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Publication numberUS20060074727 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/875,796
Publication dateApr 6, 2006
Filing dateJun 25, 2004
Priority dateSep 7, 2001
Publication number10875796, 875796, US 2006/0074727 A1, US 2006/074727 A1, US 20060074727 A1, US 20060074727A1, US 2006074727 A1, US 2006074727A1, US-A1-20060074727, US-A1-2006074727, US2006/0074727A1, US2006/074727A1, US20060074727 A1, US20060074727A1, US2006074727 A1, US2006074727A1
InventorsDaniel Briere
Original AssigneeBriere Daniel D
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for collection and dissemination of information over a computer network
US 20060074727 A1
Abstract
A system for managing relationships in an industry community having various groups of parties, each of which has a common interest in the industry. The system includes means for collecting and sharing information between the parties. The collected information is classified in accordance with the group from which it came and the relationship between the groups is managed in accordance with a set of relationship rules.
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Claims(75)
1. A system for managing relationships in an industry community having a first group of parties and a second group of parties each of which has a common interest in said industry, said system comprising:
first information collection means for collecting information about said first group of parties;
second information collection means for collecting information about said second group of parties;
first classification means for classifying said information about said first group of parties in a predetermined manner;
second classification means for classifying said information about said second group of parties in a predetermined manner; and
predetermined relationship management rules for managing the relationships between said first and second groups in accordance with their classification.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein said first group of parties includes a company marketing department.
3. The system of claim 1, wherein said first group of parties includes a company public relations department.
4. The system of claim 1, wherein said first group of parties includes a marketing firm.
5. The system of claim 1, wherein said first group of parties includes a public relations firm.
6. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry publisher.
7. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry reporter.
8. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry analyst.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry association.
10. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry forums group.
11. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry standards organization.
12. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry event organizer.
13. The system of claim 1, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry regulatory body.
14. The system of claim 1, wherein said first and second classification means includes a three-tiered classification system for classifying said first and second groups of parties.
15. The system of claim 14, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industry to which said first and second group belongs.
16. The system of claim 14, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the product and/or services that said first and second group offers.
17. The system of claim 14, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industries said first and second groups support.
18. The system of claim 14, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industry to which said first and second group belongs and in accordance with the product and/or services that said first and second group offers.
19. The system of claim 14, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industry to which said first and second group belongs, in accordance with the product and/or services that said first and second group offers and in accordance with the industries said first and second groups support.
20. A system for electronically managing relationships in an industry community having a first group of parties and a second group of parties each of which has a common interest in said industry, said system comprising:
first data collection means for electronically collecting data about said first group of parties;
second data collection means for electronically collecting data about said second group of parties;
first classification means for electronically classifying said data about said first group of parties in a predetermined manner;
second classification means for electronically classifying said data about said second group of parties in a predetermined manner,
a plurality of predetermined relationship management rules; and
processing means for electronically processing said data for managing said relationships between said first and second groups in accordance with their classification and disseminating said data in accordance with said relationships.
21. The system of claim 20, wherein said first group of parties includes a company marketing department.
22. The system of claim 20, wherein said first group of parties includes a company public relations department.
23. The system of claim 20, wherein said first group of parties includes a marketing firm.
24. The system of claim 20, wherein said first group of parties includes a public relations firm.
25. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry publisher.
26. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry reporter.
27. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry analyst.
28. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry association.
29. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry forums group.
30. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry standards organization.
31. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry event organizer.
32. The system of claim 20, wherein said second group of parties includes an industry regulatory body.
33. The system of claim 20, wherein said first and second classification means includes a three-tiered classification system for classifying said first and second groups of parties.
34. The system of claim 33, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industry to which said first and second group belongs.
35. The system of claim 33, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the product and/or services that said first and second group offers.
36. The system of claim 33, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industries said first and second groups support.
37. The system of claim 33, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industry to which said first and second group belongs and in accordance with the product and/or services that said first and second group offers.
38. The system of claim 33, wherein said three-tiered classification system classifies said first and second groups of parties in accordance with the industry to which said first and second group belongs, in accordance with the product and/or services that said first and second group offers and in accordance with the industries said first and second groups support.
39. The system of claim 33, wherein said processing means including input means for manually inputting said data.
40. The system of claim 33, wherein said processing means including input means for accepting an electronic data feed of said data.
41. The system of claim 33, wherein said processing means including control means for managing the content of said data and controlling its dissemination.
42. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published over a computer network.
43. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published on an Internet website.
44. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published in a newsletter.
45. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published in an article.
46. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published in a brief.
47. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published in a newspaper.
48. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published in a directory.
49. The system of claim 33, further including synchronizing means for synchronizing industry data published in an Internet webcast.
50. The system of claim 33, further including alert means for alerting users of said system when predetermined data in said system has changed.
51. A system for electronically managing relationships in an industry community having a first group of parties and a second group of parties each of which has a common interest in said industry, said system comprising:
first data collection means for electronically collecting data about said first group of parties and storing said data on a storage layer;
second data collection means for electronically collecting data about said second group of parties and storing said data on said storage layer;
first classification means for electronically classifying said data about said first group of parties in a predetermined manner within said storage layer;
second classification means for electronically classifying said data about said second group of parties in a predetermined manner within said storage layer;
a plurality of predetermined relationship management rules stored in said storage layer;
processing means for electronically processing said data for managing said relationships between said first and second groups in accordance with their classification in a processing layer; and
user interface face means within an interface layer for disseminating said data to users of said system in accordance with said relationships.
52. The system of claim 51, wherein said processing layer is between said storage layer and said interface layer
53. The system of claim 51, wherein each of said layers is self-contained and communicating with adjacent layers using established procedures and protocols.
54. The system of claim 51, further including a security layer between said storage layer and said processing layer.
55. The system of claim 51, wherein all layers are located on a network server.
56. The system of claim 51, wherein said storage and processing layers urn on a network server.
57. The system of claim 51, wherein said interface layer runs a computer desktop.
58. The system of claim 51, wherein all of said layers runs a computer desktop.
59. The system of claim 51, wherein said storage layer uses an SQL database.
60. The system of claim 51, wherein said storage layer uses a MYSQL database.
61. The system of claim 51, wherein said storage layer uses an Oracle database.
62. The system of claim 51, wherein said processing means includes a plurality of processing engines selected from among the group:
retriever engine for retrieving data requested by the user.
submitter engine for submitting user requests for processing by processing layer.
search engine for searching the data layer in response to a user request.
workflow engine for organizing the work flow the processing layer.
presentation engine for communication with the interface layer.
notification engine for providing notification messages to the user.
forms engine for generating forms for use in the presentation layer.
messaging engine for generating messages for the user, processing outgoing messages from the user and processing incoming messages for the user.
Import/export engine for importing and exporting data into and out of the data layer.
63. A method of communicating information within a community having a first group of parties and a second group of parties each of which has a common interest in said community, said method having the following steps:
collecting information about said first group of parties;
collecting information about said second group of parties;
classifying said information about said first group of parties in a predetermined manner;
classifying said information about said second group of parties in a predetermined manner;
establishing a relationship rule between said first group of parties and said second group of parties; and
communicating said information between said first group of parties and said second group of parties in accordance with said relationship rule.
64. The method of claim 63 further including the step of alerting said parties when information is available for communicating.
65. The method of claim 63, further including the step of including within said first group a company marketing department.
66. The method of claim 64, further including the step of including within said first group a company public relations department.
67. The method of claim 63, further including the step of including within said second group an industry publisher.
68. The method of claim 64, further including the step of including within said second group an industry publisher.
69. The method of claim 63, further including the step of including within said second group an industry reporter.
70. The method of claim 64, further including the step of including within said second group an industry reporter.
71. The method of claim 63, further including the step of including within said second group an industry analyst.
72. The method of claim 64, further including the step of including within said second group an industry organizer.
73. The system of claim 1, further including a plurality of telecommunication devices for permitting said parties to communicate with one another.
74. The system of claim 1, wherein said telecommunication devices include unicaste conferencing facilities.
75. The system of claim 1, wherein said telecommunication devices include multicaste conferencing facilities.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/230,799 filed Sep. 7, 2000 and entitled “Marketing Collateral Repository And Supporting Data Management And Communication Environment” and utility application Ser. No. 09/948,050 filed Sep. 7, 2001 bearing the same title.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to the field of information technology and more particularly, is directed to a method and apparatus for the collection and dissemination of information in an organized and systematic manner using one or more computer networks.

The Internet's phenomenal success has brought a wealth of options to a user's computer screen, allowing him to research and choose information for products and services that best fit his needs and wants. In fact, so many options exist that searching for information can easily become a daunting task as relevant information often is difficult to find, conflicting, incomplete, or simply missing. The novice web user can easily become overwhelmed trying to discern who has what information and how the information may best be obtained. On the other hand, those having information to share do not always have a reliable method of reaching their intended audience.

Consumers of goods and services typically rely on the Internet as an information resource to guide their purchase decisions at some point during the selection process. Increasingly, consumers, especially more sophisticated buyers, are turning to trusted advisors (referred to herein as, “Influencers”) to guide their purchase decisions. These Influencers come in many forms:

People:

Reporters, editors, financial analysts, industry analysts, associations/forums, regulatory bodies, etc.

Web-Based Media:

Online vertical sites and buyer's guides covering a specific industry or a broad spectrum of technology-based products, directories, links pages, FAQs, comparative websites, and search engines.

Other Media:

Print publications like magazines and newspapers, radio, and TV shows, such as MSNBC, CNET TV, etc.

Influencers fill a critical role in helping consumers to better understand product requirements and features and move more quickly to a purchase decision. They are the gatekeepers for Sellers to reach Buyers—whether buying optical telecommunications switching equipment or cleaning fluids for contract office cleaners. Influencers are the indirect channels that influence the mainstream purchasers. Sellers must, therefore, establish strong relationships with the many Influencers who have heavy influence over their consumers.

There are many known Influencers in the purchasing process, including:

Web Content Publishers

    • Vertical Websites/Portals
    • Comparison Sites
    • Search Engines
    • Discussion Groups
    • FAQs
    • Links Pages

Print Publications

    • Buyer's Guides
    • Directories

Analysts

    • Industry Analysts
    • Financial Analysts

Industry Associations/Forums/Regulatory Bodies

    • Industry Standards/Trends
    • Membership Directories
    • Members Listed by Product/Services Categorizations
    • Industry Statistics

Other Media

    • Radio/Web Broadcast
    • TV/Web Broadcast

Consumers who must make purchasing decisions are not the only ones in need of relevant information about a particular issue at hand. In today's information driven world, ready access to reliable and timely information is extremely important. The emergence of computer networks and their widespread use as information highways has made searching for, and delivery of, information much easier than in times past.

For example, those who follow and/or report on developments in a particular industry, one category of so-called Influencers, must have ready and rapid access to industry news and trends. Those within the industry who are tasked with keeping industry followers informed, such as company sales and marketing departments (the Sellers), are equally motivated to get their message out. The challenge is achieving the objectives of both groups (Influencers and Sellers) as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Accordingly, there is a great need in the art for a method and apparatus for the collection and dissemination of information in an organized and systematic manner for users of information and information sources. This need in the art extends to work flow and coordination paths for the execution and processing of legal documents, i.e., non-disclosure agreements, multi-party leases, rental and sales contracts and the like, arranging of meetings and appointments, coordinating of contests and product reviews, and all other activities involving two or more parties when a rapid and reliable flow of information is important.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a computer network which can be used to host the methods, apparatus and functionality of the present invention. The network illustrated in FIG. 1 is the Internet and is generally represented by network cloud 1 with a plurality of connected Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 2 as is well known in the art. Each ISP serves as the entry point for users of the Internet. Today, such devices as computer workstations 3, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) 4, facsimile machines 5, cellular telephones 6, and GPS systems 7 are but a few of the many devices that Internet users have at their disposal for sending and receiving information across the Internet.

Internal to the Internet are a plurality of servers and routers which are responsible for storing and serving content to Internet users when requested. Routers 9 provide the switching and routing functions needed to direct user requests to the appropriate server and retrieval of the requested content back to the user using Internet protocols that are well known in the art.

Most users of the Internet use the World Wide Web (“web”) to retrieve web pages that are hosted by particular servers on the Internet using Internet Protocol addresses and domain naming conventions that are well known in the art. The popularity of the web and rapid advances in server technology and software, such as Internet Explorer and Netscape, have resulted in many applications now being resident on an Internet based server as an enterprise solution for a great number of people rather than being resident on a stand-alone computer for a single user. More importantly, information providers and information consumers are much more computer savvy today than in the past and now often look to the Internet as the solution of choice for their information dissemination and retrieval needs. Moreover, the widespread use of the Internet for sending and receiving of e-mail messages is further evidence of the importance of the Internet as an information highway. It is in this environment that the present invention is particularly well suited.

At its core, the present invention is a massive database of product/service data, company and personnel information, contact information, personal preference information, event information, messages and communications, news, images and just about every other conceivable type of digital information. The system of the present invention will be referred to as a “Gateway” which provides ready access to information and information sources needed by Influencers, Sellers and Buyers of goods and services along with work flow and coordination paths for various multi-party activities.

The Gateway of the present invention is a rich supporting layer of web-based applications for inputting, accessing, comparing, sharing, challenging, hosting and researching of information. The invention also offers a variety of supporting applications for the exchange of data such as APIs, pre-coded modules and hosted environments.

The methodology for the technical design of the Gateway is to keep the data layer independent of the application layer as much as possible, meaning that the supporting applications are not dependent on the data design and vice-versa. The data layer is structured for maximum flexibility in usage by a wide variety of applications, both now and in future additions to the Gateway. The data layer is designed to allow an infinite variety of data types as more and more varied product/service categories are included and as the Gateway matures in scope and usage.

A key to the power of the Gateway is that every unit of data accumulated allows a wide variety of information to be attached to it. A supporting data layer contains meta and supporting data about each product/service/company data field, and allows for expansion of the supporting data as the scope of the Gateway grows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features of the present invention are set out with particularity in the appended claims, but the invention will be understood more fully and clearly from the following detailed description of the invention as set forth in the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the Internet structure; and

FIGS. 2-4 are further illustrations of the architecture of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

A preferred embodiment of the Gateway of the present invention will now be described.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating the tiered structure of the method and apparatus for collection and dissemination of information in accordance with the present invention. Tiered or layered approaches to server based applications are well known in the art and include a data layer, a business logic layer and a presentation layer. The theory behind the tiered approach is to make each layer internally self contained and independent of other layers. Communications between each layer are conducted in accordance with established protocols that are well known in the art.

The data layer contains data that is used by the other layers. The Business Logic Layer contains the decision making and data processing routines that are customary to any computer application. The Presentation Layer is the user interface for the application.

As can be seen in FIG. 2, each layer has a plurality of modules that carry out the functionality requirements of that particular layer. FIGS. 3 and 4 further illustrate the present invention and its connection to the Internet. These illustrations correspond to the 3 layers shown in FIG. 2.

A number of integral functions underlie all of the modules and functionality of the present invention. Representative ones of these functions and modules will be described below in the context of one embodiment of the Gateway of the present invention. The method and apparatus of the present invention, however, is not limited to the described embodiment.

The Gateway of the present invention allows users to keep informed and current on what's happening in their marketing world. To do that, the Gateway has an extensive alerting and notification system that can inform system users by email, voice mail, fax, Instant Messaging, paging, SMS, on-screen toolbar, and even an Ambient Devices Orb. The Orb device is one which changes color, or some other physical characteristic, as a means of conveying intelligent information.

Gateway users often do not know where they will be at any particular time, but editorial and marketing requirements are round-the-clock. Thus, extensive notification capability is needed in order to keep Gateway users informed.

In accordance with the Gateway, “On the Desktop” notifications are present in the Tasks portlet, a simple listing of actionable hyperlinks that when clicked upon, take the user directly to the place where the user needs to work. Alert are emails sent by the Gateway and are not “task-oriented”, but are informational email messages that alert the user that an event has occurred—for example, someone has joined the user's classification list.

Many people represent more than themselves in a marketing capacity. Public relations (PR) firms, for instance, have multiple client relationships. With the present invention, users can request permission from their clients to have side-by-side access to their Gateway records, enabling them to ‘alias’ an internal employee. Each sees what the other sees to the extent that they have been granted access to all content in the Gateway. Thus, a PR firm could help maintain product information, respond to reporter inquiries, see if Product Managers have filled out a survey, or any of a number of PR activities. Accordingly, a PR person and an organization can now work in concert, in a multi-user, simultaneous way. That was not possible prior to the Gateway of the present invention.

A number of the various modules and sections of the Gateway of the present invention will now be described. It should be understood that the functionality and utility of the Gateway is not dependent on the presence of all of the described modules and sections. New modules and sections may be added and old modules and sections may be deleted without taking away from the spirit of the invention.

The Gateway Messaging module is a basic email capability that enables a Gateway user to send and receive emails to their Gateway Inbox.

myGateway is a customized work environment that gives the user a quick look at all tasks, notifications, requests, projects, and other system functions, from one central location. Information is customized to the user in “Portlets” so that only those issues pertinent to the user are displayed. Portlets are small windows that provide key statistics and activity updates for each of the major modules in the Gateway. Users who do not have authorization to take part in a Buyer's Guide with a publication for instance, simply would not see that publication in their Buyer's Guide portlet.

The Gateway Desktop is the main page of the myGateway environment, and it contains Tasks listings, portlets for each major function in the Gateway (including Buyer's Guides, Classifications, Retrievers, Surveys, Messaging, etc.), client aliasing capability, person aliasing capability, and Help for all functions. Portlets may be minimized or removed to customize the look of the Desktop. The Desktop is a dynamic environment, changing according to daily tasks, current editorial relationships, current editorial requests, present projects, system requirements, subscriber level, and other key activity impacting features. The Desktop is where a user does his or her marketing work each day, in one concentrated, prompted environment space.

The Tasks portlet is a customized listing of actionable hyperlinks that when clicked upon, take the user to the place where the activity must take place. For instance, if the user has not entered a logo for their firm, a notification would appear in the user's Tasks portlet prompting the user to enter a logo. If the user then clicked on the notification, the Gateway would take the user to the Logos module where the logo could be uploaded. The Tasks portlet is the user's virtual to-do list each day, and will ensure that the user organization's web presence is maximized.

The Buyer's Guide portlet is a listing of those Buyer's Guides that the user is managing (i.e., the user is with a publication or analyst firm), those Buyer's Guides the user is responding to, and/or those Buyer's Guides that are open to all Gateway users and in the user's area of interest—meaning the user should consider entering his or her product information into these Buyer's Guides. Different publications and analyst firms use different terms for the content—Buyer's Guides, Roundups, Comparative Matrix, Summary Analysis, etc. However, the Buyer's Guide portlet will show the user in an overview format his or her present status with each of the listed Buyer's Guide processes and provide the user with hyperlinks directly into each of the Buyer Guide records. If the user is managing the Buyer's Guide, the user will be shown the present status in their Buyer's Guide, from ‘Invited’ to ‘Completed Buyer's Guide’.

The Surveys portlet is a listing of the surveys the user is managing, those Surveys the user is responding to, and/or those Surveys that are open to all Gateway users and in the user's area of interest—meaning the user should consider taking part in these Surveys should it be in the user's best interests. The Surveys portlet will show the user in an overview format the user's present status with each of the listed Survey processes, and provide the user with hyperlinks directly into each of the Survey records. If the user is managing the Survey, the user will be shown the present status in his or her Survey, from ‘Invited’ to ‘Completed Survey’.

The Classifications portlet is a listing of the classifications that the user has not yet identified the user's firm with—or ones that need attention, either because they have new nodes in their classification system or because the user has not checked it for a while to make sure it is still current. The Classifications portlet allows the user to click straight through to the listed classifications system.

The Retrievers portlet provides the user with the status of all the user's information retrievers, whether the user is searching for books, white papers, events, articles, press releases, webinars, or any of the many retriever types the Gateway supports. Users can click directly through to the listed retriever to process records.

The Events portlet gives users insight into upcoming events in their area of interest, action items for upcoming events (like speaker information due or presentation materials required). The user can see events that they might want to consider attending, exhibiting at, speaking at, sponsoring, or otherwise becoming involved with. The user can click straight through to the event to take the action listed, or to review information pertinent to the event.

The Editorial Opportunities portlet summarizes for the user upcoming editorial opportunities that the user should be aware of, whether it is the opportunity to take part in an article or submit editorial content. The portlet lists the publication and due date, and listings are hyperlinked to their more detailed listings within that publication's editorial calendar listing. Also listed are ad hoc reporter inquiries from editors looking for sources, story ideas, case studies, or other editorial input.

The Messages portlet is the user's Gateway inbox. In the inbox, the user can review any messages waiting in their inbox.

The Search portlet is the user's Desktop entry into the Gateway's powerful search capability.

The Gateway has been designed around intuitive process flows in the way marketing and research typically is done. However, it is not possible to anticipate every instance, so the Gateway has online Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), help for each question and portlet, and an online help provided via a chat session.

The Organization area of the Gateway is geared towards the organizational representation in the Gateway—basic company info, logos, products, publications, classifications, investors, clients, and partners. All of these tell the company story in some fashion, and in aggregate define the company to the world at large. Underneath this section, individual modules help support the processes to maintain this information across the World Wide Web and its various databases.

Organization profiles are often used throughout the marketing process—in ‘About’ paragraphs in press releases, on membership pages at association and forum sites, in speaker introductions at events, in show directories, tradeshows, etc. Various small summaries about companies can be found in many different places. However, they are rarely centrally coordinated by the marketing department and are often an afterthought in someone's process. What's more, many times generic paragraphs are used when more industry or topic-specific ones are more appropriate. The Gateway Profiles module enables a user to create multiple profiles for a firm by industry, by topic, by product, or by whatever category desired. The profiles are then accessible throughout the Gateway process. If a user is filling out their data for an association in a particular industry, the user might use an industry specific profile or create a custom one on the fly. The filling out of a directory listing merely requires applying the correct profiles. Gateway profiles enable the user to control their Web presence by linking their profiles with the ‘requesters’ of the information. The user can change their firm positioning by merely changing their profiles and the changes will automatically flow throughout the Gateway.

Logos are used extensively all over the Web and many times without the permission of the owner. The Gateway Logos module enables organizations to maintain more control over the use of their logo on the Web. Firms merely upload their logos to the Gateway databases, and then other entities link, download, or otherwise use the logos from the Gateway. If a firm changes their logo, they need only upload a new one and designate it as their primary logo, and alerts, notifications, feeds and other communications from Gateway will update their logos across the Web.

One of the hardest parts of marketing is making sure that a firm is placed in the right categories. Being compared with the wrong products or the wrong competitors can be devastating to a firm. The Gateway Classifications module puts proper classification in the user's control by enabling the user to select those categories that the user's firm competes in. The user can specifically list their firm in dozens of directories, yellow pages, links listings, etc., all by merely applying their profiles to their categories. The user need only click on the correct categories and select the appropriate profile in order to properly classify his or her firm. As new nodes and categories are added to the Classifications module, Gateway users are notified through the Classifications portlet and through alerts. The Classifications module is the Gateway user's path to ensuring that a firm is optimally positioned in the marketplace.

Product information is often kept in company content repositories or in internal documents, but it is almost never openly available to the media, analyst, and other communities for inclusion in Buyer's Guides, feature stories, product directories, etc. The Gateway Products module makes this information readily available for the first time. Editors and analysts can download product information for stories by linking to or downloading product information. Buyer's Guide administrators can prepopulate their surveys with existing product fields. This enables firms to answer a majority of reporter questions from the Gateway databases before they quarry public relations. Firms with content management systems can keep their product areas current via Gateway Web services interfaces. The Products module seeks to provide a central place where Influencers can grasp data across companies at one time, thus facilitating their processes and enabling them to include more data in their stories or research projects.

The Gateway Publications module is used by publishers to represent their ‘products’, but in a different way than most products found in the Products module. The Gateway Publications module tracks key data about the newspaper, magazine, online site, or other publications. Such data includes editorial calendars, staff, and beats. This data helps drive the Gateway information services for users interested in finding editorial opportunities coming up, and matching their road show tour with the right group of analysts. Publishers can use data stored in the Publications module to drive content to their own website and display listings of reporters by beats or rolling editorial calendars. This module enables publishers to ensure that the information about their products is as current as it can be. Changes can be pushed out to key publisher tracking sites that link to the Gateway content. As such, Gateway's Publications module provides a centralized place to enter and update information that appears on a publisher's website, as well as through out the Web.

In the Gateway's Clients Module, users can easily identify client relationships, and request access to the client's Gateway records. Once approved, users can use the Alias function to quickly switch among clients. Also, client lists can be published to user sites, so that a PR Firm could have a client page that lists the logos, company profiles, and website address of clients—all of which would be kept current by merely adding and deleting clients in the Gateway database.

In the Gateway Investor module, users can easily identify investor relationships. Investor lists can be published to user sites, so a startup firm could have an investor page that lists the logos, profiles, and website address, for example, for each venture capitalist, all of which are maintained current by merely adding and deleting investors to the Gateway databases. As the investors make changes their logos or profiles, the changes flow through the Gateway and become available to all Gateway users automatically.

In the Gateway Partners module, users can simply maintain links with partner records, and use the information from these records to populate their own and other websites. If a user wishes to advertise their partners on another website, as is often popular with startups trying to legitimize themselves, doing so is very easy using the Partners module by a simple mouse click to add the partner(s) to the list.

The People section of Gateway is geared towards helping organizations communicate about their key people and the roles played by those people. The Gateway enables firms to look at their entire extended family of people, including subcontractors, partners, etc., to enable a full view of the people who make their organization work on a day-to-day basis. A fundamental feature of the Gateway is its ability to assign ownership and control of roles and responsibilities, such as who is in charge of booths at tradeshows or who is the firm's representative to a particular forum or association. As firms grow larger, it is particularly difficult to keep track of such assignments both internally and externally. Reporters, editors, event organizers, etc., all need to be able to efficiently converse with the right people, quickly. The Gateway of the present invention facilitates those communications by clearly assigning specific roles to specific people. As those people leave the company or change jobs, the roles can be easily transitioned to others. The changes and updates flow through the entire marketing information chain via the Gateway.

The Gateway's Company Contacts module is a listing of the individual personal profiles of all the people that are associated with a user's firm in the Gateway, both internal and external. This feature can be though of as a ‘bucket’ from which all assignments are made, access is granted, choices are made, etc. When Gateway needs a listing of personnel for whatever reason, it pulls from Contacts module. If someone leaves the firm or changes jobs, a Gateway user can navigate here and update their records. Individuals, when they access the system, are prompted to maintain their own records as well, providing another check and balance for data currency.

A key fundamental element of the Gateway of the present invention is functionality that constantly attempts to build direct relationships between people and organizations. The Roles/Organization module in the Gateway is designed to specifically assign individuals, complete with their public profile information to roles within a user's organization (like Board of Director positions, media relations positions, event responsibilities, etc.) and outside a user's organization (such as association roles or judges for awards contests). The Roles/Organization module allows for hierarchical structures, like organization charts, so that a user can show parent/child relationships as well. This feature is particularly important in large public relations groups where different people might have different ‘beats’ (like ‘Northeast’ or ‘Printers’, for example). The Gateway allows users to place people in multiple positions around the firms since in practice, most people hold many roles in a firm. A Gateway user can click on a person's record to view not only their contact and background information, but also all the roles that that person holds in an organization.

In the Gateway's People module, users can assign account representatives to clients, making it easy for outside personnel, such as editors and analysts, to know which people cover which clients.

The My Contacts module is used to aggregate Gateway users into groups that facilitate interaction between themselves. The My Contacts module enables the creation of lists within the system. These lists are not static and can be set up by roles, for instance, so that when there are changes in personnel beneath the roles, the changes flow through each list automatically. Gateway users can also track companies or segments of an industry, and as companies come and go, they are added and deleted from user list.

The Gateway Search module is another fundamental capability that is used throughout the system, but which has a user interface for direct, standalone searches by Gateway users. Users can “Search for this exact phrase”, “Search for all of these words”, or “Search for any of these words” to maximize their search effectiveness. The search function searches for database matches in organizations, logos, people, roles, beats, products, publications, editorial opportunities, events, white papers, classifications, articles, and press releases. The content in the Gateway databases is actively and purposefully categorized and classified which makes searching more successful and efficient. Search results are also hyperlinked to more detailed information, so that users can drill down for more detailed information and direct access into the databases. The Gateway Search functionality is also directly addressable from various Gateway tools, such as the Internet Explorer Gateway Toolbar and the Microsoft Office, Gateway Add-In, thus making it easy for a user to find exactly what the user is looking for.

Tabs within the results returned by the search displays the results in a number of formats and manners depending on the keyword search terms used, including the following:

    • 1. Organizations where the keywords match the organization's name, organization's former name or abbreviated name, the organization's city, state, country, or phone number, the organization's website, or the description of the organization;
    • 2. Logos where the keywords match the logo's description or the organization that owns the logo;
    • 3. People where the keywords match the person's name, the person's organization, the person's job title, the person's phone number, or the person's email address;
    • 4. Roles where the keywords match the role description, the name of the person in the role, the name of the organization whose people are in the role, or the job title, phone number, or email of the person in the role;
    • 5. Beats where the keywords match the beat description, the name of the person in the beat, the name of the organization whose people are in the beat, or the job title, phone number, or email of the person in the beat;
    • 6. Products where the keywords match the product's name, the organization that makes the product, the product's part number, or the name of the product contact person;
    • 7. Publications where the keywords match the publication's name, the organization that publishes the publication, or the publication's description;
    • 8. Editorial opportunities where the keywords match the title or description of the opportunity, the name of the publication providing the opportunity, or the organization that publishes the publication; and
    • 9. Events where the keywords match the title or description of the event.
    • 10. Articles where the keywords match the title, author, summary, or text of the article;
    • 11. Press releases where the keywords match the title, summary, or text of the press release;
    • 12. White papers where the keywords match the title, summary, or text of the white paper; and
    • 13. Categories where the keywords match the title or text of the categories.

The Content section contains databases of content that is uploaded by users as well as downloaded from the Web by the Gateway system. It is a central repository for information that is to be accessed and disseminated by a Gateway user firm and the people it is trying to influence. Sophisticated retrievers scour the Web based on parameters set by the user, and stores content in parsed databases. Users can also upload press releases, white papers, case studies, book listings, FAQ lists, glossaries, links listings, and even icons into the Gateway for easy access, dissemination and Web presentation. A central retriever and document repository makes all these forms of information easily accessible in one place, and content-specific modules make the most common forms of information available in context.

The Gateway Retriever module is home to the various the Gateway agent records that contain keyword and target Websites for information gathering. Retrievers can be set up to find press releases, articles, white papers, case studies, books, event listings, FAQ listings, and glossary listings. Found information is presented to the user in bulk or item-by-item processing form, so that the records may be edited and approved for publication to internal databases for publishing to a company Website or publisher's information portal. Publishers can post content retrieved from the Internet, to their site, formatted, sorted, and complete, with one mouse click per item.

The Gateway Documents module houses all uploaded documents by a firm in the Gateway. These documents include presentations, white papers, press releases, training manuals, case studies, tutorials, and any other type of content that a Gateway user firm might want to have available to the Media or to their own Website. Documents uploaded in this module are available to other modules as well, so they can be incorporated in processes and/or uploaded to upstream systems, such as white paper dissemination services as is well known in the art. Likewise, content loaded into specific modules in the Gateway are also stored here where appropriate, like press releases entered into the Gateway Press Releases module, but saved to the Documents repository as a PDF format document for posting to the firm website.

The Gateway Press Releases module enables firms to upload, store, and publish press releases to the major newswires and to sites that link to the Gateway press release content, including the user's own website. Thus, the Gateway of the present invention has the ability to make positive matches with publisher classification systems, ensuring that the right people see the Gateway user's releases. It also ensures that more websites, Influencers and other Gateway users will have access to the user's Gateway content, because there is less clutter to get in the way.

The Gateway Classifications capability applied to press releases enables Influencers to link to specific content that is pertinent just to their topics.

The Gateway Press Releases module also provides a stronger keyword capability by enabling users to link to hundreds of industry specific words that better reflect the user's topic rather than something like the word ‘Networking’ which is the most specific telecommunications keyword for, example, some newswire services. The Gateway Press Releases module allows the user to link to preset company profiles, from the Profiles module, so that users can ensure that they have the right and current positioning to add to that important press release. In all, the Press Releases module gives the user a great deal of control and functionality in one place.

The Gateway Articles module enables firms to upload, store and publish article references to their website. Publishers can locate keyword references to topics that they track, and post articles headlines, complete with URL hyperlinks, to their sites. Information stored includes the author, date of publication, and other key data about the story. Companies can even rate the stories found for later trend analysis.

The Gateway White Papers module makes it easy for firms to maintain their cadre of white papers, and to get them in front of the readers that marketing departments covet. The user can upload their white papers for publishing to their website and to white paper disseminators like BitPipe, Marketresearch.com, and Webtorials.com. The user can also use the Gateway's retrievers to find white papers of interest to them based on key words, track competitor white paper listings, find the latest technology white papers on key topics, etc. The Gateway White Papers module is a central store for the user's white paper oriented content for internal and external use.

Case studies, like white papers, can be uploaded and downloaded using the Gateway. The Gateway Case Studies module is a repository for the user's case studies, which then can be pushed out to the user's website or key information distributors.

The Gateway Books module works in tight conjunction with key online book sellers like Amazon.com to make it easy to publish and track book information in the user's Gateway databases. Using web services from the Gateway and Amazon.com, the Gateway Books module can interface with all key information on Amazon.com to track rating, ranking, and pricing information, to make sure that the user's book references are as current as possible. The Gateway allows the user to upload their own information into Gateway, so the user can publish the information about the book alongside or separate from Amazon.com listings. The Books module is yet another means for users to track information by keyword to have a complete view of any topic.

By listing the user's event in the Events module, the users are able to push information about their event out to influencers who have linked to the event data streams. By classifying the user's event, the user can start to attract new potential attendees through the Events Portlet. The Gateway is a focal point for gathering and disseminating information about the user's events, whether they are as big as a tradeshow, or merely a one-hour Webinar/Webcast. The Gateway can communicate the user's event information to key event listing and eventwire publishers as well. When using the Gateway retrievers, the user can retrieve event information to populate the user's Website with upcoming event information.

Managing FAQ lists on a user site can be an administratively difficult, particularly if multiple people have to help maintain them. The Gateway's simple FAQ module enables multiple users to have access to maintaining an FAQ of key information the user wishes to communicate to their users. When using the Gateway's retriever functionality, the user can create virtual FAQs based on other firms' FAQ lists—the Gateway will retain the question and URL for the answer, so that users are sent to the originating site for more details. This enables the creation of metaFAQ lists.

The Gateway Glossaries module enables the user to enter and maintain a glossary of key information on the user's site. Using a simple and intuitive interface, the user enters his or her terms, abbreviations, definitions, URL links, diagrams and other information to create and maintain, in a single or multi-user fashion, a listing of terms for the user's site or channel partners. Once in the Gateway, the user's glossary can be published to anyone to whom the user grants permission. The user can also use the Gateway retriever to track definitions on other glossary sites—the user can create a metaglossary of information contained on other sites, with links to those other sites for definition information.

The Gateway Links module is designed to help maintain links listings on the user's site. The user can enter and view key information partners, sources, partners,. whoever—simply enter their URLs into the system and the Gateway Presentations module processes and publishes the data to the user's site. The Links listing—like so many of the other Gateway's modules—can also be accessed by anyone to whom the user grants access, enabling the user to centrally manage information across the user's partners or distributors and for them to automatically publish content on their site, based on the user's databases.

Many firms create specialized icons for their products that are often used in programs like PowerPoint, Visio, and other graphics/presentation programs. The Gateway Icons module enables the user to upload and maintain these icons for use by anyone. The Gateway Office Add-In enables access to the Icons from directly within the user's PowerPoint, Excel, or Word applications. The user can also create an Icons library on the user's Website using the same information.

The Gateway Buyer's Guide module provides a research capability that covers the end-to-end process for gathering a large amount of discrete information from many information sources. The module supports the entire testing and review process as well, for organizations that receive product or services for testing, and need to rate these products. The module enables tracking of each participant through the process, and stores the entire communications history. Acquisitions surveys enable the user to gather initial data about each product from the vendors. Feature surveys help the user gather and confirm detailed product level information. Shipping forms enable the user to electronically track receipt and shipping of items. Rating forms allow the user's internal and external testers to log in and record results. Data can be auto-published to matrices and tables on websites, or downloaded in XML, Excel and other formats. Electronic surveys enable the user to create and edit the forms into which data is entered and validated; a wide variety of question types, including phone, URL, date, rating, table listing, and other types, is available. The Buyer's Guides can be left ‘open’ to allow for ongoing data updating by included vendors. The Buyer's Guide process is an end-to-end workflow that can reduce the time required for custom research down from weeks and months, to just days.

The Gateway Surveys module is an electronic survey tool that is designed for one-time and scheduled/repetitive surveying of, for example, customers, vendors and service providers. A broad range of question types enables the user to very specifically gather and validate data for the user's research needs. The user can access listings of companies and individuals from within the user's My Contacts module, link to specific groupings of companies, like those that have classified themselves against the user's classification system, or import the user's own contact lists. The user can track all communications with the user's research targets, and know who has entered to complete surveys and who has not. The user can search the user's communications history to make sure emails were sent out. The user can use system generated emails, or create the user's own. The user can publish results to the user's website or download them via a list of output options. The Surveys module tightly integrates with the Gateway's other modules to give the user a very powerful on-line research tool that can continually produce results for the user's organization.

The Gateway Classifications Systems module enables any organization to create and maintain its own hierarchical categorization system for content. With such a classification system in the Gateway, content can be classified against the user's system by others, thus enabling the user to, for example, gather company data for a links listing or classify companies for analysis or other such use. The Gateway Classification System enables the user to create the user's own special view of the user's world, and then organize the user's own and other people's content around that view. This module enables the user to have a full and ongoing interaction with all companies classified in the user's system, even alerting them when the user adds nodes, and alerting the user when they change their classifications. The Classification Systems module empowers the user to be able to segment and structure content with great ease.

The Gateway Awards module was specifically designed to support awards organizers and publishers who need to have a full end-to-end workflow supporting the nomination, judging and final promotion of an award. The Awards module supports all the e-commerce of the nomination process, supporting online forms and credit card interfaces to access a nomination application and application fee. The module supports the communication with potential judges and assignment of judges to categories. It enables award administrators to centrally view the status of nominees, judges, and other key personnel as they interface with the Gateway. The user can use system emails or create their own, to guide the nominees and judges through the process. Single and multi-stage (semi-finalist, finalist, winner) judging processes are supported by the Gateway. On-line rating forms enable judges to enter information directly into databases from anywhere in the world at any time. Shipping forms can track the receipt and return of products and services being submitted for judging. Output can be loaded onto websites as well as downloaded for use in other systems. Information, such as nominees, categories, judges, process dates, etc., can be auto-published to the user's website, thus providing the user with a content management solution as well as an awards workflow process. The Awards module provides everyone involved with the awards process with a streamlined, trackable, and reliable interface for all tasks associated with naming winners in award categories.

The Gateway Event relations module provides key external relationship management for events organizers and internal events coordinators. The user can easily gather information required for the user's event through this workflow. By listing the user's speakers, the user can, in one place, communicate with and download voluminous profile, bio, logo, picture, and other information that the user needs to populate the user's event site and documentation. By listing the user's exhibitors in the Gateway, the user makes it easy to communicate with and gather profile, logo, representative, and other information to drive event directories, website content, and other marketing information. The Gateway can be enhanced to also facilitate the entire process of managing the effort of setting up meetings between the press and executives at tradeshows. The Gateway Event Relations module is designed to facilitate all back and forth communications to aid the user in achieving a successful event.

The Gateway Member Relations module provides association, forum, and other member-driven organizations with an efficient tool to gather and maintain information from their membership. Items like logos, company information, bios, trade show representatives, PR representatives, and other company specific pieces of information, are very time-consuming for membership managers to track. The Member Relations module provides a tight workflow that is integrated throughout the Gateway, to pull out specific roles and responsibilities and push corporate data to membership organizations who need that data. Associations and forums can set up classification systems and other data gathering structures in the Gateway and receive that information in the form of pre-formatted HTML, XML streams, text data, or any of a number of other formats, to drive their own systems and processes. The Member Relations module was designed to solve the dual problem of organizations that need data and ones that want to control the positioning of that data.

The Legal Relations module provides companies with an end-to-end means to manage the process of entering into, storing, and updating marketing-related legal agreements, such as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). NDAs are routine in marketing discussions; however, the process of tracking which agreements are in place, when they expire, who signed them, etc., is anything but routine in most firms. For the most part, NDAs are signed, filed and forgotten about, until they are referenced for a legal reason, and by then it is often to late to do anything about any problems within the agreement itself. The Legal Relations module provides the user with an infrastructure to track all the user's outstanding NDAs and other legal documents, and provides a mechanism for updating these agreements when they expire or when the user needs to insert new content. As companies, personnel, and processes change, it's easy for required changes and updates to go undone, yet it can be very important in protecting the legal interests of the user's firm. The Legal Relations module is a one-stop shop for multi-user workflow that can include all the necessary parties to concluding agreements. With the addition of electronic signatures, these on-line documents can, in many cases, replace the popular fax machine in concluding such documents.

The Gateway Prospects module is a sales tracking module designed to help marketers research customer databases from within the Gateway. Designed to complement sales tools available in the prior art, the Prospects module helps track customer data so that the user can filter and segment the user's marketing efforts, as applied to inbound and outbound marketing efforts. New prospects and existing customers can be loaded into the module to facilitate all forms of research. Prospect lists can be accessed by the various Gateway modules so the user can invite customers to join the user's classification system, or send surveys to them.

The Gateway Tasks module is a basic To Do tracking facility that allows for notifications and tracking of things to be done. Users can set up their own Tasks groups and add team members into the group. Tasks can be created, assigned and tracked from within the system.

The Market Presence module enables a firm to analyze its current corporate and/or product positioning, aka, their “presence”, on the Web. Examples of this functionality includes incorrect or inconsistent representation of the company's information, executives, and products; lack of presence on websites where the company's competition is listed, lack of accuracy in representing merged, acquired, or renamed companies. The Market Presence module uses the Gateway's sophisticated retriever capabilities to analyze key indicators of the firm's marketing presence, from the number of articles found in various sites, to the comparative listings in directories, to membership in associations and forums. The Market Presence module gives the user a snapshot of the user's success and failures in maintaining the user's information across the Web.

The Gateway Suggestions module provides users with a means to interact with the Gateway organization and with others, to provide feedback and recommendations regarding the Gateway. A user can suggest that companies or Influencers be added to the Gateway, report bugs and feature ideas, and invite other people to join the user in the Gateway. The Suggestions module functionality is integrated throughout the Gateway, showing up in context where suggestions and invitations are most often used.

The Gateway Suggestions module also enables a user to easily invite a partner, employee, contractor or anyone else to log in, and become part of the user's Gateway experience. Most often, PR firms can use this functionality to get clients to register for the first time. Influencers can use this functionality to alert PR representatives that they should join Gateway. A place is provided for the user to enter the user's own message to customers, as well as a preformatted set of instructions from the Gateway. The Gateway will then send an email message to the invitee listed. The module is designed to provide an easy, systematic way to get other people into the Gateway that the user needs to complete the user's work and/or workflow.

The Gateway Suggestions module also provides the user with the ability to suggest a company join the Gateway. Upon filling in the information, the data is sent to the Gateway's import processing capabilities, where the company name and URL are evaluated relative to existing records and added accordingly. Once added to the system, the user is alerted that the record is now ready for the user's action. This functionality can be used by influencers who wish to include a company within a body of research and find that the company is not yet using the Gateway. The Gateway will input the basic information about that company and when a company representative logs into the system, he or she has the opportunity to update that information.

The Gateway Suggestions module provides the user with the ability to suggest an Influencer join the Gateway. Upon filling in the information, the data is sent to the Gateway's import processing functionality, where the Influencer name and URL are evaluated relative to existing records and added accordingly. Once added to the Gateway, the user is alerted that the record is now ready for the user's action.

The Suggest A Feature module provides the user with the ability to request program enhancements to the Gateway. The architecture of the Gateway is sufficiently flexible that it can be easily changed as necessary to respond to user requests.

The Report A Bug module of the Gateway provides a user the opportunity to inform the Gateway of things that are not working to the user's satisfaction. Submitted bugs go directly into the Gateway customer relationship management system for tracking bugs and setting up tasks to quickly respond to reported bugs.

The Gateway Recommend Toolbar module allows a user to easily invite someone else to download the Gateway toolbar. The Internet Explorer toolbar functionality has been very popular with users, and word of mouth more than anything else, has spread its acceptance. To recommend that they install the toolbar, the user merely enters the name and email address of the invitee into the Gateway, and add a personalized message if the user wishes, and the Gateway then sends them a preformatted email to recommend that the person install the toolbar.

The Preferences section of the Gateway enables users to personalize their experience with the Gateway. Users can set up their own ID and password, manage their notifications, and determine what information is displayed about the user throughout the Gateway.

People tend to have different information they are willing to share with others. Much information is personal and kept confidential (such as cell phone numbers or home phone numbers). But for public relations departments, giving out such information is routinely expected in their deadline-oriented environment. Thus, the Gateway Personal Profiles module allows each user to customize the information they wish to release publicly, and in various specific instances. This includes key contact information, bios, and even pictures of the person. Using the Personal Profiles module, the user can establish their Private Profile (used by the Gateway system and customer support to communicate with users), Public Profile (generally viewed by any user of the Gateway), and a Media Profile. The Media Profile is specific to Influencers and is used by media information distribution companies to educate media relations groups about how to contact the media.

The User Name/Password module enables the user to manage his or her login information. The validation parameters, which are necessary if the user loses his or her User Name or password, are also found in this section.

The Gateway's extensive notification system is controlled from the Gateway's centralized Notifications module. Here, users can decide which notifications they wish to receive and how. Notifications can be received via a range of options, ranging from email to the desktop to the user's cell phone.

Auto-responder functionality in the Gateway's Responders module enables the user to create special situation responses for inbound emails to the user's email client. For instance, if the user was going to attend the Consumer Electronics Tradeshow (CES), the user might create an email address in the user's email client called ces@Gateway.net. If the user gets an email from a press person wanting to set up a meeting at the show, the user can forward that email to the ces@Gateway.net account and have it return an email with further instructions as to how to set up meetings with the user. The Gateway will determine the appropriate person(s) to send the email to, based on the user's forwarded email. The user can also use the auto-responder to tell people to take the user off their lists, or that the user's address has changed.

The Gateway's extensive databases can be synchronized to the user's PDA, cell phone, Outlook, Notes, and other databases on a regular basis, thus ensuring that the user's information is always the most up-to-date possible. The Gateway can output content in a wide variety of formats, including many leading XML-based structures. All of the user's synchronizations can be controlled through the Synchronizations module.

The bulk of the Gateway functionality is available as a browser-based capability. Where browser-based capability is not available, helper applications on the device or desktop can be used to provide more enhanced capabilities. The Tools section of Gateway provides users with software programs that support the Gateway process in a number of ways, whether providing for add-ins for Microsoft products, or browser and synchronization support capabilities. These are designed to more directly facilitate the user's Gateway experience and make it as efficient and context sensitive as possible.

The Gateway's Office Images Add-In tool is designed to provide direct access in Microsoft Office for Gateway image content. Users can, with one mouse click, add a logo or icon to their Word, PowerPoint or Excel worksheet.

The Gateway's Office Hyperlinks Add-In tool is designed to provide direct access in Microsoft Office for Gateway hyperlink content. Users can, with one mouse click, add a company name and URL to their Word, PowerPoint or Excel worksheet.

The Gateway's Office Dictionary Add-In tool gives users a synchronized custom dictionary within their Microsoft Office applications to ensure sure that product names, corporate names, executive names, etc. are spelled correctly using the Microsoft Spell-check tools. The custom dictionary is merely one of several dictionaries the Microsoft Office program checks as the user creates the documents. This functionality ensures ensure reliability of references within all the user's documents.

The Office Gateway Files Add-In tool gives users the ability to upload and download documents from within their Microsoft Office applications, to make uploading a new white paper or press release as easy as a Save command in Word, for instance. This tool provides a shortcut directly into the Gateway system for these purposes.

The Internet Explorer Gateway Toolbar combines many of the capabilities of the Gateway, Google, Yahoo, Amazon.com, eBay, Weather.com, and many other publication search engines into one powerful toolbar that sits in the user's browser tool window. Users can directly search for the same topic across many Gateway search engines at once and in a simultaneous fashion across dozens of sites. The user can also quickly find the weather, directions to a location, stock quotes, word spellings, etc., through the capabilities of this tool. Importantly, the user can be alerted to tasks the user has pending in the Gateway through the Gateway notification alert button on the bar itself. The Toolbar consolidates the user's most important Gateway research and notifications capabilities in one place, and can be a strategic feature for any user.

The Support section of the Gateway is where FAQs, troubleshooting tips, downloads, and other typical support style information is provided.

The Gateway Support FAQ module provides the user with answers to the most often asked questions of Gateway users.

The Gateway Email Test functionality is designed to test the user's access to the Gateway system. In light of the growing use of multiple layers of SPAM protection in many firms, it can be difficult to determine whether messages are getting through to their intended recipients. With the Gateway Email Test capability, the user can send and track a test email to the user's system.

The Administration Section of the Gateway is used by Gateway account administrators (and the users to which they provide access) to manage some of the more technical and sensitive areas of Gateway operation. For instance, all security and access privileges are set from this area, as well as all data feeds and direct website access.

The Presentations module allows the user to set up web pages containing information from the Gateway. For example, the user can publish directories, buyer's guides, survey results, company profiles, news, press releases, white papers, events, glossaries, FAQ pages, links, and other Gateway information to the user's site. The user's web pages can be automatically updated when the information changes in the Gateway by scheduling updates in conjunction with the Data Feeds module and the FTP Sites module.

The Gateway Presentations module allows the user to set up web pages. The user can use pre-defined templates to easily create web pages and the user can create new templates or customize existing templates to make the pages fit into the exact look, feel, and functionality of the user's site. The user can use the Presentation module as a content editor for the user's web pages, and the user can also use it to create pages that automatically include Gateway information. For example, the user can publish directories, buyer's guides, survey results, company profiles, news, press releases, white papers, events, glossaries, FAQ pages, links, and other Gateway information to the user's site. The user's web pages can be automatically updated when the information changes in the Gateway by scheduling updates in conjunction with the Data Feeds module and the FTP Sites module. A what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor allows the user to edit the pages without having to learn the technical details of HTML.

The Gateway Websites module is a content management module that lets the user create and edit web pages and then publish the pages to a website. The module works in conjunction with the FTP Sites module to deliver the pages directly to the user's website.

The Gateway Data Schedules module allows the user to set up schedules to move information from the Gateway to the user's website. It works in conjunction with the FTP Sites module to define what information to move, when to move it, and where to send it. The information can be web pages created by the Presentation module, and it can also be information such as buyer's guide data exported from one of the content modules. Exported data can be formatted in a number of ways including XML, Access, XLS, and text formats. The user can also use the Data Schedules module to feed the information on-demand when the user needs an immediate update instead of a scheduled update.

The Gateway Newsletter module allows the user to create email-based newsletters. The user can manage a newsletter distribution list, and allow people to sign up for the newsletter via the user's website. The Gateway's Newsletter module has the ability to include information that Gateway gathers automatically for the user, like articles, press releases, and white papers. The newsletter module is based on the Gateway's Presentation module, which means that the user can publish the user's newsletters using rich HTML-enabled templates.

The FTP Sites section is an administrative function where the user can set up an authenticated FTP relationship between the Gateway and a secure area of the user's servers. This functionality is most often used by Gateway users who wish to drive automated content to their website, using information derived from online directories, retrievers, buyer's guides, surveys, etc. Website owners can enter one or more user IDs and passwords, to give the Gateway transfer service access to a secure part of their site. The file transfers are managed by the Gateway on a scheduled or on-demand basis.

The Access portion of the Gateway is used by administrators to grant or deny access to their records by internal and external parties. While anyone can go to the Gateway and register, even identifying themselves with a company's Gateway account and records, they cannot do anything in that account until granted access by their administrator. PR firms who want to engage in workflow and other processes side-by-side with their clients have to request and receive alias access through their Clients module in order to see and take part in their client's account. When requests come into the Access module, the user receives notifications and alerts as defined in their Notifications preferences.

The Gateway SPAM Blacklist Checker module is an automated way to check if a company's mail server Internet Protocol (IP) address has appeared on any of the dozens of SPAM blacklists. Gateway users can search for their domains as well. Each entry in the table of IP addresses to be checked includes the company ID of the company that owns the mail server. Users are alerted by the Gateway that their outbound emails have been categorized by anti-spam software as spam and, therefore, may not be getting to their intended targets.

The Reports module within the Administration Section of the Gateway provides Administrators with key overview reports on their Gateway account. Users can view reports on user access, activity within the system and other such important items. Reports are added based on user feedback and information requirements.

The Internal section of the Gateway only appears on internal Gateway administrator desktops. These are key support and information processing tools that enable the Gateway programmers and support personnel to track and support customers. It also enables the Gateway to track its sales prospects, their implementations, and the entire development stack of tasks.

The Gateway Security module provides Gateway administrators with the ability to edit any user access rights to any module in the system. Security access is by groups of modules and can be easily changed by a selection pull down menu. User IDs and passwords can also be viewed and changed if necessary.

The Gateway Alerts module helps Gateway administrators maintain all system alerts. New alerts can be created using various system parameters that tie the alerts to events that transpire in the system.

The Reports module enables access to a series of reports that provide information about the pace of development, the health of the various servers and systems in Gateway, the movement of new users through the startup processes, etc. All Gateway system reports are accessible through this module, and in some cases, within other context-specific modules as well. Saved versions of commonly run report settings enable users to quickly rerun reports that they might otherwise have to reset various parameters to match their intended output.

The Gateway Identities module enables an administrator to assume the role as an internal employee of a firm, seeing whatever that user sees. This module is used to provide support for customers to ‘see’ what the customer sees.

The Imports module provides a process for importing data from various outside databases and retriever processes. For instance, all Suggestions come into the Gateway system through this module. All EDGAR retrievals are processed through here as well. The user can process data by selectively approving records into the Gateway databases. The user is shown any similar data, such as companies with the same name, to avoid the entry of duplicate records into the system.

The Retriever Releases module is a specialized parsing and processing module that is designed to evaluate press releases and events listings from various public sources, and to sort the data within the listings into those pieces of information desired by the Gateway. The data is manually processed by Gateway representatives, who evaluate data presented on a screen as being parsed correctly, thus putting PR representative names in the right boxes and capturing the right relationships among the parties represented in the press release, for example. This module allows new industries to be added to the Gateway as it provides the system with data about companies active in marketing, their internal and external PR representatives, and background information on key firms. This data is split out and processed into databases for later updating and approval by the companies as they are requested to enter the system by Influencers.

The Form Editor allows all pages within Gateway to be created, edited and updated. The Form Editor defines how pages are laid out, how data is accepted and validated by the system, how Help is accessed by users, and other key structural handling of information in the Gateway.

The Organization module in the Internal area of the Gateway allows administrators to access and edit organization records. Of particular interest is the ability to merge duplicate organization records into one record. The Gateway administrator enables the user to change any profile element of the organizations records.

The People module in the Internal area of the Gateway allows Gateway administrators to access and edit personal profile records. Of particular interest is the ability to merge duplicate people records into one record. The Gateway administrator enables the user to change any profile element of the personal profile records.

The Gateway Help Editor module enables Gateway administrators to quickly update the Help menus on any page in the system. If Customer Service notices that a particular page is misunderstood by some users, the Help text can be immediately edited in real-time.

The Gateway Tasks module is the Gateway's main programmer interface where programmers are assigned tasks. All active programming tasks are listed, prioritized, and applied status in this module. Only members of the programming and operations staffs are given access to these modules. All customer bug and feature requests flow into this module. The Gateway administrator can create reports to track developed work versus new requirements, and create listings on the fly of tasks by status, project, category, programmer, priority, last update, and other key variables. The Task module is fully searchable as well.

The Best in Class Capability module of the Gateway provides the ability to create a Best In Class dataset by applying selective filtering to the companies and their products, in a particular category. For instance, a product manager creating a new product might wish to simultaneously meet the optimal capabilities from a number of products or services. Users can simply view a matrix of the products and check those product responses that constitute the Best In Class of the offerings as a group. The user can then display the Best In Class product in a matrix with existing offerings to show how the Best In Class product fares.

The Gateway Branding Assistant module is used to help determine what brands are available to market a product or service. Examples are available URLs, toll-free numbers, logos, patents and trademarks. The Gateway will search databases of key ‘deal stoppers’ to determine the general availability of a term prior to investing in a more detailed and expensive search with the range of third party providers of such services. The goal is to provide a snapshot of available communications paths for the brand manager in one quick setting.

The Gateway Briefing Network provides support for unicast and multicast conferencing. For instance, users of such capability would be able to share screens, chat, take and share notes, view participant lists and other standard web conferencing capabilities (similar to WebEx, PlaceWare, Raindance, etc.) The Gateway Briefing Network is tied into all elements of the Gateway, enabling notifications, scheduling, sharing of Gateway data, etc. A typical use would be for a product briefing from a vendor to a group of reporters/analysts using integrated voice/data/video technology.

The Gateway Challenge/Response module allows users to partake in an ongoing stored onscreen chat, debating or describing in more detail information displayed. For instance, a company might clarify data contained in a Buyer's Guide by adding another layer of information ‘attached’ to the cell of data, saying perhaps that while the cell itself says ‘No’, the comments might say ‘This feature will be available in Spring 2005’.

A further example of use of the Gateway of the present invention is in respect to a trade show. Industry trade shows are a popular way for vendors to present their current and future products and services to the customers and the media. In many cases, trade shows are an ideal location for meetings to take place between tradeshow participants, analysts and journalists. Scheduling such a meeting can, however, prove to be difficult.

Before a tradeshow, it is typical for people to attempt to contact the reporters and editors that are going to the tradeshow to arrange meetings with their executives. It is time consuming and a real challenge, however, to balance everyone's schedules. During the show, there are changes to the schedules that have to be accommodated and thus, a need to contact those who are scheduled for meeting. Simple messages and inquires such as “I'm running late.” or “Where is the user's booth, I cannot find it.,” etc. can be difficult to communicate effectively.

The ideal situation would be to provide a central clearing house for setting these meetings up and to have synchronization between the Gateway of the present invention and meeting participant calendar programs in order to keep the two in sync for all meeting participants. Accordingly, the Gateway provides an alerting application via SMS that alerts people of upcoming meetings, and provide the potential to send information back and forth between the meeting coordinators and meeting participants.

At the earliest stage of the process, tradeshow vendors typically block out a time in which meetings will occur. They then ask journalists en masse if they would like to meet. They may invite a select group first, get them on board, and then invite more to fill vacancies in the schedule. Note that there might be several tracks of meetings to be planned (e.g., they might have three conference rooms in their booth plus a suite, to plan meetings for). They might also decide to plan meetings around a person or a place, and perhaps both.

On the recipient side, industry analysts and other interested parties receive all these requests but really do not have a good way to manage them all. He or she accepts them (or rejects them) and then negotiates a time that he will be available to meet.

The Gateway of the present inventions works wells as a “middle man” to help coordinate all of the meeting activities and frequent meeting updates that usually are required. The difficult part is the real time coordination of schedules. The Gateway is particularly suited for such a task.

Also, there must be provided the ability to account for transit time between the meeting places. For example, at some tradeshow locations, it takes as long as 20 minutes or more to walk from one meeting location to another. The Gateway allows for each meeting to have an updateable “profile” which takes into account such things as the meeting location and the expected travel time between meeting locations. Each meeting participate, being “tracked” by the Gateway, can also be sent a message via their PDA, cell phone and/or pager reminding them of the meeting and the suggest time that they should depart from their current meeting location to arrive at the next meeting location arrive on time. Also, a central messaging board can be provided with similar information for the convenience of those who do not have a way of receiving such messages personally.

The Gateway also allows meeting coordinators and schedulers to put people into ‘buckets’ of prioritization. For example, if a firm really wants to have particular analysts meet with them, they are priority one while other analysts are priority two, etc. The firm may only invite the priority one analysts first before inviting the priority two analysts. Often, a specific analyst is not going to the show, but would want another analyst to go in their place, or to schedule a follow-on (or pre-show) briefing via telephone, or the Gateway of the present invention. Thus, the Gateway has the ability to schedule pre-show and post-show events.

The Gateway can also be used to provide an end-to-end process governing the creation, nomination to, judging, award, and presentation of awards. Nominees might be nominated for one or multiple awards.

The first step is to create the award group within the Gateway. The award group is defined with a description and various pertinent preferences. If there is just one award, then the award group and award are the same. If not, there may be a number of awards underneath an overall award group.

The next step is to create the awards in the group. This is like creating a schema for a directory. Each node represents an award. Judges and nominees will be linked to each award. This creates the judging relationship for each award.

There may also be awards that are based on other awards: Best in Show might be a nominee group made up of the winners of all sub-categories.

The next step is to enter the contacts for this award—there are two groups, Judges and Nominees. The nominees will either go through a formal entry process, which might or might not have a payment obligation for submission, or be entered by the administrator.

Judges are invited to be judges and are assigned to their categories in one of two ways—they ask for certain ones (selecting them in order of preference) or they are put in categories by the administrator. Judges need to confirm they will participate.

There might be two levels of judges—one set to narrow it to semifinalists, and one set to vote on the finalists.

If nominees fill out forms, then the survey engine within the Gateway would be the mechanism to create that form. If judges fill out forms, then the survey engine would be the mechanism to create that form. Thus, there are multiple forms that might be created and associated with each award.

The main interface of communications is email. The administrator is able to view the progress at any time via a contacts status page. The administrator will also be able to sort columns.

Judges need to be able to say how they would like to receive the items to be judged, if something other than a form is being judged. For instance, if this is a software review, it could be sent via electronic download or CDRom. Some companies ask if the judge would like to receive all the documentation. Some provide instructions for how to open an account. Thus, once the Awards process has begun, the vendors will be asked to come into the system to fill out a form for how to undertake the process of judging their products. Likely, they will request a meeting and suggest some times to meet. This time could be agreed upon and the judge could have an online representation of his scheduled meetings.

It should be obvious from the above-discussed apparatus embodiment that numerous other variations and modifications of the apparatus of this invention are possible, and such will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, the scope of this invention is not to be limited to the embodiment disclosed, but is to include any such embodiments as may be encompassed within the scope of the claims appended hereto.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification705/7.12, 705/7.33
International ClassificationG05B19/418
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q10/0631, G06Q30/0204, G06Q10/10
European ClassificationG06Q10/10, G06Q30/0204, G06Q10/0631
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 4, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: MEDIA & MARKETING SOLUTIONS, INC., CONNECTICUT
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BRIERE, DANIEL D.;REEL/FRAME:020476/0058
Effective date: 20080131