Crenshaw Communications Adds Shiny New Big Apple Award

The Crenshaw Communications team is proud to announce our selection as a winner of a PRSA Big Apple Award for its outstanding work on the Safety First! Campaign for Wearsafe Labs. The campaign won in the Targeted Marketing to Women categories. Organized by the New York chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the Big Apple Awards honor exceptional work in the New York City communications and public relations space.

Marijane Funess (left) and Crenshaw founder Dorothy Crenshaw (right) were present to receive the award, along with many other industry professionals as they gathered at the Grand Hyatt New York for the PRSA-NY’s 2017 Awards Gala on June 12th. 

 Special thanks to Crenshaw’s Colleen O’Connor for her stellar work on the Wearsafe campaign.

 

Public Relations And The Customer Journey

A great PR campaign can generate positive brand awareness through earned media, which is clearly desirable. Who wouldn’t welcome a profile in a major national publication, or a Q&A with an influential trade? What about a flood of LinkedIn comments? That kind of engagement is always a good thing.

But how valuable is it? How many PR programs can point to the number of prospects generated, or conversions from website visits? What about signed clients for a B2B company, or product sales attributed to PR? What about creating more prospects at the top of the marketing funnel?

I’ve long maintained that public relations alone isn’t a reliable demand generator. But, before you dismiss the power of PR  –  the key word here is “reliable.” In my experience it works best in tandem with other, more controllable or scalable elements of the marketing mix – like email marketing, SEO, and sales promotion.

Yet we don’t give strategic PR enough credit when it’s considered as a vague awareness-generating tool that “conditions” the market.  And the blurring of lines between earned media, paid, and owned media, and between PR and social, has greatly amplified PR’s reach.

Look at that marketing funnel. The need to fill it, and move prospects down the funnel from awareness to action, is the goal of most marketing campaigns. We want to get as many people as possible into the top of the funnel and maintain as many quality prospects as possible as they move through the journey to being customers. And ultimately we want to help convert those prospects to customers as well.

PR can play an important role in every major step in that journey. Here’s how.

First, generating awareness

Filling the funnel starts with awareness – of the problem or need, and of possible solutions for it. The brand itself may play only a small role in the coverage that drives awareness. That doesn’t mean PR can’t build awareness of a brand or product; it can. In fact, it’s at its best when a brand is truly innovative, or a category creator – think Starbucks, which relied on its own storefronts and plenty of earned media coverage rather than advertising in its early years. Or consider today’s innovators – brands like Casper, Uber, and Amazon.

But most companies aren’t category creators, so let’s look at more typical examples. Let’s say we’re launching a new type of supply chain software for manufacturers. The software helps companies keep track or crucial parts so they can minimize factory downtime. A PR program can raise awareness among relevant purchasing and manufacturing executives through earned media features in automotive or manufacturing trades, as well as company-published content about the opportunity cost of running out of a key equipment part. When done well, it catches the customer’s interest and communicates a specific brand promise or expertise.

Inspiring through storytelling

A true story about a transformation and its impact can be powerful and memorable. Storytelling starts at the Awareness phase and can play a role throughout the customer journey. Think about the debate over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; the statistics are important, but the individual stories about the struggles of children or chronically ill people are what will win or lose the fight. And for B2B companies, storytelling is no less important. The hero here is not the brand, or even the company founder; it’s probably the customer. That delayed manufacturing part, for example, could shut down an entire factory line for days. A small business owner struggling with deliveries, or a consumer app experimenting with virtual reality – these, too, can be the basis for compelling stories.

Educating prospects

This is arguably the biggest role played by a well-crafted PR program, and it works at that phase of the funnel journey where many prospects fall away –  where Interest gives way to Consideration. Today’s business customers are sophisticated, digitally savvy, and typically committed to doing their own research in advance of a significant buy. If they’re about to spend thousands on a company-wide SaaS solution for a business application, all bases will be covered. At this phase, PR delivers targeted content like thought leadership articles, expository videos, opinion pieces, and white papers — all invaluable when it comes to enlightening and persuading. Unlike most paid media, earned media and shared content can offer the depth to lend insights, mount arguments, or explain a poorly understood issue or position. This is content that unpacks a complex issue or rebuts and argument or facile stereotype.

Generating earned influence

Information is essential. But what pushes us towards certain brands? Where is one solution favored over another? Much of this takes place at the critical Preference phase. Now the customer is leaning toward a purchase but hasn’t yet committed to it, or to a specific brand. It is here that third-party expertise or influence, amplified by social media, can push them over. In PR terms, it’s where top-notch analyst relations, outreach to relevant industry experts, and brand spokesperson relationships come in. A single analyst report can influence years of purchase for enterprise software, for example. For other products – and other types of buyer journeys — it may come down to the power of peer recommendations. “A person like me” is perceived as more credible than celebrities or institutions when it comes to influence, according to Edelman’s trust barometer. The experience of like-minded friends, or even strangers in the same social community, can be more credible than that of experts, and when a strong emotional component is present, it’s an argument for action.

Blending earned and paid media

Here the credibility of an earned media placement is harnessed and amplified through more controlled channels like ads or email marketing. This can be as simple as using product reviews in ads or a prospect newsletter, and it’s most powerful at the latter stage of the funnel, as Preference turns into the intent to purchase. When it comes to purchase consideration, timing is everything. Similarly, when an editorial review or feature is linked with a compelling promotional offer or incentive, it all works together. The earned influence, deployed with a hypertargeted approach, sweetened with an incentive, leads to purchase action.

Building loyalty

The customer journey – and the marketer’s work – doesn’t end with purchase. Let’s face it, most consumers are distracted, difficult to reach, and fickle. But PR and social media have a role here, too. The best programs work to create brand advocates through special offers and incentives, but also by building social communities of regular customers. A social community where a brand interacts in its own voice with fans and customers is an obvious start. Look at Lego Ideas, a creative online group for enthusiasts that allows them to submit ideas for new Lego designs. For business examples, pay a visit to Hubspot Academy on LinkedIn.

Another customer-centric tactic involves generating PR for them, the customer, rather than for your brand. The classic business customer testimonial is a great example; it glorifies the customer as much as the provider, building a long-term relationship in the process.
Good PR doesn’t exist in a vacuum – or at least, it shouldn’t. It works with all aspects of marketing to create prospects and move them down the customer funnel to the moment of truth.

PR Tips For Breaking Bad News

At some point in a public relations career, you will have to be the bearer of unpleasant news, or the person who helps craft its communication. But there are strategies for delivering such news properly, tempering the blow and assuring that no one shoots the messenger.

First, you have to take a good look at where the news falls on a scale of one to 10, with one being minor and 10 being catastrophic. Let’s look at some scenarios and our recommendations for the best outcomes.

The Best Ways to Break Bad News

You’re unprepared and have to scramble

Late last year, Toblerone Chocolates pulled a fast one on its legions of fans around the world by changing the iconic look of the bar. Apparently it needed to reduce the weight of the bar, but instead of simply shrinking it imperceptibly, it created large gaps between the sections. The change was met with outrage, both on social media and at the cash register. The brand compounded its mistake by staying mum about the changes until late in the game, letting its large UK fan base control the conversation, coming out in droves to diss the new bar. Worst of all, Poundland, the UK equivalent of the dollar store, is making its own version of Toblerone without the unsightly gaps.

What might the brand have done differently? Experts agree that when you’re breaking bad news, it’s best to get the news out quickly, with no sugarcoating. Audiences are more sophisticated (and can be) more forgiving than companies think.  And though joking about serious matters is never recommended, Toblerone fans might have been sweet on a strategy that used a little humor to announce the changes.

There’s good news and bad news

Pandora recently reported an increase in advertising revenues and paid subscribers. In a letter to shareholders, the company credited its sales team for the improved performance, driven by a more aggressive strategy with ad load. But in the same missive, it announced a plan to improve operational efficiency that will include a workforce reduction of about 7% of its U.S.-based employees. The layoffs were expected by the end of the first quarter, and Pandora notified affected employees at the same time as the public. The company will incur $5 million to $7 million in severance costs. The announcement led with the positive news (important for customers and shareholders) but didn’t shy away or conceal the negative. Pandora CEO Tim Westergren was quoted as saying “While making workforce reductions is always a difficult decision, the commitment to cost discipline will allow us to invest more heavily in product development and monetization and build on the foundations of our strategic investments.” Not overly saccharine, and most importantly, not keeping affected employees in the dark.

The bad news is a total reversal of a previous announcement

Remember the gleeful announcement the pre-inauguration Trump administration made heralding the deal that would keep some 600 Carrier plant jobs in the U.S.? Well, it seems some seven months later, Carrier employees are bracing for layoffs rather than exulting in the “number [of saved jobs] going to go up very substantially” as Trump had touted. The problem with overpromising and underdelivering, as any PR person knows, is that falling short of one’s own hype is a particularly harsh and self-inflicted blow. The lack of preparation by the administration or Carrier means that the news is unexpected and those affected are understandably going to view it with disdain. As one commented, “To me this was just political, to make it a victory within Trump’s campaign, in his eyes that he did something great.”

The bad news affects stakeholders differently

The departure of a successful CEO might be met with shock or sadness. Or not. In the case of this past week’s resignation by Uber founder Travis Kalanick, there has been more of a “Ding dong, the witch is dead” reaction than an outburst of sadness, particularly among the press and women’s groups. Kalanick has been a fairly equal opportunity villain for the past few years; stories abound of misogynistic behavior, employee mistreatment, and outright illegal company moves. So when the Uber board announced that Kalanick would step down, it could have rationalized the move with a statement citing the founder’s mistakes. Instead it praised him in a much more conciliatory manner, saying, “Sometimes great leadership means empowering others to lead the task at hand, and that is what he has done here to help important and necessary changes at the company happen so Uber can reach its full potential.”

While many on social media reacted swiftly with positive posts, many Uber employees are actually clamoring for Kalanick’s return, which makes you wonder if cultural problems are institutionalized there, or if Kalanick is simply a polarizing figure.
Most importantly, when the news will hurt people, lead with empathy. As psychologists point out, negative news is more “cognitively engaging” than good tidings, which PR people know from years of “if it bleeds, it leads” journalism. So, while speed and honesty are important in getting ahead of bad news, it’s best to take the time to convey genuine feelings for those affected.

PR Tips To Ace Your Next Speaking Gig

Those of us in public relations spend a lot of time helping clients speak effectively in front of strangers, but what about our own speaking skills?  Last week some of us addressed a client conference on best practices in PR and social media, which was an opportunity to put those skills to use. The crowd was engaged, and post-event evaluations were positive. But not every success is intuitive.

Addressing An Audience? Make it More Than a Monologue

The best presentations are both informative and entertaining.  For smaller crowds, a conversation is ideal. Here are some tips to make your next presentation stand out.

Tweak your topic to meet and beat audience expectations

Odds are, a conference crowd will hear from several speakers in a given day, so your aim is to be the memorable one. For a broad topic like social media in business today, personalize it. We pulled examples from attendees’ own social pages and offered praise and productive recommendations. We also showed some “fail” examples as cautionary lessons.
Ever been to a conference where a standup comic roasts members of the audience with inside jokes? We don’t advocate going that far, but a little research goes a long way. It pays to study recent industry developments, learn the average audience member’s level of sophistication, and know what happened the very morning of your speech so it can feel fresh and relevant. It also helps to mingle with audience members for a few moments in advance of your speech if possible, because it gives you some small talk to work into the presentation and helps you hold the attention of the crowd.

Try icebreakers

 

The most engaging talks encourage – or even demand – audience participation. This can be as simple as throwing out a challenge to facilitate discussion among participants. At a recent gathering of human resource managers, a speaker began by grouping participants together to “Find 10 Things in Common,” which is simple and non-threatening for even the shyest conference-goer. And the results are fun. In the selfie era, we sometimes encourage photo-taking. All you have to do is ask people to pose for a picture and you‘ve instantly formed a group that have a shared experience. Other icebreakers include simple verbal or written games or something that just stops the show the way 2016 World Champion of Public Speaking, Darren Tay, shown here famously did. But try to avoid the deadly “go around the room and introduce yourself,” a guaranteed social anxiety-inducer and potential snoozefest.

Connect with one person at a time

A large crowd is intimidating and it doesn’t lend itself to icebreakers, so take this tip from top TED speaker Simon Sinek. Don’t scan the crowd; it can make you nervous, and your attention could be caught by those who are frowning or distracted. Instead, focus on connecting with one person at a time. Choose the most engaged and receptive audience members and speak directly to them. It will boost your confidence and help you channel any anxiety into positive energy.

Show, don’t tell

Do you want to hear a hundred statistics and data points, or would you rather listen to stories and examples that offer insight? We’re betting on the latter. Some experts advise breaking each component of a talk with an anecdote, image, video or question. This keeps things conversational and memorable. In our recent presentation, we naturally used anecdotes and images of great tweets and other social posts, as well as examples of hashtag hijacks that backfired, for example.
Whatever you do, make sure your slides or other visuals don’t contain more than a few words of text, and make it easy on the audience. People cannot read and listen to you at the same time, so don’t step on your own headlines.

Periodically poll the audience

This will this snap any phone-checkers back to attention, and it’s a good way to read the room. In our recent experience, we described what a positive media exchange looked like, then polled the group for their own media experiences. This exercise elicited some cringeworthy stories as well as helpful advice for the entire crowd. One participant was due to speak to a reporter the following day and took some of the group advice to heart, resulting in good information being shared with a local outlet. For larger groups, rhetorical questions can help capture flagging attention after a few minutes into a talk. And a quick, show-of-hands poll helps take the group’s temperature on an issue, or whether a topic has been covered enough for the speaker to pivot to something else.

Go off-script, but carefully

About that pivot… it can be tricky. Sometimes simple audience polling will warrant a change in your presentation, or maybe breaking news or last-minute insight from a conference moderator will prompt a switch. Either way, think hard before abandoning your planned presentation. The goal is to read the crowd and the environment. Make a smart shift that acknowledges change but stays relevant to the topic at hand.

Going off-script can work, but only if the speaker is adept and knows the subject matter well. This is not the venue to try out new material. Yesterday’s comments by John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, on its acquisition by Amazon, are an odd take on going “off-script. “It’s been a whirlwind courtship.” Mackey said. “Because a little over six weeks after we met on this blind date, we’re officially engaged, as of today. But like an old traditional marriage, where there are all kinds of rules and chaperones, we can’t consummate the marriage until we’re actually officially hooked up. This is not a Tinder relationship.” Oops! He then added, “I got a feeling I’m off script.”

Inject appropriate humor

The best speakers know when to inject the right kind of humor into the speech. Unless you know your crowd very well, stay away from politics or anything like a true “roast” mocking your hosts or attendees. On the other hand, it’s acceptable to poke fun at yourself in a relevant way, or to use industry humor. If you work in a business that abuses insider jargon or acronyms, all attendees can relate. Experts advise using humor as a unifier, where the speaker and the crowd are all in on the joke. And it’s best to avoid anything that is narrowly niched to a particular topic, too highbrow or too lowbrow. Avoid anything rude, sexual, racial or politically incorrect in any way. Last week’s offhand remark by Uber board member David Bonderman resulted in his swift resignation because it was perceived as sexist.

Bask in the afterglow

Once a presentation is complete, mingle with your attendees as long as you can, to take questions and prompt further conversation. These interactions are great for networking and future opportunities. Arrange for anonymous speaker evaluations through handouts or an online form. If possible, plan to send the presentation to each participant and do so with a thank you note and photos to demonstrate your appreciation.

Finally, start planning your next talk! Speaking at industry conferences or client gatherings of any kind is always a worthwhile investment and time well spent.

Why Your First PR Job Should Be At A PR Agency

 

It’s inspiring to meet newly minted public relations or communications grads looking to crack that first job in their chosen field. And though the first break is rarely easy, for anyone set on a career in PR there are likely to be forks in the road at the beginning of the career journey. I often speak to new graduates who ask advice about how to start their career. They might be looking to join a large international company as the newest corporate communications hire, or want to break into PR at a nonprofit group. Here in New York, some set their sights on a media or fashion brand to learn those businesses while also gaining experience in external communications.

Let’s face it, any of the above would be a win for a recent graduate, but — barring a rich equity offer from a high-flying tech startup — I’d strongly advise jobseekers to take a position at a PR agency as opposed to a corporate or nonprofit gig. PR firms offer new professionals an excellent training ground and the right kind of experience for making future career decisions. My personal bias is for a small or midsize agency, but it’s really more about the classic agency structure and what it offers for team members. Here’s why:

You’ll learn the business of public relations

PR is PR no matter where you are, right? Not necessarily. On the corporate side, staff learn public relations as it serves the organization, but at an agency, it’s the core business. Usually it’s the only business. That translates into a deeper commitment to training and greater mastery of the PR discipline and a far greater breadth of experience through working for different clients. The agency environment helps those new to the workforce find out what they like, where they excel, and what the range of opportunities truly is. And you’ll benefit from layers of experiences professionals who can teach you.

Agencies offer a path to promotion

A successful agency offers extraordinary upward mobility for anyone with the right skills and a drive to succeed. Will you reach a ceiling at some point in an agency? Almost certainly, yes. But for a professional with good skills and less than a decade of experience, almost any road at a thriving agency will lead to advancement. This comes in contrast to the corporate communications world, where you’re typically dealing with a narrower path to growth.

You’ll learn what you love

Juggling multiple clients in different industries or sectors may not be for everyone. But the chance to participate in account management for clients within different industries, from B2B technology to food and beverage PR, will help anyone figure out where their passion lies and help focus career plans for the future. This is a great benefit even if you don’t plan on an agency career.

You’ll learn to produce

Or not, in which case your agency experience will be short. This is the good news-bad news side of life at a PR agency. Like nearly any creative services business, a PR firm earns its keep nearly every day. The agency has to deliver against its plan quickly and well. Those exigencies force you  to learn how to be productive and efficient, or they force you to look for a different environment for your particular skills.

You’ll learn salesmanship

For the most part, agency life is about selling. And while it varies with the type of firm, even junior staffers are exposed to the business development process. You may not be in the room where the presentation happens, but you’re likely to be a team member and observer at a minimum. And ongoing account management is a bit of a selling situation as well. Merchandising the agency’s value to clients is a part of the daily life at a PR firm. It’s experience that you can apply to your own contribution and career.

You’ll learn showmanship

From packaging dazzling content, to C-level boardroom presentations, this is also a skill that’s highly translatable to just about anything else you may do in life or work.

You’ll rarely be bored

Because it typically offers a wide breadth of work – though not as much depth as a long-term role on the client side –  the agency life is ideal for multitaskers. If you thrive on change and challenge, you may love life at a PR agency. But even if you end up running corporate communications at a large brand, the agency experience will pay off over an entire career.

Avoid These 7 PR "Surprises"

Surprises? Great for parties and gifts, but not so great for public relations. Like many client service businesses, ours works best when it’s predictable and reliable. This means attention to staffing, budgets, deadlines and prep work to ensure successful outcomes. Our informal poll elicited some interesting – yet undesirable – surprises we all strive to avoid in public relations work.

How PR Teams Manage the Unexpected

The “bait and switch.” 

We’ve all been there. The client and agency contacts have happily bonded at a new business presentation, with great chemistry all around. But by the next meeting, the cast of characters has changed without notice. This is bad practice all around. Of course, employee turnover can happen at any company, but when it happens on the agency side, it should be a blip, not a breakdown. It helps if the agency leaders are transparent about the change and make it clear they’re working to replace an outgoing team member with someone as good or better.
And if there are chemistry issues, address those at the outset to help establish trust in the teams that will work together.

The surprise budget overage. 

When a scope of work and budget have been agreed upon, the worst kind of surprise is an unexpected increase. (Somehow, it never happens in reverse.) Any team asked to budget an event, product launch, or other initiative is expected to stand by their projections, and it’s smart to estimate “up” to allow for last-minute contingencies. A very tight and realistic budget at the outset demonstrates good stewardship, but in any event, weekly budget updates are recommended.

The overpromise.

PR strategists and clients each occasionally overpromise in benign ways. The client details features and benefits of a new B2B tech product but they fail to materialize. The agency envisions a slew of great stories based on the product specs, but then can’t deliver because the product doesn’t. The client-agency relationship will be damaged if it becomes a habit rather than an honest miscalculation. There’s also the problem of the agency boss who is disconnected from the day-to-day work and makes grandiose commitments to clients due to wishful thinking or ignorance of the difficulty factor. The best rule, of course, is to slightly underpromise and overdeliver — in writing.

The unprepared spokesperson. 

Occasionally we see overconfident executives who feel they aren’t in need of media training. With little reason to believe otherwise, a PR team will sometimes book an interview with a journalist, only to see it go poorly. To avoid this scenario, the agency and internal comms team should consider a blanket policy of requiring media prep for every company spokesperson. Like most agencies, we make it a rule to speak to any media-facing executive ahead of an interview to get a read on their abilities. When necessary, we can then recommend and facilitate media training, or in some cases, propose that someone else handle the job. It’s no time to stand on ceremony when the national spotlight is shining on your brand.

The negative media story

Experienced PR pros can detect a story going south before it actually runs. Maybe it’s the hardball interview questions, a complete 180 in tone or topic, or even some last-minute “contamination” by a competitor. In those cases, it’s critical to inform the client that a less than ideal outcome is likely, and to take steps to mitigate it. This can mean giving the reporter some fresh data or insights for the story, or even additional resources at the company. In some cases, disaster can be averted, but if it can’t, the best policy is honesty, followed by a proactive Plan B. Is the article factually inaccurate? If so, a reporter should be willing to correct it. Can a post or two in the comments section present another point of view? A timely and proactive response can often help — but be sure not to overreact.

The missed deadline

All who were polled agreed that this is a surprise that’s avoidable in 99% of cases. There are plenty of safeguards to prevent it, starting with the creation of a realistic calendar that accounts for the time to produce content, for example, but factors in things like rounds of client edits as well. Additionally, everyone should be educated on how long certain projects realistically take. Use previous work as a guide and build in the time it takes to reasonably turn each element around. On the other hand, there will always be unexpected crunches on press announcements or other assignments like the great newsjacking opportunities we pounced on for ad intelligence client MediaRadar. Hot news doesn’t wait, so keep your cool, make sure your team is good at the full-court press and work together to get the job done.

The “parting of the ways” 

This is a surprise we all want to avoid. But it happens. A company abruptly runs through funding and chooses to let an agency go, or an agency commits a social media gaffe that angers key journalists. Conversely, PR firms initiate endings as well.  An agency butts up against a conflict and has to sever ties, or the relationship becomes unworkable for several reasons, as we have touched on before. These things happen, but there are some ways to soften the blow. Building in an extra, agreed-upon budget will ensure that the PR firm isn’t cut off at a crucial juncture while working on a campaign. Otherwise, the plug is pulled and reporters may find themselves unable to access important information to complete a story. That’s a bridge no one wants to burn. An agency can work with a PR client to ensure a smooth transition to another firm so that workflow is fairly uninterrupted.

It should be noted that we’ll take a pleasant surprise any day. Like glowing media coverage from a writer we hadn’t pitched, or hearing from a former client who wants to re-connect.  But the rule of thumb is to prevent uncertainty at all costs and keep everyone in the know.

A Summer PR Playlist

Summer in public relations includes outdoor meetings, shorts and flip-flops (if your office works that way), Summer Fridays, and an all-around happier work environment.  But it doesn’t mean we strive any less to keep clients happy and implement great new campaigns. If you find yourself needing any more motivation, music is always key and we have tapped the Crenshaw crew to come up with some perfect tunes to power your team through tough times and celebrate PR wins.

Pick The Right Music for the Right PR Situation

The CEO has moved up the announcement of your latest funding round and it’s happening now! Zedd ft. Alessia Cara’s “Stay” offers some inspiration to PR strategists under intense pressure due to an unexpected deadline. “All you have to do is stay a minute. Just take your time. The clock is ticking, so stay.”  That may be all you need to re-group, hustle and put together a perfect plan to announce your company news as if you’d been working on it for months.

That PR budget that was threatened? It was just increased 25%! Clearly, you and your team have been doing something right. Now, you can implement all your well-thought out plans and brainstorm for even bigger and better. Just be sure to confirm it all in writing before you dream too big. This joyous situation calls for Bruno Mars – 24K Magic where he sings of “24 karat magic in the air.” Please crank and enjoy.

Ala some other famous leaders, your CEO has just tweeted something utterly inappropriate. Is there any better choice than Justin Bieber’s “Sorry?”  It should be mandatory for every social media mess-maker to begin the road back to respectability with this song – and, of course, a meaningful mea culpa.

The journalist who promised to include your client in a crucial round-up story has left you on the cutting room floor with no explanation. Rihanna “Where Have You Been?” with its plaintive plea “Where have you been? ‘Cause I never see you out, Are you hiding from me, yeah?” fits a lot of PR situations — the potential client who vanishes without a trace, the prospective employee who accepts a position, never to be heard from again, or one of the worst, the vendor who promises to make a crucial deadline and FAILS miserably.

The PR campaign designed to increase visits to your costly new website is paying off, big-time. Great research, strategic thinking and execution combine to demonstrate your value to the team. A perfect choice for exulting in the moment? Try Post Malone ft. Quavo – Congratulations featuring an appropriate mix of celebrating, back-patting and a bit of a diss to those who don’t have what it takes.  “Now they always say congratulations. Worked so hard, forgot how to vacation. They ain’t never had the dedication”.

The good news? Your byline was published in a key vertical. The bad news? The editor took liberties and the piece is not what it was. The title says it all: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,”  and as The Stones will tell you over and over again, “You just might get what you need.” So, ask yourself, how important is it to be published in the vertical? Does this story mark the beginning of a great new relationship? Is the story potent enough to make for good sharing? You might not have gotten all of what you wanted, but maybe enough of what you needed.

You’ve diligently pitched a top journalist for months and she just agreed to do a story on your company. Feeling buoyant? You should! The rule of thumb in our office is to pitch at least a handful of contacts weekly and stay in touch in a relevant way. The result? Something like the above, which happens to our teams with great regularity. Keep the feeling going by blasting some more Bruno Mars – this time try That’s What I Like to help you remember, “you deserve it all.”

The panel discussion topic you’ve carefully crafted and sold into the C-suite has just been announced by a rival. Allow yourself to take in this disheartening news by indulging in Maroon 5 ft. Future with “Cold” which offers up lines like “Cold enough to chill my bones.” Then gather the troops to create a solid Plan B. Can you tweak your topic enough to make a significant difference to potential attendees and press? Can you move the timing to create enough distance to help? If not, once again, go back to the beginning and brainstorm some fresh approaches.

Everyone loves the new social media direction that your team developed and implemented.  Soak up the praise, but be sure to share it with your team and give everyone some well-deserved words. A little peer or supervisor recognition goes a long way, particularly with those just starting a career in PR. Revel in the feeling of a job well done and do it with MIKA ft. Ariana Grande’s Popular Song with its positive messages of believing in yourself. “Popular, I know about popular. And all that you have to do, is be true to you.That’s all you ever need to know.

The strategy session between the agency and client hit some snags and everyone was forced back to square one. Being told to start fresh may seem like a step back, we prefer to look at it as a new opportunity or second chance to make your plan stronger. Or to take a quick break and begin anew the way the Chainsmokers do in Paris where they sing of making things better as a team. Which is what you and your colleagues will do. “If we go down then we go down together. Let’s show them we are better.”
Summer is also a great time to get together with colleagues, journalists and other associates you’ve been meaning to reach out to. Or tackle a task that’s been on your to-do list forever like updating important lists or case studies. Some of those things you’ve meant to do but haven’t made the time. And there are quite a few songs to help you use that time wisely.

When A Small Business Has A Big (PR) Advantage

Some PR agencies fall into a trap of chasing only only large, brand-name clients. This is in part because like attracts like; large brands can bring more of the same, they reason. A PR firm may also think that doing media relations for well known brands can be easier than work for unknowns, because journalists are eager to cover them.

The truth is actually a bit more complicated — very large clients can bring challenges of their own — and in my experience, it’s good to have a healthy client mix that suits an agency’s staff and size. But a more interesting point is that a company doesn’t need to be huge to be noticed. In fact, there are many ways in which SMBs can benefit from strategic public relations, and they sometimes don’t realize it. A well-crafted PR campaign can be even more powerful and productive for a smaller organization. Here are some reasons why.

Small businesses are empowered through digital technology

There was a time when starting a business was expensive and intimidating, requiring legal and accounting help, office space, and a friendly banker. Today, some entrepreneurs need only LegalZoom, a WordPress site, and possibly a shared office space. Technology is a great equalizer for a business. Even a tiny company can challenge competitors for customers, employee talent, and visibility. The stigma of being the “little guy” has faded, to be replaced with descriptors like “nimble” and “upstart.” This appeal applies to the media who cover business, whether they’re on the SMB beat or not.

Smaller companies can seize sudden PR opportunities

When a client is in a position to make fast decisions, they get more done and maximize the PR investment, whether there’s an outside agency team involved or an internal expert. That translates into faster and better outcomes for the investment. It’s also a bonus when a nimble team opts to jump on a breaking news story with their own comment, point-of-view, or real-time marketing push. This type of “newsjacking” is harder in a large company, where it often needs to be approved by several layers of management.

Smaller businesses have more interesting stories

The background and history of a startup or a smallish company can be more accessible than that of a large organization. Small companies and their senior management tend to be relatable, and they’re likely to have a startup story or a transition experience that appeals to media and prospective customers. Whether it’s a story about two college buddies who started a business together (which is the case with one of our more successful clients), or a refugee from a mega-company who left to pursue a great idea, the narrative can be the foundation of a successful PR campaign.

Smaller companies can be niche players

If you can’t dominate the conversation, then change it…or invent a new and narrower one. According to Steve Tobak of Inc., “starting with a niche is one of the most powerful ways to go viral and ultimately take down even the biggest giants.” He points out that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t set out to start a social site that would grow to two billion users; his goal was to build a college networking community.  Some of today’s largest business categories started out as niches. The challenge for the smaller business – and its PR and marketing team – is to identify the right area and positioning for its product or service.

They’re part of the community

This can depend on industry sector and geography, but most smaller companies are deeply involved in their local community as well as the relevant industry organizations. And an SMB located in a smaller city is far likelier to attract the attention of local press than a behemoth. Even in larger cities like New York and Chicago, smaller business can attract vertical media attention by becoming involved in neighborhood events, participating in industry organizations, and building a social media community around Facebook or Linkedin, depending on the customer base. We represent several midsize companies in technology who are giants within relevant industry organizations like adtech, supply chain software, or 3D printing services.

Everyone likes an underdog

With a smaller client, a PR strategist has the opportunity to adapt one of the more powerful storytelling archetypes we know – the David v. Goliath myth. That story has unfolded in many ways, for an enormous variety of clients and brands, from lean startups to retail chains. It’s a time-honored marketing strategy for a brand that’s actually #5 or 6 in a category to position itself as a #2 to the industry leader, and it often works beautifully.  Let’s face it, everyone roots for the “little” guy, even when he’s not so little.

Dos & Don’ts For Winning PR Awards

 

In public relations, it’s always gratifying to be recognized by one’s peers. Typically, that recognition comes in the form of industry awards. Right now we’re finalists in a couple of awards competitions, and we’ve won our fair share as well. So, we thought it might be a good time to review what helps make a winning PR campaign entry and what ought to be avoided in pursuit of award excellence.

Insider Tips to Crafting Winning Award Entries

Do plan far in advance

We find it particularly helpful to keep an awards file at the beginning of any PR campaign. It should include plans and strategy memos, weekly recaps, media coverage and all results reports. Importantly, keep correspondence with positive quotes about the work as well as images and video. The average award entry takes a couple of days to put together, but you can cut that time dramatically by staying on top of resources from the outset.

Don’t think just “clips and coverage”

For the most part, PR Award judges look for much more than simple impressions, although there are exceptions (see Bulldog Awards below.) Most competitions look to see how your team’s strategy was successfully implemented to produce measurable business results against a specific target audience. For example, if at the outset, a PR goal was to increase sign-ups for a cause or event, that data should be tracked and offered as a metric. Many also look for over-the-top creativity or that unique “something.”

Do prioritize

And we don’t mean just a spreadsheet of titles and due dates. Preparing a high-quality award entry is expensive, so it’s best to set a budget for entry costs and personnel time for the effort, then review each award to see which are most meaningful. We also recommend reviewing past winning entries and gaining some intel on what each competition is looking for in the process. For example, understand the difference between the Bulldog Awards (geared to excellence in media relations) and the SABRE Awards (looking more at winning strategies.) There are also the Silver Anvils, Platinum PR and PR Week Awards. New competitions crop up often, so it pays to keep up-to-date.

Don’t limit yourself to the “obvious” category

Just because a team launched a new B2B tech service doesn’t mean that the B2B tech category is best for the entry, and often it pays to enter in more than one category. Next, ask yourself if the entry stands out enough to warrant winning in a crowded field. If not, it may be better to go for a tactical award and instead submit for “Best Video” or “Best Infographic” rather than a campaign award. Be strategic about your entries. Keep in mind the agency and individual awards as well. These are two terrific ways to showcase an agency or an individual’s career progress.

Do appoint a gatekeeper

It’s helpful to appoint someone to shepherd the entry, plan according to deadlines to avoid late fees, and make the final pass on content, adherence to award rules, and grammar. It’s helpful to create a checklist of all entry requirements and go through it ahead of sending. Today, most entries can be submitted online, but beware; if you save as you go and return to the entry, reread in its entirety to make sure the writing is consistent and correct.

Don’t forget to merchandise your wins

Each award win is an opportunity to burnish your team’s image, so share the good news. We recommend posts on all your social sites – video and other images from the awards event add a nice touch. For major awards, it can be helpful to issue a press release, post the news on the company website, include it in email signatures and incorporate updates into all relevant new business proposals and RFP responses.

Do get involved behind the scenes

There are many benefits to be gleaned by volunteering for awards committees. One of our favorite opportunities is to act as a judge for one of the competitions. If you ever wondered what other PR teams were up to, judging offers a fascinating glimpse into all types of PR writing, strategy and creativity, and the work will provide inspiration for the future. It’s also a nice chance to network with some peers. For up-and-comers, consider working one of the award galas – here you can exercise event skills, work on speechwriting, video presentation or simply offer to handle the social and traditional media.

Finally, it’s always good to think beyond PR industry recognition. There are awards for a great workplace, for entrepreneurship, women in business, diversity, and many others. One of the tenets of good public relations is having other say good things about your brand, and the third-party endorsement of industry awards accomplishes exactly that.