CAMPAIGNS: Web Launch - iBelieve brings faith to the Web

Client: (Grand Rapids, MI)

Client: (Grand Rapids, MI)

Client: (Grand Rapids, MI)

PR Team: Lambert, Edwards & Associates (Grand Rapids, MI)

Campaign: Launch

Time Frame: July 1999 to January 2000

Budget: dollars 100,000 brings a decidedly spiritual perspective to cyberspace,

presenting stories like how to make your marriage last and the thoughts

of four actors about having portrayed Jesus. In launching the Web site,

Family Christian Stores turned to Lambert, Edwards & Associates with the

mission of making it the ’leading Christian lifestyle site on the

Internet’ - and the place where Christians will buy their books,

apparel, software and videos, says Jeff Lambert, a principal at Lambert



Lambert says his agency’s assignment was not only to launch

but to attract hi-tech talent and convince employees that the Internet

spin-off would not compete with the 360 Family Christian Stores in 39


’We looked at what they wanted to accomplish from a site perspective,

which was not just a retailer-goes-online site but a lifestyle site,’

says Lambert. ’And the PR campaign had to tie into the other two


With very little research available into the potential Christian

Internet market, Lambert Edwards had a survey conducted, eventually

discovering an ’affinity group’ of some 35 million Internet-active


The survey, which also revealed that no existing Web site had a monopoly

on the Christian Web market, drove the rest of the campaign. ’It was the

mainstream sites that we viewed as our competition,’ Lambert comments.

’ was our main competitor.’


The venture was announced in September, with the size of the Christian

Internet market used as a news hook. The launch wouldn’t occur until

January, but the agency wanted to maintain media interest, explains

Lambert Edwards associate Tara Powers. So, with only a bare-bones

presence at the time, the site sought to increase traffic with a poll on

’The Most Influential Christians of the 20th Century.’

Releases were sent to 200 Internet and business outlets, followed by

selective follow-up calls. Though there was not much coverage at first -

it was mentioned in Contemporary Christian Music Update and on the Fox

News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor - the poll did get significant

attention through a lead story on Alta Vista. About 5,000 people

participated. ’This (poll) was a good example of something that was

really developed to drive people to the site,’ says Lambert. ’Media

coverage was ancillary.’

Six weeks later, the poll winners were announced, bringing the

approaching launch more attention. Releases on the winners were

distributed nationally to 50 news outlets. In the months leading up to

the January 24 launch at the Christian Booksellers Association

convention in Nashville, Lambert and Powers were constantly pitching the

media about religion on the Internet.


Though the convention attracted 6,000 attendees, the site launch (which

took place in a separate hall) attracted only 150 people. A release

announcing the launch earned the firm coverage from The Associated

Press. Radio coverage of the launch included interviews with Christian

radio networks, USA Radio Network and the 1000-station American Family

Radio Network.

Lambert claims the entire six-month campaign garnered 120-million

impressions with 800 news stories. This included coverage from National

Public Radio, The New York Times, USA Today and 600 other daily

newspapers. It also included issues coverage about Christians and the

Internet mentioning iBelieve, in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes,

Industry Standard, and, among others.

During the six weeks of the poll, attracted 40 new

employees, which Lambert says is at least partly because of the initial

announcements, including the poll.

John D. Nardini, chief customer officer for, says the

attention was ’above our expectations’ but that the firm’s attempts to

mollify FCS employees were not as fruitful. ’It’s an ongoing battle when

you have an Internet start-up that is funded well (against) the old

tried-and-true company,’ he says.


As the Web site’s agency of record, Lambert Edwards is currently

planning an event for the summer Christian Booksellers Convention.

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