7 Questions To Ask Before Bringing On A PR Firm

Partnering with a new PR agency is a big investment – of time, resources, and focus. Most businesses are aware of that, and they prepare accordingly. But occasionally an organization isn’t fully ready to embark upon a search, let alone pull the trigger or an engagement. Maybe it’s their first time working with a PR firm, and there’s no institutional experience. More likely, it’s because they’re busy, distracted, or in a reactive posture. Whatever the case, no business should invest in a PR agency relationship without asking themselves – and the agency – some key questions.

What do we want to accomplish?

This is an internal question that’s deceptively difficult for some companies. For many, the answer is something like “increase visibility” or “promote our new product.” And those are good goals, but it helps to dig deeper. What’s your baseline for measuring success?  What’s a realistic expectation for product exposure? How do you want to be perceived? And, perhaps just as important, are the key players aligned on the PR goals?

Are our goals realistic?

This is a good question to put to the agency team at the outset, for a few reasons. First, you obviously want to know if your goals are too ambitious, and why. Also, if your objectives are far-reaching and the agency responds with a laundry list of tactics, they may be the wrong fit.  It’s important to agree on both deliverables (like pieces of content or earned media articles) and outcomes (like greater brand favorability or customer conversion.) Most importantly, you want an agency team who will offer a professional but unvarnished view of the opportunity and its chances for success.

What do you know about our industry?

Public relations is fairly specialized. It involves media relationships that grow out of working in a specific industry or beat. The right agency team should be knowledgeable enough about your sector to be on top of trends, identify insights, and understand media needs.

What do you think of our company or brand?

There are no right or wrong answers to this question, of course. But it’s an excellent way to gauge how the PR agency team thinks, and how candid and thoughtful they’re likely to be when you work together. Ideally a PR team will offer straightforward counsel along with the recommendations designed to address challenges or problems.

What can we expect in the first 30 days of working together?

We often get this question, and it’s a good one. Many times a prospective client wants to know how often they’ll hear from us, how much time they should allot to managing the PR engagement, and what our process looks like. They may also want to know how long it will take to generate earned media. Though it’s not easy to predict the last, it’s a fine way of opening up the all-important topic of expectations.

Is our budget realistic?

Occasionally first-time agency clients think that they shouldn’t set or disclose a budget, on the theory that it might help elicit low bids by multiple agencies. But that approach isn’t usually productive. You’re likely to get more attention and higher-quality thinking if you offer a budget or at least a range. But it’s important to know that the proposed scope of work fits within that budget. And it’s perfectly legitimate to ask about the agency’s billing model and how that fits into your budget and goals.

What do you need from us to succeed?

This may be my favorite question to hear from prospective clients, because it indicates an awareness that simply bringing on an outside firm isn’t a magic bullet. Successful outcomes depend on many variables, one of which is timely access to decision-makers on the client side. A thorough backgrounding takes time and energy, and that commitment doesn’t stop once the agency team is on board.

Crenshaw Communications Founder Visits NYU Marketing Class

Last week, Crenshaw Communications founder Dorothy Crenshaw visited a New York University class called “C-Suite Perspectives” to share her point of view about how PR and marketing have evolved. The course is taught by adjunct professor Young Mi Park and is part of NYU’s “Master of Marketing” program. During her guest lecture, the PR agency CEO discussed her own career path, thoughts about the disruption of advertising and the growth of PR, and the impact of social media and, more recently, Artificial Intelligence, on the industry.

Students smile for the camera following PR agency founder's visit to NYU marketing class.

Later this month, other Crenshaw Communications leaders will connect with college seniors and recent grads when the PR agency hosts a virtual open house for those interested in the field of public relations. During the event, students and recent grads will have the opportunity to network with PR professionals and hear from members of the agency team about their journey in PR. The team will also discuss open and entry-level positions with the firm.

To learn more about the open house, including how to apply to attend, visit the event listing on the Crenshaw Communications careers site.

More Agency News

The latest about what’s happening with Crenshaw Communications:

Dorothy Crenshaw Joins Communications Firm Leaders in New Delhi

Agency VP Honored with Top Women in Communications Award

Crenshaw Communications Adds Experienced B2B Tech PR Leadership

Five Tips For Managing Tricky Clients

Working at a tech PR agency, we’re accustomed to collaborating with many different types of companies. Some are familiar with the ins and outs of public relations, while others are new to PR and rely on our guidance. We’re lucky to have clients who are respectful, professional, and even fun as partners. But as every agency or in-house PR person knows, there can be bumps in any relationship. The good news is that many problems can be avoided with a strong onboarding process at the outset. It sets the cadence of communications for the engagement, and, more importantly, the expectations for deliverables and impact.

But what if you still sense problems? Red flags in a client relationship can include unrealistic timelines or expectations for earned media; excessive emails or calls outside of regular work hours, or unusual demands that fall outside the scope of work.

If a client is unreasonable, unprincipled, or abusive, that should be addressed and the relationship ended before it can affect team morale. But for ordinary adjustment problems, there are solutions.

Double down on communications 

Communication is the best way to show that you’re engaged and committed to the relationship and its goals. When in doubt, be proactive — ask for clarification, anticipate the response, and push back gently when necessary. Most clients value PR teams who take initiative, especially when it comes to addressing concerns or miscommunication. No matter how you slice it, there’s no such thing as too much communication in a client relationship.

Ramp up media opportunities 

Has your media coverage slipped from the standards set at the beginning of the engagement? We all create PR plans with pitch ideas to help generate a drumbeat of consistent media interest, but there are times when pitches don’t resonate for one reason or another. That’s when it makes sense to deviate from the plan and shake things up a little. It can also help to tap tools and services such as ProfNet, HARO and Qwoted, capitalizing on low-hanging fruit or offering reactive commentary on current events to journalists. Along the same lines, take a look at this post on getting a fast start for your media relations program. “Quick wins” are a great way to set up a relationship for success.

Showcase your thinking

On our weekly PR touch-base meetings, we generally go through an agenda with all in-progress and upcoming items and initiatives. While that’s a critical part of any PR program, it’s a good idea to show the thinking behind the tactics. The easiest way to do this is to explain the rationale behind a pitch, offer color on a reporter’s needs or a background discussion, or share high-level observations on strategy. You can also slot in time for casual brainstorming. When they see you’ve “done your homework” and that you know what you’re talking about, any client will feel confident in your relationship moving forward.

Triple-check the small things

As PR professionals, one of our strongest qualities is an eye for details. But since we’re often juggling many things at once, it’s tempting to rush through tasks just to check them off the list. This can lead to sloppy emails or careless mistakes in documents like agendas or recap reports. Punctuality, consistency and attention to detail will help inspire confidence by clients who may be unhappy or needy by nature.

Understand their world

Internal PR officers have the advantage here, because they’re naturally more integrated into the business of their “clients.” Agency teams, on the other hand, have a tendency to be narcissistic. We sometimes personalize client feedback because we fail to understand the broad scope of their responsibilities and business pressures. Remember, it’s not always about you. Every good PR crew should commit to a deep dive into their client’s business, show curiosity, track business trends and understand the bigger picture.

If a client seems unhappy, there is usually a reason for it and there is almost always a way to right the ship. Keeping these suggestions in mind can help build stable relationships and ensure that all parties work together harmoniously.

From In-House To PR Agency: How To Manage The Shift

Throughout my public relations career, I’ve done the agency-to-in-house and in-house-to-agency dance a few times. Why? Because change is good, and because I believe that different work environments can help you advance as a professional.

PR firm experience prepares you for anything

My first PR internship was for a small PR agency in my hometown in South Carolina. It was a perfect career launchpad, as I was able to juggle different clients while not being overwhelmed by the workload. The job gave me confidence in my ability to work across numerous accounts in different industries. So, I moved up to NYC to join a boutique PR agency in midtown and dove into media relations, social media and events for clients in the commercial development industry (real estate, electric, and construction – glamorous!).

What did I learn? In a PR firm, every day brings something different.It was invigorating. One day I was pitching the launch of a Manhattan restaurant by one of the biggest commercial real estate firms in the world. The next day I was watching engagement soar for a social post, and the day after that, I was staffing a client event at a ritzy venue. I quickly became hooked on the PR agency life.

In-house PR offers a business education

Life took me back home to South Carolina, though, where opportunities at PR agencies are limited. So, I brought my talents in-house for several years to help different companies build in-house PR. I appreciated the opportunity to understand the ins and outs of a business and the commitment to a single company.

Yet, the downside of in-house PR work, in my opinion, is the bootstrapped team. It’s common for  communications, marketing, and PR to be lumped together, even though each is quite different. And there’s typically only one PR person, or two if you’re lucky. I missed being able to bounce ideas off PR teammates, and I wanted mentoring by seasoned PR pros and access to PR resources and databases.

Fortunately, I scored a gig as a Senior Account Executive with Crenshaw Communications which led me back to the agency life where I plunged into media relations, leading accounts in the rapidly-evolving ad tech space.

To thrive in this role, I had to dust off my previous agency best practices and learn some new ones. Here’s what has stood out for me.

Time management is key 

At an agency, time management takes on a new meaning. When working across multiple accounts, you’re bound to stay busy as there’s always something going on somewhere. You juggle multiple assignments and chances are their timelines will overlap. That’s why strategic  time management is helpful in staying sane and keeping accounts in good standing. My favorite To-Do List format is the quadrant, which is a four-section chart that categorizes responsibilities according to level of importance and urgency. By following this format, you can ensure your time is allotted to what’s most important and urgent first, later shifting to things that may be important but less urgent and so on.

Delegation is your friend 

When you’re working in-house, it may be feasible to manage the workload by yourself, but managing multiple accounts takes a village. Knowing when to ask for assistance is a strength, so don’t be afraid. Empower your teammates to assist with assignments without micromanaging or bottlenecking, as that will only backfire. Communication is key here, as you need to understand what else your colleagues have on their plates, then create a plan of execution that works for everyone. Give hard deadlines and check in along the way to ensure that things stay on track.

Use digital tools to stay organized 

As an account manager, it’s important to maintain a holistic view of every program so you know what’s going on. That requires organization. The good news is, you don’t have to be naturally organized because there are digital tools to help. Step one for me is organizing my email inbox. I create folders for each account and set rules that automatically filter incoming emails to the appropriate folders. Not only does this streamline the inbox, it saves time and energy. Similarly, you can create a platform like Google Drive for press releases, briefing documents, media databases, etc. so that any new documents are immediately filed in the right folder. Take advantage of your digital calendar–add all meetings to it (even if they’re IRL), block off time to focus on projects, keep it updated and share it with colleagues so they can see your availability. If you use Slack like we do at Crenshaw, leverage Slack’s integration tools. Slack allows you to connect various digital platforms, creating a centralized location for all activity. Finally, using a platform like Notion is a game-changer when it comes to project management.

No two accounts are the same

There’s no one-size-fits-all when working at a PR agency. It’s great to follow best practices for running accounts, but keep in mind that no two accounts are the same, so your approach to each will be different. Some may be formal and others more casual. They’ll each require a different mix of tactics. With some you may work only with the company’s communications team, while others require regular contact with the founder or CEO. Each account will prompt a different workflow, which requires flexibility and customization.

Manage up!

Often, the higher up you are on an account, the more you’re pulled in different directions. Having the right supportmakes all the difference. Just as leaders check in on the team members who report to them, it’s smart to check in with your managers, too. Keep them in the loop on the status of your assignments, be proactive in offering assistance, and don’t be afraid to check on items that weren’t assigned to you (this ensures everything is on the radar). I’ve found that the best workflow within our team happens when we all communicate about what we’re working on, remind each other of deadlines, double-confirm things and ask questions.

7 Reasons To Hire An Independent PR Firm

For a creative services firm – like ad, PR or marketing agencies – differentiation is key. One way agencies distinguish themselves is by touting their independence. In the advertising world, that may mean the company isn’t part of a consulting firm. The implication is that its team is free to offer top creative and client-centered work.

For PR firms, independence can mean different things. Calling an agency “independent” is sometimes a polite way of saying “cheap.” The theory is, its rates are lower because it doesn’t answer to a holding company or private equity firm that demands high margins. And it sometimes applies. Size and overhead matter, of course, but there are other factors, including how an agency sets its fees, how it bills, and how efficiently the team produces good work.

What does independence mean in PR?

An independent PR agency may have a lower overhead than a mega-firm, but many are substantial in size and depth. A focus on size misses the point. In my view, independence is cultural. It signals an openness to fresh approaches and a resilient attitude about rejection and failure. Most importantly, it’s about an entrepreneurial way of approaching the work.

What’s more, it translates into real and tangible benefits for clients. Here are the most important ones in my view.

Ability to retain talent

Recruiting and retaining talent is more relevant than ever since the pandemic sparked The Great Transition among many workers with the flexibility to work from anywhere. Of course, large agencies have real advantages when it comes to hiring – fat salaries and big-name accounts, to name a couple. Yet in an independent environment, the absence of complex hierarchy is a real advantage. It not only leads to speed of execution for clients, but it promotes staff mobility. When there are fewer layers within the corporate structure, it’s easier to move up. Then, too, independent agencies often have more flexibility to reward staff outside of rigid salary parameters.

Entrepreneurial spirit

An owner-operated agency is in a position to create that entrepreneurial environment that rewards initiative and accountability. That goes hand-in-hand with risk tolerance. A risk-averse team will be afraid of big ideas or contrarian strategies. A punitive or bureaucratic culture will reward a herd mentality that hews to the safety of what has worked in the past. At worst, it frustrates star performers and creative types who will inevitably look elsewhere for their psychological career rewards. An independent environment, by contrast, promotes top performance and independent thinking.

One profit center

I’m surprised more clients don’t ask about individual profit centers within one agency. In my experience, the siloed approach where each practice area has its own P&L is more typical among large, bureaucratic firms that don’t operate independently. The walls between practice areas mean there’s a disincentive to bring in staff from other groups even when needed. What’s the point of international offices or new services if they’re discouraged from spending time on client business due to internal competition or fiscal pressure? A single profit center, on the other hand, rewards the best work for the client, regardless of where it originates.

Faster decisions

An entrepreneurial agency culture incentivizes initiative, growth, and quick execution. Most clients appreciate this, but its value really depends on whether there is cultural compatibility in the relationship. For an agency like ours, which works with high-growth technology companies, it’s essential. For a larger, bureaucratic organization, a slower cadence and an agency team with multiple levels and layers might actually be a better fit.

Bold ideas

A more entrepreneurial environment also rewards independent thinking and big ideas. A common challenge of an “integrated” team is that the highest-margin service tends to lead. That means risky ideas are discouraged. This is not ideal because PR is more tactical than message-driven paid media, and mediaworthy ideas and events really count.

Unvarnished advice

Objective advice is not always easy or organic in a politicized corporate environment. A recommendation that shifts budget from one column to another is subject to multiple approvals and challenges. But unfiltered and objective feedback is, above all, what clients need from their PR and corporate communications teams. It shouldn’t be diluted by internal politics or infighting.

Value for money

It may be that I’m trying to have it both ways here. I hate to equate independence with small fees or puny clients, because big-brand campaigns can come out of midsize independent PR firms. But the overhead that goes with integrated services and global offerings, coupled with the demands of holding-company margins, can undermine client service. It also inflates costs. It’s the most common complaint we hear from clients who switch from what I like to call intergalactic agencies.

I started my career at a midsize, owner-operated agency. Then I followed the siren song of the largest independent PR firm and stayed for five years, followed by a stint at an integrated ad agency. I started my own firm in the model of the first one. Each structure had its merits. There’s no one model for a creative services or PR advisory business. But I’m biased in favor of less bureaucracy, greater simplicity, maximum flexibility, and fewer deciders. At a PR agency, independence is not about size or business model, but about culture, initiative, and talent.

5 Ways To Tell If A PR Firm Is A Fit

PR is something nearly every organization needs. Yet many don’t know what makes an agency a ‘great’ fit. After all, all PR firms are not created equal. 

Some companies fall victim to the “big budget, big agency; small budget, small agency” myth. Regardless of whether an agency is big or small, it’s the account team is usually comprised of a few dedicated team members who will deliver on the company’s objectives. When partnering with a big agency, companies forget that it usually means a bigger overhead. Many larger agencies are also known for the “bait and switch” where senior leaders pitch and sell to the client but then the account is turned over to junior staff to execute on their own.

Bill Gates is quoted as saying that if he was down to his last dollar, he’d spend it on PR. While the quote may be apocryphal, it’s good advice. When a solid PR strategy is executed well, it delivers results, boosts credibility, and builds strong thought leaders within the organization.

So how do you determine whether an agency is the right fit for your needs? Let’s delve into five sure-tell signs that they are.

The agency understands your PR and business goals

To bring on a PR firm, there should be a clear synergy between the PR goals and what the agency can reasonably deliver. That’s pretty obvious, right? But, a good PR agency also knows that its goals and deliverables are just one piece of the puzzle. The organization’s goals make up the other piece. The right PR team should not only understand how PR works, but how it fits into the broader landscape of your business and how you map its success.

It offers solid strategy and alignment

The right PR agency should come up with a SMART PR strategy and ensure there is clear alignment to your goals. They should be able to deploy any of the communications tools at their disposal to get results. And, strong skill sets are essential. If your PR team can only handle traditional PR and you also need social media, for example, it doesn’t make sense to spread out your budget to different agencies – you need a one-stop-shop. You should see your PR agency as a long-term partner with a skilled team that consistently delivers for your organization.

It gets results

When kicking off a relationship with a PR agency, it’s essential to define success and how they plan to achieve it. A good barometer for success is looking at work the agency has done for previous clients, particularly those in your sector. By studying the agency’s portfolio and case histories, you can evaluate how well they will perform for your needs. Your agency should be delivering measurable results for you that align with your KPIs and ROI.

The agency is proactive and creative

Not all organizations have a regular cadence of news and press releases. It’s often up to the PR agency to come up with creative proactive ideas that will garner media interest – even when there’s no news to share with reporters. A good PR agency knows that they can take POVs from executives or other internal initiatives and develop creative angles to garner media attention. Your agency should consistently be driving innovative ideas that help your company stand out among competitors.

The firm challenges you

While good PR agencies bring new ideas and consistently energize the relationship, they shouldn’t just be ‘yes people.’ A good agency partner will challenge you with ideas and statements that may differ from conventional wisdom to help you achieve your objectives. A good partner will take you out of your comfort zone, set realistic expectations with you, and deliver results that wow you.

At Crenshaw Communications, we aim to consistently meet our clients’ needs and drive compelling results for them. With a stellar team of dedicated PR pros, we showcase our tenacity and commitment to clients with regular top-tier coverage and successful long-term client relationships.

What They Don’t Teach You About PR In College

As a budding professional at a PR firm, I have been exposed to many different facets of the industry. I’ve drafted press releases, compiled media lists, and learned plenty of different terms I didn’t otherwise know. But my PR agency job has got me thinking back to what I learned about the industry when I first took a college course about it. What did I learn then, and how similar is my current experience to it? Here are some things I certainly didn’t learn about PR in college.

How to pitch media

Given how integral media pitching is to the practice of public relations, I was shocked to look back and realize how much I didn’t know about media, and the most effective ways to approach them about stories. Looking back through my assignments, I found press releases and some campaigns. I learned the basics of PR tactics, like the different parts of a press release and how to write one, but now that I’m in the industry I consider pitching one of the basics of what we do. I feel like I should have known more about it, since generating earned media coverage remains an essential goal for most PR agencies.

Business knowledge is important 

It’s a no-brainer that you need to know about client companies to represent them, but what I’ve learned on the job is how important it is to know about a given client’s business. It’s not enough to just know about the organization. It’s also key to learn about any given industry so you’re better equipped to monitor news, suggest new pitch angles, spot trends, and keep an eye on competitors. That competitive intelligence is really critical, because it enables the PR and media strategies we use to help differentiate our clients through press outreach, branded content, and positioning.

Conferences and awards are a part of a strategic PR program

You don’t learn everything in school. For example, I had no idea just how integral to a typical PR program the visibility earned through conference speaking opportunities are. Securing coverage in the media is a great way to gain exposure and build credibility for a company or brand, but prestigious keynote or panel opportunities for client executives can complement that coverage. Conferences can reach a new audience that might not read the publications that feature a given company, and they reach them directly. One term I heard a lot in my PR course was “media gatekeepers” and how to attract them, but it was mostly explained through press releases and how to write killer hooks. Conferences represent a new avenue, and one that college students should be more aware of before they enter the job market. The same is true for the recognition that comes from winning high-profile awards, like those 40 under 40 lists or Best Places to Work rankings. They all work together to build an organization’s reputation.  

You need excellent research skills

I became interested in PR because I was looking for fields adjacent to journalism, so I assumed there would be plenty of research involved to go along with writing.  But I was not prepared for the sheer amount of it! I’ve sometimes spent entire days monitoring the news, digging through databases for emails, scouring news sites for relevant articles, reviewing analyst reports, or finding public-domain information about a given topic. And that doesn’t mention studying reporters’ work when making briefing sheets, where we document their histories and interview style. I’ve had plenty of experience researching during school, but what I’ve had to do on the job still surprises me. 

PR is not marketing

Sometimes outsiders lump PR, marketing, and communications into the same boat, because they all have similar job functions. People may boil it down to “all about promoting a brand,” and while that’s true, it’s more complicated than that. PR and marketing can both promote products, but in different ways. For example, the kind of press coverage generated by a good PR campaign, earned media, can be more persuasive than advertising (paid media), but we don’t fully control the story. By contrast, paid media exerts control over where, when, and what message is communicated to target audiences, but it’s perceived as an ad and is therefore less credible than earned coverage. So, they work together. But the difference to me is that marketing isn’t as focused on corporate or brand reputation as what we typically do in B2B PR. While they can overlap, they have their differences which should be recognized.

No two PR jobs are the same

Even as a young professional, I’ve had the opportunity to work in PR across several industries, both in-house and at an agency, at a non-profit and at a start-up. And one thing that college certainly didn’t prepare me for is that every single experience I’ve had is different. PR is not a “one size fits all” industry, and every experience is different. I’ve had to apply different things I learned in college to each position, and I used ingenuity and initiative to get things done. Some jobs involve more writing, others involve more research. With some I was able to do more social media. But overall they’re all different, and my college experience was preparing me for the industry as a whole.

I’ve seen these points echoed by other people in the industry, showing that maybe there’s room for more practical or granular topics when it comes to what PR professors teach their students. The more they learn, the better prepared they are when they first get a job, and they will be more than ready to impress both their coworkers and their clients.

6 Things PR Agencies Should Never Say

PR agency teams, like all creative services people, love to keep our clients happy. That’s a good thing, except where the drive to please leads us to say things we shouldn’t. Who here hasn’t uttered something on an update call or dashed off something in an email and then thought better of it? 

I don’t mean careless wordplay, but rather promises or commitments that we likely can’t keep. Here are some of those phrases that should be erased from a PR specialist’s vocabulary. 

We can definitely generate XX earned media placements

Nothing in this world is for sure, and we shouldn’t treat media interviews and articles as such. In PR, we of course want to get as many quality stories as possible, and we typically have a good idea of what will result when we’re managing a news announcement, for example. But playing the numbers game isn’t a good idea. In the first place, quality usually beats quantity when it comes to earned media. Then there’s the risk of being misinterpreted by clients. It’s better to suggest that the team has a goal of a certain number of placements or interviews, but never guarantee anything!  

We have a relationship with them so it’s a done deal

PR is all about building connections, especially with media. At Crenshaw, we work hard to create those bonds with journalists. In a pre-pandemic world, we would socialize over happy hours and karaoke. Why bother? To put a face to our emails. To build trust, and to encourage a response to a solid pitch, even if the answer is no. The truth about media relationships is that they’re most valuable in generating a fast answer, not a guarantee of coverage. 

I don’t see the news hook in this announcement

Is every announcement a NYT A1 story? No. But a reflexive objection about news value isn’t a good response to a client announcement. While news comes in all shapes and sizes from acquisitions to product updates to personnel moves, there is always some way to make little news into a splash. A great example was a French company we worked with that was launching their competitive pricing tool in the US market. This was not new technology and the name was virtually unknown in the States. We recognized that the launch alone was not going to make much of a splash, so we created a survey around retailers and their fear of being outpriced by Amazon. The data was the perfect companion to the launch story! While most news isn’t always flashy, adding new elements can secure media attention.

You should see the ROI on this immediately

Wow! Really? Immediately?! Tell me, what is your secret! This one is hard because it’s natural for marketing or sales teams to look for a guarantee on lead-generation or conversion. PR and sales are not the same thing, however. If a company thinks all PR efforts will directly lead to sales, it may be time to explain the difference. Through tools like SEO and lead-gen tactics, PR pros can help move the needle by making sure company messaging is aligned to increase visibility. The ROI may not happen overnight. 

Do you have any news for us to pitch?

If you hear this from a PR person – run away. Of course there are plenty of times when companies do not have any major announcements, but this doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for hard news to fall into our laps. The best PR specialists know how to use creative tactics, research, and data to create newsworthy stories. Growth milestones, new research, founder stories, newsjacking — all present opportunities for exposure. Never ask an executive if they have anything for us to pitch. We should be approaching them with new ideas on engaging media. 

PR is about getting hits

While a big part of what our clients ask of us is generating media coverage, what any agency team does will go way beyond that. PR is about brand reputation and helping companies become industry leaders in their space. How do PR pros do this? Thought leadership in the form of bylines, webinars, speaking engagements at conferences, and award submissions are a few common elements of a PR plan. It pays to think beyond only media interviews and coverage. 

Terms You Overhear During A PR Internship

Being an intern at a top New York PR agency has exposed me to many things I hadn’t experienced before. I’ve been able to use my content skills for press releases and bylined article drafts. I’ve sat in on calls with clients themselves, affording a glimpse into another company. But as a budding PR professional, what has really caught my attention are the common words and phrases I’ve heard during my time here. Whether it’s through emails or Slack messages or even listening in on client meetings, there are plenty of terms thrown around. Some I knew going in, but others are brand new. Here is a list of things you might hear at a PR internship.


A major goal of good PR is helping your client get more exposure in the media, and that means talking to reporters. I was a journalism major in college and had dreams of reporting before I shifted to PR, so I know all about wanting to get that big scoop. Imagine having your name next to a story no one else was able to get! Well, that’s what an exclusive is — sort of. It refers to a situation where the PR team offers first-crack at a story to one reporter and one reporter only. Usually it’s for a big client announcement. Once we secure the right person to cover the story, we don’t pitch it to anyone else until it runs as an exclusive. But we will quickly offer it more widely as soon as we fulfill our end of the negotiation.


When I sit in on client meetings, oftentimes I hear about upcoming press releases that will be “under embargo.” Usually when I hear the word “embargo” I think of ships or trade restrictions. But in PR and journalism, it means an article or a press release that won’t be published until a certain time. Unlike exclusives, we send releases under embargo to multiple reporters at the same time.

“Go wide”

Another thing I hear a lot on client calls in regards to pitching is how our team will “go wide”. That means we send it out to all relevant reporters and producers. If there’s something we want everyone to know about, then we’ll let them all know.


An abstract is a brief summary of something, and in my experience here I’ve heard it used to mean a “speaking abstract.” When we want to submit a client executive as a keynote or panel speaker for an event, we prepare an abstract to summarize what they want to say. It’s interesting because most people think of PR as writing press releases or pitching to reporters, but things like event submissions show that it’s a lot more than that. There’s a real art to crafting a compelling abstract, and I’ve learned a lot about that from our conference and awards team here. 


Vertical is short for vertical market, which is “a market encompassing a group of companies and customers that are all interconnected around a specific niche.” In PR, we use it to describe the industries that serve and the media sectors we reach on behalf of client organizations. So for example, if we want to pitch a story about cybersecurity, we’ll look for people in the technology, IT security, or financial verticals.


From my time in journalism, I know the term “byline” as the part of the article where it shows who wrote it. But in PR it usually refers to a trade article bylined by a client executive. So far I’ve helped research or draft bylines on topics like cybersecurity insurance and retail. It has given great insight into areas I wouldn’t have otherwise delved into.


Not necessarily a PR-specific term, but you still hear it a lot in any position, whether it’s an internship or a full-time spot. Usually it’s in the context of when something is due. EOD means “end of day,” and of course EOW means “end of week.” At the end of the day (see what I did there?), it’s just simple shorthand.

“Close the loop”

When you want to be in the know on something, you want to be “in the loop,” and if you don’t know what’s going on, you’re “out of the loop.” What “closing the loop” means is putting an end to a project and letting everyone involved know. For example, if we secure coverage for a client and a piece runs, then we might close the loop by telling everyone we were in contact with. Or, if I’m putting together a list of coverage and I can’t find any more news, then we might close the loop on that.  

“Circle back”

This is a very common term when it comes to projects, and it’s basically about returning to a topic after a bit. For example, while asking for any additional projects to work on, I’ve had people tell me “I’m busy, so I’ll circle back with you later.” Many people dislike this term, but I think it’s harmless.

“Get a bite” (or a nibble)

These last two are terms that aren’t necessarily PR-exclusive, but I think they’re fun ways to describe offering story ideas and commentary to media. Because when you think about it, pitching is a bit like fishing. You put out your story like you’re casting a line and hope that you get a bite. Thankfully reporters are more likely to “bite” than fish, but it’s still a clever metaphor that I like hearing and using.

“Find a home”

And speaking of animal-related terms I’ve heard, this one might be the most adorable. When I heard someone say we were “finding a home” for a bylined article, my mind immediately went to dogs and animal shelters, where people find homes for pets who need one. As a dog lover and proud owner of a rescue (say hi to Toby!), a term like that resonates with me. Bylines and other stories, like pets, need homes too! And it’s up to journalists to “adopt” them. Get Sarah McLachlan to film a PSA!

Overall I’ve learned a lot of terms and lingo as an intern, and I look forward to using them myself as I continue to grow and take on more responsibilities, whether it’s at Crenshaw or wherever else my PR career takes me.

Five Benefits Of Working At A Small PR Agency

PR agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big, flashy and have a long and sprawling client list. Other agencies — often described as “boutique” — are smaller and less known, yet capable of producing work of the highest quality. When considering a career in PR — or a pivot from another industry — size can matter. In general, larger agencies have a more traditional work atmosphere and all that goes with it — a more formal hierarchy, multiple layers of management, and set policies about work hours. Smaller agencies are often less formal and can be less organized when it comes to personnel matters. Both, however, can offer a very positive experience and top-level learning.  

With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of working at a small PR firm. 

A strong culture 

A small PR agency is like a small town. Whether you like it or not, everyone knows you, and you know them. PR pros at smaller agencies tend to develop relationships with one another that just wouldn’t be possible at a bigger place. We know a lot about one another’s personal lives, and it’s not hard to develop almost familial bonds at work. It makes work more fun and less stressful. In between client calls, meetings, or drafting content, it’s typical to talk about the day’s current events or pop culture or sports. At a small agency, everyone gets to know each other, whether they work on the same accounts or not. Fewer people ultimately makes these interactions easier and more meaningful.  At a larger agency, you make more contacts, but there is less interaction with people who aren’t a member of your own account team.

Opportunities to thrive 

Mobility, mobility, mobility – those are the three reasons many people start off at a smaller firm. Every young PR professional wants an opportunity to show their true value and what they’re made of. A small agency will typically offer a faster rise through the ranks than a larger firm, because those ranks are thinner. Yes, there’s still a hierarchy, and that’s an important part of any functioning business or company. But fewer employees and layers of management mean more opportunities to move up, and to try new things that just wouldn’t be possible at a larger agency. This could be anything from putting together a quarterly PR plan to being a part of a new business presentation. At larger agencies, these are usually reserved for senior team members. In a small environment junior folks get a chance to be a part of them. There, you can accelerate your skill set and move up more quickly.

Team collaboration 

Another benefit of working at a small agency is the chance for high-level collaboration. Sure, there’s also that opportunity at larger agencies. However, with so many voices in the room, chances are you may not have the occasion to share your ideas and thoughts. At a big agency, these meetings usually consist of the same couple of high-ranking folks dominating the conversation. As a result, junior staff are often muted or intimidated. A small agency, on the other hand, affords the chance for your voice to not only be heard, but also be seriously considered. For example, it’s common to get together with team members to figure out the most effective way to roll out a product announcement for a given client. Since the teams are smaller, you have a real chance to be a critical part of the collaboration and decision-making processes. 

Greater client ownership

At a mega-agency, the client organizations tend to be larger, so they require more staff — often multiple layers and levels of staff. In a smaller environment, by contrast, you may actually work  on more individual clients, but because they are small or midsize companies, you have more ownership over the work and the client relationship. It’s a great way to develop a deep understanding of what a client does and how to help them achieve success. For someone starting off in PR, this means you can dig in and understand the nuances that go along with PR work. It’s a win-win for both you and the client. 

Skills broadening

As a team member at a small firm, you learn different aspects of the job very quickly, often by necessity. Yes, smaller agencies may still offer specialist services, like content development or speakers bureau. But chances are, even during your first months on the job, you’ll have the chance to write, pitch media, research business categories, and even participate in high-level creative sessions and business development meetings. Smaller firms tend to be flexible and nimble, and those skills will come in handy no matter where you build your career.

I feel that a boutique PR agency is the best place to learn everything you need to know and offer a chance to get your feet wet. They also allow someone new to the industry to make their name and reputation quickly. To me, there’s no question that a small agency provides the best work environment to make the most of your skill and become the best PR person possible.