Wearable Technology Company ZetrOZ, Inc. Names Crenshaw Communications As PR Agency

We’re pleased to announce that  Crenshaw Communications has been tapped by ZetrOZ, Inc.  a bio-innovative technology company, as its public relations agency of record after a competitive review.  It’s a particularly exciting project, because ZetrOZ is breaking new ground in medical therapeutics for pain management and healing. Founded by a twentysomething wunderkind scientist, it is set to launch an ultrasound pain management technology administered by a device so small that it is actually wearable. See more details here.

Five Ways To Create The Right CSR PR Plan

Corporate or brand reputation is often at the heart of a sound public relations strategy. And the companies who enjoy the best corporate reputations are typically those who make a commitment to social responsibility. The reasons are many: a strong reputation can help an organization differentiate its products and services, attract talent, and even mitigate risk.

A study by Reputation Institute found that 40% of our willingness to buy, recommend, or work for a given company is based on our perception of its products, while 60% is influenced by perception of the company itself. RI ranked major organizations by their reputations for behaving as responsible corporate citizens in 2013, and four companies  – Microsoft, The Walt Disney Company, Google and BMW– tied for the top spot.

Great CSR can work for smaller companies, too

But what about a more typical organization? How do corporations who aren’t necessarily globally recognized brands with deep pockets adopt CSR principles and make them work on a smaller scale? Here are some guidelines to developing the right CSR strategy for an enterprise that’s not on the Fortune 100 list.

Look for the right strategic fit. Sometimes a company chief executive has a pet project or charity and it morphs into the corporate philanthropic or community service campaign. But this isn’t always the most strategic way to approach CSR. The best social responsibility campaigns are intuitive to the companies or groups who undertake them. It’s best to start with a review of corporate values and focus in on what meshes. Stonyfield Yogurt promoting organic farming through its “Have A Cow” makes intuitive sense. KFC supporting the Komen Foundation? Maybe not.

Make it ownable.  You can grow into the ownership, but the ideal CSR program isn’t a cookie-cutter commitment that just about any other company could embrace. That’s why relationships of large multifaceted not-for-profits like United Way or American Red Cross usually need to carve out a specific component, like disaster assistance for homeless families, or support for budget-strapped public schools.

Get horizontal buy-in. A CSR program will be more enduring and more potent if it resides throughout the organization, not just in the corporate communications division. Beyond PR and marketing, Human Resources should own a piece of the action. Microsoft describes its social responsibility commitment as a “horizontal” one instead of a series of siloed activities. In fact, Microsoft’s Dan Bross explains that it has the added benefits of helping to break down walls inside the company.

Start small. A CSR campaign can die from ambition. It’s often a good idea to pilot a program in a local market or to negotiate a smaller sponsorship with a not-for-profit partner that can grow over time before rolling out a fully national campaign.

Focus on the long term. It typically takes years for a social or community commitment to fully penetrate key constituencies and become linked with the corporation in the customer or stakeholder’s mind, so a flavor-of-the-week strategy is usually not very successful. The strongest campaigns unfold naturally and organically, but with some help from good PR practices.

Ask The PR Pro: How Does Your SEO Grow?

We have entered the age of sophisticated and strategic content marketing by savvy PR agencies. However, there are still marketers in the SEO “stone age” who rely on tweaking keywords and links in the hopes of landing higher search listings.

If you find yourself in the latter (and lacking) category, there are some important takeaways here. Read on for some news you can use to step up your content marketing and thus, your SEO. The trick is to help your prospects find you through high-quality, shareable material.

Whether they market ad tech, consumer products or anything in between, to be successful with online marketing, companies need to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience at each point on their journey, from awareness to engagement to relationship.

Here are three “idea-starters” for questions you can answer to fuel a more meaningful and results-oriented conversation.

Ask yourself this: what are your prospects’ pain points? Get creative in how you demonstrate understanding of your prospects’ needs.  Take them through a problem to a solution.  Research your typical prospect’s pain points and illustrate concrete PR solutions with case histories and proven communications counsel. Tell a story, even if it’s an amalgam of several anonymous clients. Consider crowdsourcing questions with your social networks and communities to provide more robust content.

What do existing clients need?  New client acquisition is more expensive than retention, so consider creating, optimizing and socializing content that will help, inform, and entertain your existing customers. Incorporate quotes or anecdotes from those with whom you have longstanding and successful relationships. This personal touch serves to promote the work you do together and can strengthen the relationship. You can start by surveying some existing clients to find topics of interest to them.

What does industry media want to know? PR pros know that nothing says credibility like the word of a  journalist. Media visibility is key to increasing awareness, differentiating a company, and establishing a leadership positioning. At times it can even help in lead development.  Journalists look for data: reports, surveys, analyses. Provide these in a compelling, visual way by including images and video to keep content such as this from being too dry. Be sure to provide links to corporate content and social media platforms.

Demonstrate a continuing understanding of your ideal client and what they need, and strive to create content that is both meaningful and intriguing.  That’s half the battle!

Eight Ways PR Pros Can Make The Client Look Good

PR veteran Arthur Solomon’s recent post about challenging basic public relations “rules” and other industry tenets really struck a chord with me. The most insightful point may have been this one:  “Good work is not a sure way of receiving client approval. The best way to ensure a good review is to make the client look good.”

Insightful, because doing good work and making the client look good are both desirable, but they are not necessarily one and the same. Here’s my best advice for achieving one through the other.

Don’t be selfish. Selfish thinking is really short-term thinking. Agency professionals are trained to grow accounts and always have an eye out for additional assignments within the company. That’s natural, but there are times when the obligation to offer honest counsel may conflict with the agency goals of growth and profitability. A good long-term rule is to ask yourself what is truly best for the client. Nine times out of ten, that’s also what’s best for the long-term agency relationship.

Solve problems. There are always pain points that may fall outside the agency’s scope of work. Offering solutions, particularly when they relate to navigating corporate politics or enhancing the stature of corporate communications within the organization, are natural ways to get your client promoted. And isn’t that every PR person’s goal?

But don’t be a yes-person. No client worth his mettle wants an order-taker. The client’s role, and by extension ours, is to help the organization engage key constituencies and enable management make smart decisions, not drink the corporate Kool-Aid.

Represent the client well within the organization. Every agency professional knows to be respectful of our client contact when engaging throughout the company, but we can go further and act as ambassadors for the internal communications department as a strategic business function.

Be a source of intelligence. The best among us work hard to offer insights from new research, from our conversations with key journalists, bloggers, and influencers, or from competitive analysis. It’s not just about outcomes, it’s also our insights that set us apart, and can help our clients stand out.

Make your client an expert. Many clients have deep subject-matter expertise, but it may need to be shaped and, of course, promoted. Making your client an SME is a great way to fulfill twin goals; you meet brand objectives while also building the relationship.

Introduce new thinking. This one’s obvious, but it can easily be put off in the day-to-day battle for results. There’s nothing like a great new idea to make your internal client executive look like a genius, but new thinking doesn’t have to be in the form of a campaign. Part of making a client shine is sometimes pushing them outside their comfort zone to embrace an unfamiliar concept or strategy.

Offer objective counsel. I remember a meeting in a large, matrixed client organization where a new customer policy was floated. No one in the room thought it was a good idea, and our agency team had concerns, but it wasn’t a decision in our client’s domain. He was so accustomed to PR-unfriendly decisions that he shrugged off the proposed move. We urged him to speak up, and in private, he did. Months later, the policy was implemented, to a fierce customer backlash and a hasty retreat. The client’s counsel didn’t change the course of events, but it did win points for him and for us.

Turn A Friend Into A PR Firm Client? Here’s How!

A recent Canadian survey found that doubling your number of real-life (as opposed to Facebook)  friends has an effect on well-being equivalent to a 50% increase in income. Impressive. And it made us wonder if some of these same friends could also help generate a real-life increase in income at your PR firm.

It turns out that this can be the case, if you follow some simple rules.

The friendship has to be genuine to start. You don’t have to be the best of friends, and it’s probably better if you’re not, but the relationship must be based on truly liking each other and having a shared history, not on whether your “friend” was just promoted at a coveted tech or consumer brand company which could lead to a new account for you. There has to be a fundamental comfort level and bond that transcends business. Otherwise you may both feel uncomfortable.

Making the leap from friends to business partners must be finessed. First, ascertain whether your friend is comfortable with the idea, if only in theory, and encourage her to be candid. Then ask if she’d consider recommending your team or making an introduction, assuming there’s a potential fit. Don’t rush it; if she seems hesitant, ask her to think about it and let you know.

But be straightforward. Don’t play it coy. Be honest about wanting to have a conversation about a potential business relationship. Focus on the contributions your team could make and the relevance of your skills and experience. Above all, make it clear that if you had the opportunity to pursue the company, you’d be grateful for the chance regardless of the outcome.

Don’t look for special treatment. Aside from the expected pleasantries like asking about one’s families or vacation, once you are working together, make your business interactions all business. Avoid inside jokes or any comments that look as if you are trading on the friendship.

Ask for feedback. You should not expect or ask for special favors, but at the same time, don’t be shy when it comes to feedback on your agency’s performance if you do win an engagement. A simple “How’re we doing?” is enough to get the ball rolling.

And if you don’t get the business? Don’t let the friendship be affected. Make it clear that you understand that there are many factors at work and other company execs in the process. Be gracious and continue your friendship as usual, bearing in mind that another opportunity could always come along.

With apologies to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, If handled correctly, your transitioning friendship might just be the “beginning of a beautiful business relationship.”

PR Pros, Avoid These Common Broadcast Interview Mistakes

Preparation is more than half the battle when arranging a broadcast interview for a PR client or spokesperson. Whoever your client may be – tech guru, CEO of a major consumer company or a celebrity spokesperson, there are always pitfalls to avoid! Check these out to help you prepare your PR client for a TV interview.

An interview is not a commercial.  If you convey anything of merit to your spokesperson, convey this: message delivery must be organic and natural, not obvious mentions of the product or company. It is always wise to prep your clients by having them view some great spokesperson interviews in advance as part of overall media training.

An interview is not an interrogation.  “You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson shouted famously at a climactic point in classic film “A Few Good Men.” And his verbal attack made sense in the courtroom.  But your client needs to remain even-tempered and unflappable in the face of a combative reporter.  New Jersey’s Governor Christie has had to master this in the face of “Bridgegate” often deflecting with humor, which can work quite well.

An interview is not a laundry list of messages. Don’t let your spokesperson drone on endlessly.  Prepare for the art of conversation. Lively, natural back-and-forth is a hallmark of an interesting interview, and effective media training should always stress this.

An interview (shouldn’t be) a waste of time.  In media training we tend to spend a lot of time preparing for negative or even hostile questions, but the more likely trap is the irrelevant query.  Make sure your spokesperson is prepared to segue into an appropriate response if asked an inappropriate or off-topic question. After all, he is there to share expertise, enlighten, or tell a story, not to fall down a rabbit hole.

An interview is better with storytelling. Encourage your client spokesperson to have a couple of interesting anecdotes or examples that bring your messages to life. This will engage them right away and provide a natural lead-in to a logical brand message. Make the story about the audience. In a recent piece about fashion upstart Rent the Runway, the co-founder of the company began by describing what today’s fashion-conscious consumer wants and then led into what her company provides that is different and compelling.

As any PR pro should know – effective media training will help make any interview more successful.

Why Do Women Outnumber Men At Top PR Firms?

Why are there so many women in PR? Seventy-three percent of PRSA‘s membership is female, and it puts the total number of women in the profession at 80 percent or higher.

It wasn’t always that way. Thirty years ago, men were actually in the majority at PR agencies and companies. Today, women predominate, especially at most PR firms. Some say it’s because we’re better multitaskers. Others think it’s because we’re natural relationship-builders.

Ugh. Those explanations seem simplistic and a little insulting to both men and women. But in fairness, many of the possible factors for PR’s gender gap are uncomfortable. And if it’s not about our juggling abilities or people talents, what are the reasons? Recently the gender balance at our agency was tipped and for the moment, at least, we employ more men than women. We were talking about how unusual that is and it made me want to find out why. After speaking with colleagues and academics, here are my best theories.

Media stereotypes. Maybe it’s as simple as the, um, PR for PR. The Samantha Jones-type party planner or fashion publicist is a popular media cliche, probably because it’s more entertaining than a technology PR or financial services communications specialist. But Samantha and similar characters are representative of a “girly” PR stereotype that’s not very welcoming to males and could very well have had a deterrent effect among those who don’t really understand what communications is all about.

Women like to hire other women. I’m not buying this one, mainly because I know many female agency founders or executives who would love to hire more qualified men to balance out their staff ratio. But the predominance of females could discourage men who might otherwise enter our industry.

University courses attract women. Someone recently pointed out to me that while PR and communications are typically found in the journalism track at universities, marketing and advertising are usually offered within a business studies school or major. It’s not so farfetched to reason that more men might gravitate to those disciplines found within a B-school track.

PR is flexible. Like other consulting services, PR can offer part-time and scheduling options, which may be one reason it attracts females. At the same time, agency hours are long and the work can be very demanding, so I’m on the fence about this one.

What does it all mean? A gender gap this wide isn’t healthy. For one thing, it hurts diversity, which is important in a creative services profession where reaching a variety of customer segments is typically a goal. But it’s also feared that the “feminization” of PR, like any other profession, is correlated with lower salaries.

Yet there is a bright side. For women, there are plenty of colleagues and role models on the agency side. If you’re male, and you’ve got what it takes to succeed, you can easily differentiate yourself.

An even more intriguing question may be why, despite the prevalence of women in PR, most top agencies are run by men. But that’s a topic for another post.

Top Tech PR Trends in 2014

In tech PR, storylines change quite a bit from year to year. The rapid shifts are inherent to technology, with both products and software evolving swiftly and with frequent changes in direction.
So, it can be challenging for PR pros, or companies DIY’ing their PR efforts, to stick their finger in the air to determine the tech wind’s direction. Still, that doesn’t stop us from trying. Here are the top 5 tech trends I think will impact PR in 2014.

Wearable Tech
This one was all over CES. From smartwatches to Google Glass, wearable technology includes Internet-enabled products that are being integrated into previously routine daily human interactions. Can your product or application fit into the wearable storyline? Even for those products that aren’t a “true” fit into the category, it’s possible to link your offering to the trend/narrative with some creative thinking around potential applications and possible use cases.

The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things and wearable tech are similar, if not related, concepts. The Internet of Things, as McKinsey & Company would define it, is the idea that “the physical world itself is becoming a type of information system,” with everything from pacemakers to refrigerators being online-capable. By anchoring a product or service to this tech PR trend, even seemingly dull offerings can become sexy stories. Need proof? See these venetian blinds.

Man Versus Machine
Making complicated operational tasks easy at scale doesn’t sound all that sexy. But if you look at the coverage in 2013 leading into 2014, it most certainly is for both media and the enterprise industry. If you’re in tech PR—which often overlaps with digital ad/marketing PR—you’ve likely heard about programmatic buying and marketing automation, two tools that streamline project efficiency for advertisers and marketers. In reality, these two buzzed-about categories speak broadly to an umbrella narrative about automating previously human-driven functions through software and technology. It’s the timeless man-versus-machine debate, reframed, and it’s going to have staying power in 2014.

Growth Hacking
Growth hacking, as a concept, has been around forever in PR. TheNextWeb defines a growth hacker as someone who can “utilize analytical thinking, product engineering and creativity to significantly increase their company’s core metric(s).” It’s basically figuring out how to scale your startup quickly and creatively through tactics like email marketing, SEO, content marketing, paid acquisition, etc. Every tech PR pro has pitched a “growth hack” story, but the term has only recently come to the fore as a more compelling phrase for a common media angle. By incorporating it into pitches about your business, you can more effectively “growth hack” your coverage.

Open Source
I’m cheating here. Open source isn’t a new concept by any means, but it remains one of the sexier tech trends available to PR pros and the companies they represent. If you can highlight the way in which an aspect of your technology, marketing, business, etc. was driven externally, by end-users, you can develop a captivating and fascinating story for press. We’ve done this quite a bit for our client skobbler, which led to a recent $24M acquisition, as covered by The Wall Street Journal. Take a look at our skobbler: PR Case Study here.

These obviously aren’t the only tech trends we’ll see in 2014, but they’re some of the most compelling.

Seven Questions For The Right PR Firm (Before You Hire Them)

If an agency search is like dating, then selecting the right PR partner is almost akin to popping the question. And the emotions can be similar, — anticipation, high expectations, even euphoria. The prospective agency checks out when it comes to your key criteria, and you seem to have chemistry. What more do you need to determine if this relationship is built to last?

Like romantic duos, agency-client relationships can benefit from a clear-eyed assessment and hard questions on both sides. I’m not talking about the standard queries about relevant experience, account team composition, or budgets. It’s more about the questions that determine if your workstyles mesh and how well suited you are for one another. Here are a few of our favorites.

Why do you want to work with us?  There is no right or wrong answer to this question, of course, but the response can reveal a lot. Clients should look for a genuine interest in their company or category, and a high motivation to succeed. The question can also give you a sense for how the agency tells its own story.

Tell me about the last client who fired you. This is an awkward request, and the answer may have little or nothing to do with the agency’s work, professionalism, or track record. But how they respond could tell you about their transparency and attitude towards client relationships. Look for an honest answer, not the agency equivalent of “My biggest fault is that I work too hard.”

What do you need from us? This is a terrific question, because it acknowledges that a successful client-agency team is a real partnership, and it signals an astute client. There are actually some companies who think that bringing on an agency will lighten their workload, which is the opposite of what will happen.

What did you think of our product launch/announcement/campaign last year? This is tricky, and answers can vary from flattery, to constructive feedback, to a discussion that seeks more information. All are legitimate, of course, but the ideal response should tell you if they’ve done their homework. You’re looking to elicit critical thinking and testing for an honest response.

Is our budget enough to get the job done? This may seem like a “gimme” or invitation for the agency to increase the fee, but what you’re really after is a sense of challenges and your status. Make no mistake, your fee is directly tied to time allocated to your account, so the agency’s perspective is helpful.

What do you see as your biggest challenge? This is a more direct way to get at the challenge question. Although a good PR team will be straightforward in assessing the mission, it’s not a bad idea to probe for things beneath the surface.

How do you define success?  This one’s part of most RFPs, and clients do typically focus on it. But success can go beyond publicity outcomes and even business goals, and the objective here is to see how the PR team looks at and frames a successful relationship over the long term.

PR Pros, Get Your Clients into Long-Lead Publications

Even as another snowstorm bears down on us in the East, smart NY PR firms know that now is the time to pitch relevant clients to the glossy pages of shopping and shelter magazines for summer issues. Although it may seem quaint to work on a consumer or B2B story that won’t appear online instantly, people still enjoy holding and reading a magazine (or holding and reading a magazine on an e-reader!) Either way, there are smart tips to employ whether your pitch falls into lifestyle, tech or other categories.

Review the entire year regularly. Look for annualized events that everyone knows, like major holidays and seasonal happenings as well as lesser-known occasions that your client can “own.” And of course you will have all pertinent editorial calendars already!

Gauge your client’s comfort level. Before you pitch a story on summer weight loss that bashes certain foods or “Sexy Tech Gifts for the Bride and Groom” for June wedding season, make sure your client has no conflicts of interest or discomfort with a particular angle. Of course, if your team believes strongly that the angle will benefit, advocate for it with a strategic approach, but be prepared to tweak.

Have all your “ducks in a row.” Well in advance of key seasonal time periods, make a list of what publications typically need. This way whatever is missing or isn’t up to snuff can be fixed ahead of time. The list includes:
• Samples
• Expert Topics and spokesperson info
• Images
• Short product description
• Short, relevant pitch
• Quick tip sheet

Use Listicles. Journalists receive seasonal pitches constantly and you want yours read! Make it easy to scan through your pitch and quickly pick out the important information. Use bullet points and numbered lists to save a journalist’s time and if you can make it graphically appealing in an e-mail, even better.

Get the timing right. Do your research and determine when decisions are made. If you send your “Best Back-to-School Tech Tips” too early, they’ll be lost in the shuffle and you’ll be lost in a cycle of re-sending. Be aware of the deadlines and the process so your timely pitches get the (actual) ink they deserve.