Case Study: Maximizing the Power of a Fortune 500 Brand Name to Host a Large-Scale Technology Day for MCI

How Media Relations Teams Can Leverage Large-Scale Press Events to Generate Millions of Dollars Worth of Publicity from a Single Media Event

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Robert Hoskins, Jim Louderback, Stan Gibson, John Gerdelman, Erica Schroeder and Jim Collins on PC Week’s Corporate Jet Trip Tour to the very first MCI Technology Day

Many PR folks, especially those with only few years of experience, will overlook fantastic media story opportunities because they simply don’t know where to look to find great stories. The executives, the facilities, the data centers, the network management centers, the call centers and even a powerful brand name has been built. Everything that is needed for success is in place, but unfortunately is laying dormant waiting to be discovered and utilized.

This is why working with experienced PR pros with more than 25+ of experience is critical to company’s PR success. Seasoned veterans seem to develop an uncanny ability to line up the assets, connect the dots and instantly recognize picture perfect media opportunities that they know their media contacts would love to cover.

After years of pitching reporters stories, lining up briefings for industry analysts, working with sales to get customer testimonials, attending the industry’s largest trade shows, providing press materials for media kit rooms, setting up interviews in press rooms or at the booth, placing speakers on discussion panels, building and tearing down trade show booths, training personnel, and setting for up remote interview rooms for several days of exclusive non-stop interviews for executives, a real PR pro seeks ways to eliminate the noise and to streamline this whole PR and marketing process.

For example, after you’ve wined, dined and talked to the various parties involved in the whole marketing process, you realize that reporters are like normal people and hate the wear and tear of trudging around trade shows meeting with hundreds of vendors just like anyone else. Same thing goes for industry analysts. And even management team executives get exhausted from having to do countless interviews, speaking on panel discussions and giving key note speeches, all of which require many hours of preparation and lots of time on the road.

Last, but not least, is competing with the noise from sheer number of competitors who have just as many PR, marketing and sales personnel who are all competing for  the same time slots to speak with less than a couple of hundred reporters and industry analysts.

The cool thing about working for Fortune 500 companies is the true power of their brand name and the size of their company. You’d think that having deep pockets to fund large scale marketing campaigns would be the key to success, which is certainly not a bad thing, but in reality it is the draw of the brand name that opens doors for very large, publicly-traded corporations that are simply are not open to small and mid-sized companies.

One of the main benefits of working with large corporations is that their executives are media trained and understand the true importance of gaining as much credible press coverage as possible. A great front page story in a leading trade publication is very successful way to influence the stock market and cause buyers to drive the stock price up by $1.50. And when you’re sitting on several million shares of stock options, working with PR folks becomes one of the best ways to increase their personal portfolio. This means they trust their PR people and are more than willing to follow their advice.

Going back to one of our favorite clients, MCI. We pitched their executive management team on the concept of creating their very own trade show event dubbed “MCI Technology Day” so that we would not have to compete with the usual hustle, bustle, noise and competition present at large trade shows.

They agreed quickly. Why did MCI execs say yes?

It was an easy sell to MCI’s accounts payable – According to their estimates MCI would save their company some big time dollars on travel requirements, hotel rooms, executive meeting schedules and other factors usually associated with traveling to large cities with marked up convention rates such as Las Vegas, Boston, DC, Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco or other popular trade show venues.

It was an easy sell to MCI executives – MCI had very large facilities with huge lunch rooms and foyers that could be converted and used free of charge to host the events. Most executives worked at these same facilities, which meant no expensive travel or hotel rooms would be required for the one day event. It also meant that the four MCI corporate jets usually tasked with flying executives to and from events would be vacant and could be used to ferry reporters, editors, analysts, and MCI customers to the exclusive media event, a huge perk in the Fortune 500 world.

It was an easy sell to reporters and analysts – Similar to MCI execs this was a one day event, which for an exclusive group of 40 reporters and industry analysts meant a free corporate jet. However, in a surprising twist for the MCI corporate communications department, instead of accepting a free corporate jet trip, all of the reporters opted to look up the price of a normal airline ticket for same trip and all wrote checks to compensate MCI for the privilege, making it the only PR event in MCI history that earned more than $40,000 in revenue from the media. In addition, another 70+ members of the media attended on their own nickel to attend this exclusive invite only event.

Was the MCI Technology Day successful? – The first MCI Technology Day wildly exceeded all of our planned PR goals and objectives for the event. The format of the event was not really anything different than what one would expect from attending a regular trade show. There were panel discussions, power point presentations from MCI experts grouped by subject matter expertise and even a post-event keynote speech from former Executive Vice President of MCI Engineering, John Gerdelman.

Why was the MCI Technology Day so effective? – Believe it or not the main factor contributing to the event’s overwhelming success was the seating chart for the concluding keynote speaking event. Most trade shows open with a keynote speech followed by a day-long schedule of panel discussions. We went the opposite direction instead we because we had been assigned the mission of promoting the power, speed and reliability of MCI’s global fiber network for both their data, internet, and telecom networks.

Most events like this are setup by marketing folks where attendees would be allowed to sit anywhere during the keynote, but since this event was setup by our expert media relations team, we had special tables setup seat 20 people by subject matter with name tent cards for each specific reporter, industry analyst, MCI executives, MCI Fortune 500 customers, all of which were managed by one or more MCI PR staffers.

Front Page PR did this with one specific goal in mind. Reporters had already been briefed all morning long by MCI’s finest engineers followed by the keynote that summarized MCI’s global initiative to have the fastest and most reliable fiber optic network on the planet. Reporters were sitting adjacent to the appropriate MCI executives so that they could meet one another, build relationships and gather their own proprietary news quotes for stories. Also present at the same table were industry analysts needed for third-party verification. Last, but not least, were actual MCI Fortune 500 customers that could discuss why they had selected MCI as a premiere network service provider.

In addition, this event broke down the barriers that are very common in large corporations where more than 100 PR professionals are assigned silos of corporation information/messages along with their respective executives.

Front Page PR’s team was charged with promoting technologies that MCI was exploring to build out the most sophisticated network in the world possible as well as the engineering teams that were responsible for building out and managing MCI’s actual network. But once a technology was productized our team were barred from crossing PR silo boundaries and setting up interviews with product marketing executives and vice versa from product PR folks that wanted to setup interviews with technology executives.

This event was extremely successful in allowing both technology PR and product PR people to sit at the same table and work together with all executives and no barriers. Reporters and industry analysts loved the opportunity to speak to product executives to get the low-down on features and benefits as well as receive in-depth technical engineering explanations of how products and services were being supported by MCI’s leading edge technology.

And yes, since we had mirrored the event after a trade show press room, reporters were able to file their stories via Wi-Fi access points right from the keynote table where they were assigned to sit. Thus, this resulted in hundreds of stories being filed before the media departed the event because they had every interview resource they needed sitting right next to them or across the table write an in-depth story covering the event.

Very few PR teams or PR agencies have had a chance to work with resources like this and leverage them to achieve massive PR success with the press. Front Page PR is one exception to the rule and we achieve the exact same success for your company.

Why not give Front Page PR a call and let us know how we can help your company?

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