summit with senior executives and their board of directors to discuss findings, build consensus and outline the position of the company in the market. The team also developed key messages, the launch plan and back-up crisis plan should an event occur that forced an early launch. This program development time allowed the team to immerse themselves in the company’s business, the target audiences and effectively book over 60 press and analyst meetings with top tier business, trade and vertical media on or before the launch of the company.
· Chief Security/Technology/Information Officer at Internet Service Providers and web hosters
· Industry Analysts
· Top-tier business, Internet, IT and telecommunications publications
· Internet thought leaders
Complications: Arbor Networks was in “stealth mode” in December 2000, a time when many “startups” were being heavily scrutinized by the press. Arbor’s chief scientist and other engineers were pressing for a public launch the week prior to the Christmas holidays, eager to do so because two other companies had announced their entry into the market months earlier. After careful analysis of the market and their current offerings, Arbor delayed the launch for two months in order to prepare strategic positioning and a comprehensive business plan with relevant messages and materials.
Strategy: The Arbor team selected a launch date based on a “natural,” news hook: the one year anniversary of the DoS attacks that crippled eBay, Yahoo!, Amazon.com and others.
One week before the launch, with press meetings already scheduled, and materials in the approval process, there was a DoS attack on Microsoft, which called for immediate implementation of the crisis plan previously developed.
Careful not to disrupt current launch plans, the team quickly called all of the top-tier trade and business press likely to cover the news and offered expert commentary with former security analyst, Ted Julian. His past accomplishments positioned him as a valuable source of information. The team scheduled 11 interviews with him that day and helped create sufficient curiosity about his current endeavor to secure additional press meetings for the following week’s company launch. The media, as a result, were extremely receptive to Arbor’s launch announcement the following week and covered it widely around the anniversary of the infamous attacks.
Results: Arbor Networks went “from stealth to stardom.” The Arbor Networks launch racked up 60 press and analyst briefings that resulted in more than 30 articles. So effective was this launch, that Arbor Networks was named one of Red Herring’s Top Ten to watch for 2001, as well as Network World’s Top Ten to Watch. The momentum continued with contacts that produced seven speaking opportunities at venture capital conferences, (Technologic Partner’s Enterprise Outlook, Red Herring’s Venture2001 and Venture Market East, Communications Partnering Conference, ISPCON, VentureOne and Internet World) laying the groundwork for the company’s second round of funding. Among the most telling signs that the company quickly and solidly gained a leadership position are the incoming calls from Business Week and other major business publications requesting interviews with Arbor executives.
In addition, Arbor Networks signed its first paying customer and has evaluations in the pipeline with over 20 companies, including Internet Service Providers and two government installations.