What They Don’t Teach You About PR In College

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

How to pitch media

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

Business knowledge is important 

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

Conferences and awards are a part of a strategic PR program

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

You need excellent research skills

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

PR is not marketing

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

No two PR jobs are the same

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

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

Crenshaw Adtech Clients Win Big at Annual Adweek Readers’ Choice: Best of Tech Partner Awards

We are excited to announce two of our clients have been recognized by Adweek at the annual Readers’ Choice: Best of Tech Partner Awards, which recognizes the top advertising and marketing technology providers and leaders across 35 categories.

Kerel Cooper, CMO of LiveIntent, and his Minority Report podcast co-host Erik A. Requidan, were named Diversity Advocates of the Year. The Minority Report Podcast offers insights that are often overlooked in the adtech space. Lotame was named Best Data Management Platform (DMP). Congrats to both!

Who’s Winning The PR Space Race?

The new space race is on, but this time, instead of a PR challenge among competing governments and clashing ideologies, it’s a pissing contest among billionaire entrepreneurs…with phallic imagery to match. Or so it seems.

The national press has chronicled the space flights with live saturation coverage so far. Maybe it’s a welcome break from political squabbling and divisive COVID-19 stories, but the fawning by broadcast media is almost embarrassing. Yet I admit to following the billionaire space race, if only to observe the comms strategies behind each brand. Who’s coming out on top?

Branson takes the early lead

Among the contenders, PR stuntmeister Richard Branson was first to launch into space on July 11 — at least figuratively. Technically, Branson’s Virgin Galactic fell short, because it never made it past the internationally recognized space border known as the Kármán line. But Branson wins points for being clearest when it comes to messaging. His goal is to launch space tourism as a global industry, period. It’s one more commercial enterprise for him and Virgin, so there’s been minimal posturing about saving the planet or promoting scientific breakthroughs. He also deserves credit for skillful and compassionate handling of the fatal crash and death of a test pilot 7 years ago. The tragedy could well have killed his space ambitions.

Yet despite his first-mover advantage, I found Branson’s optics a little lacking. I’m old enough to remember the glory days of the NASA program, with its thrilling rocket launches and cinematic splashdowns, so a choppy video of zero-G inside a plane felt a bit like a bad Zoom. Branson nearly made up for the lack of visuals with the swashbuckling enthusiasm he brings to everything he does, however. He’s his own best brand spokesperson, and he always delivers. It’s hard not to admire it, mostly because it feels real, and that makes it infectious.

Bezos delivers on optics

Yesterday Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin took its turn. Here, the visuals were much stronger, and the storyline was an updated version of the space programs of yore. It wasn’t subtle. The rocket system is boldly dubbed New Shepard, after the Mercury astronaut, and its maiden voyage crew included something for everyone, PR-wise. There were plenty of sidebars! Bezos himself was the star, along with his brother, which tugged at the boyhood-dream heartstrings. Then there was the 82-year-old woman who was denied a place in the U.S. space program of the 60s, making the flight a deferred dream and her the oldest person in space. Rounding things out for Gen-Zers, there was a Dutch teenager who qualified as the youngest space traveler to date. Great stuff.

The New Shepard spacecraft itself was tricked out with comfy and luxurious reclining seats and massive windows to better gawk at the view of Earth from the edge of space. Most importantly, we watched a real NASA-style liftoff (which also launched a thousand penis jokes on Twitter). The payoff was the capsule’s graceful glide down to a Texas desert landing as it was held aloft by parachutes. It was beautiful stagecraft.

The media trumps the message

For me, however, Blue Origin’s messaging was more muddled than Branson’s. Bezos started with vague comments about important discoveries that space travel might bring, followed by hollow statements about making it “accessible” to everyone. (This, after an anonymous billionaire paid $28 million at an auction for the privilege but didn’t show up due to a “scheduling conflict.”)  After the flight, he rambled giddily about the population potential of the solar system, explaining that if we had “a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power.” Come again?

Meanwhile, the Blue Origin video about the flight was a stilted, lengthy, and overproduced chore. On the positive side, Blue Origin claims the funds raised from the auction will support a nonprofit called Club for the Future that supports STEM careers for kids. The Club for the Future website focuses on future space travel, so it’s unclear if there’s a commitment to other STEM studies.

More memorably, Bezos himself capped things off with a bizarre cowboy hat and a tone-deaf thank-you that backfired. In a post-launch presser, he exulted, “I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this.” It served only to dredge up stories about harsh working conditions at Amazon and highlighted the contrast between Bezos’s status and that of the average Amazon worker.

So, who’s the winner? So far, I’d say it’s a draw. But the good (or bad) news is that the PR space race is far from over. It will fuel countless stories as we all stay tuned to see what kind of spectacle Elon Musk will dream up for later this year. But Musk’s SpaceX is already functioning as a government contractor, hauling NASA astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, deploying satellites to enable internet, and setting its sights on a mission to Mars. Its role in the bigger picture is clear.

In search of our mission

There are a thousand reasons to be cynical about the new space race. It’s staggeringly expensive, and the funds aren’t limited to private investment; taxpayer dollars are involved, too. Many note that the money devoted to space tourism could be better invested in solutions to pressing problems here on earth. If you look at it literally, a handful of superrich white guys have spent millions on joyrides that accomplish a fraction of what our government did decades ago. But there’s potential for so much more.

Above all, the new space travel contest is in search of a mission. If the mission is simply to popularize and privatize space travel, that’s great. Watching the birth of a new industry is exciting, and it comes with lots of benefits, like jobs, investment, and the potential for new discoveries. But I can’t help but think the whole thing cries out for a higher-order benefit, or at least a unifying principle that binds us together when we need it most. I’ve always thought of John F. Kennedy’s moonshot speech as a classic example of thought leadership. In that case, the young president’s words were designed to inspire business and technical innovation, a popular interest in science, and a sense of being all in it together.

The billionaires and their PR storytellers have taken pains to appeal to different audience segments. The messaging is polished, but it’s hollow and self-serving. They offer an entertaining spectacle, a slick press outreach, and high production values, but the mission is anything but inclusive. As Talia Lavin writes of the latest space flights, “While the rich sail to the stars the rest of us are left to toil in gravity’s bounds.”

PR Tips For Announcing A SPAC Transaction

Anyone who has been watching the tech PR space has noticed a huge rise in companies going public through Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs). For those who aren’t familiar, these are “blank check” investment firms that acquire a company with the goal of bringing them to the public market. It’s not a traditional IPO, but the end goal is the same. Companies like Taboola, Group Nine Media, and Buzzfeed have all either gone, or declared their intention to go, public via SPAC. And, just recently, we here at Crenshaw Communications helped our client Innovid make the announcement of its intention to merge with ION to go public in this way. 

It’s huge news for any company that makes this decision, and the coverage needs to match the excitement! While many elements are the same as a traditional IPO, there are some key differences to consider for SPAC announcements. Here are some tips for PR professionals to plan and successfully execute an announcement around the intent to go public via SPAC. 

There is no quiet period with a SPAC

One of the benefits of choosing the SPAC route is that companies don’t have to follow the dreaded PR quiet period once they file. This means PR can make a big splash on the day the intention is announced and continue to push out news in subsequent months to maintain the momentum in the market. It’s a good idea to plan several announcements after the big SPAC splash to keep media excited about the company- anything from partnerships and new hires to data or product news works well here. This is the time to pour it on.

Start pitching early

Big news is breaking every day, which means reporters are always swamped. To make sure they have enough time to cover the announcement, PR should start pitching at least 72 hours before the release goes out. The goal should be to line up several interviews ahead of the release so the official announcement day starts with top-tier stories that have the executive team feeling good and lay the foundation for more stories.

But be careful with embargo pitching

If you’re pitching your SPAC announcement globally, it’s important to understand that no one can break the embargo. If they do, coverage could be compromised, especially in the U.S. where press are sensitive about embargo times. If that means not pitching certain markets until the day of the announcement, it may be necessary to get the most mileage out of the news. Like many media strategy calculations, it’s something of a tradeoff.

You won’t get every outlet to cover

Some media will only cover a SPAC if they get the exclusive on the announcement– and that’s okay. If one of those publications is high-priority, an exclusive strategy can work to ensure they cover the news. Expectations should be set ahead of time to make sure there are no disappointed stakeholders on the day of the announcement. 

Media training is a must

Even for a CEO who is extremely comfortable with the media, we recommend a refresher session to go over the approved messaging and prepare for any tricky questions. Anything said can now impact stock price, so every spokesperson must be buttoned up, able to articulate the value proposition of the company, and navigate hard lines of questioning to ensure the best outcome. The good news is that, after a series of investor conversations, media prep might actually be easier. Obviously, if you’re going to media outlets outside the business/financial sector, you will want you avoid jargon, acronyms, and other financial-speak to make the story relevant to a broader audience.

Leave time for lawyers to review

It’s wise to have communications material drafted and circulating as soon as possible to avoid delays on media outreach due to legal review. This is a new process for many people, and they don’t realize how much time it can take. (HINT: It takes a long time) Build in extra time for the back-and-forth. 

You need to explain what SPAC is and how it works to media

It’s not as straightforward as you think. Many reporters still don’t understand how SPAC works, and what the advantages are for a company to go public that way. Executive spokespeople should be prepared to walk through the explanation in layman’s terms, pausing often to make sure the audience understands the company’s strategy, the advantages of the SPAC, and the quality of the partners and the backstory.  

If your company is considering going public through a SPAC, we’d be happy to discuss the process and the role of PR and media relations. We’ve also supported the traditional IPO route and can offer objective advice on the pros and cons of each.

How Speaking Opportunities Support B2B Companies

B2B companies who have just begun to use strategic public relations may not be know the full value that conference speaking engagements and industry awards offer. Here at Crenshaw, our client base of high-growth tech organizations have found that earned speaking opportunities and industry recognition build credibility and visibility for their brand. In many cases they support a path to a market leadership position. Here’s how it works.

Influence buyer decisions

The B2B buyers’ journey is famously long-tailed and competitive. Software solutions are expensive, and buyers under pressure to make the right choice seek as much information as possible to vet the quality of a SaaS, AI, cybersecurity, or data product. Young companies need to find ways to earn endorsements from a reputable third-party. Awards demonstrate — in an unbiased manner — innovation in the form of impact on an industry, a benefit to others, or a trend-setting practice that has been successful in the field. Similarly, if a buyer’s internet search turns up informative commentary from a tech executive that helps them make a decision, that company’s product will definitely bump up into the higher consideration set. If a new company’s brand name and an executive’s name turn up over and over at industry conferences, on podcasts or webinars, visibility and credibility will naturally grow in the minds of buyers. For more on how PR turns prospects into customers, see our earlier post.

Drive differentiation – or establish a new category

Solutions providers typically face fierce competition in a crowded marketplace. They want to pursue every conceivable tactic to set themselves apart within a sector of similarly positioned companies. A fundamental impacts of well-conceived PR program is differentiating from the competition; impact that advertising and marketing cannot do with the same potency. To win an industry software product award, you must show how the SaaS has performed in the real world using the case of an actual user, via the case study narrative. Award entries give the opportunity to tell the story of how a software offering works differently from others, and award wins allow more opportunities for a company to tell their story and deliver their message of differentiation. Further, an early-stage company can introduce and build awareness for a new category by having its executives speak in panels and keynotes at relevant conferences. Customer relationship management (CRM), local search optimization, and digital product catalogues were all once new product or service categories, which are now widely known.

Support employer branding

Awards in particular can be great ways to generate a morale boost for both leadership and staff. Who doesn’t like winning? Product awards are excellent ways to build credibility, but there are worthwhile awards that focus on a company’s customer service, workplace culture, or individual accomplishments. In the same way early-stage companies must earn credibility for their products, they should also find ways to show their industry (instead of merely telling it) how well their customer service and customer experience departments perform. Especially in the B2B tech space, buyers are seeking partners that also provide great service in addition to a great product. Plus, in today’s employment market, B2B companies are always fighting for tech talent. Millennials are famous for desiring progressive employers who care for their employees’ experience and value a diverse and inclusive workplace. Winning DEI and best places to work awards like Inc., Glassdoor, and Crain’s are essential to talent acquisition.

Create a leadership positioning

As the conference and awards manager, I am tasked with helping our high-growth tech clients build speakers’ bureaus. It’s a long-term proposition that sets them up for market leadership. Startups with an eye to a future of IPOs and category leadership should begin now to create a speakers’ bureau. While they may not have the resources to sponsor 20 industry conferences a year, they can assemble an executive spokesperson roster and speaking resumés by winning earned speaking engagements. Earned speaking ops are won by submitting non-promotional topic ideas to tech conferences, usually featuring a top company executive, a founder/CEO, CTO, or Chief People Officer, depending on the targeted audiences. If you look at the speakers list for any tech industry conference, you will see the same brand names across the board – names who are invariably leaders in the category or aggressive challengers. Success breeds success.

Generate case study content

Most winning award entries require a client case study that includes quantifiable success metrics. This is an early-stage tech company’s opportunity to bolster client relationships, since they are in essence gaining visibility for the client brand’s innovative approach as well as their own solution. Many startups are in the nascent stages of preparing customer success stories. Award entries, handled by a PR team or internally, are a great way to begin the process of crafting the narrative and doing the actual writing of valuable case study content. The content can nearly always be purposed for multiple PR tactics, from media pitching to white paper and blog content. The cooperation between solutions provider and customer to build these case studies can help fortify client bonds. Speaking gigs can also offer opportunities for repurposed marketing and PR content. Especially in the virtual and hybrid events era, recorded webinar/conference videos can be used after the event for PR and marketing. Further, the associated digital content has the added benefit of boosting SEO with higher domain values.

Tier-one tech industry awards linked to media outlets like Digiday, the Drum, AdExchanger, and AdAge are outstanding channels to prove a young company’s worth. Key conference speaking engagements help a young company insert itself into relevant conversations in its category, ultimately establishing its brand and executive leaders as authorities in the sector. For more on crafting a winning award submission, see our earlier post on how to execute a top conference and awards program as part of your PR campaign.

6 Things PR Agencies Should Never Say

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

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

We can definitely generate XX earned media placements

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

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

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

I don’t see the news hook in this announcement

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

You should see the ROI on this immediately

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

Do you have any news for us to pitch?

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

PR is about getting hits

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

A Toast To Independent PR Agencies

It’s nearly Independence Day, which is a good time to reflect on what independence means in the business of public relations. Lots of ad and PR agencies tout their independent status in their marketing. Judging from a quick review of the websites of midsize PR firms, most think it’s a differentiator. But what does the label really mean? Is independence a meaningful benefit or just so much PR?

Early in my career, after stints at two very different independent PR firms, I worked in the PR unit of a large ad agency. It was a dramatic contrast from my previous positions in that the PR team was expected to dream up stunts and tactics to support ad campaigns. We had our own clients, but we depended on “below-the-line” budgets of large integrated marketing clients where the relationship was owned by our advertising siblings. My advertising colleagues were delightful and talented, but they had no incentive to understand PR and what it brings to the table. In joint presentations, my time was typically cut from 20 minutes to 5 as we worked through rehearsals. In the end, they usually told me just to promise awesome media coverage and leave it at that — no separate strategy or even tactics. It was laughable.

What does independence mean in PR?

So much has changed since that time. Traditional ad agencies like the one where I worked have been badly disrupted. Most have been replaced by creative digital marketing companies. Meanwhile, public relations has grown and matured as an industry. Our agency largely focuses on an ecosystem of high-growth technology clients for whom PR IS marketing. So, what does independent status mean today? Is it just a nicer way of saying cheap?

There’s more to it than price. An independent PR agency will probably have a lower overhead than a mega-agency, but many are substantial in size and depth. In my view, independence is cultural. It connotes a certain agility, an openness to new approaches, and a certain resilience when it comes to change. What’s more, it translates into real and tangible benefits for clients. Here are the most important ones in my view.

Breakthrough creative

In an “integrated marketing” environment, the ideal outcome is a bold campaign idea that can be executed across multiple channels. The Always “Like A Girl” campaign, for example, blends paid, earned, owned and social content to deliver a resonant branded message about empowering girls. Yet, that very campaign was executed by different agencies, as great campaigns often are. The problem is, an “integrated” team means that the highest-margin service can dominate the client relationship, and even the creative product. That means risky ideas are discouraged. This is suboptimal because, in PR, which is typically more tactical than message-driven paid media, ideas and their execution really matter.

Honest counsel

Objective advice is not always easy or reflexive in a politicized corporate environment. Any recommendation that shifts budget from one column to another is fraught with peril, and subject to multiple approvals. But undiluted and objective feedback is, above all, what clients ask of their agencies, and it should not be compromised by internal politics or bureaucracy.

Fast execution

An entrepreneurial agency culture rewards initiative and quick execution. Most clients appreciate this, but its value really depends on the nature of the client and whether there is cultural compatibility in the relationship. For an agency like ours, which works with high-growth technology companies, it’s essential.

Individual accountability

An owner-operated agency is in a better position than most to create that entrepreneurial environment. An entrepreneurial culture incentivizes not only proactivity and fast action, but individual accountability. That goes hand-in-hand with risk tolerance. A risk-averse team will be afraid of big ideas or contrarian strategies. A punitive or bureaucratic culture will reward a herd mentality that hews to the safety of what has worked in the past. At worst, it frustrates star performers and creative types who will inevitably look elsewhere for their psychological career rewards. An independent environment, by contrast, promotes top performance and independent thinking.

Value

I resist equating independence with small fees or smaller programs, because I’ve  seen huge campaigns come out of small, independent PR firms. But the trappings of global status and integrated services, coupled with the demands of holding-company margins, can absolutely undermine client service. It can also inflate costs. It’s the most common complaint we hear from clients who switch from large, intergalactic agencies.

Having worked at a midsize owner-operated agency, followed by the largest independent PR firm, and then an integrated ad and marketing agency before starting my own business, I’ve seen a lot. There is no one model for a creative services or PR advisory business. But I’m biased in favor of less bureaucracy, greater simplicity and flexibility, and fewer deciders. At a PR agency, independence is not about size or business model, but about culture.

5 Traits Of A Top B2B PR Specialist

There are many skills that are valuable at a B2B (business-to-business) PR agency. Whether it’s that keen news sense or superb research chops, it’s important for B2B PR teams to master a diverse skill set and to have an aptitude for fast learning. Yet at many specialist agencies, some characteristics are more important than others. Here’s our nominations for desirable traits of a PR person who is focused in the B2B sector.

They’re always up-to-date

What’s the top priority of a PR person, if not making staying on top of the news? Without it, there’s nothing to track or pitch. Of course, this is true for nearly anyone on the front lines of public relations, but it’s more specialized in B2B. It’s why they’re always checking for updates, even off the clock. 

We track major media outlets and writers on Twitter, subscribe to scores of newsletters, buy analyst reports, and follow whitepapers on relevant topics. We also use monitoring services to catch breaking stories in areas of interest to client companies. On our team we’re following trends and breaking news in ad tech, digital security, SaaS, and more. Then there are the trends in our own PR and comms industry, so there’s plenty of information to digest. 

They’re geeks at heart

Supply chain optimization PR? Monetization tech for convergent media? What about automated customer communications management for highly regulated industries? In B2B especially, understanding a given industry can require a deep dive. Not everyone comes in as an expert in, say, ad tech or cybersecurity, but after a thorough onboarding (and a few years of experience), it comes more naturally. Above all, it’s essential to understand the revenue model(s) of a given business, its competitive sector, and the problems and challenges they solve for their customers, because they can be quite complex. 

Since many B2B agencies work in the tech space, they’re also fans of clients’ technology, and sometimes their best critics. You don’t need to be a programmer or a data engineer in this business, but it pays to be fluent in tech and to understand the rapidly accelerating cycles that drive the business economy. 

They know how to harness research 

Knowing how to create, interpret, and communicate research findings is an essential PR skill. Here again, it’s more detailed and specialized in B2B work. Familiar with the Gartner magic quadrants? Know how to synthesize market data in a single slide? Happy to structure a business customer survey to assess the value of key service differentiators? Then you’ll probably do well in B2B public relations. Data often drives news, so B2B PR requires expertise in interpreting it as well as creating it. We collaborate with survey and other market research partners to create relevant insights and fresh data for clients to make news, share with customers, or drive a leadership position in their sector. 

They’re excellent writers

A PR expert HAS to be an excellent, fast, and productive writer. Even in the age of Tik Tok, one of the most important parts of the job is producing clear and coherent content, especially if it’s about technical products or services. There’s a good reason for the cross-pollination between journalism and PR, because we produce a great deal of content, from press releases and bylines to pithy email pitches. 

Yet there may still be a skills gap when it comes to quality writing. A Tech Marketing Council study shows that 62 percent of B2B tech organizations struggle to find writers who can deliver thought leadership content. Which leads us to the final trait on the list.

They grasp “thought leadership”

You’ll often hear B2B PR agencies promise to make key executives “thought leaders.” It’s true that tapping the expertise and point of view of a business principal or entrepreneur can be transformative for a business brand. But making a thought leader goes beyond excellent writing. It’s more than getting a client executive in the news. Real thought leadership is about harnessing the power of ideas, insight, innovation, and influence. Check out Richard’s post on PR tech and tools for thought leaders, or  Dorothy’s original thoughts on how great thought leadership campaigns are made.

How To Work Across Multiple Time Zones

In PR as in every office-based line of work, the pandemic has forced a remote-work experiment on a scale never seen before. As a result, how and where we work has been transformed. A new location can bring a new time zone with it. As an East Coast employee now working on the West Coast for the past eight months, I don’t face the kind of challenges as teams who span several time zones across many global regions. Yet my situation has made me more aware of the pros and cons of working in different time zones. Here are some key takeaways on being productive and connected to colleagues no matter your location.

Be transparent

Before making the move to another time zone, it’s important to keep open communications with your team. Let your employer know what you’re thinking of doing and feel them out. Come at it from a productivity standpoint and make a mutual decision about your hours. For example, I made a deal with my team that I will continue to keep East Coast hours while I’m here in SoCal.  Keeping the same hours works well for me; however, in a different scenario, it might be useful for our East Coast team to have someone covering key accounts after working hours in their time zone. The point is to figure out what works for you and stick to it. For me, an early start to the day is offset by the advantage of being able to sign off by mid-afternoon.

Be mindful of time zones

When setting deadlines or arranging meetings and phone calls, be mindful of time zones and always specify it in your emails or messages. There have been times when I thought I was late to call, only to realize that I had spoken in PST times to colleagues instead of EST.  Google calendar has a setting that lets you choose your home time zone so appointments will always be scheduled in that zone unless you choose otherwise.

For international meetings, remember that the world clock app is your friend. It’s essential for scheduling meetings but also comes in handy when setting deadlines and planning projects. We have a client, DoubleVerify, who has comms teams across the globe. When they have a global announcement, it is good to have a quick conference call to make sure we are all aligned on the launch time across all regions including North America, Europe and APAC. This is also second-nature to our cybersec team because they work with Singapore, and our AI group originates in India, but it does take some mental reframing at the outset. 

Align with your coworkers

It’s important to note cultural differences across international time zones. Work habits in Europe may be different from those in the U.S. or Southeast Asia. Holidays around the world are different and some regions even take lunch at different times, take longer breaks, or don’t work traditional hours. Keeping this in mind will prevent misalignment and confusion on deadlines in the future. 

Stick to your boundaries 

The boundary between our work and our personal lives has become blurred since we haven’t had the commute to divide the day. Working at the kitchen table or even from the couch is normal, and juggling the distractions of home life while trying to hit work deadlines has become a daily challenge. Set a routine, establish a workspace and set work hours for yourself. Keep up a dialogue with coworkers to update them with what you’re currently working on and what you will be doing throughout the week – this way nothing will slip through the cracks. You want to avoid the “out-of-sight/out-of-mind” mentality among team members!

Embrace technology

Technology has allowed teams to work from anywhere, anytime. Use this to your benefit and don’t take it for granted. Tools like instant messaging apps, video chats, task management software, and progress trackers enable anyone on your team to strategize and update teams on their progress at different times of day. Globally, teams can stay aligned on ongoing projects in real time. If an employee in Sydney is working while EMEA and U.S. employees are offline, those teams can see what their Australian colleagues accomplished when they sign in the next day and note what’s next.

Productivity levels are higher 

A new time zone may be a tough adjustment at first, but once you have a system and the proper communication in place, employees are finding themselves to be more productive and happier with their work/life balance. Research shows that we can get more work done remotely in some cases than when in an office. A Stanford study of 16,000 workers over nine months found that working from home increased productivity by 13%. “This increase in performance was due to more calls per minute attributed to a quieter, more convenient working environment and working more minutes per shift because of fewer breaks and sick days.”

We’ve learned a lot as a result of being in different time zones and working from home: meetings aren’t always necessary; working a standard eight-hour shift may not be the best schedule for everyone; and sitting at a desk doesn’t always mean you’re being productive. 

With fewer office distractions, the enhanced focus we get from wanting to get more free time back, or no longer having a commute, is borne out in the data. Workers are happier and more productive WFH, no matter the time zone. 

Questions PR Grads Should Ask In An Interview

It is that time of year again. The PR world has gained new fresh college grads eager to join the workforce. While searching for possible internships or entry-level jobs is exciting, it can also be overwhelming. Or even frustrating. According to Glassdoor, the average interview process from first contact to a possible offer can last up to 23 days – varying of course based on the industry.

Interviews are a conversation between candidates and employers to understand their experience better. Resumes can often look the same but they don’t necessarily tell employers about the person beneath the experience or how she stands from the crowd. It’s the interview where a candidate can show a company why they’d be an amazing addition to their team. 

One nerve-wracking part of any interview is when the employer asks if the candidate has any questions for them. PR grads, be prepared to ask questions! This is your opportunity to get to know a company better. With this in mind, what are the go-to questions aspiring public relations employees should ask in an interview?  

Why do you love this company and why should I want to work with you?

If a future employer cannot answer this question, that’s a big issue.  What is it about this job that would make others want to work here and with you? What is it about this company that sets it apart? Do they offer great benefits, fun and innovative clients, or is it the co-workers that make them stay? Future employees should be able to list several things they love about their company to make it appealing. If someone has to think about it, maybe that’s a sign.

Is there an opportunity to grow in this position?

One of the benefits of working in a small PR agency is the relationships you build with your co-workers and senior management. In larger agencies, you could be just a name on paper and get lost in a corner somewhere. Working in a smaller environment, an entry-level PR person should have an opportunity to work closely with team members across many levels. It’s also a fast way to learn your own strengths and preferences. Are you a strong writer, social media whiz or maybe have a special touch when it comes to media relations? It’s best to make sure you hear from team members who have been at the agency for a while to hear how they have grown and evolved.

Can you describe the company culture?

Culture can be hard to describe, but it’s important. In a traditional workplace, days can be filled with non-work talk or catching up with friends on downtime between calls and meetings. It is corny to say, but your co-workers become like family since we spend so much time together during the work week. Think about what’s important to you in a company culture. Do you want a place that values their employees as much as their work? One way to explore those values is to ask how a company stayed connected during the pandemic. At Crenshaw, we made a vow to continue up on Thursday happy hour Zooms where we have an activity planned. (Some of our favorites were Family Feud, Pictonary and Jeopardy.) 

Where do you see the agency in the next five to 10 years?

Growth is extremely important in any company. The PR industry is constantly changing with strategies, platforms, and tech tools. You want to be in a learning environment, and one that fosters that environment through growth. Does the agency plan to hire more talent? Expand horizontally to offer new services? Open new office locations? Things and plans that are working today but may not be relevant in the future. This can be a very open-ended question but it is good to get a sense of where the agency sees itself in the future and if that sounds like something you want to be a part of.

What is your timeline for next steps?

This is a valid question, and it shows interest. The interview process can be long and tedious. It can be a lot of back and forths of internal conversations evaluating candidates. Understanding the interview process can help ease your mind and manage your own expectations for the process. After hearing next steps, maybe offer writing samples or additional references to help speed the decision. If nothing else, it means you are serious.

To all the new PR grads, good luck interviewing and if you’d like to hear more about life and opportunities at Crenshaw Communications, get in touch @colleeno_pr