Cybersecurity Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading

Most of us who work at tech PR agencies stay glued to various media to track breaking news and inform reactive pitching to promote visibility for our clients. Yet our main goal is not always to secure top-tier media coverage, although that’s always a win. We may also work to earn media coverage that will be read by a rarefied audience that ranges from senior executives to CEOs. Often we work with trade journalists who cover highly technical categories and need commentary and background from specialized experts. 

Cybersecurity is one of those categories. From data hacks to new ransomware, PR pros who work in the cybersec space need to stay connected to developments and track trends in the business. Trade publications can be just as important as top outlets like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. They often break news before anyone else. In fact, if you work in cybersecurity PR you should be reading these top publications on a daily basis.   

Dark Reading

Dark Reading is perfect for enterprise IT and network security professionals, providing the most up-to-date information about products, management strategies, architectures and security policy. It acts as a security dashboard for IT professionals who don’t have the time or the luxury of combing wirefeeds, multiple bug feeds or vendor sites to find out what’s new or how well it works. 

Wired: Threat Level

Threat Level, a subsection of Wired, offers insight into the latest news and happenings related to hacking, cyber crimes and new methods to protect personal data online. PR pros will also enjoy the in-depth stories with an insider’s view on cyber attacks.

ZDNet: Zero Day

Looking for new research on tech and IT, while reporting on the latest threats and vulnerabilities in the cybersec space? ZDNet’s Zero Day covers that while providing technical in-depth pieces which professionals will appreciate. 

CSO

Aimed for high-level security professionals, CSO offers content on security-related products and services to assist CSOs in the decision-making process. Their goal is to underscore the need for security personnel while building a high level of trust among chief security officers and tracking the tools and techniques they need to make smart decisions.

InfoWorld

InfoWorld is published for IT leaders who hope to bring their companies a competitive edge through understanding emerging technologies and advances. It focuses on personal computing in enterprise and offers reliable product information to corporate volume buyers who are purchasing for client-server environments. 

ThreatPost

Threatpost covers Internet and computer security news on virus alerts, new hacker threats and attacks, and advances in security research, webcasts and white papers. It’s also a great source for breaking news with expert commentary. 

SC Magazine

SC Media gives info security professionals the in-depth business and technical information they need to tackle the countless security challenges they face and establish risk management and compliance postures that underpin business strategies. It’s also a great place for in-depth op-eds by industry leaders on current trends and topics.

Krebs on Security

Founded by investigative reporter Brian Krebs, Krebs on Security provides content on day-to-day software and information technology, executing daily internet tasks and also good security practices. He also offers articles for not-so-savvy cyber pros by breaking down the latest cyber attacks and helping explain their impact.

CyberSecurity Dive

Under the Industry Dive umbrella is Cybersecurity Dive. It provides in-depth journalism and insight into the most important news and trends shaping cybersecurity, like breaches, vulnerability, threats, and more.

InfoSecurity Mag

Infosecurity Magazine has given readers over ten years of insight into the information security industry. It focuses on hot topics and trends, in-depth news analysis and opinion columns from industry experts. It’s also a great place for webinars and other free educational content!

Bleeping Computer

Bleeping Computer aims to serve as a helpful resource for novice computer users to learn the basics of computer tech. It’s also a good forum for discussion of trends, tools, and hot topics.

TechRepublic

TechRepublic serves as the ultimate professional resource and community for members of the IT sector, from CEOs, to IT professionals  and everyone whose job requires making decisions about technology. It includes a family of virtual communities called republics, which organize editorial by job function, providing expert niche content, as well as peer-to-peer advice. 

infoRisk Today

infoRisk Today covers topics in risk management, compliance, fraud, and information security. It provides credible, timely information that security leaders can use as they craft comprehensive information security strategies so critical in the industry.

How To Convince A Reporter to Cover Your Story

One of the most frustrating parts of working in PR or media relations is getting the “too busy” response. You have a solid pitch or a compelling announcement, but the feedback from media is that they have too much going on to cover this story. While breaking news will often take precedence, skilled PR teams will do everything they can to nail that interview or story.

People who move up at PR agencies know the best tips and tricks for persuading media why a story is newsworthy. We know what makes the perfect pitch. Still, we avoid using words like “guarantee” or “definite” when predicting media coverage. In the end, it is up to the journalist or their editor if our news is worth their time. 

What can PR pros do to convince reporters to cover their story when they claim they are too busy?

Show them how the story fits with their audience

Why is this newsworthy or timely? Put yourself in the shoes of the publication’s audience. Who is reading this potential article, would it be interesting to them? Give useful information for their readers will want to know. We want to keep and form relationships with key media. Help guide them on the possible story you’d like to explore. Grab their attention with that snappy subject line and prove to them in the pitch why you are a credible news source. We know everyone is busy in the news world but with the right attention grabber, you’ll never have to worry about someone being too busy for your story.    

Have supporting assets 

They say a picture is worth a thousand pitches. You don’t want to miss out on that opportunity if a journalist asks for additional assets like images or graphics. When preparing to pitch this story, think about what assets the media could use in addition to commentary. For larger announcements, create a Dropbox file with anything media could use in addition to the usual executive headshots, visuals, and company logos. Journalists are often juggling several stories, and sometimes great visuals can make the difference.  

Be flexible 

Are you pitching a timely story or trend that won’t be relevant in a few days or a founder story that can be discussed at any time? If it’s the latter, consider revamping the timeline for a quieter news cycle. Any good PR pro knows when not to pitch company profile pieces. If a journalist says no, tell them you understand and ask if you could check back in a few weeks to revisit the conversation. Work with them and keep them on your radar for a better time.  

Shift gears as a last resort 

If after all, your PR tricks for convincing journalists don’t work but you feel strongly that your company is a great resource, offer your spokesperson to talk about another topic within their area of expertise. Gauge the journalists’ attention by asking what else they’re working on and how you can incorporate your company into that article. As PR pros, we understand the value of the “thought capital” that executives and subject-matter experts offer. We should bank a full roster of topics that they can easily discuss with media with little prep time. Just because a journalist said no to the topic you originally pitched them does not mean no to future conversations. Try to convince them that you have new data coming out soon that you’d love for them to get a first glance at, when the time is right, or tease an exclusive story to them. Journalists love having the opportunity to break a story first and by dangling something in front of them, you may have them on the hook for your next story. 

How do you work with media in covering your story during a busy newscycle? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

5 Tips For Killer PR Case Studies

Every PR person knows that strong customer case studies are powerful additions to the B2B PR toolkit. They also work well for sales and marketing. A great case study can actually help move prospects down the sales funnel to the point where they’re ready to buy. Ideally, it serves as a third-party testimonial for a company or its product, building credibility and demonstrating key product attributes.

Most customer success stories are written to generate earned media coverage, or to run as bylined pieces in trade or business media. They’re also an asset for industry award submissions. But what makes for a stellar piece of case study content that will win awards and attract media attention? A big part of my job is writing award entries for our various ad tech, martech, AI, and cybersecurity clients. Their customer success stories make up the substance of almost all our submissions. Here are a few fundamentals I’ve gleaned by crafting award entries for our B2B technology clients.

Anatomy of a successful B2B case study

Virtually every case study contains the same basic structure, and the order should be logical to guide the reader. As Digiday explains, “using our prompts to prove how X client was able to achieve Y through the use of your platform.” That sums it up nicely.

First, state the problem that the customer needed to solve with the use of your company’s technology. Second, outline the objective of the campaign. Next, detail the strategy used to achieve campaign goals, followed by a description of the actual execution of the campaign, which is where the tech solution gets the spotlight. Finally, summarize the success of the campaign in both qualitative and quantitative terms, citing as many success metrics as possible. Additionally, every great case study includes one or more testimonial quotes from the user.

Quantifiable success beats anecdotal info

The most important case study ingredient is its demonstrable success. Even the most well-written and compelling story won’t succeed if the results aren’t evident. The case must show the customer’s success in the language of hard metrics. Anecdotal descriptions along the lines of “campaign achieved a great increase in inbound leads and awareness” will not bring home the trophy. It’s not likely to attract the attention of reporters, either. For most major industry awards, the ‘tangible results’ portion represents 40% of the judges’ criteria. The KPIs can vary depending on the the technology spotlighted. In martech and ad tech, metrics such as CPM, impressions, CPA, lift, clicks, and cost-per-lead are common. While these are all excellent measures of a solution’s effectiveness, judges tend to value metrics like ROI and ROAS (return on ad spend) the most. While it can be challenging for solutions providers to get customers to agree to go public with ROI and revenue numbers, they should make every effort to capture such proof points.

Tell a compelling story for the win!

The above elements of a case study may appear coldly methodical, but they’re not the only key ingredient. To make the content live and breathe for journalists, prospects, and judges, package them in a story format with a beginning, middle, and end. Especially in the B2B tech world, where software and data solutions are festooned with esoteric, highly technical jargon, the PR writer must translate abstract concepts and algorithmic technology into easy-to-understand language. Even in high tech, a case study is simply people trying to solve a problem and finding a way to success against obstacles.  An award submission should be tough to write, so that it’s easy to read. Judges see hundreds of entries, so the narrative must keep them engaged. Poor storytelling will make an entry dead on arrival.

Get creative with solutions

Although 40% of award criteria are judged on the hard numbers, the other important factor to a winning case is the creativity of the campaign. Again, judges in major media and tech awards like The Drum and Digiday read lots of entries that may sound similar. If the approach was truly innovative, the case has a greater chance of making the shortlist. Case study writers should accentuate any creativity or innovation used to achieve the user’s goals. We can’t control the innovation quotient, but it should be a key factor when considering whether to submit for an award.

Big brands use cases are often winners

If a well-known brand has used your solution in an interesting way to meet business objectives, you should prioritize getting approvals on a public case study with them.

When it comes to both winning awards and generating media opportunities, the marquee brand names attract attention from media and awards judges. Asking for a customer’s permission to brag about their solution can be daunting for a B2B marketing or PR team. Yet awards can be an easier sell, since the brand will earn exposure if they win. So, customer success teams that are adept at gaining approvals for public case studies set their brands up for greater success in PR. Plus, awards wins and glowing mentions in the press can improve client relationships, so it’s worth the ask.

Robust public-facing case studies are critical to a B2B company’s success, especially in competitive sectors that feature a lengthy buyer’s journey. Case studies are absolutely compulsory when it comes to competing for tech industry product awards. While early-stage companies and startups may not have the customer track record to produce such success stories, they should be proactive in setting the stage to create them down the road, building client relationships that will make it natural to ask for approvals when the time comes.

You can check out some great customer success pages of our clients like Verizon Media and event success platform Bizzabo.

PR Tips for Planning a Virtual Panel

As most PR agencies know, a speakers program is an excellent tactic for building thought leadership and brand recognition in the B2B space. A well organized panel discussion around a key industry issue or trend lets a leadership team showcase expertise to clients, prospects and often trade journalists. By targeting prospects, it can also help fill the sales funnel.

However, putting together a panel can be complicated at a time when most of us are still staying put at home, juggling childcare, work, and life all at once. While many elements are the same, there are some key differences to consider when developing a panel that will be hosted online as opposed to in-person.

Here are some tips for PR professionals to plan and successfully execute a virtual panel for their executives.

Schedule it during the work day

In the old days before the pandemic, most people would attend industry panels after office hours in order to network. It was a fun way to catch up with colleagues and contacts, learn something new, and grab a drink to decompress after work. That is not the case today. People are tired of screens and want to sign off after work to be with their families or just relax (the Clubhouse trend aside). To accommodate zoom fatigue, virtual panels may attract more attendees when they’re scheduled in the afternoon.

Diversity is pivotal

This point isn’t limited to virtual panels, but the problem of all white male panels —sometimes known as “manels” — has come to a head during the pandemic. No one wants to be part of a discussion in front of a Zoom screen filled with people who look exactly the same. A lack of diversity will detract from the topic at hand and could even have a negative impact on the reputations of those involved. 

Diversity isn’t limited to race and gender either. You also want panelists of different business backgrounds who can offer a variety of viewpoints. In ad tech, for example, we (ideally) want to include the perspectives of analysts, agencies, vendors, publishers, and brands to get a full understanding of a topic.

Start promoting early

Your panel will be competing with other online events and work responsibilities. The best way to get ahead of that is to promote early and often so people remember to make the time to listen in. This means your companies’ social handles should promote it, all of the panelists’ social handles should promote it, and it should go out to your email distribution list at least two weeks before the event. An email reminder one or two days before is also recommended.

The power of the prep call

PR should set up a prep call for all panelists to make sure everyone is comfortable and has an idea of what the moderator will ask in front of the audience. It benefits the moderator as well, who is more likely to get an informed answer if panelists can prepare. Preparing also includes making sure everyone’s tech works. No one wants a Zoom audio issue! 

Plan for unforeseen circumstances

We’re in an unprecedented health emergency and things can come up, so it’s important to be prepared and flexible. Get the contact information for all panelists in case something arises at the last minute, whether an ill family member or a technical problem. This is also why it’s smart to secure four diverse panelists (in addition to your executive) in case one has to back out. That way you still have a robust panel. 

Interactivity is key

The potential for attendees to multitask in an online panel is much higher compared to an in-person event. The panel needs to be able to hold audience attention, which makes engagement key.  Consider the use of topical virtual polls to keep the audience focused throughout. In addition, encourage audience questions and have the panelists answer them.

To that end…

Ask panelists to keep answers brief

Attention spans are short so having panelists keep answers brief will ensure that the audience stays engaged. It will also ensure that the panelist’s messaging is heard, making the most of the panel opportunity for them as well. 

Record the conversation

Ensure that the panel is recorded so you can repurpose the content in several ways. You can send the recording to everyone who couldn’t make it, including reporters, who can hold onto it for future articles. PR and marketing can also use the insights discussed to develop other content such as pitches, bylines, blog posts, and more.

Think about providing extras

If you have a little extra budget, it’s a nice touch to send out a small gift card to the attendees. This shows them that you appreciate their taking time to engage and fosters a positive relationship. You could also have the panelists provide company swag to attendees who ask questions. There are different ways to be creative with this.

Vaccines are rolling out, but we aren’t yet at a point where we can return to in-person gatherings. If your execs are eager to speak to audiences, we highly recommend a virtual panel with a timely topic. Reach out if you’d like help putting the event together!

Crenshaw Nominated For 2021 SABRE Award

The Crenshaw  team is delighted to have received a nomination for the 2021 SABRE Awards North America. The  SABRE Awards recognize Superior Achievement in Branding Reputation and Engagement from among more than 2,000 entries. 

This year, we have been nominated in the Business-To-Business Marketing category for our work on behalf of the National Cybersecurity Alliance “#BeCyberSmart” campaign. The NCSA program highlights the importance of digital security hygiene with a month-long promotion in October. In 2020 Cybersecurity Awareness Month focused in part on the importance of securing connected devices used at home and at work, given the surge in work from home for many people. The campaign generated 55+ media placements with more than 400 million media impressions in CNBC, USA Today, Politico, Washington Post and Digital Trends.

SABRE winners will be announced May 11 during a virtual awards ceremony. Good luck to all who are nominated!    

How To Onboard New Team Members – Virtually

Many businesses, especially PR agencies, are looking to expand their teams to accommodate a resurging economy and recovering business sector. Traditionally, onboarding for new employees would entail face-to-face meetings, all-company lunches and even an after-hours happy hour. In early 2021, this still isn’t possible. While things are heading in the right direction, most orientations will have to be done online, not in real life.

Let’s face it, Zoom calls can be fairly mundane after a full year of video meetings. As PR pros, we are good at spicing things up and making the best out of any situation. What are some new and engaging ways to onboard new team members online?

Overprepare them

The first day of any job can be overwhelming, but especially if you’re not within shouting distance of your team. New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years. The onboarding process matters because it acclimates new employees to their position and lays the groundwork for success. A successful orientation will provide the knowledge, training, and support for anyone to get a running start, understand what’s expected of them, and become an essential team member. 

Most companies offer a fairly short onboarding. In the age of COVID, however, it’s wise to consider stretching these sessions through the first week. We spend one day going over job responsibilities, another day on programs the team uses regularly, and another on key client orientation. By spreading onboarding to a full week and not one day, we help acclimate new employees rather than bombard them with too much information at once. 

Send a welcome gift or lunch

Don’t feel like you can skip the welcome meal or happy hour just because the newbie is a remote worker. It may not seem like a lot, but a small token of appreciation goes a long way. Send a virtual Grubhub or DoorDash gift card and say lunch is on you for the first day. Bonus points if you have company swag like a hat or water bottle to send along with a handwritten welcome note.   

Assign a ‘welcome buddy’

Your work family quickly becomes your real family, based on the amount of time you spend with them. Some of my closest friends I have met through work! One effective tactic is to assign someone as the welcoming committee for the new hire. Sometimes new people are shy on their first day and need a place to talk informally. Set up time for a check-in with a company veteran who isn’t the new person’s supervisor, but rather, more at their own level of seniority. Talking to a CEO or even a boss can be intimidating, especially on day one. Informal check-ins help create a welcoming environment and offer a place to go for questions as they arise.  

Schedule an all-company face-to-face introduction

One of the most exciting parts of a new job is meeting co-workers throughout the day. With everyone scattered, it’s smart to designate a time to have an intro call with the entire company. Go around the ‘room’ and introduce each person by name, role, and day-to-day responsibilities. This gives a newbie the opportunity to meet their coworkers in a low-stress environment. Consider a fun name game or ice breaker for team building.   

Check in often

Communication is obviously key in any office, but especially with remote new hires. So don’t skimp on the check-ins after the first day. Stay connected on Slack, Zoom, email, whatever works for you! Facetime is crucial during the first few days of a new hire. At the end of the day, schedule a Zoom check-in (even if it is for five minutes) to see how the day went, if they have any questions, comments or concerns.  

Ask what they need

Everyone has a different workstyle, and certain habits can be exacerbated during remote onboarding. Many people will ask for feedback, while others may prefer to figure things out on their own or bundle questions before they make their needs known. If you’re in doubt about how a new hire prefers to communicate or what they need – why not ask? 

What are some ways you have onboarded new employees virtually? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

Big Tech Has A PR Problem. Can It Close The Trust Gap?

A new survey of 31,000 people in 27 countries has documented what most of us in PR know – Big Tech has a reputation problem.

For years, the enormous role technology plays in our lives and our reverence for brands like Apple and Amazon shielded the sector from greater taxation and regulation. But things are changing, and shifting public opinion is one reason why. According to reports on the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, public trust in tech companies has “cratered.” The sector has dropped from being seen as our most trusted industry in 2020 to only the ninth most trusted business category in 2021.

As a sector, technology has lost its luster

Favorable views of tech companies on a worldwide basis fell six points, from 76 to 70, based on a scale of 0-100. It’s the lowest point for technology in the 11-year life of the survey in 17 of 27 countries, including the U.S. Worse, social media companies averaged a score of just 46, below all other business categories. At a time of huge partisan polarization, one thing that brings people together, it seems, is resentment of Big Tech, especially the Big Four —  Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon. Throw in Twitter for good measure.

The news isn’t all bad. So far, Wall Street isn’t too bothered by the reputation hits. And even in the Trust Barometer, businesses in the tech sector performed better than some other industries, including financial services and automotive. And the industry’s reputation problems in matters from data security to diversity are well known. When called out, CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg apologize and pledge to do better. Sometimes they do make positive changes, like Facebook’s plan to combat misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.  Yet it’s hard to escape the impression that the companies are led there kicking and screaming.

Can Better PR Solve Tech’s Reputation Problem?

Of course the PR folks at Edelman had some advice for the prominent tech companies whose reputations are now suffering. The firm advises them to “share prosperity” by offering new jobs and presumably skills training; to communicate more clearly about “fairness” and use “explainability”;  and to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve heard this before, of course.

But the trust dilemma, as in most cases, goes beyond what PR can fix. Big Tech’s problems are a reflection of its failure to grapple with problems and issues resulting from their power and influence. There’s more that technology companies can and should do.

Show transparency

One industry that’s a match for Big Tech may be the one that funds it — Big Advertising. P&G’s Marc Pritchard led the call for change, claiming deep-pocketed marketers are left in the dark on matters of data collection, privacy, and billing across the media supply chain. P&G spoke for Big Advertising when it called out “massive media waste, outright fraud and issues of brand safety,” among other things. Pritchard was targeting the ad tech ecosystem, not necessarily giants like Google and Amazon. Yet the big guys, too, are feeling the heat, and they’ve responded with greater transparency. That’s because big advertisers are taking control back, bringing in their own data scientists, and managing their own platforms. As Pritchard notes, “For too long, we’ve been wowed by shiny objects, overwhelmed by big data and intimidated by algorithms. We outsourced too much work, taking the head fake that media was so technical and advanced we couldn’t possibly handle it ourselves. No more.”

Take responsibility

There’s another kind of transparency that leaders of any tech company would do well to adopt – open and transparent communications. Anyone who watched a recent legislative session involving the heads of Facebook, Google, and Twitter knows that the goal is to obfuscate rather than inform. It doesn’t help that most of Congress is pretty clueless about the sector. But you don’t need to be a PR expert to spot the problem. It goes beyond PR to the core issue of accountability. The social platforms in particular are still trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They want the stickiness and clout of a top media company, yet with all the freedom of an “agnostic” platform. That implies no responsibility whatsoever for its content or the impact of that content, no matter how toxic. It doesn’t work that way.

Redefine data ownership and privacy

This is the issue that grabs the headlines. The sector’s reputation slide accelerated when Cambridge Analytica allowed the personal data of millions of Facebook users to be used for political advertising without their consent. Though the coverage at times exaggerated the depth of the scandal, it pointed to a very real problem. And things have changed since then. Google and other browser companies have pledged to stop supporting cookies, those pieces of data that websites store on your browser to track your activity. Yet what they haven’t fully reckoned with is the value of customer data and the customer’s right way to share it. Some experts believe that the large tech companies should simply share profits from monetized personal data with those who give them permission to use it. Those schemes don’t seem realistic (or very profitable for consumers). But the point is this: the companies who step up with reasonable positions on data ownership and regulation will win, even though critics will never be satisfied. It’s a question of good-faith action.

Crack down on misinformation

Misinformation is the pernicious problem in my book due to its toxic impact on our culture. It’s complex because even the definition of misinformation is divisive. Some conservatives accuse large social media platforms of de-emphasizing or shadow-banning their content. But lies are lies. There’s still such a thing as objective truth.  The bad-faith protests amount to “working the refs,” and it’s a tired tactic. As the Capitol attacks and the explosion of the QAnon following have shown, social media is like gasoline for lies and false propaganda. Social media has given birth to a monster, and everyone knows it. Balancing content moderation with censorship is a tough and complicated problem, but it’s well within these companies’ power to improve the situation. And it’s the biggest single thing they can do to restore Big Tech’s reputation.

Be a part of the solution

The large technology companies have, in fact, made progress in each of these areas. But there’s one commonality. Each step forward has come in response to the threat of real business consequences – more stringent regulation, or even a breakup of the giants. Nothing is proactive. Nothing seems done out of good faith.

When an industry is attacked, there’s a natural tendency to close ranks. Often critics don’t understand the ins and outs of the business nearly as well as insiders, and at times they’re flat-out wrong. I’ve seen it myself in occasional “exposés” of PR tactics that distort what we do. It’s easy to portray a nuanced situation with a big brush. So the defensive posture is understandable. But it’s the wrong attitude for an industry that’s being scrutinized from all sides.

Ex-Googler Jessica Powell said it well. “We discredit the outsiders rather than admit their overarching point is directionally accurate (even if their solution is silly—which, yes, almost all solutions involving only human moderation are.” She favors a cross-industry approach that has a precedent in collaborative efforts to tackle child sexual abuse content, for example.

I don’t have the answer, but this argument is the only realistic one. Some kind of regulation of Big Tech is inevitable, so it makes sense for the industry to come together, embrace it, and be part of the process. In good faith. It’s the only way out of the reputation hole. And it has the additional benefit of being the best and most feasible solution to the challenges that face all of us.

PR, Clubhouse, And The Coming Social Audio Wave

People in PR and media circles have been excited about Clubhouse for at least six months. That’s partly because it represents something new – an audio-only platform for real-time conversations within groups of up to 500 people. But the real appeal was Clubhouse’s exclusivity. As the name implies, it launched as an invite-only social media app and quickly became known as a hangout for venture capitalists, tech entrepreneurs and other Silicon Valley elite. The tech types were followed by artists and entertainers, including Drake, Tiffany Haddish, and Joe Budden. There was a healthy amount of  FOMO among influencers as well as marketing and PR folks. And the content is ephemeral; you have to listen in the moment, because the chat will not be repeated. Just like real life.

Clubhouse’s “drop-in” feel is also a big part of the allure; it lets you listen, participate, or just leave quietly if a particular conversation isn’t for you at a given moment. The real-time aspect offers an element of spontaneity over other audio platforms like podcasting. It’s a bit like a conference where you can choose to attend lectures from among multiple tracks, but the commitment threshold is very low.

Its pedigree, too, generated buzz. The series A funding was led by Andreessen Horowitz partner Andrew Chen, and in January Clubhouse closed a Series B round of $100 million for a valuation of $1 billion. Pretty impressive for an app that started only a year ago in March of 2020.

As Colleen O’Connor from our team puts it, “It seems like Clubhouse gained massive popularity just when everyone has major Zoom fatigue and the last thing they want to do is log onto another video meeting. But hitting ‘join conversation’ and listening while multitasking is more desirable for a busy person.” 

Clubhouse can drive PR thought leadership potential for PR

For PR agencies and their clients, Clubhouse is a new platform for promoting what we call thought leadership — a positioning as a source of leading-edge information and expertise. For B2B tech clients in particular, thought leadership drives the right kind of visibility and is a part of many successful PR campaigns.

We started watching Clubhouse late last year and studied it for a while, in listening mode, before involving clients. So far, it’s limited to opportunities for visibility that involve senior executives who have expertise to share – in the case of our clients, about securing funding, leadership, work culture, the future of workplace, and other relevant topics. The corporate presence is there, but through company executives and founders, not logos.

No metrics, no worries

As for metrics, there really aren’t any. It’s kind of like the out-of-town tryout before you get to Broadway; it’s okay if not too many are listening, since it’s still new and we need to work out the bugs. But we’re bullish on Clubhouse for clients who are subject-matter experts and therefore well suited to host rooms and later start their own clubs. Last week, a senior client executive moderated a Clubhouse discussion that exceeded all expectations. The topic was CTV, and the meeting was well attended, with 100+ listeners and even a few media dropping in. But the most important metric for us was how long the conversation ran. It started at 8:00 and went for two and a half hours, with quality discussion throughout.

Clubhouse growth spawns imitators

The Clubhouse hype has continued into the spring, but lately the buzz isn’t all positive. First, there was a natural backlash to its exclusive status and the celebrity buzz. Clubhouse has been compared unfavorably to Discord, the group-chat app originally built for gamers. Most concerning for Clubhouse, though, is that its growth has slowed. (It’s only available on iOS for now. Android is in the works, but it had better hurry.)

As investor Shaan Puri points out in a thoughtful Twitter thread, live content can be compelling, but only if it’s truly interesting. It has to capture those “magical moments” like Elon Musk interviewing the Robinhood guy. Yet it’s tough to find top-notch stuff right in the moment. There just isn’t that much of it. As Puri puts it, “multiplying ‘content is interesting’ and ‘content is live’ doesn’t just make the problem 2x harder..it makes it 200x harder.”

But maybe that’s not even Clubhouse’s biggest problem. There’s also the competition. New players are jumping into social audio, attracted by its success. Last week Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield made news by saying that Slack will be adding audio features to its business message app – and he announced it on in a Clubhouse room, naturally!

This week Spotify said it has acquired live sports audio app Locker Room. Not to be outdone, LinkedIn just confirmed it’s testing a “social audio experience” for its own app. And of course, Facebook is reportedly working on a Clubhouse killer of its own, which TechCrunch likens to “an extension of its Messenger Rooms” rather than a standalone app. It seems that rather than compete one-on-one, Facebook intends to integrate audio into many of its products. Social audio is officially the next big thing. Where that leaves Clubhouse is anyone’s guess.

I hope Clubhouse succeeds. It’s encouraging to see momentum for a new platform for PR teams to tell stories for organizations, even if – or especially if – it isn’t about brands. The Clubhouse experience plays naturally play to the strengths of business leaders and personalities who are talented speakers with a strong point of view about industry trends, but with an extra spark of spontaneity in the bargain. But the most important thing about Clubhouse is that it started something, and the social audio wave is only just beginning. It’s like podcasting and live conferences had a baby. For PR teams as well as business leaders and creators, that means an entire new social channel and lots of fresh opportunity.