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.

“Exclusive” 

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.

“Embargo”

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.

“Abstract”

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”

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.

“Byline”

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.

“EOD/EOW”

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. 

How Paid And Organic Social Media Work Together In PR

Social media marketing and PR have become inseparable. That’s because social media plays a large role in most consumer and B2B PR programs. Of course, the right strategy is key to success, but for amplifying or growing the results of a strong PR program, the best option is usually a blend of paid and organic social media. Fully 86% of B2B marketers combine paid and organic social tactics. Here’s why.

Paid vs. organic social

Organic content uses free social media tools to share posts, photos, videos, and stories with the people who already follow a given brand or individual. The only way social media users can see posts organically is if a brand’s followers share its content or they’re following hashtags used by a brand to attract those searching for a specific topic. 

Organic social is the best way to begin to establish a connection with relevant audiences, but it has other benefits.

  • There is no cost to use it

  • Builds brand awareness

  • Extends the reach of thought leadership content 

  • Helps build a community around common topics or interests 

  • Develops campaigns with custom hashtags 

The reach of organic social sharing, however, is self-limiting. That’s where paid social media programs come in. While organic posting is key to reputation and relationship-building, algorithms that drive social content have made the paid social necessary for many campaigns. Its benefits are obvious.

  • Paid social connects brands with audiences that would not have discovered its content 

  • Paid campaigns can reinforce or amplify the message of organic social content

  • B2B companies can use audience targeting to reach industry decision-makers 

Integrating paid and organic social programs 

Organic social media reach is dwindling across most platforms. Organic posts on Facebook only reach about 5.5% of brand followers since Facebook’s algorithm decides which posts users see, and in what order. Here are some tips on finding the equilibrium of paid and organic social tactics for your social media strategy.

Where to post

The balance of paid and organic social media in a given program should be determined according to the social platform involved. The mix should vary according to program goals, and you may choose to incorporate more paid media one platform while organic may better suit another. Promoting a webinar can benefit more from paid posts on LinkedIn compared to Facebook, and audience engagement can thrive on Twitter when using organic tools such as polls and hashtags. People visit different social platforms for different reasons, and knowing which content to share and where to engage will play to the strength of each platform. 

Serve targeted ads based on organic audience

By using organic social media to build relationships with a given audience, you gain data insights about them. Information such as job title, age, and location can help build ads that are as relevant as possible. 

The beauty of social platforms is that they create lookalike audiences according to the data that closely matches a preferred audience segment. This could be webinar registrants or people who have actively engaged with brand content. A lookalike audience consists of people with similar demographics but are new to the brand and thus very valuable.

All promotion isn’t equal

Ads aren’t always the way to go – a captivating, creative organic post can generate buzz and compel your followers to share. In our view, organic social is most useful for amplifying an announcement, namely earned media coverage, change in leadership, or a new partnership. Use relevant hashtags and tag companies, people, or media outlets to ramp up impressions engagement. That being said, if the reach of organic posts isn’t meeting your goals, then you may want to back your content with spend.

An organic post that performs well can be “boosted” by paying to get it in front of more people – one of the benefits of marrying paid and organic social. Boosting is the perfect introduction to paid social and is low-risk, since there’s no need to produce an ad designed for a specific campaign. A running of your weekly or monthly analytics report will include likes, conversions, and profile views to determine the top-performing posts for boosting.

A/B testing

Before finalizing the social media budget allocation, most of us will run different versions of an ad in front of a small audience to see which performs better. You will want to test copy, graphics, ad placement, and audience targeting before deciding on a set budget in order to maximize the campaign’s effectiveness. You can also test organic content performance by setting up manual split tests and tracking results by using UTM parameters.

Optimize for success

A winning B2B social media strategy will typically include both paid and organic social media elements. Determining which approach works best for a given brand will take some testing and adjustment, but once you find what works, the results will be well worth it.

Five Types Of Bylined Content That Work For PR

As outlined in my post on PR tips for effective bylines, bylined content is a powerful part of a B2B PR plan. It can help deliver key messages, communicate expertise and drive thought leadership for business brands. But there are many types of content that build credibility and leadership as part of a strategic PR program. Here are five of the most common.

Traditional Trend Piece

Content that explains a new or emerging trend is among the most valuable for business customers because it helps educate prospects. Educational content is particularly useful for any category with a long purchase cycle and steep learning curve, like software or insurance. Executives who are subject-matter experts can share relevant insights on business happenings. These will typically include a specific point of view about an industry trend, what it means, how businesses should prepare or respond, and possibly even how they can help, although this may only be implied. For example, we represent several ad tech companies at a time when major browsers like Chrome are phasing out support for third-party cookies. What does this mean for digital advertising? How can marketers cope? What does it do for publishers? These issues seem arcane for anyone outside the industry, but they’re hot-button topics in the ad tech lane because the community is rushing to adapt. As in any category, change represents opportunity for those who can seize it.

Personal/Lessons Learned

We love this type of piece because we represent high-growth technology companies often led by entrepreneurs, and they all have stories to tell. What’s more, these pieces are usually both well differentiated and authentic. The important thing to bear in mind for “lessons learned” content is that the most influential and widely shared articles will offer insights for the reader as well as an interesting personal experience. Right now, many businesses have learned and changed enormously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among our base of clients there are some excellent stories about what they’ve learned, how they’ve adapted and how they’re continuing to navigate the situation as business leaders and as citizens. A “lessons learned” piece is also among the most versatile, and it can usually be augmented or even replaced by a video version. 

Service Content

This type of content can overlap with the “lessons learned” category, but it is typically more tactical and less personal. It may also be far more grounded in research. An effective service piece can be in the form of a whitepaper that offers proprietary industry data and outlines key steps for customers who face a specific decision or business dilemma. The best service articles are generous with data but offer clear tips, steps, or checklists for moving a business forward, responding to customer preferences, or effecting specific change. Service content is among the easiest and best types of content for incorporating different types of visuals beyond text, including digital graphics, charts, and short video snippets. 

Opinion/Contrarian Piece

This type of contributed content showcases a personal opinion on an important business, social, or cultural matter. Op-ed pieces and bylined articles are a staple in politics, but they’re equally effective for entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to communicate their ideas and build a reputation for bold thinking. The most effective such articles set out a single take or point of view and back it up with statistics, experience, or other evidence. An op-ed is a perfect vehicle for experts who want to help shape a public conversation. A contrarian opinion and/or a strong call to action can help an op-ed writer stand out. In our world, a less popular opinion may have a better chance of being published in an influential business or trade outlet – but only if it is authentic. 

Call-to-Action

A Call To Action, or CTA, can exist in nearly any type of content but it’s worth calling out because it is essential to achieving content marketing goals. The CTA tells a target audience what action they should take after reading through the post. The most basic CTAs involve encouraging the customer to buy a product or service. Other types might involve asking readers to share the content, make a donation, subscribe to emails, and so forth. CTAs should be short and concise so the reader knows exactly what to do and can easily follow through. 

Leverage bylined articles for maximum exposure

After deciding on your content mix, it’s important to make sure it is seen by the most relevant target audience. Any business can ensure that its pieces are seen by those who matter most: clients, prospects, referral sources, alumni, colleagues, internal staff, and, of course, the media outlets that influence different segments. Promoting content social media and encouraging others to share it as well is important for gaining maximum exposure for your piece. Direct marketing to customers and employees through timely emails is also useful. We will explore the best ways to merchandise business content in an upcoming post. 

 

How (And Why) PR Pros Should Use TikTok

There’s a new social media app taking the world by storm. It’s called TikTok. Ever heard of it? 

Seriously, TikTok has been on the PR radar for a long time, and most recently it made news for different reasons. Media interest peaked over the weekend with reports that a deal involving TikTok, Oracle and Wal-Mart would avert a ban of the app in the U.S. The agreement is still tentative, but it’s meant to resolve the simmering controversy about the app as a potential security risk.

TikTok’s users, however, don’t seem concerned. The app has surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, with 1.65 billion downloads to date, more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., and more than 500 million active users worldwide. TikTok is currently the sixth largest social network in the world. 

What started out as a Snapchat-like platform for younger generations of social media influencers and general users for sharing video snippets has grown into an essential platform for marketing and advertising. Whether a brand’s focus is fitness, fashion, food, or anything else, TikTok can connect it to a highly desirable and sometimes elusive audience. 

Why TikTok? 

New and creative social channels should be key elements for consideration in any PR plan, especially for brands aiming to reach a younger audience. TikTok is essential for this demo, as 60% of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24. The app is intrinsic to its users’ lives;  the average Tik Tok visitor opens the app more than eight times per day, spending about 46 minutes on it daily.  

One of the most appealing aspects of TikTok, especially for those younger users, is that everyone is a creator. It’s open to all formats, and there are no distinct guidelines or rules on how the app should be used. Creativity is the only rule. Videos range from singing and dancing, to comedy, reaction videos and challenges. On the flip side, users can find more serious content, with videos focused on topics like politics, climate change, and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Depending on individual users’ personalized recommendations, TikTok plays videos instantly upon the app’s opening, immediately drawing viewers in. This is TikTok’s most central feature – its AI-driven algorithm that shows videos based on user preferences. This same feature helps guarantee that a brand’s videos will reach its target audience – an important distinction TikTok has over other social media platforms. 

TikTok is a powerful brand marketing platform

TikTok makes it easier than ever to promote a brand – reaching the right people in the right ways. Over the last year, it introduced self-serve advertising platforms, including branded hashtags, video ads, branded lenses and much more. Based on a company’s wants and needs, there are a variety of formats to choose from. 

Branded hashtags drive discovery

Branded hashtags encourage users to create videos with a certain hashtag, often accompanied by a specific song or dance move. Videos with branded hashtags are not only available in a user’s normal feed, but also in the Trending section of the Discover tab, making these videos widely viewable. In fact, with TikTok, users rely heavily on hashtags to navigate the app. It’s “For You” discovery page engages far more than Instagram’s “Discover” page, for example.

Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge, a great example of a branded hashtag campaign, spread like wildfire on TikTok, as well as on Twitter and Youtube. The challenge became the fastest hashtag challenge using a branded effect to reach one million video creations globally and a whopping 95.5 billion views through user generated content (UGC) on the platform.

Video ads for the win

Video ads are understandably the most common format for ad and marketing purposes on TikTok, with brand takeovers, in-feed videos and top-view videos being popular. Brand takeovers are pop-up ads that typically last 3-5 seconds. They can be videos, GIFs, or images that include links to a landing page. TikTok only allows one brand to take over a category per day, but it guarantees five million impressions, a promise that may well be worth the investment for many. Additionally, brands get immediate attention, as the ads display upon opening the app. 

Branded lenses jump on trends

With branded lenses, brands partner with TikTok to create 2D and 3D lenses for users to “try on” and share. Branded lenses also let companies land in the Trending section of the Discover tab for ten days. According to Prowly, about 64% of TikTok users have tried facial filters and lenses, making it another valuable option for marketers. 

Influencer partnerships spice it up

For any marketer wanting to incorporate TikTok into a brand PR strategy, TikTok influencers are essential. As on other platforms, TikTok influencer marketing ads partner brands with creators to generate and share sponsored content. When the partnership is authentic and the creators are given freedom, these partnerships can be highly successful. 

For example, David Dobrik, one of the most popular social media influencers, with more than 22 million TikTok followers, partnered with Chipotle for its Lid Flip Challenge, a Cinco de Mayo campaign to promote the chain’s free delivery for digital orders. Chipotle discovered that Gen Zers order delivery more than any other segment, making them the perfect audience. To participate in the challenge, users only needed a phone and a Chipotle burrito bowl. 

According to AdAge, in just the first six days of the Lid Flip Challenge with David Dobrik, 111,000 videos were submitted and the promotion garnered a record-breaking digital sales day for the chain, driving app downloads and delivery among the key Gen Z audience.

But Can It Work for B2B?

B2B companies might be hesitant about TikTok because it’s so consumer-oriented, but they shouldn’t count it out. Companies wanting to reach business customers have the same end goal of reaching and forming lasting relationships with their target audiences. So, for B2B companies, how can TikTok help? 

With any brand, it’s important to feel approachable. Stronger relationships can be formed when customers feel connected to your brand on a more personal level. TikTok users want the platform to stay a creative, authentic channel for human-to-human interaction. Do you have a CEO with a unique story? Maybe how he/she established the business, or maybe insights on building a strong culture at work? Sharing tips or short stories in visually appealing ways can engage viewers and make lasting impact. For example, marketer Adrian Brambila shares his success story on TikTok by explaining how he established himself as a marketing leader, and to date, his videos have generated more than 4.7 million likes. 

TikTok is overflowing with innovative, fresh ideas, so brands must be clever with their posts to be noticed. Even for brands thought of as “boring” that is doable. For example, just before the global shutdown in March, The Washington Post began sharing content on TikTok, but they weren’t posting videos of daily headlines. Rather, the outlet shared relatable videos on the daily struggles and adjustments of working from home, incorporating popular trends. They must be doing something right, because the content has generated more than 25.8 million likes. 

Staying relevant, influential and top-of-mind is important for all brands, whether B2B or B2C. Keeping up with content trends is one way of doing that, and some of the best, most buzzworthy ideas online are shared on TikTok. Viral TikTok videos make great templates for high-performing content on other platforms as well – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

With TikTok, B2B companies can connect and engage with more of their audience and show prospects the more creative and personal side of their business. B2B companies not leveraging the app may be missing out on opportunities. 

TikTok: making connections and driving lasting impacts 

TikTok is the first app of its kind. What separates it from other social media platforms is the creativity it affords users. It lets them be both creators and viewers, and exposes them to an endless stream of personalized content. More importantly, the sense of community on TikTok is what draws users in and keeps them coming back for more. It will continue to play a key role in the PR efforts of brands appealing to younger users. If you’re looking to engage with the elusive teen or young 20s demographic, chances are you will find them on TikTok.

6 PR Tips For Staffing A Media Briefing

In B2B public relations, one of the things we do regularly is arrange media briefings on subjects relevant to our clients’ business. Often these briefings translate directly into coverage. But even if they don’t, these meetings are important. They’re useful for relationship building and keep the dialogue going until the time when a company executive’s quotes or comments can be used for a relevant story. 

PR people are nearly always involved in setting up these briefings, and at our agency, we always staff them as well. But to a less experienced PR person, this role can feel awkward. Am I in the way? A fifth wheel? Is this a waste of time when my client can handle it? The answer to these questions is no. A good PR rep should have a role in nearly any media briefing. Below are a few things we should keep in mind when staffing an interview:

Kick things off

It’s usually up to the PR representative to kick off the call and set the tone for the conversation to follow. At the start of each call or meeting, you will want to introduce the spokesperson and have them explain what their company does and what their role is there. Most journalists will do their own research ahead of an interview, but a verbal summary is a good conversation-starter. It also fulfills the important goal of giving the spokesperson a chance to reinforce their expertise on the topic at hand and to steer the interview to the story we want to share.

Be personable

People run late to meetings. If you’re waiting on a conference line and the journalist is first to join, it’s good to introduce yourself and thank them for taking the time to talk. Any good PR person sets up a brief for their client ahead of an interview, but it can also be an ice-breaker when waiting for the interview to start. That’s a good time to ask about a previous article they’ve written, current events or just how their day is going. Not only do you want your spokesperson to succeed, but creating a friendly relationship with a journalist will pave the way for future pitches.

Let the interview play out, but pay attention

If on the phone or Zoom, the PR person staffing the interview should go on mute once things begin. The journalist wants to speak to the expert or executive because they’re knowledgeable about a specific topic, so don’t crowd them. A good PR rep will listen closely and take notes on key points made during the conversation. Company spokespersons often share useful information or data we might not even know during a journalist discussion that can be applied to future outreach. Especially in tech PR, journalists often request data to back up a claim and the PR staffer will of course need to take care of any follow-up. We particularly like listening to briefings with C-level executives because they typically share information freely, have strong points of view about key topics, and will often say something we haven’t heard before.

Chime in if necessary

Occasionally a PR person will need to step in and make a course-correction. It happens rarely, but sometimes a spokesperson can go for too long on a tangent where they wander away from the question. Or they may divulge information not intended to be public. (This one’s tricky and must be addressed right away.) Conversely, the journalist may stray into areas that have been agreed as off-limits for a particular conversation. If this happens, PR pros shouldn’t be afraid to chime in and get things back on track. If a lack of focus is a frequent problem for a given spokesperson, it’s worth a media training session to heighten their comfort level and preparation for future conversations.

Follow up 

Be sure to follow up with a journalist after the interview. Besides offering thanks, you will want to recap the major points discussed and note any specific requests for data or clarification. You will also want to know how the journalist reacted to the information and whether anything was incomplete or unclear. As PR pros we never want to be overbearing, but if you’re expecting a story to go live quickly and don’t see anything, you will need to follow up again to get a sense of timing.

Offer spokesperson feedback

It’s also important to offer feedback to the executive or expert spokesperson who participated in the interview. We like to be constructive, but candid. It may be that the exec didn’t explain his line of business fully, or that he spoke over the head of a non-expert. Or, maybe he was thorough but could have gotten to the point a little faster. Constructive feedback will strengthen the relationship and help all parties improve even a good performance.

3 Tips For A Killer Media Tour

The media tour has been around for nearly as long as the PR industry. It helps build relationships between a brand spokesperson and multiple journalists over a short period of time. The term is a little misleading, however. It dates back to the days when authors would travel from city to city to promote a new book in a blitz of media interviews, or when celebrities push a film to 20 cities in an afternoon of local TV chats via satellite. Today most media tours aren’t exactly like that. They happen when we set up back-to-back in-person meetings between an expert and carefully selected reporters who find his story particularly relevant.

There are many reasons why media tours have survived so long. Maybe an executive is based overseas but will be in the U.S. for a short time. Or perhaps a spokesperson with unique expertise is available on a limited basis. Often these meetings serve more of an introduction than a formal interview, but the tour may also be centered around specific industry news, like a new product or executive change. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a successful media tour, whether in-person or virtually.

Manage expectations on both sides

Make sure the nature of each meeting is clear – whether it will be a casual background conversation or a formal, on-the-record interview for a specific story angle. There should be no confusion between the reporter and the spokesperson, who should be prepared with sample questions and background on the journalist (see below). During the meeting, individual PR reps may operate in different ways, but in general, the PR person is there to observe, occasionally steer the conversation, but not to have an active role in the discussion. Of course, we need to be prepared to jump in if things go off-course, or if the spokesperson needs help in reponsing or obtaining data.

Put thought into scheduling

Be sure to schedule meetings with attention to detail. If the tour’s goal is to introduce a brand executive from overseas to U.S. media, be mindful of jet lag and cultural differences — even on Zoom. Don’t plan meetings too closely together unless the spokesperson is very experienced or the schedule requires it. Be discreet when arranging interviews with publications that compete with one another to avoid awkward moments. Also, remember that no matter how much thought you put into prep for a schedule of meetings, things will go wrong in small ways. Journalists will run late or cancel, security lines for office buildings may be long, technology will fail, or Ubers may not show. Be flexible, build in extra time, and make sure your phone is charged and its address book holds the contact information for all relevant parties. 

Overprepare

Although some media tours are set up as a general introduction, all spokespersons should be prepared with the full background of the journalist involved, the media outlet’s orientation and history, and the interviewer’s goals. A sample Q&A is always advisable, even if the two already know one another. We typically prepare a full briefing doc beforehand.  In addition to helping the conversation flow, it’s useful to keep certain topics top-of-mind so the interviewee won’t be caught off-guard. The most successful media meetings occur when there’s a dynamic conversation and flow between the spokesperson and reporter.

After a successful media meeting, the reporter is far more likely to have the organization and spokesperson on their radar and to reach out for future stories. In this way, in-person chats are invaluable. We can’t wait to return to that old-fashioned way to meet!

Crenshaw Nominated For 2020 PRSA-NY Big Apple Awards

The Crenshaw  team is delighted to be nominated for a 2020 PRSA Big Apple award. The Big Apples are the gold standard of excellence for PR practitioners in the New York metro area and celebrate the best work of PR agencies, companies, governmental bodies, and not-for-profit organizations during the prior year. 

This year, we have been nominated in the  B2B PR category for our campaign on behalf of event management software company Bizzabo. “EMPOWERing Gender Diversity in Events” helped Bizzabo build brand visibility and align with diversity-conscious event and marketing decision-makers. Winners will be announced September 30 during a virtual awards ceremony. Good luck to all who are nominated!