Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don’t just blog it – think about it.

I recently read a blog that suggested PR agencies were not practicing what they preach because only a quarter of them had blogs.

As a PR agency with a blog, you might expect me to agree with this line of thinking. But I don’t.

Blogging is just ONE strategy that a PR agency – or anyone else for that matter – may use to communicate with its target audience. Others include Yellow Pages, advertising, networking, media, newsletters, e-newsletters, website … shall I go on with my list?

My own agency has a blog but we don’t use Yellow Pages or hard copy newsletters. I know of other agencies that do use newsletters and advertising but not blogs. We each choose the right tools for our product and our audience.

Similarly, we strongly recommend that some of our clients use Facebook but not others. We recommend TV advertising for some campaigns but not others.

Not every tool is appropriate in every circumstance and blogging is no different. So how do you choose?

I always start with the same questions:

· What do you want to achieve?
· What are your key messages?
· Who do you need to talk to?
· What will push their buttons?

Don’t waste your money on activities that won’t achieve your goals. Put your time and energy into ones that will.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's time to fight the spin.

By Tracy Jones

There’s nothing like a bit of “spin” to excite the media and the Opposition.

But is the Government’s investment in public relations really throwing money down the drain as today’s Northern Territory News suggests?

The News revealed $9 million of taxpayer money was being spent in marketing and communication units across Government.

When the uninformed call marketing and communications professionals “Spin Doctors” and question our value to society, we need to remind them of the difference these disciplines make to everyday lives.

Imagine where we would be if no-one ever “spun” the horror of AIDS?

I remember when AIDS first came to light in the eighties and the panic and uncertainty that took hold as people began to realise there was a new and vicious disease emerging in the world.

While the medical community fought the disease with research and pills, another weapon was unleashed - public relations.

The "Grim Reaper" advertising was highly controversial. People were shocked by the rawness of the message. But it did work. It made us sit up and think. And take notice. And act.

Yes, AIDS remains a terrible disease and - like most diseases that take hold - seems to be taking the worst toll in developing communities without access to the medical assistance, the drugs and (dare I say) the public relations channels of more affluent countries. PR did make a difference - a big difference - to the impact of AIDS in our community.

Every single day the Government sends us messages about issues we need to know about.

Just this week we’ve been informed about the availability of dozens of jobs, free dietary advice for healthy living, free business events, how to save energy, a car park closure, how to become a foster parent, joining the Youth Round Table, volunteering to help out at the museum and ways to get into home ownership if I am on a low income. And that’s just in the NT News.

That doesn’t count the websites, newsletters, meetings, mailouts and direct contact undertaken by Government every day.

Government has a duty to inform its citizens about these issues. It has a responsibility to undertake social marketing in the areas of community health and welfare, road safety and substance abuse. It’s hardly surprising that the Department of Health and Families is the biggest spender in this regard – I’d be affronted if they were not.

Marketing and public relations play an important part in our community. These activities raise money for important medical research, convince us to donate blood, warn us about the risks of travelling to certain countries, show us why we should report suspected child abuse and help us make choices that will change our lives.

One of the key roles that often comes under attack is that of the press secretary. But let’s not undervalue the role of the press secretary in helping Ministers and Opposition members contribute to public debate. And seriously …. I’d love to see how newsrooms would get their stories without the work of the much-maligned media minder.

There’s no doubt there are some questionable pieces of “marketing” that make us wonder about the appropriateness of Government spending our money on them. Rather than tarring all PR and marketing activity with the same well-spun brush, it would be far better to question the value of individual activities.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Delivering a winning presentation

By Janelle Rees

Want some hints on how to deliver that winning pitch or presentation? Click here to listen to Creative Territory General Manager Jeannette Button discuss the art of delivering a successful presentation in an interview with the Australian Business Arts Foundation.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Leadership and Mentoring

By Tracy Jones

When we think of great leaders and mentors, we often look at CEOs and presidents, prime ministers and chairmen. The people we regard as mentors tend to be our bosses – people in a position of power who we admire.

There's no doubt that these people often make great role models, but you’ll often find even more valuable mentors in unexpected places. Have a good look around at the people who have made an impact on you and how you work. There’s a good chance that while some will be employers, others will be colleagues, friends, employees and acquaintances.

Great leaders are not necessarily those who have reached the position of manager or CEO. Great leaders are those who demonstrate the qualities of leadership in their everyday work.

Leaders and mentors have many qualities – vision, empathy, confidence, passion and the ability to motivate and inspire others. You may see other qualities in leaders around you.

I hear a lot about the need for public relations professionals to have a seat at the "top table". My own view is that need to make our own seat at that table.

You don't have to be the CEO to be a leader. And you don’t need an invitation to provide great advice to those who need it.

As members of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, we have already demonstrated our commitment to our profession. The next step is to show leadership to our colleagues both within and outside of the PRIA.

And don't only look up for inspiration. Once you open your eyes you can find great mentors all around you.

As published in the PRIA National Newsletter September 2009.
Tracy is national president of the PRIA

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

High ethical standards critcal for financial PR

By Tracy Jones

Never is the need for high professional and ethical standards brought into sharper focus than in the field of financial and investor public relations.

We've all heard spectacular stories of losses from unscrupulous operators - or even just incompetent ones - who were responsible for individuals losing their life savings or worse.

The role of public relations professionals in avoiding such disasters should not be underestimated - we have a unique role as strategic counsel to convince executives to operate in an open, transparent and honest way. I'm not suggesting for a minute that we can somehow stop people losing money. What we can do, though, is contribute to an environment of transparency.

I've never met a public relations professional who advocates the "cover up" as the best way to deal with a scandal. Ethical professionals are strong advocates for honesty over deception, for transparency over misrepresentation and for facts over spin.

Those of us working in the financial and investor relations sector need to keep ethics top of mind as we go about advising our executives and clients. It may not always be the easiest route - but it is the one that will ensure that reputations, credibility and respect stay intact.

As published in the Public Relations Instsitute of Australia (PRIA) National Newsletter September 2009.
Tracy is national president of the PRIA.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Measure to prove your worth

By Tracy Jones

What's the difference between a PR practitioner and a PR professional? It's all in the numbers.

A practitioner delivers tactics and counts their success in terms of outputs. How many media releases did I issue? How many words did I write?

A professional delivers strategy and measures their success in terms of outcomes. What difference did this make? What behaviours have been changed?

Understanding our objectives and measuring our achievements is key to delivering value as PR professionals. So why do so many of us not do it?

Money, tools, time and desire are all cited as reasons. We can't afford it. We don't need to know. It's too late. We don't have the tools.

None of these excuses are valid. We do have the tools, they don't cost a fortune and you can start using them today.

Being a professional rather than just a practitioner should be the goal of all of us in public relations. So start measuring your performance and prove your worth.

As published in the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) National Newsletter September 2009.
Tracy is national president of the PRIA.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ethical behaviour based on truth, trust and honesty

As members of a profession, we sign up to a Code of Ethics that helps shape our behaviour.

The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) Code of Ethics was first developed at the birth of the PRIA 60 years ago and, despite updating over the years, remains largely unchanged. We have modernised, clarified, added, subtracted and added again, but the essentials have remained intact.

This reason for this is simple - ethical behaviour is based on a basic set of beliefs centred on truth, trust and honesty.

Each profession, association or occupation may add its own set of values around specifics. For example, we have clauses that relate to remuneration and journalists have clauses relating to revealing sources. At the heart, though, are the basics - truth, trust and honesty.

I use these three values as the key to my own ethical behaviour, then overlay them with the PRIA’s Code of Ethics along with the guidance provided by the Practice Notes put together by the College of Fellows.

In the end, find a simple test to judge yourself by. Here is mine:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it fair?
  • Is it honest?
  • Is it misleading?
  • Will it do unnecessary harm?
  • Is it aligned to my own moral values?
  • Would I be happy for my mother to know I did it?
  • Would my children be proud of me for doing it?

Ethical behaviour is not a mantra to be framed and forgotten but a set of values that can help guide your practice and development.

As published in the PRIA National Newsletter September 2009.
Tracy is national president of the PRIA.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Is your story REALLY a story?

Posted by Lisa Banks

Have you ever wondered why your story never gets run in the media?

While your media release may seem fascinating to you, ask yourself this question: “Would I run this as a story if I was a journalist?”.

Every year we take a survey of what makes news in The Northern Territory News for two consecutive months. The results of this survey are never surprising. News values have remained the same for as long as we can remember.

The top three news angles of our survey can be used as a practical guide for your business.

1.Impact: If your story is about a big event or is something that impacts a lot of people, then you should focus on this in your media release. A quarter of stories had an impact angle so it is more than likely that your media release will be picked up if your story impacts on people.

2. Human interest: If your story appeals to people on an emotional level, your media release needs to follow a human interest angle. 15 per cent of stories in The Northern Territory News followed this. If your media release is something that you honestly were so excited about that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends about at after work drinks, you’ve hit the human interest jackpot.

3. Great photos: 12% of the articles we looked at had great photos. Photographs add an extra dimension to a news story. Remember, a picture paints 1000 words. Be specific about what photo opportunities exist and make sure the journalist is aware of them.

Other news angles that have always been popular in media coverage include:

Local news: Most regional and local newspapers have a policy that local content comes first.

Timeliness: Is it happening today, tomorrow or yesterday? If it happened last week it’s no longer news and if it’s happening next month it’s probably too early for a story.

Conflict: Is there a major disagreement or conflict? Even better, is it between two people or parties who are supposed to agree with each other?

Famous people only have to go on a diet to be news.

There are some issues that people just want to keep talking about. When something is topical, just about anyone can make the news if they offer an opinion.

Novelty: Scary ghosts, singing dogs, walking fish, swimming babies and male beauty queens will always be news.

First and Last: The biggest, smallest, best, worst, newest, oldest, tallest, shortest, longest, most, least, fastest and the slowest.

Our survey provides a great starting point for the business community and a lot can be learnt about writing for the media through looking at what gets run in the newspaper. When you write your next media release, take the time to ask yourself “Would I find this an interesting story? Or is my ‘news’ not news at all?”.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sponsorship: Edge out the competition

Part 2 – Perfecting your proposal

Posted by Janelle Rees

Last month we developed your answer to ‘what’s in it for my business?’ – so how can you turn that answer into an impressive sponsorship proposal?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1) Planning: Decide how much sponsorship you need to raise, both cash and in-kind. Then you can break the total into sponsorship packages of different amounts – meaning more businesses will be able to get involved. From there, decide who in your team is going to do what, and by when – and get started. Break the job into manageable tasks first and all of a sudden it won’t seem so hard.

2) Overall presentation: Make your proposal look professional but not gaudy. Businesses are trusting you with their brand – show them you care about yours. Triple check for spelling mistakes and formatting errors. Get someone else to look over it for typos. Remember not to go overboard with the glitz and glamour – you are asking for money, and an over-the-top proposal can signal that you’ve wasted resources where it wasn’t required.

Not so good on the computer? Find the best person on your committee for formatting the final document. Or see if you can approach a friend for a favour, or pay your high-school aged child a token amount to help you out.

3) Content: Clearly and systematically outline:

a. What the opportunity is for their business
b. What you want from them
c. Why you want it
d. What they’ll get in return
e. Who they should contact

Keep the content simple and neatly laid out. For business people time is a luxury – the quicker they can glean the information they need from your presentation the better.

4) Research: Before you head out and start door-knocking at local businesses, do your research. Decide who you want to target. Think about which businesses are likely to have clients who match your target audience – where are some synergies? Then find out who’s the best person in the business to contact. The quickest way to get turned down is to cold-call the receptionist – their job is to get between you and the people who make the decisions. Make sure you know who the decision makers are, and work hard to get through to them directly.

Before you turn up for the meeting, establish which one of your packages you think the business can afford, and consider only offering them one or two sponsorship options. If they are spoiled with choices they’ll generally choose the cheaper option.

Most importantly, keep in mind you only have one chance for a first impression. By doing your research, putting together packages that truly offer value for local business and presenting them with a clear and professional presentation you’ll ensure your first impression develops into a beneficial and long-lasting business relationship.

* * *

Oh, and as marketing guru Seth Goodin says on his blog, don’t forget about your existing sponsors. Each year is an opportunity to consolidate your existing sponsor relationships. Make sure they get first choice at new opportunities. Keep in regular contact with them throughout your planning. Ask for their feedback when developing new packages. Nothing will turn them from sponsors to ex-sponsors quicker than seeing the new kid on the block getting a better deal than they are.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sponsorship: Edge out the competition

Part 1 – What’s in it for me?

Posted by Janelle Rees

Present any business with a sponsorship proposal and their first thought will be ‘what’s in it for my business?’ By having your answer ready you can get an edge over your competition to attract those valuable sponsorship dollars.

So what benefits are businesses looking for? Simple - exposure, experiences and reach.

Exposure: This includes things like signage at your event, advertising in your program, logos on uniforms, acknowledgement in speeches, exposure on your website, chances to advertise on your big screen or through your broadcast system, naming rights and anything else that allows your sponsors to display their brand at your event. Just remember to give the big opportunities to the big sponsors and price your packages accordingly.

Experiences: Provide your sponsors with experiences that money can’t buy. This can include access to networking opportunities, tickets to VIP events, one-on-ones with celebrity guests and corporate entertainment packages. Is parking limited at your event? Create a VIP car park. Is your event premier viewing or screening? Open 30 minutes earlier for sponsors. Identify the unique features of your event and package them for the exclusive benefit of your sponsors.

Reach: This one is easy. When you’re presenting your sponsorship packages to business, make sure you tell them who they’ll be reaching. How many people? Is there a gender or age bias? Are they locals or visitors? Will their business get exposure before and after the event, adding to their potential reach? By matching their target audience with your target audience you’ll show them you’re serious about reaching their customers.

Whether times are tough or not in many cases shouldn’t matter – if you can present clear benefits in return for their business investment, your proposal will win attention from the people making the budget decisions.

Next month: Perfecting your proposal

Friday, January 16, 2009

10 New Year's Resolutions not to break

1. I will update my corporate profile. A good company profile is essential to selling your services to new clients and to attach to tenders. Make a point to update yours this year to save you time later.

2. I will finally do that media training. Don't wait for a crisis before you learn the basics of dealing with the media.

3. I will do my forward plan for the year before the end of March. Actually, I'd be happy if you managed to get it done before September.

4. I will update my website and remove profiles of the staff who left three years ago. Most of us are guilty of letting our websites get out of date. One of the ways to avoid this is to remove information that dates easily.

5. I will learn how to use Facebook, Bebo, Tagged, YouTube or LinkedIn. If not, make sure your children show you one of them.

6. I will schedule at least five networking functions with my peers and colleagues. It's easy to lose touch with peers and colleagues in the heat of doing business. Put them in your diary like every other important task.

7. I will subscribe to at least three newsletters, blogs, forums or publications that will help me learn more about my industry. Don't lose touch with the latest trends and news in your own industry.

8. I will check the news every day. Know what's going on in the world around you. If you can't catch the TV news, read a paper, listen to the radio or get your news online.

9. I will keep an eye on my competitors. After all, they might be doing something good that you can do better!

10. I will try at least one new marketing idea that I haven't been game to try before. Go out on a limb. Take a chance. Get creative. You might be surprised at your success.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making the most of the classified ad

The classified ad is the staple of newspaper advertising departments.

From a consumer point of view, the humble classie does the sorting for us, allowing us to find exactly what we are looking for in a predictable place.

I love classies for a lot of reasons. But I do want to urge advertisers to use them for what they are good at.

First the pros…..

- Classies reach a very targeted audience: We’re constantly telling our clients to target their messages and classies do exactly that. When I am selling a car, my ad is going right in the place where people who want to buy a car are looking.

- Classies are accessible to everyone: You don’t have to be a big advertiser to place a classie. A small classie can cost as little as $20 or $30.

- Classies are sorted by subject: You don’t need to wade through every page of the paper to find what you are looking for. You simply flip to the Whitegoods section and there are all the secondhand fridges in one convenient place.

- Classies can be very clever: I’ve seen some brilliant marketing campaigns built around the classie. By using a series of small, cheap classies, you can leverage frequency to build a whole campaign at a very reasonable price.

Now the cons ….

-Classies cost more per centimetre: The classified advertising rate can be $2 or $3 higher than the standard display advertising rate.

- Classie centimetres are smaller than a display centimetre: A standard tabloid news page is seven columns wide while a classified page is eight columns wide. The page isn’t bigger – the ads are just skinnier.

- Classies don’t attract volume discounts: Big (and even medium-size) advertisers get discounts off casual rates on their display advertising. These discounts generally do not apply to classies (but ask anyway, as you never know what deal you can do).

- Classies don’t always have the same flexibility as display: You need to stick to fairly standard sizes with a classie. For example, you can’t have a three-column classie in most sections – only two or four (or more). Still, ask for special shapes because your rep may be willing to go out on a limb.

- Classies don’t account for passerby traffic: Just because you’re not looking to buy a new TV doesn’t mean I can’t tempt you with an ad cleverly placed in the sports section. Not everyone who will be tempted to buy a product will be looking for it in the classies.

All in all, use classies for what they are good for and use display advertising when it shines.

And don’t be afraid to talk to your marketing consultant, media buyer or newspaper rep about doing special deals and making special sizes.

Newspapers have come a long way over the past few years and you’ll be surprised at the range of advertising options available.

News Limited has developed a website specifically looking at the creative use of advertising space that is packed full of case studies, celever ideas and challenges to the traditional use of print media. You can visit the site at http://www.newsspace.com.au/

If you are in the Territory, get in touch with the NT News or Centralian Advocate and ask to see the publication Think Outside the Rectangle for a fastastic range of ideas.