McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union Names Crenshaw Communications As PR Agency

The Crenshaw team is proud to announce being named as agency of record by McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union. Our team will provide MHFCU with PR and media relations services, including traditional and digital media relations and executive visibility around its benefits for members and its unique financial literacy program.  First chartered in 1935, McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union originally served employees of the McGraw-Hill Companies in New York City. Since then, it has opened up membership to outside companies, offering a full range of banking, investing and insurance services to more than 20,084 members worldwide and more than 120 companies.

Please see full details here.

Tech Tools That Make PR Work, Work Better

Work demands are always changing, but thanks to technology, we can be better prepared, more organized and more confident of doing our job efficiently. Here are some great tech tools for PR pros and others to consider to make work…well…work better.

Task management can be daunting. 30/30 simplifies it and even makes it fun. This nifty little app allows users to input tasks and how much time they wish to spend on each. Spend the allotted minutes or hours on the task, and the app lets you know when it’s time to move on. It’s completely controlled by gestures, pleasing to the eye, and terrific at helping you “get stuff done.”

You never know when creativity may strike. But when it does, iBrainstorm helps you and your entire team manage the process. Just open the app, create a note and stick it to your own or your entire team’s “creative corkboard,” and the brainstorming process just got a little more fun.

No one can remember everything, which is why Evernote is such a pivotal piece of any individual’s tech arsenal. Evernote allows users to store everything from their notes to recent earnings reports in one easy-to-use platform. You can also note artistic concepts and other visuals within the app with its intuitive Skitch tool.

Expense reports can be maddening, but one tool that helps is Expensify. Expensify enables users to import basically any billable item from gas to credit card statements right into the app and organizes them neatly for easy access.

Genius Scan
Ever need a PDF at the busiest, most insane time? Genius Scan solves this dilemma by making PDFs available right from your device’s camera: just pick a document, scan it, and kiss your PDF worries goodbye. Furthermore, easy integration with Evernote and Dropbox make this little app one of the most valuable office tools you can fit into your pocket.

Guy Walks into a PR Firm…Humor in the Workplace

In earlier times, a colleague would run into your office with a joke hot off the fax. Today, that just sounds like a set-up for a joke. Jokes and humor have always been part of a healthy workplace, but with the viral jokes and memes we see online, it just might be time to review some rules of the road for humor in your office.

One trait that consistently ranks high among the most admired leaders is the confidence to poke fun at themselves. When authority figures understand the difference between false humility and authentic self-deprecating humor, ice is broken, and any situation can go from potentially awkward to funny. Smart leaders have long recognized that often the best punchline is themselves. Use the levity surrounding your experiences, mistakes, failures, challenges, etc., to turn teachable moments into unforgettable lessons.

And if you had any doubts about the positive effects of humor in the workplace – a recent survey found that 8 out of 10 executives consider having a great sense of humor an important part of fitting into a company’s culture.
Here are some tips for effective use of humor in your office.

Never at someone else’s expense. Use humor to boost someone or make them comfortable not to single out or covertly criticize.

Never with sexist, racist or ageist overtones. One would think in 2013 this would be an obvious, but yet examples crop up time and again.

Don’t try too hard. Nothing falls flatter or faster than someone forcing humor on others.

No practical jokes (unless you know the person very well). Trust your instincts and only go for the ambitious gag if you know your audience will take it in stride.

Eliminate “I’m just kidding” or “it was a joke”. If you have to add this to your attempt at humor, then you’ve broken one of the rules above!

Are Celebrities Worth The PR Risk?

Tiger Woods’ fall from grace, and his long climb back, was the gift that kept on giving for PR and reputation experts. But it also teed up a round of fresh concern about getting in bed with celebrities.
Since then, there have been other reputation crises (Lance Armstrong) as well as more minor gaffes from boldfaced names like Justin Bieber and Reese Witherspoon. Today’s climate is all the more challenging because social media amplifies the tiniest misstep and the news cycle is relentless in its speed and appetite for scandal.

No one is immune.  Unlike her (relatively unknown) husband, Witherspoon wasn’t guilty of drunk driving; she was caught in a more serious infraction – arrogance while under the influence!

So, are marketers still attracted to celebrities? The answer is yes. But there’s been an impact on contract negotiations, morals clauses, and other legal, marketing and PR issues. Here are some considerations for those looking at a celebrity endorsement campaign.

Brand endorsements will be more limited.  A while back, it was considered strategic to tie your brand to a breakout athlete in a metaphor for high performance, like Accenture did with Tiger Woods. Today, not so much. Look for companies to fall back on the “Taste great, less filling”-style product endorsement. It’s more cost-effective and far less risky.

For celebrities, privacy is over. If you’re pulling down millions in endorsements based on your professional performance and public image, you have traded away your privacy.  Social media is a powerful tool for any kind of brand, from a product to a personality, and it should be subject to limits and restrictions as part of the deal.

Contracts will be shorter and more flexible, with clear exit strategies. A ten-year deal suddenly looks a lot less attractive than a three-year one. Terminations and how they may be communicated will be carefully negotiated to protect the reputations of both parties.

Morals clauses will be tighter, and possibly reciprocal. Sports law expert Michael McCann predicts that savvy personalities will ask for reciprocity here, in the event of reputation damage resulting from something like a massive product recall or personal injury situation.

Celebrity marketing programs must include risk and crisis management plans. Marketers know they must move beyond lip service here. Even something as socially accepted as pregnancy can quash the brand plan, as in the case of Jessica Simpson, who was announced to be with child on the heels of her Weight Watchers deal. A contingency plan is a must.

Divining Destination PR

In travel and tourism PR the goal is to promote the visitor experience offered by your client’s destination. From producing and supporting local events to leveraging influential personalities to tell your story, there are a variety of tactics you can use to get a place or property in front of the right people.

So how do you build visibility? Here are some go-to travel PR tips:

Know your destination inside and out. It’s important to become familiar with everything your spot has to offer.  Visit often and take notes and photos to provide a rich sensory picture for journalists. Pay particular attention to what differentiates it from competitive destinations.

Slice and dice your media. Divide your media contacts into categories, from food and family, to fashion and beauty, to entertainment. Keep each in mind when considering story angles and tailor pitches to the various verticals.

Highlight events. This is especially important if you’re planning a FAM trip, but even without that perq, let reporters know about the area’s key events as well as off-the-beaten-path, “only-in-your-area” opportunities. It’s especially important to target the calendar listings editors and see if anyone is pulling together any event round-up stories.

Find the fascinating. For most writers, just the announcement of a new chef or a re-designed hotel ballroom isn’t terribly compelling. But, if the chef is also an extreme mountain climber or the hotel ballroom has all been redesigned in 14-carat gold wallpaper – you might have yourself a story!

Create buzz with big announcements. Make sure you know details in advance and develop a strategic announcement / outreach plan. Rebrandings, key anniversaries or new ad campaigns; new hotels and restaurants; positive tourism statistics – all make for a great reason to stay in front of your contacts.

Practically speaking. Make your mailings memorable but don’t send large PDFs and/or JPGs of dozens of high resolution images. Let someone know what is available and fulfill their request when asked.

Any travel PR tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Storytelling Lessons From The Great Gatsby

“Gatsby’s in the zeitgeist once again,” someone recently said. It’s true that this great American novel of passion, illusion, recklessness and deceit, which chronicles the Jazz Age, is full of life and resonance today, and not just because Leonardo will portray Gatsby in the new movie.

Published nearly a century ago and filmed five times (not counting the latest Baz Luhrman version), Gatsby the character entered the vernacular long ago. You know who you mean if you say someone is “Gatsby-esque” or had a love for someone like Daisy Buchanan.

Its major set-pieces– lavish, champagne filled parties; hushed brushes with unsavory organized crime figures;  joyrides in expensive cars – are still the stuff of celebrities and wanna-be celebrities today.

What did F. Scott Fitzgerald know about the timelessness of these themes and what they say about culture today?  Money and power are so worth attaining that maintaining an illusion in order to do so can become a full-time occupation.

So, if you want to tell a story that endures, how do you start? What are your inspirations? Can it even be planned?  Of course not, but you can emulate what great artists and chroniclers of their time, such as Fitzgerald, have done.

Be an observer of the culture around you. Capture interesting conversations and people. This is easy to do in an era where everything you wear, eat and talk about is immediately saved for posterity on a social media site.

Learn to tell a story by listening to others who do it well. This includes classic storytellers like Fitzgerald as well as journalists like Malcolm Gladwell and Susan Orlean, and even TV writers like Vince Gilligan.

Keep it simple. The brain gets overwhelmed when trying to process too much information.

Be mindful of your openings and closings. Make sure to begin and end your tales with the strongest material you’ve got.

Fitzgerald said it well: “My whole theory of writing I can sum up in one sentence. An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.”
Got any advice for creating something that will last? Let us know in the comments section.

Surveys, Petitions And Polls—Oh My!

The results are in: When looking for a unique angle to promote a client, sometimes it helps to ask for the public’s opinion. Including an omnibus-style survey, social media poll, or even a petition with a slight political bent in your campaign can significantly change the story angle, as well as help the news spread like wildfire. However, each platform requires a little technique. Here are some tips for getting the public to work for you:

Try an online survey. Asking provocative questions via online survey is an easy and affordable way to get a quick sample of public opinion. By asking the right questions, you may be able to put a fresh spin on an over-exposed topic. You might only need one strong question to get the compelling results you need to move the media.

Read the fine print. Nothing’s worse than having great survey results that don’t meet an outlet’s criteria for publication. As easy as online surveys are to conduct, often times, the methodology employed by omnibus polling companies isn’t strict enough for consideration by major outlets. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re not limiting your client’s news by using a survey that isn’t up to par.

Set your budget. Petitions and polls are another creative option for your client to engage with the public. Depending on how large you want your soapbox to be, it may pay to spring for a third-party app to use on social media sites. There are apps for all price points and varying degrees of visibility. Care2, a popular petition website, allows for free and paid petitions to help promote your cause. If you have access to a large budget, Wildfire by Google is another company that provides high-quality content for use on Facebook, creating campaigns from start to finish.

Have a preparedness plan. When you open a public forum, especially one like a petition, be sure to have a plan in place if public opinion takes an unexpected turn or if your petition is lacking respondents. These developments can impact the media’s interest in your campaign and having a contingency plan in place can help move attention from negative to positive.

Overall, adding a survey, poll or petition to a campaign is an interesting way to add depth to a PR plan. Not only does it allow the company to hear valuable public opinion about their industry and company specifically, but it allows them to speak to different media audiences. When looking to break from the routine press release, consider adding one of these tools! Have you used something similar recently? Tell us about it in the comments.

Boston Marathon Tragedy Brings Out The Best, And Worst, In Journalism

Covering a breaking news story may be the toughest media job there is. But as Jay Rosen points out, it’s also an opportunity for highly trained, seasoned journos to do what they should do best – report the facts and capture the experience of those present. Sadly, many fail the test.

The Boston Marathon bombing was one such example. I’m sure there were examples of fine reporting yesterday;  I just didn’t see them. I did see the 10-minute press conference with Mass General’s trauma surgeon Peter Fagenholz. It was nearly unwatchable, and not just because of the tragic circumstances.

The media scrum outside the hospital was like an aggressive White House press gaggle, with reporters shouting questions seemingly without any forethought. To his credit, Dr. Fagenholz handled it like a champ, but even his calm refusal to stray from the facts didn’t alter the mood, which one media observer called “bloodlust.” To me, it was more like amateur hour.

The questions ranged from redundant and silly to downright embarrassing. One reporter asked Fagenholz if the eight patients classified as critical cases “would be okay,” forcing the good doctor to explain the meaning of the word “critical.” He also had to respond drily that, no, he was not trained by the Israeli army, in answer to a shouted media question that was faintly tinged with hysteria.

Dr. Fagenholz was respectful throughout the press onslaught but had a trace of scorn in his voice when, after being asked for the fourth time if all victims had been identified and responding that he did not know, he said he had interrupted his surgeries to “come out and talk to you” and would have to get back to work. (Dr. F. is my new hero.)

Earlier, I caught a local New York reporter taping a standup near Copley. While cautioning that “no one wants to compare the bombing with 9/11,” he reminded us darkly that “in fact, one of the American Airlines flights that crashed into the towers started in Boston.” Huh?

As with the tragedy in Newtown, many published facts were simply not true, and some were dangerously misleading. Boston authorities never asked cell phone carriers to shut down service, as was widely reported.

Most egregiously, The New York Post headline blaring, “12 Dead, At Least 50 Injured” wasn’t retracted even hours after it ran. Finally, the headline was changed, but the inaccurate death toll was still in the story late Monday night.

It’s bad enough that, just hours after the tragedy, conspiracy crackpots were trying to claim it was a “false flag” attack, or government plot. But “real” journalists should be able to cover even the most challenging breaking news story with greater professionalism. Is it getting worse, or am I just getting old?

Is Voicemail Over?

Quick, when was the last time you left a voicemail? When did you last check your phone for one (do you even know how?)

In a recent feature on NPR, two social media gurus debated its merits. One insisted it had to die and warned that the universe of message-leavers should learn to text. The other counseled that if messages are brief and to the point, they still serve a purpose.

As for myself, I rarely, if ever, listen to voicemail and resent the time it takes. If I see that someone I care about has called me, I simply return the call without listening. Is this rude? Sure, I’m making them repeat whatever it is they said. But I’d rather have the conversation…debatable, maybe, considering that most are from doctor’s offices, telemarketers, and my mother.

In a professional setting, I get so few calls that aren’t pre-arranged and/or on a “free conference line” that I look forward to a voicemail; you never know if it’s a current client calling about something non-work related (it happens); a prospect; or even a media contact actually needing to speak. But, more often than not, it’s someone trying to sell us something we don’t want, and that’s a large part of the argument against voicemail on landlines and cellphones.

I know that someday, voicemail will go the way of fax and other outmoded technologies, but I’m not ready for phone conversation to go away. Sometimes you really need to talk rather than “txt u l8r”.

Weigh in on your feelings about voicemail in the comments section, or call and leave us a message!

Should PR Own Social Media?

The rise of social media has been a boon to many communicators, from public relations professionals, to digital marketers, to SEO specialists. It’s also spawned countless land grabs and turf battles, since we all want a piece of the pie.

Successful social media campaigns can puff up reputations and fatten our bottom lines. But budget grabs and salesmanship aside, should PR own social? Should advertising? The debate continues.

The truth is, social media is a tool that works best being integrated across marketing communications and customer service lines, so technically, no entity should stake a proprietary claim. But a gatekeeper is necessary.

There are the ways in which PR professionals are best qualified to influence and manage social media.

Here’s the case for PRs:

PR pros are content creators. Storytelling is in our DNA. Most, if not all, PRs know instinctively how to craft a story or message so that it’s a conversation, not a one-way commercial pitch.

We listen. Every good PR program starts with monitoring. It’s the foundation of a social media outreach as well.

We’re relationship builders. This one has been given too much weight in recent conversations, but it holds true that relationship-building, traditionally with journalists and influencers, is a core PR skill. Translating this to direct customer/follower contact can be tricky, but many of the same principles apply.

PR owns reputation management. Clearly, social media crosses over from brand engagement to reputation, and not just when things go wrong.

Yet there are ways in which the typical PR practitioner’s skills and experience can fall short:

Direct customer contact.  We’re accustomed to communicating through the intermediaries of media or even bloggers. Crisis chops aside, direct contact is NOT familiar and may even be distasteful or overwhelming to many with traditional PR background.

Media production. Though there is wide variability among firms, many PR agencies lack direct experience in critical aspects of content development for social platforms, including video, images, and other content for sharing and syndication. Yet, most, if not all, is easily outsourced.

Measurement. This is typically the biggest weakness of our industry, and the only true concern that clients should have. But it’s a big one. To realize the power of social media, a full grasp of analytics and success metrics, and how they’re linked to specific campaign goals, is critical, and most PR pros haven’t “grown up” with the measurement sensibility.

We’re not there yet, but as a recent CARMA survey shows, we’re on the way. Our slice is getting larger, so save room for dessert.