Creating buzz around a company that is in “stealth” mode and keeping its spokespeople in the media limelight while leading up to a big launch can be a tricky endeavor, however OutCast Communications developed and implemented the right PR campaign to handle the job.  Zaplet (formerly known as Firedrop) asked OutCast to help launch the enterprise software and services company and its new product, the Zaplet platform, a collaborative email and web application that allows people to securely collaborate, make decisions and streamline business processes.  By leveraging the unique backgrounds of Zaplet executives and investors, creating excitement for and launching the company at PC Forum, coordinating media and analyst tours, and then announcing a new high-profile CEO, OutCast Communications was able to secure over 100 media clips in 100 days, while gathering an avid following for Zaplet in the media arena and among technology leaders and industry influencers.
OutCast’s greatest challenge in launching Zaplet was that at the time of its launch, Zaplet was unsure of which market it would be targeting – business-to-consumer or business-to-business.  Zaplet recognized its platform’s enormous potential to serve both the enterprise and consumer markets. Therefore, OutCast had to ensure that Zaplet’s spokespeople and messages got in front of all types of media – from mainstream outlets, to IT publications, to business outlets.  In addition, once OutCast and Zaplet decided that PC Forum would be the ideal industry event for the company launch, they were faced with the challenge of obtaining one of the twelve coveted, invitation-only presenter spots at the event. 
  • Heighten buzz around the shroud of secrecy surrounding Zaplet and create the right media environment for the launch and unveiling of its first product
  • Build excitement around the unique backgrounds of the executive team at Zaplet
  • Launch the company at a prestigious industry event
  • Sustain launch momentum by immediately going on a national media tour and then continuing to meet with top influencers in the media and technology industries
OutCast researched its media strategy before executing upon it.  The first hurdle was to find the right conference at which to launch the company.   PC Forum, one of the technology industry’s most prestigious events, would take place in March – approximately the time that Zaplet wanted to unveil its communications and collaboration platform.  Further research revealed that companies launching with a product receive more media attention than companies that solely announce the launch of the company.  Finally, because of the broad spectrum of media targets, OutCast compiled a pitch grid of various types of story angles and developed different messages for all of the types of media targets, tailored specifically for each media outlet.  For the business media and technology media, OutCast focused its pitches on the experienced executive team, the disruptive nature of the Zaplet communications platform and the potential business implications for this new platform.  For the consumer outlets, OutCast pitched the story of how everyday email would be transformed through this new platform.
OutCast wanted to keep Zaplet in stealth mode until the day that the company launched.  At the time of the launch, the strategy was to build momentum based on the interesting backgrounds of some of Zaplet’s key executives and its venture capitalist backing. David Roberts, one of Zaplet’s co-founders and the “Chief Zaplet,” was a former CIA officer, so OutCast used Roberts’ intriguing professional career to create interest with the media and to tie that into the company’s code of secrecy.  OutCast advised Zaplet to launch the company at PC Forum and bundle its new product announcement to heighten the newsworthiness of the launch announcement.  Once the launch strategy was solidified, OutCast succeeded in getting Zaplet in front of Kevin Werbach, the industry influencer who chooses and invites the companies that present at PC Forum.  The second part of the strategy was to get in front of the right media with the right messages, in order to get them buzzing about Zaplet as an innovative, disruptive technology. 
Pre-Launch Buzz
Before Zaplet launched, OutCast worked with The Wall Street Journal to secure an article in “The Starting Gate,” a column that focuses on start-up companies and their executives.  Without disclosing Zaplet’s intentions as a company and communications platform, The Wall Street Journal began the buzz around Zaplet by highlighting its extreme mode of secrecy.  At the same time, OutCast arranged a meeting with Kevin Werbach of PC Forum, to obtain an invitation to present at the upcoming event.  Zaplet wowed Werbach, and secured one of the rare presentation slots at the show. 
The Launch:  PC Forum – March 2000
In March, OutCast again worked with The Wall Street Journal to run an exclusive story on Zaplet, which ran on the day of the company’s launch and presentation at PC Forum.  The story featured Zaplet as the hot company to watch at PC Forum. As a result of The Wall Street Journal article, the Zaplet presenters found themselves in a standing-room only conference room, filled with top-tier media, leading industry influencers, venture capitalists and potential Zaplet partners and customers.  Zaplet’s flawless presentation had the entire conference buzzing about Zaplet platform’s promise and potential.  Media in attendance included:  The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, The New York Times, Fortune and USA Today.
The Tour:  Media and Analyst – March 2000
Directly following its debut at PC Forum, Zaplet hit the road on a national media and analyst tour, meeting with such publications as AP, Forbes, The Industry Standard, The New York Times, USA Today, MSNBC and PC Magazine. 
New CEO Announcement – June 2000
In October 2000, Alan Baratz, formerly the high-profile president of JavaSoft at Sun Microsystems, joined Zaplet, providing an opportunity for Zaplet to gain the media spotlight once again.  OutCast scheduled embargoed interviews with top-tier media, to get in front of the media who hadn’t yet been introduced to Zaplet and its platform, and to re-introduce itself to those who had already met or written about the company. This led to another wave of articles, rounding out the 100 days of coverage.  Media making the top 100 list include:  The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, BusinessWeek, Forbes ASAP, U.S. News and World Report, Fast Company, USA Today, PC Magazine.
Ongoing Media Outreach – March 2000 – September 2000
In the months following the company launch and product launch, OutCast kept Zaplet in the media limelight with an aggressive press release calendar and ongoing media outreach.   The goal of the press releases during this time was to sustain Zaplet’s initial momentum, and included new customer announcements, as well as new technology partnerships and new Zaplet applications, i.e. polls and photo albums Zaplets.
The results of OutCast’s efforts around Zaplet’s launch were astonishing.  The highlights:
  • OutCast secured over 100 clips in 100 days in business, technology and consumer media outlets.
  • Of the 100 clips, 83 of the clips appeared in business and technology outlets, with 17 of the clips appearing in consumer publications. 
  • During the 100 days, feature articles on Zaplet appeared in top-tier business and technology outlets, including Business Week, CNNfn, Fast Company, The Financial Times, Forbes, The Industry Standard, Information Week, MSNBC, PC Week, The Red Herring, Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
  • On the day of Zaplet’s launch, its PC Forum presentation room was over-flowing with interested parties, including media, owing mainly to The Wall Street Journal article that appeared that day and industry buzz created by the company’s executives and secrecy.