Company Makeover: Transforming Plaxo Brand from Contact Management Pioneer to Web 2.0 Innovator

PR Challenge

In 2001, the founders of Plaxo had a great idea…a networked address book which was smart and could automatically sync contact information across multiple platforms, laptops, phones, and Microsoft Outlook.  The address book was a big hit and is used by over 20 million people worldwide.  In the meantime, the company was working on a bigger idea: how to reinvent the company and its core service. What if Plaxo’s smart, networked address book and calendar could form the foundation for vastly improved communications, content, and community functions?

First, the four-year old company needed to face the past and address a serious image challenge caused by youthful enthusiasm when the new company initiallly started inviting people to join its service. Influential meda and bloggers felt that early versions of Plaxo made it too easy for users to flood everyone in their Outlook address books with Plaxo invitation requests and were not shy about expressing their dislike of this feature. 

Breakaway worked alongside the Plaxo executive team on a turn-around campaign with a goal to roll out a “new” Plaxo in 2007 and 2008. The first step was a CEO-level communication through the corporate blog to announce the company would change the default features on sending invites, eliminating impersonal bulk invitations. The apology was very well received and created an opportunity to introduce the next phase of the company with a clean slate.

The company then rolled out its flagship Plaxo 3.0 to strong acclaim even though it was the same week that the iPhone launched—a fearsome adversary to compete with for journalist’s attention. 

The successful 3.0 launch then set the stage for Plaxo’s next and most impressive innovation: Plaxo Pulse, a new social network and dashboard for seeing what your friends, family and colleagues are creating and sharing all over the open social web.

The apology and back-to-back launches created significant awareness and momentum for the company resulting in its acquisition by Comcast in 2008.

Our Strategy
  • Separate from the past in order to create a space for the brand to be re-born
  • Early outreach to media and bloggers for informal Plaxo 3.0 first looks (especially key given the iPhone competition for journalist’s time and attention)
  • Focus on education and building long-term relationships with influential bloggers and media
  • Become a trusted resource for industry insight as well as company information


Plaxo’s PR efforts helped drive traffic to the site and dramatically accelerated the adoption of Plaxo. The Plaxo 3.0 and Pulse launches resulted in some 300 articles and blog posts around the world including coverage in the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Wired, CBS News, GigaOm, TechCrunch, Mashable, and Scobleizer. Significantly, all leading technology blogs now cover almost every feature announcement and major industry move from the company.

The tone and view of Plaxo in media coverage and blog posts also improved moving from negative to highly positive.

Some terrific articles since the Plaxo 3.0 launch include:
  • "Plaxo Is Staying in Touch" – Wall Street Journal
  • "Reuters Turns Address Books into Web Social Networks" – Reuters
  • "New Plaxo Puts Extra Power in Data Syncing" – San Jose Mercury News/CBS News
  • "Plaxo Could be the Open Facebook" – TechCrunch
  • "Plaxo reboots, gets in sync" – GigaOm
  • "Plaxo 3.0 gets social with multi-way synch" – ZDNet/CNET

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