3DaaS Provider WhiteClouds Taps Crenshaw Communications

WhiteClouds, the world’s largest full-color 3D-printing facility and the premier software platform to deliver 3D experiences and products for mass markets, has retained Crenshaw Communications to provide PR and media relations services.

Formed in 2013 and headquartered in Ogden, Utah, WhiteClouds recently acquired 3DplusMe, the first company to introduce a technology platform for 3D face scanning for 3D printed personalized merchandise with major brands. This Sunday, the platform will be featured as part of the Game Day Fan Plaza at Levis Stadium for fans who want to scan their face onto their favorite player.

3DplusMe has also been featured at major events like San Diego Comic Con, MLB World Series, Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square, in addition to partnerships with major retailers. 3DplusMe has partnered with Marvel, Hasbro, MLB, MLS, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, Walmart and others to use the platform to create 3D experiences and products for the mass market.

7 Ways To Spark Creative PR Ideas

When it comes to generating ideas for public relations programs, where does inspiration come from? It strikes like a muse, or lightning from the sky, right?
Hardly. As with any creative process, brilliant ideas don’t come out of nowhere; in fact, they are usually hard earned. More often than not there’s a process that came before the inspiration, and PR teams can use these steps to trigger those great, creative ideas.

Immerse yourself in research, from content to experience. Good ideas come after steeping oneself in knowledge of the subject at hand.  It’s often good to start by spending time using the product or service in question. Then, take some time to undertake creative thinking exercises without pressuring yourself or your group too much at the outset.

Jump-start the light bulb. To borrow the phrase from content marketer Mark Johnstone on how to come up with better ideas, there are ways to jump start that “light bulb” moment. Struggling to write creative content or come up with high-impact ideas for a new launch? Try giving yourself an assignment — write down 30 ideas or 30 lines without worrying about what’s good or not. The exercise of working — actively writing, thinking, trying things out — can trigger the right connections, eventually bringing you to the right path. It’s also a good way to eliminate the bad ideas, as they become obvious on the page.

Take time to “actively disengage.” Ever wonder why you struggle to remember a name or a fact, only to have it strike you in the shower or while at the gym? Johnstone says that’s because the act of disengaging gives the creative mind time to incubate ideas and release them. After putting in the work of studying and thinking hard about content, make sure to unplug for a while, and let ideas come to the surface.

Make it a competition. A good PR team has fun working together and relishes a little competitive drive.  Many agencies call out good work with rewards like a free lunch or spa treatment — why not dangle a creative reward for your team if there’s a cultural fit? One of our clients’ teams is full of former college athletes, and it shows: the team is familiar with competition and the rewarding feeling of winning.

Try a survey. Borrow from the world of market research and take an informal tally of your audience — or whoever is at hand. This is especially valuable if you can survey people unlike yourself. Different perspectives can help identify strong themes that might not be readily apparent at first blush.

Change your environment. Turn the lights off. Go out to a cafe. Or, simply change your seating arrangement or move to a new room. Often if you can shake up your environment, it’s easier to see a situation from a slightly different point of view, which is often key to reframing a problem.

Get an outside opinion. It can be tempting to hoard good ideas and keep them secret, but that’s often counter-intuitive. Getting feedback early in the process can be a good way get validation on a good idea, or a reality check for a not so good one. Just don’t let pushback discourage you – don’t forget Thomas Edison’s 10,000 “ways that will not work” that led to the one that did work.

A Journalist’s POV: 3 Questions From A PR Team

One of the great reasons to work in a PR agency is the diversity of clients you meet. If you love tech PR, you might have the opportunity to learn something about data security, e-payments, or explore the future of 3D-printing. These assignments also afford some of us the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with terrific journalists with deep knowledge. We recently helped client HiFX, an international currency firm, launch in the U.S. An important outlet for HiFX is the industry vertical Digital Transactions. Here’s what Sr. Editor Kevin Woodward shared with us about his experience working with PR professionals.

For people who have never worked with Digital Transactions – what three things should they know about the publication? Digital Transactions is focused on the electronic payments industry in the U.S. and Canada, and our readers expect us to provide them with “hard” news in the category. Something PR people should keep in mind when working with me: Editorial integrity is paramount. This means I am relying on my PR contacts for fastidious fact-checking before they pitch me, or if they’re not certain of an answer, to be able to get the most accurate response from their client. Also important to me as a journalist is that contacts never resort to over or under-promising what they can deliver just to “sell in” a story. And even though we look for hard news, our coverage is broad, and so is our readership, so we appreciate “creative” pitches as long as they are well thought out.

Can you tell us what accounts for a less-than-successful experience with a PR pro? One of my worst PR pet peeves involves professionals who intercede when either myself or a source is speaking to explain what they think either intends to say. This kind of micro-managing and undermining of a client interview is a good way to see your client cut from a story and make me reluctant to work with you again.

Can you share an example of a great experience you had with a PR rep who helped facilitate a story for you? It’s difficult to single out one. Good experiences involve a professional who responds quickly, even when it’s just to provide an update on my inquiry; one who avoids using jargon and industry-speak (especially without explaining it); one who inquires about my deadline if I fail to offer it; one who avoids unnecessarily interrupting interviews to provide an interpretation of either what I or the interviewee said, or immaterial information; (see above). I always appreciate a PR pro who offers alternatives if a source is unavailable.

Apple’s PR Showdown

It’s been a tough few months for Apple’s PR team. After it reported a slowing of its normally torrid sales growth, market-watchers and media speculated that Apple was showing signs of weakness. As investors turned bearish, Google parent company Alphabet surpassed Apple in market capitalization – a psychological milestone.

Apple, usually in the driver’s seat when it comes to media relations, turned a tad defensive. Earlier this month The Wall St. Journal reported that Apple’s internal communications team uncharacteristically sent reporters “favorable third-party reports about the company,” including five studies since the start of the year.
Was Apple’s famous PR dominance slipping? Changing strategy? Maybe. But then, this week brought the FBI request for its cooperation in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, and the company’s handling of the matter marked a recharged Apple PR machine.

After the FBI asked it to build a workaround to bypass the phone’s encryption, Apple simply said no. But it did so in a way that invited support from data security experts and tech influencers and positioned the company as protecting the privacy of all iPhone users.

The security issue here is highly fraught. Apple is open to harsh criticism no matter what it does. As the the FT points out, the struggle has reminded us that the encryption techniques tech companies brag about are not as unassailable as they’d have us think. And data privacy is a double-edged issue for technology companies because they benefit from ever-more-granular user behavior information for targeting ads. The whole thing is such a third rail that you might think Apple would do its best to keep it out of the press.
But for whatever reason – pure principle, fear that the government would take the PR offensive, or a desire to own the privacy issue because it will surely persist  – Apple went on the offensive. It posted a letter from Tim Cook that outlined its position in careful but principled language, framing the FBI ask as a “chilling” and precedent-setting demand with far-reaching and dangerous implications.

Within hours, the letter (which was never even tweeted by Apple), generated over 250,000 tweets, and the overwhelming majority were strongly supportive. No matter where you stand on the security issue, Apple’s handling of the matter showed a carefully orchestrated communications strategy.
Some expressed cynicism about Apple’s motives for taking a stand. Others, including every one of the GOP candidates for president, say they’re outraged. There are defensible arguments on both sides and they’ve only just begun.

But by first outlining the situation to its advantage and calling for a public discussion of the long-term implications for data security and privacy, Apple has shrewdly seized the PR advantage. At least for now.

6 PR-Friendly Traits Of Successful Startups

When you’re a technology PR agency working with mature startups in growth mode, certain characteristics form patterns as you develop PR strategies. As natural storytellers, we’re always looking for the compelling narratives that tie to broader themes, and when it comes to tech companies, these traits tend to make themselves clear. Here are the PR-friendly characteristics of many tech startups.

They were born out of necessity. A business owner who needed a better tool for sending large files to clients; a game developer who craved a way to track performance in app stores; or a talented black finance executive who realized most minority candidates don’t find their dream jobs. These are all examples of technology companies we work with whose key offering wasn’t something they intended to develop — it was something they needed to create to continue doing what they were already doing, only better. If your product comes into the world out of necessity and then takes on a life of its own, it could be indicative of future success – or at least, a great PR opportunity.

They introduce a new solution for a common point of pain. This flows out of the first: chances are, if you needed to create this product or service, others will find it valuable, too. Solving a problem no one else has solved, in a way that’s accessible for those who need it, is one sure way to growth as a tech startup.

Their founders have a compelling story of self discovery. As a team with an entrepreneurial spirit, we share the excitement of tech company founders who have been transformed by experience, good and bad. Successful founders are on a personal journey — they’ve overcome challenges, tasted victory, experienced setbacks, and fought their way to new beginnings, all of which make for a powerful narrative.

They have strong convictions. Tech companies aren’t usually nonprofits, but they share the sense of mission-mindedness that motivates nonprofits. Whether it’s the belief that the workforce should be more diverse, or that a traditional art form is worth preserving, these companies are excited about a cause. Which makes sense, since launching a company — and making it successful — is hard work and takes conviction, perseverance, and grit.

They take risks. Starting a new venture is never without risk, and those in tech fields are especially aware of this. Startup founders have had to overcome fears of failure, rejection, or being made obsolete. Many do fail, but rather than accept it as the final word on entrepreneurship, they learn important lessons and move on. Part of Steve Jobs’ well known legacy was his views on risk-taking and failure as a way of gaining valuable experience.

They stay focused. Life at a rising tech company can feel like a roller coaster ride at times, but it’s hard to get successful leaders distracted from key goals that are crucial to the company’s success. They tend to know what the goal is, and won’t rest — or leave others alone — until it is met.

Top 10 PR "Best Practices" For LinkedIn

 

We asked a handful of knowledgeable PR professionals for their best tips for leveraging LinkedIn for PR and personal branding. All agree that LinkedIn is a prime destination for sharing content and building community. LinkedIn was launched in 2003 as a social networking site for the business community but it has evolved as a go-to place to publish ideas and gather “deep data” on companies, candidates and connections.

So, if you still thought LinkedIn was only good for searching jobs or candidates, read on for our top 10 ways to use it for PR and branding.

Create well-organized profiles and update them regularly.  Site visitors are more savvy than ever and nothing says “red flag” quicker than an out-of-date page, a page with no photo or a user who doesn’t publish or share content. Keep your pages fresh with photos, videos and other links. Always be able to answer yes to these questions. Does my profile make a good impression? Is it up to date?

Always be linking. True to the site’s name, “linking” is the heart of LinkedIn. Think about adding links to all your social platforms. Add links to blogs, websites, and Twitter/Facebook profiles for better circulation of content. Do this daily when you’re checking in on all your sites. Robust LinkedIn pages are proven to be viewed more often.

Recommendations beget more recommendations.  LinkedIn makes it simple to provide recommendations for colleagues and others.  We like recommendations over endorsements since LinkedIn endorsements are a rote function and don’t really speak to someone’s skills. Recommending and being recommended is part of the successful formula that will lead to productive networking.

Work those connections.  Look for mutual connections with someone and ask to be introduced; it can pay off in the long run. Be careful in following LinkedIn etiquette, however. Don’t connect to people you haven’t worked with on at least some level or haven’t been introduced to —that can be considered unprofessional.

Share content. Make a commitment to share blog posts, articles and other interesting, relevant content with your LinkedIn connections. This is a great way to communicate without asking for anything in return. If your content is compelling, you will likely get comments which can promote dialogue and help nurture a relationship.

Be a commenter.  Show your connections you value their insight and thought leadership. Read posts and articles and comment thoughtfully. Look for who is commenting on relevant posts and engage them to build your network.

Tell journalists who you are.  Does your profile highlight your areas of expertise? Have you “linked in” to journalists you’ve worked with or had a connection and were introduced to? Media often use the site to ferret out expert sources for inclusion in stories.

Asked and answered. LinkedIn provides users with the ability to pose business questions and get them answered by experts (furthering your connections). This is also your opportunity to answer questions in your field and up your authority quotient on the site.

Use influencer opportunities.   As you spend more time infiltrating discussion groups and Q&A forums, you’ll be able to identify the real influencers – the most well-connected and powerful voices in various sectors.  Often, you’ll find that these people have many “best answers” in the Answers section, and if you’ve been doing a good job cultivating and nurturing relationships, someone will likely be able to introduce you to one or more of them. Build relationships with them and see if they can become an advocate for your brand.

Put yourself out there.  Seek out and join industry and special interest groups. If you can’t find the niche you need, create your own group. The best way to home in on like-minded individuals or find clients for your business is to join smaller, specialized groups. It may be time-consuming, but like all LinkedIn opportunities, the return is worth the investment.
Go deeper with LinkedIn content by downloading our free tipsheet, 7 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your LinkedIn Posts. 


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5 Ways PR Can Maximize Thought Leadership

 

In the public relations world, thought leadership is a big deal, but the term can start to feel old, fast. How do you infuse a thought leadership program with fresh ideas and get the most out of it for PR?

Thought leaders are often defined as the leading authorities in their field of mastery and opinion. On top of strong expertise and visibility, it’s about being able to motivate, provide insight, and influence others. For many who work in specialized niches, like B2B technology or high-end interior design, thought leadership is highly desirable, helping to improve a brand’s reputation and even its bottom line.

Here are some essentials worth considering when looking to maximize a thought leadership program.

Be strategic with bylines. Byline articles or essays on an issue or topic, carrying an exec’s byline, that are pitched and placed for publication in media are often a core of a thought leadership program. But these pieces pack more punch when timed strategically within a company’s overall PR efforts. For example, if your B2B PR plan includes a new product launch in email marketing software, it pays to push that piece on new best practices for email marketing a week or so after the product launch, when the buzz is still fresh and interest and engagement is likely to be higher.

Collaborate on ideas for written pieces. Collaboration is key to crafting the most high-impact written pieces, whether bylines or speeches or messaging for a website. As the expert, you have the authority on what’s most current in the field, but working collaboratively with your PR partners will ensure the angle or narrative is most relevant and media-friendly. And needless to say, a byline in a relevant industry publication is a great complement, and in some ways works harder than, your own blog post.

Host an intimate, high-impact panel. This is the ultimate way to “own the conversation” and control the message, since you’re the host of the entire event. Focus a panel discussion on the topic closest to your heart, to showcase the depth of your expertise and invite coverage. Be sure to document everything. Your PR team can then turn the assets into byline articles and white papers after the fact, in addition to generating media coverage, as we did here for a client after a successful event.

Be selective about speaking engagements. Once a baseline level of expertise and visibility is achieved, you can expect inbound requests for speaking engagements to start coming your way. It can be tempting to say yes to everything, but we see “speaker fatigue” setting in quickly among thought leaders, leading to diminished value for the time invested. The key isn’t in numbers, it’s in speaking to the right audiences — a key question PR likes to keep top of mind.

Write the book. Not everyone has the material to write a book, but if you do, publishing a book has never been easier than it is now, especially if you’re open to self-publishing. Among other advantages, being the author of a new book is a calling card PR can use to create fresh media opportunities.
When executing a thought leadership plan, it’s important to keep expectations reasonable, so no one’s disappointed, but by all means, have a vision and focus, and challenge yourself to live up to it.

SWAK: PR Valentines For 2016

Public relations work can sometimes be a thankless task, but occasionally PR pros receive “valentines” of sorts. Like the ideal client, or the story that just keeps getting better and better, the approach of Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to chronicle our favorite gifts. Here are just a few PR valentines that make us feel like we’ve been struck by Cupid’s arrow all over again.

Real news. Many PR professionals are familiar with the dreaded scenario of a client with little (or lackluster) news to promote, but very high expectations. What a difference it makes to have truly newsworthy stories to share with media. Not only does it make the job easier, but it ups the caliber of results we’re able to deliver and strengthens relationships with media contacts.

The ideal PR client. What makes the ideal client? It’s different for different PR professionals, of course, but we’ve been fortunate enough to work with some clients that have a good understanding of how public relations works, have interesting and newsworthy things to say, are present enough to provide the resources our team needs but trust us enough that we’re free to execute the work, and are just fun people to work with to boot. What more could you ask for?

The story that keeps on giving. If nothing else, the U.S. election season, and in particular the Donald Trump presidential bid, has been a media feast, as well as a gift to PRs and pundits of all stripes. Wherever you are on the political spectrum, it’s obvious that Trump has done a masterful job of creating, dominating, and controlling the news. Media and PR professionals don’t see that kind of story very often. Barring a crazy New Hampshire outcome, it seems the election, and the Trump factor, will be covered for a good, long while.

The perfect alignment of schedules. Providing top-notch service to a full roster of clients is a juggling act that often requires some clever scheduling tactics. It can get especially tricky when arranging interviews between media on one US coast (while you’re on the other) with clients in Europe or Asia. So we thank our lucky stars when the opportunities we’ve worked so hard to create sync up without contortions on our part.

The journalist who loves you back. Anyone who goes into public relations is a natural media junkie, and one of the things we love about the work is getting to develop relationships with media professionals whose work we admire. So it’s a shot in the arm when the journalists you pitch start to love you back!  Though this is a Valentine’s Day post, we know infatuation has little to do with it. As with any relationship, it’s built on mutual respect and understanding, and learning how to provide value to one another so the relationship continues to work going forward, as we recently had the pleasure of writing about in this post.

Martin Shkreli’s Guide To PR Suicide

Talk about a public relations lesson in what not to do. Bad-boy pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli has been called a “world-class jerk,” “brat businessman” and “most punchable” — and those were just the printable things in an hour on Twitter.

Shkreli has become a public villain of cartoonish proportions. It started when, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he approved a 5000% price increase for a little-used drug. But things went downhill fast due to the outrageous way he handled his newfound visibility.

The truth about the Shkreli affair is that pharmaceutical pricing, and, in particular, price increases as a source of profits, are more complicated than they seem. Shkreli’s not the first or the only CEO to do this, although he may be the boldest. Matthew Herper’s coverage in Forbes actually sheds light on the bigger picture in a way that the “pharma bro” tabloid stuff doesn’t. It’s well worth a read.

But to get back to the optics, Shkreli is a poster boy for how to attract coverage – but not the kind you want. Here’s what the average PR professional – or entrepreneur – can take away from his image meltdown. If you want to follow Shkreli in committing reputation suicide, these are the steps.

Don’t admit any wrongdoing

In fairness, Shkreli offered a coherent (if not very convincing) defense of the price increase strategy in early interviews, and one wouldn’t expect him to back off completely from his position. It’s not a crime to make a profit. But as things deteriorated, he turned defensive and arrogant, digging himself in more deeply. That posture might work for, say, Donald Trump, who has a business and television track record to fall back on, but in 99% of cases, it’s a disaster. When Shkreli told Herper, “I wish I had raised the price more,” at a healthcare forum, it sounded deliberately provocative.

Flaunt your disrespect

In Shkreli’s case, that includes legislators like the members of the Congressional panel who called him to a hearing on drug prices even knowing that he would take the Fifth Amendment. Sure, it was an opportunity for House members to grandstand, and they’re not the most sophisticated characters when it comes to how pharmaceutical pricing works. But Shkreli needn’t have flaunted his contempt. His yawns, smirks, and eye-rolls were catnip to critics. Calling the House members “imbeciles” on Twitter was the final, self-destructive flourish, as if Shkreli craves attention at any cost.

Don’t listen to professionals

Shkreli has shown an almost pathological tendency to flout advice and take his own counsel. His social media rants, extravagant personal spending, and braggadocio are obviously not smart for someone who’s been indicted. The charges aren’t related to his time at Turing, but they exacerbate the optics problem.  Shkreli’s newly hired lawyer reportedly agreed to represent him on the condition that he stop speaking to the press, so maybe his days of shooting from the hip are over.

The interesting thing about Shkreli’s notoriety is that he’s bright, media-savvy, and in a perfect position to educate us about drug pricing. If he chose to do so, he could be a powerful voice for reform, both of his own image and of the convoluted healthcare and pharma pricing system. But no one’s counting on that any time soon.

6 Tips For Picking The Right PR Firm

Choosing the right PR agency for your company can be a daunting challenge, but fortunately there’s plenty of knowledge to be shared on the subject. Whether you’re seeking a firm that excels in B2B technology PR, or an agency with international capabilities for consumer brands, consider these tips to help find the right agency for your needs.

Look for relevant experience.  This is an obvious first step, but it’s worth repeating. Look for an agency with no conflicts but recent experience in your industry. However, don’t be tempted to simply pick the firm that worked with the biggest player in your category; a successful PR campaign isn’t a cookie-cutter process, and what worked for a competitor might not fly with other companies that are different in size or culture.

Spend time with the shortlisted firms. It’s fine to start with an exhaustive list, but you will have a better outcome by spending more time with fewer candidates. So whittle the list to a select few, and have in-person meetings to ask all your questions and get a sense for how well their team might mesh with yours, how they get along with one another, and how they view the opportunity (including challenges.) A good PR relationship is collaborative, and the right agency should have a point of view, not just a sales spiel.

Include a decision-maker at your company in the search and vetting process. To work successfully for your company’s needs, a PR agency needs to know up front all about your PR needs, your expectations and definition of success, and, importantly, budget. To avoid a mismatch and save precious time during your search, include someone from leadership – a top decision maker – early in the vetting process.

Use a simple RFP. When requesting proposals, would you rather hear from firms who are good at filling out lots of paperwork, or agencies that spend valuable time and energy on creative ideas and effective strategies? A long, arduous RFP process only proves a PR firm is good at administrative tasks. While administrative organization is important, it does little to prove whether a firm is right for you.

Don’t neglect references. As with hiring employees, an agency can look good on paper or in presentations, but have some fatal flaws that go unseen until deeper in the relationship. Speaking to references isn’t a surefire solution, but it helps to raise red flags, if there are any.

Ask a few unconventional questions. Go beyond the basic questions about experience, the team, and budgets, and see how the PR team thinks on their feet. As we wrote about here, asking questions like “Why do you want to work with us?” might not have a right answer, but it can reveal important traits (or lack thereof), like authenticity and motivation to succeed.