Paul Holmes 04 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
“We help make leaders” is not Phase Two Strategies’ slogan – it’s our measuring stick. Only a firm that embraces leading edge technology itself can help technology leaders achieve their full potential. For over a decade, significant investment in information technology (IT) infrastructure has been transforming the speed and efficiency of business. But professional services, and public relations in particular, have been late to the dance (a “lag” described by David H. Maister in his seminal book Managing the Professional Service Firm). In PR, power was based on whom you knew, or knew about. Phase Two Strategies uses what’s been called “the most advanced information technology of any PR firm” by a top industry management consultant to provide each practitioner with the knowledge of everyone in the firm. We leverage our information sharing power to achieve world-class results in both on-line and off-line PR areas. As one of North America’s top-10 independent agencies specializing in IT clients, Phase Two Strategies’ invests nearly 10% of income in perhaps the profession’s most advanced technological infrastructure to assure that clients get the most efficient, consistent and quality results.
CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY
Founded in 1988, Phase Two Strategies’ challenge was to become a leader in a profession dominated by large, well-established agencies. Our vision was to focus on information technology clients, melding the respective PR and IT backgrounds of our co-CEOs with industry-leading infrastructure to drive our PR process – and provide consistent client service excellence.
RESEARCH, PLANNING AND OBJECTIVES
In 1993, Maister explained the opportunity at hand in Managing the Professional Services Firm. He said “Much professional work is fundamentally made up of knowledge and information processing activities, and hence lends itself readily to the automation of basic processes. While most firms recognize this, few have fully exploited the opportunities to tap into the power of the microcomputer. In large part, this lag is due to the entrenched practice of charging clients by the hour for work done by professional staff. … In many areas of consulting, the software capability to perform relatively standardized analyses has not yet yielded all of the labor savings that are possible, and with the exponential increase of technology, the savings in both time and money continue to grow.”
The people IT clients need to reach looked online for their information even before the advent of the Internet. So Phase Two Strategies has always made online communications a disproportionately important part of our clients’ programs. But our objective was to assure that IT tools would drive formal processes – to create a tightly engineered methodology to allow client service teams to work smarter, 30-300% faster, and with consistent excellence (regardless of staff turnover). Increasingly, that objective is achieved by sharing information in real-time.
Our strategy for getting return on investment for both the firm and our clients came from the business applications built on our technological infrastructure. That meant, for example, using databases for a pervasive relationship management system.
We’ve implemented redundant high speed video, voice and data links between offices, major new software systems for seamless sharing of information and work in progress, satellite video feeds, online and CD libraries, real-time wire service tracking and database driven influencer and media tracking. For example, the database system automates what once were manual and paper-based processes for media background information, contact lists, editorial calendars, speaking opportunities, and most importantly, real-time contact status information. This relationship management system provides all our practitioners with the same information about each relationship, about what media and analysts need, when they need it, and even how they want it. This level of shared information assures that when stakeholders call, they reach knowledgeable staff. Further, routine tasks are automated, including information distribution, media tour briefing materials and directions, etc.
In 2001 we are adding a Web-based collaboration system giving complete information transparency to not only our staff – but to our clients as well. This includes access to all third-party interaction activity, all agency-client interaction activity, coverage commitments and more. We are adding a Voice over Internet protocol telephony system integrating voice and data into a seamless system – with anticipated cost savings. And we are scaling our network infrastructure to support multi-national clients with seamless client service teams in locations across the United States and the United Kingdom, using fully redundant high-speed network links.
Tactically, we use video conferencing to minimize both our own and our clients’ travel for such purposes as market and financial analyst briefings. That makes it easier to get cooperation from company spokespeople. We also pioneered the use of sophisticated PC-based personality testing in the PR hiring process with a tool that was recommended to the entire profession last year by the Council of PR Firms.
Our team of dedicated Internet monitors is not just a “department” but rather is built into the fabric of everything we do, as daily participants in the USENET power groups that shape our clients’ environments. Messages are based on industry driven proof points and trends. Communications are always two-way.
Phase Two Strategies leverages its IT infrastructure to give our clients speed, efficiency, and consistently excellent results. Some recent results for clients include:
An online-driven media blitz rocketed PeopleSoft to the hugely successful launch of PeopleSoft8 last year, achieving more coverage than the company had ever seen, helping its stock price reach a 52 week high
We helped build pogo.com’s Internet brand – using our database to reach out in efficient and highly targeted placements for a “virtual water cooler” campaign (by finding editors interested in a host of the campaign’s dimensions, such as the use of a Greenfield online survey, demographic and geographic breakouts, online gaming, etc.). The campaign helped drive site registration from 90,000 to over 210,000 per week today. Pogo.com has been named the “stickiest site” on the Web by Media Metrix; and pogo.com has been named by many top publications as the best free online games site on the Web
A whirlwind media blitz – made possible through video conferencing and virtual press tours -- that helped Logitech launch their "iFeel" mouse in 2000 - adding the sense of touch to the human-digital interface. The best-ever product launch for Logitech was made possible by videoconference media training, and a virtual press tour. PRWeek magazine noted that our “finely segmented database helped target the right journalists fast, blitzing them by phone and email.”
Four of the last five clients to complete initial public offerings saw their share performance rank among the top 25 in North America, including Tibco’s top-10 IPO, reaching nearly $30 billion in market cap
In the past two years, Phase Two Strategies has leveraged its use of technology for various award-winning campaigns for clients. These have included a prestigious CIPRA for Logitech’s event honoring the 30th anniversary of the mouse, and a Tenagra Award for Internet Marketing Excellence for our Robotour campaign for Lego Mindstorms.
Business results from Phase Two Strategies’ use of technology in the last 12 months include:
Signing new of-record clients in 2000 such as SRI, the legendary Silicon Valley think tank, and PeopleSoft
Earning $8.4 million in 2000 income, 50% ahead of 1999 entirely through organic growth, with 540% growth in the past five years, and above-industry-average profitability
Approaching $600,000 in average income per client, with no client more than 15% overall
Hiring a director for new London office, opening a new office in Phoenix, expanding New York office by 50%, moving to larger, technologically state-of-the-art San Francisco office March 2001
Being named a top-three mid-size agency of 2000 by PRWeek magazine, largely based on Phase Two Strategies’ use of technology.