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Transformational Public Relations for Mitel
In September 2010, Mitel (NASDAQ: MITL) – a 30-year old communications company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada – made a bold decision to significantly transform its business. In the crowded, competitive unified communications market filled with behemoths such as Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya, Mitel was stepping away from its hardware roots, re-inventing itself with a new business strategy and product architecture. To make the most of that major business shift and lay the proper foundation for future communications activities, Mitel sought Sterling’s counsel.
Mitel needed to transform its image from a cautious, hardware-based communications company into a cloud-compatible, software-centric UC leader. How did Sterling Communications help it to compete successfully in a market crowded with the likes of Cisco and Microsoft?
Mitel faced several obstacles in launching its Freedom architecture. To begin with, Mitel’s relationships with key influencers in the media and industry analyst community were transactional, at best. This was particularly true for one key audience – the enterprise channel. Mitel’s credibility was not anywhere close to where it needed to be.
Moreover, Sterling’s research uncovered that the date Mitel had chosen for the Freedom architecture launch coincided with significant unified communications announcements from Microsoft, HP, Avaya and Cisco – potentially relegating Mitel’s news to the status of “also ran” or the postscript at the end of industry news round-ups.
The time was short, and the stakes were high. Sterling was tasked with creating and disseminating entirely new corporate messages for Mitel, generating media and analyst interest that would enable the company to successfully compete for mindshare against major Tier-1 OEMs, and implement a new social media strategy to support the roll-out of the new software architecture.
The first decision Sterling made was to accelerate the launch process to get Mitel’s news into the media prior to the announcements from its larger competitors. This required moving the original launch date – and the development of all associated materials – up by two weeks.
Sterling next had to help Mitel articulate its Freedom architecture messaging in a way that would capture the attention of key press, including business press, and stand up to the announcements that would be made by larger competitors.
Knowing that most announcements from competitors in Mitel’s market tended to focus on “speeds and feeds” rather than IT trends, Sterling took a more strategic approach to Mitel’s messaging … tying the announcement to important IT trends including virtualization, cloud computing and mobility. By doing so, Sterling and Mitel were able to raise the importance of this announcement. In addition, Sterling “threw down the gauntlet” for Mitel’s competitors by focusing on the transformation of Mitel’s business from a hardware-centric infrastructure play to an open, software-centric applications play.
The combination of program acceleration, effective message development, and target audience expansion enabled Mitel to garner significant media attention on the date of the announcement and also establish deeper ongoing relationships with its base of key media and analyst influencers. Mitel was also able to pre-empt its competitors’ UC-related news, thus defining the market conversation, shaping competitors’ subsequent coverage and garnering additional media coverage through inclusion in competitors’ news cycles.
Sterling was able to generate more coverage for Mitel’s Freedom architecture launch than HP, Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft accomplished with similar announcements related to UC technology, all in the same week.