Ciena increases focus on PR in its rebranding effort

LINTHICUM, MD: Tech company Ciena recently announced a new market strategy and brand, on the heels of two acquisitions - Internet Photonics and Catena Networks - that is intended to expand the company's reach into new markets.

LINTHICUM, MD: Tech company Ciena recently announced a new market strategy and brand, on the heels of two acquisitions - Internet Photonics and Catena Networks - that is intended to expand the company's reach into new markets.

The company soared during the tech bubble as a developer of optical networking equipment, which increased the bandwidth and efficiency of telecommunications companies' long-distance services.

But then the market collapsed as spending dried up, and Ciena was one of several technology companies that saw the telecommunications IT market shrink from $26 billion in 2001 to $8 billion in 2002, said chief communications officer Suzanne DuLong.

The acquisitions and new brand represent the company's evolution into a networking specialist, said DuLong.

"We took a look at where we were focused, and who our customers would be, and what they would be spending money on," she added. Ciena decided to focus on developing technology that provides internet access.

And as the company moves forward with its new focus, PR will play a significant role in communicating the changes, working hand-in-hand with marketing, assured DuLong.

"We've had to evolve from a technology-focused company to [one with] a stronger focus on marketing and talking to a broader set of customers and potential customers," she said.

DuLong has been promoted from VP of IR to the new post of CCO, which brings all communications functions - including media and analyst relations, employee communications, IR, and government relations - under DuLong's purview.

Her new role gives the company the opportunity to unite communications under one "umbrella and allows "us to be strategic, not just coordinated," added DuLong, who reports to president and CEO Gary Smith.

"We wanted to put in place a communications program that looks at our efforts very holistically," she added.

Particularly important to Ciena's efforts is employee communications. When pursuing a new business strategy and brand identity, a company's toughest critics are often inside the company, she said.

With about half of Ciena's 1,700 employees outside the US, making sure they were all informed about the changes was vital to presenting Ciena's new face to the market.

"Communications will continue to be critical in talking about the company, our approach to the market, and the way we bring value to companies," said DuLong.

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