How to Use Threads For B2B PR

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

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

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

Thought leadership and brand positioning

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

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

Rapid response

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

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

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

Community engagement and feedback

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

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

Amplifying campaigns and initiatives

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

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

Building influential partnerships

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

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

How To Master The Public Apology: PR Tips

It’s not easy to apologize, especially if things unfold in the public eye. As any PR expert knows, there’s an art to the public mea culpa.

After announcing that her show would resume production despite the Writers Guild of America strike, Drew Barrymore issued a tearful, 5-minute video apologizing for her decision, but seeming to stand by it. Barrymore was harshly criticized for the statement, which has since been deleted, and she ultimately walked back the commitment to resume the show.

A few days later, Colorado representative Lauren Boebert found herself in a PR corner after being escorted out of a Denver theater after creating a disturbance. Boebert initially denied that she had been vaping from her seat, among other questionable activities, but security video proved otherwise. She then issued a statement of apology blaming her actions on her recent divorce, saying that she “fell short of her values.” It was a hamhanded and somewhat baffling response that seemed to skirt the real issue.

Here, then are some guidelines for an effective public apology.

Be clear and concise

This is where Drew Barrymore went a bit wrong. She intended her speech as a way of taking responsibility for her decision and not hiding behind a PR representative. But the video was a bit repetitive, self-involved, and unclear. If you stick with it, you see she offered a reason for her decision — that many jobs depend on her show. But because she spent too much time proclaiming that “there was no PR machine” instead of getting to the point, it came across as defensive and out of touch. And no one wants to watch a five-minute video when 45 seconds will do it.

Be sincere

It’s hard to challenge the sincerity of Barrymore’s video, and video is an excellent medium for conveying real remorse. Her tearful manner and unvarnished, no-makeup appearance lend credence to her words – we believe she’s genuinely upset. But as the statement continues, she begins to repeat herself and tries too hard to justify her decision. A better example of sincerity in action is the 2020 video posted by YouTube pioneer Jenna Marbles. Marbles won a generally positive reaction when she explained her decision to quit her YouTube channel in a farewell statement that took responsibility for offensive videos she had made years prior. It’s quite long at 11 minutes, but a controlled and quiet example of a near-perfect public apology.

Explain but don’t excuse

It’s sometimes helpful to explain the mistake or misbehavior, especially if it’s relevant to the perception of wrong. In early 2022, amid a sudden and serious shortage of infant formula, Abbott Laboratories CEO Robert Ford published a Washington Post editorial explaining how a voluntary recall of product from one facility after a bacteria scare exacerbated the supply shortage. The information was useful and relevant, but the Ford’s op-ed mainly succeeded because it outlined the plan to get formula back on store shelves. Any explanation must acknowledge the harm done and convey a sense of responsibility rather than an excuse.

Take responsibility

The epitome of the weasel-word apology is the awkwardly passive “mistakes were made” cliche, which, believe it or not, you can still find in corporate communications statements. This tenet can be tricky, especially when it comes to a serious situation involving injury or death. If there’s a risk of liability, attorneys will always counsel against a statement that assumes responsibility for harm. But in the court of public opinion, holding yourself or the organization accountable is often the most powerful thing you can do.

Fix the problem

Or try to. The Abbott Labs apology was effective in part because Ford shares a plan for solving the baby formula supply crisis. It’s clear he intends to fix the problem. The original model for the apology fix might be JetBlue’s “Passenger Bill of Rights”, which then-CEO David Neeleman promoted in a national media tour after a public fiasco. When an ice storm hit the East Coast, the airline cancelled 1000 flights in five days, and when passengers tried to rebook, its operations systems collapsed. The result was that 130,000 travelers were stranded, triggering a bitter backlash. Yet Neeleman’s public apology, coupled with the thoughtful set of commitments for the future, managed to challenge the entire category and position JetBlue as an industry leader rather than just another beleaguered player.

Remember, it’s not about you

Whether it’s a corporation or an entertainment personality, a self-involved apology is a turn-off. Both Drew Barrymore and Rep. Boebert strayed into indulgent territory in their respective statements. Barrymore repeated her self-justifications multiple times, which communicated the opposite of what she wanted to say. Boebert brought up her divorce as a potential excuse for her behavior, then referenced her own “values” which seemed to aggrandize the situation. It’s far better to keep it short and sweet, and most importantly, to address those who were aggrieved or harmed rather than focusing on justifications or excuses.

3 Themes To Watch For During SaaStr Annual 2023

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

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

Harnessing AI

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

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

Scaling Despite Limited Resources

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

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

The Role of the CRO

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

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

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

How To Tap The PR Power Of Employer Branding

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

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

The changing landscape of employer branding

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

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

How the right PR plan drives an employer brand

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

Third-party recognition builds credibility

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

Celebrate employee success

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

Authenticity is essential

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

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

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

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

SMEs are a valuable resource

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

Make the subject comfortable

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

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

Thinking “like a journalist” takes preparation

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

Break out of tunnel vision

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

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

Have questions in your back pocket

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

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

Find the inspiration – and the market impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get in the room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the messaging makes no sense

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

Individual executives are not aligned

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

The real “X-factor”

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Essentials For PR Campaigns Tied To Holidays

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

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

Set clear goals and metrics

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

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

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

Dive into research and audience analysis

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

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

Avoid misaligned messaging 

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

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

Timing is everything

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

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

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

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PR Strategies For Disruptive Technologies

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

Disruptive tech and the role of PR

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

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

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

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

PR and emerging tech: blockchain, metaverse, AI

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

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

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

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

Where PR falls short

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

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

Navigating PR for disruptive B2B technologies

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

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

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

PR strategies for disruptive tech

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

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

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

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

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

How to keep up

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

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

How Earned Media Coverage Builds Brand Reputation

In today’s highly connected world, a positive brand reputation is an asset for nearly any business. One way to help build a strong brand is through strategic media relations resulting in earned media coverage. By effectively engaging with the media, businesses can amplify and add substance to their brand narrative, while building the kind of credibility that paid media often doesn’t buy.

What is earned media?

Some say that earned media is a synonym for PR. But most PR programs comprise a whole lot more than earned media, also known as publicity. Elements like category research, business and marketing strategy analysis, messaging, and planning will precede and inform media relations. Different tactics like branded content and executive speaking opportunities might complement it. But earned media refers to the actual print, digital, or broadcast coverage generated in the course of a PR program. Earned media is distinct from paid media, which happens in a different way and is perceived differently by those who view it.

Building brand reputation through earned media

Here are three significant steps to building brand reputation through earned media:

1. Earned media helps a brand stand out 

Media relations and earned media can significantly increase brand visibility and awareness. Engaging with media outlets, whether high-profile or narrowly focused, lets businesses reach a targeted audience of readers or viewers who are also consumers. Positive media coverage resulting from feature stories, human-interest interviews, or opinion pieces can expose the brand to new customers, reinforce loyalty among existing ones, and create a positive association for the product or company. Ongoing relationships with journalists, content creators, and producers help maintain a consistent brand presence and tell a story over time. An entrepreneurial company can share the tale of its founding, struggles and all. A scientific brand can go behind the scenes to reveal its R&D expertise, or profile individual employees who help make a difference. A strong opinion article can position the business as relevant and its chief executive as an industry thought leader.

2. Earned coverage implies credibility

The difference between positive media coverage that is paid for (in the form of sponsored posts or ads) can be subtle. But it often boils down to one thing: credibility.

Credibility is elusive, especially today. When a brand is featured in reputable media outlets, the mere fact of its coverage confers credibility – if not for the brand, at least for the story. Positive news items, product reviews, or shared expertise can position the brand as reliable. Opinion content can convey brand and corporate values. Customers or potential employees are more likely to trust a brand featured in the media. This is because coverage implies endorsement or at least visibility, rather than a brand’s self-promotion. The positive association helps establish the brand as a reliable source of information and enhances its reputation in the marketplace.

3. Earned coverage drives SEO

Another key advantage to the type of publicity generated by a PR program, particularly in top-tier publications with high-value domains, is search engine optimization (SEO). A single story published in a well-known media outlet, from The New York Times to a trade publication, can land a brand on the first page of search results for months or even years. That’s one reason why positive stories and reviews are so valuable. And by the same token, if an item is unflattering, it can persist in search results and impact a company or brand in a negative way, which leads to another asset that positive earned media coverage brings.

PR coverage can protect brand reputation

A good reputation is like money in the bank. It’s not inexhaustible, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Yet it will surely be an asset in a crisis. Media relationships, too, become more valuable in times of crisis or reputational risk. When a brand faces negative publicity, PR and media relations teams can help manage the situation to minimize damage and plan for recovery. With the right strategy and thoughtful tactics, a business can take control of the narrative, rebut misinformation, and engage in dialogue with consumers, regulators, stakeholders, or any other high-value audience. A well-executed crisis management strategy can help rebuild trust and salvage the brand’s reputation. In the best cases, it showcases its ability to handle challenging situations with transparency and integrity.

Businesses can influence public perception, shape their story, build credibility, and strengthen brand reputation through strategic engagement with the media. By tapping into the power of media relations, they can even gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Investing in a sound PR and earned media strategy is ultimately an investment in a brand’s long-term success and sustainability.

When Press Is Bad, Should PR Take The Blame?

In a move that surprised no one, embattled CNN CEO Chris Licht stepped down yesterday.  Media-watchers were taking bets on how long Licht could last after a “brutal” and deeply reported profile in The Atlantic. The piece highlighted his controversial year at the helm and was punctuated by the widely criticized decision to televise a town hall with Donald Trump in front of an “extra-Trumpy” live audience.

The post-mortem on Licht’s brief tenure will continue, but I’m more interested in the strategy behind the decision to give The Atlantic’s star reporter Tim Alberta full access for a profile. Word is that two senior CNN communications executives are also casualties of Licht’s fall. Matt Dornic, a 12-year CNN veteran who was also featured in The Atlantic piece, has reportedly left, along with Kris Coratti Kelly, who was brought in by the new CEO only a year ago.

Nicholas Carlson of Insider puts it this way:

I guess the lesson is: when your boss is about to do something really stupid, throw your body in the way. Even if he’s your new boss and seems really obsessed. One, two, three – JUMP – right in their way. Make them walk around your wiggling carcass on the floor. Throw a leg up if they try to go over you.

When to give media full access to the boss

It’s the inside version of “Fire the agency!” But can an internal PR team prevent bad media relations decisions? It’s impossible to know whose idea it was for Licht to sit down with Alberta, but it’s unlikely to have come from the PR team. That kind of access isn’t what you advise when a CEO is mired in controversy, or if his status is uncertain. It’s the kind of profile you want when a business leader is at the peak of popularity or influence.

Full access may also be advisable when a popular founder or CEO embarks on a comeback plan or announces a new venture – think Howard Schultz returning to Starbucks, or Bob Iger coming home to Disney to save the day. Each was a situation where a largely popular and successful leader moved to consolidate support in the face of a challenge.

Licht’s situation was different. He was a newcomer without a base of support. Moreover, he ruffled feathers from the beginning, and the Atlantic feature only emphasized his isolation from his own team. My bet is that he was haunted by the reputation of his popular predecessor Jeff Zucker, and so eager to differentiate himself from Zucker, that he wanted to cement his own reputation with the article.

Who takes the blame for bad PR?

The blame-the-PR-guy reflex isn’t limited to CNN. Government officials often talk about the need to “tell our story better.” And most PR professionals have known a client who’s in denial —  about his organization’s problems, his own reputation, or just reality in general. It’s a challenging and self-defeating situation. Most insidious are those who know the truth but hide it from their communications staff – and themselves. PR pros aren’t magicians, and denial is a dangerous state for a chief executive or public personality.

Clients deserve the truth, but what if they can’t handle it?

We once won a PR and reputation engagement from a company that suffered from harsh online reviews, among other challenges. A little research showed that its customers’ anger was understandable. Our proposal made it clear that if the company didn’t change its practices, our work would be wasted. When the client called to say we’d won the assignment, he said we were up against three digital marketing companies who recommended SEO. “You were the only one who told the truth,” he said.

Sadly, that situation was unusual. A company or executive that’s in denial is impossible to help.  “Good PR” isn’t just the result of skilled communications or media relationships; it needs to have a basis in reality.

When in doubt, fire the PR team

So, does the PR team deserve to go down with their captain? Some might say so. It’s not unusual for senior lieutenants to follow their chief out the door. After a rough patch it can be a useful signal that the organization has turned the page. In this case, Dornic must have known the story was becoming an exposé. That was apparent from the tenor of Alberta’s questions and his own warnings to Licht about what his staff was saying about his leadership.

Yet the CNN situation seems like a case of blaming the PR team for a year’s worth of missteps. Dornic in particular tries to soften Licht’s remarks in the profile. He clearly knew the boss was in dangerous territory. Another problem was timing; the article was months in the making. What may have started out on a positive note grew perilous as the newish CEO opened up in an unfiltered and tone-deaf way. But at that point, it would also be risky to pull access because you’d have even less control over the process.

In most cases, the internal comms team can’t countermand a CEO who’s bent on opening up to the press. A PR adviser can recommend, warn, and prepare. They can do their best to rebut rumors and challenge misconceptions, but background sources are impossible to confront directly. It was an asymmetric struggle from the start.

If the CNN PR team is to blame for anything, it could be for failing to sense what was coming, and to brace for impact.