How to Use Threads For B2B PR

As Twitter (now X) declines, and newer social platforms like Bluesky remain exclusive or in beta mode, Meta’s Threads has emerged as a notable social destination for brand PR. Threads initially captured public attention with a rapid growth surge and the promise of being a less divisive alternative to Twitter. It seems promising not only for B2C campaigns, but for the content and thought leadership promotion more typical of B2B PR.

The secret of Threads’ fast growth was its integration with Instagram, which made onboarding seamless for users. Its growth has definitely cooled over the past several weeks, but for PR or comms specialists, it can offer an opportunity to drive engagement, amplify outreach efforts and reach audiences with specific interests.

Threads’ format resembles a blend of Twitter and Instagram. It is very user-friendly and enables concise messaging. However, it still lacks key features, like a content search function. Below are five ways PR professionals can use Threads to maximize their value to clients and grow business.

Thought leadership and brand positioning

For PR and communications specialists, Threads offers a unique platform to establish thought leadership and enhance brand positioning. Its focus on real-time conversations and sharing presents an opportunity to showcase industry expertise through engaging content. Threads’ tight integration with Instagram can leverage visual storytelling, making it ideal for conveying complex ideas in a visually appealing manner. Moreover, its user base, although not as large as some major platforms, is highly engaged, enabling stronger connections with the target audience.

However, the absence of a search function for content makes it challenging to explore and discover specific topics. Unlike other social media platforms, Threads makes it difficult to search for relevant conversations or even trends. The good news about the platform is that it’s already loaded with notable personalities and influencers due to its Instagram origins, yet it’s still catching up in attracting the types of business influencers most B2B brands want to engage or partner with.

Rapid response

According to a recent Capterra study, more than three in four business leaders who have activated crisis communications plans in the past say they’d increase the tools used for communication. Thus, PR professionals should be on the lookout for new tools for rapid-response communications.

Threads can be used to disseminate vital information, address concerns, and maintain transparency during a crisis, and its “softer, gentler” environment might be a welcome change from Twitter or other platforms like Reddit. Its simplicity can also streamline crisis messaging and keep it focused, ensuring a clear and consistent response.

Yet Threads lacks key features such as hashtags and trending stories that define Twitter as a global conversation hub. In an urgent situation, access to trending topics and the ability to use hashtags can amplify the reach and impact of crisis communication efforts.

Community engagement and feedback

When it comes to community engagement and gathering feedback, Threads has the potential to foster meaningful connections with the audience. Its public dialogue-oriented design, resembling Twitter, encourages open conversations and direct interaction with stakeholders. PR specialists can use Threads to conduct surveys, seek feedback, and address community concerns promptly. The platform’s simplicity and visual elements from Instagram can make engagement more appealing.

However, Threads currently lacks features such as customizable alt text for user-posted images, hindering accessibility. Additionally, it does not offer user-generated captions for videos, which can impact engagement for individuals with hearing impairment. Still, Threads offers communications professionals a fresh opportunity to interact and reach new users who were otherwise not present or felt disenfranchised from other social media platforms.

Amplifying campaigns and initiatives

Depending on their intended audience, PR specialists can leverage Threads to amplify campaigns and initiatives. Its user-friendly interface and emphasis on public conversations make it suitable for sharing campaign updates, engaging with supporters, and creating buzz. Threads also provides a direct line of communication to users, fostering a sense of involvement in ongoing initiatives. Additionally, the ability to share multimedia content can enhance storytelling and campaign visibility.

Nonetheless, Threads lacks advanced targeting and analytics features available on other social platforms. PR specialists may find it challenging to tailor their messages to specific audience segments or measure campaign performance with precision. The addition of stronger and more robust targeting and analytics tools by the platform should be an area communications professionals are consistently monitoring for as it will enable more efficient measurements to gauge campaign success.

Building influential partnerships

For PR and communications specialists aiming to build influential partnerships, Threads presents a real opportunity, given its focus on real-time conversations and interactions. Threads’ simplicity also helps in initiating conversations and networking with like-minded professionals.

When incorporated into a communication specialist’s toolkit, it opens a plethora of opportunities to enhance PR strategies and engage high-value audiences. However, Threads still lags behind more established social platforms when it comes to the functionality business users need. It will be important for PR specialists to stay updated on platforms like Threads as it adapts to a rapidly changing media and social environment.

3 Themes To Watch For During SaaStr Annual 2023

For PR and communications professionals, staying on top of industry trends is vital. And, for those operating in high-growth sectors like SaaS, industry events are not just networking opportunities. They’re a goldmine of insights.

SaaStr Annual 2023, which bills itself as “the world’s #1 cloud gathering,” will kick off next week, so we spent some time reviewing the agenda and featured speakers to better understand possible topics, issues, and questions. Here are three themes we expect to emerge from this year’s SaaStr Annual:

Harnessing AI

It’s no shock that AI — possibly the most talked-about tech innovation of 2023 — will be a frequent topic of discussion at SaaStr Annual. The agenda includes 20+ sessions mentioning AI either as the session’s overall theme or as a component.

One to watch? Adobe Chief Strategy Officer Scott Belsky will present on the impact of AI on creativity and digital experiences and the profound transformations taking place in the creative world. It’s a topic he’s touched on this year in conversations with both VentureBeat and TechCrunch, and it will be interesting to see how that narrative expands.

Scaling Despite Limited Resources

There’s one word that appears more on the SaaStr agenda than “AI” (and possibly even “SaaS”). That word is “scale.”

With session topics like “How to Scale >2x/Yr ARR with Low Budgets and Lean Ops” and “What the Top Founders Do Better to Scale Even Now,” expect the trend of “doing more with less” and themes of an unpredictable market and tough economy to be a large part of the “how to scale” conversation at SaaStr this year.

The Role of the CRO

We may see more CROs in the future. As management consulting firm McKinsey & Company wrote last month, many successful high-growth companies are reimagining marketing and sales functions and, in doing so, adding new leadership, often a CRO. The article explains that while “the title [of that new leadership role] may be different depending on the company (chief growth officer, chief commercial officer or chief experience officer to name a few), the responsibilities are generally the same.”

The role of the CRO is the focus of multiple sessions during SaaStr Annual, including, “CRO Confidential Live with Gong’s VP of Sales” and a panel titled “Path to CRO” featuring a number of female CROs from various SaaS companies.

Headed to SaaStr this year? What topics are you excited to discuss? Tweet (we can still say that, right?) us at @CrenshawComm and let us know.

How To Tap The PR Power Of Employer Branding

As a PR firm focused on high-growth technology companies, we always ask prospective clients about their goals. Most say they want to build visibility to attract more customers, or to gain a competitive advantage in their sector. Lately, however, they prioritize another goal that’s at least as important as adding partners or even customers — recruiting the best workers.

Despite layoffs at major tech employers, it’s still a buyer’s market for many jobs. Attracting and retaining top talent is a huge challenge for any business, but it’s a distinct competitive advantage among high-growth tech companies — if they can manage it.  The current labor market has elevated the importance of “employer branding” – the perception of a company as an employer among prospective workers. The good news is that PR-driven tactics can help a business build and communicate a positioning that prioritizes the well-being of their workers and a commitment to their industry and community.

The changing landscape of employer branding

Employer branding used to mean a reputation for offering competitive compensation and benefits. Now, those are table stakes. Today’s professionals  – especially those in the Gen Z cohort —  are looking for more than just a job. They want a workplace that aligns with their values, supports their growth, responds to their needs, and contributes positively to the community. These demands mean that companies must strategically position themselves as not just profit-driven entities, but as organizations that genuinely care about their employees’ well-being and the greater good.

According to Gartner’s 2023 Future of Work report, many organizations just aren’t keeping up with what workers want. “The intent to leave or stay in a job is only one of the things that people are questioning as part of the larger human story we are living,” says Caitlin Duffy, Gartner HR Practice Research Director. “You could call it the ‘Great Reflection.’ It’s critical to deliver value and purpose.” 

How the right PR plan drives an employer brand

The right PR strategy can help differentiate an organization as a great place to work. And one of the most effective PR-driven tactics is to enhance visibility for C-level business leaders — the executives that serve as the face and voice of the organization. When high-ranking officers actively engage with the public, share their personal experiences, and discuss the company’s values and initiatives, it humanizes the brand. Executives can use social platforms like LinkedIn to share thoughts on industry issues and workplace values. But most PR programs will supplement the social elements with additional content and other tactics that drive thought leadership. They can include op-ed pieces, bylined articles, conference speaking engagements, and profiles in business and trade press to showcase their commitment to employees. This human touch fosters a sense of trust and relatability among potential candidates.

Third-party recognition builds credibility

Recognition by third parties adds credibility to an organization’s claims of being an employer of choice. PR teams often include strategies that include awards like “Best Places to Work” to validate the company’s efforts to create a positive work environment. Inclusion on such lists showcases the company’s commitment to employee satisfaction, diversity and inclusion, or employee growth. And PR can further leverage the recognition by sharing it through press releases, social media content, and internal and external company communication channels. All help amplify the positive narrative to reach top talent at the time when they’re thinking of making a move, or when they’re researching the organization.

Celebrate employee success

Highlighting the achievements and contributions of both employees and executive leadership can also enhance a company’s brand as an employer. Recognizing outstanding employees for innovation, collaboration, or community involvement not only boosts their morale but also demonstrates the company’s commitment to nurturing talent. By showcasing executives’ personal involvement in philanthropic or volunteer activities or community projects, the company reinforces its commitment to making a positive impact beyond the bottom line.

Authenticity is essential

For an employer branding strategy to succeed, the organization’s brand and values must align. Potential candidates will quickly spot superficial claims that stand in for genuine commitment. Companies should focus on defining their values and weaving them into all aspects of the organization, from hiring processes to employee development initiatives. This alignment ensures that the employer branding efforts are not just PR stunts, but a true reflection of the company’s ethos.

In a competitive talent market, standing out as an employer of choice takes a long-term approach that goes beyond traditional recruitment methods. When it’s based on the true alignment of brand and values, PR-driven employer branding can build a compelling identity that attracts, engages, and retains the future leadership needed for sustainable success in today’s marketplace, whether in technology or elsewhere.

How To Build B2B PR Around Invented Holidays

From Presidents’ Day furniture sales to tech deals on July 4th — and all the mattress sales in between — holiday marketing is a hallmark of consumer brand strategy in the U.S. And while B2C brands are quick to build events around holidays, for B2B brands, holiday marketing can feel forced.

Yet, jumping on a newsworthy occasion can add timeliness for B2B tech and other high-growth categories. It can also reinforce a brand message by tying it to a larger existing narrative. But there’s a catch. It needs to be the right holiday for the event and the brand. So how can a brand representative go about building a B2B event around a remembrance or holiday?

Review your brand narrative

Yes, aligning B2B events with holidays can benefit a brand. But, if you’re looking at an existing holiday or observance and thinking, “We should do an event for [insert popular holiday or splashy observance],” you’re likely approaching it the wrong way.

Brands should be selective about which holidays they celebrate. If a brand’s messaging doesn’t align with the spirit of a given occasion, then using that holiday in marketing can be seen as performative.

When looking for the right holiday or observance on which to build a B2B event, review the brand narrative and consider what message is desirable. For example, if the brand is focused on improving cyber security, you may want to look for an established day or month that aligns with that theme, like Cyber Security Awareness Month in October. Other times it’s more challenging, but thankfully there are plenty of occasions to choose from.

Choose a relevant holiday or occasion

Not every holiday works for B2B events. As Sasha Dookhoo shared in a recent post about developing PR campaigns around holidays, “One of the most common mistakes PR professionals make during holiday campaigns is failing to align brand messaging with the holiday theme. It’s essential to understand that holidays evoke specific emotions, values, and traditions.”

It’s not that B2B brands can’t create events around religious holidays or commemorative events, but it can be challenging to align a brand narrative with the emotions, values, and traditions of these events in a way that feels authentic. However, many Hallmark holidays, “fake holidays” (those invented by brands), celebrations and observances created by organizations, and other invented holidays can fit seamlessly with a brand story.

Invented holidays are numerous, but here are a few examples, along with dates and related organizations:

Equal Pay Day (National Committee on Equal Pay; date varies)

Prime Day (Amazon; July 11/12)

Cybersecurity Awareness Month (National Cyber Security Alliance; October)

World Television Day (The United Nations; November 21)

Small Business Saturday (American Express; Saturday after Thanksgiving)

Cyber Monday (National Retail Federation; Monday after Thanksgiving)

(Looking for more? Check out this post from Ron Stein about annual events and holidays B2B brands can leverage.)

As with any occasion-based marketing campaign, it’s important for brand representatives to understand the origin of the invented holiday they plan to leverage. Some might be tied closely to a brand, whereas a trade association or government entity may sponsor others.

Put your own stamp on the day

What does it look like to build a B2B event around an invented holiday? Our team has successfully put this strategy into practice. One example included an event for event software company Bizzabo.

Bizzabo equips event managers with the tools to do their job effectively and efficiently. A relevant topic trending among event and conference managers is diversity at business conference speaking panels. When Bizzabo learned that nearly two-thirds of all business event speakers on conference panels are male, sometimes pejoratively called “manels,” it decided to host an all-female event on International Women’s Day.

An all-female speakers’ conference can happen any time of year and might not have attracted much attention. However, the team was able to differentiate the event and add an element of timeliness by connecting it to an established day that continues to generate interest year-over-year.

In summary, B2B tech and other high-growth companies can leverage invented holidays to add timeliness to an event and tie their brand message to a larger, more elevated narrative. So while it may make sense to leave Presidents’ Day to the mattress companies, B2B brand leaders shouldn’t sleep on holiday marketing.

How To Use Timing For Top B2B PR Results

Timing is everything, even in B2B tech PR. Anyone who has represented a business product or service knows that delivering the right message at the right time – or failing to – can make or break the success of a PR campaign.  You want to make sure you’re allowing enough time to pitch in advance of a news event, whether it’s something you control or an independent event that offers some borrowed interest to your own story. When in doubt, overestimate the time needed. Unexpected things happen, and it’s our job to be prepared.

Build in more lead time

Understanding lead times is essential. It lets PR people plan, strategize and execute campaigns with precision. Editors at most publications make their editorial calendars public months in advance. By knowing and following these timelines (and deadlines), PR folks can pick the perfect time to pitch stories. Good timing greatly increases the likelihood of securing high-quality, earned coverage. If you send the wrong type of pitch – or even the right pitch, but too late – you might be ignored for that simple reason.

Peg your pitch to the right occasion

The B2B tech sector offers unique opportunities to make the most out of holidays, events and occasions in PR strategies. It’s important, however, to ensure that you’re choosing events that align with your brand’s identity and the interests of its audience. If the event or holiday is too big a stretch or unrelated to your client, your pitch might be ignored, and you can even damage your credibility with the reporter for the future.

Make the calendar work harder

Seasonal opportunities aren’t just a B2C thing; the calendar is a gold mine. There are scores of potential dates that B2B tech brands can use to generate high-impact coverage. Here’s a subset:

CES (Early January): The Consumer Electronics Show is an ideal platform to announce new tech products or share thought leadership pieces predicting tech-related trends for the new year. And despite its name, it is definitely not limited to consumer products.

Data Privacy Day (January 28): This occasion offers a perfect chance to emphasize a company’s commitment to data privacy, or to share thought leadership on the importance of privacy in the digital age.

International Women’s Day (March 8): Leverage this day to highlight the contributions of women in tech within your organization, or unveil initiatives that promote gender diversity in tech.

World Backup Day (March 31): If your company is involved in data management, storage or security, this day can be a great opportunity to share expert advice or product launches related to data backup.

Artificial Intelligence Appreciation Day (July 16): AI is everywhere. But this particular day offers an opportunity to highlight specific AI innovations, share your vision for the future of AI or tackle pressing ethical concerns.There are many ways to have a smart take on AI, even if you’re not an AI business (yet).

Back to School (August-September): Retail-focused brands can also take advantage of this period to build long-term customer loyalty with bundled offers, personalized shopping experiences, useful tips for parents and students and more.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month (October): With cybersecurity being a critical concern in tech, October is an ideal time to share insights on secure technologies, launch cybersecurity products or address how your company is enhancing its security measures.

Black Friday (November): The biggest shopping day of the year is an unbeatable opportunity for retail brands to tout special deals, unveil new products and provide commentary on any shopping trends they’re seeing.

End-of-Year Predictions (December): As the year winds down, reporters are always working articles looking ahead to the following year. Regardless of industry, it’s a good idea to get some thoughts from execs and pitch to relevant publications as a way to build credibility in a given space.

Don’t forget rapid response

News happens, especially around holiday times when media outlets may be short-staffed. That’s why a strong rapid-response process (also known as “newsjacking”) can make a big difference when it comes to holiday-related media coverage. Be ready with your best material because when news breaks, you may have a four-hour window to be a part of the segment or story.

Prepare your spokesperson

Preparation means not only having a relevant pitch and backstory ready, but prepared content, opinion commentary, or interview messaging that’s pertinent to the occasion. Most PR people don’t want to give everything away with the first approach, because a strong follow-up offer or colorful quote can close the deal or make the difference in how your company or clients is positioned in the final story. It’s also critical to prepare your spokesperson for the interaction, even if it’s not a formal interview. A five-minute prep call makes a world of difference.

How To Interview Experts Like A Journalist: Tips For PR Teams

When I jumped to the PR and marketing side from journalism, I was often told by the PR firm who hired me, “We want you to think like a journalist.”  I never said this at the time, but now I can admit: I don’t really know what that means. But I do know something about interviewing experts, which is often the basis for B2B comms writing.

SMEs are a valuable resource

When you’re writing to advocate on behalf of a third party, as PR teams often do, you must lay out the strongest possible argument in the first draft. The less back-and-forth you need, the sooner you can move on to other tasks. A call with a subject-matter expert (SME) is an opportunity to fast-track the outlining and writing process. It’s great to be able to get an expert’s specific insights upfront, rather than in the revisions.

Make the subject comfortable

Journalism is about asking people questions, summarizing what they tell you, and knowing enough about the subject to put those answers in context. You also need to know enough about a subject to recognize when you’re getting a lot of hot air or a ludicrous claim, which is when you push back with a follow-up question. The best journalists I’ve known are those who are unusually good at getting people to talk, and making them comfortable enough to open up. That’s why I usually start with an icebreaker and a few painless questions.

But once you’ve made your interview subject comfortable, it’s not always easy to think of new questions on the fly. Frankly, not a lot of people can improv like that intuitively, and most of us need to train ourselves to prepare to guide the conversation before it starts.

Thinking “like a journalist” takes preparation

The catch is, when you do get the SME on the call – whether they’re an in-the-weeds technologist, an executive with specialized knowledge, or someone who is both – it’s sometimes difficult to figure out where to take the conversation. Let’s face it – most of us in comms don’t also have, say, engineering or operations experience. In our position, you don’t always know what you don’t know. And you want to be respectful of any expert’s time, so you need to come in prepared. Any hemming and hawing eats up time you should be using to build a stronger narrative. Preparation can also sharpen your own knowledge, which makes you more valuable as a comms pro.

Break out of tunnel vision

An expert lives and breathes the stuff you’re talking with them about. In a relatively casual conversation, they’re likely to gloss over some points and to take others for granted. Just because they sound authoritative doesn’t mean they’re not leaving rhetorical gaps that need to be filled in later. So if you have the opportunity to prep some questions that the briefing sheet or interview parameters don’t address, grab it.

Check relevant trade publications. Look at other POVs from experts with different vantage points in the industry. Pretty much anything that’s trending will already be discussed in trades. The expert will probably agree with some and disagree with others – so make a note to ask them for their take on the specific points you’re surfacing. Look for any POVs or quotes that sound like they disagree or conflict with your client’s or company’s approach or messaging. Think beyond the POVs of competitors. In ad tech, for example – what the buy side wants isn’t necessarily sell-siders’ top preference, and vice versa. What would your expert say to set the other side of the supply chain at ease?

Have questions in your back pocket

If you ask good questions up front, you get stronger material that goes beyond corporate bullet points. Unfortunately, sometimes you simply don’t have the benefit of knowing what will come up. But during the conversation, you can mentally flag the places where the subject gets into territory that isn’t intuitive. There are certain types of questions you can keep up your sleeve that are a bit more to the point than “What are you talking about?”

In a way, this idea ties back to the old “Show, don’t tell” principle in storytelling. Instead of saying, “This character felt sad,” you describe them doing something out of sadness. In industry bylines, too, you want to paint a picture that the reader can imagine. And you want an SME to paint that picture for you. Details like that make a byline more than just another pitch. The right questions are designed to bring out those details.

Find the inspiration – and the market impact

Below are examples of the kind of questions you can prep ahead of time. You can use what you already know about the angle or product, as well as the specific area of expertise your interview subject can address, to adapt them:

When you were developing this solution, which customer pain points did you have in mind? How did you decide this was the right solution?

How is this solution going to improve a business’s bottom line, or their teams’ day-to-day lives?

What have your customers told you about how this solution is working for them?

I saw a piece in [trade publication] where someone said, “[possibly controversial thing].” How would you respond to that?

What might lead a business with this problem to resist or be hesitant about using your solution?

What does implementation/adoption look like? Who are the relevant stakeholders at the business, and what do they need to do to get the most out of this solution?

Get in the room

Here’s a thought experiment to get the mental gears turning. Imagine you’re at a session at an industry conference. The presenter steps onto the dais and goes through their whole prepared spiel. Ideally, it’s clear and useful, and it contains concrete examples and actionable recommendations. But still, it’s prepared, it might be a bit guarded in tone, and it’s not the end of the discussion of the topic at hand.

When there’s a Q&A segment after the presentation, that’s often where the juicy stuff comes out. That’s where the in-the-weeds technical stuff comes out. And that’s where the discussion can turn more candid and nuanced. While putting together interview questions, try to preempt the questions and challenges one of your company’s own customers or prospects would want to throw at them.

When I think about going deep in interview questions, I like to think about the difference between Twitter and Reddit. Twitter is where people go to perpetuate a narrative in a very public setting. Reddit is where people go to work out problems, often more or less anonymously, in an environment where a comment’s candor is often key to its ultimate value.

Remember that any byline or report is part of a living discussion that people in a given industry are having. That’s the context you should keep in mind when working on content that requires expert insights. You’re demonstrating to the industry audience that the company is listening to the discussion. You’re showing they have something new to add. You welcome the reader to continue the conversation. As the discussion evolves over time, you might find new opportunities for them to jump in.

Winging It: Twitter Rebrands To “X” And No One Knows Why

Let’s get one thing out of the way. I never particularly liked the name “Twitter” and I hated to say someone “tweeted.” So, even as a former power Twitter user, I don’t feel very sentimental about Elon Musk’s recent decision to change its brand to “X.” But that’s just because there are so many other reasons to look at Twitter’s new name and logo as the rearranging of deck chair cushions on a rapidly sinking platform. It’s an unusual approach to a rebrand, and not in a good way.

Did they articulate a rationale for Twitter’s new logo?

First, the positive. The news does have one feature of a successful rebranding. A rebrand should always signal a positive change, like the addition of new features, a fresh direction, or, as in this case, new services. Twitter has (very aspirationally) tried to link the new brand to coming attractions, and in fairness, Elon Musk has often mentioned adding new services to the platform. He even changed the corporate name to “X” a couple of months ago, so that one isn’t new. So far, so good.

But the messaging makes no sense

Yet the messaging is incoherent. It doesn’t articulate much about the new X platform. Musk originally posted that the new brand was to “embody the imperfections in us all that make us unique.” Huh? What does that mean? He then gleefully alluded to “blowtorching” the Twitter sign off the headquarters building, which, when taken with past comments about the pre-Musk company, sounds like he’s killing the old logo out of anger. Is X the spite rebranding? (Or, as I originally thought, is he naming it after his toddler son with Grimes?) There are many, many questions that have not been answered and in all probability, were never considered.

Individual executives are not aligned

Meanwhile, the company’s new CEO Linda Yaccarino, who has to be wondering what she’s gotten herself into, tweeted in her typical cheerleading style about a litany of new services for the platform, like messaging, audio, and even banking and payments. And, did I mention they will use AI? The buzzy new tech is thrown onto the laundry list like an afterthought. As with earlier Musk pronouncements, Yaccarino’s tweets come after the fact and give the strong impression that she’s trying to clean up Elon’s mess. As for services like payments, I cannot in any world imagine that even heavy Twitter users are clamoring to pay their bills on the platform. Even the diehards are likely to be skeptical of any frills, given the deterioration of even its most basic functionality. The only people buying the rebrand are Elon sycophants and the bots that seem to applaud his every tweet. But even the fans are just trying to project their own wish list onto the change.

The real “X-factor”

And then there’s the name itself.  I suppose it could also suggest mystery or intrigue — as in “x-factor” — and maybe that’s what Musk is shooting for. More than anything, to me, “X” connotes closing out of a document or platform. When I logged into Twitter this morning, I reflexively wanted to close out (though possibly not just due to the name.) Others immediately think of pornography. To most of us, “X” means “no” or “eliminate.” As Emily Nussbaum summarized, “I like the fact that “X” manages to be boring, confusing AND negative, which makes it an ideal brand for Elmo’s site.”

Finally, the replacement of an iconic brand with 17 years of equity among even casual users as well as journalists, influencers, celebrities, and politicians, seems to have been announced with no real user or market research. It comes across as another erratic move by Musk that does nothing to address the platform’s growing challenges.

There’s a difference between authenticity and “winging it”

A typical rebranding follows a fairly well established process. It starts with research and includes a creative brief, drafts and redrafts of messaging, market testing, iterations, refinement, and a final decision about visual identity, colors, usage standards and style guidance, meaning, announcement strategy, stakeholder outreach, and a comprehensive Q&A so that every single question is anticipated and addressed before rollout.

Yet there’s no law that the standard process has to be followed. Some brands have invited their own employees or customers to weigh in before rebranding. Others have adopted a more iconoclastic approach, and entrepreneurs typically have a lot of leeway. (I know someone who bought his PR business back from a private equity company and rebranded it after his childhood nickname.) There can be something refreshing about breaking the rules and offering a touch of whimsy or humanity.

But the approach Musk has taken is not that. The rebrand from Twitter to X has all the hallmarks of an impulsive decision made in the middle of the night by a guy who resents everything about the company he overpaid for. He doesn’t seem to be addressing the very real problems Twitter faces but is looking to distract with fresh news that’s clearly ego-driven. Maybe I’m wrong, and Musk’s platform will benefit from all the attention and gain fresh traction from curiosity-seekers and people who never liked Twitter in the first place. But I can’t see a strategy here. In other words, he’s just winging it, which is very bad news for the bird app.

5 Essentials For PR Campaigns Tied To Holidays

Holidays can bring a powerful opportunity for PR teams to elevate the brands they represent and engage with key audiences. However, in the rush to capitalize on the news value of holidays – from Halloween to Veteran’s Day and Christmas – it’s easy to make mistakes.

By recognizing potential pitfalls and using a strategic approach, any PR team can elevate their campaigns, amplify brand visibility, and generate tangible earned media results throughout the calendar year. But it pays to adhere to the following rules of engagement when leveraging holidays for PR purposes.

Set clear goals and metrics

Any holiday is likely to be a competitive time, so it’s essential to set clear objectives and key performance metrics (KPIs). Without a full understanding of what they aim to achieve, the PR holiday campaign can lack direction and focus. That, in turn, will result in missed opportunities and suboptimal outcomes.

For example, is a Thanksgiving-themed opportunity meant to align a brand or service with that holiday to drive seasonal sales? Or, is it a campaign to position a business as a caring member of the community? And, yes, it can be both, but multiple objectives can mean the goals are diluted and the budget is strained. It’s important for PR teams to set goals and metrics from the onset to keep the brand aligned to the objectives.

Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or boosting sales, it’s instrumental to establish specific and achievable goals. Identify relevant metrics such as social media engagement, website conversions, or revenue attributed to earned coverage. Regularly monitor and analyze metrics to assess the effectiveness of the campaign and make data-driven adjustments as needed.

Dive into research and audience analysis

Each holiday brings unique associations, cultural nuances, and evolving consumer preferences. Neglecting to study the target audience can result in misalignment with target demographics and ineffective messaging. For example, New York declared Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, a state holiday, and new legislation proposes to make it our twelfth federal holiday. But because this is new, PR pros need to consider how to align with Diwali and promote it with sensitivity and focus. Otherwise, they risk excluding a subsection of their target audience.

They should start with a deep dive into the target audience’s preferences, demographics, and psychographics. The research serves as a foundation for messaging that resonates with their interests and aspirations. Perhaps for a sustainability company looking at green lighting options, a holiday like Diwali could be leveraged for PR. The company can promote how to mark the holiday in a more sustainable way, considering low-wattage string lights, for example. Personalized content should speak directly to the holiday experiences of the intended audience. By understanding their needs and values, PR people can create campaigns that resonate deeply, establish a meaningful connection and drive engagement.

Avoid misaligned messaging 

One of the most common failures of holiday PR campaigns is misaligned or unclear messaging. Holidays evoke specific emotions, values, and traditions. Neglecting these elements can result in a dissonance that fails to resonate with the audience. For example, a campaign centered around a holiday like Veterans Day might be out-of-sync with a B2B company trying to promote software without a bridge that connects the two entities. If the company is making a 20% donation based on new clients acquired at the end of November to support the Wounded Warrior Project® because the founder is a veteran, that would make sense. The PR plan must include messaging that reflects the holiday spirit and aligns with its meaning.

PR programs must tailor messaging to evoke appropriate emotions and reflect the holiday’s values. Ensuring content, visuals, and storytelling align with the theme and spirit of the occasion are essential.

Timing is everything

A common mistake in holiday PR campaigns is the failure to plan and execute well in advance. Especially for long-tail holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s a bustling time for businesses, consumers, and the media. Competing for attention in a crowded marketplace requires careful planning and execution. PR people must be mindful of planning now for the holiday season so the last-minute scramble is minimized and valuable opportunities for coverage and exposure aren’t missed. For example, many brands are capitalizing on the new Barbie movie and betting that Barbie will still be hot by the fourth quarter. From back-to-school season through Halloween and Christmas, brands relevant to Barbie should be thinking now about creative ways to capitalize on Barbie-mania. Or, technology brands might plan now for ways to integrate with Google’s Santa Tracker, which in 2021 shared its code with developers to inspire them to create their own “magical experiences.”

A good PR plan includes a detailed timeline and identifies key milestones like content creation, media outreach, and social media promotions. Allocating sufficient resources and setting realistic deadlines to ensure the plan is well-executed and aligned with media and consumer timelines will go a long way in creating a memorable and effective campaign.

By avoiding common mistakes leveraging holidays, PR teams can ensure that campaigns connect with their target audiences and leave a lasting impact to support business results.

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PR Strategies For Disruptive Technologies

Disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and others are constantly reshaping various industries. But these paradigm-shifting innovations often face skepticism, misunderstanding, and controversy. Why? Their very nature is transformative, and that can be unsettling. Here’s where a thoughtful yet robust public relations (PR) strategy can help address predictable reaction.

Disruptive tech and the role of PR

In a shifting tech landscape, innovation gives way to new and complex products that can be difficult for the average person to grasp. The challenge that any new technology faces is explaining the full implications of its tech once unleashed.

Disruptive tech needs a clear and credible voice to explain its benefits and ensure acceptance of its possibilities. A well-designed PR strategy should be that voice. A primary role is translating tech-speak into a language that resonates with diverse audiences, from industry experts to lawmakers and end users.

Yet, the challenges extend beyond mere comprehension. As disruptive technologies aim to overturn the status quo, they often challenge entrenched systems. This sparks resistance to adoption and may even stir up controversy. A strategic PR approach can help navigate these choppy waters, shifting the focus from problems to solutions and value. It can create transparency, clarify uncertainties, and transform potential crises into platforms for constructive dialogue.

Also, early stages of a technology are rarely smooth sailing; bugs, glitches, and unexpected issues are inevitable. In the face of these complications, the PR plan should prepare for setbacks. It needs to set the larger narrative, emphasizing solutions and progress rather than dwelling on hurdles.

PR and emerging tech: blockchain, metaverse, AI

Several disruptive technologies have benefited from strategic PR over the past decade.

Take blockchain, for example. Initially, it was tied to the volatility of cryptocurrencies, with its broader potential often overshadowed. The challenge was to unravel the complexity of the technology and disassociate it from crypto. PR played a pivotal role by enlightening audiences about the wider applications of blockchain – from supply chain management to healthcare – thus fostering increased acceptance and adoption.

Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) has seen its share of controversy. Concerns about job losses, privacy breaches, and ethical use are widespread. However, the public dialogue has moved to the benefits of AI –  improved efficiency, predictive capabilities, and beyond. The PR and comes teams representing Open AI, Google, and other companies have been careful to engage with the challenges and potential solutions.

Consider the recent innovations around generative AI. These AI systems – capable of creating new, meaningful content – have started to play a significant role in fields like journalism, professional services, banking, marketing and content creation. Ultimately, the challenge for PR and communications is to highlight the ways these AI systems can enhance human creativity, rather than replace it, while alleviating fears of an apocalyptic robot uprising.

Where PR falls short

Even the best PR program is limited, however. The idea of the Metaverse, a virtual reality space where users interact in a computer-generated environment, gained attention very quickly only a year ago but is now largely declared “dead.” The technology’s numerous challenges, such as defining and enforcing ethical guidelines in an entirely new dimension, mass adoption, and differentiation, loom as a counterpoint to PR’s power to inform. Despite efforts to help guide the conversation, the reality of the Metaverse hasn’t yet matched the tech world’s vision for it.

Finally, let’s not overlook Extended Reality (XR), an umbrella term for all immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). With the potential to revolutionize industries from gaming to healthcare, XR technology carries huge promise. For PR, the task is to highlight these opportunities while navigating the hurdles related to privacy, access, and hardware requirements.

Navigating PR for disruptive B2B technologies

The B2B tech PR perspective presents its own set of challenges as it pertains to disruptive technologies. PR teams must not only engage the general public but also connect with industry subject matter experts (SMEs), potential partners, and business stakeholders. These audiences demand a higher degree of understanding and sophistication in communications.

A pressing challenge in B2B tech PR is communicating technical complexity in simple terms. This takes a commitment to ongoing learning, staying current, and articulating the impact of new developments in a business context relevant to users.

Skepticism and resistance are inevitable, as disruptive technologies often threaten established systems. PR strategies must strike a delicate balance—highlighting the benefits of the tech while addressing concerns and potential downsides in an open, transparent manner.

PR strategies for disruptive tech

To successfully communicate the value of emerging technologies, PR teams can adapt several strategies and tactics.

Nuanced storytelling: Crafting a compelling narrative around the technology can engage audiences, humanize the innovation, and underscore its transformative potential.

Opinion leadership: Positioning a company or its leaders as authorities or opinion-leaders in the field of emerging or disruptive tech allows for transparency and knowledge-sharing. By sharing insights, forecasts, and expert commentary, companies can build credibility and spark conversation around the technology.

Media relations: Regular interaction with relevant media outlets and influencers allows PR people to extend messaging reach, ensure participation in pertinent discussions, and provide a platform for addressing any controversies or misunderstandings.

Proactivity and agility: Given the swift pace of developments in the tech sector, PR teams need to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating potential issues and being ready to adjust their strategies promptly.

How to keep up

In a world where tech advancements often outpace public understanding, a sound PR strategy is crucial. PR helps navigate the challenges linked to new technologies, from ensuring comprehension and managing controversy, to addressing technical and product-based pitfalls. It can shape the narrative around disruptive technologies, empowering them to unlock their transformative potential.

The task of navigating the technology is intricate, however. It takes careful planning, continuous learning, and an open and curious mind. As we continue to see new disruptive technologies, PR will remain a central player, directing the conversation and guiding innovations toward successful integration into our daily lives and businesses.

Cannes Lions 2023: AdTech Dominates At The World’s Biggest Creative Meet

As summer blooms along the French Riviera, the world’s leading creative talents are gathering once again for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Amid the celebrations, one phrase echoes along the beaches and luxury yachts — “Adtech is taking over Cannes Lions.”

Okay, so maybe people aren’t shouting about tools and software for advertisers. Yet as a PR agency with deep roots in adtech, we’ve been tracking Cannes Lions for years. What have we seen? A striking surge in adtech’s prominence at this global event. It’s clear: the adtech sector is wielding increasing influence during Cannes Lions.

Have your eyes on Cannes this week? Here are four ad industry and adtech trends to watch during Cannes Lions 2023.

Tech giants show resilience

With layoffs and economic pressures in recent times, big tech platforms like Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft are showing a “toned down” approach to their Cannes Lions presence this year. Despite the economic downturn, these giants remain key players at Cannes. They might be limiting the glitz for customer events, but their presence reaffirms the prominence of technology brands in today’s advertising landscape.

Creators and influencers shine

This year, Cannes Lions is becoming a hotspot for creators and influencers. The creator economy, valued at over $104 billion by some estimates, is projected to reach $200 billion by 2026. It’s not surprising that marketers and brands are eager to connect with celebrity creators and those who are rising stars.

However, according to reporting from Forrester, #ads are “just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to creator marketing in 2023. As advertisers look to embrace this creator-led world with new techniques, like embedding brands into communities, and old ones, like affiliate creator marketing, we expect to see more adtech brands moving to make those campaigns easier to buy, manage and analyze.

While many expect to see creators like Jameela Jamil, Alexandra Cooper, and others making waves on the main stage, we’ll also be looking for how adtech brands are moving to support a shift towards more personalized, influencer-driven campaigns.

AI technology is everywhere

Many expect AI technology to dominate conversations at Cannes Lions this year (Yahoo! Fiance’s Brian Sozzi has already called the “AI hype bubble” at Cannes “out of control.”) But the prominence of AI talk at Cannes is with good reason: This year’s rapid adoption of tools like ChatGPT has sparked a discussion about the potentials — and risks — of AI in the advertising business, even before the festival kicked off.

The discussions around AI’s creative possibilities and its role in driving business growth may provide insights into the future trajectory of adtech. As Oli Marlow-Thomas, Chief Innovation Officer for hinted in a piece for The Drum, though what can be created with AI is impressive, we are still uncovering how it could be used to better manage ads. “While it’s now easy to generate beautiful content at the snap of a finger … the challenge is how to apply it across the consumer journey and actually breakthrough to customers with it? The key will be using AI technology, such as generative AI, to know when to serve creative, and how to scale and optimize for the best results.”

Corporate activism drives brand positioning

Increasingly, companies are realizing that standing for something can have significant implications for their brand. Cannes Lions 2023 will witness a discussion about corporate activism and how it influences brand perception. This includes how businesses navigate viral backlash, privacy laws, AI, and the metaverse to connect with audiences in meaningful ways.

From tech giants showing their resilience in the face of economic pressures to the rising significance of creators and influencers, expect this year’s Cannes Lions to showcase not only the biggest creative trends in advertising but also the adtech powering the industry.