is a Web-based online referral service that matches consumers with qualified local service professionals who address more than 485 different home service needs that range from simple repairs and maintenance to remodeling projects.  In May 2000, ServiceMagic was operating in two cities and had received virtually no media attention.  With 35 launches planned for a 7-month period, ServiceMagic wanted to accomplish four things in its launch campaign:
  • Firmly establish ServiceMagic as a leader in the highly competitive, brand new category of e-consumer home services.
  • Drive traffic to its Web site.
  • Persuade consumers to submit a service request.
  • Convince service professionals to enroll in the online program.
To accomplish these goals JohnstonWells took a three-fold approach:
  • A network of 23 public relations firms was formed by hiring IPREX partners in launching markets to aggressively pursue local media relations. 
  • We carefully selected 300 home, technology and consumer interest editors and producers in national print and broadcast media outlets.  They were sent media kits and followed up with.  
  • Timely releases, bylined articles and a matte release were created and disseminated to consumer, trade, technology and business media outlets. 
This highly targeted approach to media relations helped nationally launch ServiceMagic in 26 additional  U. S. cities— and generated more than 203 million media impressions in less than nine months. was visited more than 450,000 times resulting in a 30 percent increase in service requests and a 15 percent increase in service professional enrollment in its program.
We were able to achieve these successes despite a limited budget, consumers being unaware that they could shop for home services on the Internet and the general attitude we faced from the media and consumers--dot-com burnout.
JohnstonWells acquired research from:
  • Analysts’ positions
  • National e-commerce authorities
  • The December 2000 Kelsey Report
  • The April 2000 E*Offerings Report
  • National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI)
Competitive research showed a powerful advantage of ServiceMagic over other e-tailers was its ability to replicate a powerful sense of community to build stronger and lasting relationships with consumers and service professionals through discussion boards, job opportunities, an “ask the experts” section and a library of timely and useful information.
Our planning process was extensive:
  • Detailed timetables, pitch charts and strategies were created.
  • Budgets for JohnstonWells and partner firms were created (see planning section in supporting materials)
  • JohnstonWells designed key messages to motivate consumers to visit ServiceMagic’s Web site.
  • Wrote template releases, bylined articles and case studies
  • Conducted two all partner firm meetings in Denver.
  • Achieve an average of 6 media placements in each local market.
  • Trade publications: At a minimum, secure an average of two placements in leading trade publications in each of the 18-category type and trade groups identified by ServiceMagic.
  • Consumer publications:  Secure a minimum of three placements in national consumer publications by Dec 31, 2000.
  • Business publications:  Secure a minimum of three placements in national business publications by Dec 31, 2000.
  • Technology publications:  Secure a minimum of three placements in national consumer publications by Dec 31, 2000.
Focus 70 percent of media relations efforts in local markets as the success of the program relied on driving local traffic to the Web site where ServiceMagic offered their services.
Focus 30 percent of media relations efforts in national media.
Create and distribute timely media materials, including a matte release, news releases, bylined articles and trade releases.
Local Execution
  • Retain 23 public relations firms to help with the 26 local launches in 26 cities throughout the United States.
  • Host two network meetings in Denver to quickly bring partner firms up to speed
  • Develop and maintain an Extranet site to streamline and centralize the communications process between JohnstonWells and the partner firms.
  • The Extranet was the partner firms “tool box” containing everything they needed to conduct media relations on a local level.
National Execution
  • JohnstonWells identified appropriate sections and reporters for each publication and program and develop targeted pitches for each.  This approach afforded us the greatest opportunity for generating ServiceMagic news items that included the key messages and ServiceMagic’s Web site address.
  • JohnstonWells executed all national media relations.
  • Regularly distributed seasonal tips and trend stories, including, “The nightmare on your street,” a Halloween home improvement contest, and a Father’s Day survey.
  • More than 203 million total media impressions in less than nine months.
  • 450,000 unique visitors to the ServiceMagic Web site since June, 2000.
  • More than 1 million impressions to date in the trade media.
  • More than 6 million impressions in Denver, ServiceMagic’s home market.
  • National media placement in: Parade Magazine, Woman’s Day, Real Simple,, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, [email protected] Week, The Industry Standard, Context and PC Magazine.
  • All national and local media relations objectives were met or exceeded including:
    • Atlanta – 9 consumer placements
    • Cincinnati – 8 consumer placements
    • Denver – 23 consumer placements
    • Detroit – 10 consumer placements
    • National consumer – 5 placements
    • National business – 7 placements
    • National technology – 4 placements
    • National trade – 40 placementsMinneapolis – 16 consumer placements