SpeakerBox client, StackSafe, was recently named a finalist in the Best Marketing Campaign category in The 2008 American Business Awards (popularly know as the Stevie Awards). Understandably, were proud of our client and proud of the role we played in the launch of their flagship product Test Center. But on a less selfish front were excited to see that a program combining traditional media relations tactics with strong new media tactics not only works for business but is recognized by the marketing community.
StackSafe Test Center is a testing solution that leverages virtualization to reduce downtime and business disruption for IT operations teams. The planning and tactics of the campaign began nine months prior to the product launch. Realizing the need to begin a discussion about the market problem that Test Center solves, StackSafe commissioned a third party research firm, Research Edge, to conduct a survey of 400 IT operations professionals that quantified the problem of downtime and identified potential causes and impacts. At the same time, StackSafe began an aggressive analyst relations campaign to provide key market analysts early insights to these research findings and begin a dialogue about how Test Center would address the problem.
Next, the StackSafe marketing team partnered with SpeakerBox and Livingston Communications to increase awareness surrounding the problems uncovered in the research. StackSafe released three problem-focused research reports between September 2007 and January 2008. SpeakerBox began using the research findings to begin outreach to the IT media and related bloggers. The Livingston team focused on getting StackSafes corporate blog, ITs About Uptime, up and running as a destination for data and analysis on the impact of downtime. Livingston also began reaching out to other IT bloggers to begin gaining some grassroots name recognition for StackSafe.
As part of a two pronged launch event campaign, StackSafe unveiled their technology in January at DEMO 2008 - a show heavily attended by venture capitalists and influencers covering cutting edge IT solutions. One month later, StackSafe rolled out the technology to a more tactically-oriented group at the Pink Elephant IT Service Management Conference. To support each event, StackSafe launched multi-media knowledge centers on their Web site that address key topics and contain webinars with industry experts, StackSafe white papers, research reports, blog posts, and Twitter posts as well as links to other articles using del.icio.us links.
At DEMO, StackSafe combined traditional media relations tactics (embargoed pre-briefs) and real-time outreach to bloggers and on-site media. StackSafe's marketing staff also blogged and sent Twitter posts live from the show. These efforts garnered articles in 19 publications including NetworkWorld and InformationWeek and coverage from well respected bloggers at Read Write Web, eWeek, ZDNet, TheDeal.com and Somewhat Frank. The launch momentum continued during the Pink Elephant conference, where StackSafe provided blogs and video interviews from the show which were posted on blipTV and YouTube. At the Pink Elephant Show, StackSafe Test Center was named the 2008 ITIL Innovation of the Year, just three weeks after product launch. During January and February, StackSafe also gained positive coverage from four key market analyst firms, including Gartner and Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).
The recognition of StackSafes success shows that this world of social media is not a zero sum game. Traditional tactics still work and in fact are bolstered by new media tactics. The success of StackSafes program shows that despite the buzz around social media, the power of traditional media has not been overtaken by the blogosphere and in fact when used in concert can create an incredibly powerful program. Congrats to StackSafe and Livingston for this recognition were looking forward to continuing our work together and seeing even greater success!
(Photo credit: Top Position)
The business of public relations is rooted in just that
.relations. As experts, we must be proficient in all types of relationships
; namely with journalists, third party vendors, industry influencers and executives. But our most important relationship is the one we share with our clients
. For some, the client
/ agency relationship
can be an enigma
, but it need not be
. My personal approach? The silver bullet is simple:
to my client
contact express what results he or she expects, where we can provide value and efficiencies in scale. I listen to the CTO share wisdom about how industry trends affect their business. I listen to the CEO explain why his or her business model is different and why it matters.
I listen to whats not being said. I listen to silence and the words between the sentiments.
And finally, when its my turn to communicate, I ask more open ended questions so that I may listen again.
- Julie Buckley
Our next installment in the Meet the Influencers feature is a Q&A with local VC, Gary Golding, General Partner of the McLean office at Edison Venture Fund. Keep reading to get Garys take on the economy, social media companies and his advice for todays entrepreneurs.
-Katie Hanusik* Can you give us a quick overview on Edison and the kinds of tech companies youre investing in these days?
For the last 21 years, B2B software investments have been our mainstay -- starting with Best Software in 1986 (incidentally, this deal remains the firms biggest winner with a 25x return). Weve started to look at companies outside of B2B, companies like Neat Receipts
(scanning and software solutions) and PlumChoice
(online technical support for the home and small business). Were also a long-time investor in financial services I.T. with companies like GAIN Capital
(online foreign exchange platform), CorrectNet
(investor and client reporting for asset managers) and Scivantage
(enables financial transactions and online trading).
The common denominator with all our investments is a focus on new markets, growth markets and under-automated markets. Were looking for that needle in a haystack.* How is the economic downturn affecting the venture capital and entrepreneurial communities?
Though were seeing strong deal-flow right now, were anticipating a quieter year this year for our portfolio companies that target the financial services industry. Were working to get term sheets out quickly, though were not at a point where were making a lot of concessions. Were choosy about the companies we work with, but if we cant come to some sort of agreement, we move on. Were also seeing plenty of companies that need to do a little more work before wed consider investing. Were waiting to see if they can make progress in this economic climate.* What is your take on the vibrancy of the DC entrepreneurial community? How will AOLs leaving affect that community?
Ive never been more optimistic about the D.C. region than I am now. Former executives from AOL
, UUNet and MCI continue to make their stamp on the region. The biotech industry is blossoming and is attracting executives from other parts of the country. Microstrategy
is another spawning-ground firm spinning off companies like Appian
. Finally, we have a strong heritage in this region working with the biggest enterprise customer the U.S. government.* We're seeing an increase in the number of social media companies in the D.C. area -- are you or are local VCs considering these deals? How do you feel about the advertising business model?
One of our partners, Joe Allegra
, has been looking at social media companies, and weve probably had presentations from two to three of them. The big question
how do you monetize these companies? Most of them have very little revenue. If the West Coast VCs have success stories with social media companies and obviously they do with YouTube and Facebook they are more likely to invest, rather than anybody out here.* Are there specific sectors or types of technologies in which you are keenly interested?
I spend my time focused on the government and telecom sectors. Edison did very well on an initial investment with BDS (which merged with BTG, then went public in 1992). That deal resulted in a 6x return, one of the bigger returns for government deals but Edison hasnt done a singe government deal since. After several years looking at government technology providers, were starting to zero in on some strong opportunities I have three term sheets out right now. Were looking for industry leaders that can sell globally. People view government as cheap and slow to upgrade, but I think theres an element of automation that all enterprises welcome.* What advice can you share for technology CEOs and marketing professionals, in managing through these tough times?
CEOs should be visible and recognized as a leader in their niche. If they dont feel comfortable in that role, then they need to be willing to pass the mantle to someone else on the executive team. Its also critical that executives focus on identifying differentiators. Overall, my advice to CMOs is to get on the Web and look for ways to automate lead generation. Whether youre selling to the enterprise or to small businesses, you need to make it easy for people to find you.
Consider Regent Education
, based in Frederick. Regent had one tired competitor and the market hadnt seen a new product in 20 years. With our investment, Regent was able to transition their product from COBOL to a JAVA platform and introduce the industrys first web-based financial aid management solution. Within just a few months, the market started to take notice. Earlier this year, Regent was recognized as Firm of the Year
by the Tech Council of Maryland
and was a finalist
for the CODiE Awards
(the only peer-reviewed product award in the software industry). I like the fun of zeroing in on a market and knowing that if we just execute, we could catch their competitors napping. That still gets me charged.
Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year is one of the world’s most prestigious business awards for entrepreneurs. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs.
Each year several SpeakerBox clients participate in the process and labor over their award submissions. We were delighted to sit down with Rene Salas, the program director for the Greater Washington Region to get some insight on the regional process...
- Katie Hanusik* What makes the Entrepreneur of the Year award different from other award programs?
This is the only entrepreneurial awards program that takes place on 6 continents and in over 50 countries. Unlike any other awards banquet, this is a year-long and worldwide program. Many awards programs base their winners solely on financial performance. 9 out of 10 times you can take a look at the financials of a company and know who will win. That is not the case with EOY. This program considers the entrepreneur and his or her story first. The company's success and financial performance are secondary. That makes this program especially difficult to judge, since there is such a qualitative aspect. It also makes it that much more interesting!* What is the evaluation process? How many stages are there (e.g preliminary, finalist) and how many people qualify at each stage?
An independent panel of judges is assembled to select the pre-finalists, finalists, and award winners. We have a panel of 7 judges representing various industries and experiences - venture capitalists, CEOs, Board Members, former winners. They bring a depth of experience that is unmatched and they really understand the process because so many of them have sat in those entrepreneur's seats. The judges are limited to a three-year term, to ensure there are always new insights brought to the process.
There are several stages to the program. All nominees are considered. Then some are chosen to receive an onsite interview as part of the due diligence process. After that, Finalists are announced. Lastly, after interviewing the pool of Finalists, the judges will select one winner in each of the 7-8 categories.
These 7-8 regional winners move on to compete at the National level in Palm Springs in November. There, 10 award winners are announced, and one winner is selected overall to represent the US in the World competition
in Monte Carlo the following May.* Can you share any insight into the judging? The nomination form references: financial performance, innovation, leadership, integrity, community involvement. Are these factors equally weighted - or is one significantly more important?
Our judges consider first and foremost the story of the entrepreneur. They want to hear the magic of the nominee's story including the highs and lows, risks and opportunities they have experienced to get where they are today. They want to know what motivates them and how their product or service is enhancing lives. Some important characteristics include innovation, integrity, strategic direction, and unique characteristics that set them apart from the competition. Also, you can't achieve success by yourself. How these entrepreneurs motivate their colleagues and employees is equally important to the judging process. Lastly, I've noticed our regional judges do like to see that these C-level executives are investing in their local community by demonstrating corporate social responsibility.* How are the categories determined?
Judges have complete discretion over the categories. Generally speaking, categories are aligned by industry. However, the judges have the right to make up their own categories on the regional level. So, we might see a "Social Entrepreneur Of The Year" or an "Emerging" category. They vary from year to year. The judges will usually select the top 7-8 entrepreneurial stories as the winners and determine the finalist categories around those people. This prevents there being two great candidates in one category and none in another. They take the 7 or 8 best, instead of the best one from each category.* What advice would you give to future applicants? How can they best position themselves for success? Should they be nominated by someone else? How important are references? How important is packaging (a big binder full of testimonials/media clips as compared to an online application)?
I would say that this is not the time to be modest. You've worked long hours and took many risks to get to where you are today. This is a forum to be recognized among some of the best and most innovative business people in the world. Don't hold back on sharing the trials and tribulations or the victories. It is also important to position yourself in the same way you market your business - unique.
In my experience the nominator does not make a difference to our judges. Submitting an application online definitely streamlines the process. 98% of our nominations for this year were submitted online. Media hits can easily be uploaded if they are helpful in making a case. We receive so many applications that the more we can streamline them for the judges, the happier everyone is. The judges are not interested in the quality of your PR materials, they are interested in hearing your story.* Realistically, how should an applicant decide if they're ready for an award of this caliber? Are there thresholds in any of the categories that an applicant should consider (especially related to financial performance)?
We have many entrepreneurs submit nominations for several years in a row. The opportunity for networking is significant. We have been told that Entrepreneur Of The Year contributes to employee morale, and I think people just have fun with this process. Generally speaking this program recognizes high growth companies and the entrepreneurs who lead them. Both private and public companies compete in the program. Sometimes if a company is going to go public, we might suggest waiting one more year, but as I said, it is also beneficial for the nominee to get their feet wet by participating and understanding the process first. If you've had a couple of particularly successful years of growth, coupled with a comeback story you're a good candidate for this program.
The press release has been often marked for death (most notably by Tom Foremski
) and resurrected through design (by Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications
), but the fact remains that it is still a viable way for companies to get their news out to the general public. The means of pushing these announcements, however, have changed drastically.
Search engines and social media rule the Internet, so its up to PR professionals to make sure that potential customers are finding their companies and products through the information maelstrom. How do PR pros do this? By optimizing their press releases with keywords.
Keywords are specific words or phrases that customers use to find certain products, services or companies and are the driving force behind search engine optimization and relevance in the online community. PR teams need to closely examine their current websites and marketing materials, and determine what terms are popping up the most. This becomes a great starting point for a SEO strategy.
Analysis tools are also a good solution to help in a keyword analysis, with some of the more popular being:
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Designed with advertising campaigns in mind, Googles solution is a keyword relevance tool that determines what terms or phrases are being searched for the most.
offers a free trial but is pay-to-use
Similar to Googles Keyword Tool, KeywordRemix provides a holistic view of targeted words and phrases