How to Really Reach Thought Leaders With Media Partners, Events and Content

Red Hat Teams up with CIO Magazine and Harvard Business Review

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Later this month, enterprise software company Red Hat will host its second "Enterprisers" event at the CIO 100, an annual symposium put on by its media partner CIO magazine.

The event is part of an ongoing campaign Red Hat launched last year called "The Enterprisers Project," with CIO magazine and the Harvard Business Review.

"Our portfolio is a lot broader now and we are serving higher-level IT executives in organizations," said Jackie Yeaney, executive VP-strategy and marketing at Red Hat, which provides open source software for cloud computing, storage and other solutions. Historically, Red Hat had targeted system administrators and other end users with marketing.

"We thought about doing a global awareness campaign, because a lot of the world doesn't really know who Red Hat is or what we do, but we couldn't afford that," Ms. Yeaney said. "Red Hat's unique gift is catalyzing communities of people, so what better way than to connect them together and understand what they care about, so we could serve them better."

To help it reach this higher-level CIO audience, Red Hat turned to its agency partner PJA Advertising and Marketing, Cambridge, Mass.

"Red Hat came to us with a business problem -- they are a $1.5 billion open source software company, they are growing and profitable, but they were relatively invisible to CIOs," said Mike O'Toole, president of PJA.

So PJA and Red Hat created "The Enterprisers Project," a thought-leadership platform designed to engage CIOs in conversations around key topics of interest, using a combination of online content and face-to-face events.

In the past year, the website has received more than 150,000 unique visitors and more than 20,000 content downloads.

Mr. O'Toole and Ms. Yeaney shared some strategies on what has made it a success so far:

1. Find trusted media partners.

Red Hat partnered with CIO magazine and Harvard Business Review to help develop content, such as research papers and articles, as well as partner on CIO events.

"We wanted to connect with brands CIOs trust," Ms. Yeaney said.

She noted that four of the top five challenges cited by CIOs are leadership and change issues -- not IT issues. "So we wanted one business brand and one IT brand. CIO and HBR are the preeminent brands CIOs found credible."

2. Create an editorial board of thought leaders.

Research also showed that Red Hat's target audience of CIOs viewed technology as a driver of business success.

"We wanted to start a conversation where like-minded CIOs could talk to each other and do some peer-learning about how to best create value in their enterprises by using IT," Mr. O'Toole said.

To get insight about topics of relevance, Red Hat recruited about 15 CIOs from leading companies to serve on an editorial board, where they contribute ideas about key issues -- such as how the role of the CIO is changing and whether to outsource IT projects.

3. Keep content fresh and engaging.

On the "Enterprisers Project" website, Red Hat publishes blogs from contributors, research articles in conjunction with its media partners, Q&As with CIOs, "Tips of the Week," and video interviews with CIOs. Its editorial board members contribute content, as well as CIOs and IT thought leaders from the industry.

"We are trying get the voice of CIOs on the site," Ms. Yeaney said. "When we have a virtual or a face-to-face roundtable discussion, it provides us with a lot of content for the site, and helps us create other ideas for content."

4. Leverage industry events.

A big component of the "Enterprisers Project" is face-to-face events. "We wanted to leverage industry events that already existed, such as the CIO 100, which has hundreds of CIOs from the world's most successful companies," Mr. O'Toole said.

This year's CIO 100 will be held from Aug. 17-19 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. During the event, Red Hat will sponsor a roundtable discussion with about 25 select CIOs, which it will use for peer learning and also to develop content for its website. In addition to using existing events, Red Hat also puts on custom events in cities such as Boston and Chicago, where CIOs can network and share strategies for success.

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