FOCUS: LAUNCHES AND ENTERTAINING - Simultaneous launches Corporations can no longer afford to carry out communications activity in one market alone. Rob Gray looks at the challenges of launches and IPOs in the global marketplace.

Much, perhaps too much, has been written about the growing globalisation of business and the media. But it is an inescapable truth, and the massive increase in internet usage we have seen in recent years has served only to accelerate the process.

Much, perhaps too much, has been written about the growing globalisation of business and the media. But it is an inescapable truth, and the massive increase in internet usage we have seen in recent years has served only to accelerate the process.

It is no longer possible for global corporations to carry out communications activity in one market without thinking of the implications for other markets around the world.

Global strategies are required and global announcements made. Some situations, however, require co-ordination of effort across markets.

Occasionally this calls for simultaneous launches and concurrent communications activities in two or more countries.

'Our experience is that simultaneous launches are becoming more common,' says Shandwick International chief executive corporate Chris Genasi.

'What companies don't want is for one part of the world to do something and another not to be up to speed on it.'

'It's all down to globalisation,' adds Text 100 senior consultant David Alder.

'If a product is launching it's going to have implications worldwide. But activity really needs to be planned carefully. People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.'

Ketchum has had to plan globally for clients such as courier company FedEx.

A good example of this was the launch of FedEx's distribution centre at Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport, its largest 'hub' outside the US.

FedEx founder Fred Smith attended the launch ceremony, which was webcast by CanalWeb to journalists given access to computer screens at events held simultaneously in India, Dubai, the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the US. These journalists were able to take part in a web-based Q&A session held after the launch.

'You need to have pretty big news to merit such a big press conference,' says Ketchum account director Sam Fulton.

'But things are changing in terms of how fast people want information.'

There were 6,383 hits on the webcast site during the first three days it was up - with 766 people remaining online for at least 30 minutes.

Before it was taken down the website achieved over 12,000 hits.

Perhaps surprisingly, 213 of these came from employees who viewed the webcast site via the FedEx Intranet home page, proving that staff often take as much interest in big corporate events as customers and the media.

Technology such as satellite TV links or webcasts make it comparatively easy to connect events taking place across time zones.

But sometimes in the rush to make use of whizzy technology the rudiments of common sense fall by the wayside.

There is no point transmitting the thoughts of a global chief executive across borders if what he or she has to say is not relevant in one or more of the countries it is directed at.

Genasi says there is no substitute for 'doing your homework' to ensure that what is said is pertinent.

Moreover, if a celebrity has a role to play in proceedings it is common sense to make sure that the celebrity in question will be familiar to the audiences in each country involved.

Finally, it pays to offer each market something unique - perhaps by briefing a local analyst on the product or issue and having them on stand-by to answer questions.

It's this sort of attention to detail which can make the difference between an international triumph and a multi-country damp squib.



EIRCOM - THE DUBLIN/LONDON VIEW

Last year's flotation of Eircom - at the time called Telecom Eireann - was Ireland's largest ever privatisation. But while its transformation from a state-owned entity into a publicly listed company valued at well over pounds 5 billion reflected the growing dynamism of the Irish economy, it was also very much an international affair in that the company had opted for a simultaneous listing on the New York, Dublin and London stock exchanges.

This decision necessitated the co-ordination of communications activity across the three countries involved. Not only so as to avoid falling foul of regulations governing the release of sensitive financial information, but to maximise the impact of the flotation among overseas investors.

Eircom listed in New York and London as well as on its domestic exchange because it was keen to attract large US and UK investors. Staff from the New York, Dublin and London offices of PR consultancy Edelman Worldwide worked with Eircom and the Irish government to create awareness in advance of the flotation.

Edelman then made the most of its international capabilities by managing events and co-ordinating communications activities across borders on the day of the three-market listing. In all, just under 20 Edelman employees worked on the assignment.

'The thing about simultaneous launches is that you are creating urgency, immediacy and importance for your client,' says Edelman London managing director John Mahony, who headed up the UK team. 'The media sense the importance of what it is you've created which gives you great opportunities for visibility and to broaden the reach of the story.' The action began in earnest on the eve of the flotation with a photocall in Dublin attended by Eircom chairman Ray MacSharry, its chief executive officer Alfie Kane and Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern.

A digital clock at Eircom's offices counted down to the moment the offer price was to be revealed. This was done in spectacular style. Abseilers bounced down the side of the building amid smoke and a pounding beat from drummers in the street all of which accompanied the unveiling of the share price in Irish punts and euros. This ensured a blaze of newspaper coverage the following day.

To make sure that media and analysts in the three markets had access to Eircom's senior management as the company made its equity markets debut, MacSharry remained in Dublin for the following day, while Kane went out to New York, accompanied by Eircom director of communications Gerry O'Sullivan, to join up with Edelman Dublin managing director Hugh Gillanders who had flown out to oversee the agency's preparations. Meanwhile, Eircom chief financial officer Malcolm Fallon went to London to brief analysts and journalists there while communications manager Majella Fitzpatrick stayed in Dublin.

The day of the flotation began with a photocall at the Irish Stock Exchange featuring MacSharry and the Irish finance minister. By the end of the day shares in Eircom closed at an 18 per cent premium to their offer price.

Eircom had been transformed from an entirely state-owned concern into a company with a broad investor base - the Irish government retained a residual stake of just 1.1 per cent. For more detail on how that was achieved, and the particular emphasis that was placed on cultivating US investors, see the panel (opposite).



EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY WHEN IN NEW YORK

If it's places to meet, to entertain clients or prospective clients you're after, then New York is positively bursting with vibrant places to eat and drink. New York provides plenty of scope for the hungry and thirsty with its plethora of bars, clubs and restaurants. Similarly to London, New York is experiencing a surge of new eating and drinking houses making the choice of that launch or entertainment venue more difficult than ever.

According to the 2000 Zagat Survey, 274 'noteworthy' restaurants opened in 1999. The city boasts more than 100 types of ethnic restaurant, representing virtually every cuisine of the world.

New York is also increasingly attracting people from around the globe with its reputation as a hub of drinking venues.

PR company Bryan Morel recently scooped the business for retailer Holland and Holland. The traditional British brand has recently been shifting its business into the area of designer fashion and is to open its first US store in New York's ultra-hip shopping district, Soho. Account director Keith Wallace went over to the city on behalf of his client for New York's Fashion Week (14-22 September). This gave him the opportunity to sample some of the city's hippest venues.

Restaurant and bar Pastis has barely been open a year and is already hailed as one of New York's most popular venues. It has a zinc-topped bar and is adorned with large antique mirrors and mosaic floor tiles.

Wallace says of Pastis' decor that you could be in Belgium as the atmosphere belies the fact that you are in New York. This is in stark contrast to the ultra-modern minimalism of many other venues.

Silvana is an out-of-the-way, hip and happening Italian bar and restaurant.

Brasserie is a restaurant/bar that has just re-opened. It is very modern but has a 'sweeping roof, in waves of wood', says Wallace. The food is unpretentious Italian cuisine and the venue has a set of 15 video screens so customers can watch people entering and leaving the premises.

Morgan's Bar is a venue that attracts a lot of media types. Then there is the Four Seasons Hotel, which Wallace says anyone who goes to New York should visit. It is frequented by PRs (and serves up the best Martini in the city).

New York's up and coming area is the meat packing district. Formerly a part of the city that predominantly attracted the gay community, the area has seen a steady influx of young professionals.

Ben Bold



EIRCOM - THE US VIEW

From early on during the day of the flotation, Eircom chief executive officer Alfie Kane took part in interviews with key media outlets such as broadcasters CNN and CNBC. But to create wider awareness and drive home the Irish identity of the company within New York's financial district, Edelman arranged for a series of activities to take place on Manhattan's streets.

The New York Stock Exchange building was decked out in Irish colours and passers-by were offered Irish breakfasts of tea or coffee and scones.

Entertainment troupe Macnas performed outside the NYSE wearing over-sized heads bearing the images of famous Irish personalities such as James Joyce and Oscar Wilde - all designed to appeal to the Irish roots of many New Yorkers.

At the NYSE itself, exchange chairman Dick Grasso hosted a breakfast in the boardroom with Kane for a select group of analysts and opinion-formers. Also in attendance was Irish minister for public enterprise Mary O'Rourke, who was particularly hands-on in her support of the Eircom float.

After the breakfast, Grasso rang the bell on the exchange floor to signal the start of trading and then entered into the spirit of the occasion by tapping on a bodhran, a traditional Irish instrument made of goatskin.

Proceedings were relayed by satellite link to an enthusiastic audience of key opinion-formers in Dublin. When the NYSE closed at 3pm US East Coast time, 8pm Irish time, a satellite link was again used to convey the closing share price across the Atlantic -this time to an audience of 250, including many of Eircom's most important customers who had assembled for a dinner at the Conrad Hotel in Dublin. Irish TV personality Pat Kenny presented the live link. Some analysts and government officials also attended the dinner.

'To make sure the whole process was seamless it made sense for me to go over to New York,' says Edelman Dublin managing director Hugh Gillanders.

'From a client perspective it's reassuring to have someone they know on the ground. With something like this you only get one shot at getting it right.'

In some quarters the flotation was referred to as Ireland's sale of the century as nearly one in four Irish adults bought shares. But international perceptions were just as important. It is known that the Irish government was pleased at the level of demand for Eircom shares from investors in the US and UK as it had looked to position the company as an Irish success story. The international communications programme in support of the float certainly drove home that point.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.