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Corporate Repositioning: From Dish Maker to Technology Leader

When several members of the Birnbach Communications team started working with Corning at Brodeur Worldwide, the communications challenge was exciting but formidable … change the company's image from the people that made dishes with "little blue flowers," into a technology leader in the Optical Communications space.

As a foundation for the communications program, Corning had undertaken a major corporate re-branding initiative to create a "new Corning." The initiative's efforts ranged from conducting brand value research and developing a new logo, to creating a new corporate tagline, corporate vision and design/graphic approach.

It was then the job of the in-house corporate and agency communications team to bring this new look and feel to life with key audiences including the media, customers, employees and Wall Street.

Telling A Compelling Story…

A critical piece of successfully transforming Corning's image, was building a story that would be compelling, credible and transferable across audiences.

We worked closely with the client to build a set of messages, story angles and positioning that would establish them as an Optical Communications giant. Leveraging their discovery of optical fiber in the 1970's, divestiture of the consumer products division, countless networking technology advances, global expansion, M&A's, and strong leadership, we wove a powerful value proposition for the company and their contribution to the telecommunications arena.

This messaging and positioning was then threaded throughout all communications internally and externally – from the annual shareholder meeting speech, board presentations and media interviews, to customer letters and the company intranet.

This was the first time in many years the company's image was being communicated in a unified way starting at the corporate level and then funneling down through every division.

Getting on the Right Radar Screens …

When we began working with Corning, their media exposure was predominantly limited to local business media, technical publications and a small slice of national business press. Visibility also tended to result from reactive, news release efforts vs. proactive, sustained outreach.

Further, it was being covered as a manufacturing company vs. a technology hot-bed and being categorized in stock listings among companies like Anchor-Hocking as opposed to Nortel, Cisco and Lucent, with whom it rightfully belonged.

By building new relationships, educating key influencers in the business, technology and telecommunications spaces, and building a steady drumbeat of outreach, we put Corning on the radar screen of a whole new set of news makers.

Resulting coverage spanned many outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, Fast Company, The Economist, Red Herring, Business 2.0, Reuters, Associated Press, CNBC, CBS MarketWatch.com, TheStreet.com, MoteleyFool.com, Bloomberg News and more.

Two interesting areas where we made very specific tweaks to how Corning was being viewed included: successfully lobbying The Wall Street Journal to shift the reporter covering Corning from the manufacturing beat out of Pittsburg to the telecom business reporter out of New York City; and changing its SIC code classification from glass/manufacturing to technology/telecom. We were able to get magazines like Fortune and Business Week to change the categories in which they had placed Corning; for example, last year in its "Most Admired Companies" special section, Fortune listed Corning among telecommunication manufacturers, away from glass manufacturers (such as Libby Glass) against whom the company no longer competed.

Integrating the New Image Across All Communication Functions …

In order for the story of the new Corning to ring true and be sustainable, it was critical that all communications vehicles were unified.

We were instrumental in helping Corning build and execute integrated, ongoing programs that would make a lasting impact.

  • Employee communications were evolved to one look and feel, taken on-line for maximum reach, and built to connect with the growing worldwide employee base.
  • M&A announcements were used as an opportunity to educate Wall Street, customers and employees on Corning's deep commitment to the Optical space.
  • Media efforts dovetailed with advertising initiatives at the corporate and divisional levels for maximum impact and ROI.
  • Executive communications were unified across internal and external vehicles to showcase the company's unique management bench strength.
  • Outreach to the financial analyst community was synched more tightly with media efforts to ensure consistency and credibility.

Bringing it All Together

By helping Corning tell a compelling story, get onto the right radar screens and integrate efforts across all communications we were able to help the company truly move the needle and transform its image from a company that "lived" in America's kitchens to a worldwide technology force.

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