CAMPAIGNS: Company Launch - Two 'strikes' and you're in business

Client: EmployeeMatters (Stamford, CT)

Client: EmployeeMatters (Stamford, CT)

Client: EmployeeMatters (Stamford, CT)

PR Team: PepperCom (New York)

Campaign: Revolution in the Workplace

Time Frame: July to October 2000

Budget: dollars 35,000



EmployeeMatters offers small and mid-size companies a 'virtual HR department' by handling payroll, benefits and other pesky personnel tasks.

Employers and their employees communicate with the company primarily through an intranet. EmployeeMatters' target audience is tech outfits and Internet start-ups (those that are left).

The company decided to launch at the Internet World conference in Chicago in July, but had to break through the proverbial trade-show clutter.

So it set its sights on showing potential clients that they could rid themselves of the headache of handling their HR administration - while complying with the maze of employment laws - and save money in the process.



Strategy

As the largest tech-oriented event in the Midwest, Internet World Chicago presented the perfect launch opportunity. 'We turn up at those shows to recruit other exhibitors,' explains EmployeeMatters CEO and cofounder Elliot Cooperstone. 'There's a great concentration of our target market.'

The company's PR agency, PepperCom, was charged with garnering image-building publicity for EmployeeMatters and its services, driving traffic to the booth and showcasing the company as a thought-leader on workplace issues.



Tactics

A month before Internet World, PepperCom, along with research firm Leflein Associates, surveyed CEOs and other senior executives to find out what they consider high-priority workplace issues. The survey found that 54% of companies had no written sexual harassment policy, and furthermore, 64% had no plans to develop one in the next year. The agency released the results on the first day of Internet World to support the need for EmployeeMatters' services.

In a witty promotional activity, EmployeeMatters had a Drew Carey impersonator at its booth. The look-alike told workplace jokes and exhorted attendees to check out a demo and enter a contest for a free porch. (PepperCom partner Peter Harris says the agency tried to get Drew Carey himself as a celebrity spokesman but he was too expensive.)

The agency also used a guerrilla marketing scheme.

A roving band of picketers - actually hired actors - staged 'strikes' against traditional business practices. The protesters held signs with messages on both the front and the back. For example, 'I QUIT managing employee administration' appeared on the front, while the back said, 'WE ACCEPT the opportunity to handle your employee administration,' and identified EmployeeMatters' booth by number.

'That was great, not just because it gets attention but because it really does relate to the sense of frustration small business owners have when it comes to this,' says Cooperstone. 'People do want to quit. They want to get this stuff off their plate. So the concept of going on strike seemed to resonate well.'

Cooperstone calls the Drew Carey impersonator and the picketers 'the talk of the event' and reports that his salespeople routinely overheard trade show attendees talking about the stunt. The tactics were repeated at Internet World in New York in October.



Results

At Internet World Chicago, EmployeeMatters won 'Best in Show' in the Best Business Application category. And Business to Business magazine lauded the PR campaign's creativity. Harris says that after the show, the company had 75 leads.

The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press were given access to the survey results ahead of time, and both ran articles on the first day of the show.

The campaign had 33 newspaper hits in July (mostly articles based on the AP report) with a total circulation of 26.5 million. Original articles appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Greenwich Time, The Stamford Advocate and Investors Business Daily.



Future

PepperCom was a victim of its own success. At least partly due to the campaign, Intuit bought EmployeeMatters in November and PepperCom lost the account. 'Our focus is shifting from building an individual brand to marketing to clients of Intuit's book division,' says Cooperstone.



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