CAMPAIGN: Media Relations - Shining example of media support

Client: Terabeam (Kirkland, WA)

PR Team: Waggener Edstrom (Seattle)

Campaign: Post-September 11

Time Frame: September-October 2001

Budget: Part of regular PR budget

As difficult as it was for hi-tech companies to reach out to the

skeptical media before the terrorist attacks of September 11, the

situation become even more challenging in the following weeks. Yet

despite a conscious decision by laser-based telecommunications company

Terabeam not to promote its work in helping to reconnect New York's

financial community, the company found itself at the center of several

positive profiles. Much of that can be credited to the relationship

building and reporter education done by the company and its PR firm,

Waggener Edstrom, in the months prior to September 11.


One of the issues that Terabeam had long faced was how to explain the

fairly complex subject of free-space optics in ways that can be easily

understood by both the press and the public. While the company has a

demonstration center in its corporate headquarters near Seattle, few of

the journalists the company was trying to reach were based in the

Pacific Northwest. In order to expand its PR efforts, Terabeam opened a

second center in New York City this past summer. Though the demo centers

are also used as a sales tool, "they were done with the media in mind,"

says Lou Gellos, Terabeam senior account manager. "We actually designed

it to take journalists through."

Journalists who've toured the facilities have received live

presentations on how free-space optics can deliver vast amounts of data

from different content streams simultaneously, providing a

cost-effective "last mile" solution. "The demo centers became important

to push the cynics beyond that cynical stage," says Gellos. "Once they

got beyond that, it triggered a whole new set of questions: Does it

scale? Is the company solvent? Will it last given the economy? Those are

the questions we have the answers to."

Among the reporters taking the tour was The Wall Street Journal's Dennis

Berman, who wrote a story on how Terabeam was selling itself to the

business community.


In the days following the terrorist attacks, financial giant Merrill

Lynch asked Terabeam to assist in restarting its information


Under normal circumstances, this would have been a prime PR opportunity,

but given the national mood, Gellos and WagEd decided not to issue a

press release. "Post September 11, in many respects, I have done the

exact opposite of what I'd done before," says Gellos. "I haven't put out

a word because I don't think it's right. Many reporters and editors who

continued to get pitches during that time were abhorred by it, and I'm

very glad we didn't do it."

Nonetheless, word spread of Terabeam's efforts in lower Manhattan. When

The Wall Street Journal heard of Terabeam's work, Berman revised his

original story idea and instead focused on the post-attack recovery


Other journalists also began calling Terabeam, asking about its


WagEd provided the company with media support, funneling reporters to

Gellos, and providing background information, but did not reach out to

reporters directly. "Much of the coverage Terabeam received was because

of the relationships Lou had built up with reporters," notes Wag-Ed

account manager Jennifer Gehrt.


Without a press release, let alone a media kit, Terabeam's efforts to

get Merrill Lynch and others in New York back online received coverage

from coast to coast. In addition to The Wall Street Journal feature, all

three major Seattle-area newspapers - the Post-Intelligencer, Seattle

Times, and East Side Journal - ran articles. In addition, the company's

efforts received coverage in trade magazines such as Fiber Optic



The Journal article has triggered several follow-up calls, including one

from Time, which interviewed Gellos and toured Terabeam's New York

center. While Gellos says he is still not publicizing the company's

work, he continues to receive calls from journalists, some of whom have

praised Terabeam and WagEd for their restraint in the weeks following

the attacks.

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