AdweekMedia's Agency of the Year 2010



The OutCast

Facebook’s agency of record succeeds with cross-platform tactics

By T.L. Stanley

Photos by Jonathan Sprague

There was a good reason why OutCast Communications rebranded itself as The OutCast Agency earlier this year. The 13-year-old firm  wanted to show the world that it’s left traditional PR companies in the dust.

OutCast, a powerhouse of the technology marketing community, has staked its identity on the fact that it’s not your standard public relations group (hence the name), going beyond placing op-eds, securing media coverage and handling crises. The agency does all that, of course. But OutCast is unique in its ability to work seamlessly across all platforms and strategies—from print to digital to broadcast to events to design to SEO and blogging—to insure clients have the best means to reach the right people the right way at the right time. To do that, OutCast has consistently adapted to ever-changing technologies and designed a fast, new, Web-savvy approach to public relations for tech firms.

“There are a lot of agencies that say they’re digital experts, but OutCast can back up that claim,” says Facebook communications director Brandee Barker, who hired the firm three years ago after being impressed by its extensive work with tech companies. “They’ve helped us through nearly 100 product launches, media strategy, crisis communication, the f8 developer conferences, everything. They’re phenomenal.”

With all the attention lavished on Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, over the course of the year, 2010 has afforded some high-profile moments to OutCast, too. The agency snagged Zuckerberg a glowing 60 Minutes profile and helped pull off his September guest spot on Oprah when he announced a $100 million donation to the Newark, N.J., school system. The group also added accounts from several A-list marketers, including Nike, Cisco and ever-present, buzz-generator Netflix. Path, the secretive five-person startup from Napster’s Shawn Fanning and former Facebook exec Dave Morin, also joined OutCast’s roster.

It’s been a circuitous route to success for OutCast founder and CEO Caryn Marooney, a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker who planned to be a Manhattan-based lawyer. Marooney took what she thought would be a one-year detour between graduating from Cornell and starting law school—skiing and waitressing in Jackson Hole, Wyo.—before ending up in San Francisco, where she took a job as an assistant at a PR firm that specialized in technology companies. “If I’d landed in Washington, I probably would’ve gone into politics,” she says.

Marooney set up her own shop in 1997, insisting on the company’s name despite advice from friends and colleagues to go for something more “dignified and formal.” The company, which was sold to global communications firm Next Fifteen Communications Group in 2005, will see $16 million in revenue in 2010, up 10 percent over 2009. Looking ahead, Marooney says that OutCast will be keeping a close eye on mobile and social media and video. The company’s temporary offices in Boston and Los Angeles may well become permanent, as the company seeks new tech clients in those cities.

One change that may be coming for the company in 2011 is a shift in demographics at the heavily female company.

“I have been hiring more men,” laughs Marooney.

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