Food Friday!


Executive Chef of Corkbuzz Wine Studio in NYC and Daniel Boulud alumna AJ Schaller dropped by Crenshaw Communications today to share some some fabulous culinary creations using Not Your Father’s Root Beer, which the team has been rolling out across the country to great acclaim. Chef Schaller showed off savory pulled pork  sandwiches with root beer BBQ sauce and a root beer based praline pie! Can anyone say “perks of the job?”




PR Lessons From The Late, Great Yogi Berra

Media and public relations professionals had a lot to digest this week, from the Pope’s first visit to the U.S. to the Volkswagen diesel fuel scandal, to the passing of the legendary Yankee catcher and coach Yogi Berra. Baseball fan or not, it was hard to miss the quirky character of one of the best loved players of all time. For PR practitioners in New York or any city, there are some PR lessons to be learned from the words of the late, great Yogi Berra.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.” Berra was known to say this about the 1973 pennant race while coaching the Mets, who were in fifth place at the time but rallied to win the National League East title. As anyone who’s hustled for earned media knows, it takes an optimist to go after the big placements, even when prospects are looking slim. The best PR pros know that perseverance delivers, and they actually relish overcoming long shots to come through with a win.

“It’s deja vu all over again.” This was supposedly a response to back-to-back home runs, but experienced media relations teams will likely remark the same thing about certain story angles. There are signature characteristics of a media good story — or classic story plots — that repeat themselves over and over again, and PR people routinely look for those clues in coming up with the right angles to pitch. The best strategies are still hand-crafted, but there is often a bit of deja vu when it comes to what makes a successful story placement.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” This well-known malapropism was delivered to a graduating class at Montclair State, and the advice — nonsensical as it may seem — can ring true as a call for PR professionals to be decisive. We’re often looked to as consultants and asked for advice in dealing with any number of communications dilemmas. It’s important for PR advisers to be able to face dueling alternatives and make an informed, clear recommendation and stick to the adopted strategy.

“You can observe a lot by watching.” Being a good media relations professional can be a lot like being a good reporter, and it takes a keen sense of observation to do it well. Careful watching, listening, and paying attention to fine detail as well as the overarching themes all serve the PR professional well, distinguishing him or her from the novice.

“Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” As with popular restaurants, well-used publicity strategies can become overused to the point of losing their effectiveness. When certain tactics are past their prime, the savvy public relations adviser knows when to move on to something new.

5 Must-Read Books For PR Pros This Fall

Top PR agencies look for an edge everywhere they can. Absorbing the latest business, industry or pop culture book is a surefire way to keep up. Of course, in the 24/7 world of agency PR, people often ask, “When would I even find time to read a book?” We would argue, “How can you afford not to?” – and it’s simpler than you think. Downloading just one book onto your phone (and thereby all of your devices if properly synced) means every second of time spent obsessively checking emails or playing Plants vs. Zombies can be converted to reading time. Okay, maybe games are useful, but if you agree that we can all incorporate more reading into our days, start here.  Then take a look at some recommended reading for PR pros below.

Bridge the PR-content gap with Content Machine. Today’s PR teams and other specialists must be masters of fabulous content creation. It’s a constant process to come up with strong ideas that will translate brand or product messages while being readable and, most of all, shareable. This is a nuts and bolts how-to book that has something to teach us about content. And it may just get your creative juices flowing.

Rogue Elephants is a benign PR expose. Whether you have twelve months in PR or twelve years, you already have battle stories and “only in PR” anecdotes for friends and colleagues. This is why memoirs of PR life are always so fascinating and relatable.  Subtitled “One Girl’s Fight Through the Human Jungle,” Rogue Elephants captures a slice of the industry in UK PR practitioner Jane Hunt’s career from the mid-80s to 2012. Laugh, cry and commiserate with Hunt and see if it doesn’t make you want to keep more careful notes about your own experiences.

Spinglish points out what PRs should avoid.  Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language by Henry Beard and the wonderful Chris Cerf is a dictionary full of fun euphemisms and deceptive language familiar to anyone, whether you work in PR or not. It’s particularly timely as election season heats up but will also help anyone struggling to craft authentic communication to stay on the right side of that fine line between informing and selling.

Phishing for Phools is a cautionary tale.  For a more serious look at the way financial markets can manipulate us, pick up this book. Though it dissects the aggressive marketing typical of today’s digital-age financial markets, it will resonate with anyone growing a client or customer-based business and working with media.

Big Magic celebrates creativity. Touted as the big book of the season for any audience, it asks: Can the wildly successful memoirist (Eat, Pray, Love) translate her formidable writing skills into a great self-help book on the creative process? Early reviews seem to think so. The book demystifies the tricky business of creativity and inspiration with anecdotes and practical advice sure to unlock some magic in all of us.

3 Simple PR Lessons From Pope Francis

PR and public engagement can look easy when you inherit a mantle of power and prestige. But it isn’t, as seen in the dismal lack of trust we have in many of today’s institutions. For a lesson in both PR and public leadership, look no further than Pope Francis.

He’s been called “the best PR Pope the Catholic Church has ever seen.” At 23 million Twitter followers, he claims only a third of Barack Obama’s following (and, regrettably, 10 million fewer followers than Kim Kardashian) but has the distinction of being the most retweeted leader in the world, according to the Washington Post.

Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S. has put the spotlight on his seemingly effortless talent for communications. In a short time, @pontifex has helped shape a humbler, more accessible, and more service-oriented image for the Church, whose reputation has suffered from scandal and the pace and pressures of our secular Western culture.

In PR circles much of the credit goes to his new communications consultant Greg Burke, a former Fox News journalist, who has made changes in the Holy See’s press operation. And Burke’s touch is evident in the more modern and accessible press office.

But the Pope’s talent for communications goes beyond the superficial definition of PR. It’s about a blend of leadership, engagement, and PR strategy, and there are some important lessons for professionals.

Show, don’t just tell. Our political and business leaders have mastered the art of speaking a lot while saying very little. They avoid tough questions by “bridging” to robotic message points and are quick to offer a hollow apology when things go bad. But behavior speaks louder than even the most polished tweet or speech, and this pope has an intuitive appreciation for the power of symbols. Much of Francis’ reputation is built on true stories about his experience in South America. More significantly, Francis uses symbolic rejection of traditional papal luxuries to signal his solidarity with regular people. Instead of a limousine, he rides in a Fiat, and rather than don the traditional red leather shoes, he walks in plain black ones.

Speak plainly. When Francis does speak (or write), he uses plain language. To sound the alarm about our role in climate change, the Vatican’s statement was larded with bureaucratic terms. (“Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience.”) But @pontifex’s tweet was more direct. Plain speaking is powerful.

Be inclusive. PR professionals see clients that fall into the trap of addressing only their own customers, employees, and even competitors. Similarly, previous pontiffs have been preaching to the choir – literally – in reaching out to devout Catholics. This Pope includes non-Catholics and lapsed churchgoers in his communications. Although it’s embarrassing to admit, as a Protestant married to a Jew, I’ve never before paid attention to any pope. They simply weren’t relevant. With Pope Francis, I’m engaged and impressed.
Of course, Pope Francis has drawn attention because of his progressive views and willingness to move beyond the status quo. But as a communicator, he sets an example that our political, business, and even PR industry leadership should take notice of and adapt to our own PR challenges.

Latest And Greatest PR Tech Tools

How can top B2B and consumer tech PR professionals boost productivity and squeeze more out of the average workday? With new tech tools, of course!  The best tools eliminate some tedious tasks, make others more efficient and improve overall PR output and results. Today we take a look specifically at tools to improve research, events and content creation and distribution.

Mention. Billing itself as “Google alerts on steroids,” this service takes monitoring to the next level. It provides real-time scrolling updates – in one feed – including all traditional and social media mentions. There’s a free trial and monthly service beginning at $29.00.

Hound. Move over, Siri. The progress of voice recognition technology can be frustrating, but Hound promises and delivers, according to reviews from beta users. This masterful app gives you fast and deep results, but there’s a catch. It’s for Android phones in the US (with iOS coming soon) and is only available by invitation through the website.

Eventsage. With more PR pros creating and booking launch events, panel discussions and other press get-togethers, Eventsage is the soup-to-nuts site for selecting and booking venues and suppliers. Simply enter your event details and receive recommendations. A few more steps and you have proposals and estimates to make informed choices. The site also features an “inspiration” section in case you’re stymied on creativity!

Prezly. Allows PR teams to set up dedicated, online press rooms for their company. These customized press rooms house rich content press releases (that look great on all devices) as well as media list development and management including Google Analytics integration to track the number of visitors and the online sources they came from.

Tubechop. With this service, you have to ask, what took so long? If you’ve ever found a YouTube video and needed only a few seconds from a long video to illustrate a case history or jazz up a presentation, use Tubechop! Add the link to the YouTube video and use a sliding bar to “chop” the piece you would like to use.

Pixlr. Photoshop may be the standard for software photo editing, but if you’re looking for a free alternative, Pixlr is very useful. It features a lot of advanced tools and options and there’s a mobile app, of course.

Coverage Book. The best way for a PR team to show off its earned media outcomes? A beautiful coverage report! Between working on PR campaigns and conducting interviews, it’s hard to find the time to produce a quality report that will wow the C-suite. Simply upload the clips, and Coverage Book does the rest, including providing customized images and metrics.

PR, Too, Can Do Well By Doing Good: Edelman’s Climate Decision

The world’s largest PR agency has learned a lesson in the power of public pressure to force corporate policy. After months of waffling on the issue, Edelman yesterday told the Guardian that it would end work for coal producers and groups who deny climate change.

The move is particularly interesting because Edelman holds itself up as a model for the ethical practice of public relations, and it almost certainly toughened its position in response to some pretty negative PR of its own. For over a year, the agency seemed to agonize over how to manage a growing reputation problem related to its handling of fossil-fuel clients and legislative groups who deny climate change or fight regulation of pollutants. It tried to blunt the controversy by parsing the issue in media interviews, then announced it had ended its work for the American Petroleum Institute. But watchdogs pointed out that the resignation was more symbol than sacrifice given that the budget had declined as the price of oil plummeted.

In July, several key executives in Edelman’s corporate responsibility practice departed over its muddled position – an embarrassing development. A climate change group started a petition to force it to resign its fossil-fuel clients. Even worse for an agency gunning to hit the $1 billion threshold, two clients left, and others reportedly expressed concerns.

This isn’t the first time Edelman has been suffered reputation damage. It has the dubious distinction of pioneering digital astroturfing in 2006 with a fake blog called Wal-Marting Across America. The result was a public scandal, but it pushed the agency to raise its game when it came to ethical use of social media and transparency in agency practice.

When it comes to the climate change principle, the process was once again messy. Its management of the issue wasn’t exactly textbook, and its motives probably aren’t pure. But that’s precisely why the move is so significant and maybe even encouraging for our business.

It’s easy to tell clients that they need to do the right thing – that their business practices must be above reproach and their decisions should be principled. It’s easy to give lip service to ethical decison-making and transparency in the practice of communications. But it’s harder to execute against those principles in the real world.

Maybe now Edelman, as the PR industry leader by size of business, can start to lead the industry in other, more important ways. This firsthand reminder of the power of PR and the value of public pressure in making change might be a first step.

A Journalist’s POV: 3 Questions From A NY PR Firm

One of the joys of working in a top PR agency is getting to know rising stars in both traditional and digital media. One of those digital media standouts is Sarah Stiefvater, Associate Editor, women’s lifestyle site, PureWow. Below, Sarah discusses some of the best ways to build and foster a good PR/journalist relationship including how to ensure ongoing dialogue and pitching with sincerity.

What would you most want PR people to know about working with PureWow? I want PR people to know that we really notice and appreciate when you’ve done your homework. PureWow is a digital publisher with a focus on women’s lifestyle content….and a super short lead time. That means that we’re probably not working on holiday gift guides six months in advance and we’re probably not going to cover a topic that’s completely out of our wheelhouse. A publicist who is familiar with PureWow and the types of things we write about (everything from affordable home upgrades to ways to wear dark florals) is always going to be at an advantage.

When was the last time a PR pro helped you with a story and what was the outcome? This morning! I was researching a story I’m writing  about sports bras. I was thinking about including a brand we’ve covered before, and remembered a recent email from that brand’s PR rep. She checks in periodically, keeping her brand on my radar and putting her at an advantage for continued coverage. I reached out to her and she immediately got back to me with relevant details, links and high-res photos–a totally seamless process. Obviously the brand has to align with our content and be a great fit for the particular story, but staying in touch is always welcome from my perspective.

What qualities make a great PR contact for you? Again, the best PR contacts have made themselves familiar with our brand. They know what we cover and pitch accordingly. Sometimes that means bringing up a recent story of ours and pitching a relevant brand or product. That’s awesome, and shows me you’ve taken the time to get to know what we’re about as a publication. A great PR contact is also passionate about the brands she or he reps. It’s so refreshing to get a convincing pitch, and feeling like the publicist really and truly believes in whatever she or he is talking about.

PR Must-Reads: 8 Outlets To Stay Ahead Of The Game

Whether you practice consumer, B2B or tech PR, you must know your stuff – particularly the news – to excel at your job. But not all news outlets are equally helpful.

A recent survey concluded that NPR and Sunday morning political talk shows are the most informative news outlets, while exposure to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, has a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge. In this post, we provide a stellar list of online, offline and broadcast outlets to keep you informed, help spark creative PR ideas and pitch relevant company spokespeople.

PRs love the Skimm. If you haven’t the time to read anything else, read the Skimm, which gives a topline of the hottest stories and the language to discuss them as if you know more than you do. This can be helpful when looking for ways to tie your company to a newsworthy topic.

OZY. If you have a little more time, as well as an insatiable curiosity for what just happened and why, and where the story might go next, try OZY.  Chances are it’s excellent research into a whole slew of topics that can lead to story ideas and insights when developing a PR story angle strategy.

PR and NPR. As the survey pointed out, National Public Radio offers the most pure information, and in addition to news, it has a plethora of podcasts that slice and dice everything from tech to TV and film. If you’re stymied and stuck creatively, use these “portable” sources to free up your brain and produce some valuable PR ideas while you’re walking to the bank or doing laundry.

“The Nightly Show”.  Or the new “Daily Show” or anything on Comedy Central will keep you on top of politics and pop culture – two areas where PR pros should be well-versed.

The Post. If you thought The Washington Post, you’re not a New Yorker. Of course, you’re curating from WaPo and you read The New York Times, but The New York Post is much more fun. It has memorable headlines and Page 6, which is sure to include an icebreaker for conversation with just about anyone. The rest is up to you!

WSJ Personal Journal. No list of must-reads would be complete without The Wall Street Journal – but in the typical crazy busy PR day, make time for the WSJ lifestyle section – it is so much more, often containing top tech gear and gadgets, food fads and fitness fodder, making it a terrific outlet for “soft” business and professional trend stories.

Talk shows. Viewership may be on the decline, particularly with millennials, but changes like Stephen Colbert’s move to “The Late Show” and other rotating hosts means it will always be a bastion of news and pop culture and a holy grail for PR pitching. If we had to pick one, well we can’t. So try to catch up with a few.

Snarkfests. This category includes the self-absorbed but ever-trendy sites like Buzzfeed, Jezebel and Gawker. These sites will help keep your cynicism intact and your lingo au courant. It may also give you a fresh perspective on topics you may not have known were important, but apparently are.

If this list exhausts you, remember you can absorb all of the above with a well-curated Twitter feed.

6 Ways PR Can Build Influence

For a brand that suffers from lack of visibility, the awareness generated by a strategic PR campaign is a worthy goal. A product launch, a better technology, a new startup — all depend on breaking through to accomplish business objectives.

But we don’t give PR enough credit when we define it as an awareness-generating tool. First, because PR goes well beyond publicity. But it’s also because the right kind of PR can do much more than generate visibility. Awareness is just a starting point.

At the end of the day, what most professional communicators – and our clients – are after is a degree of influence. We want to provoke thought, persuade, even to change behavior. That need – to build upon simple awareness to promote action – is why PR strategies and earned media results need to include more sophisticated tactics designed to exert influence. Here are the most effective ways.

Earned media and content that educates. Unlike paid most advertising, earned media and shared content can offer the depth to offer insights, mount arguments, or explain a poorly understood issue or position. Think opinion pieces and talk radio interviews that unpack a complex issue or rebut arguments.

Harnessing peer power, usually through social influence. “A person like me” is perceived as more credible than celebrities or institutions when it comes to influence, according to Edelman’s trust barometer.

Inspiring through storytelling. A true story about a transformation and its impact can be very powerful. Again, the experience of peers can be more credible than that of rented experts, and when a strong emotional component is present, it’s an unbeatable argument for change.

Using earned media in marketing. This can be as simple as using product or entertainment reviews in ads. When it comes to purchase consideration, timing is everything, so earned media + paid media = a strong selling proposition.

Rewarding action. PR doesn’t exist in a vacuum – or at least, it shouldn’t. When linked with a compelling promotional offer or incentive, the influence of its message can be increased exponentially.

Leveraging public opinion. Public pressure works. By giving regular citizens the tools and information to press for action over time, PR is at its most powerful. Tools like online petitions, grassroots organizing, customer boycotts, and simple content sharing around a strong idea is where PR comes together with social media and digital marketing to make real change.

What PR Can Learn From, Ahem, Our Grandparents

If you’re in PR, you may know that this weekend is Grandparents Day, and that this month will see the release of “The Intern,” starring Robert DeNiro as a retiree working as an intern for Anne Hathaway’s fashion start-up. It is in this spirit that we share some PR lessons we’ve learned from older generations.

Do more PR with less. If there’s one thing the younger set has heard repeatedly, it’s about how our elders managed to do with less when they were “your age.” The takeaway for PR really means: be prudent stewards of budgets for everything from a PR campaign to office management. One thing grandparents didn’t have were all the tools available today to help us save and manage money in business.

Be a better PR storyteller. Although our industry acts as if it invented this term, you know the best storytellers are often seniors. Here is what PR can learn about storytelling from the old masters – always have a beginning, a middle and an end (really!) Start with a “grabber”- a powerful “lede” to hook your audience and support with colorful anecdotes and examples. It’s not so different!

Recycle and re-purpose. Your grandparents may have come of age in the 70s, when environmental concerns made it fashionable to recycle household goods. For PR purposes we are talking about recycling good ideas.  Every PR person has that one favorite “big idea” that has stood the test of time and can resonate with a B2B or consumer PR campaign today. Keep a file of “good ideas” and use it to kick off brainstorms or to help you when you’re “creatively” stuck while crafting a plan. There are even some cheat sheets out there to help.

Get personal. When “50 Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson’s mom Melanie Griffith starred in her breakout film role in “Working Girl,” she knew how to work personal contacts. In a famous scene, she crashes a wedding just to glean some insider scoop to help finesse a deal. PR people need to get more personal too, and simply stalking a contact on Twitter isn’t what we mean. Make some offline friends with media and potential business partners, or crash a wedding of your own.

Don’t let “industry-speak” get the best of you. Ever hear someone of a past generation described as “plain-spoken?” You want to be that kind of communicator when explaining your company’s product or service. Too much jargon will confuse your audience and can actually date you. Terms that used to herald the latest and greatest become meaningless in time – used a telex or floppy disc lately? Just ask a grandparent.