There’s a definite OutCast mentality. The firm calls its people Outcasts and boasts that to the outside world they are “the most competitive, intelligent, fearless, tuned in and tenacious public relations practitioners in the world… always innovating and trying new approaches, continuously looking for ways to over-deliver, and then some.” But to each other, OutCasts are “team-oriented, supportive, collaborative and fun” and “always looking for ways to help each other grow.” While providing a wide range of counsel—from media training to crisis communications to traditional product media relations—the firm eschews traditional practice areas, preferring to provide employees with a broad range of experience and to assemble customized teams for each client, so that everyone at the firm can work on companies in several sectors, from clean tech to consumer tech, from start-ups to large publicly-traded corporations.
None of that seems to have changed in the wake of the firm’s acquisition three years ago by Next Fifteen, parent company of global technology public relations powerhouses Text 100 and Bite Communications. At the time, Next Fifteen chief executive Tim Dyson was clear about the motivation behind the purchase: “Next Fifteen is keen to build a group that comprises best-in-class consultancies. We have long been impressed with the way OutCast has approached this sector and have enjoyed competing with it over the years. OutCast has built a great team of consultants that have together built a great business. We look forward to working with them during the next stage in their development.”
At the time, OutCast was perhaps the hottest technology public relations firm in the Bay Area; it has not cooled off in the intervening years and in fact has demonstrated its ability to scale to successfully serve large clients like EMC and Dell. Today, the firm has demonstrated its ability to do so with such success that it is increasingly seen as an enterprise shop—despite its continuing ability to understand and communicate emerging technologies and cutting-edge companies. The foundation of its success rests on three pillars: long-term employee relationships (more than 20 percent of its people have been with the firm for four years or more); long term client relationships (Salesforce.com has been an OutCast client for 10 years; Foundation Capital for seven; EMC for four; RSA, Yahoo! and Zimbra for three years each); and a staggering 90 percent win rate in new business pitches, with recent additions including Facebook, Aliph (the maker of the Jawbone headset) and Admob. After modest growth in 2008, fee income is close to $12 million.
Interesting work in 2008 included the launch of the Amazon Kindle in November, which began with the cover of Newsweek and continued with a campaign of consumer outreach around trends and gift guides, culminating in the inclusion of the Kindle as one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” in 2008. The firm also continued its impressive work with longtime client Salesforce.com, whose chief executive Marc Benioff says: “We first approached OutCast in 1999 to help us launch salesforce.com. From the very beginning, OutCast became a strategic part of our success. We look to them for their top notch media insight and strategic counsel, and have been impressed with their ability to scale to our needs as we grew.”
OutCast has offices in San Francisco and New York and the bulk of its work is in the United States. But when a client needs help overseas within the NextFifteen group such as Text 100., it has the ability to partner with other firms, most often sister agencies