Let’s End The Year With Gratitude, PR Style

As we head into the final months of the year and get ready for 2020, public relations pros are looking back on the year and taking stock of what means most to us in our work lives. Here’s what the Crenshaw team was most thankful for in 2019.

“I’m thankful for ad tech.”
I’m thankful for ad tech. Even with consolidation in the market, ad tech PR has been a key growth opportunity for our business. We’ve consistently grown our ad tech PR practice, and today we support a wide range of innovative vendors. Our client roster (Verizon Media, DoubleVerify, Lotame, LiveIntent, etc.), and outcomes delivered have help establish Crenshaw as one of the top B2B tech PR firms and best ad tech agency in the country. And if you look at any Lumascape, it’s clear we have room to grow. Some of the most notable ad tech PR opportunities include businesses that specialize in native, video, CTV, OOH, social, and search. (If you’re an ad tech company seeking PR, email me at chris@crenshawcomm.com.)

“I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
Having a team of great co-workers makes coming into the office each day more enjoyable. Crenshaw’s company culture puts its employees in a position to form bonds with each other on a personal level. This closeness makes it easier for team members to work together to achieve a seamless workflow and better productivity. Great co-workers are critical to the company’s continued success.

“I’m thankful for a work environment that embraces diverse cultures.” 
PR is a very dynamic industry and with work becoming more global, the opportunities are endless. Having worked in different places like India and New York, my experience has taught me a great deal, and I’ll be forever grateful. Bringing the lessons learned from a different country to a brand-new place is challenging, but when a workplace embraces those ideas, you know you’re in the right place. At Crenshaw, we’re looking to go above and beyond for our clients. Having team members with varied backgrounds bringing in different ideas helps us do that.

“I’m happy about our open work environment” 
I’m thankful to work in a place with an open work environment. Working the way we do here helps me bounce ideas off my co-workers in a casual setting. In other offices I’ve worked at it was a more corporate setting with cubicles and there was little opportunity for sharing ideas. At Crenshaw, we’re all so comfortable with each other to shout out an idea or problem and have an open conversation. It also gives us a sense of community. Everyone is working towards the same goals (getting results for clients) and an open space allows for everyone to cheer each other on.

“I appreciate clients who genuinely care about PR and who value our work.” 
At Crenshaw we’re fortunate to have some amazing clients who really care not only about their company and employees, but also care about us! Because they understand the importance of PR and have seen the impact it can have on their business, they truly value our work and show their appreciation. Working with clients like these makes for stronger communication, more collaboration and lasting relationships.

“I’m thankful for a constantly changing news cycle
The constantly changing news cycle is one way that PR stays exciting. Waking up and reading the news for that day and seeing some stories screaming clients’ names keeps you on your toes.

“I love a diverse client roster”
A benefit of working at an agency is the diverse list of clients across different industries. It gives you the chance to learn more about how various business sectors operate and to deepen your expertise in each one. There’s a lot of “real world” value on topics ranging from retail and hiring trends to cybersecurity and gaming in the scope of a single conversation – whether it’s at work or in a more casual setting.

“I’m grateful for super-cool client executive thought leaders”
It’s always a challenge to win speaking engagements at big tech conferences for clients, but one thing that makes it easier is when the executive/founder has a strong point of view and isn’t shy about sharing it. Our client executives are the ‘real deal’ —  dynamic thinkers who have a passion to change the way things are, and can articulate a real vision for doing so. It’s great when a CEO or CMO is willing to speak out boldly about a hot topic. Executives like these truly put the “leader” in thought leadership!

“I’m thankful for constantly learning new things and no dull moments.”
Working in public relations comes with many responsibilities. From problem solving and creative thinking, to developing strategies and writing bylined articles, PR keeps you engaged. We learn time management and how to adapt to tasks as they come up. At Crenshaw, we also get to stay on top of industry trends, which helps us be inventive with our pitches and programs. It’s rewarding when your hard work and attention to detail generates media placements that result in happy clients!

A PR Guide To Surviving Thanksgiving


The Thanksgiving holiday always requires advance preparation, but this year, we’re adding expert PR and media training advice to the list. With wall-to-wall press coverage of impeachment hearings and the runup to the 2020 election, it’s a tricky time for families who disagree about political issues and candidates. Here are some follow-ups to last year’s advice from Richard based on our typical press interview tips and techniques. As in public relations, it all comes down to having a plan.

Know your audience

In this case, that means the Thanksgiving guests. If you already know you and Uncle Fred don’t see eye-to eye, you may want to be seated at the other end of the table. And just like we prepare a briefing sheet for a client before a media interview, why not do a little research on Fred’s plus-one? Some light stalking can help with advance prep, just as asking about dietary restrictions informs your pot luck recipe. If you can’t predict political and social opinions for most of the guests, stick close to one of your key stakeholders, below.

Identify “key stakeholders”

This is classic PR tactic. It makes sense to team with your hostess and other family members who have a large stake in a harmonious family celebration. Just like in public relations, you should advise them of strategies for avoiding disaster, and make sure they buy into your plan. Then, identify potential advocates and make sure they’re aligned as well. Bear in mind that in the event of a blowup, as operations leader, the hostess will be unavailable to serve as the crisis manager, so that role must fall to someone else. (See below)

Master “bridging” and “flagging”

So if Uncle Fred asks what you think of the latest White House episode or a certain Democratic candidate, consider the time-honored PR technique of “bridging” to another topic. “Well, I’m not sure about that, but isn’t it fascinating that we can get our news from so many different sources today? What would Walter Cronkite think?” And if someone presses you to say whom you’re planning to vote for, feel free to explain that until next November, you’ve been advised to “avoid hypotheticals.” That might get a laugh at least.
Bridging’s close cousin is “flagging.” It’s a similar technique but designed to distract or focus on a message you advocate, as in, “What I really want to know about is how many jewel-colored blazers does Elizabeth Warren actually own?” If that doesn’t work, mention how thankful you are that the third season of  ‘The Crown’ is now on Netflix.

Have a (family) crisis plan in your back pocket

PR best practices dictate that you have a plan for the rare occasion where things go very wrong. It’s good to hope for the best, but to be ready if all hell breaks loose – a shouting match, flying drumsticks, or tears in the sweet potatoes. Our advice: designate a crisis team leader (your always-steady brother-in-law); an excuse for a cool-down (have you seen the paint job on the outside porch?); gentle message points for the opinionated cousin on keeping her views private; and an emergency cutoff of wine and cocktails if things go awry. Black coffee and a rich dessert can help here, too, as long as things aren’t yet violent.

The great distraction

If all else fails, you can distract from politics with a big announcement — you are newly engaged, pregnant, adopting, dying, or planning a major life change. Of course, it’s best if the revelation is real and true, but even if not, you can always admit to the joke after everyone has been diverted from arguing about Kellyanne Conway’s marriage.

Strategic silence

We all know those who like to stir the pot – literally and figuratively. In the world of PR, some journalists will try to press a company rep on a controversial issue, hoping to generate a good sound bite. We counsel clients that thoughtful silence can be a defensive weapon. So, if you feel cornered, this is the point where you smile, point to your mouth, and signal that you can’t possibly answer while chewing….very, very slowly.

With these tips, we hope your Thanksgiving is a personal and professional win!

Family PR Lessons For (Surviving) The Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time to take a moment to reflect on our blessings, as well as to spend quality time with loved ones. Sometimes we travel long distances to visit with family with whom we rarely spend time — which can make for awkward communication. Families practice their own inscrutable form of PR when reunited for the holidays. Here are some PR-inspired tips for surviving the giving season without getting a migraine.

Stay on message

PR pros know that staying on message is fundamental to rocking a great media interview. It takes discipline and agility to roll with a challenging reporter’s questions. The same goes in family “PR.” For some, it’s essential to not allow conversations to flow into hot topics like politics or religion. For best results, anticipate tricky questions from Uncle Gus or Nanna. Practice answers that gently direct conversations into “pre-approved” topics like football, your new boyfriend, or Nanna’s summer Disney cruise.

PR rules for apologizing 

For some, holiday gatherings may present an offer to bury the hatchet or resolve a long-simmering dispute. Apologies go with family like apple pie with ice cream. An ideal apology contains: admission of wrongdoing, real contrition, and a correction plan. You should also nip new problems in the bud. When you forget to pick up your cousin at the airport due to an early gin and tonic, there will be no way to evade conflict. Don’t be like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who said “we are sorry” – which would only serve to shift blame to the other family members. Finally, inform your cousin about your clear and actionable steps to remedy the problem, by rushing to pick her up or paying for a Super Shuttle, for example. To further show contrition, offer her the last piece of pecan pie.

Pitch your story to grandpa

A classic codicil of media relations is to carefully research your media targets instead of firing out a wide, spray and pray pitch. PR pros waste their own and the journalists’ time by sending stories to reporters on the wrong beat. Once you’ve determined that you want to tell relatives that you’ve moved back in with your parents to take care of dad while his broken leg mends (and not because  you lost your money in online football betting); you should pitch your story only to those targets interested in that type of narrative. Certainly tell your gullible uncle and your unconditionally accepting grandpa; but refrain from pitching your cynical aunt or your big brother, who doesn’t cover your beat.

Family influencers

Public relations is the engine and gatekeeper of reputation management. If your life has become the stuff of speculation within the family, a few PR-inspired tactics might be effective in changing perception. Maybe your family sees your burgeoning acting/restaurant career as comic fodder. Build credibility by mentioning your appearance on an acting podcast or your last call-back. If your efforts fails, enlist the aid of an influencer. Bring a successful actor to dinner to re-frame their perceptions — an invaluable third-party endorsement. Be careful: an influencer guest can be mistaken for a love interest, sending the narrative cascading in the wrong direction! Of course, if the family’s negative chatter is not far off base, a full rebranding effort might be necessary, which would require a long-range marketing/PR initiative covering Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even New Year’s.

Pitch an exclusive to your aunt

If a PR pro has a truly newsworthy story, it may be advisable to pitch it as an exclusive to a key outlet before going wide. You have amazing news —a pregnancy, for example — but want to make maximum impact in light of a sibling’s constant attention hogging. An embargoed release is rarely effective in holiday family scenarios; they always get broken too early. Consider pitching the story to one key relative in private. Tell the one person everybody else listens to the most (and who can’t keep a secret): let’s call her Aunt Phyllis. She is keenly interested in the reproductive beat and will do a deeper, more comprehensive story, which will likely get picked up by everyone else in the family, then amplified on social channels. You will be the center of attention, taking advantage of earned and shared media wins.

These and other “family PR” tactics can help to make this season a fun, non-political, controversy-free holiday. Happy holidays from all of us at Crenshaw Communications!

PR Touts The Season’s Top Turkeys

Typically public relations agencies like to count the things we’re thankful for at this time of year. These lists often include new technology-based PR tools or the latest social or other media platforms. But given these crazy times, we thought it more fitting to discuss some of the boneheaded PR moves we have seen lately. We’re also thankful for these, since they offer cautionary tales and can sometimes help us raise our game.

Ryan Lochte swims into murky reputation waters. As if swimmer Ryan Lochte’s juvenile behavior at the Olympics weren’t bad enough, he then compounded it by lying to the media. Where was solid PR and reputation advice when this was going down? We don’t know, but we see evidence of a “redemption tour” as Lochte appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” — often the first stop on any path back from PR perdition, followed by the announcement of his impending nuptials. The public is a sucker for wedding stories. So, is all forgiven? Lochte will have to wait and see.

Drug company CEO suffers public outrage. How did Mylan CEO Heather Bresch not learn from Turing Pharmaceutical’s Martin Shkreli’s experience? First Shkreli raised consumer ire by increasing the price of antimalaria drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent. His bad behavior on social media and lack of respect for a congressional investigation only made the condition worse. We wondered if maybe his publicized offer to allow someone to punch or slap him in the face was a step in the right PR direction. Yet even in the wake of Shkreli’s awful press, Mylan CEO Bresch seemed to disregard the needs of millions of allergy sufferers by authorizing a price increase of 500% for the Epi-Pen. What was her corporate communications team thinking? Bresch has yet to offer free face-punches, as her company continues to take a beating after the kerfuffle.

Wounded Warrior Project hurt by reputation damage. Nothing disgusts the public like a charity cheating scandal. When respected veterans’ organization Wounded Warrior Project was called on the carpet earlier this year for mismanaging funds, the PR alarm was heard loud and clear. Top execs were accused of spending millions on parties, hotels and travel. It tarnished the reputation of one of the most revered veterans’ groups. Charity Navigator, a group that oversees nonprofit organizations, placed Wounded Warrior Project on its watch list and donations are down by 25%. In the ensuing days, WWP did retain a PR firm to help rehabilitate its rep. But it makes us wonder what their PR strategists had been doing before the crisis hit and if they knew about the malfeasance.

Wells Fargo ruins reputation with cross-selling scandal. Scrooge came early this year when it was discovered that Wells Fargo had engaged in fraudulent selling practices. The bank had pressured salespeople to cross-sell to customers. When sales didn’t legitimately happen, the beleaguered staffers opened two million fake accounts in customer names. The degree of fraud was pervasive, and the damage to Wells Fargo’s reputation, incalculable. Management compounded the bad news by seeming to blame employees. Ultimately, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf stepped down under intense pressure. Now the bank is clawing its way back into the public’s good graces beginning with folksy new advertising. Time will tell.

Google and Facebook struggle with fake news. Not all click bait leads to faux news stories, but it appears much of it does. Google, Facebook and other top sites face a public backlash over the role fake content might have played in the U.S. presidential election.  The more relevant story for PR is the continued blurred lines between what is news and what is paid content. It’s troubling that it seems it matters less to some readers who get all their “news” from their favorite online sites. If we do live in a “post-truth” era as some pundits have posited, it becomes even more important for the public relations industry to continue to craft newsworthy, relevant and yes, accurate stories to engage media and readers. Both Google and Facebook have said they’ll restrict ads to fake sites, which will cut off their money stream, but Facebook in particular is still in denial about its identity – like it or not – as a media company.

PR Wins To Make You Proud (Or Just Laugh) This Thanksgiving

PRThanksgivingWhat constitutes a PR win when Thanksgiving rolls around and the holiday season kicks in? Do over-the-top PR stunts work, or do you need to pull at heartstrings for well earned media that burnishes your reputation? The holidays are both an easy time of year to place stories and a challenging season for professional communicators. Yet it’s always impressive and inspiring to see stories worthy of the PR halo generated by smart moves. Here, with gratitude, are our picks for stories that win this Thanksgiving.
Yes, there’s an app for Thanksgiving, too. We wouldn’t be known for our technology PR skills if we didn’t appreciate a good roundup of tech tools to help out on Turkey Day and the clever companies that created them. We love lists, and AnyList is the tech lover’s answer to the ultimate Thanksgiving shopping list. It includes a feature for multiple participants, too, for potluck-style dinners. We also love Spotify’s Turkey Timer, which plays songs selected for the length of your turkey’s cooking time. And if your family is like some of ours, navigating seating charts can be tricky. Table Plan lets participants collaborate, possibly heading off a sticky situation. Avoiding family drama for Thanksgiving Dinner? We’d call that a win, PR or otherwise.
REI’s PR coup: Closing stores on Black Friday. High on our list is none other than REI, which we covered here. In an era when Black Friday sales are starting on “Thanksgetting” Day, REI’s approach is bold, refreshing, and quite frankly, a relief. Some 33 percent of shoppers “hate” that stores are open on Thankgiving Day, according to a recent survey by our client Retale. And with consumers flocking to mobile e-commerce, it’s more important than ever to push back against the constant commercialization of what is cherished by many as the “most wonderful time of the year.” REI’s stance is a welcome step in that direction, and a PR coup to boot.
Walmart’s Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie. Need a good laugh? Recently, a singer named James Wright posted this YouTube review of the Patti LaBelle sweet potato pie sold exclusively at Walmart (fair warning: there’s explicit language in the video). When it launched in September, sales were so-so. But after Wright’s legitimately hysterical performance went viral, Walmart has sold an estimated $1 million worth of pies. In one week, the YouTube video has nearly 2.4 million views, with the story picked up by top-tier media outlets nationwide. PR people and brands alike can only dream of such exposure. Spontaneously viral video or a secretly concocted PR campaign? Perhaps time will tell. Our predictions say look for one of the following: a record deal for Wright, continued soaring sales for Patti’s pie, or an exposé on how a professional was behind it all. In any case, we’re thankful for a good laugh (and maybe a piece of sweet potato pie).

Stories The PR World Can Be Thankful For

Sometimes it can seem like much of what we do in the PR agency business involves managing information and its potentially negative implications. The media love a “bad news” story, and crisis management is a multi-million dollar industry. That’s why it’s refreshing when you come across stories that just make you grateful. (And it’s scientifically proven that being thankful is good for your health!) So with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re taking the opportunity to give thanks for the stuff happening out there that has earned some well-deserved good PR, all on its own.

History in the making. The nomination of Loretta Lynch for US Attorney General was a historic moment in a historic administration. Regardless of where you might fall on the political spectrum, it’s something to be thankful for when we cross milestones that not too long ago seemed just about impossible.

#Beawesometosomebody. This is the hashtag claimed by the hairstylist-to-celebrities who decided to start cutting the hair of homeless people on the streets of New York, for free. Thanks to a buddy taking photos and posting them online, the story went viral, and generated the kind of inspiring stories in top tier media most PR people only dream of. We had the opportunity recently to work with the pair, who is connected to one of our clients, and can attest that they’re the real deal, and the good PR was well deserved.

Laughs that LIVE ON. Could anyone not break a smile when the famous Car Talk brothers are on? The news that one of the brothers — known for his raucous laugh — died earlier this month reminds us that there’s always a place for laughter, levity, and stories about people (even under the guise of being about cars). And since archived versions of the shows continue to be syndicated nationwide every week, the laughter will never really die.

#AlexfromTarget. The phenomenon of the 15-year-old Target worker who became a Twitter celebrity overnight warrants a good deal of head scratching, and the story, unfortunately, has its darker side. But Alex’s family, which is getting outside help, has said it wants to find a way to do something good with the teenager’s sudden and unplanned fame. With so many instances of instant celebs using their fame for more selfish reasons, the family’s response is something to admire.

Volunteers who risk their lives. While alarming headlines about the Ebola outbreak loomed like dark clouds for a while, one aspect of the story highlighted a praiseworthy angle deserving (more) good PR: the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who risk their lives to care for the sick. Doctors Without Borders remains an unsung hero of the crisis, and stories chronicling their work inspire gratitude in all of us.

What PR Pros Are Most Thankful For This Thanksgiving

The holiday season is here, and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to consider all of the things we appreciate. While family, friends, and good health are always at the top, the team at Crenshaw Communications came up with our very own list of things PR pros are most thankful for.

Day-to-day variety. PR is fun, yet challenging, and most of us do something new almost every day. From event planning and traveling to product launches and reporter briefings, it’s hard to be bored in this industry (and that’s a great thing!)

Clients who take risks. Ask any PR pro, and they’ll tell you that they appreciate a client who is willing to take risks and be creative. This makes our job all the more interesting and gives us the opportunity to produce innovative, newsworthy campaigns.

Media feedback.  After working hard on your pitch and finding the perfect media contact to share it with, there’s nothing worse than not hearing back. Nothing. The black hole.  Trust me when I tell you that all PR pros would much rather receive a “no way” than radio silence – you won’t hurt our feelings!

The holidays.  Not just because everyone enjoys a day off spending time with family, but because nearly every holiday warrants a good PR pitch (or blog post)!

Listicles!  That’s right, all PR pros love a good list and many would argue that 2013 has been the year of the “listicle,” partially due to social media. Outlets from Buzzfeed to The New York Times have all jumped on the trend. Listicles, which are really just articles in a list format, give all of us a quick and simple way to digest content and offer PRs more creative media coverage opportunities for clients.

Coffee.  Need I say more?

Can Thanksgiving Use Some Good PR?

Is it just me, or is Thanksgiving experiencing a kind of image problem that could use some shiny new PR? I’m not talking about the dinner – no one can tarnish turkey and trimmings. I mean the commercial encroachment that has turned it into “Thanks for giving up your holiday to shop obsessively!”

Some retailers have moved “Black Friday,” a fun shopping ritual of pre-dawn door busters and camaraderie to, essentially, “Black Thursday,” with employees leaving mid-meal to get to work and shoppers fleeing the table directly post-pumpkin pie. This is wrong on so many levels!

Other companies, like Nordstrom, have scored PR points by taking a stand against “black Thursday,” making the time right for a fresh Thanksgiving push. There are many elements already in place.

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays where gifts are NOT expected, therefore PR messaging needs to stress the importance of severing it from consumerism and bringing it back to its core – giving and sharing with family, friends and strangers.

So, let’s talk turkey. Thanksgiving needs a spokesperson. If the Thanksgiving account were awarded to me, I would recommend creating a loveable, wholesome character, like a latter-day Santa or Easter Bunny, who can espouse the importance of sacred family time. The campaign elements could include an online contest component to crowd-source the character, give him or her a Facebook page and Twitter account, establish a mommy blogger advisory board, write a book with some “bold-faced’ names recounting beloved Thanksgiving meals, book a national media tour and voila, a campaign with legs.

I might also include a social media-driven petition drive aimed at taking back Thanksgiving.
Actually I would like to do that now, so please try to enjoy REAL Thanksgiving and put off shopping til at least sun-up Friday.

This Thanksgiving PR Pros Are Thankful For…

By guest blogger Sodelba Alfaro

This time of year, we are all thankful for the usual blessings of family, friends, rewarding work and good health. This year however, many of us are grateful we survived both Hurricane Sandy and the November elections. But on a lighter note, our team wanted to use the occasion to reflect on some things that only PR pros may be thankful for. Take a look, give us your thoughts and enjoy next week’s holiday.

Monitoring Services – Services like TVEyes and Factiva monitor for broadcast and print media outlets. Thousands of interns in PR can thank these services for making a grueling task a lot easier.

Social Media – Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are places we spend time anyway – it’s a bonus that they have become such essential tools for brands to reach their consumers. (also quite handy for stalking media contacts and to find the latest cat meme. )

Clients – In addition to being the lifeblood of any agency – clients allow PR pros to master multitasking, hone diplomatic skills, flourish creatively and learn valuable “teamwork” lessons.

Co-workers – Allied co-workers are key to creating successful PR initiatives and they’ve got your back!

Smartphones – Smartphones help PR pros find directions to client meetings and allow us to answer important emails at 3:00am.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a great source for keeping tabs on media contacts, competitors, former bosses and colleagues etc., while also keeping you updated with their career moves.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) – VPN computing allows PR pros to work from home in a crisis or just an average night, and allows us to create and report remotely.

Coffee – Coffee is the fuel that keeps PR pros going from early morning conference calls to late night networking mixers. How could we work without our double shot espressos and tall skinny vanilla lattes?

There are many things we can be thankful for but that is our short list. What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

This Is Not A Grammar Error: Is Your PR Firm Doing Good?

As the east digs out of dueling storm systems, Veteran’s Day will be upon us, followed by Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Each provides a unique opportunity for PR companies (and all businesses) to dig deep and find ways to give.

It is often easiest to write a check, and in 2011 Americans did, to the tune of nearly 300 billion dollars. But we are in PR, people! This begs the question, what creative ways can we find to give of ourselves?


Providing a not-for-profit or other worthy organization with professionally written materials is the ideal way for PR pros to lend assistance. The benefits are multi-fold: the organization will benefit, your company will make some great contacts and future business could be in the offing!


Who better than the companies behind countless press conferences and special events? Put your heads together and think of a drive that you and other agencies can mount – supplies; food; clothing. Handle all the particulars from call for donations to delivery. Again, some great rewards will come your way; camaraderie and contact with agency brethren; the gratitude of those in need and credit for a terrific idea.


PR pros spend half their lives pitching media on clients – why not use those skills to promote the efforts of a cause you and your company are supporting? Your own heartfelt passion and spirit can be infectious (even with harried media types!)


Don’t know of an existing cause or organization that is a perfect fit for your company? Create one! Gather input from colleagues and come up with a cause and a donation platform that perfectly meshes with your company culture.

Got any other ideas on creative giving for PR pros? Let us know here.