Keystream is an early-stage Silicon Valley startup that offers intuitive ad insertion for web video assets. In the fall of 2008, the company wanted to do a major corporate launch and publicly unveil its SmartAd™ platform that enables broadcasters, web video publishers and advertisers to monetize their video assets on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.
Several factors complicated this particular launch. Chief among them were these four facts:
- Keystream had made a customer announcement earlier in 2008, thereby “pre-announcing” both the company and the platform
- Keystream plays in a controversial and somewhat crowded market where many people have negative feelings about advertising
- No U.S. customer was available for third-party validation at launch time
- The executive team was not yet complete and its members were not “known quantities” in the industry
The primary objectives of this launch were twofold: 1) to drive potential SmartAd customers to Keystream; and 2) to substantially raise corporate visibility in the venture community in order to kick start next-round funding discussions. To achieve these objectives on a tight budget, Sterling recommended a focused launch program centered on creating/propagating new messages that would resonate with intended audiences and undertaking an aggressive “blog-o-rama” program to drive online coverage in a way the greatly enhanced traffic to Keystream’s website.
“In a ‘do-more-with-less’ economy, sharp communications focus and social media leverage garnered Keystream much-needed visibility with key constituents.”
Sterling created two complementary press releases to get the attention of the VC community and highlight the technical breakthroughs embodied by Keystream’s flagship platform. The new messages were vetted by top industry analysts prior to the announcements being issued and both releases were SEO-optimized with deep links to Keystream’s website to drive online and maximize exposure.
- Revamped Keystream’s existing corporate materials in a way that positioned Keystream executives as thought leaders with deep technical expertise and a true understanding of video;
- Positioned the launch as Keystream exiting “beta” and coming out of stealth mode; and
- Prominently positioned a new board member who has a proven track record of success in Silicon Valley’s venture capital community as a means of attracting other VCs.
In terms of reaching out to “non-traditional” media, Sterling put together a blog-o-rama program for the Keystream launch. This program consisted of identifying and cultivating the most influential bloggers in Keystream’s space, using multiple social media tools (including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) to engage them in conversations and share Keystream’s news and views with them in real-time. Sterling also counseled Keystream on how to respond to – and expand upon – blog coverage and created “blog tone” messages specifically for this purpose.
Finally, Sterling capitalized on a local industry event that was taking place the week before the launch, Web 2.0 Expo. The Sterling team arranged for Keystream executives to have introductory meetings with key media, influential bloggers and top-tier analysts in-person at that event (even though Keystream wasn’t exhibiting). Building on the online conversations, this “in person” contact provided an opportunity to build deeper relationships while conserving budget that would typically be spent on press tour travel.
In a matter of weeks, both launch objectives were completely satisfied. Keystream was contacted by numerous VCs interested in learning more about the company and Keystream’s increased web traffic netted two major customer wins, one of which was announced in February 2009.
Thanks to careful messaging and effective engagement with non-traditional media, the launch was indeed received as a company debut (vs. a “relaunch”) and Keystream garnered more than 35 pieces of coverage and 20 unique feature articles in a very cost-effective manner.
The launch also generated a host of future opportunities, including bylined articles, podcasts/speaking opportunities and briefings requests by analysts for inclusion in upcoming analyst reports.