EmployeeMatters an integrated, Web-based provider of employee administration outsourcing services to small and medium-sized businesses, faced a daunting task.  The company wanted to create a groundbreaking launch of its employee administration technology at Internet World Chicago (the Midwest’s largest gathering of e-business and Internet technology companies.)  What would it take for EmployeeMatters to break through the clutter and drive traffic to the booth, while securing national news/marketplace recognition?  How could EmployeeMatters inspire small and mid-sized businesses to revolutionize the way they take care of their human resource needs—amid a crowded field of online companies with a similar mission?  These were the challenges with which PepperCom, EmployeeMatters’ public relations firm, was charged with, as it prepared for the company’s hard launch in the second quarter of 2000. 




EmployeeMatters had an important message to get across.  Not only do employee administration functions divert a significant amount of management time from the core strategic or revenue-producing activities of many small to mid-sized enterprises, the out-of-pocket costs with which they are associated can be considerable.  Specifically, businesses with less then 250 employees typically spend more than $1,700 per employee each year (Jeffries & Company, Inc., Sept. 1998).  In addition, small businesses often lack the on-staff resources required to perform required human resources functions, a weakness which opens them up to significant non-compliance risks and penalties.




How do you gain critical mind share among major, top-tier business/technology and consumer media such as The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, The Industry Standard, etc., with an unknown startup called EmployeeMatters?  How do you break through a cluttered competitive landscape and leapfrog ahead of more than 10,000 Internet-focused professionals and 150 exhibiting companies—including competitors who had considerably larger, more prominently placed booth space—at Internet World Chicago?  




EmployeeMatters challenged PepperCom to build marketplace awareness in the aftermath of the company’s April 2000 “soft” launch.  The company was to be officially launched at Internet World Chicago in July 2000—and PepperCom was given three key objectives: 


  • Build brand awareness among business influencers, general consumer trade and national business press covering small business issues;
  • Drive business influencers to the company’s Web site/booth;
  • Develop a thought leadership position for EmployeeMatters as an authority on employee administration and workplace trends and issues.




To differentiate EmployeeMatters from its competition, PepperCom developed a unique and sustainable corporate/brand positioning:  “EmployeeMatters is the only fully integrated, Web-based provider of employee administration and outsourcing services to small and medium-sized businesses.” 


Based upon this positioning, the agency created the “Revolution in the Workplace” campaign—a three-part initiative consisting of guerilla marketing (roving workforce picketers), promotional activities (Drew Carey look-a-like telling workplace jokes and a free Porsche giveaway) and a compelling survey of CEO/senior officers of Internet start-ups (polling behaviors, attitudes and perceptions in the workplace). 




Two months prior to the launch, PepperCom conducted intensive media training sessions for key EmployeeMatters spokespeople.  The agency’s goal was to develop a script and key messages to drive the entire public relations campaign.


One month prior to the Revolution in the Workplace campaign launch, PepperCom, in conjunction with Leflein Associates (a Northeast-based market research firm), developed, administered and analyzed the results of a national survey on top-of-mind workplace issues conducted among CEOs, senior officers and executives from Internet startups throughout the United States.  The agency broke the news of the survey’s startling findings on the first day of Internet World.  Among the key findings were: the fact that 54% of companies surveyed had no written policy on sexual harassment, and 64% of those had no plan to develop one in the next 12 months.


In addition to the national survey, PepperCom implemented a range of dynamic guerilla marketing and promotional activities to spread EmployeeMatters’ message at Internet World.  “Roving Workplace Picketers”—actors hired by EmployeeMatters—staged high-profile “strikes” against traditional business practices on the trade show floor, carried signs and marched through the show while chanting and encouraging attendees to “Quit doing business the old way” and “Accept EmployeeMatters for HR and employee administration needs.”   At the company’s booth, a Drew Carey impersonator—the spitting image of the quintessential HR manager—told jokes making light of workplace doldrums while exhorting attendees to take in a site demo and to enter EmployeeMatters’ free Porsche giveaway.


To maximize media relations efforts, PepperCom conducted an extensive and aggressive media relations effort around the campaign and survey findings, involving a broad spectrum of offline and online broadcast and print media outlets in both national and local markets.  The campaign kicked off with a placement in The Wall Street Journal as well as an Associated Press wire service article that was picked up nationally and continues, nearly six months after its original publication date, to gain millions of critical impressions.




As a result of this cutting-edge campaign, Internet World magazine awarded EmployeeMatters its “Best of Show” citation in the “Best Business Application” category.  PepperCom’s work was also cited by B2B magazine as the “…most creative on-site marketing program… they (had) seen at Internet World.”  


According to Elliot Cooperstone, CEO and co-founder of EmployeeMatters, “PepperCom did an absolutely fantastic job for us at this event. The survey, the picketers and the Drew Carey look-alike were a brilliant strategy to gain mind share and drive booth traffic.  Thanks to PepperCom’s aggressive media relations efforts, the coverage of EmployeeMatters has exceeded our wildest expectations.”


Over 36 Million Impressions To Date 

Overall, the campaign attracted thousands of visitors to EmployeeMatters’ booth, provided company representatives with a motivated audience for scores of product and service demonstrations and led to high-profile stories in national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Industry Standard and B2B magazine, in addition to the Associated Press wire service.  To date, the Revolution in the Workplace campaign has resulted in hundreds of news stories—reaching over 36 million business influentials and consumers nationwide. 


Based on the success of the “Revolution in the Workplace” campaign, PepperCom and EmployeeMatters modified components of the strategy and rolled it out to other important events and trade shows.  Specifically, the company’s “roving picketers” and Drew Carey look-a-like were high-profile presences at Fall Internet World in New York (October 2000), where dozens of visitors to the EmployeeMatters booth remembered them – and the company’s brand – from Chicago.