CEO involvement in Verizon product push wows media

NEW YORK: A media alert revealing that Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg would preside over a product announcement attracted swarms of media to a recent conference call.

NEW YORK: A media alert revealing that Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg would preside over a product announcement attracted swarms of media to a recent conference call.

Verizon issued the alert just 24 hours before the call, with Seidenberg's involvement part of Verizon's plan to attract heavy media attention. The "Veriations All plan allows customers to buy local, long-distance, and cellular phone service, plus DSL, all in one package and on one bill, for less money than if customers bought the services separately.

"It's normal to do an advisory before any call, said Jim Smith, director of media relations for retail markets. "The idea of using the CEO came from media relations. And no arm-twisting was involved. He wanted to participate in this to make sure it got the attention it was due."

About 225 reporters and analysts listened to the call, nearly twice the number that normally take part, resulting in what Smith called coverage by "TV, radio, and a ton-and-a-half of print."

Seidenberg's appearance for something as typically mundane as a product or service announcement so intrigued the press that The Washington Post and The New York Times began snooping immediately upon receiving the media alert, and printed stories the day of the call. Major coverage followed in newspapers and on news websites.

Verizon is following this mass coverage with more concentrated media outreach as the new all-in-one plan rolls out across the country.

"We won't ask for articles, but will set up roundtables to talk with reporters and editors, said Smith. "We want to dispel the idea that phone companies are bad and charge for everything."

Chlopak Leonard Schechter & Associates (CLS) is working on the campaign.

"We have a real focus on consumer reporters, not just tech reporters who write about telecom issues, said Kelly Sullivan, SVP at CLS.

The strategy is to present the consolidation of services as a story about simplifying lives and budgets, not a tech or telecom story, said Sullivan.

That's why CLS is also reaching out to magazines such as Real Simple, along with women's publications, and positioning this as a lifestyle story, not a technology story.

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