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Case Study: An Enterprise Webcast Heard 'Round the World

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MRM Worldwide (www.mrm worldwide.com) is a full-service direct and interactive marketing solutions agency that works with customers on leading-edge media campaigns. The agency provides expertise to clients in the arenas of self-service marketing, response marketing, and customer and digital strategy, as well as data, measurement, and analytics related to marketing spending. MRM Worldwide is a unit of Interpublic’s McCann Worldgroup with 2,200 employees and 64 offices located in 37 countries.

In late 2006, MRM Worldwide undertook an initiative to improve the level and quality of internal communications with the company’s worldwide offices and employees. Working with McCann Worldgroup sister company Insidedge (http://insidedge.net), which provides expertise in effective employee communications, MRM determined that a worldwide webcast would be the most effective way to hold a companywide meeting to announce the new communications initiative. Since MRM Worldwide didn’t have the internal resources to plan and produce the webcast, the MRM and Insidedge team sought a vendor that could provide an end-to-end solution for the companywide meeting. They selected On24.

Founded in 1998, On24 offers a portfolio of webcasting products for internal and external communications, available as either licensed ASP products or turnkey outsourced solutions. Solutions include a webcast center, simple audio, and demo webcast capabilities. On24 has produced webcasting events throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Latin America and has a global network of local single and multicamera production crews.

The Problem in Depth
From its global network of offices, MRM Worldwide provides expertise to clients including Nestlé, UPS, and Verizon on the use of digital technologies to communicate marketing messages effectively to their own customers. So when it was time to undertake a major project designed to improve internal communication at MRM, it was natural that digital media was one component of the solution.

The agency first turned to Insidedge, an expert in employee communications. Insidedge partners with businesses to evaluate employee communications efforts, understand employee concerns, and build and execute employee communications strategies. That Insidedge is part of the larger McCann Worldgroup was a bonus, says Bradley Starr, MRM Worldwide’s chief people officer. "We had, of course, heard of Insidedge but had never worked with them before," says Starr. "It’s nice when the expertise comes from right down the hall," he adds.

The idea was to kick off and demonstrate MRM’s commitment to improved communications with the worldwide employees of MRM by holding a single "all hands" meeting, where company executives would share strategy, review financial performance, and set goals for the future. Starr says, "We didn’t want an audio-only conference because it lacks the same impact and gravitas as a video webcast." Given the goals of the internal communications effort, he adds, "It was important that the meeting be a high-profile, high-quality experience shared by as many employees at the same time as possible." This was complicated by the fact that there are employees in nearly every time zone, and MRM’s management teams work from New York and London.

The decision to do a webcast was made fairly quickly, but the concept evolved as the meeting date approached. "Initially we talked about doing it as ‘MRM TV,’" says Starr, "but we didn’t want it to feel like we were broadcasting memos. We wanted to make it interactive so that we could capture our employees’ ideas in the process." There was also a wish to have the webcast available for replay for those employees who simply couldn’t participate live due to time zone or other issues.

The Solution
Ann Mellinger, vice president at Insidedge, led the team that was revisiting MRM’s overall employee communications effort, of which the webcast was an integral part. "The choice to use On24 for the webcast was made fairly quickly, because our web relations team knew of them and had worked with them on behalf of other clients," says Mellinger. On24 quickly assured MRM that it could handle its specific requirements, which included the ability to connect with all of MRM’s offices worldwide, to broadcast from multiple locations, and, most importantly, to integrate a live Q&A session with employees after the presentations.

"It was a pretty straightforward project for us," says Matt Koellner, the On24 senior product manager who worked with MRM on the webcast. "The only tricky part was that we were doing a split studio live webcast, with speakers in New York and London," he says. But Koellner, who has a background in live television broadcasting, says that webcasting technology has come a long way from its early days. "We are using the same production studios that are used for television broadcasting," so the results are truly broadcast quality. In fact, he adds, setting up the studio isn’t the time-consuming part of a live webcast; it is ensuring that the web-based portion, like capturing attendee registration information and testing the live Q&A functionality, that takes the most time. Even so, Koellner says, "we can do a webcast in a week if we need to, though a month or two is ideal."

Starr, Mellinger, and Koellner all agree that one of the keys to the success of the webcast was ample rehearsal time before the meeting took place. "Preparation time is critical. It’s easy to come across as quite wooden in a webcast," says Starr, who admits to having spent "many hours" running through his presentation in his office. Mellinger adds that "MRM’s C-level executives made a commitment to rehearse and refine their presentations, and it really made a difference in the quality."

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