Materialise, (NASDAQ:MTLS) is a leading developer of software for the 3D printing industry with its headquarters in Leuven, Belgium and U.S. headquarters based in Plymouth, Michigan. Materialise has an established brand in Europe. The company, however, did not have an ongoing relationship with a communications agency in the U.S. nor had it recently utilized the services of one in support of its U.S. operations. Manzer Communications was hired on a project basis to support the Belgian company by crafting and managing its announcements around RAPID, the largest additive manufacturing conference in North America.
The Belgian company wanted to raise its profile on the American market with a series of corporate announcements at the 2016 edition of RAPID. Competition for share of voice is fierce at industry trade shows like RAPID. Announcements can get lost in the shuffle as other companies vie for media attention over the period of several days. What’s more, Materialise was not launching a new product so much as announcing a new comprehensive bundling of previously existing software applications for the 3D software industry.
Another complicating factor emerged, which was that RAPID would be the event at which HP announced its first foray into 3D printing for manufacturers; this meant that HP would likely dominate the event’s media coverage for at least the first 24 – 48 hours. One of Materialise’s announcements specifically addressed its work on a critical part of the 3D software running the new HP 3D printer. We quickly realized, however, that it would be more difficult to capture media buzz in the wake of what many in the industry felt would be a significant leap forward in 3D printing.
Materialise also wanted to establish its CEO and founder, Fried Vancraen, as a leader in the advancement of 3D medical printing solutions and its widespread adoption by healthcare providers in the U.S.
Thus the challenge fell on Manzer Communications to find a way to not only secure media coverage for Materialise’s new product bundling but also ensure the company saw a chance to be viewed as a leader in 3D printing software in general and medical printing technology in particular.
A final challenge was that Materialise wanted Manzer Communications to establish KPIs to measure its performance and assign value to the investment it planned to make. Manzer Communications agreed to be measured by the number of media placements as well as the overall reach in terms of unique site visits the placements potentially generated. In an ever increasing digital world, the company wanted to ensure it received not only media write-ups but also traction in the form of article views and traffic to the Materialise website.
Our first recommendation was to push the announcement of Materialise Magics 3D Print Suite, the newly bundled suite of pre-existing apps, into the week before the start of RAPID. Our rationale? Since HP was announcing the launch of its first-ever 3D printer for the additive manufacturing market the media would in all likelihood pay scant attention to announcements that were not in some way or another a breakthrough in their own right. We also felt we stood a better chance of standing out the week prior to the trade show and dominate the 3D software media without any real competition.
We also worked on a concurrent announcement, which was a call by Mr. Vancraen to the rest of the 3D medical printing industry to commit resources and resolve toward improving clinical trial efforts. The adoption of 3D medical printing has been slow and typically limited to advanced research hospitals in part because there is a lack of reliable, predictive clinical data surrounding 3D printing technology, which is in itself partly due to the highly fragmented nature of the market. Our goal was to make Mr. Vancraen’s announcement visible in advance of RAPID to draw interest in a panel he planned to host on the topic.
We also planned to announce Materialise’s participation in the development of a key software component for its brand new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer. HP placed an embargo on the announcement and required its partners to adhere to strict branding and announcement protocol.
All communications, including press releases, blog posts and social media posts, were written clearly and concisely to make the tech-heavy content easily understood by all manner of media. We collaborated with key marketing and communications stakeholders in Materialise to ensure we maximized the news value of the three main announcements. We also provided a media coaching session to Mr. Vancraen and Bryan Crutchfield, Vice President and General Manager of Materialise. Finally, we coordinated all press relations including interview scheduling, booth visits, interview follow-up and media reporting.
We obtained no less than 19 meaningful articles for Materialise in a three week span of pitching. Among the top tier trade media that covered the Materialise news were:
- 3D Printing Industry
- Develop 3D
- Fierce Medical Devices
Through careful selection of media and one-on-one pitching we were able to dominate the news cycle in 3D printing for nearly three days in the week prior to RAPID.
The call-to-action by Mr. Vancraen on the need for greater accountability of clinical trials received attention from a great many trade outlets, and it generated significant online discussion among media and influencers alike.
With 19 media pick-ups, the reach of our online media placements, according to generally accepted statistics provided by each news outlet, amounted to nearly 4 million unique visitors. Perhaps equally as important, Materialise spokespersons were well prepared to handle their respective interviews and the resulting articles written were highly effective at communicating the company’s key messages.