From global rollouts to twice-yearly report cards, BMC Software and AOR Waggener Edstrom benefit from a symbiotic relationship.
Prior to hiring Waggener Edstrom Worldwide as its AOR in June 2006, Mark Stouse, global communications leader at Houston-based BMC Software, along with his colleagues, put the firm's staff through a rigorous three-month-long set of paces. They even tested the skills of junior employees who would work on the account. The reason: WE representatives would be de facto employees at the maker of business-service management solutions, interacting with BMC personnel on a regular basis and handling a robust role in creating and carrying out the company's PR strategy, according to Stouse.
“My objective here is to, in so far as it is possible, dissolve the boundary lines between the agency and the [internal] team. And while obviously there are human resources-type exceptions with that, there is no distinction,” he says, adding that about 85% of BMC's PR personnel are WE employees.
“I think a key is that I manage the WE team in the same way that I manage my own people,” adds Stouse. “Everyone has performance goals and everyone gets a report card at the end of every half, and that is applied equally to all members of the team.”
After more than two years working together, and an expected budget increase of more than three times its original seven-figure amount, employees of BMC and WE are working on a high level of integration, Stouse explains. WE won the account after an exhaustive three-month pitch process involving 14 other firms.
“It's like if you watch an NBA team that has played together for a long time, and at such and such a time they can look to the bottom of the key and [another player] will be there and ready to take the pass,” he says. “It's a very organism-like team environment, and that's one reason why we place value in minimizing turnover on the account team.”
Metrics are key
Yet improving even a close-knit relationship between agency and client takes more than shared experiences and trust. Like many others in the industry, BMC and WE use standard metrics – shared voice, tonality, and reach – to measure the effectiveness of its PR programs. However, the team also uses categories such as “lost opportunity” to illustrate the number of times a rival executive appears in the media. And it tracks the number of customers who are quoted in television or print reports, according to Stouse, who says that the company also measures Web site downloads against media coverage. In fact, when WE won the account, Stouse explained to PRWeek the importance of tying ROI and other specific business metrics to PR.
WE personnel often take those results and use them to discuss the company's public perception with BMC's sales force. Hearing from the sales staff about how BMC's PR team can make their work more efficient, while not a metric easily
inserted into statistics, helps WE staff on the BMC account, says Jen Cadmus, WE account director.
“[We] don't shy away from going straight to the people who feel it. The sales staff tells us how we can help to close deals – the why and why not,” she says.
“I know that's not a metric you can put in the bar chart, but hearing a sales person talk about how they can make quotas is a powerful thing.”
Everyone is in the loop
A close-knit working relationship between BMC and WE, combined with constantly updated and shared metrics, helps to keep those working on the account continuously in the loop on all aspects of BMC's business. That bond is helpful, to say the least, when dealing with BMC's unique set of business challenges, which include competing globally with other well-known software makers. The close relationship and sharing of information allows WE to respond quickly to problems, says Emma Richards, WE associate director and EMEA director for the BMC account.
“You actually feel that you are able to have a very transparent conversation about what the problem is... and that doesn't always happen,” she says. “That means you can address any situation very quickly and that it can be resolved in the best possible way.”
Among the other challenges that the internal PR staff at BMC and WE employees have tackled in tandem are worldwide product rollouts, which force the combined PR team to face distinct, and language-specific, challenges in various countries. Familiarity among internal and agency staffers helps PR pros to maintain consistent messaging despite working in various regions, explains Sarah Pocock, BMC senior media and analyst relations manager.
“The fact that there are no surprises is a good thing,” she says. “When you're doing this sort of rollout – cross-country, cross-culture, and cross-language – naturally you're going to encounter some situations. It's reassuring when your vendor is up-front saying, ‘This is what's happening,' so that there are no surprises and you can remedy any situation and move on.”
Stouse adds that employing one agency with a global reach also makes better business sense than employing a number of firms. It's also considerably harder to formulate a consistent message while using multiple agencies during a worldwide rollout.
“If I have representation in eight countries and I am paying overhead over and over again, that is a very inefficient use of budget,” he notes. “[With] the cross-agency communication, it slows us down; our speed to market is slower. But when we integrate and say [WE] owns all this, we are paying the overhead once... we have much more efficient information, and it cascades in a much more uniform way than if it is splintered.”
How BMC maximizes its PR investment
Uses PR to bolster sales pitches to prospective customers; BMC recently won the business of a major global bank due in part to press and analyst coverage
As part of its “competitive attack” program, which fact-checks the quotes of other companies' management, the company's PR team regularly takes on rivals
The PR staff has raised awareness of company operations by focusing on business perspectives and knowledge of market players
Instituted a relations program to forge closer ties with analysts