Cisco is one of the world’s most widely recognized technology brands. Although the company is best known for its line of network routers, Cisco provides individuals and businesses with an exceptionally broad range of technology products and services including servers, network infrastructure, storage and video and teleconferencing.
Cisco approached Walker Sands for help in creating a scalable and customizable PR model for its partner network. Cisco’s partners play a critical role in marketing the company’s products and services. To help with that goal, Cisco uses the mConcierge program to equip partners with automated and collaborative marketing plans tailored to each partner’s goals and budget.
Although Cisco recognized the importance of public relations, the company lacked a vehicle for equipping its partner network with PR support. Specifically, Cisco needed PR expertise capable of innovating a scalable, reproducible system for its partners – a framework that would efficiently generate both regional and national stories and enable partners to leverage earned placements.
Following a thorough analysis of Cisco’s goals and desired outcomes, Walker Sands worked to develop a PR framework that was both reproducible and tailored to Cisco partners’ regional markets.
The program Walker Sands developed is administered in continuous phases, with each phase lasting approximately thirteen weeks. To maximize impact and reach, Walker Sands innovated a PR model incorporating several key elements:
- Education: Walker Sands created and produced a 13-week series of two-minute instructional videos to help partners understand public relations, earn placements and improve their visibility in regional markets. The YouTube-based video series covers media interviews, earning media placements, thought leadership pitching and other basic PR topics. Cisco partners receive information about relevant video topics via weekly emails and are encouraged to participate in short quizzes related to each topic. Quiz participants are eligible to receive prizes from Cisco, incentivizing partners to improve their PR literacy.
- Communal Pitching: Communal pitching is the heart and soul of Cisco’s partner PR program. Leveraging an algorithm created in-house, Walker Sands developed a process for pitching a rotating list of media contacts. Each rotation included contacts from both challenging and non-challenging media lists, making it possible to pitch new story ideas more frequently and increasing the number of placement opportunities for Cisco partners. Walker Sands uses Cisco’s materials to generate story ideas for large B2B technology audiences with topics such as, “5 Questions to Ask Your Cloud Provider Before Signing the Dotted Line,” “Telecommuting: How to Make it Work for Your Business” and “Eliminating the CIOs’ BYOD Blind Spot.” When a reporter indicates interest, the opportunity is presented to Cisco partners in a weekly email and is claimed on a first come, first serve basis.
- Localization: Since many Cisco partners are regional providers, Cisco needed a way to transform story ideas into tailored pitches for reporters in local markets. To accomplish this, Walker Sands ties segmented market data to larger trends or story ideas, pitching thousands of regional contacts with newsworthy stories that connect with local audiences. For example, to make the point that more firms are using telepresence solutions for sales teams, Walker Sands looked at year-over-year changes in the cost of airfare out of specific regional airports, crafting and managing tailored pitches for individual Cisco partners based on location.
By segmenting data by market, Walker Sands enables Cisco to effortlessly create unique stories for unique partners – an outcome that is typically elusive for brands with geographically diverse partner networks. Additionally, Walker Sands spearheaded the development of a white paper on mobility and BYOD usage. By amassing survey responses, Walker Sands mined and segmented data by multiple regional markets. The white paper and report were pitched nationally and appeared on the mConcierge website, resulting in more than 300 leads sourced directly to Cisco’s geographic partners.
Walker Sands’ relationship with Cisco has been extremely successful and has resulted in several important wins, including more than 150 placements in publications such as VentureBeat, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Fox Business News, Crain’s Chicago Business, NPR and other targeted media outlets.
More importantly, Walker Sands created a well-received program that has equipped Cisco with an efficient and reproducible model for securing a high volume of media placements for its partner network, while giving Cisco partners the tools they need to make the most of PR opportunities.
Having completed approximately four phases of the program, Walker Sands continues to work with Cisco to roll out new phases of the program on a continuous, 13-week cycle. Going forward, Walker Sands will expand its involvement to include other aspects of Cisco’s marketing program as well as providing ongoing PR services for Cisco partners.