CORPORATE CASE STUDY: PR is well connected to all calls Motorola PCS makes

Motorola PCS is the number-two cell-phone company. As it looks to reach the top and fend off competitors, PR, armed with top-brass support, plays as big a role as any department.

Motorola PCS is the number-two cell-phone company. As it looks to reach the top and fend off competitors, PR, armed with top-brass support, plays as big a role as any department.

The cell-phone industry is brutally competitive. Handset makers are fighting to maintain market share with innovative products and capabilities, all the while crafting brand identities that separate their products from the hundreds of others available to consumers. Motorola, the number-two cell-phone company, is in the especially tough position of striving to take over Nokia's top spot while keeping Samsung and other rapidly growing competitors at bay. To keep its brand ringing in consumers' ears, the company has built a tight communications team that functions as an integral part of the marketing department. The personal communications sector of Motorola, or Motorola PCS, as the cell-phone division is formally known, has a 10-person PR team with global responsibilities. Three years ago, Leslie Dance, a former Hill & Knowlton staffer based in London, took over as head of the then two-person department, and has helped develop it into a worldwide network responsible for Motorola's most outward-facing communications. Dance's complete team came together eight months ago, and "has really gelled" in the past year, she says. PR's prominent position The PCS PR group is closely involved with the division's business goals. Dance says that from the start of her tenure, the mandate was always to utilize PR as a strategic tool to further business aims, and her department has equal footing with advertising. "From day one, I had lots of resources at my disposal," she says. "We've always had a seat at the table during the president's weekly staff meeting. [The executive staff] are all big believers in PR, and always have been." The PCS division divides its communications by global regions, such as Europe and the Americas, with one manager for each locale. These geographically based people concentrate mostly on furthering Motorola's inroads into the local markets with consumer campaigns. "For most of them, their job is totally about brand product-demand creation," says Dance. While consumer marketing is one of the department's main objectives, it is by no means the only focus. The team is also responsible for investor relations, issues management, "alliances and standards," and branding initiatives. "We've created zones, as we call them," explains Dance of the different areas of concentration handled by staff at the Libertyville, IL headquarters. The department also includes two "marketing technologists" who attend events and trade shows to help ensure that products work effectively. "Their job is to work with us when we do events, and take the technology and humanize it," says Dance. "They're the guys with the technical know-how." The PCS division also works with H&K's Los Angeles office. "They're a great client for us because they've really allowed us to become a marketing partner to them, and provide them with strong media relations, but also with things like guerrilla marketing, street teams, and integrated marketing," says Bonnie Goodman, GM of H&K LA. "It's a great partnership. They have given us the freedom to do things differently, creatively, and out of the box. Not all companies will allow that to happen with an agency." Although Dance is happy partnering with H&K, working with her old employer wasn't her decision. "When I first came to the company three years ago, a global pitch was going on," she recalls. "I didn't have anything to do with the pitch process, so it's really a coincidence. But it was fun to be on the other side of the table [while H&K competed for the business]." Motorola PCS also works with London-based The Fish Can Sing, a creative PR agency. "They're like thought partners when we look at contemporary communications," says Dance, explaining that the firm helps her team highlight trends and creative angles. Motorola, however, handles all implementation of ideas. Technology on display 2003 marks Motorola's 75th anniversary and the 20th year of cell-phone technology (Motorola developed the first cell phone) - two landmarks that the PR team is working to highlight. To help promote the category in general and feature Motorola's contributions, the team created an exhibition of cell-phone technology called "Mobile" that debuted in London late last year. "Motorola has a very cool story to tell," says Dance of the company's history. "Mobile allows a whole new generation of people to learn that about our company." The exhibit will open in New York in March, and may go to Mexico and other markets as well. In addition, Motorola plans on other internal and external events to support the anniversary. "We'll celebrate with our employees on one level," says Julie Cordua, PR manager for the Americas, "and have a media campaign and some global marketing and grassroots events as well." In North America, Motorola is focusing much effort on reaching the youth market. "There are a lot of us who are young at heart," says Dance. "That's something we've recognized." Working with research that shows kids are attracted to campaigns that feel "authentic," according to Dance, the company is seeking to build closer ties with up-and-coming musicians. But don't expect Motorola banners to be plastered all over the next Ozzfest. The communications team is opting for a far more sophisticated approach. "It's not slapping our brand on a concert," says Cordua. "It's becoming part of the music culture. We help grow emerging music, and by doing so, emerging music helps grow our brand." Motorola PCS is extremely secretive as to just what that means, but expect to see the company heavily involved in the music scene in the coming year. Motorola is also targeting the "replacement" market with its new expanded-service products, trying to convince simple cell-phone users to upgrade to color screens and more wireless options. "It's a lot of work," Dance concedes of her department's worldwide and myriad responsibilities. "But we have a strong team, and many of us come from an agency background. We're all used to spinning a lot of plates in the air." Bringing the world together The PR staff's flexibility was easily apparent at "HelloMoto," the just-completed Shanghai event that launched the 2003 product line to customers, developers, and the media. The entire PR team was on hand as more than 200 journalists from around the world gathered for the unveiling, which included informal access to top Motorola PCS executives for journalists. "Many of those journalists had a chance to get to know Motorola, and ask the questions that are relevant to their country," says Cordua. This is the second year that Motorola PCS has such a daunting product launch. Last year, the company gathered journalists in Milan. The strategy of a single, global event differs from competitors who often debut at trade shows, or over a period of time. But Cordua says the technique allows the company to gain momentum quickly, and capture reporters' attention. "It was a leap of faith to say, 'Let's see what we can do here. Let's bring all these people together,'" admits Cordua of the Milan event. But, she adds, the success of that enterprise was a "pivotal point for us in the PR marketing area." Aside from consumer programs, Dance's team spends a lot of time on industry issues and initiatives - areas that increasingly require more attention. As the cell-phone industry grows and new technologies and standards advance, Motorola is trying to take the lead in framing industry discussions for governments and communities. And that's all while the team is busy traveling. After 10 days in Shanghai, Cordua went straight to Las Vegas for CES. But that's to be expected given how big a role PR plays in marketing Motorola PCS and its products. ----- PR contacts Director of global communications and public affairs Leslie Dance PR manager, North America-South America Julie Cordua PR manager, APAC Jeanette Tan PR manager, EMEA Eva-Marie Bieda PR director of global alliances and standards communications Kathy Vanbuskirk PR director of financial communications and issues management Alan Buddendeck PR director of global technology-industry communications David Rudd PR manager of global technology-industry communications Sharen Santoski PR manager, North America Monica Rohleder PR coordinator, North America Juli Burda

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