skobbler Names Crenshaw Communications for Public Relations Program

Crenshaw  has been appointed by Berlin-based skobbler, a leading provider of mobile map-based apps and solutions, after a competitive review. Our team is busy with public relations and marketing communications services for skobbler here in the US, including media relations and social media strategy and content. With nearly three million customers on iOS alone, skobbler has pioneered the development of location technology based on the OpenStreetMap and regularly tops app charts in many countries around the world. Read the details here.




Matchmaking In The Office (It’s Not What You Think!)

Some of the most complicated and thoughtful decisions a PR agency head must make involve staffing a new or transitioning account. There is truly an element of matchmaking involved to ensure the personalities mesh well and the relationship is productive. Sometimes, missteps occur and a strategic course correction is in order, but here are a few client/agency scenarios to ponder which may help mitigate mismatches.

The High-Octane Client
The first (and often best) instinct is to assign a very calm, unflappable account person to balance this type AAA hyper client. Someone to remain focused in crises and keep this wild card client off “the ledge.” But you don’t want an account person who is too quiet – don’t confuse calm with comatose!

The Unsure, Insecure Client
This is tricky – you want to match this client with someone caring and nurturing and smart. I would think hard before assigning them an “opposites attract” type as that could be threatening and backfire. The account leader for this client should strike a perfect balance between assertive and nurturing.

The Know-it-all Client
Experience says it almost doesn’t matter the personality of this client’s agency contact – they just need to be supportive yet unafraid to suggest opinions and offer alternative views. No client, not even an egomaniac, wants someone who agrees with every word they say (do they?)

The Threatened Client
The match for this endangered client is someone with very good people-reading skills. This person must be chameleon-like in their ability to go this way and that depending on their client’s standing within the company on a given day. They must have good listening and reporting skills so those in charge at the agency can “read the tea leaves” and make adjustments.

What sage wisdom can you offer on successful client/agency relationships?

Words To Avoid For PR Pros And Princess Bride Fans

Although I’m a grammar and word usage nerd, I rarely blog about it, mainly because others do it so well, and for PR pros, the frequency of reminders can be tedious. Yes, certain incorrect, trite, or pompous words are irresistible complaint fodder: my personal dreads are “hone in” for “home in” or anything with “utilize” for the much better “use.” Also PR jargon like “buzz” and “optics.”

But in honor of the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride, here’s a list of words more commonly misused in professional circles or in the office. Some are merely old, some incorrect, while others simply should never have seen the light of day.

Any nouns used as verbs. And vice versa. “Onboarding, “concretize,” and “webify” are three offenders. I swore I’d never say “productize,” but after 20 years in tech PR, it rolls off my tongue. Then there’s “showroom,” as in, “I showroomed the new tablet then ordered it from Amazon.” Most nouns should never be “verbed.”

Flexitarian. The word refers to dietary habits, but it’s also a badge of identity, like “metrosexual.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Kory Stamper, it’s from the “you are what you eat” school. In my book, it’s confusing and pretentious.

Funemployed. No, it’s not really. Maybe pre-recession, but since 2008 this hasn’t been a good word.

Spinnish. I’ve heard this used to describe the language used by PR pros and politicians. Funny, maybe, but too backhanded.

Refudiate. This word was famously invented by Sarah Palin and it should have ended with her retirement from politics.

Democratize. Another “verbification” that actually makes sense to me, though it may be through sheer overuse. And that’s the problem; this word is just so tired, having been used to describe everything from financial investments to art. Let’s vote it out for a while.

Agreeance. Are we all in “agreement” that this is an invented word, and not a good one?

Smirting. This is meant to refer to flirting while smoking, since anti-smoking regs have driven so many office workers outdoors. NPR’s “A Way With Words” confirms my suspicion that it’s something a PR person invented and tried to popularize, but it never really caught fire.

Ridonkulous. I’m secretly fond of this one, but it’s seen better days. When a word is attached to discount sales, it means it’s not as cool as you think.

Sexting. Last year “sexting” was named the Most Annoying New Tech Word by Computeractive Magazine (which I think should consider a name change itself.) But, alas, it’s here to stay. And to be honest, “intexticated” – from the same list – is actually worse.

Digerati. Does anyone really say this? Certainly not them.

PR Pros, Are You An Ambivert?

A new CareerBuilder study reveals which careers are most well-suited for introverts and extroverts. While extroverts tend to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious, introverts are more likely to be reserved and less outspoken in groups. While these characteristics shouldn’t be the sole factors in job selection, the information could be useful in mapping out a career path.

Interestingly, public relations, a career category thoroughly linked with extroverts (“I’m a people person!”), isn’t listed as a job well-suited for either group. I think I know why. I took a personality quiz designed by Susan Cain, the author of The Power of Introverts, to determine where I fell on the spectrum. I was surprised to see that while I talk a lot, enjoy group activities and relish social interaction, I am actually an “ambivert,” enjoying many characteristics of both introverts and extroverts.
And I posit that many PR professionals fall in that category as well.

Ambiverts fall squarely in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, enjoying the best of both worlds, able to tap into either set of characteristics as needed. For example, while many extroverts will certainly answer “false” to the statement “Many people describe me as soft-spoken or mellow,” we (fellow practitioners, back me up) will surely say “true” to this statement: “I enjoy work that allows me to ‘dive in’ with few interruptions.” And, during the workday, we may not be able to say yes to,“I often let calls go through to voice-mail.” Yet I bet many of you do so as soon as you are home.

Finally, PR pros certainly ought to respond “true” to this [introvert] statement: “I am a good listener,” since listening to clients is the essence of “getting” their business and their work style. At the same time, there are other questions on the quiz dealing with sharing work and collaboration (clearly extrovert traits) that are good skills for anyone in any business, including ours.

Want to take the quiz and see where you land? Let us know!

Can PR Pros Learn From Romney’s Mistakes?

It’s been a tough two weeks for Mitt Romney’s campaign. It’s hard to separate the aggressive punditry, faux outrage, and media overkill from the real lessons here. But there are lessons.

In my view it’s not about gaffes. Those occur on both sides, and the media pounce and squeeze every last ounce of news value from each verbal misstep or surrogate slip, but they’re relatively minor. In the heat of a campaign, they’re also unavoidable. (see Biden, Joe) But many of Romney’s recent setbacks are the result of strategy mistakes. Maybe most importantly, it’s about what he hasn’t done.

Stay on message. And choose your spots accordingly. That’s one rule of  communications that the Romney team has abandoned of late. Empty campaign promises, dueling claims, and obfuscations are, sadly, to be expected. But Romney shows a dangerous tendency to “shoot from the lip.” His criticisms of the President following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya had him wading into foreign policy matters, mere hours after our ambassador was killed. Many thought it unseemly. But from a pure communications point of view, these are perilous waters and ones where the candidate lacks credibility. Far better to show respect, then return to hammer his message about jobs.

Offer big ideas. There was actually a time when the GOP considered itself the party for big and exciting new concepts. It was supposed to be the rationale for the choice of Paul Ryan as running mate, yet the campaign has squandered the opportunity. If a bold new policy position had been unveiled it might actually have helped distract from secret videos and tax questions. But Ryan seems reduced to an attack dog, which at best is a waste and at worst is a fatal error.

Be authentic. Now this may sound mealy-mouthed or naive in the hardball age, but elections, unlike business deals, are won on intangibles like likability and trust. I can’t escape the notion that Romney is uncomfortable with his own message, how it’s communicated, or even the whole campaigning thing. He could take a lesson from Chris Christie or Mike Bloomberg, — both strong personalities, often disliked, but who convey exactly who they are in their dealings with constituents and media alike. Romney’s camp gives the impression it’s trying to mold the candidate to please everyone, with the result that no one’s excited by him, and he looks weak in the bargain.

If the team’s broke, fix it. If’s report of disarray in camp Romney is only half true, something is seriously wrong.  The hastily rewritten RNC speech, the Clint Eastwood debacle, the rapid strategy shifts – all signal a Keystone Kops approach to messaging. Romney himself wrote in an August Wall Street Journal editorial, “A good idea is not enough for a business to succeed. It requires a talented team, a good business plan and capital to execute it.” Well, he’s got the capital. There was a plan…once. But the team isn’t firing on all cylinders. For a guy who’s staked his entire candidacy on his business track record, this is probably his worst mistake. If he can’t fix his campaign, there’s no way he’ll convince independents that he can fix the country.

How Working Women Win At Work

The popular expression “half the sky” refers to the female half of the population and its equal share of responsibility in the world. And this has never been truer than today as Marissa Meyer takes over Yahoo and Hillary Clinton continues to navigate difficult diplomatic waters.

But I have to ask myself, why, amid the great strides this “half the sky” continues to make, women still sabotage themselves in the office. We do it with words. Certain speech habits can undermine our authority and make us appear less competent.

Here are some tips to avoid these “crimes of conversation” and keep your career on track.

Strike “actually” and “just” from your vocabulary
As in, “I was just thinking off the top of my head” (before offering a good idea) or “Actually I had a question” (as if your having a question is a surprise or a problem). Adding these and other disclaimers amount to pre-emptive apologies and condition those in the room to take you less seriously and what you have to say of less value. Your opinions matter, never shortchange yourself.

Never “Uptalk!”
Nothing dumbs down a woman (or anyone) more than raising your pitch at the end of a sentence as if you’re asking rather than telling someone what you think. This bad habit gives the impression that you are unsure and tentative at best or stupid, at worst! One way to help overcome this tendency is to listen to women speakers whom you admire – Diane Sawyer, Cokie Roberts and Rachel Maddow are some good examples.

Pause and take breaths
When nervous, women in particular tend to talk in rushed, rambling sentences and actually fear pausing since any gap in conversation is naturally awkward. It is much more effective, however, to get your thought out and put a period at the end of it. Your audience will now find your points more thoughtful and consider you more confident and professional. Plus, the ball is now in “their” court, helping to bring the meeting to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion.

We’ve all been guilty of the above “crimes.” Any advice you would like to add?

When Should A PR Agency Break Up With A Client?

Client-PR agency dynamics are a lot like dating, except the relationship is inherently unequal. A paying client always has the upper hand in the duo. Yet, agencies, too, can initiate a breakup. And like the song says, breaking up is hard to do.
So is it ever a good business move to fire a client? Most of us have thought about it on occasion. But it’s particularly painful during lean times, and nearly always irrevocable. Here are some key factors that should influence a decision to split.

It’s a (financial) loser. If you’re consistently losing money on a client program, it’s obviously a viable reason to say goodbye. But that should only happen after trying to bring work and compensation into balance. Although most agencies gain efficiency – and profitability – as time goes on, sometimes we fall victim to “scope creep.” That’s one thing. But a client who is never satisfied is something else entirely. Lose them.

It’s tying you down. Sometimes agencies end a client relationship for the opportunity to pitch a larger, more profitable competitor. In my experience this is nearly always a losing strategy, not to mention bad karma. It usually pays to dance with the person who brought you, as my grandmother used to say.

They’re using you. Companies and individuals who churn through agencies to get new ideas are anathema in our business. It’s a good idea to look at their past agency relationships and to build protections into the letter of agreement if possible. Another type of “using” is by clients who are such slow payers that you feel you’re a bank. Never good.

It’s giving you a bad reputation. Occasionally we find ourselves in a dicey ethical dilemma. During my years at a mega-agency, I once had a client who routinely misled us in the hope that we would spread false information to journalists. It was a terrible situation that ended with an FDA lawsuit for the client and a narrowly dodged bullet on our part.

They want to play the field. What to do when a longtime, valued client calls an agency review? There’s no easy answer, but a decision to defend the business (or not) is one that should be made rationally, not emotionally. It’s best to use your relationship to get the best information about the client’s motives and intentions and calculate the odds of prevailing in a competitive situation.

It’s a “toxic” relationship. Everyone has at least one story of an abusive, disrespectful or hostile client. I once worked with an unstable woman at a top brand and always kicked myself for not ending the relationship sooner. It was hard to part company but even harder to see the team morale sink lower each day. When you muster the courage to let a truly bad client go, you’ll nearly always feel a burden lifted.

They take you for granted. If, you’re not included in strategy decisions, relegated to “vendor” status, or always the last to hear about news announcements, you probably can’t do your best work for the client in question. It may be that they’re “just not that into you,” or it could be ignorance. Either way, you need to know where you stand. Spell out how you’re being underused, and press for a fuller partnership. Scary, yes, but it’s almost always worth the risk.

A PR Guide To Naming

We’re sometimes asked to participate in naming blogs, products, or even brands. I usually begin by thinking about some well-known media and corporate entities with truly standout names (good or bad) and wondering how they were chosen…

Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me
Along with several other memorable and cleverly named NPR properties (“Here’s the Thing,” “Tell Me More”) I imagine that the smart marketing folks at the station listen to the way people really talk and take notes. This elicits names that adhere to a theme but are distinct to each offering.

Don’t Trust the B- in Apt. 23
Like “@#$% My Father Says,” these names employ some “shock” value in the hope of becoming part of the pop culture vernacular. I have no issue with “colorful” language but I think its usage is kind of lazy when it comes to names, particularly since media standards and practices folks won’t even allow the actual names to be printed!

Rules of Engagement
I am particularly fond of double entendre names – smart, to-the-point and often funny. From the beginning of TV time – “Bewitched,” say, through “Arrested Development,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and many others, these thoughtful and layered names are both descriptive and memorable.

What, you don’t know Mondelez? This roundly criticized moniker will take over all of Kraft global snacks soon and suffers from disconnects beginning with merely pronouncing it!

So, as you engage in brainstormings with colleagues and other creative endeavors to develop worthy names, here are a few tips from Entrepreneur Magazine to get you started.
• The name needs to sound good when it’s said aloud
• Use a name that has meaning to it and conveys a benefit
• Avoid weird spellings
• Beware initials
• Be specific
• Test it out on Google AdWords

Tuesday Tips: 8 Smart Tech Tips For Fall

As a PR agency person, it seems like you’re always plugged in: every device must be wifi-enabled, emails come at all hours of the day and smartphones are almost a necessity! Technology can make our lives easy and convenient, but you need to be smart! Here are 8 smart tech tips for the fall:

Make relevant updates. Smart phone operating systems update every few months, and updating can do wonders for your phone’s productivity. Check to see if your phone is due for a system update; Android recently updated to Ice Cream Sandwich and Apple’s iOS 6 is making its debut in a few short weeks.

Change your passwords. Yes, really. Changing the passwords for all your accounts can be daunting, but it’s imperative to change them periodically for your safety. Keep passwords in a safe, secret place to make the process less overwhelming.

Out with the old. Back in college I would rid my computer of old files after every semester. This is a habit I still keep, even after graduation. Eliminate unused documents to help your computer run faster and more efficiently. This can apply to smart phone and tablet apps, as well.

Clean up your social media accounts. Now’s a good time to untag yourself from those less-flattering Facebook photos, remove inappropriate posts and update your LinkedIn profile. This is especially important if you’re looking for a job or internship.

Back up your data. We never remember to back up our information until it’s already gone. Pick up an external hard drive to have in case of a tech emergency!

Be wary of location-based apps. The information you enter on location-based services can reveal a lot of private information. Be sure to change your privacy settings if you have the option.

Get a backup battery. App usage can drain battery power on mobile devices, especially our phones. If you find yourself relying on apps, make sure you have a backup battery in case the other one runs out of juice.

Start a (good) digital footprint. In PR, having a small but positive digital footprint is a great way to build credibility. Be active on social media, start a blog, etc., the options are endless!
These tips are a great starting point for anyone using technology but for tech enthusiasts, what other tips can you think of? Leave pointers in the comments!

How To Give A Killer Speech: Lessons From The 2012 Political Conventions

Most of the time, a political convention combines the best of public relations strategy, messaging, marketing, and theater. But good or bad, there are always learnings that PR pros and our clients can take to any public speaking opportunity. Here are some from my convention-watching over the past two weeks.

Match the room. Politicians and their surrogates often face the dual-audience dilemma: whether to address the television viewing audience or the  convention hall itself. But most of us can tailor our voice, gestures, and energy to the physical environment and a single group. For a smaller venue, a natural speaking style works. But a large auditorium calls for bigger, bolder gestures and vocal inflections, and a higher-than-normal energy level.

Know the material. Overreliance on a teleprompter is a key reason why many speakers fall short. If you’re not comfortable with the material, or feel you need to read every last line, the delivery can be monotonous and wooden. The best speakers memorize portions of the speech, and/or they learn to read ahead so that eye contact, head movement, and vocal inflection can be more natural.

Tell a story. Everyone knows this, but political speakers tend to do it best. A single anecdote is more powerful than a policy download. One story beats statistics. The mom whose daughter needed heart surgery, Governor Susana Martinez’s anecdote about her GOP awakening, and Tammy Duckworth’s inspiring story were just a few of the standouts.

Show your feelings. The goal of any speech is to connect with the audience. It’s often effective to share a personal anecdote and show real emotion, as long as it’s appropriate and not unchecked. Mitt Romney’s evocation of his father and President Obama’s tribute to his wife were both well calibrated. Joe Biden’s emotional pauses at the end of his speech were a bit distracting, because he seemed to have teleprompter difficulties and I initially wondered if he’d blanked out.

Have a back-up. “Always pack your own parachute” is how one speaker put it when a letter she planned to read wasn’t placed at the podium as planned, and she was able to pull another copy out of her pocket. Errors happen. Teleprompters go down. Does anyone remember President Bill Clinton’s SOTU address in 1994? Another speech was loaded into the teleprompter by mistake, but the Improviser-in-Chief famously didn’t miss a beat, turning in a perfect rendition until the error was fixed. Of course, he abandoned the prepared text again at the DNC in Charlotte, but that was purposeful. The point is most of us wouldn’t have been able to wing it. Check, then check again. Redundancy rules.

Connect to your content. Jimmy Carter used to smile when delivering serious news. At the RNC, Nikki Haley looked cheerful while blasting Obama’s policies. This can undermine the message. The best speakers, including Condoleezza Rice and Michelle Obama, were perfectly in sync with their words in terms of facial expression, voice, and body language.

Don’t distract. This is where preparation and videotaped rehearsals come in. If you were on Twitter during the speeches, you may have seen tweets about Paul Ryan’s frequent throat-clearing or Ted Strickland’s shouting, each of which arguably distracted from their content. Also odd was the swirly blue background in Tampa – I found it vertigo-inducing.

Build it. And both parties did! A truly great speech has phases, – maybe a warm, humorous intro, followed by a faster-paced and punchy middle, a more “intimate” sharing, and a roaring finale. Several speakers, including Ann Romney, used their voice to powerful effect, lowering it for personal reflections, then raising it to punctuate an important point. Deval Patrick’s fire-breather rose to a climax worthy of a Baptist Sunday sermon. The effective pacing and vocal inflections made these some of the best at either convention.

Prepare for the unexpected. Public speakers need to be prepared for physical discomfort, nerves, delays, interruptions, equipment failure, spontaneous applause, even hecklers at times. As for Clint Eastwood’s now-famous 12 minutes, it was unusual in that the iconic star was apparently allowed a free hand. Giving up control is a huge risk to be avoided at all costs. I’d call it a distraction at best (at Marco Rubio’s and even Romney’s expense) but the empty chair did get buzz. Whether it was good, bad, or ugly, however, probably depends on who was watching.