Amazon’s New PR War Isn’t Working

Picking a public fight with powerful legislators isn’t a typical PR strategy for a giant corporation, but that’s Amazon’s latest move as a crucial union vote deadline arrives. Over the past few days, the retail giant has turned into a Twitter troll. Amazon has tweeted childish insults about Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who chairs two banking and finance subcommittees. The fallout has been ugly — and puzzling.

An emotional response to a business threat

Amazon-watchers are wondering exactly what it hopes to achieve with the Twitter war. It’s an emotional and undisciplined communications approach, to say the least. And as Kara Swisher opined, it’s pretty clear that founder Jeff Bezos is pulling the strings. (Swisher calls it “top-level chucklehead.”)

Amazon has always been sensitive about bad PR around its treatment of workers, of course. And the optics have not been good since it doubled down to meet record demand fueled by the COVID lockdown. Last March Amazon fired a New York warehouse worker who organized a walkout over safety issues and even leaked an internal email describing the employee as ”not smart or articulate.” It also terminated two Seattle workers who spoke publicly about warehouse conditions.

Alabama union vote triggers reactive PR response

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama have been voting by mail for the past seven weeks on whether to organize. As the voting period ends, the company has ramped up public attacks on its critics. If the union prevails, that warehouse will be the first among Amazon’s US workforce to organize – but perhaps not the last. And that appears to be Bezos’s fear and the reason many speculate he urged his team to lash out on Twitter.

The Twitter war started last week when Amazon CEO Dave Clark zinged Senator Bernie Sanders just before Sanders’ trip to Alabama to meet with a group of pro-union workers.

United for Respect (@forrespect) | Twitter

Things escalated after Senator Warren accused Amazon of paying “close to nothing” in taxes. At that point @AmazonNews got into the act, firing back to defend its tax payment history claiming Warren was trying to “break up an American company so that they can’t criticize her anymore.”

Mean tweets undermine Amazon’s story

The trollish tweets undermine the messaging that Amazon spends millions in PR and lobbying to communicate. And it does have a case to make – a minimum $15 wage, worker benefits, hazard pay, millions spent on worker protections during the pandemic, and more. But the Twitter war has sparked a backlash, as well as nasty new stories about Amazon workers not being able to urinate while at work, and, well, worse. Are tweets about peeing in bottles better than the noise about a union at the Alabama warehouse? Yech.

Senator Elizabeth Warren Goes Over The Line; Threatens To Punish Amazon For 'Snotty Tweets' | Techdirt

Amazon clearly sees the Alabama vote as a make-or-break moment in its drive to quash union activity. The vote count starts tomorrow, and over the past month an array of celebrities have spoken out in favor of the union or visited the warehouse to show support. President Biden notably mentioned it in a video address on March 1. Given the timing, the nasty-tweet offensive makes the company seem almost panicky.

Amazon is the Goliath here

Attacking one’s critics can work when there’s a David v Goliath situation. But a company Amazon’s size just looks thin-skinned. It’s the second-largest private employer in the country, for heaven’s sake, and trolling legislators in public is just counterproductive. At a time when Big Tech is under real pressure, “snotty tweets” aren’t a viable PR strategy. They don’t set up the company for any future attempt by Congress to regulate or break it up. Besides being a bad look, its public posture also conveys fear, which isn’t good for future union negotiations. No matter how the Alabama vote turns out, the retail giant would do well to listen to its critics, get off Twitter, and focus on more proactive and productive ways to tell its story – both privately and through strategic PR.

Three Ways To Change Up Your Social Media Strategy

Every PR team knows that social media is more than simply a nice thing for companies to have; it’s an imperative. Fifty-three percent of customers who follow a business are likely to be loyal to that business, and 63% of consumers who search for goods and services online are more receptive to those with an engaging social media presence. 

While it’s important to identify and stick with a consistent brand personality for social content, there are times when social content becomes stale. Or, the social content strategy may lag behind trends. In addition to general social media tips such as posting at certain times for maximum views (we like 11:00 AM or between 1:00 and 2:00 PM), PR and social media pros are regularly challenged to tweak social media strategy to increase engagement and attract followers. Here are some ways to do exactly that. 

Mix up your posts

Part of any successful social media strategy includes drawing your audience in through a visually appealing, constantly changing page. If your posts are starting to sound a little repetitive, mix things up. Although voice and messaging may be a constant, one way to keep content fresh is by varying the type of media posted. Alternate between accompanying your post with images, gifs and videos. Definitely change up the images you’re posting on Instagram since it’s such a visual platform. Consider alternation coloration or tone – go black and white, or minimalist or psychedelic. 

Also keep in mind that short videos can be highly effective in engaging viewers. For example, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn native video in 2017, in an effort to expand from being just a long-form content site. With native video, you can record on your phone or computer and then upload recordings to the site. As LinkedIn video continues to grow in popularity, 87% of LinkedIn video marketers say it’s been an effective channel for them. In PR, we make sure to post earned media stories to amplify their reach and to keep our posts interesting – which is effective since LinkedIn posts with images, videos or links get 39% more engagement than text-only posts on LinkedIn. Since 57% of all engagement on LinkedIn is via mobile, the content has to be mobile-friendly – i.e., short and sweet.

Another idea is a social media takeover. If it fits with the tone of your page, have an employee run the social page for a day. Or, consider jumping on the ephemeral content trend, and create content that is scheduled to disappear after a certain amount of time. Ephemeral options are widely available on platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, and Facebook. In 2019, TechCrunch reported that there were 500 million daily active users of Instagram’s Stories features. By simply changing up your posts, you will notice an increase in engagement and followers. 

Give a go at interactive posts

As we saw in several Super Bowl ads this year such as Mountain Dew’s “Major Melon” ad offering $1 million to the first viewer to tweet the exact number of bottles in the ad, people like free stuff and competitions — and brands should deliver. An interesting way to maximize engagement is to run a contest or giveaway on your page. According to data from social media scheduling tool Tailwind, 91% of Instagram posts with more than 1,000 likes or comments are related to a contest, and accounts that run contests on a regular basis grow 70% faster than those that don’t. Or, consider creating a survey on your company’s Instagram page’s story, and keeping followers posted on results. Of course, having interactive posts also includes maintaining your company’s page by regularly responding to DMs and comments. 

Another great way to be interactive is with livestreams or Q&As, whether on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Livestreams, or online streaming media simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real time, are a great way to highlight news for short, high-profile announcements or milestones. They work particularly well if a brand has an influencer or celebrity-driven initiative. Consider a Facebook Q&A, or going live on Instagram. Showing a face can make the brand come across as more authentic, and it will amplify your story. Remember to promote who is going to livestream and when, through banners on social media, email invites or paid ads on LinkedIn or Facebook. Since you have less control over livestreams than on other forms of social media, you will want to prepare for possible questions ahead of time. You can even ask viewers to send in questions beforehand. In 2018, HBO announced the air date of Game of Thrones season seven via Facebook Live – and attracted around 3.5 million viewers.

Be timely

Although a social media strategy requires advance planning, some of the best engagement may result from day-of content that reacts to real-time news events. Try ranking scheduled posts on a scale of importance from one to three, and then overriding some of the threes with more relevant content from that month, like responses to news stories, reposts, or other timely content. Remember, not all of the content on your page has to be generated by you! Peppering in timely retweets or partners’ relevant announcements will not only prove timely, but also help mix up your page’s content. It may be worth delaying that evergreen photo in favor of more pressing news, whether in the news cycle or from within the company. The goal is to maximize engagement and earn new follows. Jumping on relevant news is a great way of doing that, even if it means pushing off posting some of your planned content.

When social media users choose to follow your account, or when existing followers read and engage with your posts, they are giving you their time, even if it’s only a few seconds. Therefore, if you’re managing a social media page, it’s on you to make the content worth their time. When it comes to social media, the secret sauce is having both quantity and quality for the highest engagement. Meaning, post frequently but make sure frequent posting doesn’t come at the expense of quality content. By incorporating these tips into your next social media strategy, you can create a high-quality social media page that really stands out. And don’t forget to track social media engagement stats so you can figure out what works, and where you can improve next time.

Does Facebook Work For B2B PR?

As the social media landscape becomes more complex, PR pros debate whether Facebook is still an essential platform. This is particularly true for B2B PR and marketing teams. For B2B communications, LinkedIn is typically the top social destination, and Twitter may also be useful, but few brands prioritize Facebook. 

Yet it may be a mistake to overlook Facebook. It remains the primary content distribution channel for marketers. Forty-six percent use the platform – more than the 33% who use LinkedIn. Facebook also overshadows other social channels with its sheer size. It has a user base of 1.6 billion, who spend an average of 35 minutes a day there. In 2021, marketers should reassess how they use Facebook and make full use of the tools it offers. But are these stats meaningful for B2B campaigns?

When to use Facebook for B2B marketing

Here are B2B social strategies that perform best on Facebook.

Advertising offers a strong return

Looking to build brand awareness? Remember, business buyers are people, too, and most of them are on Facebook. With the right audience data, Facebook advertising can get your brand in front of your targets. Its relatively low CPM offers a better return on advertising spend than LinkedIn in most cases. It may also offer a greater reach, and its ad tools are far superior. Facebook’s advanced machine learning algorithms, user data, and web tracking and analytics enable greater conversion optimization for ads. 

Retargeting is easy

Facebook Pixel, an analytics tool that can be installed on a website to measure Facebook Ad performance, lets you track leads across various devices and retarget visitors with ads on other platforms. LinkedIn offers a similar tool; its Insights Tag can be used for retargeting but is more expensive than Pixel.

Target groups with thoughtful content 

Facebook Groups offer ways to locate a specific audience and direct commentary on relevant topics to its members. Since Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018, the newsfeed has prioritized posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion, which include posts from Facebook Groups. 

Facebook Groups for business give brands the opportunity to organically build engagement while discussing technical and insider information, with lead generation as an added benefit. 

Targeting local and small businesses

Most small business owners find Facebook to be the best social media platform to connect with their customers. For large B2B marketers who target SMBs, Facebook may be an ideal environment. Small business owners are likely to check their feeds on a daily basis, making them easily targetable with product and service marketing messages.

New and useful Facebook features for B2B PR and marketing

Facebook isn’t the same platform today as it was just two years ago. It has introduced new ways for marketers to share content with an intended audience. Here are some B2B marketing tactics that brands should consider using on Facebook.

Video thrives on Facebook Lives

The rise of social channels like TikTok has propelled video as a major content trend in 2020 – and this is projected to continue into 2021. “Lives” marries the content trend to the popular theme of personal connection. Facebook isn’t the only platform that offers its users the Live feature; LinkedIn has a similar feature – but Facebook allows all users access while LinkedIn requires prior approval.

Brands can commit to conducting a Q&A or demo on Facebook Live once a week, which is a brilliant way to increase video content and repurpose it on all social channels. Facebook Live videos can be republished on YouTube or LinkedIn, and edited for shorter clips to post on Twitter. Video summaries of current blog posts are another way to ramp up video content.

Many marketers recommend that 20% of published social media posts have a video element to them – even animated GIFs count! 

Try unpolished images to drive engagement

Marketers know that posts with images are more likely to make audiences stop scrolling and engage. As social media evolves and algorithms change, users are scrolling more and more. One emerging trend on Facebook to stop the scrolling is nixing polished stock photos for more candid-looking, unvarnished images. This trend applies to both paid and organic Facebook posts.

Think you’ll be met with pushback? Consider testing a consistent brand image versus a more relaxed shot of what looks like could have been posted by a friend. That way, any changes will be data-driven.

Facebook Messenger allows personalized comms

Personalized communication is another emerging social media trend. Human-to-human (H2H) conversations in comments and DMs drive more conversions compared to a messaging campaign or post. 

Facebook Messenger, which uses bots to set up and send personalized messaging, can be an effective tool for engaging and converting page followers. Marketers report significantly higher engagement with Messenger as compared to email. Brands can send messages free for the first 24 hours, then assess their effectiveness through automated tools. If a portion of your customer bases uses Messenger and  you have the budget, a Messenger test could be well worth it.

Customer service and customer sentiment 

B2B companies should be actively working to strengthen relationships with their current customers, as well as limiting any reputation damage that results from posts by unhappy ones. Marketing should work with the customer service to address negative posts in real time. Never let requests for help or complaints go unanswered.

A “listening station” that monitors Facebook for any mention of your brand, products, and events, as well as those of competitors, can provide valuable information about activity on the platform.

Change up your social strategy

Social media is constantly changing. Social strategies need to shift with consumer habits, so most brands rethink or reevaluate their social approach regularly. While Facebook may not be the first line of defense for B2B marketing, but the data shows it can be very effective.

Are You The Next Intern for Crenshaw Communications?

It is time for us to add an intern to our team! Are you a college student or recent grad looking to gain experience in a top B2B technology PR agency? Check out our job description and if this sounds like a fit for you, please send your resume to Colleen O’Connor (colleen@crenshawcomm.com). We look forward to hearing from you!


PR/Marketing Intern

Crenshaw Communications is seeking a paid intern to join our dynamic B2B technology PR team and to assist with our pro bono work for a leading marketing association. All candidates should have an interest in and basic understanding of public relations and marketing. Strong written and verbal communication skills are required for this position. 

This position will be remote. 

Here’s what you’ll be doing:

-Develop and main media lists

-Monitor and track media; report trends, create reports as needed

-Prepare pitch letters and assist with media outreach on behalf of clients as instructed

-Help with social media content creation and report

-Participate in brainstorming sessions to develop strategic/creative thinking for clients

-Attend client meetings, conference calls, team brainstorms and meetings as directed by your supervisor

-Assist with online research to support client projects and/or new business opportunities

Here’s what you have:

-Currently enrolled in college or recent grad with B.S/B.A in Public Relations or a related field

-Prior PR agency internship experience is a plus 

-Excellent written and verbal communication skills

-Creative, collegial and energetic personality! 

-Strong desire to learn along with professional drive

-Passion for the PR industry and its best practices

Why you’ll love working here:

-Top award -winning B2B tech agency

-Located in Chelsea/Flatiron District

-Diverse range of clients

Perks include:

-Flexible work-from-home policy

-Summer Fridays

-Thursday team-building sessions/events

-Tight-knit team culture 

-Creative and collaborative environment that emphasizes your personal growth

How Editorial Calendars Are Key To Great PR Campaigns

A successful PR campaign is a strategic one. That starts with planning earned and branded content around the schedules of target publications, as well as key dates, milestone events, and industry happenings. Planning is vital to successful pitching and one essential component is the humble editorial calendar. It’s the worst-kept secret in most PR firms. 

An edcal is a content roadmap that ensures a steady flow of media coverage, even absent major news announcements. It’s like an unsung hero of the public relations world — not flashy or creative, but vital to a robust media placement schedule. Here’s how edcals can boost earned media outcomes, track goals, and keep all the moving parts of a PR plan aligned.

What is an editorial calendar?

Editorial calendars are created by publications to help editors plan out future issues. Though they’re typically created for advertising purposes, edcals give a PR team a topic guide for creation of press releases, blog posts and content marketing. By laying out what content to create, when to pitch and whom to pitch, editorial calendars make PR both easier and more effective. Any tool that helps you stay organized is one worth investing time to set up. Edcals help streamline content marketing efforts and reduces the stress of not always knowing what to publish when.

Planning Content

As part of a good PR plan, the edcal can contain special dates, events and occurrences as well as the publication’s schedule. There are four types of content to plan for:

Date-specific content: Begin with dates that are known and likely won’t change, such as holidays, specific launch days or company announcements.

Evergreen content: Not tied to a particular day, evergreen content can be used any time.

Breaking news: While this type of news can’t be planned, it’s still an important part of editorial calendars because it allows the opportunity for prominent placements and can help build credibility with reporters. 

Repurposed content: Refresh previous content and select successful pitch ideas and posts. By updating a headline or freshening a statistic and repackaging the material as a new story angle, you can repurpose most content.

How are editorial calendars used?

Edcals outline the content that media outlets will focus on for the entire year. In a similar way, we keep a calendar that outlines key topics for promotion, including proactive media pitches and social media posts for the year. With a structured plan in place, PR pros can space out appropriate brand announcements on relevant days. Timing is everything when it comes to earned media, so we naturally want to avoid releasing announcements that might be overshadowed by other news during a holiday season or the runup to a major election. Of course, unforeseen media opportunities will come up throughout the year and we may have to stray a bit from the calendar, but that’s the beauty of a flexible media plan.

Measure Performance

In order to see a return on investment, brands will ask about key performance indicators and metrics that have been met for each major time period. Having an editorial calendar can also help measure PR performance over the calendar year. Depending on how many pitch ideas there are mapped out on the edcal, PR teams can set goals for themselves, i.e. three or four published pieces per pitch angle or even set a quarterly goal like 30 stories per quarter based on four pitch ideas per month. You can track these goals right on the calendar, If you fall short, you’ll know to make them up in the next month.

Align the Team

An edcal can also align goals among PR, sales, marketing and higher-level executives so all messaging remains consistent from the top down. For example, a sales team can keep the team posted on important product updates, releases and announcements, and C-level group can share which industry events they’ll be attending that they want to be highlighted in content.

A social media strategy can also be aligned with the calendar to keep messaging and brand voice consistent across all channels. With an editorial calendar you can match your social media updates with the content you’re pitching. For every newly published piece of content, make sure you have several social shares to promote it over the following days and weeks. A long-term vision means you’re pushing a consistent brand voice and content that supports the company’s marketing goals. That’s where a solid PR plan works hardest.

International Women’s Day: When Good PR Backfires

The tweet that launched a whopper of a PR backlash for Burger King on International Women’s Day wasn’t really that bad. The initial post from @BurgerKingUK read simply, “Women belong in the kitchen.” Clearly, it was meant to get our attention. What followed was a thread announcing a BK-backed scholarship program for female professional chefs in the UK restaurant industry. As it happens, women are badly underrepresented in the category. The company also took a full-page ad in The New York Times that led with the same provocative line. The details of the program appeared below it.

Image

Burger King UK definitely won attention for its scholarship program, but not in the way it had hoped. Its CMO spent nearly the whole day defending the tweet and the accompanying campaign before deleting it and apologizing for the approach. The heat could have scorched my screen.

A meaty program still backfired

Why? Its program was reasonably substantive. The burger giant could have opted for a silly, meaningless gesture by changing its name to Burger Queen for a day. Other brands, from rival McDonald’s to MTV, performed similar stunts by turning the “M” in their logo upside down to a “W” for women. BK actually tried to put some steak in its sizzle. Yet it was flamed all over social media and will surely think twice before pulling another such PR stunt.

The initial reaction may simply have been because people didn’t read beyond the initial tweet. Twitter can be unforgiving. The mob is quick to criticize and demand a pound of flesh for any mistake. And, using a sexist trope to grab attention struck some as a cheap trick. Yet the harsh response served up to Burger King probably goes beyond the tweet itself.

One factor may be its timing. The salutes to women by Burger King and other brands on International Women’s Day come after a very rough year. Women in particular have suffered during the COVID pandemic, squeezed between their roles as caretakers, parents, and earners as the shutdown dragged on.

The pander undercuts the promise

The mini-crisis suffered by Burger King shows how tricky it can be to engage a specific, yet wildly diverse, customer segment. It also says something about the importance of brand authenticity. It’s fragile. Too often, companies mark occasions like Black History Month or International Women’s Day with empty stunts or weak promises that contradict their actual behavior. The QSR industry in particular is vulnerable due to its low wages and recent lawsuits around sexual harassment of female workers, among other scandals.

Then there’s the matter of the brand’s true commitment. Though Burger King UK was unfairly singled out (in my view), it’s obvious that the money spent on a full-page New York Times ad probably exceeded the funds committed to the scholarship program. It’s great to promote your good works, but how it’s done highlights what a brand truly values. BK would have done better to announce its program more quietly, be more generous with its commitment, or both.

On International Women’s Day, there was plenty of worthy recognition. As a PR person, I love a good news hook, but on Monday there was also an awful lot of shallow brand outreach. For many, it looked like naked pandering. No one likes to feel objectified. The worst of the reaction was probably limited to PR and marketing pundits and observers like me, so I doubt the Burger King brand reputation was truly damaged. But the fiasco is a good lesson for brand marketers. If they want to really win over women, act like International Women’s Day is every day.

Another Reason Tech Startups Need PR

For a new technology business, the decision to commit to a PR agency or in-house PR consultant is a consequential one. It’s also occasionally controversial. Celebrity entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban have warned ambitious startups against spending on an outside PR firm. Cuban sees PR spend as wasteful and premature for most early-stage companies. He figures the founder should be able to do the job on his own – possibly an unrealistic idea for people who aren’t Mark Cuban. Others in the VC community argue that PR is essential to a successful fundraise, and they preach its ancillary benefits for talent recruiting, business development, and M&A. B2B companies in particular stand to gain from the right PR campaign, because B2B PR often involves vertical and trade press, which is easier to penetrate than mass media. For consumer brands, of course, PR can strike a spark that lights the fire of mass appeal. But can a PR campaign pay for itself?

The PR factor: are coverage and cash correlated?

A new study has identified a link between positive PR and capital raised, at least for some businesses. Data-driven UK consultancy Hard Numbers teamed with global research company CARMA for a look at the possible impact of media coverage on fund-raising for tech startup businesses in the UK.

The study focused on the critical Series B fundraise on the theory that the B round “is one of the most significant events for scale-up businesses” and a key inflection point for most startups. It examined 120 companies who raised a Series B round between January 2018 and July 2020 and compared the size of the first and second funding rounds. For the same period CARMA analysts looked at content generated by and about those businesses in the UK.

More media, more money

Companies with the largest increase in funds raised between rounds A and B also generated the most media coverage. The study documents an average of 206 pieces of media coverage for the high-fundraising businesses, as compared to 176 pieces for those with a “medium” increase in funds raised and only 146 pieces of coverage for companies that saw the lowest delta between funds raised between Series A and Series B. (I’m presuming the vast majority of coverage analyzed was positive.)

Not surprisingly, the data showed the most pronounced differential between fundraising rounds in the B2C sector. Other high-performing verticals when it came to monies raised were business productivity software and fintech.

It’s all interesting, if not definitive. The Hard Numbers study was limited to the UK, and the sample, while impressive, isn’t very large. Also, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. The results could simply mean that companies that are more mediaworthy will naturally attract greater investment for similar reasons, i.e., their business models or positioning simply warrant it. Of course, the study’s authors are natural champions of PR for early-stage businesses. But it comes as no surprise to me. I’ve always thought good PR is like money in the bank, but the maxim may be more literal than not. And there are plenty of other reasons for a new company to invest in PR.

Positive PR drives recruiting

We see this in our own small PR agency, but for a high-growth startup, employer branding is essential. Tech businesses in particular are navigating a red-hot talent marketplace for engineers, IT professionals, sales people, and many more types of positions. A reputation for being a great place to work, driven by PR as well as good word of mouth, is a priceless asset when it comes to recruiting the best.

The right PR helps generate demand

Earned media isn’t the most consistent generator of business demand for a company’s products or services; for that, direct-marketing and sales work more reliably, and they scale better than a PR program. But the splashy PR generated by big stories in key media outlets like TechCrunch or VentureBeat come with enormous credibility. That means influence.

PR drives SEO

The strength of A-list media domains translate to very real SEO value. A single big-hit PR placement in a top-tier publication can boost a company’s search results to the first page for months or even years. That can confer a tangible advantage over competitors. And who else is likely to be influenced by search results? VCs, of course.

Coverage begets coverage

Funders aren’t the only ones influenced by positive media coverage and page-one search results. Media are, too. It’s a well-known “secret” among PR people that media often follow other media. In particular, broadcast outlets follow print media. Each will develop their own angles and commentary, of course, but it’s a beautiful thing when media coverage snowballs, gaining acceleration and momentum as time goes on. Those earned media stories can be merchandised for recruiting, sales, and funding presentations.

The right PR helps generate demand

Earned media isn’t the most consistent generator of business demand for a company’s products or services; for that, direct-marketing and sales work better. But the splashy PR generated by stories in key media outlets like TechCrunch or VentureBeat come with enormous credibility.

That’s why most organizations bring on PR agencies, of course, and it holds true in the startup world. But it’s a mark of just how valuable many startups and their stakeholders view the right PR campaign that it’s not even the top reason on their lists.