Announcement From Our Ad Tech Team

Crenshaw Communications Grows Ad Tech PR Team

Caroline Yodice named Director of Ad Tech to support expanding client roster

New York, NY, October 14, 2021 — Crenshaw Communications, a leading New York-based public relations agency specializing in PR for B2B and SaaS technology brands, today announced key personnel moves in support of its growing ad tech PR unit.

Caroline Yodice has been named Director of Ad Tech, reporting to Partner Chris Harihar. She was previously a Senior Account Supervisor. 

“As a category, ad tech has exploded over the past few years,” observed Chris Harihar. “At Crenshaw Communications, we have a history of successfully supporting a range of ad tech brands, from high-growth startups to larger public companies. Caroline’s expertise and experience in this space are matched only by her enthusiasm for it. She’s already killing it as Director of Ad Tech.” 

Caroline Yodice added, “There’s not a more exciting industry right now than ad tech. I’m delighted to lead our team and eager to support the expansion of our account roster and status as the top ad tech PR agency in the US.”

Additionally, Hannah Kasoff has joined the agency’s ad tech group. Hannah was most recently Associate Marketing Manager at Mediaocean, where she managed demand generation efforts for the US. 

Crenshaw Communications has also recently added new clients, including Connatix, the next-generation video technology company for publishers, and BrandTotal, a leading social competitive intelligence and brand analytics platform. Longstanding clients include Yahoo, DoubleVerify, Innovid, Lotame, and LiveIntent. 

For more information about Crenshaw Communications and how it can support ad tech brands and businesses, contact Chris Harihar at chris@crenshawcomm.com

About Crenshaw Communications

Crenshaw Communications is a New York PR and content agency specializing in B2B public relations for high-growth technology companies. Whether the goal is to launch a new product, drive web traffic, or create a leadership brand position, Crenshaw extends PR tools and tactics beyond the limits of the traditional to create both earned coverage and word-of-mouth in order to build brands.

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Can Ethical PRs Represent Unethical Clients?

The public relations business is plagued with bad cultural stereotypes (see: Flacks) as well as real-life examples of specialists who lie or deceive. Sure, every occupation has its bad apples. Ironically, however, image control for PR is particularly challenging. For one thing, we answer to many parties, from clients and media to shareholders and stakeholders. And lately the stakes, as well as the potential penalties for unethical behavior, are rising.  That’s a good thing.

The consequences can be steep

In the wake of the Pandora papers tax fraud scandal, legislators are now proposing to penalize law firms, accounting firms and even PR agencies who fail to vet criminal clients. The so-called “enablers,” including PR firms, had previously been excluded from due diligence rules. Should the bipartisan proposal become law, it should give large multinational agencies pause.

At the same time, there’s a bigger incentive for communicators to do the right thing. Negative baggage has a cost, too. Just look at the pressure on the comms team at Facebook, which has come to epitomize the struggle to do ethical work at a company that is acting in bad faith. Whistleblower Frances Haugen has managed to break through where previous Facebook critics have not. Her success is in part due to her use of Facebook’s own data about the damage its incentives have done. Haugen has also benefited from good timing. Facebook has been able to explain away past misdeeds with PR apologies, but the new allegations will likely stick. Although knowledgeable people disagree about what the consequences should be, the need to rein in Facebook is one of the very few areas of bipartisan agreement in Congress.

When good PR happens to bad people

What does this mean for the PR community? It all raises the question: how can a PR professional ethically represent an unethical, or merely controversial, company or individual? Should strategic PR advice be used to explain or defend a reprehensible action? What about repeated actions? The answers aren’t as obvious as they seem.

In a new textbook Public Relations Ethics: The Real-World Guide, Trevor Morris and Simon Goldsworthy take a refreshingly real-world approach to ethics in our business. A central case study is the story of Bell Pottinger, in which the firm’s expulsion from the Public Relations and Communications Association for ethical breaches was taken by some as proof that the industry code had real impact.

But the authors acknowledge that even the clear-cut case of Bell Pottinger’s collapse was complicated. After all, it was known as “the PR firm for despots and rogues” for years. Its late founder openly flouted industry conventions and most of Bell Pottinger’s allies only rejected the firm after scandal hit. That speaks to the hypocrisy in our industry as well as others — success can breed a kind of immunity to the rules. Change tends to happen slowly, then all at once, as we saw in the #metoo movement.

The good news is that PRSA’s ethical guidelines are widely published, taught, and understood by those working in PR and communications. Yet even when the rules are clear – don’t lie, don’t engage in dubious tactics like astro-turfing, and don’t represent dictators, etc. — real-world situations are rarely as black-and-white.

Principled PR is a matter of good faith

Ethics training for future PR professionals is critical, and textbooks like the Morris Goldsworthy help. But ethical behavior starts with the individual. In our business, the ethical choice may not always be simple or clear, but intentions should matter.

The right choice isn’t just about about which clients we represent, but about what we do in representing them. As PRSA tells us in a useful post titled “Whitewashing Despots,” if the client tells the truth and “supports and ensures the free flow of accurate and unprejudiced information,” it can actually be an ethical decision to represent them. The key is to represent the public interest, and to do so in good faith. Until you can’t.

We’ve all known practitioners who choose to work for organizations with ethical challenges, from Philip Morris to Facebook. Those comms executives often say they’re trying to work for change from within. Sometimes they are. And sometimes, like Frances Haugen, after trying in good faith, they recognize when change from within is impossible.

What Frances Haugen did will make it easier for future whistleblowers. But her example is also a good one for professional communicators. Influence is powerful. Sometimes it can work from within. But if that fails, different action is needed, and that’s where a true ethical compass kicks in.

PR Tips For Navigating Interview Roadblocks

For PR specialists, few things are more exciting than landing that media interview. Every journalist interview, whether it’s a top business pub or a targeted trade outlet, is a win. But an interview isn’t a story until it’s posted.

To expedite the process and ensure a positive outcome, it’s standard practice among PR teams to prep executives with a briefing document highlighting details about the interviewer, the nature of the conversation, possible questions, and recent pieces by the journalist in question. 

But things do not always go as planned. What happens when something goes off track? How can PR specialists handle tricky situations that threaten a great story?

Someone is a no-show

This is a rare occurrence, but it happens. Is there a worse feeling than sitting on a conference line or Zoom call waiting for someone to show up? If after a few minutes you are still getting radio silence, end the call and work on rescheduling. If the journalist is working under a tight deadline, offer a written statement to be included in their piece. If the piece is not as timely, reschedule for a time that works for everyone. Being stood up by a journalist is embarrassing, and it can even make the PR rep look bad, which is why meticulous confirmation in writing is always necessary. However, it can be rescheduled. If the corporate spokesperson is a no-show, however, that will require real damage control absent an emergency situation. Always make sure your spokesperson is fully available and prepared.

Spokesperson isn’t a good fit

Often a CEO or founder will be in demand as a media spokesperson, especially at high-growth technology companies. Realistically, however, a spokesperson matrix may be needed. A new product launch interview needs a senior product specialist, a change in strategic direction a C-level executive, a technology exploration a chief engineer, and so on. It’s important to match the right interview opportunity with the correct and appropriate spokesperson.

Media prep didn’t stick

Formal media training can be helpful for executive spokespersons who are new to giving press interviews or who need a quick prep for a new announcement or tricky situation. It typically covers anticipated questions, ways to stay on-topic, and on-camera tips for remaining calm and engaging. But sometimes it doesn’t stick. General shyness, language barriers, or lack of experience can pose obstacles to a productive interview. In that case, it helps to conduct interview over email. A written Q&A can allow the time and care to manage responses and ensure there will be no misunderstanding. 

A spokesperson makes a mistake

Occasionally a corporate spokesperson inadvertently offers inaccurate information. In that situation it’s important to correct the mistake as soon as possible, even if it’s after publication. What’s trickier is if a spokesperson lets a confidential piece of information slip out. If someone mistakenly reveals a confidential launch, future merger plan, or other piece of proprietary information, there is no guarantee that it won’t be in the story. It’s generally best to play it cool, and, in the case of truly significant news, try to negotiate a deal with the journalist in question so that he will get first crack at the story once it becomes public.

Interview is deadly dull 

PR specialists cannot always predict how a spokesperson and journalist will interact. Some spokespeople have charismatic personalities and can talk to anyone in an engaging way while others may need a bit more prep. If you don’t have a naturally engaging spokesperson, or if he rambles into irrelevant or technical topics or is long-winded, the interview can be dull. In that case it’s appropriate for the PR person staffing the interview to gently redirect the conversation to focus on the most cogent and relevant points.  

Journalist seems unprepared

I’ve hosted media interviews more than once where the journalist has said, ‘Remind me what we’re talking about again?’ It happens more often than you think. Media are often crunched for time, with multiple interviews in a single day, and they may need a reminder on how to start the conversation. For journalists new to the space, this may actually be an opportunity to educate them on your industry or issue and allow you to tell the story the way you want. The short-term  goal of every interaction is to get a good story, but an equally important longer-term one is to help the journalist keep you on file as a good source for future pieces.  

PR Tips For Taking Advantage Of Breaking News

How can PR agencies keep their clients top-of-mind in a 24-hour media environment? The most effective public relations teams develop strategies to “newsjack” for opportunities to keep pace with the news cycle. This is particularly useful when an organization doesn’t have hard news to share, or when the product roadmap doesn’t contain any new launches or innovations to generate media coverage.

Besides, elevating a brand or company’s image by carefully inserting their business or product into the existing conversation is exciting. It could essentially leverage one agency’s capability over another’s when seeking new business opportunities. And there are certain B2B tech sectors, like cybersecurity, where reactive media pitching is often a large and important program component. Digital security brands, among others, need to be visible when the latest ransomware story is dominating headlines. 

How Newsjacking Works

Newsjacking, as defined by David Meerman Scott, is “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.” Reactive media pitching should not be the centerpiece of a good PR program; however, it can help capitalize on opportunities that generate tangible results and positive buzz.

PR teams must operate in a real-time mindset to do this well in a 24-hour news cycle. Media must deliver new and compelling information to consumers instantly in a hotly competitive environment, and we’re here to help.

Speed is the most critical element of successful newsjacking, so the PR team should act fast. How soon is too soon, though?

Avoid breaking news that is controversial or polarizing

There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and being gratuitous. PR agencies must determine if the juice is worth the squeeze, acting judiciously and using good judgment. By using a thoughtful approach we can maintain the client’s integrity and our own credibility when actively chasing a breaking story. Avoid tragic events, or at the very least gauge risk by assessing how the audience might respond. 

Brands should also make sure the messaging and tone employed along with the news or trend they’re focused on is aligned with their business or product. Jumping on a story for the sake of coverage may have the opposite result than intended, positioning the brand as insensitive or worse. We saw this when Urban Outfitters and others used Hurricane Sandy to promote online shopping by touting #SandySales. 

Are you fast enough?

Because news moves quickly, the pressure is on to develop a creative, well-packaged message that provides an original, relevant angle. Don’t wait on the next big story to break; instead anticipate the needs of journalists with whom you have established relationships and know your industry. Beyond that, it is optimal to newsjack within 24-48 hours of news breaking as journalists rush to develop their next major stories. 

At a typical PR agency, success can depend on getting timely client approval for a same-day response to a breaking story. That means that the broad messaging and coordination process should be worked out in advance. A good PR plan can include solid examples of relevant situations and stories for comment so that all parties agree on what’s appropriate.

“Early on, PRs must communicate the importance of newsjacking and explain how it works to ensure their buy-in and reinforce the value. Then, if a client is immediately needed for approvals, interviews, etc., they’ll understand and deliver,” shares our own Chris Harihar. 

Finally, PR teams can ensure a speedy response by dedicating a team member to handling research. Knowing your audience is great, but understanding how media operate and whom to target at those outlets is key. 

You can’t plan to newsjack, but you can anticipate trends

It all starts with the plan.  PR teams should look ahead to forthcoming news events and determine trends, but, unfortunately, it is impossible to predict the next big story.

So, how can we position brands and companies as relevant when the news cycle shifts the conversation so quickly?

  1. Stay up to speed on the latest news. Narrow the focus to your industry through media monitoring tools like Google Alerts, building a Twitter moments list and flagging trending news or relevant keyword searches.

  2. Have easy access to a content library of pre-approved commentary from company spokespersons, compiled pitches, data reports and, if applicable, company blogs.

  3. Streamline the process for journalists by keeping responses short, sweet and to the point.

Finally, bear in mind that newsjacking doesn’t have to be negative; in fact, it’s usually smarter to focus on positive stories or breaking news that’s relatively neutral, like an economic report or corporate merger. A cross-national study of negativity bias in humans shared “the potential for more positive content, and suggest that there may be a reason to reconsider the conventional journalistic wisdom that if it bleeds, it leads.”

 

Why Press Coverage Still Matters In PR

Is earned media – otherwise known as press coverage — still the key to a successful public relations program? Or is it simply one component of the broader picture?

It may seem like a silly question; after all, “publicity” is what people think of when they think about PR. And even in the business, many reduce the broader public relations function to one outcome – positive press coverage, often called earned media. Yet we resist the “publicist” label, and with good reason. We’ve embraced the PESO content model. We’re counselors. We help build and manage reputations. Most of all, we’re a strategic resource for internal and external clients.

Given this, I sometimes feel the pendulum has swung too far in the strategy direction. Prospective clients often tell us that their agency is hard-working, smart, and collegial, but that they simply don’t prioritize top-tier media coverage. And it’s true that many PR firms have reshuffled their service offerings. As the power of digital and social media has soared, they see new opportunities. Many have paid-media envy, because it looks easy. They know media relations is labor-intensive and not as scaleable as SEM or paid social. It can’t really be automated without risking embarrassing mistakes. It’s time-consuming, and time is the basis for our compensation in most cases.

PR people far outnumber working media

One reason for the concern about earned media is the flabbergasting ratio of PR people to working journalists. Last time I checked it was around 6 PRs for every journalist. So, even if you assume fully half of the professional PR population isn’t engaged in active media pitching, it’s a large number and an unhealthy ratio. Sometimes it feels like there are simply not enough media outlets to meet the goals of those PR team members trying to fill their client reports with good news. Then, too, bad practices have made things tougher for all of us. People who spam journalists with irrelevant offers have always been a liability for the industry. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Jokes aside, earned media has and will always have a place in public relations. Here’s why.

Positive press drives SEO

Just as the large PR firms cast around for more lucrative and scaleable services to sell, marketers have come to value earned media results for its brand-building and SEO impact. The benefits are clear; ever since Google cracked down on link schemes, marketers have prized stories and features from recognized publications with high-value domains as boosting their search positions and even driving noticeable spikes in web traffic over months or even years.

Thought leadership content is persuasive

One type of earned media content that is often intrinsic to B2B and political campaigns is the op-ed. An interesting study seems to confirm that high-value content like op-ed pieces in reputable publications are indeed persuasive.  In two randomized experiments involving both the general public and so-called “elites”, researchers found that op-ed content had a measurable and lasting effect on people’s views among both the general public and policy experts.

Earned media offers credibility

Another study on the credibility of information sources suggests that press coverage is more relevant than ever. Researchers looked at how people evaluated news stories, traditional ads, native ads, independent blogs, and branded blogs. They surveyed 1500 members of a consumer panel and ran focus groups with a subset of them. The consumers found earned media stories the most credible of all the information sources they considered. They also valued posts written by independent bloggers, rating them more credible than corporate blog content.

It always comes down to credibility. That’s what earned media offers – within limits – and that’s what we at most PR agencies still deliver. It’s still the centerpiece of what we do, and although many agencies are expanding their offerings, it’s valuable both as a key service and as a point of view that stresses the credibility of a brand message.

What we do well offers the most value

At the end of the day, the most valuable services we offer aren’t necessarily the most profitable if we can’t perform credibly. Look at the flipside of the PR agency that wants to offer a range of marketing services. I notice that branding, digital marketing, or even SEO agencies say they offer PR or earned media. But no knowledgeable communications professional would trust them with a major PR campaign. The promise just isn’t very credible. At midsize firms, we cannot be all things to all people.

Bottom line, we should focus less on the superiority of any one channel and more on better overall strategy to drive consistent and compelling messages across all platforms and channels – including earned media, which will be a key part of public relations for a long time to come.

Better Internal Comms Tips For PR Teams

As PR professionals, we are meant to be experts in communication. We focus on choosing the right words, where to substitute more meaningful or original turns of phrase, and how to deliver messages that make an impact. Sometimes, especially within public relations teams, we strive to make our external communications to journalists and executives look nearly perfect, while we use shorthand internally. Messages can be lost or misunderstood. 

Internal communication should be as important as external comms. If PR team members are feeling a disconnect, consider the following tips for better internal comms.

Use tech tools for meetings

Admit it – we have all zoned out on Zoom calls! Two useful tools to liven things up are Loom, a video recording service, and Huddles on Slack. Loom allows teams to share their screen to review a document and record a video offering feedback. Users can view this video as many times as necessary, ensuring they don’t miss any direction from team leads. In addition, we at Crenshaw have been enjoying Huddles on Slack. Simply connect with your colleagues on your team channel for a quick voice call. No phone numbers are needed as long as you have a Slack account; it will automatically connect you to your team. It’s a great way to debrief after a client meeting or to handle questions with a smaller group after a larger session. 

Define roles

Often among PR teams, you will hear the phrase “titles don’t really matter here.” While this may be true for many (including ours), the roles should still be defined. If you have junior staff doing tasks that more senior team members could be doing on one project and a completely different situation on another front, there will be a disconnect. While PR people do like to give junior team members occasional high-level tasks to challenge them, it helps to create an internal document outlining roles and tasks, such as “Kate is the day-to-day contact on the launch project, while Ben oversees all media activity and Eva records all activities for reports.” Keep it updated, share within your team and have it handy when new team members join so the transition will be smooth.

Create a (virtual) open-door policy

As someone who is very social, even 18 months later I am struggling by not being in an office space 100% of the work week. It was so easy for team members to pop in and out of conference rooms to sit down and talk through announcements that needed more media attention, new business brainstorms, and everything in between. Having team members scattered throughout the country can make that a bit trickier. Team leads should set aside time either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to let junior staff members connect with them one-on-one to discuss any issues both professionally and personally. Sometimes in WFH there is a thin line between work and home life. Create a space for candid and informal conversations – sometimes they can be better than formal meetings. 

Cut down on emails

According to a recent study of email inboxes, the breakdown of important vs. unimportant incoming email was 42% to 58%, meaning today’s typical inbox has shifted toward more noise than before. This number may be higher for PR teams who are essentially glued to their emails. Inboxes can get messy with unnecessary emails,  which affect time management and organization. Take a few minutes out of your team’s day just start mass deleting any emails you don’t need. If you haven’t opened that newsletter in weeks, maybe it is time to unsubscribe from it. Encourage people to use collaboration tools, like Google Docs or Slack to track progress on  projects. Leave inboxes as clean as possible so messages from executives or media are never missed. 

What are some tips and tricks your PR team uses for better collaboration and communication? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

5 PR Tips To Promote Expertise On LinkedIn

Among B2B PR teams, LinkedIn is the go-to social media platform for executives to drive positive visibility and thought leadership. But a profile that serves as a glorified CV isn’t enough to gain sought-after exposure; that takes time, strategy, and a dash of creativity. How can executives get the most from their LinkedIn profile to convey leadership and be seen as an expert? 

Go beyond a resume 

Your LinkedIn profile is representative of your brand. If someone were to scroll through, how would they perceive you? It may be time to review and optimize your profile to ensure that it’s presenting you and your brand in the best way. Here is what to keep in mind:

  • Have an updated and professional-looking profile picture, and an appropriate banner photo. Don’t use a vacation snapshot or a picture of you in black tie at someone’s wedding. And make sure the banner photo is high-resolution and eye-catching.

  • Instead of your job title, include a headline that describes what you do. “Experienced marketing consultant who helps nonprofits obtain funding” is better than “Director of Marketing” or, worse, “Nonprofit Marketing Guru”  

  • Your summary should reveal your specific expertise. Be mindful of using keywords that will describe you as a leader in your sector. For example, “Built and led comms team at high-growth technology startup in advance of IPO” is more specific and a bit stronger than “Headed comms at successful startup.”  

  • Showcasing media on your profile is a great way to represent your expertise. If you’ve spoken at industry conferences, upload the video. Linking to blogs or articles that feature your expertise are also great ways to present your brand.

Zone in on your audience 

Odds are that B2B executives already know who their ideal target is, so the next step is to focus on the content that attracts them. Look at relevant media, customers, and key stakeholders. Keep in mind that interests will vary based on job title and sector. Make sure to use terms familiar to those in your industry, and be conscious of keywords and phrases that spark ideas and answer questions. For example, descriptions sprinkled with terms of interest to marketers, like “performance marketing,” “optimized campaigns” or ”lead-generation” will make your profile more searchable.

Minimize self-promotion 

As a thought leader, your goal is to provide authentic insights into industry trends and business. Glaringly obvious brand and company promotion can turn off your audience and detract from your message.It’s far more impressive to focus on insights and indirectly on career achievements.

Develop engaging content

Creating well-crafted, timely content is the most important way to position yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn. Here are a few strategies you should consider when generating content.

Publications 

If you’ve been quoted in any publications, share the links to them with an introductory sentence. LinkedIn also lets you publish your own articles within the platform as updates in your feed and LinkedIn groups.

Current events and timely coverage

Provide personal observations and opinions on the latest news; for example, what privacy updates mean for advertising or lessons to learn after a company’s been breached. Google Trends is an extremely useful tool that shows what people are searching for and highlights search phrases at their peak volume.  Google News is useful to understand timely coverage of what news outlets are publishing. If applicable, offer reasons why you agree or disagree with relevant stories or opinions in the news that relate to trending topics in your industry.

Evergreen content

Though timely coverage should be included in your mix, it’s important to include content with staying power. This is where evergreen content comes into play. Evergreen content will stay relevant for months or even years.

Create polls

Polls are a creative way to gauge where your audience stands on industry trends or breaking news, or common obstacles. Poll responses can spur the creation of a blog post or an article that addresses the subject at hand, providing you with even more content!

Thought leadership content is meant to be informative, not exhaustive – you don’t have to overthink it or go too broad when bit-sized topics will do. You’ll be able to reach a self-selected audience in search of practical advice that is shareable by other LinkedIn members.

Consistency is key

Set a schedule for publishing your LinkedIn posts. Social media managers like Hootsuite and Sprout Social allow you to schedule posts ahead of time. It’s also beneficial to set aside scheduled time to interact with your LinkedIn network. Pencil in some time on your calendar the same way you would for a meeting and stick with it. Just 15 minutes three times a week can build your network.

Once you’ve woven these ideas into your LinkedIn strategy, set metrics and track engagement and new followers to see if you’re making headway. Start connecting with your peers and key stakeholders. If you’re sharing relevant updates and articles, these potential connections will have context about you and your brand which will increase the likelihood of them connecting with you. You’ll be well on your way to solidifying your place as a LinkedIn thought leader in no time.

How To Get The Most From PR Freelancers

Occasionally public relations agencies tap freelance contractors to manage peak workloads during busy seasons or to bring specialist expertise to a project. Post-COVID, there are probably a greater variety of freelancers available given that remote work is so commonplace in our industry. But how can we make the most from our investment in freelance consultants? Here are some best practices for managing outside practitioners.

Consider them team members

Freelancers are partners in your success. Rather than treating them like temporary members of the team, consider them as extensions of it. Depending on the length of the engagement, it’s often advantageous to include a contract employee in relevant team and company meetings. Internal team members and clients will appreciate the investment in proper communication and management.

Be transparent with client companies involved

As for clients, it’s best that they know of any freelancer’s status, and in most cases full client contact is a plus. Because a freelance employee will sign an NDA and in most cases a non-compete agreement, the agency team shouldn’t worry that they’ll disclose confidential client information or try to lure the client away. Most agencies rely on a small number of trusted freelancers in whom they place their confidence, so they should feel comfortable with full transparency.

Look for specialists

In some cases when we seek to bring on PR freelancers, we’re looking for additional arms and legs for a special project. In others, it pays to seek out specialist expertise that complements the existing full-time team. For example, we occasionally bring in technical writers to interview engineers or other staff at client companies to create background material for long-form content. And we have an ongoing relationship with a morning show specialist who has a line to the key segment producers and will never give up on cracking the big interview! Specialists can help educate the team as well as contributing to it.

Pay promptly

Agencies expect discretion, loyalty and professionalism from any freelance staffer. The freelancers also have the right to expect timely payment for their work. Anyone who has served as an outside contractor on a PR project knows how uncomfortable and annoying it is to have to nag an accounts payable manager for payment. It’s a simple matter of courtesy and respect.

Think diversity

The pandemic has widened the talent pool in some ways, which opens hiring possibilities not only to professionals of all ethnicities, but to over six million people in the US labor force who have some form of disability. Many consultants with mobility limitations can work remotely and will no longer need to deal with the challenges of long daily commutes. 

Choose wisely and check references

It goes without saying that no freelancer should need special training beyond project orientation and processes. With training costs being one of the biggest expenses of hiring a traditional entry-level employee, eliminating that time is a benefit. If you’re vetting a new freelance consultant, it pays to query them thoroughly about recent work and relevant expertise, and to speak with the references they supply, as well as those they don’t. PR is really a very small industry. 

Manage their time

Bringing on a freelancer means you can choose someone with the exact skill set required for the project. This means they can get the job with little time wasted. It’s important to manage their hours while respecting their independence. In PR, publicists generally know how long certain tasks take, like writing press releases or drafting pitches, so it’s smart to ask for check-ins on hours spent or feedback needed.

Lessons Of Theranos: Sex, Lies, And PR

Like many in tech PR, I’m fascinated by the Theranos story because of what it says about Silicon Valley, public relations, and the press. Now that the trial of its disgraced founder Elizabeth Holmes has started, media and pundits have updated their hot takes on her spectacular rise and fall. Theranos claimed to have devised a technology that offered ultra-sophisticated diagnostic testing based on a single pinprick of blood. The implications – and potential PR angles – were irresistible. It would revolutionize diagnostic testing, making it easier, cheaper, and more accessible. It would disrupt the legacy companies in the field. It would be a boon for needle-phobics. Most appealing to the media, it was started and run by a woman. And Holmes wasn’t just any woman; she was young and blond, a Stanford dropout with a fascinating backstory who channeled Steve Jobs. Is it any wonder that Theranos was valued at $10 billion at its pinnacle?

Fake it ’til you break it?

Its breathtaking success and subsequent crash tells us a lot about the sexism that persists in startup circles, how investors see women in tech, and how females try to cope with the perception.

Still, I was surprised to read that in the years following the collapse of Theranos, female entrepreneurs in life sciences and biotech say they’re constantly compared to Holmes. The Theranos case, according to a piece in The New York Times, has “left behind a seemingly indelible image of how female founders can push boundaries…. they faced the additional hurdle of fighting assumptions that they were like Ms. Holmes, they said, something their male counterparts have generally not had to contend with.” One female founder of a health testing company said that she was linked to Holmes so frequently that her advisors suggested she dye her naturally blond hair a darker color, presumably to stop the damaging comparison.

Wow. But even more remarkably, some women founders have weighed in with a degree of sympathy on the circumstances around the Holmes disgrace. Entrepreneur Beth Esponnette posted on Medium that, while she fully recognized that Holmes was wrong, “I still believe that she thought she was doing the right thing taking the universal advice of Silicon Valley: ‘Fake it till you make it.'” Esponnette claims that in her own struggle to get funding, she was encouraged by investors to overpromise and exaggerate even to the point of lying.

Can confidence turn to criminality?

I take Esponette’s point that female founders are seen and treated differently than male counterparts. And I doubt that the next brash young male techpreneur is worried that he’ll be compared to Adam Neumann, the WeWork founder who dazzled investors and media, only to leave in disgrace (albeit with a $1.7 billion parachute.)

Yet her view that women in Silicon Valley are held to unique and inappropriate standards is a double-edged one. It’s clear that Holmes was lionized in part because she was female. Anyone who works in PR with high-growth technology businesses knows that the media are eager to cover women founders. There are so few of them, and what’s different naturally makes news. Holmes would have been the first self-made woman billionaire in tech, and everyone was rooting for her. Of course her sex was a factor. And “fake it til you make it” is about projecting confidence, not an excuse to engage in criminal fraud.

Journalists missed red flags

Of course, the Theranos debacle also tells us something about journalism. As someone who has spent a career in PR, where we basically try to build up business leaders and tech entrepreneurs in the media, it feels weird to criticize the media who took a good pitch and ran with it. But there’s no denying the Theranos story is about the credulity of journalists in the tech sector. They were thirsty for a female Steve Jobs, so they didn’t question Holmes’s claims. What’s more, reporters often work in packs, especially in sector bubbles like Silicon Valley. Media coverage begets more media coverage. Even as reporters compete fiercely for the story, they’re influenced by what colleagues and competitors write. As soon as Holmes’s PR team cracked one top-tier business publication, the rest clamored to cover her with fresh angles and updated quotes. Few questioned the culture of secrecy or the absence of peer-reviewed research on the Theranos technology. No one asked why there wasn’t a single physician (except Senator Bill Frist) on its board. It took a couple of sharp professors and John Carreyrou, with his investigative background and outside-the-bubble pedigree, to bring down the house.

A PR-first culture can’t work in healthcare

Finally, even if you attribute Holmes’s dishonesty to the self-aggrandizing ethos of Silicon Valley, that ethos doesn’t translate outside the tech industry. It’s one thing to promote “vaporware” by exaggerating a product’s readiness or overpromising on features. But in medical diagnostics, the stakes are high. The consequences for mistakes can be fatal. It’s the main reason why I can’t ultimately swallow the “fake it til you make it” mores as an excuse here.

The tragedy of Elizabeth Holmes is that we’re still clamoring to make her a symbol – of sexism, of journalistic laziness, investor gullibility, or even imposter syndrome and the pressure to succeed. She may be all those things, but in the end, a lie is a lie and a fraud is a fraud. Even in tech, a great PR campaign will only take you so far.

5 Benefits Of Interning At A PR Firm

Guest post by Crenshaw Communications intern, Murphy Pressley

College is a transformation for students. We’re encouraged to evolve, both personally and professionally. This transformation does not come easily and is not solely due to the courses we’re offered. As we’re beginning our adult lives and preparing to be more independent, less impulsive, and more in control, a vital tool in any student’s growth is an internship —in my case, at a top PR agency.

For many college students, selecting a job or career post-graduation can be stressful.  Many students resort to part-time or temporary employment to earn extra income during college, but many of those jobs are short-term positions with little to no growth potential. An internship, on the other hand, can offer relevant career experience and even help secure that first job. 

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that, since 2013, 60% of each graduating class had participated in an internship and/or co-op at some point in their college career. On average, students who completed an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed in the first years after college. It seems that even a single internship during college can increase the chances of long-term employment.  

Throughout my time in college, I’ve been fortunate to participate in some awesome internship programs. They helped me determine which sectors of PR I was most interested in, as well as what to look for in an employer and work environment. As an intern, I’m able to build my confidence and my resume at the same time, while also cultivating real-life networking opportunities. Here are key ways interning can benefit any student during their time in college.

Internships offer valuable (and real) work experience

Though formal college courses are presented by knowledgeable professors and test the ability to listen, reflect, and learn, they lack a dose of reality. You cannot teach experience. In fact, the only way to fully grasp what a professional environment is like is to experience it firsthand. When applying to and participating in internships, it’s important to explore your interests. Maybe you started working in the field most relevant to your major and realized it wasn’t for you. Interning is a perfect time to test the waters to see if this is a career you could envision for the next several years.​​ Internships show what the day-to-day looks like in an office while allowing for the application of knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom. One of the best perks of interning at a PR agency is being able to see how my day-to-day tasks are applied to services for our clients. By contrast, the classroom is full of hypotheticals. Through interning, students learn how to interact not only with their supervisors but with the clients themselves. Having these tangible relationships builds an intern’s verbal and written, communication skills. 

Explore different career paths

One of the first things I was attracted to about PR was how multi-faceted the industry is. It wasn’t until I started interning that I realized the world of public relations isn’t made up of only social media gurus and celebrity publicists. And while those may be both prominent and lucrative career paths, there is so much more to being a PR professional. In college, I’ve challenged myself to move between various PR sectors. Whether it was for a non-profit, luxury hospitality, B2B Tech, or even working on a popular TV show, PR internships offer exposure to a wide range of clients or situations. For me, each opportunity brought its own set of lessons and unpredictability.

Make a mistake, learn a lesson

An internship is a job. However, unlike post-graduation job placements, internships allow you to shamelessly investigate your field of interest. It’s the perfect time to be inquisitive and test your creativity. It’s also a good time to let yourself make mistakes and shake off any fear of failure. No one is expecting perfection; in fact, it’s expected that you will make mistakes. The defining moment of any misstep, however, is how you recover. This will not only make you marketable to a variety of prospective employers post-graduation, but it will bring a sense of confidence about your area of interest. 

Internships bring networking benefits 

The best career opportunities often come directly from referrals and personal connections. As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Meeting new people and practicing networking skills is what entering the workforce is all about. How you lead your conversations and cultivate relationships depends entirely on your willingness to grow and put yourself out there. Also, networking with other people will undoubtedly improve communication skills. And then there are the practical benefits; applying for a position through a mutual connection will probably be more successful than going into the application and interview process blind. Through networking, the possibilities are endless. It’s not just about what others can do for you, but rather what you can do for each other. 

Know yourself better

Internships are pivotal opportunities for self-discovery. The internship is a time to develop skills, define strengths, and address weaknesses. Feedback from supervisors will provide unique learning opportunities, so if that feedback isn’t forthcoming, ask for it. Whether pre- or post-internship, learning to assert your own opinions and express ideas is a vital aspect of professional development. So, ask questions, observe, take risks, be open to constructive feedback, and adjust in order to succeed in your present and future environment.