Another Reason Tech Startups Need PR

For a new technology business, the decision to commit to a PR agency or in-house PR consultant is a consequential one. It’s also occasionally controversial. Celebrity entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban have warned ambitious startups against spending on an outside PR firm. Cuban sees PR spend as wasteful and premature for most early-stage companies. He figures the founder should be able to do the job on his own – possibly an unrealistic idea for people who aren’t Mark Cuban. Others in the VC community argue that PR is essential to a successful fundraise, and they preach its ancillary benefits for talent recruiting, business development, and M&A. B2B companies in particular stand to gain from the right PR campaign, because B2B PR often involves vertical and trade press, which is easier to penetrate than mass media. For consumer brands, of course, PR can strike a spark that lights the fire of mass appeal. But can a PR campaign pay for itself?

The PR factor: are coverage and cash correlated?

A new study has identified a link between positive PR and capital raised, at least for some businesses. Data-driven UK consultancy Hard Numbers teamed with global research company CARMA for a look at the possible impact of media coverage on fund-raising for tech startup businesses in the UK.

The study focused on the critical Series B fundraise on the theory that the B round “is one of the most significant events for scale-up businesses” and a key inflection point for most startups. It examined 120 companies who raised a Series B round between January 2018 and July 2020 and compared the size of the first and second funding rounds. For the same period CARMA analysts looked at content generated by and about those businesses in the UK.

More media, more money

Companies with the largest increase in funds raised between rounds A and B also generated the most media coverage. The study documents an average of 206 pieces of media coverage for the high-fundraising businesses, as compared to 176 pieces for those with a “medium” increase in funds raised and only 146 pieces of coverage for companies that saw the lowest delta between funds raised between Series A and Series B. (I’m presuming the vast majority of coverage analyzed was positive.)

Not surprisingly, the data showed the most pronounced differential between fundraising rounds in the B2C sector. Other high-performing verticals when it came to monies raised were business productivity software and fintech.

It’s all interesting, if not definitive. The Hard Numbers study was limited to the UK, and the sample, while impressive, isn’t very large. Also, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. The results could simply mean that companies that are more mediaworthy will naturally attract greater investment for similar reasons, i.e., their business models or positioning simply warrant it. Of course, the study’s authors are natural champions of PR for early-stage businesses. But it comes as no surprise to me. I’ve always thought good PR is like money in the bank, but the maxim may be more literal than not. And there are plenty of other reasons for a new company to invest in PR.

Positive PR drives recruiting

We see this in our own small PR agency, but for a high-growth startup, employer branding is essential. Tech businesses in particular are navigating a red-hot talent marketplace for engineers, IT professionals, sales people, and many more types of positions. A reputation for being a great place to work, driven by PR as well as good word of mouth, is a priceless asset when it comes to recruiting the best.

The right PR helps generate demand

Earned media isn’t the most consistent generator of business demand for a company’s products or services; for that, direct-marketing and sales work more reliably, and they scale better than a PR program. But the splashy PR generated by big stories in key media outlets like TechCrunch or VentureBeat come with enormous credibility. That means influence.

PR drives SEO

The strength of A-list media domains translate to very real SEO value. A single big-hit PR placement in a top-tier publication can boost a company’s search results to the first page for months or even years. That can confer a tangible advantage over competitors. And who else is likely to be influenced by search results? VCs, of course.

Coverage begets coverage

Funders aren’t the only ones influenced by positive media coverage and page-one search results. Media are, too. It’s a well-known “secret” among PR people that media often follow other media. In particular, broadcast outlets follow print media. Each will develop their own angles and commentary, of course, but it’s a beautiful thing when media coverage snowballs, gaining acceleration and momentum as time goes on. Those earned media stories can be merchandised for recruiting, sales, and funding presentations.

The right PR helps generate demand

Earned media isn’t the most consistent generator of business demand for a company’s products or services; for that, direct-marketing and sales work better. But the splashy PR generated by stories in key media outlets like TechCrunch or VentureBeat come with enormous credibility.

That’s why most organizations bring on PR agencies, of course, and it holds true in the startup world. But it’s a mark of just how valuable many startups and their stakeholders view the right PR campaign that it’s not even the top reason on their lists.

Crenshaw Promotes Team Members

To kick off 2021, we are excited to announce two well deserved promotions.

Caroline Yodice has been promoted to Senior Account Supervisor. Caroline has been a star in Crenshaw’s ad tech group for almost three years, driving very successful programs for LiveIntent, Lotame, Innovid, Boostr, and MediaRadar.  Her clients and coworkers value her hard work and attention to detail and we’re excited to congratulate Caroline on her advancement to Senior Account Supervisor. She’ll be working closely with senior management on successful ad tech programs.

Adam Brett has been promoted from Assistant Account Executive to Account Executive. Adam joined us last February and he has embedded himself as a key team member on accounts like Verizon Media, Uberall, Lotame, and SecureAge, providing excellent media relations and account support. And, no matter what we throw at him, he’s happy to take it on, while asking to do more. We’re excited to see him develop as an AE.

Congrats to both!

 

In Praise of Trade PR For B2B Companies

All PR teams want to earn coverage in top-tier media outlets. Businesses looking to kickstart a PR campaign may shoot for stories in publications like The Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Naturally, this is because a splashy feature on these sites can generate instant visibility, and they reach a large audience.

At the same time, every PR plan should include another type of media – relevant trade publications. Trade pubs may seem unglamorous, but they have their own kind of superpower. Publications dedicated to a specific industry, whether healthcare, manufacturing, or financial services, may lack the broad reach of a national news site, but they engage the decision-makers critical to a B2B organization’s growth. There are good reasons why trade publications can be even more beneficial than the A-list press whose names everyone recognizes. They should be an integral part of any B2B PR strategy. 

Fewer paywalls = more eyeballs

Many top-tier pubs — like Forbes, Washington Post and WSJ, among others — are subscription-based or require registration. This weeds out many casual readers. While a number of trades — such as Adweek and WWD, for example — have also implemented paywalls for some or all content, the majority don’t require a commitment. And at companies where trade news content is relevant, those subscriptions are generally covered as a business expense. This means that most trades have a built-in audience of readers that are already engaged in their content.

More thought leadership opportunities

Over the past couple of years, many large publications have stopped accepting bylined articles and thought leadership pieces from outside companies. Others require membership fees. Of course, it’s still possible to be published on the opinion page of a prestigious national newspaper, but the topic must have broad national or international relevance. Trade publications, too, are selective with the content they accept, but most will entertain publication for a piece on a relevant topic. Many have small staffs and welcome high-quality content from knowledgeable figures in their industry. This results in greater opportunities for company leadership to get their point of view to valuable audiences in the form of bylined articles or other contributed content.

Trade readers are a niche audience 

When looking at trades and how they fit into PR efforts, bear in mind that quality is far more important than quantity. Trades fit comfortably here, as their readers are a niche audience who will not only understand the product or service of a given company in their industry, but could actually have a use for it. Plus, since journalists at these pubs dive more deeply into industry topics, a mention or focus on your brand helps educate those you need to reach.  

Take, for example, Small Biz Trends, one of the most popular publications targeted to small- and medium-sized business owners. If your company offers a solution that benefits small businesses, consistent coverage in a SMB-focused trade is obviously valuable. What’s more, it can be amplified through social platforms like LinkedIn, in prospect newsletters, sales presentations, and customer communications. 

Trade stories are foundational

A solid newsstream in relevant trades will often lay the groundwork for additional stories in more broadly focused media outlets. This is because the manufacturing beat reporter at, say, Bloomberg, will naturally be following manufacturing trades that cover industries like automotive and heavy equipment. Pharma journalists will read biotech and diagnostic trades, depending on their beat, and so on. Coverage begets more coverage, and a strong trade program is a terrific foundation.

Trade allow more in-depth storytelling

Pitching trade press can be easier than getting a story in a large media outlet. The bigger outlets are usually looking for a sexier story, such as a major financing announcement or testimonial from a prominent customer. Further, they often focus on larger companies and brands. Trades, on the other hand, are often interested in stories that might be smaller and less flashy, yet more in-depth. For example, a company’s announcement of a complex, highly technical tool may be hard to communicate to a wide audience, while a vertical trade may love it. 

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Trades can be overshadowed by other press, but it’s important for PR pros to appreciate the benefits of trade stories and to explain their value within the organization.

10 Things To Know Before Dating a PR Pro

It’s Valentine’s Day, the traditional holiday for couples, and an occasion to show how much we appreciate the special people in our lives.

Let’s face it – dating can be awkward and uncomfortable. Many PR pros have very strong, type-A personalities and can seem intimidating, especially on first dates. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are a few things you should know about the PR person you may be dating.  

We are planners – This should come as no surprise. In PR, we are very organized and are trained to plan events and programs. We write plans that cover several months and in our personal lives we may do the same. Nothing stresses out a PR person more than last-minute plans with very little thought. We will make the best of the situation but really appreciate a heads-up for date nights or planned events.

Yet we like fast response time – PR, especially a PR agency, is a fast-paced environment. On a daily basis, we are connected to Slack, e-mails, and texts to our team. If we can’t reach someone with one form of communication, we have back-up plans to get that quick response. Nothing is worse than being left on “read” with no response. PR people may even double-text or call when dating. Don’t take it personally; we just like confirmation that you read our message.

Calendar invites are a must – I’m guilty of sending my friends calendar invites weeks ahead of time just for brunch, because I may forget something that isn’t on my calendar. If you’re dating a PR pro, expect calendar invites for nearly everything from date night, vacations or even something small like grocery shopping. If it isn’t on our calendar, we could overbook ourselves. 

We’re great at negotiating – Dine in or take out? Walk in the park or walk by the beach? These are questions couples often ask. PR pros are trained to negotiate with media to get the best story for a client, and sometimes that carries over into our personal lives. We’re in the persuasion business after all. 

We’re attached to our phones – In dating, it can be rude to keep your phone out or to have the ringer on. But we do have those days where it may be after hours and we need to be connected in case of an emergency, especially working with international media or companies. Our worst fear is missing a message that needed immediate attention! 

We geek out over the latest tech announcements – For anyone who doesn’t work in tech, things like the latest product launch or software update are not important. Tech PR teams keep key dates on our radar to see if we can newsjack technology announcements or breaking stories for our clients. We are always looking for opportunities to join the conversations with media, so if we seem obsessed with tech news, please let us have our moment!

Communication is key – In any good relationship, communication is key. It helps anyone learn more about their date or partner to form a healthy relationship. PR people are master communicators – we have a degree in it. 

First date may feel like a media interview – First dates are often awkward and could have moments of silence – but that’s not as likely with a PR person. Going into the date, we will have created a mental list of question. Like media interviews, we often know what questions to expect. We are pros at creating briefing books for executives to prep them on what to expect. Expect a lot of Q&A on the first date.

We can turn any negative into a positive – Unfortunately not everything goes the way we anticipate in PR. The worst feeling is when you expect a client executive to be featured in an article and they are left out for some reason. While this is frustrating, we know how to make the best out of this situation. If our dinner reservation gets cancelled unexpectedly, we will quickly find a new one and it may be better than the original plans, so no worries about small setbacks. 

Expect the unexpected – PR is a fast-paced world. We start our day thinking our work is cut out for us. Then 15 more things are thrown at us. Dating a PR pro can be a lot like that. While we are planners, we do know how to handle the unexpected surprises in life. That’s what keeps it fun and interesting!   

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Crenshaw Communications!

The Art Of Analyst Relations: A PR POV

Media relations is a huge part of any PR program, given the third-party validation that comes with earned media. But for B2B companies — particularly in the technology space — sometimes the best way to get in front of a key audience isn’t just with trade and business press, but through industry analyst reports that influence media and customers.

Industry analyst relations (AR) can be a foundation for lead generation. And much like media relations, there are nuances involved. Understanding the art of AR is critical to building relationships with these influencers. With that in mind, here are a few things B2B companies need to know when it comes to AR.

Who are analysts?

Analysts, including those who cover the technology sectors where our clients do business, tend to have very deep knowledge of their areas. Journalists often juggle beats and handle pressing deadlines on a daily basis; analysts, by contrast, are paid to do research and write in-depth reports that may take months. Many are previous practitioners, executives, or researchers in their chosen sectors. 

They typically follow narrow categories or subcategories, from Application Performance Management to Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure. Even within a sector like ad tech, a publication may have a journalist dedicated to the entire programmatic advertising beat, while an analyst house will have someone specifically dedicated to demand side platforms (DSPs) alone.

Analyst versus journalist end goals

While there may be overlap between the questions and approaches of journalists and analysts, their end goals are different. Both are looking for a better understanding of trends and developments within a given space. However, analysts are doing so as a way to build research reports for buyers, while journalists are collecting points of view and reporting trends for general reader knowledge. Therefore, a degree of self-promotion is warranted when we connect with analysts, whereas journalists generally eschew an overly commercial or promotional POV.

Differences between analyst and media briefings

Given the differences in purview, analyst briefings are far more granular than typical media briefings. For example, while media briefings may get into what a company does, analyst briefings are much more geared towards how it actually does it. Moreover, companies need to demonstrate to analysts why their products are actually superior to others in their category. An analyst briefing is usually an excellent opportunity to differentiate a company from its competition.

This is why we always recommend that clients present either an in-depth deck or a product demo as part of an analyst briefing. It’s useful to have an informal script to ensure that the company representative is hitting all the key points and differentiators. A deck is also a useful “takeaway” for reference when an analyst drafts a report.

Navigating the pay-to-play landscape

One of the biggest differences between analyst relations and media relations is the pay-to-play nature of the analyst firm business model. A paid “partnership” allows for more frequent briefings, more in-depth coverage, analyst participation in company webinars and other various perks. Yet those organizations who lack an AR budget can still have a successful relationship with an analyst. Access is more limited for non-paying partners, so you need to make each interaction count. This means connecting with the right analyst and having a finely tuned presentation that will make an impact.

Additionally, PR teams need to get creative about staying top-of-mind with analysts. By sending over one-off monthly company updates or setting up off-the-record conversations companies can circumvent the pay-to-play landscape and build long-term analyst relationships that will result in valuable earned coverage in industry reports.

How PR and AR work together

We think of analyst reports as great prospecting tools for B2B tech companies, because they are. This is particularly true in complex and expensive categories like SaaS, ad tech, cybersecurity and AI. A relevant analyst report can save a business customer valuable time in researching a company-wide purchase. But major analyst reports like Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, for example, are also influential for journalists who cover those categories. That’s why PR teams work hard to prepare clients for analyst meetings and to promote positive reports after they’re published. 

Don’t forget the up-and-comers

Most PR people are familiar with the well recognized analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester,  and IDC, and others. But it pays to research emerging analyst companies and those niche and up-and-coming firms such as Ovum, 451 and Ventana, that have a relevant orientation. A report from a highly specialized analyst firm can have a big impact, so smart PR teams will track all players and reach out well in advance of the publication of key reports.  

Press Release Newswire Services – Worth The Cost?

In the PR world, press releases are our bread and butter. They’ve been a staple of the business for decades because they serve a distinct purpose: to inform the media of news. However, in the age of the 24/7 digital news cycle, the role of the press release is up for debate — and some consider them obsolete.

But are they really? Have reporters stopped asking to see the full release when you contact them about news – a partnership, company milestone, new product or a big hire? No. Businesses use different media to tell their story in this evolving PR environment, but press releases REMAIN an effective and trustworthy source of information for companies big and small. They’re here to stay.

But a press release is only as good as its distribution. Is it enough to post it on your own website or blog? Probably not. So, should PR teams use newswire services to push news out? Many are expensive and those costs can add up. 

What is newswire distribution?

For a fee, any organization can upload their press release to a newswire service that distributes it directly to news organizations, much like the original news agencies like Associated Press fed reports to newspapers in the early days of electronic journalism. Companies opt for newswire distribution because it’s quick, efficient, and guaranteed. It has also traditionally offered a temporary boost for search rankings for the organizations generating the news, although that has changed. A few of the top picks for press release distribution services include:

Business Wire – Known for robust targeting, outlet-type choices, multimedia options and its ability to distribute across 100,000 premium outlets (broadcast, digital and print). Keep a check on their pricing as they’re expensive.

GlobeNewswire – Offers real-time monitoring of online news, print, and social media and a 360-degree view of your performance.

PR Newswire – More on the affordable side and best suited for mid-sized business news. This Cision-owned media distribution platform boasts a network of over 3,000 newsrooms (like The New York Times, ABC News, BuzzFeed and more). 

PRWeb – Like PR Newswire, PR Web is also owned by Cision and usually a low-cost distribution option.

Other lower-priced options for tighter budgets can include eMailWire, PR.com and NewwireNext among others. Their cost range is well within $300 for the packages offered.

Distribution to news agencies, editorial offices and terminals as well as associated news sites is guaranteed in most cases, but coverage is not. At the higher end, costs can run nearly $2000 for an announcement of average length, depending on the distribution. Naturally companies may question the value of newswire distribution services, which offer pros and cons.

Benefits of using a newswire

Reach: Newswire services reach an extensive network, so a newswire release will reach online news sites, portals, databases, and websites devoted to specific industries. You can also choose to have your press release sent to regional, national, or international media. Additionally, they offer analytics that show, for example, how many people viewed your release, where the news appeared online, the number of unique visitors, and monthly page views. The comprehensive reports can be helpful.

Referral traffic: Since you have full control over the content of a press release, you also have the opportunity to include backlinks to your website. 

Translation: If your release needs to be sent to a non-English country and requires translation, newswire offers that as well (but at an additional cost).

Where newswire lacks

No coverage guarantees: Sure, the release reaches multiple news outlets, but wire distribution does not guarantee coverage. It doesn’t ensure that a reporter will open or read the release. An impressive-looking report doesn’t necessarily mean that major media actually used the announcement in their coverage.

Cost:  Newswires range in cost, but many are expensive. The cost depends on the length of the press release and the scope of the distribution. For GlobeNewswire release distribution in North America, the cost stands at $600 for first 400 words and goes up to $140 for each additional 100 words. Similarly, price point is a caveat for Business Wire and is better suited for large PR and marketing budgets.

SEO value: Since Google made press releases nofollow links, SEO impact is less likely. So a release should be written to gain the type of coverage that will itself boost SEO – that is, from high-value media domains, not for a quick bump.

For companies that are publicly traded, financial announcements always warrant a newswire distribution due to timely disclosure regulations. However, for small or mid-sized companies, spending thousands of dollars on non-financial announcements is probably not worthwhile.

Those organizations should instead focus on developing the right media strategy (exclusive or embargo outreach) to get media attention and coverage, then plan to amplify the news by sharing on their website, social media channels and direct marketing. 

Newswires aren’t earned media 

My take: To generate the right amount of noise and quality coverage, newswire services are NOT the only answer. They should be used sparingly, usually for major announcements, and approached as a means to an end, not the end in itself. 

Besides quarterly earnings, news around key company hire, an acquisition, big product launches and brand partnerships, among others, should probably be distributed via newswire. Other announcements should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to manage budgets properly. And to spark reporters’ interest in covering the news for maximum mileage, nothing beats that time-honored public relations tactic — one-on-one outreach.

Crenshaw Clients Nominated for Campaign US Female Frontier Awards

Our clients are trailblazers! Campaign US announced the honorees for the third annual Female Frontier awards, celebrating female leaders and rising stars breaking boundaries in a historically male-dominated industry. Congrats to Jessica Hogue, GM of measurement and analytics, Innovid, Stephanie Geno, SVP of marketing, Innovid, and Rathi Murthy, chief technology officer, Verizon Media! All have been named as finalists. 

Nominees have been selected by a panel of industry leaders from top agencies and brands, based on their leadership and demonstrated ability to make positive change. Winners will be announced on March 4. Good luck to all!

The Future Of Conferences And Events: A PR Planner’s View

A year ago, our B2B Tech PR clients were finalizing their 2020 conference speaking strategies, looking forward to sponsoring or winning speaking gigs at tech stalwarts like Cannes Lion, DreamForce, and Hubspot INBOUND.

That was then. As the pandemic hit the U.S., I recall the first big event to cancel was South By South West (SXSW). Soon, the event dominoes toppled in a quick series of cancellations and postponements, with most moving their meetings to the fall. We were speculating about how jam-packed the fourth-quarter 2020 tech calendar would be – and that was in some ways true, but only on our screens. Event producers hustled to pivot to virtual conferences, which forced innovation throughout the entire live events industry.

Now, as tech leaders look at their PR and marketing 2021 calendars, they see a transformed conference ecosystem. Here’s what the near and distant future will look like in the evolving world of live events.

Live will return, but don’t count on it in 2021

After a year of Zoom meetings, virtual happy hours, and family Facetime calls, most would agree that there is no substitute for in-real-life (IRL) experiences. The B2B world in particular is dependent on live events to meet business objectives; (97%) of B2B marketers believe that in-person events have a major impact on business outcomes. Everybody wants IRL, but only 62% of event marketers are planning to resume in-person events in 2021. Many conference producers have announced their 2021 in-person events in hopes that vaccines will quell fears and increase confidence about attendance. But as happened in 2020, live events like Cannes Lions, currently planned for June 2021, may have to be postponed yet again or adapted to a virtual platform. The Consumer Electronics Show and SXSW have gone virtual this year, and most events well into summer are still being planned in virtual or hybrid formats.

Virtual is more “real” than ever

In 2020, necessity became the mother of innovation. B2Bs and media outlets rely heavily on their own events and industry conferences as full-funnel engines of customer engagement, conversion, and retention.  Many raced to transform their annual conferences to virtual experiences. Some like Social Media Week did so with astonishing speed, revamping its model in 3-4 weeks. At first in survival mode, they were just salvaging what they could of their event marketing programs. Yet savvy producers created compelling online conferences with the help of tech advances and good old-fashioned creativity. They created ways for attendees to interact and network in real time virtually, for exhibitors to have virtual booths, and for sponsors to enjoy robust ROI in virtual environments. As some conferences embark on their second virtual event in 2021, they will offer experiences that are compelling and interactive, approximating the IRL experience more than ever before.

The future is hybrid

The scramble to salvage vital pieces of the B2B marketing mix has produced a positive by-product. In-person conferences will almost inevitably include online, on-demand, and other virtual elements that will result in better overall attendee and sponsor experiences, improved personalization, and new opportunities to engage attendees with broader reach. Event producers who had never dipped toes into online elements are now busy incorporating virtual tracks into their conferences permanently.  The bar has risen for online conferences, with better video production value, live attendee chats and Q&As, and virtual exhibition halls. In 2021 and beyond, there will be very few live conferences that do not offer some kind of online element. Still, event solution providers and marketers are still addressing the biggest challenges of staging online conferences, mainly how to mimic the electricity of real-life, one-to-one human engagement.  In a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario, the future of tech conferences in particular is certainly hybrid, combining the magic of face-to-face interaction with the technological efficiency, data collection, and broad reach of virtual meetings.

Trade organizations like the Consumer Technology Association, B2B techs like SalesForce, media companies like Digiday, and independent event producers like SXSW are all adjusting to the strange new normal. Perhaps because they see the upside of lower barriers to entry and reduced costs, a few event producers like O’Reilly Media seem to have no plans to return to IRL, opting to hold their Strata Data and AI events in fully online environments. But no matter how event marketers decide to handle their meetings, tech conferences will be better in the coming months and years, as they benefit from a crisis that forced us to rethink the everyday.

When is It Okay To Get Political In Brand PR?

It’s (finally) Inauguration Week. With a new government starting, it’s a good time to look back at how brands communicated during the turmoil of the Trump administration, and how it informs new norms. 

Many of us were raised with the idea that it’s bad form to speak about religion or politics. Brands historically have followed suit, yet things have changed over the last several years. 

Was Trump’s presidency a turning point?

Just last year, hundreds of businesses released strongly worded messaging in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. More recently corporate leaders spoke out against the unprecedented unrest at the U.S. Capitol and pointed the finger directly at President Trump. 

Not every moment will be as clear or as big as watching an insurrection on television, so the question arises: when is it appropriate for a brand’s external messaging to verge into politics or politically charged issues? The answer: it’s complicated. 

Brand values start with the customer

It all starts with understanding your brand. That includes its values and those of its audience. This also means messaging that is seen as authentic and not merely to seem “woke” or drive profit. Taking a political stance that’s not really informed by brand values won’t work; customers are good at spotting who is pivoting to benefit from the political environment.

For instance, if spice company Penseys or ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s make a political statement, it’s not unexpected or inauthentic because we know the history of these brands. They’ve been speaking out about social and political issues for a long time. Senior management actually believe what they’re saying, and they know their audience agrees. 

However, in the Trump era, more brands are trying to dip into political messaging, and sometimes it doesn’t ring true. Remember the fallout from the Pepsi commercial where Kendall Jenner handed a police officer a Pepsi, and it magically solved an unnamed issue? Pepsi took a lot of heat for that commercial and it wasn’t because the brand got political. The problem was that the message was so inauthentic. It also trivialized true protest action. (Did they really think a can of Pepsi would solve a systemic problem? We didn’t, either.) The ad was so tone-deaf that the public saw it for what it was. It wasn’t because Pepsi decided to take a stand against police violence, but instead was a clear sales play. 

The winners will always take some heat

Pepsi failed by addressing activism in a shallow and inauthentic way. That’s not to say that a calculated risk can’t be worth it though. Another company tackled the racial inequality issue head-on and reaped the benefits for its brand. When it signed a deal with Colin Kaepernick in 2018, Nike knew that its audience supported the social justice issues Kaepernick kneeled for. Of course its stand was met with some backlash, but Nike product sales jumped in the following months. Why? It wasn’t because Nike went into politics, but rather because the message was true to the brand and its history. Nike’s branding has always conveyed passion, drive, and pushing yourself to do better, the very values that Kaepernick embodies as well. 

Now that we’ve made it through four years of the Trump administration, we’ve moved past brands staying away from politics for fear of alienating consumers. On the contrary, many of today’s customers are looking for brands that share their values and actively communicate it. So, it’s up to marketers to identify areas of alignment and to convey their positions in a way that feels true.