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Web-based meetings as a strategic communications tool

Companies are now utilizing webcast technology for a variety of business communications needs. Greg Radner, VP of Marketing at CCBN explains.

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Companies are now utilizing webcast technology for a variety of business communications needs including quarterly earnings call, annual shareholder meetings, conference presentations, analyst and investor days, corporate announcements, product launches and press conferences. And with advances in webcast technology, these events have become more compelling, relevant and valuable to greater numbers of employees, customers and shareholders.

According to an October 2002 NIRI Survey, 25 percent of companies surveyed webcast their annual meeting. Companies looking to increase participation in the meeting, particularly among out-of-state shareholders, are turning to webcasting to allow shareholders to listen to a CEO’s address via the Web, vote on proxy issues, and take part in question-and-answer sessions with company executives.

Clearly webcasting has become a mainstay for IR communication: it helps meet fair disclosure requirements, it's easy to implement quickly and affordably, and can be accompanied by supporting presentation materials to illustrate important points. Using webcast technology not only helps to position your company as tech savvy, but is also an efficient and effective way to communicate your message to a wide audience.

Webcasting Comes Of Age

Based on the successful experience in IR, other departments are also hopping on the webcasting bandwagon. The primary areas for this type of enterprise webcasting are in sales, marketing, public relations, and employee training applications:

Public Relations

The PR roller coaster never stops. Keep up with the ride by webcasting your on-the-fly PR news, emergencies or interviews. Increase your visibility with the media or expand your reach globally, especially if your company is attempting to enter the international arena for the first time. Examples of how you could use webcasting in PR include partnership announcements, media tours, interviews with senior management, crisis management, product launches, community relations and company road shows.

Marketing

In marketing, branding is important, and with webcasting, your company brand gets airtime, the entire time. This makes all the difference in marketing considering the current demands on mindshare. Webcasting can help you stand out and get more attention with a sleeker, more effective way to communicate and stretch your cost per lead to the fullest.

Sales

Nothing beats meeting with your client face-to-face but when you can’t be there in person, holding a webcast is the perfect solution. With webcasting you can expand your reach by communicating one-to-many. Want your product manager in Boston and client support rep in Dallas on the call too? You can easily use multiple presenters from various locations simultaneously. You can also archive your presentation for clients or prospects to access as often as they’d like. Examples of how companies are using webcasting in sales include sales training, sales presentations, lead generation, and tracking client and prospect responses.

Human Resources

Communicating internally is one of the most important responsibilities of HR. And it’s difficult to attract the level of attention you need from employees. Webcasting offers the interactive appeal of multi-media and keeps your employees engaged in internal communications. You can also archive your presentations so employees can access them as many times as they’d like. Webcasts conducted in this area include employee training, internal communications, new hire training, benefits training, and senior management Town Hall meetings.

Business Drivers

There are several factors driving the growth in webcasting beyond IR applications:

1. Better Communication

As broadband and streaming media technology improves, more companies are taking advantage of the interactive capabilities of the Internet to communicate their message, including using audio, video and visuals. A video webcast enables companies to reach a global audience, deliver important business information, and interact with participants in real-time. This tool engages the audience with a compelling experience including live video/audio, synchronized slides, and interactive elements like chat, live Web links, Q&A, and polling.

2. Demonstrated Return on Investment

In the current business climate, webcasting is a cost-effective alternative for many types of communication that can also lead to improved revenue and/or substantial cost savings.

Webcasts that include robust reporting tools make it easier to measure this payback by providing information on who participated and for how long, allowing sales people to follow-up on any new leads. In addition, a webcast has value well beyond the live event. In fact, our experience suggests that for every live listener, three will listen to the archived replay, emphasizing the importance of archived webcasts as part of a company's communications strategy.

3. Faster Time to Market

Companies have also gravitated to webcasting given the ability of the Web to get their message heard quickly. Time to market is also compressed because companies can turn to an outsourced provider for a turnkey solution that combines software, services, hosting, and reporting all in one.

Your corporate message can be transformed into a compelling strategic communications tool that can be accessed live or on-demand by a growing universe of online viewers.

CASE STUDY

An interactive solution to strong community relations.

Companies that support the communities in which they do business and build a reputation for strong corporate social responsibility are the ones most likely to grow and successfully expand their businesses. However, community outreach can pose significant issues for business.

During the late 1990’s Office Depot, Inc. aggressively leveraged the Internet and business-to-business electronic commerce to establish itself as one of the industry’s technology leaders. It also laid the seed for an innovative and far reaching initiative that not only leveraged Office Depot’s What you Need, What you Need to Know proposition but also established itself as a strong corporate supporter of small businesses and women organizations. That initiative was the Office Depot Web Café – a dynamic and far- reaching communication tool that extended the company’s contact with all prospective and current customers.

The company turned to CCBN to develop and fine tune this new interactive community and educational tool. CCBN had already built a strong partnership with Office Depot through its coordination of Office Depot’s quarterly earnings webcasts.

Through its CCBN-hosted webcasts, Office Depot Web Café offers free seminars focusing on the changing business needs in the marketplace. In February, the Web Café was broadcast live from the Office Depot Success Strategies for Businesswomen Conference in Boca Raton, which offered programs and seminars to help women manage their business more successfully. This followed a season of hour-long webcasts from leading small business experts on topics including building a business, leaving a legacy, and maximizing technology.

The Office Depot Web Café offers virtual attendees not only the opportunity to enjoy a live video or audio presentation but also the ability to participate in online question and answer sessions. And, if you missed the live broadcast, the webcast can still be reviewed as an archive on the Office Depot web site.

As Monica Luechtefeld, EVP of Global E-commerce at Office Depot explained, The webcasts have consistently improved as we have added additional features to respond to the popularity of Web Café. We’ve had a lot of great feedback from the public with comments such as ‘Great Idea’ and ‘Carry On’. A growing initiative, Office Depot looks forward to working with CCBN to expand upon the current capabilities offered to Web Café attendees and allow Office Depot to better track customer satisfaction. There’s a lot that CCBN has to offer and their ability to expand upon our current webcasting capabilities is a major advantage to us, added Luechtefeld.

Feedback on the customer service, scalability and support that CCBN offers were the deciding factor in us deciding to partner with CCBN. We’re definitely satisfied. The webcasts have been highly successful and have run very smoothly, said Luechtefeld. And with the detailed audience reporting available to us through CCBN we’ve been able to expand our direct outreach to our customers.

www.ccbn.com

gradner@ccbn.com

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