Using PR to Build Thought Leadership and Drive Market Leadership – Part 3 of 3
By Terri Douglas and Christie Denniston, Catapult PR-IR
In the first two parts of this series (Part One is here, Part Two is here), we discussed the elements that make up an industry thought leadership program and then explored ways to execute strategies around those elements. But, there is no better way to articulate a successful process than by illustrating it through real-world examples.
We are going to share two (but, we have many more!):
DANUBE = SCRUM
The first example is based on a company formerly called Danube. The organization was a relatively small, but well-respected company, based out of Portland, Oregon, that focused on a software methodology called Scrum. Scrum-based software development utilizes a very focused, team-based process of developing software. Danube was formed by two brothers, Laszlo and Victor Szalvay. Founded primarily as a services (training/consulting) firm, the Szalvays realized they had great potential to be positioned as a products company. Danube had been offering its Scrum software for free and had one of the largest install bases of Scrum users in the entire software development industry! The company just had begun offering its ScrumWorks Pro for a fee when Catapult PR-IR was retained with the objective of repositioning the company with the end goal of being acquired.
This tremendous asset of a large and loyal following base of users coupled with Danube’s cache of having the industry’s largest number of Scrum Masters, expert consultants in their field, led to the idea of how Catapult could move and re-position the company as a leader in the Scrum software development space.
Through a carefully orchestrated thought leadership program, Catapult effectively re-positioned Danube from being perceived as a services business to a Scrum software provider. We accomplished this within 18 months.
The Szalvays realized relevant, quality content was an effective way to tell their story. Danube hired a full-time copy writer to draft a series of by-lined articles (50 of them within 18 months!), positioning the firm as thought leaders in their industry. In turn, Catapult placed the content in key strategic industry publications. In addition, Danube secured many micro web sites where it could place this (library) of content. Before we knew it, Danube had an entire repository of thought leadership articles posted on various subject-oriented microsites (none of which even mentioned Danube!). They became resources to their customers, partners, prospects, the media and analyst community. Also in tandem, Catapult and the company spent time on analyst and media relations – educating these important influencers on what Scrum was and, through this process, positioned Danube as the leader in this space. Danube had a story to be told and it shared it with a community interested in learning more about the evolving role of Scrum.
The bottom line is that not only did we execute a thought leadership strategy superbly by re-positioning Danube from being perceived as a services business into a products company, but, helped escalate its exit strategy. The company was purchased within 18 months from the start of our campaign.
SONIC FOUNDRY CARVES A NEW MARKET CATEGORY PATH
Based out of Madison, Wisconsin, Sonic Foundry was considered the darling of and leader in the prosumer desktop software market. It made audio and video editing and “loop-based online music creation tools” like “Acid.” We often referred to moving their market position from the basement to the boardroom.
Sonic Foundry had grown successfully, but, was at a point of inflection where it needed to scale its business. Still, it had a very loyal and vibrant fan following. It acquired a company out of Pittsburgh, PA in late 2001 called Mediasite. The technology was more enterprise-based and sophisticated than its previous generations of prosumer software. Sonic Foundry also had its hands in digital video conversion through another company it had acquired in Canada for the entertainment industry. As a publicly traded company, investors and customers alike wondered “where is this company going? What does it stand for?” There was lots of confusion.
With the purposeful acquisition of Mediasite, Sonic Foundry saw an opportunity to move into the enterprise. The company saw it as a way to scale its business and enter new territories of government, education and big business.
First thing out of the chute, Sonic Foundry wanted to announce its presence at one of the industry’s largest government shows. Yet, it didn’t have the credibility behind it to do so. The company was a favorite among prosumers, not enterprises. Catapult devised a three-part plan to help transition Sonic Foundry into its new markets of government and Homeland Security.
First, we needed to establish credibility. We used Mediasite’s relationship with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), a very well-respected academic and research institution, to align Sonic Foundry’s recent acquisition of Mediasite as a proof point of reference. CMU has a long history of working on government and defense projects, so this served us well. We used the Dean of the College of Computer Science as one of the spokespersons and the other from Mediasite.
We then launched a full campaign around the National ID card that was being discussed at the time shortly after 9/11. We were careful to position it properly so as not to put any one company, organization or thing down, but, only to offer an opposing view regarding other options that might exist for national security.
It was wildly successful. We had interviews with national business press, government reporters, civil rights journalists, local press and the list goes on. Collectively, we conducted a Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C. to further position Sonic Foundry as an expert and thought leader – using the previous spokespersons mentioned above – as well as congressional representatives to help build our case.
Sonic Foundry sold the “prosumer” part of its business off to Sony Pictures one year later. It took the money from that sale and rebuilt itself. In the meantime, Catapult created a “communications” bridge redefining the company and, in the process, creating an entirely new market category of rich media communications.
It took off. We carved a whole new path together with Sonic Foundry. The company went from being a “prosumer desktop software tools provider” to an “enterprise leader of rich media communications.”
We did this in less than two years.
They are still the market leader today.
The bottom line? To be a thought leader, you not only need to act like one, you need to demonstrate it through the written word, through your actions (speaking), through proof points, and alignment with partners.
It takes time, but, in today’s fast-paced world two years of concerted effort can transform not only a business but an entire industry.
Terri Douglas is co-founder and principal of Catapult PR-IR. A veteran of the high-tech world, she has more than 25 years experience leading the PR/IR activities of industry leaders and emerging growth companies. At Catapult, Douglas is responsible for the strategy, development and execution of customized PR programs that move your business forward. She also leads investor relations initiatives, and assists with positioning and messaging and corporate public relations.
Christie Denniston, APR is senior director, client services, Catapult PR-IR. She is an accredited member of PRSA and brings a passion for excellence and more than 10 years of experience in public relations, marketing and corporate communications for Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and non-profit organizations. At Catapult, Denniston helps develop and execute the media and analyst relations strategies that position the firm’s clients as leaders in their respective industries. She also participates in business development and is responsible for managing many of the day-to-day media outreach, project management and client communication activities of her assigned clients. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is president of the Boulder Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Denniston holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in public relations, sociology and political science from Drake University. In addition, she has a Master’s degree in public administration, with an emphasis in executive leadership from Drake University.