Stories and Strategies Podcast
Guest, Anna Crowe, Crowe PR
Published December 25, 2022
Doug Downs (00:06):
In the mid 1400’s German Goldsmith, Johannes Gutenberg took an old idea from China and Korea and added a small adaptation. The Chinese had invented a wood block printing contraption in the ninth century, and the Koreans had taken that idea and changed it to movable metal type. By the 13oo’s, Gutenberg made one tiny change. He added a screw type wine press to squeeze down evenly on the inked metal type. The printing press was born that made mass production of books very inexpensive, and books on every imaginable topic were suddenly everywhere. Gutenberg was rich. Actually, that’s not true at all. The first job for Gutenberg’s invention was to print 200 copies of the Bible in Latin. That took three years.
Then there was another problem. Not many people read books, let alone read Latin. Those Bibles just sat on a shelf. Gutenberg was impounded by his creditors. He eventually died dirt poor, a complete failure. What was needed was a distribution network. The central shipping hub of the Mediterranean at the time was Venice. Local printers used a printing press, started selling news pamphlets to sailors when their ships arrived in distant ports. Local printers there would copy the pamphlets and hand them to riders who would then race them off to dozens of different small towns. Now, literacy rates were still so low that locals would gather at a pub to hear a paid reader recite the latest news. This was a radical change. Now people had access to information, to ideas. It sparked the Italian Renaissance. A German monk named Martin Luther became a best red author leading to the Protestant revolution in the 17th century. So Francis Bacon, who’s credited with developing the scientific method wrote three inventions forever changed the world Gunpowder, the nautical compass and the printing press today on stories and strategies. The ideas within public relations and marketing may not be entirely new, but the tools and the tools that go with those tools certainly are.
My name is Doug Downs. My guest this week is Anna Crowe of Crowe PR. Joining us today from San Diego. Hello, Anna.
Anna Crowe (03:14):
Hi, Doug. How are you?
Doug Downs (03:16):
Good. And it’s like kind of useless for me to ask you how the weather is in San Diego. As I’ve said before, it’s, let me guess, it’s 77 degrees and mostly sunny with a few clouds outside, right? Something like that.
Anna Crowe (03:30):
Well, something like that. It is winter after all. So we did dip down a little bit, but I do not see many clouds in the sky. Correct.
Doug Downs (03:37):
What’s dipped down? Are you like shivering in 71 or something like that?
Anna Crowe (03:42):
Oh, late sixties. We’re in the sixties. Oh my God. Since winter. Oh, I know, I know.
Doug Downs (03:47):
Seal the windows. <laugh> Anna your company. Crowe PR works with Fortune 500 and mid-size consumer goods, healthcare technology, and hospitality brands throughout the United States and Europe. You help them generate revenue growth, penetrate new markets, launch products, gain brand recognition, and CEO Reputational capital. You have 20 years experience. You were a recent finalist of San Diego Business Journals, woman of the Year, congratulations and most admired CEO awards. Congratulations on that. Thank you. A finalist for San Diego Magazine’s, woman of the year industry leader and the recipient of the 2018 40 under 40 leadership award. You have a bachelor of Science from Rutgers Business School and an international MBA from the University of San Diego. So Anna, on the one hand, the way things move at lightning speed, it almost feels awkward to call search engine optimization, digital marketing influence of marketing new tools because these are starting to feel like what they are. They’re becoming table stakes. But in another sense, the reality is none of us are masters of all of them, let alone even one of them.
Anna Crowe (05:08):
Yes. And to your point, however, it is getting a lot more integrated. There are different actions that customers take today than they did five years ago or even two years ago in a pre covid world. And so from a marketing and PR perspective, we need to be looking at items like search engine optimization, social media, influencer marketing, digital marketing, public relations, all of those, and really figuring out the right combination of tactics.
Doug Downs (05:35):
So you have a couple of case study examples that we can go through. Tell me about Derm Tech what you did for them and how you use some of these quote new tools.
Anna Crowe (05:43):
Absolutely. So for anyone who is not aware, Derm Tech is the leading genomics company in dermatology. So the company’s developed a smart sticker. It’s a technology that lifts skins from the surface of the skin sorry, lift skin cells from the surface of skins and is able to test them at the lab for the presence of different genomic markers that are associated with melanoma. So one of the campaigns that we do annually for this company is timed with Melanoma Awareness Month, which falls on May. And obviously as the word suggests, this is the month where the deadly skin cancer is recognized and educated bond, et cetera. And so we generally put together a big integrated marketing campaign timed with melanoma awareness month that kicks off on melanoma Monday, that first Monday of the month. And over the years, we’ve really developed and further integrated these campaigns to make sure that we’re really touching customers and the different types of stakeholders.
So whether they are dermatologists, so more on the B2B side or they’re consumers we’re creating these integrated campaigns. And that was my point earlier about identifying how are customers engaging with brands? How are they getting information from different brands? And so in that particular campaign, we started the first year with creating a pledge. So we are inspiring people to take the pledge to check their skin because melanoma does not need to be deadly. If it’s found early, the earlier that people catch it, the better. And how do they catch it by checking their skin, whether it’s with a dermatologist and at home as well. And so for that, obviously there is the press element making sure that we are announcing that this campaign exists, that we’re encouraging people to drive traffic to the website to find a specialist so they can check their skin. But we can’t reach every single consumer through press alone. There are people that get information in different ways, different demographics, get a lot of their information through social media, for
Doug Downs (07:41):
Instance. So did you, on the earned media side, was it newspaper, a mix of newspaper, radio TV was and where did you lean when, where
Anna Crowe (07:50):
You Absolutely, yes. It was absolutely mix broadcast, right? So if you think about different regional markets, people watching TV in the original markets we are able to leverage KOLs or keeping in leaders such as dermatologists to talk about ways to look for Melanoma sign. So not necessarily promoting, the goal was not to promote Derm Tech specifically, although the technology exists, but to educate consumers to save lives. And so yes, broadcast was a big part of it. We did regional, we did national tv like the Today Show. And then in addition to that, of course, print media digital media, and other channels like podcasts like we’re doing today to educate people.
Doug Downs (08:29):
How heavily did you lean on paid media? Percentage wise?
Anna Crowe (08:33):
Yeah, earned media was definitely the driver, particularly in the first year. However, we did compliment it with organic and paid social. And the biggest addition was the in use of influencers. So leveraging partnerships with
Doug Downs (08:46):
Anna Crowe (08:47):
Well, yes, there’s the influencers that are in the space as dermatologists, and there are influencers that are more like celebrities or social media influencers that had a personal relationship with melanoma, whether they had been diagnosed early in their life, they lost a family member to melanoma. So these are true, authentic stories that these people were able to bring to the surface to show their followers, readers, viewers that, Hey, here’s why this is important and why you should go out there and check your
Doug Downs (09:15):
Skin. And what’d you find in terms of results? Any surprises? How did it go?
Anna Crowe (09:20):
It was great. Obviously every year the campaign gets more and more notoriety but I would say even right out of the gate, we were able to drive thousands of pledges to the website, so people to the website to look for a specialist if they didn’t have a dermatologist, because I don’t know if you know this, a lot of people don’t go to see a dermatologist and check their skin.
Doug Downs (09:37):
I’ve never been
Anna Crowe (09:38):
There You go,
Doug Downs (09:39):
I Never have. I live in Canada, but still.
Anna Crowe (09:41):
Well, but even on the not so sunny days, there’s exposure. And so even on collaborative days is what I meant to say. So the idea is to get people equipped with the right information also seeing the practitioner as well as what they could do at home. So we drove thousands of pledges to the website, people saying, Hey I will check my skin. And the reason we did pledges is for every pledge, for every person visiting the website, the company would donate $5 to an association, a nonprofit that deals with skin cancer, including melanoma, like the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Doug Downs (10:16):
And you’re harnessing that momentum of, if my neighbor is signing up or someone I know in respect that’s someone just like me or someone I’m familiar with, that encourages me more.
Anna Crowe (10:25):
Absolutely. Even if an influencer with millions of followers is saying, Hey guys, this is why it’s important, and you are a Gen Z or a millennial or someone who’s getting their information through social media predominantly. Now we’ve got their eyes and ears
Doug Downs (10:39):
And the Holston House project. Tell me about that one. Yeah,
Anna Crowe (10:43):
So the Holston House is a great lifestyle hotel in the center of Nashville. I don’t know if you’ve been to Nashville, have you spent much time there?
Doug Downs (10:49):
I have. Not that that’s a convention city. I would love to go, but I have not.
Anna Crowe (10:53):
Let me know when you do. So we have this great property, it’s steps away from Broadway, which is the main downtown hub where all the bars entertainment is. And we came up within a concept for this client to do a pop-up bar timed with Halloween. And so it was this beautiful setup with decorations and recreating some popular movies where we had kind of an nod to some popular Halloween movies. And of course, cocktails galore with smoke and fire and all the things you can think of. And so the idea is, of course, to create this temporary setting for an amount of days to drive that interest and demand to go during that time period.
Doug Downs (11:40):
Awesome. And what did you find at the end of the campaign? What worked might need to be adjusted?
Anna Crowe (11:48):
Yeah, so of course we wanna get the word out through media, right through regional media, and we leaned heavily on influencers in this case as well. Again. Okay. So one thing that worked really well is we had a special median influencer event before the bar opened so they can get a sneak peek, and then they would tell all their followers and in the press, Hey, this is coming up, these are the days. Book it before it sells out. And it actually got sold out. We had lines around the blocks for hours. We had people reaching out to us, not even the hotel, seeing if they can get a table or get in before this pop-up bar ended. And then we leveraged social media quite a bit for this one as well.
Doug Downs (12:32):
Podcasting. Now there’s an idea, you listen to podcasts, maybe a podcast is right for you or one of your clients stories and strategies is a full podcast production company with clients in the United States as well as Canada, great Britain and Australia. If you wanna chat, send me an email, Doug stories and strategies.ca, and we’ll set up that chat. Let’s talk podcasts.
Tell me about the work you do to find the influencers, and maybe specific to these two projects, but just in general and are influencers as influential in 2022, 2023 as they perhaps were in 2018, 2019?
Anna Crowe (13:23):
Right. Well, of course as I’m sure Doug, anyone with a cell phone can be considered an influencer in the modern world. So a lot of brands spend money without any ROI if they don’t have an influencer strategy and influencer relations and a process. So for us, we’ve spent the last few years really honing in on the community, just like with media, why do we call it media relations? We work with media. We develop their relationships, we tell the stories to make sure that they’re interesting. I relevant for the publication for their viewers. Same thing with the influencer side. We develop relationships, understanding who are the right movers and shakers. And it has evolved, to your point quite a bit. In the beginning, it was the big celebrities who had thousands of followers, then they became very expensive, and it’s hard to justify the return on investment.
So then we had these nano and micro influencers pop up. So it might be someone with a thousand or 2000 followers, but we look at engagement rate. How engaged is their audience and how connected are they to the brand? So is it an authentic component, them promoting a certain brand product, whatever it is, we’ve got consumer goods, we’ve got hotels, we’ve got other healthcare companies. Is that influence of the right partner? So that’s part of the work that our team does. There are also some tools and software databases where these influencers can get aggregated. We’ve tested out a few of those. So it’s a combination of those.
Doug Downs (14:45):
Could you share what some of those are that would be of interest, I think? Sure. To me, to what are those and how do they help is an easy question, but how do they not help as much as perhaps they say they do?
Anna Crowe (14:59):
Yeah, so a couple that come to mind, there’s one called Tagger. There’s one called Influence Deco. They are really aggregate tools to try to save money. I think probably a lot of them could be AI based. Well, there’s definitely software involved. I’m not sure all the technology behind the scenes and when they’re working well you do get a great list of people to work with. Now, it does not fully eliminate the manual because you still have to reach out to them. You still have to negotiate deals. And we wanna make sure it is as authentic as possible. You could probably with certain software, book an influencer, pay the money, but it’s very hard to make sure that that ROI is going to be there especially for smaller brands or mid-size brands that don’t have millions of dollars in marketing budget.
Doug Downs (15:43):
So that takes me to seo. One of the common conundrum, not conundrums, but one of the everyday challenges that I have is writing in a way that makes the word searchable for my client. Now, there’s all kinds of tools that I’ll use to this word, word, we need to use this here. And it’s almost like I preassemble my word tools and then I take my human brain and try to write something because I still want human eyeballs to look at it and like to think that a human is talking to them because nothing turns me off more than something that is just so clearly AI written. And I’m sorry, there is no perfect AI tool out there, <laugh> that defeats that. How do you experience the same thing and how do you go about resolving that when you’re using seo?
Anna Crowe (16:34):
Yeah, so our take on SEO is a little bit different because we truly leverage public relations for seo. I’m sure Google trusts websites like Forbes or USA Today or dentistry.com more than they trust most brands because there are publications that have been proven and there’s a lot of activity and traffic through those. So our work, and I believe at this point articles in those publications, different types of publications attribute to a really large chunk of seo, over 40%. So the way we work it is we create pitches to reporters that are different, unique and highly goo, Googleable, as they say,
Doug Downs (17:15):
<laugh>, well done. Yes.
Anna Crowe (17:17):
And so we wanna make sure that there’s a story there, and that’s how we also break through to the reporters five reasons you must look at this. Top 10 holiday gifts. These are things that people are searching. And so we wanna make sure that we are making it just as easy for reporters to get the story out there
Doug Downs (17:34):
And moving from what we call the new but familiar tools to the tools that are coming in on tomorrow’s landscape in part are already here. Your thoughts on the next wave of change, artificial intelligence already here, but coming in a big way right around the corner, and then virtual reality including the metaverse.
Anna Crowe (17:55):
Yes, of course. Well, it’s so drastically changing the way brands are engaging with customers. Even when TikTok first came to the market, we were looking at it from a really consumer to consumer platform, and then all of a sudden brands started advertising, then it continues growing. Now there’s influencers on there. So all of these are developing a rapid speed because TikTok has, as has only been around for a handful of years, and that’s already evolved in such a way. So I think as we go into 2023 and beyond, we are going to see a lot more automation. We are going to see a lot more ways to efficiently market, but with it, it’s going to come a lot of challenges as well. I mean, take social media, for instance. Brands were gungho spending millions of dollars on Instagram and Facebook for many years to advertise, and that created a different type of demand, and then algorithms changed, and then you weren’t getting the same bang for your buck, right?
Four or five years ago, you could spend $10, you might make 15 on a 20, 30 on it, a hundred on it. Then that changes. You maybe make a dollar, $2 more or less. So I think as these tools come, everything’s going to continue to shift and evolve and just keep us in this dynamic marketplace. And so we have to step back as marketers and say, okay, what is really driving ROI is, yes, we may have an automated tool, but is it creating the behavior we need with our customers? And I think we’re going to keep using the human element possibly in a different way, but we’re going to continue to use a human element because at least in the next three to five years, I definitely see that a lot of customers come to us, those that maybe have been around 5, 10, 20 years and have used different marketing tactics and say, Hey, what we did 10 years ago, is that going to work today?
And there are some tools with think about press releases. Does press release still exist? Yes, it does exist. Is it used in the same exact way? Yes. No, maybe so. And what other tactics are we seeing out there? I think the most important thing is to remember what is driving a brand’s success? What are those success metrics? What is driving fueling business growth? If business growth is the key metric, and then how are the marketing tactics of today, the technology that exists today and the human connections that exist today can help deliver on those goals and continuously reassessing that quarter, right? By quarter, year, by year, we cannot set and forget. We have to keep reassessing because to your point, things are continuously in flux.
Doug Downs (20:24):
You mean I can’t build my communications plan, put it away, and not look at it as I execute the project?
Anna Crowe (20:29):
I mean, you could, but then come hire us so that we can change it up for you and put it on track. Great.
Doug Downs (20:34):
So you can fix it. Yeah. Thank you. And I appreciate this.
Anna Crowe (20:38):
Of course. Yeah, no, my pleasure. And really appreciate chatting you with about this. It’s my favorite topics out there.
Doug Downs (20:44):
Me too. You’d like to send a message to my guest Anna Crowe. Best way is to send an email to info crowepr.com. It’s Crow with an E on the end, and it’s in the show notes. Stories and strategies is a co-production of JGR Communications and Stories and Strategies, podcasts. Special request. If you enjoyed this episode, do us a favor, recommend it on just one social media channel. Tag us. All of our socials are in the show notes, and we’re going to DM you with information about a special gift that we want to send you anywhere in the world. Thanks for listening.