Ask someone what "VoIP" is, the likely answer - "Vonage."
The Holmdel, NJ-based telephony service has became nearly synonymous with Voice Over Internet Protocol, placing voice calls over broadband Internet, making its brand one of the sector's biggest names.
That ensures some busy days for nine-year PR veteran Brooke Schulz, Vonage's VP of corporate communications, who has been with the company since it was a fledgling Internet startup in 2002. Today it has 2 million of the sector's 8 million subscribers in the US, UK, and Canada; is publicly traded; and is growing globally.
And with new offerings, the latest being the V-Phone, a phone no bigger than a pack of gum, Vonage is able to build brand awareness through media interest, something Schulz and her staff have been prioritizing from the outset.
"Our goal is to promote as much news coverage as possible," she says. "That's what [we've been] doing for the past five years."
Simply stated, Schulz has been Vonage's point-person on just about everything. She came with agency experience, and was off and running. She handled media, internal communications, and even regulatory affairs before Vonage had an in-house legal team.
"They say people wear many hats in startups," Schulz says. "Trust me, it's true!"
Vonage's service is sold on the Web, and the equipment can also be bought at national retailers. As the company began offering residential customers flat-rate, nationwide phone service for about $24.99 per month, other broadband and telephone companies changed their business models to keep pace. For example, both AT&T and Comcast now offer VoIP telephone service.
Schulz says cable companies are not Vonage's only competition. Any company offering communication, such as wireless entities like Verizon or T-Mobile, fit that bill.
The V-Phone, a device allowing subscribers to make a home telephone portable via a USB flash drive, has dominated Schulz's time of late. Its technology allows users to take their Vonage Internet phone service along with them no matter what computer they use, just like carrying around memory cards on digital cameras.
"Imagine having a telephone, as well, with a software program that pops up as a keypad, and you dial on the screen," Schulz says. "You can have your phone on any computer, and it doesn't download software to the machine. The software comes with you."
The fact that the V-Phone does not download software to host computers makes it ideal for people who travel or use Internet cafes to place their calls, she points out.
The V-Phone comes with the Vonage Talk software pre-loaded, so customers don't need to install it on their computers and there is no need to restart the computer to start making and receiving calls. There is no battery, no charging, and the 250MB flash drive stores all user contacts and call records.
"We continue to innovate," Schulz notes regarding the V-Phone. "We have this mantra here; we say we have to innovate or die."
Technology has always been an area of interest for Schulz. "I just think I am naturally more interested in tech," she says. "There are iPods, cell phones, BlackBerrys, all these things we use as consumers."
Christine Burgner, who runs Burgner PR, works with Schulz on nearly a daily basis and has known her for several years.
"We've grown together as colleagues, so we have, in turn, developed a great amount of respect for each other," Burgner shares. "Being a young entrepreneur myself, it's inspiring to work with someone so focused."
SVP, corporate communications, Vonage
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