Shutterfly is an online photo service that provides users the ability to enhance, share, store and print digital and 35mm film images.  The company also offers products such as frames, customizable photo greeting cards and photo calendars.  Launched in September 1999, Shutterfly offers superior services/products, strong partnerships, and secure backing by Jim Clark, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Adobe Ventures and Tom Jermoluk.  


Throughout 2000, the popularity of digital cameras was on the rise, changing the way consumers would use cameras forever. With the new Millennium, online photo services would allow users instant access to not only view and print their photos, but to personalize, enhance and customize them right from their computer.  While consumers didn’t need a digital camera to take advantages of these new services, the rise in sales and interest in these cameras helped drive interest towards online photo developing and other new services.  Shutterfly and its competitors had just recently been introduced as the companies leading the online photo service space, but consumers, investors and media alike needed to be educated about the industry and convinced that Shutterfly’s offerings were clearly the best choice.


Through the year, Access Communications conducted quarterly media audits to tap the pulse of target media and gauge their growing knowledge and understanding of the industry and Shutterfly.  Participants included business, trade and consumer media, who were questioned on their knowledge of the industry and its competitors.  

The research results concluded a consistent building of awareness and understanding and ensured Access was on the right path to success.  Based on the quarterly reports, Access continuously tailored its tactics in order to successfully reach its objectives.  


Shutterfly was one player in an extremely crowded space where competitors raced against one another to announce new offerings and partnerships.  Beyond the competition in the space, the dot com industry itself was flooded with start-ups and investors, analysts, and the media’s skepticism of the dot com industry in general challenged PR’s ability to shine through a growing gray cloud covering.  From an internal perspective, both Access and Shutterfly went through changes in team structures, causing communication gaps at times.  In addition, half way through the year, Shutterfly hired a second agency, creating confusion on PR priorities and what each agency’s objectives were.


The market was ready for Shutterfly’s type of service and Shutterfly was the clear leader in terms of its offerings, financial backing, and strong partnerships.   The rise in digital camera sales and growing interest in Internet services offered a natural extension for press to educate consumers on what they could do with their photos. The client understood PR and the value of it, enabling Access to forge ahead in a competitive environment, shifting strategies and tactics as needed, and ensuring an executive would always make him/herself available for a press interview.


Program objectives were twofold.  First, we wanted to build awareness of Shutterfly’s products and services and second, we wanted to establish Shutterfly as the leader in the online photo service space.


Indirectly, we targeted Shutterfly’s core consumers: the “wired family” and tech savvy adults.  Additional indirect targets included potential investors and partners.  To reach these audiences, we directed program efforts at top daily newspapers, business publications and select consumer technology magazines.  


To best reach our objectives, we focused our strategies on Shutterfly’s services and partnerships.  All outreaches positioned the company as a user-friendly website with a variety of top-notch products and services that are better than the competition’s offerings.  In addition, we capitalized on Shutterfly’s current and future strategic partnerships to illustrate strong industry positioning and future viability to investors and partners.


Key messages included the following:

  • Shutterfly is the leader in online photo services
  • Shutterfly offers the widest variety of features available in the industry
  • Shutterfly’s strong and growing partnerships prove the company’s depth of service


Access Communications recognized that although many journalists were interested in covering the online photo space, similar companies with similar messages resulted in more round-up pieces than stand-alone features.  Therefore, our measurable objectives included garnering Shutterfly mentions in 75 percent of stories on the online photo industry and securing three solid Shutterfly features per quarter.  In addition, we aimed to secure coverage in 50 percent of our top 50 media according to circulation and client priority (i.e., hometown press).  Finally, we sought to ensure that one or more of our key messages played out in 50 percent of stories mentioning Shutterfly.  


To keep Shutterfly top-of mind-with editors, Access executed aggressive ongoing media relations with a core monthly PR program and special initiatives sprinkled throughout the year.  To build awareness of Shutterfly’s offerings, Access conducted quarterly bi-coastal analyst/media tours with in-person demonstrations and executive interviews.  In addition, Access held media events where company executives were on-hand to address Shutterfly’s new services, partnerships and place within the industry.  Finally, Access conducted an extensive holiday program that included tailored media outreach, creative mailers and a “hot sheet” highlighting Shutterfly’s features.


Program results were outstanding!  Access secured more than 1000 print and broadcast hits for a grand total of 205million impressions!  Shutterfly stories ran in 90 percent of our top 50 media, and a post-program coverage analysis revealed 30 percent more Shutterfly coverage than the competition received.  Finally, our key messages played out in 85 percent of all feature stories.  Following are coverage highlights for 2000:

Winter 2001 Fortune Technology Guide—Named one of “Ten Web Sites of the Future” 

PC Magazine—Rated as the “best online photo service” 

Yahoo! Internet Life—Named the “Best Online Photo Site “ 

The Baltimore Sun—“The quality of Shutterfly's prints was excellent…Shutterfly's photo greeting card service takes the site a step beyond the competition.”  

USA Today—“You can improve [your pictures], add a border, turn them into a card and only print the ones you want. Plus, you can share them with family and friends.’”

Reuters—“Shutterfly, one of the leading online photo services… will not only help you create your photo greeting cards but will mail them out for you as well.”


  • 1000 Total stories/205 Million Impressions
  • 61 National and syndicated print stores
  • 632 Broadcast segments
  • 174 Regional print stories
  • 25 Trade stories
  • 108 Online stories