Monday, December 29, 2008

Is Your Cause Wired for 2009?

It probably happens to you once or twice a year.

A well known charity knocks at your door during its annual fund raising appeal. You make a donation and in return get a receipt. This brief encounter speeds your money off somewhere to help someone somehow. Or you might donate regularly to an aid agency that sends out an annual letter about a sponsored child in the third world.

This remote control philanthropy – where your donation helps someone but you’re unsure who or how - is set to change according to US author Tom Watson. In his book Cause Wired he argues that Web2.0 technology is arming not for profit organizations with “weapons of mass collaboration” and transforming how people support good causes.

Watson believes that social networking applications like Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin etc are evolving from personal promotion into important fund raising, activist and political tools. And it seems Internet users across generations are welcoming the change. Members of Generation Y find that digitally supporting the issues they believe in is a natural extension of living their lives online in public. And Baby Boomers are attracted because the new ways of giving allow them to be personally involved and see results for themselves.

Pioneer charities are beginning to use the power of Web 2.0 to gather, sort and distribute information to donors in a way once reserved for only their very wealthiest supporters. is probably Cause Wired’s best example of online fund raising. This digital not for profit allows small scale donors to use their credit cards and laptops to help struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries.

For a $25 upwards you can join with others to loan money to specific individuals in specific countries such as a group of women needing sewing machines for their garment start-up or impoverished taxi drivers urgently after car repairs. Kiva works through established non government organizations (NGOs) and the web to provide the loans, monitor repayments and continually report back to donors through reports and images from the field.

Watson cites other cases where digital philanthropy is achieving equally impressive results but he tempers his enthusiasm. While a campaign on a social networking site like Facebook may raise awareness of an important environmental, human rights or other issue, the actual fund raising figures for many charities still remain modest.

Cause Wired also explores how Web2.0 can empower political organizations and community movements to connect with citizens and consumers. Perhaps Barack Obama’s Presidential election campaign is among the most powerful example of new media technologies helping to win a cause.

While Watson’s 236 page book is enthusiastic about the new possibilities it acknowledges its limits. Online causes can get tens of thousands even millions of people talking. But they still need online leaders. Just like the bricks and mortar world committed individuals who can organize, coordinate, administer and generally keep things moving are still at a premium. And transitioning this digital attention to real world results is still the acid test. Once you have raised awareness you still need to motivate people to take out their cheque books and man the barricades.

Cause Wired is a very good, easy to read book. It is a must for marketers in not for profit and community organizations who want their fund raising efforts to remain competitive in the coming year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Holiday To Do List.

Merry Christmas to our subscribers and friends. Thanks for visiting Traffic on Maine throughout the year and we hope to see you back in '09.

This Christmas between the feasting and the family you might just find time to catch up with what's happening in the PR and marketing world.

A couple of books worth having in your Christmas stocking are:
  • Cause Wired by Tom Watson: A great read on how not for profits are using online tools to advocate their causes and raise money. Tom's insights and easy style make this a must read if you are in the not for profit sector.
  • Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz. I think this will eventually becoming a marketing classic. It's so easy to read and full of low budget ideas on what will emerge as one of the hottest marketing disciplines in the coming year.
And if Santa delivered a new MP3 player great podcasts to load up are:

In the meantime have a safe and happy time with your loved ones.

PR Tips For Not For Profits in Tough Times #2

Thanks to all of you who contributed ideas to our call for low budget PR ideas for not for profits facing tough times. We got a great response through Facebook, email, in conversations over coffee and of course through this blog.

We have put together a 19 page PDF report which brings together all these great suggestions.

I'll be sending it out to those contributors for whom I have contact details.

Email if you would like a copy and put the word Report in the subject line of your email.

Again thanks for your thoughts and good luck to the marketing efforts of all community groups in the coming year.

Canadian Take on Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of Mouth - A Prescription for a Bad Economy

From: agentwildfire,
1 day ago

The 12 reasons why word of mouth is the tonic for this marketplace and this economy (from Sean Moffitt, Agent Wildfire - Canada's Word of Mouth Experts)

SlideShare Link

Sunday, December 7, 2008

PR Tips For Not For Profits in Tough Times

The financial crisis means the year ahead looks fairly bleak.

So spare a thought for not for profit groups that may struggle financially but still have to communicate with their communities. They will need to market themselves even more to attract volunteers, promote their services and raise funds.

So what are the low cost PR tools and tactics they can use? I'd like to compile at list and circulate it to the groups you and I both know who would welcome practical PR tips for the challenging times ahead.

I'll share a consolidated list with anyone who leaves a comment on this post.

Here's my six ways to stretch a PR budget in tough economic times:
  • Freshen up, recycle and reuse communications activities that have worked in the past.
  • Skill up your team to do as much of your media and marketing as possible.
  • If necessary bring in a mentor to help develop additional skills and build in-house capacity.
  • Continually measure your marketing to see where your dollars should be going.
  • Build in word of mouth marketing into your communications. It's the oldest, most reliable and least expensive of all the tools and tactics available to you.
  • People are increasingly online so ealy in 2009 experiment with new digital tools (Facebook, Youtube, blogs etc) to reach them at minimal cost.

Got your own cost saving ideas? Share with others by leaving a comment.

Three Learings From Obama's Online Marketing

It is just over a month since Barack Obama won his historic bid to become President of the United States. And as the dust settles you have to admire how his campaign used new media tools to get out his message of change to Americans and the rest of the world.

US viral marketer Jalali Hartman looks at Obama online, and concludes that by dominating the Internet Obama's message carried further and faster than his rival's John McCain.

Hartman's statistics tell it all. Obama had 5.5 million visitors to his website each month. McCain had 2.5m visitors. There were 442 000 Obama Youtube videos compared to 221 300 items featuring McCain. Obama had over 3 million friends on Facebook while McCain registered just over half a million supporters.

Obama's online campaign used three strategies others could use to promote their own issues and causes.
  • Share content Obama campaign managers had a no hassle copyright policy. They willingly shared the candidate's speeches, images, official logos etc with online supporters and encouraged them to re-purpose it for their own needs. Supporters could also download official campaign signs, literature and guidelines and receive up to date news of events.
  • Connect Facebook and other social networking sites connected supporters . Both Obama and wife Michelle had their own pages and friends created their own affiliated groups. The campaign also used Twitter (the micro blogging application) to keep followers informed about campaign developments such as appearances and speeches.
  • Make it easy to create community The official campaign website was structured to allow individuals to organise within their communities by offering tools, contacts and opportunities to share their own stories.

Obama's mastery of the online world contrasts sharply with the efforts of Australia's political parties in the 2007 Federal Election. A March 2008 report by the Australian Centre for Public Communication showed use of new media by Australian politicians remains low.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Ways Of Consulting The Public

My colleague Jim McNamara of the the University of Technology Sydney is doing more research on government and social media. This follows his research on the use of social media in the 2007 Australian Election. Jim's research is always spot on, so watch this space.

The information below is taken from directly from Jim's recent blog post.

Twelve months on from the Australian Federal election and a landmark online campaign, Kevin07, in which the Rudd Labor Government made much of using Web 2.0 for public consultation, how is the government performing in e-democracy?

This is the question being asked in a follow-up to the 2007 Australian Federal election research study reported on this site. A group of researchers from the University of Technology Sydney are investigating which Federal Government departments and agencies are using Web 2.0 tools for public consultation - and how they are being used.

The research is also looking at international experiences in the US, UK, Canada and other countries where what is variously called e-government, e-democracy, cyberdemocracy and a host of other terms is being attempted.

One thing to emerge early in the research is that electronic delivery of information and services needs to be separated from online consultation. Many governments worldwide have made considerable progress in online delivery of information and services ranging from e-tax returns and online passport applications to electronic payment of fines.

However, use of the interactive capabilities of Web 2.0 for consultation and civic engagement is much less in evidence - and practice lags behind the rhetoric.

The research study will be reported early in 2009 in papers submitted to political science and communication journals and in an upcoming book hopefully.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Psst...What Do People Say About You?

What do people say about you?

When your name comes up in conversation do people talk with respect or do they trash your brand?

We all want positive word of mouth about our products, services, issues or causes. Yet the irony is few Australian organizations use word of mouth marketing as part of their marketing mix?

That’s why you should read Andy Sernovitz’s new book Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.

Word of mouth marketing has been around forever, beginning when people first saw the value in sharing information and warning others about risky situations.

Word of mouth is about genuine conversations where people exchange ideas, criticisms and endorsements. And it is becoming increasingly important given the tsunami of invasive advertising hitting us each day. Sernovitz argues ‘traditional marketing is no longer the safe way to go. It may make you comfortable but it is becoming gradually less and less effective for more and more companies.'

Organic word of mouth is the range of genuine conversations people have among themselves each day. They share information on what to buy, what to wear, where to work and countless other topics with friends, family, classmates, workmates and team mates. Organisations can encourage organic word of mouth by providing quality services, listening to people and responding to their issues and continually freshening conversations by bringing in new programs, products, faster turn around times, etc.

Organisations use amplified word of mouth when they deliberately set out to create positive talk about their products or services. This often involves seeking out people with influence with the specific intent of inviting them to start conversations within their networks. And organizations can accelerate this type of word of mouth by moving it online where, through a keyboard or mobile device they can engage either individuals or specific groups.

Amplified word of mouth marketing can also be encouraged by creating online communities where people swap ideas and experiences, encouraging others to promote what you do and using advertising or media coverage to strategically prime the pump and start conversations.

Andy Sernovitz’s book details the topics, talkers, tools and tracking needed to make word of mouth succeed. It is a must read for those of us on limited budgets looking to communicate with impact.

Tough Times Demand Clear Communications

Right now we need communicators of the calibre of Franklin D Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Here's why....

Last week the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Glenn Stevens, said '...given the underlying strengths of the Australian economy about the biggest mistake we could make would be talk ourselves into unnecessary economic weakness.'

Stevens' remarks are a timely reminder that tough times call for clear communications. In uncertain times the only sure way we can chart a new course is through having leaders who communicate clearly, consistently and offer us a sense of hope and direction.

Forget the markets, economists, sharemarket traders, pundits and others to show us the future. They are the same people who got us into this financial meltdown mess,and how many of us really understood what they were saying anyway? It would be foolish to think they can succeed now when the issues to be communicated are so much more complex.

The demand will be increasingly for leaders in the workplace, business, the community and above all at the political level who can talk to us in simple, straight forward language about where we find ourselves and how to move forward to a better place.

I recently visited the Presidential Libraries of US Presidents Franklin D Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, arguably among the master communicators of the 20th century. Both made complex issues easy to understand for the common man and woman and, both carried a sense of grounded optimism in their public commentary even when the issues were hard.

In uncertain times people will expect their managers and leaders to talk straight and talk often. We are heading back to the future where simplicity, a sense of direction and (dare I say it) cautious optimism will become increasingly prized in the communications with our communities.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Plain Talking In Motown

I have just returned home after three weeks in the USA. And what an exciting time it has been for a communicator to be in the US. Particularly watching the US Presidential Elections unfold at first hand.

But first let me tell you about the International Conference of the Public Relations Society of America, where 3000 communicators from around the world met in Detroit (Motown) to discuss the latest trends in communications.

The conference was dominated by two themes - the dawn of a new communications era brought about by social media and the need for authenticity in communications.

The discussion certainly ran hot about using on-line technologies to connect with audiences. It seems American communicators are far more advanced than their Australian peers in using social media. I estimate about 2/3 of those in Detroit were already using digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook etc both for their personal and corporate communications and the remainder simply know they have to catch up to remain competitive.

Authenticity was the other key theme - speaker after speaker emphasised that effective PR is achieved only through honest, open and two way relationships and the days of organisations telling people what to think are disappearing fast.

Citizens, consumers and communities expect to be listened to, and have their concerns acted upon. Following the collapse of the global economy we are seeing the exit of the 'smart guys'. Those who made a ton of money peddling information about products and services most of us could not understand. Perhaps, and hopefully, we are seeing a return to basic communications values such as respect, plain talking and tolerance for different ideas.

Certainly this was a theme taken up by Conference keynote speaker Craig Newmark founder of Craig's List, a site which gets 12 billion hits each month. Craig talked about the need to get involved, to listen, continuously engage with the community and treat people 'like you want to be treated'.

It all sounds a bit 'down home and folksy' but it's refreshing to see values-based communications back on the agenda.

Monday, October 27, 2008

PR American Style

This week we are in Detroit at the annual conference of the Public Relations Society of America. The conference, attended by around 3000 PR professionals, is a great opportunity to learn about developments in communications around the world.

This year's hot conference topic is social media and in later posts we'll be reporting on how communicators are blending new media into their communications planning.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Online Tools for Not for Profits

Here's some handy ideas for using online technology for awareness-raising and community-building. It's a bit dated but still worthwhile.

From: pbw, 2 years ago

A presentation for a Hepatitis Australia workshop. It gives some examples and ideas of ways not-for-profits can use the web to raise awareness and attract new supporters.

SlideShare Link

The Future of Marketing

What's Next In Marketing & Advertising

From: paulisakson, 6 months ago

A presentation I gave internally at our agency last week (3/21/08) for our monthly "What's Next" lunches.

Quick background on these lunch sessions: Each month, three or four people are called upon to share either what inspires them or what's going on in a specific area. So far, I've seen some of our creatives talk to what motivates them and share trends and up-and-coming names in art and design; some of our tech team talk to emerging technologies, showing off what they can do and how they're relevant to our clients; and finally some of our modern media team share the newest ways we can help people find what they're looking for more easily and get more relevant information in front of them for our clients. Like I said, it has all been very fun to take part in as well as quite inspiring and energizing.

For this one, I was asked to share what's going on in marketing and where things are moving. What you'll see/did see is that I ended up using a little bit of what I've been posting about on my blog and some of what has been getting covered both within the trade pubs and on industry related blogs to give me the outline. If you follow the plannersphere and other social media and marketing blogs, then this probably won't be much new, but it might connect the conversations a little more. Or maybe not.

Mostly just wanted to share it since I did put a bit of time into pulling it together and was inspired by many of you who've been writing about similar subject matter. Also because what limited free time I did have last week went into putting it together instead of writing on my blog.

Note: Most of the examples in it are the more covered ones used to support the topics they're associated with. With limited time, I opted for the easy-to-find examples. Sorry about that. One that isn't as covered across the blogs and in the press yet is the My Vegas site. For more info on it see David Armano's Logic + Emotion blog where he has a detailed post on it.

As always, if you've got any thoughts, questions or comments...

SlideShare Link

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stone Age Campaign in a Wired World

Canberra's political parties have yet to use the Internet strategically as a campaign tool in the 2008 ACT Election.

And compared with internet marketing in the US Election our local parties are stone age when it comes to the on-line age.

The US Election is running at the same time as our local race but the approach is completely different. Obama and McCain are all over the Internet, on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other on-line platforms. They are cleverly using blogs, video, sound files, downloadable programs, computer games and other social media tools to reach Americans.

As the Canberra Times reported we believe there is a 1998 approach to the Internet in the local 2008 campaign. And the ACT parties are failing to reach voters through their keyboards.

A few parties have ventured into new media territory in an effort to woo younger voters. But they show they just don't get the youth-oriented culture of social media when they disable the comments section on their YouTube videos and their Facebook ads feature candidates in collar and tie.

It's a shame ACT politicians are not fully using the new internet tools. Besides being cheap to use, they would allow more two way conversations between candidates and voters beyond the traditional door knock and mall meetings on Saturday morning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Media Spokesperson

Choosing a media spokesperson is key issue for most organisations.

Many choose the default position and select the Minister, CEO, Head of PR or another specific individual for that role. And then the curtains come down and no-one else is allowed to talk to the media. True this ensures absolute control over the message. But it often robs an organisation of the chance to get its really interesting stories out and put a more human face before
the public.

We noticed during the Olympics the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (an Australian university) had a number of academic spokespersons providing media commentary on the Games. The Institute advertised their availability to journalists and used event-specific interviews to profile its people and its brand. Check out the results here.

And on the subject of media interviews, click on this short video featuring a Fox News interview with Todd Palin, the husband of US Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

Perhaps Todd could use a little media training and the
journalist interviewing him could certainly use help in asking more substantive questions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not for Profit Scores Good PR for Under $100

Recently we had coffee with the ACT Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Society. The Society supports people suffering chronic fatigue syndrome and estimates around 3000 Canberra families may be impacted.

Since January the Society has attended the marketing workshops we run for community groups and has been overhauling its marketing and PR approach.

In the last three to four months it has promoted a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day, a theatre screening to raise funds and a self help course. Along the way it has used community radio, YouTube, Facebook and email campaigns and changed the way it stages events.

Other marketing included:

* Community newspapers

* Notices in local newsletters

* Word of mouth
* Posters on community notice boards

* Online and offline community event calendars - including free notices on ABC, ACTEW AGL Switch, Canberra Times fridge door and wotzon

* Getting pro-bono support from communications professionals.

The President reports so far the Society has spent less than $100 on the new PR arrangements yet the results have been impressive.

”Our enquiries are up 400% since March! As we haven't recorded everything this is a conservative figure. As such our staff member is run off her feet trying to answer it all. I imagine our website is also receiving more hits ... our membership is (also) up approximately 10% since March”.

Lipstick: Not on my pig thank you

In the past week we saw a media storm in the US presidential election following comments by Barack Obama about the Republican Party trying to dress up its policies.

He used a colloquial term‘lipstick on a pig’ which is a colourful way of saying you can’t make something attractive if it plainly isn’t.

The Republicans took this as a criticism of their Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who the week before had used a lipstick reference in her acceptance speech.

The media picked up on the ‘he said she said’ verbal seesawing that followed between the two parties. The air turned thick with claim and counter claim about lipstick, pigs and personal attacks.

What a waste of precious time and energy that all was. Especially when global warming, terrorism, the state of the US economy and other key issues call for immediate attention.

The Public Relations Society of America was the only group to emerge looking good. On behalf of its 32 000 members the Society called on both the Democrat and Republic campaign managers to commit to the highest standards of ethical practice in their campaign communications and forgo innuendo, incomplete information, surrogate messaging and character attacks.

It asked both campaign managers to sign pledges to this effect but have yet to hear back from either. The Society also started up a Facebook group, “Clean & Fair Campaign 2008,” as a quasi petition to support their stand on honest and open communications in the Elections.

For years I have belonged to the Public Relations Institute of Australia, the Australian Marketing Institute and the International Association of Business Communicators. Yet I can’t recall those professional bodies saying anything in public about honesty in public communications.

Well done PRSA for taking the lead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing Part 2: Message Multipliers

In an information-overloaded world many of us increasingly turn to people we respect for information, advice and to help us make sense of the world.

We seek out these key influencers because they have particular skills, knowledge, experience or just wise way of looking at things. They often are at the centre of community, business, or social networks so if they support what you do, they can help you connect with people you might otherwise struggle to reach.

These ‘message multipliers’ are important whether you are in business, work in government or belong to a community group. Their value to you lies in the fact they can:
  • Give their personal credibility to your information within their networks.
  • Pass along your information in language their people understand.
  • Help you frame your issue so it makes more sense for people they know.
  • Allow you to include your information in their events, newsletters, websites etc.
You can identify key influencers among or through:
  • Your best customers.
  • Key professions associated with your cause.
  • Business and community organisations.
  • Local governments.
  • Local media.
  • Leaders of local school and parish committees, service clubs and sporting clubs.
  • Teachers and academics associated with your issue.
Even in this digital age personal contact remains the best way to approach key influencers. Invariably they are busy people and time poor but will appreciate meeting face to face.

At your initial meeting (unless they are already committed customers) your only job is to show how what you do will benefit the people they know. After all their credibility depends on the value of information they pass along to others.

Convince key influencers to support your issue and you pass a critical milestone in generating successful word of mouth marketing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Watch Your Back on the Internet: Everything Is On The Record

In our digital age never forget everything is on the record.

This past week we had news of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant. That sent people scurrying to look up the MySpace page of the daughter’s boyfriend, Levi Johnson.

On his homepage (which has been subsequently removed) Johnson declares himself “a redneck” and offers other colourful comments.(

Who would have thought the MySpace ramblings of this Alaskan teenager would be make US Election news?

Thanks to YouTube we also know the former head of the US Democratic National Committee, Don Fowler, believes the coincidence of Hurricane Gustav bearing down on New Orleans and the timing of this week’s Republican Convention “demonstrates God is on our side”.

That insight was captured by a fellow air traveller on a cell phone camera and then uploaded to Youtube (

Scary stuff. In the age of the Internet remember that your digital signature is very long and what goes out through the Internet may one day come back to haunt you.

I'm worry that people posting their party and other exploits to Facebook and such sites might one day regret how quick they hit the upload button.

So it's better to:

  • Assume every email or post to MySpace, Facebook etc may one day go public.
  • Say nothing in public you would not want your mother or your boss to see on YouTube.
  • Be particularly careful of images you post on-line.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing Part 1: The Zen of Word of Mouth

"The idea of word of mouth is very Zen. You put the idea out there, let it go and if people like and trust you they will spread the word." Variety Magazine 21 July 2005.

This is the first in a series of posts on word of mouth marketing (WOM) following interest generated at Canberra's first word of mouth marketing workshop.

Today WOM is more important than ever because we are increasingly weary with advertising and cynical about how the media report events. Word of mouth stands out because it is about genuine conversations between real people. That makes it the cheapest and most effective promotion an organisation can have.

The span of word of mouth is spreading. Traditionally it involved face to face encounters. You talking to me. Now new digital technologies have put WOM on steroids making our on-line conversations just as important as our off-line efforts.

Whatever the arena effective word of mouth marketing needs six key elements to work:
  • Make sure your organisation and its issue, cause, product or service have integrity and offer value. People will only spread positive word of mouth when they believe in something. So provide something worthwhile to talk about and remember word of mouth will always punish poor performance and those who lack integrity.
  • Be clear about who you want reach because WOM is all about people and their networks. Know who and where they are.
  • Identify, recruit and maintain relationships with people who can help you connect with your audiences. Often called 'key influencers', these individuals lend you their language, contacts and credibility when they carry your information into their networks.
  • Provide key influencers with simple messages, stories and pass-on tools so it is easy for them to spread the word about you. Constantly refresh your conversation with these people.
  • Use as many channels as possible to keep the conversation going. Create continual 'buzz' through face to face meetings, speaking to groups, inviting people to events and going on-line to either create your conversations or join in with others. Perhaps it is better to start with a few communications channels you are confident will work and then expand your repertoire as you see results.
  • Track the results of your conversations by encouraging feedback and using on-line and other tracking tools.
At the end of the day marketing is about doing the right thing by your customers, clients or fellow citizens and encouraging them to talk about you.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Diplomacy Goes Digital

The US State Department is embracing social media in an impressive way.

Its 'Dipnote' initiative offers a range of internet resources - videos, images, blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts etc - to inform the public about US diplomacy. The Dipnote blog is written by two State Department officers, one of whom travels with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Importantly 'Dipnote' allows people to have their say on world issues. For example a recent blogpost on the international community's role in the Russian- Georgian conflict drew 73 comments.

The new State Department internet site is in strong contrast with its Australian and New Zealand counterparts. Their websites continue to be mostly text based with little scope for public interaction.

Canberra's First Word of Mouth Marketing Workshop

On 30 August we're running Canberra's first word of mouth marketing workshop for not for profits.

We have been steadily watching the rise and rise of word of mouth marketing in recent times and we tip it will become even more important in future. The reasons are simple:
  • After 50 plus years of day in day out marketing, people are weary and leery of advertising. For example when was the last time you saw, read or heard an ad that you can recall with any kind of accuracy? And more importantly when was the last time an ad motivated you to go out and buy something?
  • Word of mouth marketing is genuine communications. It is about people sharing information, experiences and feelings. We all have an innate desire to share good news with family, friends and workmates and warn them away from negative issues or bad products. Word of mouth is our information passed within our circle at our pace. And it removes the the middle men from our communications.
  • Digital media has made it possible to carry word of mouth endorsements and opinions to mass audiences and to individuals fast and cheap.
Our workshop is geared for not for profit organisations and it's already over-subscribed with representatives from 10 organisations attending.

It will be a good way to share experiences and explore how community groups can use this increasingly important marketing medium to advance their causes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

'Every Day Can't Be A Crisis'

Why is it some communicators are always in a 'flap' and everyday is a crisis?

PR people tend to be high energy individuals but really some of us do take things a little too far.

We live increasingly busy lives but sometimes we all need to smell the flowers. That's why I found a recent article in Tactics, the monthly newsletter of the Public Relations Society of America, so refreshing.

In the one page article Michigan-based PR professional, Rick Chambers, reminds us that 'every day can't be a crisis'. And among his uncommon common sense, Rick notes that:
  • Although we can prepare for the PR challenges ahead, we can't prepare for every one of them. At some point we need to realise that "things will take care of themselves".
  • In our profession sometimes it's all too easy to focus on the downside. After all we are the people who invented crisis management. Yet we, and many of colleagues, often do great work and we need to proclaim and celebrate that effort.
  • We should put a human face on the organisations we work for. They are more than logos, brands, policies and outcomes. At the end of the day our companies and agencies are collections of people and our job is to represent those people as best we can.
  • Be aware of what you can and can't do. Take personal pride in the things you can achieve but realise the things you cannot do. For the sake of your health and sanity, learn to let go when the time is right.
  • Live in the here and now... despite the urgency of our daily challenges, we are living life now and it's not a dress rehearsal for something else.
I know some communicators who, if the world ended tomorrow, would still have three days work to do post-Apocalypse. It's sad to think they are more committed to their tasks than their time with themselves and others.

Well done Rick Chambers for helping put a perspective to our professional urgencies.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Improve your PR Writing

A recent edition of the Canadian podcast Inside PR contains useful tips on how to improve your PR writing. Scroll down and listen to Inside PR #122 of Wednesday 30 July 2008.

The Model Spokesperson

The value of good spokespersons is hard to estimate.

So we noted with interest the Pentagon has developed a new model spokesperson. See the video and tell us what you think.

PR in the Service of the Public

Leanne Glenny from the University of South Australia is completing a PhD on public sector communication and public relations ethics.

Recently Leanne addressed a an IABC Canberra audience (mainly Australian Public Service communications professionals) on her work and the extensive research behind it.

Leanne has met with public servants, journalists and advocacy groups and analysed three government communications case studies in detail. And while her work is yet to be completed it is throwing up interesting insights including:
  • Government communication is often viewed as something the government ‘does’ to people rather than an exchange of information.
  • There is no single model for government communications ... rather approaches and strategies continually change as personalities and politics dictate the communications mix.
  • Public servants who are not communicators tend to see PR mainly in media terms and as ways to push information out to persuade.
  • On the other hand, public sector communicators are often looking for a broader and richer engagement with their audiences.
She suggests public sector management needs a more detailed understanding and acceptance of PR principles and communications ethics, rather than view PR merely as a technical tool.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Marketing Challenges for Not For Profits

From time to time we do work for social services and community groups. So a recently released US report on not for profit marketing caught our eye.

The State of Nonprofit Marketing: A Report On Priorities, Spending, Measurement and The Challenges Ahead, produced by Lipman Hearne and the American Marketing Association (AMA), contains fascinating insights. Australian not for profits will recognise many similarities in the American findings.
  • Building awareness, generating revenue, branding and acquiring and keeping members were key marketing objectives for US not for profits.
  • Public relations, community relations and customer and member relations are considered the most effective strategies to build awareness and visibility.
  • “Being mentioned in the media is priceless, because it gains nonprofit organizations attention as well as third-party endorsement of their work."
  • Word of mouth marketing is important for donors, government agencies and other key audiences. The Report notes these groups need specific evidence from not for profits on how they are making an impact.
It seems that US not for profits find measuring their marketing efforts a tough ask:
  • The most measured marketing activity is events followed by revenue raising.
  • But evaluating the effectiveness of websites, media coverage and print advertising is not particularly well handled.
42% of organisations surveyed had only one person doing their marketing and even then the marketing area often shares responsibilities with other parts of the organisation.

And the biggest future challenges for US not for profits?
  • Building awareness/visibility.
  • Revenue generation.
  • Positioning/branding.
Sound familiar? And not just for community sector. We think many businesses would recognise these challenges.

Consulting Communities

Recently we have been helping out a client with community consultations in regional Australia on a major environmental issue. People were asked their views on future investment priorities.

We were both surprised and delighted with the response.
  • A six question survey was sent to around 1700 people. And over 520 were returned. A great result for a mail-out survey.
  • Consultation forums in six regional areas were all well attended.
  • Contributions at these forums were considered, articulate and positive.
The take-out: People are deeply interested in environmental issues and, when asked, only too willing to come forward with constructive ideas.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Getting the Right Headline

Getting a catchy name for a campaign or the right headline for a media release can be tough but does it have to be this difficult?

Check out this US Congressional Committee struggling to find the right name. (Video per courtesy of

PR of World Youth Day

We know good PR when we see it ... so we take our hats off to the team organising World Youth Day.

The event management was superb ... hundreds of thousands of young people (often a tough audience) attending multiple mega-events over seven days. Things apparently running smoothly, no-one getting lost and activities synching in on time. And the most important indicator: people leaving events enthused by their involvement.
Event Management: A+ rating.

Media coverage was huge ...we know that sometimes these types of events gather a natural momentum and just take off. But you could detect someone's guiding hand (or was it divine intervention?) in the media relations planning ...every day a batch of freshly cooked stories, young and articulate clerics on hand as spokespersons and colour, sound and drama in abundance for the cameras and photographers.

Media Monitors reports 42,277 media items reporting the Pope's time in Sydney:

14,581 TV items
14,592 Radio items
11,301 Internet items
1803 Newspaper stories

Media relations for the visit: A+ rating.

And issues management ... well this one scores a C. The subject of sexual abuse by clergy was always going to be a key issue. Yet throughout the week while the Catholic hierarchy expressed regret for past transgressions, the apologies seemed wooden and at times unconvincing. Certainly aggrieved families and individuals who talked to the media regarded these efforts as less than genuine.

Without trivializing the deeply serious issue of sexual abuse and the Church, the rather average management of this issue marred a week of very good PR practice.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Governments and Social Media

Having previously blogged on climate change, we noted with interest the current TV advertising for the Australian Government's new Climate Change website.

No doubt the site will become an important destination for Australians looking for information on our changing global environment and what we can do about it.

The website is rich in content and offers detailed explanation of the environmental threats facing the country and options for action. What is disappointing is that it is disturbingly short on community interaction. Aside from attending public meetings in major cities or reaching decision makers through traditional email, postal or telephone channels, there is little opportunity for the public to seek information or contribute to the national discussion through the site.

Perhaps we should be making greater use of social media technologies to reach out and engage people. So it would be a leap forward if this site allowed people to share their thoughts, concerns and issues with others.

We acknowledge that you always need mediation when you allow on-line public commentary. That's to stop the slander, bad language, vilification and other inappropriate conversations degrading the discussion. But this gate keeping is easily achievable - without censoring comments either because they are unpopular or show ideological bias.

The Canadian Government recently commissioned a study into using social media in government communications. It is well worth a read. If the Canadian research is any guide, people are open to the idea of using social media to access government information and to having their say on public policy.

And a 2007 IBM report showed that blogging is increasingly being used in the US by Congress, state legislatures and city officials to reach out and engage citizens.

Climate change is important, so if we want to engage Australians, perhaps it's time we began using the complete range of communications tools to involve them and generate action.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Communicating in Different Spaces

Here's some articles worth a quick read:

A recent study on using social media to keep up with not for profits.

The art and craft of choosing the right words for your media release - or how toxic is your shower curtain?

And a Pentagon General says “… when you get the call in the middle of the night and everything is going the wrong way, blogging could in fact inform decision makers in real time with real information to make decisions much quicker than a phone conference.”