Crenshaw Announces Two Promotions

As summer comes to a close, we are proud to announce two promotions at Crenshaw Communications. After nearly 2.5 years at Crenshaw, Katharine Riggs has been promoted from Account Executive to Senior Account Executive. Katharine established herself as a first-rate media guru on accounts like MediaRadar and Fractal Analytics. She works hard to support our clients and her team on everything from media relations to content, and we’re excited to see her grow into this new role. 

Ilana Weinberger has been promoted from Assistant Account Executive to Account Executive. Since Ilana joined in March 2019, she has offered excellent media and account support across clients like Bnai Zion Foundation, DoubleVerify, LiveIntent, Arkadium, and SmartGlass. No matter what we throw at Ilana, she takes it on and delivers excellent work. We’re delighted to see her develop now as an AE. 

Pictured above: Ilana Weinberger (L) & Katharine Riggs (R)

3 Simple PR Lessons From Pope Francis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What PR People Know About Content Marketing

From PR agencies to corporate SEO teams, everyone’s doing content marketing – or more accurately, content creation. These days, it’s increasingly hard to make content stand out. The challenge has grown more acute with the advent of what Mark Schaefer calls “content shock” or the explosive growth of the content supply without a corresponding growth in its consumption.
Schaefer argues that the content war will be won by deep-pocketed companies who can pay to saturate specific markets or channels, leaving smaller operators struggling for attention, not matter how high the quality of their material.

Why Search Favors PR-Created Content
It’s a valid concern. But as communicators, there’s a lot we can do to stay competitive, and recent trends favor content creators who are trained in PR, journalistic writing, blogging, and multimedia. Here are some proven PR techniques that can be adapted to market the right content to the right people.

Collaborate. Brands that don’t compete, or brands and third-party resources, can work together to create a 1+1=3 outcome when it comes to service journalism or content that addresses topical issues or solves problems. For a financial institution who wanted to reach employers, we joined with a top-level human resources organization for a study on financial wellness. The result was a seminal piece of long-form content relevant to corporate recruiters and HR executives and branded by our client company. Best of all, we reached a “captive” audience of HR professionals through the group. This is classic PR strategy, of course.

Or, crowdsource a new piece of content by getting participation from every member of an industry team or each player in a trade association or group. Those featured have a natural incentive to promote the content.

Continue the conversation that someone else started. A topic like “content shock” is a trend that offers opportunities for ongoing conversations and iterations. Don’t worry about being the first to come up with an idea, just be sure to share your own experience or offer an original take on it, in classic interview or op/ed style.

Get emotional. I like to blog about what frustrates me, or to explode myths that PR people complain about, because I know I’m not alone. Others get excited about a new idea or learning, or an inspiration triggered by a conference or even an ordinary conversation. If you can get mad, get excited, or trigger curiosity, you’re halfway home. This study of most shared New York Times articles shows a correlation between emotion and virality. But you knew that.

Borrow influence. Borrowing interest from a better known person or entity has been in the PR toolbox since the age of the spokesperson media tour. Today, it’s more likely to happen through sponsored blog content or a YouTube video, but it’s extremely compelling and only growing in clout. For a crafts retailer, we created a series of branded DIY projects for design and parenting bloggers. The bloggers aren’t necessarily household names, but the access to a loyal audience of home-design-oriented shoppers has added a new dimension to our content plan.

Repurpose. Analytics tells us what’s working, which can inform future content efforts. The post that was widely shared two years ago can probably work again, particularly if tied to a new industry development or story that hit recently. Good content can be made newly relevant by linking it to what’s happening in the news, or to water cooler buzz. If your topic is crisis management, you’ll have fresh material nearly every week, from Zzzquil’s ads to ‘Deflategate’.

Focus on earning links, not building.  This will seem absurdly obvious to the PR professional; earned media content has value! Google algorithm updates over the past year have handed a giant advantage to content creators trained in PR and journalism, and who can generate those high-quality earned media placements with regularity. Keyword-stuffed press releases and spammy backlink scams are out; earning links to credible media outlets is back – even though it never left.

Why PR Agencies Should Work With Startups

Mark Suster’s “The Silent Benefits of PR” should be required reading for both tech PR firms and their clients. It got me thinking about the unique aspects of the client-agency dynamic when the client is a startup company. What’s most interesting about Suster’s post is that of seven benefits of a strategic PR program that he outlines, customer acquisition is dead last. That’s right, last. The ironic truth is that, while early-stage clients often bring on PR agencies to help promote a product or service, the “silent” benefits, from staff morale to visibility among VCs, may be even more powerful.

In a similar way, working with early-stage clients can be beneficial for a PR team, and not just for the obvious reasons that they can be young and cool. Here are the ways in which an agency team can find it rewarding.

You can make a real impact. I started my career working with packaged goods companies where the PR program was a subset of marketing or a stepchild to an ad campaign. Big-brand PR was exciting, but the glamor sometimes faded into frustration. In the world of technology startups, by contrast, PR often leads. The PR strategy drives how the company is positioned to employees, investors, and customers, and those who influence them. The upshot is you feel like a full partner in the growth and success of the company.

You deal with the CEO. It’s fascinating to work with entrepreneurs, because they’re often brilliant, restless, and driven individuals, and that can be inspiring (as well as exhausting.) But more importantly, things get done. There aren’t typically layers of management, a bureaucracy to work through, or endless meetings before a decision is taken. Green means go.

You’re accountable. The green light also means that you’re responsible, unlike at companies where decisions are made by committee, or the PR program is more directly tied to a marketing campaign or sponsorship. If the funding announcement falls short, the launch flops, or the speech fails, your reputation is on the line. This type of pressure isn’t always comfortable, but it keeps you on your toes.

The bias is toward action. It may sound crazy, but there are many companies that don’t reward initiative or risk-taking in their partners. In fact, they may tacitly discourage it. For the typical startup, by contrast, there is no greater sin than standing still. Particularly in fast-changing sectors like adtech, HR tech or location-based marketing, there’s a culture of trial, risk-taking, and continuous innovation. That’s an environment that can be very empowering for agency team members.

You’re constantly learning. In tech PR in particular, things are changing quickly, and there is absolutely no opportunity to be bored or complacent. For a career agency person, there’s nothing better.

How To Recharge Your (Client) Relationship

If agency searches are a lot like dating, then long-term client relationships can be a little like marriage. The best are based on mutual trust and transparency, with some occasional renegotiation along the way.

But what if the relationship has gotten a little… humdrum? Worse, you’re taking each other for granted (which may be fine for the client, but it obviously spells danger for any agency or consultant.)

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some practical ways to refresh your mutual attraction and spice up the client relationship.

Shake things up. Continuity is a beautiful thing, but don’t get into a rut. Consider swapping out a staff member, or just inviting fresh eyes onto your latest program or idea. New blood can serve two goals; it injects new thinking into your programs and offers new opportunities to staff.

Listen. Like a longstanding couple, we can sometimes stop hearing what a client’s really saying…or, in some cases, what they aren’t communicating. Internal pressures, corporate shifts, personal issues – all can influence an ongoing partnership. If you sense a change in the relationship, schedule a check-in meeting.

Start over. Just for a day. One of my favorite strategies is to throw everything out (mentally) and pretend to be pitching the business for the first time. Invite the client to participate. Sometimes it helps to forget what you think you know.

Embrace planned spontaneity. Set a goal of delivering a new idea or suggestion every two weeks, for example. Let different team members be the messengers. Make things seem spontaneous, but write it into your plans so it happens regularly, without fail.

Mix it up. Do you always email a memo attachment with thoughts and ideas? Pick up the phone instead. (I remember a client praising a young PR rockstar’s habit of calling her with new ideas, as if she just couldn’t stop thinking about their business.) Or pitch your idea over a breakfast meeting, or invite the team over for a whiteboard session. Small changes can have a ripple effect.

Be there. Invite yourself to the client’s office if possible and wander the halls. You always learn something.

Spend time together. Yes, there’s that quality time thing. Go to lunch, dinner, or drinks. Attend a conference together. Go hear an inspirational speaker or just see a show. It does double duty by enabling easy interaction while also giving you a shared experience or stimulating new thoughts.