Holmes Report 01 Dec 2011 // 12:00AM GMT
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—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 five years ago by Next Fifteen. The next question is whether the culture can survive 12 months of even considerable upheaval, which included the departures of co-founders Margit Wennmachers (for VC firm and client Andreessen Horowitz) and Caryn Marooney (for Facebook). The agency brought in Alex Constantinople as its first COO last year, promoting her to CEO earlier this year. A new partnership model was also implemented with Amy Swanson, Julie Kehoe, Reema Bahnasy and TJ Snyder each promoted to partner. Heather England was named to EVP, another newly-created role, while Helena Maus (to SVP), Becky Porter and Cyndi Reseberg (to VP) were also promoted. In addition, the firm unveiled a new positioning, rebranding as The OutCast Agency to reflect its growth beyond tech PR into mainstream consumer work, energy, and financial services; and the progression of its services beyond traditional PR into social media, digital services, financial comms and direct consumer engagement. A new design department was added, and Sara Cohen was promoted to director of marketing.
The early signs indicate that OutCast continues to thrive. Revenues grew by 17.7 percent to almost $18 million, with the firm growing to more than 80 employees. The foundation of OutCast’s success rests on three pillars: long-term employee relationships (more than 20 percent of its people have been with the firm for three years or more); long term client relationships (Salesforce.com has been an OutCast client for 11 years; Foundation Capital for nine; EMC for six; RSA, Yahoo! and Zimbra for five years each); and an impressive win rate in new business pitches, with recent additions including Bump, Cisco, GE, Netflix, Nike, Path, Rockmelt, Solazyme and Vevo.
The firm’s campaign work remains eye-catching, and included the Cisco umi launch; growing Netflix’s social engagement; launching the Nike SportWatch GPS; bringing both Path and Rockmelt to market; and ensuring top-tier coverage of Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff.
By any standards, the quality of Outcast’s work and its new business record represented another strong year. But the agency also hired a slew of new executives including Cathy Ashenbremer, (from Edelman Digital), Allison Braley (Conde Nast Digital), Nicki Dugan (Yahoo!), Chris Kraueter (Forbes.com), and John O’Brien (CNN).
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, it has the ability partner with other firms, most often sister agencies within the NextFifteen group such as Text 100.—AS