Earthlink to tout services with 'internet makeovers'

ATLANTA: Earthlink is taking the next phase of its PR right into its customers' homes.

ATLANTA: Earthlink is taking the next phase of its PR right into its customers' homes.

The ISP will choose three households in New York, giving those families "internet makeovers, said Arley Baker, director of communications. The "makeovers are part of Earthlink's bid to attract consumer and lifestyle writers, and not just technology journalists whose readers are well-versed in internet access.

One family with children will be given DSL. Earthlink will upgrade another family from dial-up service to a cable modem. And a young professional will win the third makeover: wireless internet access. The makeovers will hopefully catch the eye of lifestyle and consumer publications, and garner coverage in magazines read by people other than hi-tech diehards.

"What we're doing is trying to demystify technology such as high-speed access, said Baker. "We launched a website called highspeed101.com, that the consumer press can use as a resource. We want to get away from preaching to the choir. We want to show these families how much more rich and interactive their experiences are after we integrate the internet into their lives."

Earthlink is working with Can Do Woman, a company that researches and creates content, delivering it for television, radio, newspapers, and magazines via an e-mail newsletter and website.

This campaign, expected to begin by late September, follows a new ad campaign touting Earthlink as the alternative to annoying delays, drop-offs, pop-up ads, and excessive spam. Earthlink also introduced new software to reduce pop-up ads, a move covered by only the technology and business press, highlighting the ISP's desire for more mainstream coverage.

A recent ad and PR campaign focusing on internet privacy raised awareness of Earthlink, but didn't attract many new customers, said Baker. While privacy is important to customers, it is not a decisive factor in selecting an ISP. So Earthlink is hoping its focus on the issues that do infuriate people - from pop-up ads to trouble signing onto the internet - will resonate with potential consumers.

Highlighting these issues is vital for Earthlink, said Baker, because there are very few new people coming online for the first time. ISPs are now trying to poach each other's customers, and Earthlink is hoping that its promise of better service will drive customers away from competitors.

McGrath/Power will help with another consumer campaign focusing on the MailStation, a small device enabling people to send and receive e-mail without a computer. Earthlink will look for small communities that do not use the internet.

"We will give them MailStations for a few months, and will document how the use of e-mail changes their everyday lives. Our goal is to get local, regional, and national press, and really bring the brand into the marketplace, said Baker.

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