Media Relations: IPass woos press by positioning its execs as experts

IPass had much to celebrate in 2003.

IPass had much to celebrate in 2003.

It had one of the first successful technology IPOs after the dot-com crash and subsequent slump. So the company - which provides mobile access to the internet and corporate internal networks - knew industry eyes would be watching to see how it fared in the months after the IPO.

But thanks to Securities and Exchange Commission restrictions on what IPO-bound companies can do and say, iPass couldn't talk about new products and software in the pipeline just before the IPO.

"We hoped to be a public company before unveiling new technology," says John Sidline, director of corporate communications, "but we were prevented from talking about our new platform. [Still,] we didn't want to stop doing things to attract new clients."

One reason for the IPO, Sidline continues, was the transparency that being a public company brings - an important attribute to the large companies iPass wanted to win as new customers and partners.

After the quiet period, iPass and The Hoffman Agency knew that 2004 was going to be crucial for introducing new technologies and reaching IT executives.

Strategy

To establish iPass as a leader in global remote internet access, the team needed to go beyond the IT managers already familiar with the company. It needed to reach CIOs and other executives who wield the IT purchasing power for their companies.

"We knew there were deeper stories that could be [told] about not just the technology, but our role in the market," says Sidline. "We didn't want to be a mystery to the CIO."

Hoffman assessed the IT media climate, iPass' competition, and the news and issues at local levels that might impact PR activities. The firm also researched the appropriate editors in each region, including their beats, background, and personalities, so it could approach them with the right iPass story angle, in the process creating a list of the 20 most influential publications.

Tactics

IPass and Hoffman decided on a back-to-basics approach of targeting highly influential journalists and analysts, who were going to reach both IT executives and managers. And the emphasis was on face-to-face meetings.

"We really focused on the security press and the IT press," says Hoffman VP Michele Bernhardt. "We needed to reach those who would be purchasing and using iPass' technology."

IPass also focused on speaking engagements. But instead of just participating, it sought opportunities in which its execs could moderate, further positioning its thought leadership.

The program leaned heavily on educational sessions with press and analysts, leveraging the brands of better-known partners, such as T-Mobile and Connexion by Boeing, and promoting execs as knowledgeable industry spokespeople.

Results

The campaign more than tripled US media coverage of iPass by late last year, compared with coverage in late 2002. And the campaign also generated coverage in the UK, Japan, Germany, and Asia-Pacific, where the company had previously had little or no coverage.

Fortune named iPass one of "15 Cool Companies We Love," and Forbes.com named iPass a "Best of the Web" company. The heavy coverage also led iPass to add 74 more Forbes Global 2,000 customers as clients.

Additionally, more sales appointments with potential customers were set up in 2004 than before. Sales meetings averaged 83 per month in 2004, compared with 30 per month in 2003.

Future

Hoffman will continue to focus on media and analyst relations, developing messaging that positions iPass executives as industry thought leaders.

PR team: iPass (Redwood Shores, CA) and The Hoffman Agency (San Jose, CA)

Campaign: Connecting iPass Around the World

Time frame: January to December 2004

Budget: $350,000

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