By winning two Stevie
Awards at The 2007 American Business Awards earlier this year,
RCN Corporation has shown they are back with
a vengeance. Here we look at what they did to win in the
Best Communications Organization category.
RCN Corporation is a leading provider of video, data, and
voice services to residential and business customers, but not
so long ago the company outlook had been bleak.
In his June 2007 acceptance speech for the Stevie Award for
Best Business Turnaround at New York’s Marriott Marquis, RCN
President & CEO Peter Aquino said: "My thanks to Team RCN,
who has taken us from bankruptcy to Broadway tonight. I share
this award with all of them. And I'm delighted that
Richard Ramlall and his organization have been recognized for
their outstanding communication effort."
RCN Senior Vice President, Strategic & External Affairs
Richard Ramlall claims that his department is unique. Says
Ramlall, “It combines investor relations, public relations,
and government relations and is a tightly integrated, unified,
and interdependent operation.”
But this team of staff and
consultants—whose talents, efforts, and expertise made such
recognition possible—did not exist two years ago.
2005, RCN Corporation emerged from bankruptcy with a new
executive team and board of directors. It was then that
Richard Ramlall, a seasoned telecom and cable veteran, took
over responsibility for RCN public relations, investor
relations, and regulatory and government affairs. Since
entering into bankruptcy, RCN’s voice in the telecom industry
had become muted. The company had fallen off the radar
of most of the industry press, regulators, and sell-side
analysts, and it had no consistent central strategy. There was
little targeted corporate PR support for the regional markets,
and no investor relations (IR) infrastructure. Overall, there
was no consistent PR or IR policy, process, messaging, or
At the same time, from being the first company to offer bundled triple-play services, RCN was now facing stiff competition in their areas of operation from telecom and cable giants that were also beginning to offer triple-play services. Competitors were using the bankruptcy to disparage RCN, and the financial community doubted RCN could survive, never mind make a come back.
Mr. Ramlall’s strategy was to combine RCN’s public relations, investor relations, regulatory/ lobbying, and government affairs groups into an aggressive, proactive, integrated, and unique department. He did this with a limited budget by bringing in seasoned outside consultants to assist with PR, IR, legal, and lobbying actiivities.
His strategic vision ensured that the new communications team provided consistent messaging to all external audiences; unified strategy and activities; increased brand and product awareness; and worked to position RCN favorably with customers, industry, government, and financial communities alike. Through this coordinated planning, RCN was able to use the department’s integrated functions both as a sword and as a shield.
RCN moved to lobby Congress to update the Telecom Act of 1996. They also lobbied the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to change rules that created competitive disadvantages for smaller companies, like RCN.
RCN used public relations to support their lobbying efforts to secure valuable programming protections in the FCC’s Adelphia/ Comcast/Time Warner Merger. These efforts also helped include Open Video System (OVS) protections tailored for RCN in House and Senate bills. Mr. Ramlall also led lobbying efforts that resulted in $50 million in savings for RCN by making it one of only a few companies to get FCC waiver request approval on set top boxes.
In addition to working directly with RCN’s CEO on key strategic initiatives, Mr. Ramlall has negotiated and executed corporate partnerships with D.C. United, Georgetown University Athletics, Kettler Capitals IcePlex, George Mason Patriot Center, and the Washington Redskins. He also oversees RCN’s corporate giving program, including a first-of-its-kind $3 million donation of airtime to the United Way of America’s "What Matters" campaign.
In 2006, RCN’s proactive media and analyst outreach helped to restore public and investor confidence. It supported the launch of new products and services, and it was able to protect RCN’s interests at the FCC and Congress.
As a result of these efforts, studies of focus groups showed a heightened awareness of RCN’s services by the general public, and Consumer Reports ranked RCN as the fourth-best U.S. Internet provider.
Because of the huge increase in the number of news releases, interviews, and position statements to the media, RCN’s communications team saw coverage of RCN by The Associated Press, Bloomberg, the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, the Chicago Sun Times, and The Washington Post. Briefings were held with financial reporters and business editors, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Post ran atwo-page feature story about RCN and its competitive strategy.
All this communications activity enabled RCN to increase institutional ownership of its stock from 74% to 93%, and sell-side analyst coverage more than tripled from 3 to 10. RCN generated more than 500 IR contacts and held more than 20 road shows and conference presentations.
And it’s not just the American Business Awards that have recognized RCN’s successes over the past couple of years. The company picked up a 2006 Thoth Award and an Award of Excellence from the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for RCN’s investor relations and integrated IR/PR programs.
About Richard Ramlall:
Richard Ramlall serves as Senior Vice President, Strategic & External Affairs, and is responsible for regulatory affairs, investor relations, public relations, external affairs and strategic issues. He is responsible for regulatory due diligence and approvals on all merger and acquisition deals. He also works directly with RCN’s President & CEO on key corporate strategic initiatives and new business development. Prior to joining RCN Mr. Ramlall served as senior managing director and executive vice president of Spencer Trask Media and Communications Group, LLC (a division of New York-based venture capital firm Spencer Trask & Company), based in Reston, Virginia, from June 1999 to March 2005. From March 1997 to June 1999, Mr. Ramlall served as Vice President & Managing Director for strategy, marketing, and international government affairs for Bechtel Telecommunications. Prior to that, Mr. Ramlall was Executive Director, International Nusiness Affairs, for Bell Atlantic International. He spent over eighteen years at Bell Atlantic in a number of areas, including strategy, corporate development, finance, marketing, operations, regulatory, and legal. In 1990, Mr. Ramlall was selected to serve a one-year appointment under the Presidential Exchange Executive Program of the White House. Mr. Ramlall holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and an MGA (Technology Management) from the University of Maryland.
About RCN Corporation
RCN Corporation, www.rcn.com, is one of the largest facilities-based competitive providers of bundled cable, high-speed internet, and phone services delivered over its own fiber-optic local network to residential, small business, and commercial customers in the most densely populated markets in the U.S. RCN provides service in the Boston, Chicago, Eastern Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington, D.C. metropolitan markets. In addition, RCN operates two commercial divisions: RCN Business Services, a provider of bulk video, broadband internet access and voice services to small and medium business customers; and RCN Business Solutions, a fiber facilities-based provider of high-availability telecommunication services to both retail and wholesale business customers.