Case Study: Answers.com
One day, Internet company GuruNet decided to move away from their subscription-driven 1-click reference look-up software application; instead, they decided to “bet the business” and launch an advertising-driven Internet-based product known as Answers.com.
Instead of providing hundreds or thousands of links where answers to users’ burning questions could be found – like a traditional search engine – Answers.com provides a single page of information, replete with statistics, facts and images from the top reference titles available, including Wikipedia, CBS Sportsline, Columbia University Press, and Houghton Mifflin Company.
While GuruNet had received copious positive media attention for their original subscription-based product in 2003, they had received little coverage since then. At the same time, they wanted their move to an advertising-driven model to be understood for what it was: non-invasive, non-intrusive and bereft of popups.
GuruNet hired RLM Public Relations one day before the launch of Answers.com. RLM was tasked with garnering immediate media attention to build the Answers.com brand and drive users to the site.
Within a few weeks, Answers.com saw top-tier coverage in USA Today, News & Observer and The Wall Street Journal, as well as on CBNC’s Power Lunch, during the first week of launch. Regular coverage continued to roll in throughout the entire first year of the product’s existence; noted journalists Hiawatha Bray, Leslie Walker, Eric Auchard, and many others all eventually wrote about Answers.com in one way or another. And all of it was positive.
After spending months building solid relationships between the top tech reporters across the country and Answers.com executives, Answers.com and RLM realized there was an opportunity to refocus some of their efforts toward the educational market. The positioning paid off as Answers.com’s highest traffic numbers occur in September—this past September, they achieved more than 4 million hits, almost double their usual summer traffic.
Understanding that Answers.com would be genuinely useful to journalists and that media word-of-mouth would be tremendously effective in driving on-message media coverage, RLM immediately identified potential “media advocates” for Answers.com—the majority of which were tech reviewers.
But that soon changed. By leveraging the depth of the Answers.com pages, RLM created a trend among journalists using Answers.com in their work, regardless of their beat. Travel beat reporters, college newspapers writers, culture columnists and more cited Answers.com as an invaluable source of information in their articles. To this day, Answers.com typically sees one or two citations daily in newspapers and magazines across the country.
Simultaneously, RLM relentlessly pitched print tech writers and began setting up desk-side briefings with CEO Bob Rosenschein.
Three weeks later, Forbes called Answers.com, “the best Internet innovation in years.” Stock in GuruNet shot up 20% immediately after the article was published.
RLM also spear-headed a number of grassroots marketing efforts:
- USB key chains pre-loaded with GuruNet and Answers.com collateral were sent to targeted reporters. This useful “chachke” heightened awareness in newsrooms that translated to coverage.
- 2,000 shirts were handed out to Rutgers University students to look up “contumacious” at Answers.com. Answers saw an immediate spike in traffic from Rutgers students and a 5% increase in searches of just that word.
- More than 150,000 citation posters have been distributed to teachers to hang in their classrooms. Designed by RLM, these posters give them tips on teaching proper citation techniques for online sites – such as Answers.com – to their students.
- Resource Centers featuring a mixture of content already existing on Answers.com and original content specifically drafted for the Centers, helped bring Answers.com to the non-tech crowd, as well as provide historical context to topics in the news. RLM suggested creating Resource Centers for students, teachers, journalists, moms, dads, etc. on topics such as hurricanes, the Academy Awards, Back-to-School, Small Business and more.
- RLM brought Answers.com to the attention of the blogosphere—before traditional press even knew what that was! RLM used these relationships and contacts to help drive traffic to Answers.com’s alter-ego Web site, Blufr, which was designed to drive traffic to Answers.com.
RLM used trends in lifestyle and technology to create opportunities to position Answers.com spokespeople as experts in the vertical search industry.
RLM also utilized technology and education trade shows that Answers.com attended to schedule booth appointments and garner coverage even months after the show, based on relationships created there.
By identifying and owning a specific space in the search industry—answers—Answers.com saw their one million visitors per day double in one month. Answer.com’s visitor rate increased over 1,000% and their stock price has doubled.
As Answers.com established additional partnerships with online properties such as Google, Firefox, Wikipedia, DealTime, and Shopping.com, RLM continued to identify effective PR tactics to keep the buzz going.
Answers.com has become a major player, thanks to the hard work of RLM’s team. According to Fortune, Answers.com was among three companies that are vying to be the next Google. Stories placed by RLM reached many millions of people in the US and Canada. Answers.com coverage garnered by RLM included:
Asbury Park Press
Belo Television Group
Bits & Bytes
Castellini on Computers
Chris Pirillo Show
Computer Outlook (KLAV-AM)
Computer Radio Show
Contra Costa Times
Deseret Morning News
Florida Today Forbes and Forbes.com
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Gannett News Service
Kansas City Star
Life Online with Bob Parsons
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
News & Observer
New York Daily News
New York Times
Parent to Parent
PC Chat Computer Show
Power Lunch (CNBC)
Reuters Rocky Mountain News
Salt Lake Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
Screen Savers (G4)
Staten Island Advance
St. Paul Pioneer
Teaching K-8 Magazine
Technology and Learning
USA Today and USAToday.com
US News and World Report
Wall Street Journal