Client: CompuServe PR team: A Plus Campaign: To increase the CompuServe customer base Time scale: Ongoing since October 1995 Cost: Undisclosed

Client: CompuServe

PR team: A Plus

Campaign: To increase the CompuServe customer base

Time scale: Ongoing since October 1995

Cost: Undisclosed

CompuServe is the largest e-mail and Internet service with a worldwide

customer base of 4.3 million and 225,000 customers in the UK alone. Its

UK growth rate is 10,000 new customers per week, a level the company is

looking to maintain in the face of competition from the rest of the



To reach potential customers outside the traditional ‘techie’ customer

base by creating and publicising consumer interest stories on the

CompuServe network.


In the run up to Valentine’s Day, CompuServe’s agency A Plus picked up

on the story of Victoria Vaughn and Joseph Perling who planned to stage

the first Internet wedding on 14 February. The agency alerted the

national and consumer press to the wedding which took place in a virtual

reality meeting place on CompuServe - the respective partners, priest

and guests all being located in different parts of the US.

A Plus also leapt upon a love by e-mail story which Channel 4’s Love in

the Afternoon picked up through a local paper, about a Felixstowe man

who met his American fiancee via CompuServe.

The Valentine’s Day love story complemented CompuServe’s well-worn

formula of organising personality interviews over its network, where

members ‘talk’ on-line with stars such as Michael Jackson and Tom Hanks.

Since being hired in October 1995, A Plus has organised an interview

with Mick Jagger which used multimedia for the first time, including

video pictures and audio sound bites as well as text. The agency also

organised daily interviews during the London Film Festival, with guests

including animator Nick Park.

A Plus has also initiated Internet stories in other consumer press, such

as the March issue of Good Housekeeping, which will include a feature on

The Internet answering questions such as ‘what is a service provider?’


Valentine’s Day newspapers included plenty of Internet stories. The

Virtual Wedding and CompuServe had a half column in the Daily Mail and

was covered by the News of the World and Reuters. Radio 5 and the Press

Association attended and covered the Virtual Wedding. The Jagger

interview was the most successful CompuServe public relations event yet,

appearing on TV in the US and several Pacific countries.


A Plus gained a feather in its cap with the success of the Jagger

interview, but has little else to show so far, except for two love

interest stories handed to it on a plate.

CompuServe will have to sell itself increasingly as a gateway to the

whole Internet, rather than in terms of its private network services.

Its advantage over most of the competition, is that it is probably the

best-known Internet brand name, and one of the best-packaged.

If CompuServe wants to distinguish itself from the competition for the

general consumer audience, A Plus may have to tackle issues such as ease

of connection (where CompuServe performs well) and cost of participation

(where it has made great improvements). These are the two major barriers

to the Internet for ordinary people.

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