Written by PollackPRMktg on September 6, 2011.
Jennifer Adams is a Product Marketing Manager for B2B Enterprise and Unified Communications products at Plantronics, a world leader in personal audio communications. She has been with Plantronics since 2006 and focuses her efforts on launching and marketing products inside the Plantronics Unified Communications Portfolio. Jennifer has worked in product marketing for over a decade, her past companies include American Apparel, a leading basics brand with both wholesale and retail divisions globally, and Celestron, a leading manufacturer of high-quality optical products including computerized and non-computerized telescopes.
Q. Plantronics is globally recognized for its many breakthroughs in technology. As marketing manager for this public company, please describe briefly your team’s niche responsibilities for the company.
A. My team manages product marketing efforts including product launch, messaging, competitive marketing and demand generation for a growing segment of our enterprise (B2B) business that is focused on new technologies in the area of Unified Communications (UC). A quick definition of UC for those who may be unfamiliar with the term: by UC we mean software products, endpoints (soft phones, IP hardphones, and mobile phones), and associated devices (headsets, handsets, speakerphones, webcams, etc.) that specifically enhance communications effectiveness by integrating applications such as IM with presence, VoIP, conferencing (audio, web, video), desktop sharing, collaboration technologies, mobile communication technologies, and more. UC solutions include Microsoft Lync, IBM Lotus SameTime, Avaya one-X, and Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, among others.
My portfolio is made up of 4 product families: Corded USB headsets, Bluetooth USB headsets, DECT Wireless USB headsets and USB phones (handsets, desk phones and speakerphones). Our products in this segment offer rich features and functionality integrated into the leading unified communications applications from our strategic partners including Microsoft, Cisco, Avaya and IBM. The basis of what our products are providing is a rich audio experience for managing calls from various devices with the PC as the underlying point of contact in all of our UC products. Unified Communications represents the future of business communication and Plantronics is poised on the leading edge – which as a marketer is an exciting place to be.
Q.Does your team work hand in hand with the global communications team or is the company structured in separate silos?
A. Technology product marketing as a function requires a certain level of what I affectionately call “geek factor”. We have to know (and care about) the details of how these products work and that in-depth knowledge needs to be synthesized into the high level positioning and messaging that is appropriate for our various external audiences including the press/analyst community. Though our reporting structures are separate within the marketing organization, we work very closely with the global communications team. We serve as the liaisons between the development teams and the rest of the sales and marketing organization, so we end up working very closely with the global communications team leading up to product launches (and post-launch). We work to create messaging and collateral that they can use to inform press/analysts on new products, we review product press release drafts, we provide the actual sample units they send out for product reviews, and we often participate in press or analyst briefings.
Q. Plantronics has a great reputation for both community involvement and its pioneering efforts toward environmental stewardship. Whether or not your team carries any responsibilities in either of these categories, could you briefly discuss specifics of Plantronics’ involvement in these aspects?
A. We understand that many aspects of our business impact the environment and the communities in which we live and work. From the materials used during the manufacturing process to the food provided in our company cafés, everything affects the health of our local and global ecosystems. We’ve instituted a formal environmental assessment early in the design phase as an essential part of our product development process. From the smart irrigation system and solar panel installation at our Santa Cruz campus to the strict recycling program at our Mexico manufacturing facility and our Smarter Working program in Europe, we’re determined to minimize our impact on the environment.
When it comes to community involvement, as one of the largest companies in Santa Cruz County, we know that our support is vital to area nonprofits. Each year we donate headsets to local nonprofits. Since 2001, our donation committee, staffed by employee volunteers, has supported over 125 local groups, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ecology Action, Walnut Ave. Women’s Center, Santa Cruz County Symphony, UCSC scholarships, Homeless Services Center and the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center. Our relationship with Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County goes back to 1997, and in the past 14 years we have donated the equivalent of 2.5 million pounds of food for local families in need. In addition, we have been a proud supporter of the United Way for more than two decades, matching all employee contributions. Our offices located in other regions of the world also practice local community support and involvement.
Q. Plantronics is celebrating its 50th anniversary, certainly a milestone for any company. Please describe briefly any celebratory activities that have taken place or are still to take place.
A. Yes, 50 years is a huge milestone for any company and is extremely rare among technology companies, so we are very proud of that accomplishment. It’s been a whirlwind year of 50th anniversary celebrations that kicked off on January 26 with a huge launch event that not only launched a new branding effort for our company but also launched some exciting and innovative products at the same time. This live webcast event featured Plantronics CEO Ken Kannappan who hosted famed astronaut Dr. Buzz Aldrin, along with key IT thought leaders from Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft, to celebrate our first 50 years of innovation and share a vision for the future − a vision of Simply Smarter Communications™.
Just a few months later, on May 18 we continued our 50th year celebrations by hosting another live webcast from the floor of the NY Stock Exchange where CEO Ken Kannappan and a select group of Plantronics’ Executives rang the opening bell and then led a discussion with IT Thought Leaders on the ever-changing world of business communications and how another wave of new and innovative Plantronics products were rising to meet the new challenges.
Then on May 26 we hosted a 50th anniversary celebration with hundreds of people from our local community at our headquarters in Santa Cruz, California. The party was a great way for Plantronics to share in our 50 year accomplishment with the community who supported our business over the years. Speakers at the event included CEO Ken Kannappan, California State Senator Joe Simitian and the Mayor of Santa Cruz among others.
It’s been a great year of celebration and we are looking forward to the next 50!
Q. Plantronics products are used by diverse customers including pilots, astronauts and 911 emergency workers as well as 100% of the Fortune 100 companies. Most exciting to many of our readers, is company’s history of supplying astronauts its products. Can you tell us more top line specifics on each of these?
A. In 1961 two pilots, Courtney Graham and Keith Larkin formed the company in a small garage in Santa Cruz with the goal to create lightweight aviation headsets. In 1962 Plantronics was the first headset in outer space, when astronaut Wally Schirra chose to use our MS50 for the Mercury mission, adapting the lightweight model to fit inside his helmet. Of course, the most famous use of a Plantronics headset was in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon. As Armstrong stepped from the lunar module onto the Moon, he said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” What would become one of the most famous sentences in the history of man was spoken over a Plantronics headset. I think that’s pretty cool! It’s also ironic to me as my most recent job prior to Plantronics was for a telescope manufacturer, so the space theme seems to be following me!
Since that time our lightweight headsets have been chosen as the brand of choice for call center agents around the world and are used daily by the FAA, 911 emergency workers, NY Stock Exchange workers and more. Plantronics headsets are now used by 100% of the Fortune 100 companies – quite an accomplishment for a company that started out in a California Garage. Though I can think of a few other technology companies (Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard) that got this same start – and they seem to be doing ok too!