Public relations is more than just generating earned media coverage. Case in point: The Spaulding Communications team recently assisted its client, Innovative Ergonomic Solutions (IES), with a complex rebranding effort.
The goal was to take three distinct IES brands — Innovative, HAT Contract and SiS Ergo – and unite them under one umbrella brand called HAT Collective. The new brand needed a distinct value proposition, a fresh point of view and rock-solid messaging to set it apart from others in the industry.
Partnering alongside the client and its brand agency, ddm, here are the ways Spaulding Communications contributed to the HAT Collective launch in January of 2021.
Positioning the Brand
For years, manufacturers of contract furniture products have been touting the benefits of ergonomics and wellness. In fact, the contract furniture industry is ripe with providers claiming their products bring the most ergonomic benefits.
The three HAT Collective brands offer these benefits too. Their Innovative monitor arms are ergonomic, which help reduce neck and eye strain. Their HAT Contract workbenches are height-adjustable, enabling users to sit or stand as needed. And their SiS Ergo tables, made with Danish design, feature sit-stand benefits as well. Jumping on the ergonomic bandwagon would have been a safe path. But the new brand needed to make an impact – it needed a wholly new position.
We worked with client through several strategic (and impromptu) planning sessions. We offered our perspective on other brands, and the industry at large. Throughout the process we served as sounding board, helping the client and ddm fully define the brand’s position.
Eventually, the client landed on the tagline, “Work Your Way.” The phrase succinctly captures the value HAT Collective brings. More than just ergonomics, HAT Collective offers a wide array of sit-stand desks, personal work tables, monitor arms and accessory products. This wide selection gives employers and workers the ability to choose the tools they need to be productive. What’s more, HAT Collective offers an unmatched level of product customization. This means designers and dealers can get the exact product solution they need.
The ability to choose from a wide selection of products has real value. At its core, it is about empowering people with choices. Research shows that when people have the ability to choose, they feel more in control. When people have control and feel empowered, they are not only more productive, but also happier. And this is what the HAT Collective brand and the Work Your Way tagline is all about.
Developing the Right Messages
A tagline is just a catchy phrase unless it can be translated into something meaningful. We needed to take a concept and put real teeth to it. So, in conjunction with the client and ddm, we worked to define the Work Your Way message. =
This included organizing all the meaning behind the brand’s ethos and essence. It required organizing the content in a logical fashion and developing fully articulated sentences and messages. Each word was chosen carefully to best convey the exact meaning. By doing this, HAT Collective’s audiences could better understand the brand: They would know what Work Your Way means, and why it is important.
Among the key documents the Spaulding Communications team worked on was the HAT Collective boilerplate and website copy. We also developed a Key Messages/Talking Points document for use with media interviews. The words, messages and content were also used in introducing the brand internally with employees and its sales force.
Taken together, and when utilized in harmony, the documents and messages ensure the brand is speaking with “one voice” – not only in its marketing collateral, but also among its people.
Raising the Brand’s Visibility
With the brand’s messaging in place, we turned toward developing a strategy for raising its visibility.
The number one goal was to gain as much visibility for the brand with its core audience: commercial furniture dealers. Dealers are HAT Collective’s main customer group. We also had to generate awareness with another important audience: commercial interior designers. Finally, we needed to reach a broad business audience. Although HAT Collective product is mostly sold through the dealer-designer network, the ability to raise the brand’s awareness with business decisions-makers was also key.
“To best communicate the new brand, we recommended pitching feature stories.”
To best communicate the new brand, we recommended pitching feature stories. A feature story would enable us to fully share HAT Collective’s unique value proposition; a press release alone would not suffice. With a feature story, we could also use several images showing how HAT Collective’s product mix enables people to Work Your Way.
With our deep understanding of the brand from the positioning and messaging work, we were able to create several strong media pitches. We then used our media industry knowledge to target the best dealer and design trade publications.
Telling the Story Through Feature Articles
We needed to pitch the “right” publications – those whose editorial format allows for full-length feature articles, and which would reach our target audiences. We also needed to perfectly time the story in conjunction with the official brand launch.
Our experience and editorial relationships with the design and office trades enabled us to quickly target the right publications. We crafted compelling pitches using the brand messages we helped develop. We then worked closely with the editors to fully flesh out the story so it would be a win-win for their readers and HAT Collective. We also coordinated the timing of the article. By the brand launch date, we were able to generate not one, but several expansive feature stories.
Business of Furniture ran an in-depth multi-page feature story. The article provided the history of each brand and the context for their unification. Key messages included the benefits HAT Collective brings to dealers – an essential element, as BoF is the leading contract furniture magazine for dealers.
Office Insight, a leading industry publication with a large designer audience, also ran a multi-page story. The article focused around the core benefits the HAT Collective products bring, which the publication listed as “Hybrid,” “Collaboration” and “Mobility.” The article featured the appealing headline, “HAT Collective’s New Work Solutions,” along with several images.
Additionally, Work Design and Spaulding Communications collaborated on a forward-thinking article with the headline of “What’s Next for the Workplace.” The story showed HAT Collective’s point of view for solving workplace challenges through product design and product choices.
Each feature story was different in its editorial focus, in part to meet their reader’s needs. Taken together, however, each one helped paint the broader picture of HAT Collective’s unique position. They fully communicated the wide array of products and customization options that allow people to work their way. Just as importantly, each reached a core audience segment identified as essential to the brand’s business.
Reaching a Broader Audience
Beyond the feature stories, we had to share the brand’s introduction to a broader set of media. We developed a press release to announce the new brand. Then we adapted it to each core audience and the media outlets we’d be targeting. Using Spaulding Communications’ robust media list, we distributed the press release on the launch date in January 2021 to nearly 100 editorial contacts across the architect, design, building and office furniture trade media.
To reach a broad national business audience, we leveraged a third-party media distribution service. The release was distributed to more than 1,000 print, broadcast and online media outlets throughout North America. The results: More than 100 placements. This included coverage with Yahoo! Finance (237M monthly visits), MarketWatch (89.5M monthly visits) and Business Insider (16M monthly visits).
The online coverage drove nearly 200 visits to the HAT Collective websites, 5,000 views of the press release and more than two dozens social media shares. The coverage also gave HAT Collective added SEO benefits.
All together, our PR efforts generated an estimated 400 million impressions and 670,000 views about the brand. The estimated earned editorial coverage for the feature stories and the press release coverage was more than $300,000.
Creating a Knowledge-Based Brand
Thanks to a total team effort between the client and team ddm, the brand’s launch created a strong burst of initial marketplace visibility, especially among the key audiences defined.
But now our new challenge is to tell the brand’s story in a sustained, meaningful way. We want to create greater brand affinity by illuminating HAT Collective’s unique point of view. Central to this work will be positioning the brand as a knowledge carrier that brings fresh ideas and solutions to its customers.
One of the best ways to share a knowledge-based point of view with designers is to provide Continuing Education Unit courses. We collaborated with the client on a CEU titled, “Happiness at Work: How Choice, Flexibility and Control in Office Design Builds Happiness in the Workplace.” The course shares essential information about how neuroscience, office design and office products can affect worker happiness. As employees return to the office, understanding what drives workplace happiness is highly relevant.
In addition to building content for the CEU, we developed and distributed a press release to raise awareness. The release garnered extensive coverage, including at least one request by a reader for the CEU presentation.
We’ve initiated a new monthly blog schedule. Each article will share HAT Collective’s point of view while providing practical tips and insights to help people better work their way. Strategically designed to spur lead generation, they also serve to support the brand’s social media and media relations efforts.
The Spaulding Communications team is building out more ways for HAT Collective to share its thought-leadership. Plans are in place for an industry panel session with expert authorities. We’re also planning to host knowledge-based events at key trade shows such as NeoCon. Our efforts also include pursuing relevant awards, pitching brand subject matter experts for media commentary and deploying other relevant PR tactics.
We’re also planning to conduct surveys with dealers and designers to benchmark their sentiment about the brand. This can inform our PR efforts moving forward.
Creating and launching a brand takes a total team effort. It requires research, strategic planning and the effective use of all marketing communication disciplines, including public relations. To its great credit, our HAT Collective client recognizes this. As a result, the HAT Collective brand is on firm ground, with a bright future ahead.
The Spaulding Communications team relished this opportunity. As communication experts, we know the vital way words and messages can help brands establish their position and gain visibility for what makes them unique. It is motivating to collaborate with clients and other partners to build something from the ground up. Looking ahead, we can’t wait to nurture the HAT Collective brand through our strategic PR and content development services.
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