Paul Holmes 10 Jul 2002 // 11:00PM GMT
Roamable, one of many relatively unknown wireless startups, was just about to launch an innovative product in a very crowded, very noisy market. Roamable’s technology enables users to use e-mail to retrieve information with their wireless device (such as a cell phone or two-way pager) from Web pages and databases, instead of using a personal computer and browser—for example, to request headlines, stock quotes and sports scores, or even vote for the most popular video on MTV.
But in early 2001, the halcyon days of high-tech had just gone bust. Media were more interested in talking about the failures rather than the successes. It seemed like it would be tough to get attention for a technology that was truly a new medium, in the midst of the noise of me-too products and the emphasis on the “dot-gone” trend. Yet even with all the failed companies on the wayside, telecommunications was still a crowded space with a lot of hype that didn’t deliver.
As Roamable’s public relations agency of record, Waggener Edstrom was tasked with breaking through the noise to lay a solid foundation for future momentum and increase visibility with investors and potential customers.
Research, Planning and Objectives
In preparing for the launch, we met with numerous analysts in search of valuable feedback given the crowded wireless space, to influence participation in upcoming conferences and reports they sponsor and to secure advocacy to bolster related press work moving forward. We gathered data on a wide range of topics (see research section in binder). And, we drew on the historic knowledge that comes from our in-depth experience in this industry; we used what we were hearing and reading from our daily contacts with analysts and media.
A key finding: Many industry observers believed that, particularly given early missteps from some of the bigger guys, the future of wireless is in the hands of small fledgling companies – startups like Roamable. This knowledge gave us the perfect opportunity to gain mindshare with key influencers and lay a momentum foundation for the months ahead – if only we could break through.
To support Roamable’s business goals of securing additional funding, filling key slots on the executive management team and attracting customers by increasing Roamable’s visibility with key audiences, as measured by:
- Inquiries generated from investors, potential customers and executive recruits
- Quantity and quality of media coverage, especially positive product reviews
Audiences, and Why They Were Crucial
Industry Analysts – as key evangelists to help build overall credibility in the marketplace and influence customers to buy
Wireless Trade Media Outlets, print and online – as a vehicle to reach key industry audiences and garner positive reviews vis-à-vis the competition
National Business Press – to build cachet among and capture the interest of potential investors and partners
Investors – to increase Roamable’s funding
Potential Customers (companies who would use Roamable technology to offer their services to consumers) – to build Roamable’s business.
One of our greatest challenges came with the timing of the launch. Roamable’s CEO Michael Goff came to us ready to roar, and wanted to launch immediately. We needed to slow him down and convince him to wait until we had a stronger story. The market was not responding fondly these days to “Vaporware” – yet another “killer app” that wasn’t going to go anywhere. We saw great value in some of the company’s potential customer wins in the pipeline; MTV and MSNBC were just about to sign on. We counseled holding primetime publicity until the deals could be inked – and the strategy paid off.
Explanation of Strategic Approach
Our breakthrough came when we realized that to accomplish our goals, particularly given the more conservative climate, building credibility was the utmost priority. And, what better way to do that than with a handful of big-name marquis customers right out of the gate? (See Challenges, above.) Both behind-the-scenes leading up to the public announcement, and as part of the formal unveiling itself, highlighting real-world customers who provided testimonial for Roamable’s solution was the core of Waggener Edstrom’s strategy. We would also emphasize the simplicity of Roamable’s solution – it required no major investment in new infrastructure. So, we worked to:
- Fully leverage Roamable’s early client wins, MSNBC and MTV, in a two-tiered media strategy:
- First, approach the Wall Street Journal for a story to coincide with the launch.
- Subsequently, work with the trade media – specifically, in the wireless and new economy business spaces.
- Conduct an analyst tour to influence participation in upcoming conferences and reports, and cultivate advocacy to support future press coverage.
- Compile an arsenal of data (including customer wins and compelling market figures) to drive interest and set the client apart from the crowd.
Description of Campaign Execution
After helping Roamable secure the MSNBC and MTV contracts, we set the launch date for June 5, 2001, to coincide with the Mobile Outlook conference in San Francisco, a gathering of industry investors, analysts, media and peers. Launch tactics included:
- Conducting an analyst tour, setting up meetings with more than 15 key analysts.
- Working closely with Roamable to develop its presentation for the Mobile Outlook conference.
- Developing a press kit to announce the launch, which enabled media to try out Roamable technology for themselves.
- Conducting full-bore media relations. Part of the recipe for success was our unwavering ability to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the ability to frame and pitch a story that sells. Relationships were leveraged with everyone in the agency who had a significant contact at the target outlet to help build interest, anticipation and momentum around Roamable’s story, as well as to help gain additional tips for building the best possible pitch to the reporter who would ultimately be charged with writing the news up.
Summary of Results
The Roamable campaign is a shining example of media relations done expertly, with business impact that goes far beyond the clip. We exceeded our objectives and dazzled the client (“I am so happy!”). Waggener’s efforts resulted in coverage in such important trade publications as the Hollywood Reporter (key because of MTV’s signing on as a customer), Internet World (which named it that month’s “Company to Watch”) and Business 2.0, as well as a signature piece in The Wall Street Journal (with a graphic, not typical for America’s premier business paper). See full summary in binder.
What’s more, this coverage generated the following results for Roamable’s business goals:
1. Our work generated leads from prospective customers.
The Hollywood Reporter coverage, for example, immediately generated calls to Roamable from key prospective customers such as Sony.
2. We generated leads from potential investors.
For example, the Wall Street Journal article brought potential investors out of the woodwork, generating inquiries from potential investors who actually e-mailed the company immediately to ask about investment opportunities.
3. We generated interest among job recruits to fill key executive positions. Literally dozens of executives contacted the company to apply for jobs, specifically noting that they’d read about Roamable in the Wall Street Journal and other coverage.
4. We secured speaking engagements for Roamable at important industry conferences.
For example, Roamable was included in the “In Search of the Killer App” panel discussion at COMDEX, the world’s premier technology conference, as a result of media efforts.
The Roamable program proved the value of strategic media relations counsel: Getting it right is more important than getting it first, even in an industry that moves at the speed of light. The Roamable launch helped the company break through the noise, leading to a resounding first year.