A case study on Mac
The press release has been around for a hundred years. “It’s been the main vehicle for disseminating information in the public relations business,” says Jason Throckmorton, a founding member of LaunchSquad, a San Francisco-based PR firm. “For many purposes it’s still a great tool, but we envision other means of getting our clients stories out there, from working directly with bloggers and new media to creating blog, podcast and video content of our own.”
LaunchSquad deals in emerging technology companies and startups. They were recognized by Business 2.0 for their work and they’ve crafted campaigns for HP, Palm, wOz, Wine.com, NewsGator and others. Recently, The Holmes Report, a PR trade publication, ranked Launchsquad as one of the top 15 World’s Fastest Growing Public Relations Firms in 2006. Their clients have cutting-edge stories that are best told with dynamic techniques. “We focus on helping those companies get their stories out to the world,” says Jason Mandell, founding member of LaunchSquad. “We want people to get excited about these new ideas and technologies, and build awareness about them.” To do it, the 25-team member firm channels its creative energy through Macs.
“The Macs are really at the center of our business,” says Throckmorton. “They are easy to use, reliable and fun. That drives collaboration and creativity in our office and allows our people to produce better work more efficiently. That’s a big deal and it helps make us competitive in the industry.”
The Macs are also at the center of LaunchSquad’s new strategies. “We’ve started building stories about our clients using new communications channels such as blogs and podcasts,” says Throckmorton. “We’ll use GarageBand to create content that people can listen to on the web to complement or even replace a press release. We’ll also make video content with iMovie, giving our clients even more ways to get their stories told. And we couldn’t do it without the Macs.”
LaunchSquad is 7 years old, but the company office still crackles with the raw energy of a startup. “We do things differently here,” says Mandell. “Everything revolves around teamwork and collaboration. The more people work together around shared goals, the more positive the environment will be.” To enhance the creative flow, LaunchSquad has torn down all the walls — literally. The main workspace is open, employees working side by side without cubes or offices.
“It enhances collaboration,” says Mandell. “You don’t have to knock on someone’s door. We can hear each other pitch stories and have conversations with clients. It facilitates elbow-to-elbow learning.” The firm’s Macs are an essential part of that collaborative environment, a simple tool that doesn’t get in the way of creativity or productivity. “People really enjoy being on a Mac,” says Throckmorton. “They’re intuitive and easy to use. They’re not problematic; there aren’t issues with viruses or technical problems. The Macs take all the hassles away from using a computer. They just help you get the job done, which makes us more collaborative, productive and efficient.”
Easy networking is key to collaboration in any office, and especially at LaunchSquad. The company set up their own network; a cloud of notebooks linked via Apple Airport wireless and simple File Sharing. “We’re a 7-year-old company and for six years we had no central data infrastructure,” says Throckmorton. “We just used basic File Sharing to trade documents, and that comes on every Mac. We have had virtually no IT or networking expenditures and that has allowed us to focus on what we’re doing as a company.”
The company plans to deploy an Xserve in 2007 as a central repository for their files. The new system will make networking and file sharing even more efficient. Might be good to talk about what brought them to this decision — many businesses are in need of a server — but why they’re buying one and why Mac server could be really interesting.
LaunchSquad’s latest PR tactic involves using audio, video and other Web 2.0 techniques to supplement traditional PR tools that relied heavily on written text. It’s all part of the Squad’s commitment to innovation. “We like to empower people to take risks, try new things and grow in their professional and personal lives,” says Mandell. “These new tools and tactics are part of that.”
Nike + iPod
It’s tough to stay in shape when you have a busy work schedule. Mandell has found the extra motivation he needs to keep up with his workout routine: his iPod. “I recently got into using the Nike + iPod setup,” he says. “I’m excited about it because it’s motivating me to run more frequently.” Mandell is currently in a running competition with his brother. They’re going for the greatest distance ran in 100 days. The two post their progress at nikeplus.com. “I love this thing, it’s such a great tech tool,” says Mandell.
It just makes sense to reach out to new media players like bloggers, podcasters and videocasters. “We’re in the process of building a more formalized set of services around social media,” says Throckmorton. “How can we become content creators and help our clients build and distribute content on their own? We recognize GarageBand and iMovie as important solutions. They come out of the box with our computers, and to be able to sit at your desk and chop up a movie without having to use any professional services is huge for us.”
The Squad has created some podcasts and videos for its own blog called Exclamation, found at its website, and has hired a media director to head up its efforts. The team plans to make full use of iLife applications, but it also could also reach for pro solutions like Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro. “There are really no limits to where we can go,” says Mandell. “I envision us creating and distributing high quality videos for our clients that will allow us to reach their target audiences directly in addition to going through traditional media channels. That’s an exiting step for us.”
LaunchSquad also uses video to stay in touch. The company is opening a New York office and plans to use iChat for videoconferences. “We have one employee in NY now who works out of his home office,” says Mandell. “I frequently do a video call with him using iChat. It’s fast, interactive and also free. And it makes a big difference to have that face time. We’ve also used video iChat when people are on the road. They can just log in from wherever they are and they’ll be in the meeting.”
In the deadline-driven world of PR, computer crashes can cost clients. LaunchSquad simply can’t afford down time. “It’s a very deadline driven business and we cannot be hamstrung by our machines,” says Mandell. “With the Macs, we just don’t have to worry about it. They don’t crash and we basically don’t need to spend time or money on IT problems.”
“Reliability is huge for us,” says Zoe Vandeveer, a member of the Squad. “In my previous job, my PC would crash all the time and I was constantly going to tech support. Here, no one’s computer crashes. That lets us get our work done without stressing over computer problems.”
The company hasn’t needed an IT department and has utilized a consultant very sparingly during the last seven years. “It’s relieving to not have to worry about computer issues,” says Mandell. “We’re a services firm and we need to be accessible to our clients. It’s going to impact the company negatively if we have to worry about computer problems and spend a lot of time figuring them out.” Mandell estimates that the Squad has saved big money over the years. “It’s far less expensive in the long run to go with Macs,” he says. “Especially when you figure out all the ancillary costs — IT and tech support — that you would incur with PCs. I estimate that we’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars.”
LaunchSquad’s troop of notebooks also has to be rock solid. Employees are free to tote their machine and use it anytime, anywhere. “We really encourage people to take their laptops home,” says Throckmorton. “They like having a machine that’s enjoyable when they take it home. They can take advantage of it for their personal lives, for whatever they want.”
“Macs are just fun,” says Vandeveer. “I had a PC at my last job, I didn’t want to take it home. Here I want to take my Mac home. It’s a computer that you want to use all the time for work, or not for work, or a combination of the two.”
That same freedom and reliability has fueled LaunchSquad’s success. “No one here is a computer scientist,” says Mandell. “We’re marketing people, English majors, writers. No one here wants to worry about computer problems. They’re an annoyance and they create negativity. The Macs are freeing because nobody has a computer issue. The Macs just work.”
Most cube-bound office workers wouldn’t want to re-live a year at work. The Squad is different. “Two of the partners, Jesse and Brett, make a video about everything that took place during the year,” says Mandell. “They reenact funny things that happened in the office. They basically use a video camera and iMovie. We all get together and watch the video during the holiday party and everyone has a blast viewing it. We’re already talking about this year’s video and it’s six months out!”
Music inspires LaunchSquad and nearly every employee shares through iTunes. “We can play each other’s music during the day through iTunes,” says Mandell. “It brings a lot of variety into our day and it’s amazing how many times I’ll shut down at the end of the day and somebody’s listening to my music.”
Equipments used at Launchpad:
- MacBook Pro
- Airport Extreme
- Microsoft Office Mac
Jason Mandell – A biography
Jason Mandell co-founded LaunchSquad in 2000 to help emerging technology companies get the word out about their ideas and innovations. During that time he has helped LaunchSquad grow to become one of nation’s premier tech-focused public relations agencies. Jason is a native of Simsbury, Connecticut and graduated from Boston College with a degree in Communications.
LaunchSquad is an 8-year old, 30-person public relations firm based in San Francisco with an office in New York City. LaunchSquad specializes in helping emerging technology companies grow and become market leaders through strategic PR programs; the agency has represented more than 75 clients in areas such as software, online marketing, consumer and Internet technology, security, telecom and green technology.