How Industry Speaking Opps Drive Thought Leadership

While many people think that a PR agency’s responsibilities boil down to announcements and media placement, we can’t discount the power of thought leadership for business executives, especially for B2B companies. 

Content is one of the engines for thought leadership, and there are many ways to get the story out, from posting on the company website to being a part of a group like the Forbes Business Council. But one of the best ways to drive influence and visibility for business leaders is to secure earned speaking engagements for them. While some events are pay-to-play, meaning a company has to sponsor the event to secure a slot, there are plenty of conferences that are open to all in the industry. Here’s why earned speaking opportunities are an important PR program element.

Exposure in the right environment

The exposure that results from a keynote or panel opportunity is especially important for leaders at companies that are not household names outside of their industries. Sharing a stage with prominent names offers exposure to prospects, partners, and media.

can also use conferences to elevate people lower down on the totem pole that still have ideas to share, ones that might have otherwise gone unheard. Speaking opportunities are not just for the highest of the higher-ups and it’s a great opportunity to give people a voice.

Credibility

Many executives are subject-matter experts, but they may not have had the chance to showcase their expertise to a large audience. Speaking at an event offers instant credibility and a chance to build a reputation as an expert resource. People will then be interested in what they have to say and what they can offer, which once again can lead to new business opportunities.

PR opportunities

Thought leadership can very easily go hand-in-hand with press releases and media placement, bringing together three main elements of PR programs. Because trade and business media typically cover the conferences and trade shows in their categories, a speaking slot can drive exposure to media and thus, interviews and features. A speaking gig can easily turn into a media story, with the PR team offering commentary to media or using a presentation to weigh in on a relevant issue. Additionally, the PR team can write a news release about the speech or post it on the company site to garner clicks and exposure. 

Great company

Speaking opportunities are more than just getting a leader on a stage. It allows them to participate in meaningful networking sessions where they meet peers with whom they can share knowledge and business tips. Conferences can be massive brainstorming sessions, and businesses can miss out on valuable contacts and insight if they’re absent. Of course, business leaders will attend relevant conferences even if they’re not speakers, but they gain extra prestige if they’re on stage, and being positioned with successful industry figures lends weight to their ideas and business brand.

Content that has legs

Just as it sparks PR opportunities, content offered at an event is often high-quality or even provocative stuff that can be repurposed for marketing and visibility down the line. It can be used in direct marketing, particularly email newsletters, press materials, sales presentations, and internal sessions. And of course, it adds to the executive’s speaking portfolio that builds their case to speak at more events, which then leads to more PR opportunities.

There’s no doubt that a strong thought leadership strategy that results in consistent and high-level industry exposure can help turn an emerging company into a more visible brand and an established brand into a category leader.

How To Spot The Story: A PR Primer

In public relations, our job is to spot, shape, and communicate our client’s story. That task typically starts with an information session, often before the letter of agreement is signed. We download information and ask questions, probing for the key points of the narrative we envision will make the company stand out.

So we may ask, “What’s different about Typical Software Co.?”  Here are some classic responses:

“Our people set us apart. We work hard to recruit the best.”

“Our products are very high quality. We’re better than competitors.”

“We offer great customer service/value/reliability.”

These statements are usually true. There may be evidence to support them, which always helps. They’re also important; in fact, a company shouldn’t be in business if it can’t point to high quality and talented employees. But, they’re not unique. They’re not even very different. Who doesn’t claim to have the best people, products, and value?

So how should communications professionals work to identify the story we suspect is buried under the day-to-day business processes?

Look for the turning points

Change is interesting. So is adversity. A history of setbacks, or even failure, is more memorable than the typical success tale. In the moment, a business pivot might be gradual, but in hindsight it can become a dramatic turning point. We represented a technology company that had almost closed after its preloaded audiobook business failed to catch on with readers. It made a last-ditch effort to sell to the library market instead – a move that was successful enough to offer a bridge to its ultimate digital strategy. That turning point became part of a narrative that perfectly captured the maturation of the audio content sector. It made the brand more interesting, and best of all, media loved it.

Insist on examples

As storytellers, we’re taught to show, not tell. The same goes for identifying the story. Don’t let the business owner brag about his penchant for risk or generous attitude without getting the examples that illustrate it. A delivery guarantee is pretty boring, but an example of how a business put an employee on an overnight flight to the West Coast to help a customer make a deadline to make good on that guarantee could be interesting. Examples are not only demonstrative, but they’re often visual. If we can visualize it, we’ll remember it.

Be curious

Open-ended questions are particularly useful. “What do people not understand about your job/business/category?” is a good thought starter. Sometimes a marketplace misperception is the trigger for bringing on a PR firm, but often it’s the smaller and more individual insights that can make a story come alive. “What keeps you up at night?” “What is no one else seeing?” “What’s your biggest headache/success/challenge?” help to tap the human element of any business story. A recent prospect caught my attention when he confided that he founded his company out of frustration that no one else was offering the service he needed. It was just one word, but “frustration” helped us craft the broader story about his business.

Get personal

Not every sector is exciting or accessible, especially in B2B technology. We represent a tech company that helps sales teams book meetings with prospects instantly. The software can make a huge difference in revenue, yet the category is narrow. So we delved into the personal story of the founders. One of them grew up in a country with a repressive, Soviet-influenced government. When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, she organized resources, transportation, and shelter for those fleeing the war. It galvanized the entire company. Not only was it a great story, but it showed something about the culture and values of the business. In another case, we learned that a client company CEO had narrowly escaped a terrorist attack many years prior. It affected him so deeply that he quit his job and founded a business. In each case, we were able to tell the story in a way that attracted top-tier media coverage, while staying relevant and treating serious topics with sensitivity.

Strip away the technical details

In the tech sector we hear a lot of puffy descriptors, trade jargon, and convoluted language. Along with that, there’s something psychologist Steven Pinker calls the “curse of knowledge.” We see it when technical or academic experts are so immersed in their field that they can’t step outside it to convey the real narrative beneath the technical benefits, like use cases and hero employee stories. In our role, sometimes it helps to play the “non-expert.”  When we ask a client to “explain it like I’m in kindergarten” we’re actually more likely to get to the core of the story.

Dig deeper

If all else fails, keep digging. Ask every key officer about their own personal backstory. Delve into market research data. Look up analyst research about the sector. Develop key customer personas. Study competitors for differentiating factors. Analyze trends and note how the business conforms to them. If it does, it’s a solid example for a broader category story. If it doesn’t, it may be a maverick – and who doesn’t love a contrarian?

How Strategic PR Supports Employer Branding

As the “Great Resignation” gives way to “Quiet Quitting,” worker engagement and employer branding is bigger than ever, and so is the PR that drives it.

That wasn’t always the case. Time was, we’d have a full-blown PR strategy meeting, and employee recruitment would be in an internal comms section, reduced to a single bullet point in a slide deck. Or it would be siloed in the HR department, who never spoke with PR or communications.

Today, employer branding is a business imperative. For any organization that prizes an engaged workforce and recruitment of talented and committed employees, their image as an employer is a make-or-break proposition. And the right PR program can amplify the efforts and outcomes for most organizations. Here’s what to keep in mind.

C-Level visibility is a talent magnet

A charismatic CEO is a powerful employer branding asset. So is a strong roster of articulate C-level executives. The CEO is often the public face of the enterprise, especially for entrepreneurial companies, so their participation is critical to successful employer PR. C-level thought leadership, driven by major media and conference speaking opportunities for senior leaders, sends a compelling message to employees and prospective recruits. It typically results in quality coverage on the business pages of news outlets that conveys the values, vision, and future plans of the organization. It can also humanize it through the real-life stories of the successful execs that have climbed the ranks over time. Who doesn’t want to work with business rockstars?

PR showcases workplace culture, credibly

In a candidate-driven market, culture matters. Talented employees are attracted to a standout workplace experience. That used to mean free lunches and a pet-friendly office, but today it’s more likely to reflect a sense of purpose, or a signature quality like innovation or inclusiveness. Most tech PR campaigns, for example, focus on innovative products. But a more robust PR program will highlight the very culture, processes, and workers behind that great product or service. Talented tech workers like engineers and programmers want to be part of a culture that fosters innovation, and the real-life narratives can be very persuasive. GE has been telling the story of its engineering talent for years through social content, with great success. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been open about his company’s need for drastic cultural change to recapture its own heritage of innovation. The same tactics can work for startups and SMBs.

External recognition drives interest

Awards and honors are another piece of the PR picture that work hard to add luster to an organization’s image and support its recruiting. Best Places to Work, 40 Under 40, Women to Watch, Entrepreneur of the Year — there are a wealth of lists and awards that will not only make a splash but be searchable for months and years. A smart internal or external PR team will invest the time to scout for opportunities and craft entries to win external recognition, often in concert with Human Resources. Entering many of these awards takes a heavy lift, so it’s essential to put in a consistent effort and to be strategic in selecting the opportunities that make sense and are worth the time and effort. But there’s nothing like the credibility of a prestigious workplace award or the recognition earned by employees.

PR and HR are better together

Even the most brilliant PR team can’t transform a destructive or problematic culture, nor should it. If the stories and messaging put out by PR don’t match the employee experience, the effort is wasted, or worse, it can backfire. That’s why the HR and PR functions should work together. This is particularly important for an external PR firm. An outside agency will bring the benefits of objectivity and experience, but it won’t know the company’s DNA. At the outset, both teams should be privy to how current employees and prospective recruits perceive the company. They should review core values to identify gaps with a company’s policies and reward systems, or the actual experience of current employees.

The full recruiting experience, from ads to interviews to job offer, is obviously key to company perception, as is the pace and cadence of its processes. (How often have you heard stories of people who feel disrespected by multiple rounds of interviews, followed by….silence?) Every link in that chain should reflect well on the organization and be consistent with the culture PR is boasting about. Any red flags — negative comments on Glassdoor, an uptick in job rejections, or a change in employee survey results, for example — are cause for greater scrutiny and quick escalation. PR can’t prevent bad reviews or complaints, but it can encourage happy employees to share their experiences. More importantly, it can work with HR to identify and address any bubbling issues that will impact employer reputation.

On the upside, PR + HR is a winning equation. When recruiting and personnel processes are in sync with company culture, and that story is amplified through PR and thought leadership, the organization is far more likely to attract quality employees who stick around.

How To Manage Being “Ghosted” By Media

As B2B PR pros, we’re always looking for creative ways to tell a story. We look to secure an article or segment that not only hits priority message points, but appears in an influential publication relevant to the company’s business. When pitching a significant news announcement, perhaps about a new product or VC funding, securing a story ahead of the announcement date is critical to a smooth launch. Timing is key.

Depending on the announcement, we may seek an exclusive, meaning one reporter has access to the news before others. Or we may go with an embargo, which means offering the news to a wider pool of media targets at the same time. 

Despite the best strategy and planning, PR plans can be foiled if the journalist goes silent and we’re ghosted. It’s a common term in dating, but when it happens in PR, a job based around effective communication, it’s particularly frustrating.

So what should you do when you are ghosted by a reporter?

Don’t take it personally 

It can be easy to assume the reporter has stopped responding because you did something to turn them off from the story, but that is likely not the case. Journalists are people, too, and sometimes things happen that pull them away from their job. The news item you’re discussing can seem like the most important thing in the world to your team, but for the reporter, it’s just another story. If they need to step away from work for personal reasons, emailing the PR person they’ve been in touch with may not be at the top of their list.

It’s helpful to follow reporters on Twitter, as they’ll likely post if they have to take time off. It can at least provide a reason why there’s no response and can give peace of mind knowing you did nothing ‘wrong’ to lose the story lead. 

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to an editor. Especially if the publication is highly relevant to your client or company’s business, the last thing the publication wants is to have issues with a company that can bring future news items. An editor can likely clear the air, or at least push the reporter to respond with an explanation.

Follow up, but know when it’s time to stop

The art of the follow up can be its own blog post. A well worded and relevant follow-up often nets great opportunities, but it pays to understand when enough is enough. If a reporter has gone silent, feel free to follow up a few times on the same channel you’ve been communicating through, most likely email. If there’s no response in a couple of days, shoot them a DM on Twitter if their bio says they’re okay with that, or send a message over Signal if their handle is listed. (Many reporters in the security space publish theirs.) If you hear nothing after a few days, it’s probably time to move on.

Give yourself enough lead time

For any type of media outreach, lead time is critical. PR pros don’t always have lots of advance notice because an announcement can come up at the last minute. But if you do have the luxury of lead time, try to build at least 10 business days to secure a strong story — and also to account for being ghosted. That way, if a reporter goes dark, you have enough time to approach other targets you’ve already slated as relevant for the news. This will be more comfortable for the PR team, and it doesn’t force the new reporter to scramble for an interview and rush to get a good story together. 

Communicate with stakeholders 

Our jobs are based around communication. Don’t be afraid to be honest with a client or your internal team about the status of a given pitch or initiative. Being ghosted by members of the media is an unfortunate part of being in PR, so it’s up to us to share the reality of the situation. A client might think their agency is working slowly, isn’t putting in enough care, or is doing a bad job if a journalist has gone quiet. To avoid misunderstanding, have an alternative strategy ready, like new targets or moving back the announcement date to allow more time. At the very least demonstrate that you’re thinking critically to overcome barriers and pushing hard to keep the process moving.

Top Tips For Approaching Cybersecurity Media

In the world of PR, there are few fields more exciting and terrifying than the cybersecurity industry. It feels like every day we hear about a new breach, hack or vulnerability that has impacted an individual or organization. The numbers back this up; a recent cybersecurity report from research firm ThoughtLab found that the average number of cyberattacks and data breaches increased by 15.1% from last year. It’s essential for savvy PR professionals to stay up to date on the latest developments in the space.

However, monitoring the latest data security incident isn’t enough. Even though the number of outlets and reporters who cover the space has increased as the threat has grown, cybersecurity journalists demand more from the PR professionals they know. It’s not enough to share thoughts on the latest breach; rather, reporters are often looking for short and long-term insights and advice about the future of the category as well as the reasons the public should care. 

So, how do PR organizations manage their relationships with cybersecurity reporters to garner coverage and showcase their clients as thought leaders in the space? It’s all in the approach.

Different data security reporters cover different verticals

One of the biggest misconceptions about the industry is that all cybersecurity media contacts are interested in the same stories. While cybersec journalists typically monitor the latest hack or vulnerability, how they cover the news changes from reporter to reporter and outlet to outlet. For example, journalists who focus on privacy and data concerns on big tech platforms may be intrigued by a pitch about a data breach on a major social network. But they would not be interested (and may even be annoyed) by an inbound about a ransomware attack on a local energy supplier. It’s best to prioritize research into the most appropriate reporters and outlets for a specific cybersecurity pitch.

PR teams should organize their contacts by vertical, separating outlets and reporters based on recent coverage. Note specific reporters or media organizations that can be helpful for the future. For example, if a reporter is focusing on stories about cybersecurity threats as students prepare to go back to school, make sure everyone knows that. Moreover, pay attention to the tone of data privacy stories. While data privacy doesn’t always overlap with cybersecurity, often reporters who take a strong stance or position in a privacy story may ask to speak with a cyber expert about the potential consequences of a breach. Monitoring and capitalizing on past interactions with reporters is often the simplest and most effective way to manage media relationships and turn pitches into wins. But pay attention to the broader story – a spokesperson can easily be quoted on the record criticizing a major company, one they may even work with from time to time, for inadequate privacy and cybersecurity measures. Context matters.

All breaches aren’t the same

Not only do the verticals for reporters in the cybersecurity industry vary significantly, but the types of incidents they cover and care about differ as well. Denial of Service (DOS) attacks are not in the same ballpark as ransomware attacks. Third-party data breaches, for example, require different insights and expertise than hacks that only affect a specific individual.  For example, the access of unauthorized information from a telecommunications company by a cyber criminal will potentially affect all of the clients and users while a successful phishing scam on a specific shopper will likely only compromise that individual consumer. Thus, PR professionals need to have a basic understanding about the insights, research and sources to offer depending on the incident. 

It’s often useful to separate the available data, spokespeople and insights into categories for outreach when the next breach happens. In addition, your cybersecurity spokespeople and clients may not actually be experts in all areas. Many have a specific area they focus on in terms of breaches and data compromises. It’s a misconception that cyber professionals already know everything about the industry, so understanding the expertise and focus on each side is key.

Use cybersecurity conferences and panels

Cybersecurity changes all the time, and more than nearly any other tech category, it offers a robust stream of industry conferences and meetings. Nearly every other week there are panels that highlight the cybersecurity landscape, its threats, current solutions and best practices. These panels offer constant opportunities to bring together cybersecurity companies, research firms, reporters and analysts who cover the category.

Always be building relationships 

When conducting outreach for cybersecurity conferences, it’s not enough to simply offer a knowledgeable spokesperson for a panel or keynote. Savvy PR people use all available resources to showcase new research studies, data, and trends. Experts spokespersons can also offer opinions on recent attacks, industry moves, and regulatory issues.

PR teams can get the most out of conferences by offering media briefing opportunities even if they’re not for a specific story and don’t result in media coverage. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes PR people make is foregoing media meetings that don’t guarantee immediate placements. The relationship-building opportunities between media outlets and companies and their executives or third-party experts can generate long-term connections that pay dividends far into the future.

A Cheat Sheet For Ad Tech PR

For anyone new to ad tech PR, it can be overwhelming to learn and understand. The acronyms alone are daunting. Of course, ad tech PR teams don’t need to be experts in every new platform or tech tool, but we need to understand industry trends, issues, and key players.

At Crenshaw, we have worked with many ad tech companies across different verticals, so we appreciate how fast the category has changed, and how it touches so many different industries, from marketing to data security. For those wanting to dive in, here are some relevant posts that might serve as an ad tech PR primer.  

Cutting The Jargon In Ad Tech PR  

Even ad tech veterans can be stymied by the industry’s jargon. And acronyms like DMP, CDP,  FLoC, and GDPR are impossible to avoid. Understanding key terms can help ease the transition for those new to the category. And don’t miss Digiday’s “WTF” archives to keep up with hot topics. 

Ad Tech Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading 

The only way to stay current is to keep up with the trades. Add Adweek, AdAge, AdExchanger and Digiday into your daily rotation for a better understanding of the industry to start.

25 Ad Tech Journalists To Follow On Twitter

Obviously it’s important to know who is writing about ad tech and identify the different beats – from social media marketing to streaming to data privacy or brand safety. Twitter is an excellent way to build a list of go-to journalists. Often they will tweet looking for sources for a story and social media is the best way to track any changes in publication or beat. 

Top Ad Tech Conferences For PR Exposure

Many of our ad tech programs revolve around executive thought leadership content and speaking opportunities. Bylined content, white papers, awards and conferences are essential tools and platforms for positioning executives as leaders. Conferences and speaking engagements on panels get executives in front of a room of peers and positions them as a credible resource for both media and analysts. Events like Advertising Week, AdExchanger Programmatic I/O, to Cannes are all great opportunities for PR to gain extra exposure for executives.   

Imposter Syndrome – An Ad Tech PR Love Story (Ending With A Breakup) 

Need moral support? Check out this post from our own Hannah Kasoff, who moved over from the ad tech client side.   

What Does Top-Tier Media Mean In PR?

In the PR world, when we kick-start a new engagement we may ask a client, “Where do you want to see your brand? When it comes to media, do you have a ‘wish list’?” Naturally, the initial response may be a preference for splashy stories in top-tier outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Times, or Fortune. And we agree that nothing is quite as rewarding as securing that one BIG media placement. 

While those outlets are undeniably desirable for B2B PR, the definition of top-tier media Isn’t the same for all programs. The media landscape is cluttered, and it’s always changing. The migration of news to digital platforms has disrupted the news business, and new outlets are always coming on board. So, there’s not a one-size fits all approach to PR or media relations. What may be one company’s tier-three can be another brand’s tier-one. 

To execute a strong PR program and target the media outlets that will work best for your brand, assess your goals. Only then can you make meaningful recommendations on outlets that would be most influential.

Assess your audience

In B2B PR, you come across different audience segments, but the three main audience groups typically are: stakeholders, customers and reporters.

A private company or startup wanting to catch investor attention has different objectives than a public company looking to increase their customer base and market share. The audiences are fundamentally different. Industry-specific publications, whether healthcare, retail, or financial services, may lack the overall readership numbers and broad reach of a national news site, but they resonate with a given target audience and engage decision-makers that can impact an organization’s growth. For example, Street Fight covering local marketing, commerce and advertising may not generally be considered a top-tier outlet, but for our client Uberall, Street Fight is a very valuable trade and always gets the attention of audiences who count. 

Make vertical trades a MUST for PR strategy

While we cannot deny the power of a top-tier national media coverage, vertical media has proven very meaningful. Why? Vertical outlets allow more in-depth and targeted storytelling, focus on stories that may be too complex for a bigger outlet, spotlight the C-suite executive bench and drive demand-gen efforts.

Moreover, these trades are an excellent avenue for vertical-specific reporters at bigger business publications like Bloomberg or The Wall Street Journal. Top-tier beat reporters tend to follow trades in their sector to keep a pulse on the topics beyond the high-level announcements and breaking stories.

With publications like Morning Brew generating multiple vertical-specific publications (across retail, tech, HR and finance among others) and Time magazine’s dedicated business vertical, there are plenty of opportunities for brands to build their coverage pipeline. 

Newer forms of media – a game changer

As with vertical trade press, other forms of media are evolving to yield excellent outcomes. Some of the most important are newsletters and substack, a venture-backed platform allowing writers to connect with their audiences directly through their inbox. They offer new access points for earned media hits. Readers can select the topics and reporters they like, which presumably helps fuel engagement. In the middle of the pandemic, we saw a number of established reporters leaving for newsletters and creating their own ‘mini media empire’. Such platforms have created an industry not only for the writers but also a perfect opportunity for PR teams to connect their clients directly with their desired audience. 

The paywall conundrum

Let’s face it, paywalls are becoming the future. Name any top-tier pub — NYT, WSJ, Forbes, Insider and Washington Post, among others – and they’re likely to be inaccessible to readers without a monthly subscription.  Some allow non-subscribers to see a limited number of articles before directing to the payment channel, but the limits are there. 

During the pandemic, many media groups dropped paywalls for a time, but we’re now seeing paywalls re-emerge. Last year, Reuters restricted its free online content and unveiled a new subscription website. Sports Illustrated also launched its new digital premium membership. Paywall methods like this one weed out many readers that some argue represent a gateway to an engaged, loyal audience. But no matter how you feel about it, this changing business model is important to consider in determining your editorial media plan to secure coverage and maximize reach. Consider exploring and pivoting to tier-two media, as they often can be just as useful, if not better, than top-tier outlets to drive new levels of awareness for a campaign or brand.

PR teams must work with the brand team to shape the messaging strategy to reach the right media and ultimate audiences in a timely fashion. We’re the experts here, so understand the business involved, ask questions and don’t shy away from recommending new media targets beyond the top tier. 

How Not To Get Cancelled: A PR View

After four months of ostracism for slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, Will Smith has posted a video apologizing for his behavior. As apologies go, it’s late, but not bad. Yet as a PR observer, I’m not too concerned about Smith’s future. He’s a hugely successful actor with access to the best advice and a pretty smart guy. His career will probably recover.

But cancellation isn’t limited to celebrities. And internet justice can be even more consequential for ordinary people whose offenses fall short of slapping someone on live television.  Just ask artist Mary Purdie, who was accused of plagiarizing a meme featured in a design she created for OK Cupid. (The accusations were false, but many of those who attacked her didn’t stop to verify them.) “I’ve survived five miscarriages and breast cancer and this was still the worst thing that’s happened to me,” she told “Good Morning America.”

When it comes to brand cancel culture, there’s often a constructive goal – to correct mistakes or encourage change. That’s empowering to regular consumers. Whitney Dailey of Porter Novelli describes it as “a way for individuals to hold companies accountable in a way they previously weren’t able to do.”

Yes, social media pushback can be constructive, yet it often spins out of control. When that happens, it can wreak personal and professional damage. So how can you avoid being cancelled?

Be thoughtful about sensitive issues

We encourage brands to take a stand on relevant matters, especially those aligned with the values of their customers. The companies that pledged support for female employees after the Dobbs decision, for example, are expressing an authentic position in response to a court ruling that will affect millions. They’re backing their content with action, too. But don’t jump on issues for the sake of notoriety; it will eventually backfire.

Avoid hashtag hijacking

In the same vein, hashtag hijacking is risky. In the first place, it steps on the toes of the legitimate owners of the topic, which looks bad. But cancellations result when hashtag-jumping is obviously for a quick visibility hit. It’s even worse when a brand ignores the context. Someone who worked for pizza company DiGiorno noticed #WhyIStayed trending on Twitter and smelled an opportunity. It’s unclear whether the brand realized the hashtag was for stories of domestic violence survivors, but it jumped on it to promote its pizza. Bad idea. The reaction was swift and harsh.

Be careful with humor

Humor is a fantastic way to humanize a brand, but my rule is to resist joking when the context is sensitive. Duolingo, the language-education app, recently learned this the hard way. “Y’all think amber watches tiktok?” it posted beneath a clip of Amber Heard referring to online harassment she’d endured on the platform. It was a pretty mild quip, and Duolingo probably thought it was a harmless way to be relevant. But the joke infuriated many TikTok users, including our very own Chris Harihar, whose tweet went viral. To its credit, the social media manager for Duolingo posted a heartfelt apology.

The same rules apply for sarcasm and snark in my view. Until Twitter launches an official sarcasm font, it’s just too easy to misunderstand a post or tweet in the heat of the moment. A final pro tip: stay away from  social content about domestic violence unless it’s directly relevant and in a stone-cold-serious context. Same goes for the Holocaust. Not funny. Ever.

Don’t over-delegate social content

Social media marketing has matured dramatically over the last 15 years. Yet brands who routinely ensure several management levels and pairs of eyes view press statements will give a 24-year-old autonomy on a huge platform like Twitter or TikTok. Of course, speed and relevance are all-important in social media, but staff experience counts, too. Duolingo’s social media manager’s situation is clear from her response to the backlash.

“I made a mistake,” she said. “It’s deleted and I’m listening. I’m 24 – a yr out of college – managing an account that I didn’t expect to grow how it did & learning social responsibility on a curve. Taking full ownership. It’s an early career lesson for me and I’m learning to be better.”

It’s a good statement, but I’d argue the responsibility is not all hers.

Build social allies

Once you’re cancelled, it’s too late to reach out to friends and allies, and if the situation is radioactive, they’ll go radio silent. It’s more constructive to build relationships from the start. Even if there’s no budget for formal influencer or content creator relations, cultivate engagement with relevant social figures by engaging and appreciating their content. Again, this mirrors traditional media relations; top media contacts won’t guarantee a positive story, but media relationships will help you get a fair hearing.

Be prepared with a response

So what should a brand or person do if they’re cancelled? I’ll flesh out strategies in my next post, but the steps toward cancel club redemption are similar to any reputation crisis playbook – but on steroids. Speed is of the essence, which is why PR teams and agencies should be prepared with the right listening and monitoring tools and, critically, a plan for quick response. No one can predict the nature or severity of a reputation crisis, but most brands understand their own vulnerabilities and social communities. A good social media response plan will focus on a small number of likely scenarios; the key decision-makers; and logistics – who monitors for sentiment, who responds on which platforms, and who the deciders are.

Few cancellations are permanent. But the best reputation crises are the ones that didn’t happen.

Pitching Podcasts: PR Tips For Success

In B2B PR, we’re always looking for ways to promote client stories, often through interviews with members of their senior leadership team. Podcasts are naturally part of that mix; they’re a great way to secure thought leadership opportunities, and they’re growing in popularity. In 2022, the number of monthly U.S. podcast listeners will increase by 6.1% year-over-year (YoY) to 125 million. 

Broadcast is still a popular platform for reaching PR goals, but lately podcasting has even edged out TV, in part due to the advantages they offer. Podcasts typically offer the luxury of time; leaders have anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to share information, usually in a relaxed, informal setting. Podcasts also offer the opportunity to connect to a specific target audience, engaging listeners who are interested in relevant business or cultural topics.

There are many popular podcasts for businesses, including “How I Built This,” “Snacks Daily,” The New York Times’ “The Daily, and NPR’s “Up First” to name a few. But not every entrepreneur is a fit for “How I Built This,” so consider alternatives. There’s no shortage of options; in fact there are over 2 million of them worldwide. For example, we have many marketing and adtech clients, so we like “DemandGen CXO Conversations,” “AdExchanger Talks,” “The Sales Evangelist,” “Accelerate With Andy Paul” or “Marketing Over Coffee.”

So how can PR teams secure podcast opportunities for their brands? The secret is in the pitch.  

Do your research

When creating a list of prospective podcasts for business executives, be on the lookout for two things – an audience that matches your demographic and a podcast theme that makes sense for the business. 

Then, make sure the podcast aligns with your spokesperson. For example, if you’re promoting a B2B sales enablement tool, you’ll want to focus on sales podcasts and not marketing shows. And it’s okay to think horizontally. For example if the founder of the brand you’re pitching has an interesting story or point of view, you can target entrepreneur podcasts like “This Week in Startups” or “The Entrepreneur Way.”

Another idea is to search by location. If your brand is focused on a specific region, that background may carry more weight with a podcast from the same area than with a national or international podcast where people don’t have access to the product or service.

It’s also important to search where your competitors have been featured. If the podcast host invited them to their show, your brand should be of interest too. Just make sure to stand out with a new perspective in your podcast pitch.

Tailor the outreach

Make it clear why you’re emailing. In the subject line, begin with “Podcast Guest Pitch” then include keywords to describe your topic.

To make your pitch stand out, make sure you know the podcast first. Listen to a few episodes to get a feel for the themes, see who they’ve interviewed previously, learn the types of questions asked, and study the host’s interview style. Consider your client’s personality, too. If they’re new to podcast appearances, you may want to start with lighter, more casual podcasts versus serious ones.

In your pitch include a compelling story that will keep listeners engaged and tuned in. Explain your client’s expertise, experience, and personality and share specific examples of the information they can provide.

Include 5-10 potential topics for the podcast interview in your pitch as this provides the host the option to decide on a topic, making it easier for your client to prepare.  

Position your executive as an expert

Doing the work to guide the podcast host toward accepting your guest can mean all the difference between your pitch being accepted or rejected.

Make it easier on the host by including a robust bio that speaks to this person’s experience and ability. Links to your guest’s website, LinkedIn and Twitter also offer a better understanding of how they might interview. If your spokesperson has appeared on broadcast or spoken on a podcast before, include links to relevant press hits to help your client’s credibility.

Finally, make sure your spokesperson is prepared. Confirm they have a quiet space for the interview and a proper microphone for better sound quality. Prepare a briefing document with background information on the podcast and host, links to previous interviews, a list of potential questions and messaging to help the spokesperson get ready. Set up a call a few days before the interview to walk through the questions and get them talking about the subject matter. This way they’ll feel comfortable on the day of the interview.

Pitching podcasts requires both patience and professional persistence as it’s really all about timing. Just because you may not have received a response after following up doesn’t mean it’s a “no.” Keep that idea handy, update it later, and send your pitch again when the time is right. Remember, there are plenty of podcasts out there to consider so just move on to the next contact!

How To Work From Anywhere As A PR Pro

Over the last three years remote work capabilities have transitioned from a work perk to an industry-wide expectation, especially among PR agencies like ours. Now let me clarify something – working remotely isn’t the same as working from home. While working from home has traditionally meant the temporary ability to work from one’s house for a day or two each week, working remotely is a constant. And there’s an increasing number of digital nomads like me pursuing the latter. 

Generations currently rising in the workforce like millennials and Gen Z are increasingly looking for these remote capabilities when searching for jobs. We’re seeing big companies like Twitter, Spotify, Pinterest, and Shopify blazing the trail for work-from-anywhere capabilities and proving that operations can still be conducted smoothly and effectively. The PR industry, being completely digital now, is an ideal career for those wanting to become digital nomads. 

As long as you’re keeping up with the news cycle, remote PR work can happen from a variety of places – a dedicated co-working space, a coffee shop, an airplane – all either domestically or internationally. My remote experiences have taken place at my dedicated co-working space in Charleston, SC, seaside cafes in Mexico, hostels in Brazil, airplanes on the way to Spain, coffee shops in Portugal, a friend’s home in France – the list goes on. 

The biggest draw in being a digital nomad is the freedom and global experience it brings. Suddenly you’re writing a press release from a foreign country, having a real French press instead of a k-cup at your house, and taking meetings with new cityscapes in the background. However, there are also many skills required by those who choose to go this route, especially when abroad and/or in a different time zone. 

Informed by my own experience, here’s how to work successfully from anywhere.

Adopt a self-starting attitude 

The camaraderie and momentum of a shared office have helped colleagues keep each other motivated for decades. By contrast, those who transition to remote work definitely feel the change in their environment and pace of work. Chances are, there’s going to be no one to physically hold you accountable outside of the office. There’s no one to notice if you’re napping, sight-seeing, or in transit during work hours. So it’s important to have the motivation and discipline to produce the work consistently and well. People who feel they lack that sense of initiative usually find it helpful to structure their days as if they were in an office, with a consistent start and stop time and regular breaks to refresh. Some even set alerts to remind them to move on to the next task.

Sharpen your time-management skills

Often the main reason employees choose to work abroad is to experience a new culture. So how do you manage the time to indulge in new experiences and surroundings but also keep up with the fast-paced world of PR? I won’t say it’s simple, but it’s definitely possible. Some of my days spent abroad were calm, and I was able to multitask by working from my phone while on a train to the next destination. Other days were chaotic, following unexpected breaking news and newsjacking. The PR industry will always keep you on your toes, so it’s important to manage your time accordingly and prioritize work first. Scheduling recreational activities outside of your eight-hour work day will allow you to really focus on work during the designated time to keep clients on track. 

Lean into communication with colleagues 

Since in-person interaction is diminished, it’s important to lean into communication with colleagues to ensure that everyone is in sync on tasks and the work is getting done. Radio silence while working from different geographical locations can create weariness among the employer and confusion by peers. I’ve personally found that engaging in all Slack conversations, showing up to meetings on time, responding to emails in a timely manner and having quick huddles are the best way to keep in touch with my team and prove that I’m still doing my part, whether near or far. 

Invest in the best technology, leading with Wi-Fi 

When your industry relies on the internet, it’s critical to have a strong connection from wherever you are working. Pro tip: research Wi-Fi speeds before you travel. No matter where you are in the world, there’s bound to be a hotel, hostel, co-working space or restaurant with high-speed internet. Mind you, it’s normal to have Wi-Fi trouble every once in a while, but it shouldn’t become a regular issue. Constant lack of internet connection is unprofessional, unreliable and ultimately less productive. In a similar vein, if you’re not storing documents on a company server, use cloud storage and above all, make sure you can tap reliable backup technologies like a mobile hotspot in case of Wi-Fi failure or even a small chromebook in the event your laptop crashes. Let me tell you, I’ve learned from experience. Glitchy Wi-Fi and calls dropping have caused me great stress in the past – there is a level of professionalism we digital nomads must uphold if we want to have our cake (see the world) and eat it, too (maintain and grow in our jobs). 

Find a quiet and reliable space for meetings 

One good piece of advice I heard before my travels was, “don’t work where you sleep.” Even if that’s not possible, it’s often important to have a quiet spot for meetings. Some employers are more relaxed than others when it comes to meeting environments, so read the room. If your colleagues are taking meetings with minimal background noise, it’s respectful to do the same. Sure, spontaneous huddles or phone calls that weren’t on your calendar may catch you at a noisy coffee shop, but for the regular meetings, plan accordingly. It’s wise to appear engaged and focused when interacting with your colleagues face-to-face or over the phone. Sometimes though, the quietest place is in your bed, and that’s not an ideal camera-on situation. In this instance, I’m hoping your employer is understanding of the circumstances – whether you’re on or off camera – acknowledging that you’re still there and working, which leads me to the below. 

Ask for trust and support from your employer 

Employees work most productively when they feel trust, support and empowerment by their employers. I’ve held jobs in the past at companies that claimed “work from anywhere” but I felt judged when I was working from anywhere but home. Any employer who currently operates or is considering operating remotely should choose trustworthy talent to produce work and support them in whichever environment they choose. Support from an employer while working abroad plays a significant role in an employee’s mental health and level of production.

The shift toward remote workplaces and work-abroad capabilities is offering a bold future with greater freedom than has previously been possible with a full-time, salaried job. This study conducted by MetLife proves that offering employees the opportunity to work abroad boosts loyalty and retention; I can vouch for this immensely–being empowered to work abroad keeps me fulfilled both personally and professionally. In the digital age where we’re all connected by Slack and email, I don’t think we need to be in the same location or even time zone as our colleagues to still work in sync and effectively. Gone are the days of vanilla cubicles and stale coffee. Hello Parisian french presses and airplane Wi-Fi.