When launching a business-to-business product or service, PR professionals often face the same challenges—igniting media attention and properly introducing a client’s technology or service in an interesting way, all while making it stand out in a crowded marketplace.
To spread the word about the launch of its CapRock One service, Harris CapRock Communications turned to M/C/C. The new service is a land-based communications platform that can interface with a variety of offshore devices around the world used on cruise ships, oil rigs and with satellites. Other platforms can interface with only a few devices, necessitating the need for several platforms to be available. This, the company felt, would attract industry attention without having to resort to gimmicks for publicity. That attitude and the company’s respected position in the industry informed M/C/C’s thinking about crafting a straightforward yet robust communications plan.
Goals were established for the launch that included generating top-tier media coverage around Harris CapRock One, educating market analysts about the new service and securing speaking engagements at industry trade shows to gain thought leadership and further strengthen the company as a player in the market.
While many launch campaigns target media alone, Harris CapRock and M/C/C believed reaching out to market analysts would be crucial, too. Market analysts can build trust with audiences and create a sense of security and safety. If an expert touts a product’s virtues, he or she validates it for customers and potential customers.
In keeping with the no-nonsense approach mentioned above, M/C/C and Harris CapRock crafted key messages that not only explained the service’s technical details, but also outlined how it could solve some of the industry’s major pain points.
Another key to the launch of Harris CapRock One was implementing an embargo strategy with both the media and analysts. The embargo strategy allowed M/C/C to schedule interviews well in advance of the launch date, giving journalists ample time to develop stories, get photos, check facts and ask last-minute questions before publishing.
To follow up this strategy, M/C/C identified top-tier media contacts and analysts. For this launch that meant contacting trade publications in the satellite, energy and cruise sectors, as well as analysts in those industries.
When setting up calls, details of the launch and the product were left vague in email invitations. The subject line was simple, trading on Harris CapRock’s reputation in the industry. It read: “Embargoed Briefing Request with Harris CapRock.” The only information provided in the body of the email was that Harris CapRock had important news to share about a new product. After journalists agreed to the embargo, interviews were scheduled. The thinking was that a simple invitation for an embargoed briefing from a major player like Harris CapRock would garner respect from media and analysts and cut through the clutter. The tactic worked.
Choosing the Briefers
M/C/C and Harris CapRock decided that the company’s CTO and president would lead the briefings. The choice of these senior executives would signal the announcement’s importance. In addition, with technology at the center, these executives were the right choices as both were tech savvy and comfortable with public speaking. Their talking points included discussing the technology’s development, why it was game-changing and how it might influence the industry—topics expected to resonate with analysts and journalists. In addition, the executives were media veterans, having completed media training and at ease interacting with reporters.
To assist the executives, documents were prepared containing basic logistics information such as the date and time of the briefings and phone numbers. But they also included background information on the reporter and the publication, and samples of the reporter’s work. The documents included contacts for the reporter and his or her publication.
For each briefing, a video conference was set up so that Harris CapRock executives could effectively walk through the embargoed presentation. M/C/C and Harris CapRock designed illustrations and videos that helped explain the technology. Different versions were made for individual vertical markets. For instance, explanations and visuals of how Harris CapRock One worked on cruise ships were included in briefings with cruise trade publications.
An M/C/C representative was present during all the phone briefings to make sure things began smoothly. Once the call started, Harris CapRock executives took the lead, walking through the content and answering questions from journalists and industry analysts.
A press release also was shared with journalists and analysts. It, too, included an embargo, announced in bold, capital letters at the top of the document. A key detail was including the expiration date and time of the embargo. Outlets publish articles online at various times. With an embargo time included, journalists were aware of when they could post stories.
The embargo strategy worked well. After the embargo, articles were published that coincided with the timing of Harris CapRock’s public announcement of the service.
As expected, the service’s innovative technology and features intrigued media and analysts. This led to top-tier coverage and much attention early in the introduction. It then set in motion a wave of coverage both at launch and in the weeks following. Harris CapRock executives conducted seven interviews. Launch coverage surpassed 85 articles, including 21 features on the new offering.
Just two weeks after the launch, Harris CapRock exhibited at a pair of industry trade shows—excellent settings to showcase the new solution in person. In addition to securing two speaking slots at these shows to introduce Harris CapRock One to customers, M/C/C set up five interviews with reporters at the events for hands-on demonstrations. Those interviews resulted in a second wave of media coverage.
The Social Media Component
To support these core media relations efforts, M/C/C produced blog articles for Harris CapRock’s blog, The Link, with different angles on the solution that applied to the cruise, energy and satellite markets.
In addition, company executives wrote thought leadership articles that were distributed on Oilpro, the energy industry’s vertical social network with links back to the Harris CapRock blog. M/C/C worked with Harris CapRock to create videos that demonstrated how the technology worked in each of the targeted vertical markets. The videos were posted on the company’s YouTube channel.
M/C/C also secured contributed articles in trade magazines that Harris CapRock executives wrote. This content marketing component gave reporters supplemental material to link to and include in their coverage. It also gave Harris CapRock an avenue to tell a more in-depth story.
After any campaign or launch it’s always beneficial to evaluate what lessons can be gleaned from the experience. Here’s an overview of some of the top lessons from the B2B launch campaign:
- While it seems obvious to communicators, companies often make the mistake of downplaying the importance of communications for a launch.
- Conveying key messages clearly and cohesively across multiple vehicles is critical. Today this means moving beyond written material and creating visual content. Execution should not be overlooked either. It’s always a good idea to review a presentation well before the first interview to ensure kinks are worked out and ideas are communicated clearly.
- Embargos work well for journalists and clients.
For the most part, we found that trade journalists appreciate embargos and will agree to them easily.
- When pitching, stay focused.
The straightforward approach to the briefing request emails generated responses from the media that produced results. Often less is more when news is under embargo.
- Start pitching early.
Consider deadlines of print publications. For the launch most of the media outlets were monthly trade publications with three-month deadlines. If inclusion in those print outlets is a goal, planning pitching activities well in advance is crucial.
- Media tours are almost completely virtual.
Unless the launch takes place around an event, most media and analyst briefings no longer take place in person. Ensure company executives are comfortable with the technology behind online presentations well before the first interview.
- Plan your product launch around an event, such as a trade show.
Although this may not always be possible, the launch of Harris CapRock One coincided with two major industry events. This definitely worked to the advantage of the launch since these shows were perfect opportunities to discuss the new service in person.
- Support campaigns through other mediums like a company’s blog or social channels.
It was helpful to be able to point back to the YouTube channel that housed videos which demonstrated the new product.
The Harris CapRock One launch pulled no punches. It was designed to be comprehensive yet straightforward. In a world filled with hype, this launch went the other way. Invitations to media and market analysts were direct and dignified. This was in keeping with the strategy that CapRock One’s technology and features were impressive enough to interest journalists and their readers. Clearly this was an unusual case in that the product could stand on its own, the company’s reputation was strong and the launch was timed in concert with trade shows. M/C/C used these elements to design a successful launch.
CONTACT: Rebecca Renfroe is PR director at M/C/C. She can be reached at: email@example.com
This article originally appeared in the November 2, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.