Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Greetings After a Year of Crisis Communications

What a strange communications year it has been. It seems it was the Year of the the Crisis Communicator as we watched communicators over the past 12 months grapple with crises such as the:
  • Devastating Victorian bush fires
  • Global financial crisis
  • Climate change
  • Rapid fall of Tiger Woods and a myriad of local and global dramas our communities faced.
On the other hand we saw the rise and rise of social media, the continued dedication of volunteers and the passion and persuasion of communicators doing campaigns and projects that truly make a difference for the rest of us.

Thanks for reading Traffic on Maine in 2009 and for those I encountered during workshops, seminars and other byways of life ... it was a pleasure to meet you.

Enjoy a safe and happy Christmas season. May you and your family have a well deserved break over the Australian summer and then return refreshed in 2010 to communicate with your community.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rescue at Sea: The Video

Yesterday I witnessed the rescue of stranded yatchsman 400 nautical
miles off the southern tip of New Zealand.

I was on board the US ship Seven Seas Mariner when it diverted course
to rescue a solo sailor from Germany. Heavy seas had battered his
vessel and disabled the steering. He had been drifting for three days
miles from anywhere and his plans for an around the world journey had
come to a potentially life threatening end.

The Mariner launched a small rescue boat which battled rolling waves
to recover the yatchsman. The ship's passengers watched the whole
operation - which I can testify - had several very tense moments.

While the operational side was underway, the ship's communications
team were also engaged. Using hand held cameras the Mariner's crew
filmed the complete operation from preliminary planning by the Captain
and his team to a closing interview with the exhausted yatchsman once
safely on board.

Within hours they had cut a broadcast quality video and made it
available to passengers.

It was a great use of video technology to give the Mariner's 700
passengers a glimpse of the story behind what they had witnessed only
hours earlier.

There were very well deserved accolades for the rescue crew and their
seamanship. But I also give a well done to the ship's communicators
for reacting to and using technolgy to tell a story no-one could have

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paris, London and Eden NSW

The 1959 Peter Seller’s movie The Mouse That Roared told the story of a tiny fictitious principality that declared war on America ... and won. Well I just met the marketers that roared. Although they did not go to war they certainly attracted American and other international interest.

Eden, a modestly sized fishing town on the coast in southern NSW town has a marketing program in place to attract cruise ships. It is an attempt to broaden out the economy which has been affected by changes in the local fishing and timber industry in recent years.

The town must have a very capable marketing team. They recently managed to attract the Regent Line’s luxury ship, the Seven Seas Mariner, to drop anchor in Eden’s scenic Two Fold Bay. Nearly 700 American, British and other passengers spilled onto the town‘s only main street to browse in local and nearby attractions.

Many shops in the town dressed up with banners and balloons to welcome the tourists who hailed from mega cultural hubs like New York, San Francisco and London. The local services club – which looks like almost every other service club in rural Australia had a sign out welcoming the passengers and volunteers were on hand in themed T-shirts and caps to help people make the most out of their short stay.

Nowadays we often hear how regional Australia is struggling particularly in the drought. It is great to see a plucky small-ish centre going toe to toe with the big cities to bring in tourist dollars.

Well done to the marketers of Eden.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How people use Twitter

I'm often asked how organisations can use Twitter to share information with people they need to reach.

Here is a very short presentation on how some of the people I follow communicate through Twitter ...from retail to public safety. And here's the who's who of Twitters in Australian Governments.

Please check out my simple SlideShare Presentation:

Friday, October 30, 2009

10 Steps To Engaging Communities

In recent weeks I have been working on a major conservation project which is in response to climate change. It is as much about people and communities as it is about science and data.

No matter how compelling or frightening the data may be, governments still need to convince people they need to act in the face of challenging circumstances. This means consulting them, getting their input and then fashioning a response individuals, communities, business, government and others can act on.

Often community consultation involves a series of inter-locking steps:
  • Identifying stakeholders and individuals who wield influence
  • Identifying local attitudes, aspirations and concerns
  • Helping those affected understand what it is proposed, how it will improve things and when things begin to happen
  • Providing opportunities for community feedback and involvement throughout the project
  • Keeping people, especially key people, continually informed
  • Incorporating feedback into planning and subsequent actions and, as importantly, telling people you have done so
  • Communicating milestones and outcomes
  • Simplifying communications yet providing access to detailed data if people want it
  • Frankly acknowledging setbacks and disappointments
  • If people have to change behaviours, providing information when they need it and how they need it and offering ongoing encouragement
Above all build flexibility and persistence into your own mental mindset.

Things rarely go to plan 100% of the time in community consultation, coalition building and communications. After all we're dealing with people - just like us - and that's just the way it is.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wanted - Visionaries Who Can Communicate: Apply Within

The world community faces tough challenges.

Issues like the global financial crisis, climate change and international terrorism are enormously complex. The threats in each are real and pressing. There are no easy answers and what is needed is a sustained, perhaps even a multi-generational approach to tackling these challenges which cut right across borders.

These problems impact us all , so it is good to remember the simplest way through complexity is clear vision and simple communications.

This past week two visionary communicators have been notable.

On Friday President Obama received the Noble Peace Prize. The award was probably more in recognition for his ability to inspire people and give them hope than for any one achievement this early in his Presidency. Obama is a communicator in his very own class and the power and persuasion of his words resonates beyond Americans to people around the world.

In this past week I came across leading Canadian environmentalist Harvey Locke who talks about the need to think and act on the grandest of scales to protect and strengthen the earth's fragile environment in the face of climate change.

Locke is currently in Australia talking about about his experiences in helping to establish the Yellowstone to Yukon conservation corridor in North America. At 3200km long Yellowstone to Yukon is the largest conservation undertaking of its kind in the world. It literally links landscapes in the western United States and Canada to preserve animals and vegetation. It is shifting conventional thinking beyond saving "small isolated islands" of threatened environments.

Locke speaks simply, persuasively and peppers his views with anecdotes and stories. In his efforts to encourage Canadians and Americans he underpins the conversation with basic but compelling messages:

  • Firstly the problems of climate change are so significant, no one person or organisation has the solution. Organisations should stop pretending they have a monopoly on the way ahead. They must paint the grand vision of what could be and allow the rest of us to define our own contribution on how this can be achieved.
  • Locke believes in personalising the story. Or in his case "animalising the story." He talks freely why large a North American conservation corridor is so important to the long term survival of buffalo, grizzly bears and other animals iconic to North America. He has chosen his case studies well to tug at the heartstrings of his listeners.
  • He stresses the need for simple conversations. You can't reasonably expect people to support what they don't understand so he cautions governments and scientists to stop over-complicating the information they provide to the rest of us.
Obama and Locke are people with vision and who communicate it simply and consistently. In their own ways they are powerful examples for the rest of us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Don't Applaud the Death of the Newspaper Just Yet

A few days ago I downloaded some songs from ITunes. It was a quick and cheap transaction and within minutes I was playing selected songs from the 60s. My transaction was easy: in fact probably similar to thousands of other ITunes downloads made each day.

I precisely identified my preferences for music and the Internet delivered exactly what I wanted. And that got me thinking - there may be a downside to all this.

While the Internet is great at delivering information to suit our needs it is not so great at delivering other information which we either should know or possibly might want to know. And that's what makes the Internet so different from newspapers.

By and large our daily or weekly newspapers do a creditable job of sourcing, sifting and presenting a broad selection of news from our communities, states or from around the world. It could be information on politics, business, sports, health or a whole host of other topics. Newspapers lay out a vast array of information and each edition offers us the opportunity to learn something either we did not know or really need to know. And all the time we retain the right to skim straight past anything we don't not fancy.

The Internet on the other hand delivers only what you we ask for. That is its great strength and at the same time a fundamental weakness. By its very specificity it just might fail to introduce us to other material we could benefit from.

Some call this the echo chamber effect. Unless we take very deliberate steps to expose ourselves to contending voices, we stand in danger of seeking out only the information from the Net that supports our opinions and own world view.

This phenomen is nothing new. Research shows many of us choose to get information only from those media outlets that agree with and give voice to our opinions. Perhaps this is just part of the human condition: to hear what we want to hear. But the troubling thing about the Internet is it can silo our information with such cold efficiency.

Some social media commentators delight in predicting the demise of the newspaper. The evidence certainly seems powerful particularly in the USA and more recently here in Australia with the shrinking of Fairfax newsrooms and the iconic Trading Post disappearing from our news stands to morph into an online version.

I am more cautious about whether the predicted death of the newspaper is such a good thing. True they have their shortcomings but without print newspapers do we risk losing the daily opportunity to tune into the broad coverage of community information they provide? News that we can read over coffee, swap, share and circle with a pencil. Or even rip out and stick on the refrigerator door if it is particularly relevant to our lives. And without the traditional newspaper where will those without digital access go?

I'm a great believer in the digital age bringing in a golden age in communications. However let's be careful. We may gain something wonderfully valuable from these new digital platforms but in the process we may lose
something wonderfully valuable as well.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Technology Reducing Face to Face Communications?

A recent US survey of 1000 people found that technology is reducing face to face communications. But it seems personal communications remains the best way to engage people when the going gets tough.

Read Shel Holz's blogpost at

Social Arab Web

Check out this SlideShare Presentation on how the Arab media outlet Al Jazeera uses social media.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fundamentals For Communicating The Really Tough Issues

Recently I've been working on an environmental campaign.

It aims to inform Australians about the need to link landscapes (landscape connectivity) to preserve our vegetation and animal life in the face of climate change. The science behind this concept is complex and often difficult to explain, so the ongoing challenge is to gain public support by providing clear, simple and relevant explanations the layperson can understand and relate to.

So many of the issues our communities face are complex - the global financial crisis, why we are fighting in Afghanistan, improving the health of Indigenous communities etc. Yet if we don't find a compelling and continuing way to tell those stories, public interest - no matter how well intentioned - is likely to drift.

There has never been a better time to be a communicator because we have so many tools available to carry our information. Yet at the same time the communications challenges we manage have rarely been tougher.

I'm hoping that by sticking to four communications fundamentals we can guide our efforts in this current campaign to success:
  • The best way to communicate complexity is through simplicity.
  • The best way to communicate significant change is through stories of the people either affected by or involved in that change. Personalise the policy whenever you can.
  • It's unlikely a single communications channel will reach those you need to engage. Go for redundancy and use as many relevant media as practically possible.
  • And finally ... be persistent. In this age of instant gratification most of us want immediate results. However truly important issues only gain traction over time and it can take even longer for people to move from ingrained attitudes and behaviours.
What do you think the fundamentals are when communicating the really tough issues?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Are We The First Connection Generation?

I have just finished reading the recently published book Connection Generation.

Iggy Pintado, a former IBM and Telstra heavyweight, looks at how Australians are taking to new communication technologies and their impact on our personal and professional lives. The book is a clear, simple read and valuable for those after fresh insights into how people are using social media.

Pintado starts by identifying a number of "connector profiles". These are drawn from his own extensive marketing experience plus personal research he undertook for the book. He claims Australians - and this probably applies to those elsewhere - fall into one of five categories when it comes to using new media:
  • Basic Connectors are people with low levels of technological take-up. They can be any age but are united by their disdain or fear of technology. They need to be thoroughly convinced that new communication platforms can improve things and it often takes a tech-minded family member or friend to guide and encourage them to venture into online media.
  • Passive Connectors have a basic understanding of the new technologies but choose not to make it a priority in their lives. When it comes to online action they observe rather than participate. This is hardly surprising because many people in this category have traditionally consumed passive media such as print, radio and television. In marketing terminology they could be classed as the "late adopters" in the digital era.
  • Selective Connectors understand new communications technologies and use it to share experiences and maintain their family, friendship and business networks. However they stop short of expanding the range of their connections which limits their ability to take advantage of business and other online opportunities.
  • Active Connectors appreciate and use the new technologies to develop and maintain contacts, assertively share their thoughts and routinely use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked-in for commercial and personal benefit. They are the marketing equivalent of "early adopters", people willing to try new things and take on fresh thoughts.
  • And finally there are the Super Connectors. These folks are digitally light years ahead of the rest of us and on the bleeding edge of technology. For them an online life is as fundamental as using running water or electricity.
These categories may define groups but they do not necessarily limit people. It is possible for individuals to move from one group to another as their circumstances and interests change. Perhaps Basic Connectors are the most digitally vulnerable because the trend is for Australians to increasingly go online to connect their lives and that sea change is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.

And what exciting times we live in when initiatives such as the Australian Government's National Broadband Program, the schools laptop program and first stirrings about Government2.0 have the potential to transform us into Australia's first connection generation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Assumption Effect - Never Assume Anything

This morning my wife and I had an interesting conversation.

We were half way through it when we both realised that we were each talking about a completely different issue. No wonder the conversation was not going very far.

In recent months I have been involved with two organisations where the same thing has happened. Senior managers assumed the people they wanted to reach knew what they were talking about. In both cases the intended audiences knew little if anything about the subject.

Both organisations exhibited self referential communications: a symptom which runs along the lines of I know what I mean therefore everyone else must know what I mean.

As communicators it is very easy assume because we have invested time and effort in producing key messages, designing brochures, distributing media releases etc, that people - apart from us - know what we are on about.

There must be some high sounding term in the science of communications to describe this effect. I'm not sure what it is so I simply describe it as the assumption effect and it has probably been the root cause of countless failed PR and marketing campaigns.

Never assume the people you want to reach know what you are talking about until they demonstrate that knowledge. That sounds simple but I wonder how many times your personal or organisational communications have been de-railed by making false assumptions at the outset.

That's why it always pay to market research your audiences, and if the data or observation are not there, never assume they either know or care about what you want to communicate.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Local Government and Social Media

Today I presented at the Local Government Web Network Conference in Sydney on using new digital media platforms in government communications.

Here are some links you might find interesting:

If you are having troubling convincing your elected council officials to try social media, ask them to listen to this podcast of Donna Papacosta interviewing Rob Burton, the 63 year old Mayor of the Canadian city of Oakville.

In this interview Mayor Rob discusses using Twitter, blogs and Facebook to communicate his municipal duties. This is well worth a listen.

Cheers and good luck to all my colleagues in Local Government.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fundamentals for Not Profit Communications

We just finished the 2009 season for our free workshops for not for profit organisations.

Now in its sixth year these sessions offer pro bono marketing advice to volunteers groups, charities and not for profits.

To finish up the 2009 program we asked colleagues in our international PR networks to name the top ten things not for profit organisations must get right when they set out to communicate to their communities.

We got more than ten so here's the list.

Craft a message that resonates and connects. Before embarking on a PR campaign, craft your message. Who you are and who do you help? Do your services overlap with other groups? How is your organization unique and what makes it stand out? People want to know before investing what area of the community you serve. Is it pets, homeless people, the elderly, disabled children, etc? They also want to know that the majority of funds go to the intended programs and recipients.

Find out how to connect emotionally with your target audience. Put a face on the population you serve and tell their story. Describe their situation and how your services have helped them. If you must present a bleak picture be sure to provide a solution. People want to hear positive outcomes to things that affect them and their community so how do your services improve the community's quality of life.

Make your message as personal as possible to the audience you are trying to reach. And the information you are giving them has to be kept simple on the front end. People aren't going to read, or listen to a lot at the outset. Once you get their interest then you can deliver more content. So you have to really target your audience carefully. Tossing out lots of content broadly hoping to catch a few is wasteful in this economy.

Demonstrate the need, show you have a solution and then share your successes.

Listen before you communicate. The good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a very good reason.

The basic motivation factor of "putting something back in to the local community" is a good message. It leads to a sense of achievement and well being for volunteers and a sense of philanthropy for donors. Also promise donors publicity because people like to be seen to be doing good things.

Communications must empathise transparency and accountability. Ensure you report on how the funds you raised are being used and that what you claimed you would do, you actually did.

A lot of not for profits want to start with the tactics first and forget to spend a few minutes asking the questions to make their efforts smarter. So before you communicate, ask what is the purpose of my communications? What is the primary message I want to convey? Who is it designed to reach? What do I want people to do after they hear what I have to say? How will I know I have been successful?

Have I got my logos, images, taglines and spokespersons ready to roll before I start talking?

Understand the media likes conflict. Where there is no conflict or opposing views there is no story. So find a local hero and go for a feature story rather than a news story.

What is your value to the community at large? How many people are using your services, how many are unable to get these services? Where would those folks get services if your organization didn't exist? What would happen to them? And what is your impact on the general community?

Take advantage of third party endorsements in the form of testimonials from clients, favorable media placements, or even simply through the reputations of the people who serve on your board or who volunteer. But please choose them wisely. The best part of this strategy - it's virtually free.

Show the value you provide - the value of your research, the fact you employ real people at all levels, spend your money in the local economy and that you are open to people asking questions and seeing what we do. Wrap those points up in good story telling and tell a story about people who do things. Storytelling is becoming a lost art but you can't lose if you can get a handle on it.

... and my very special thanks to our contributors - Chips Henriss, Kristie Aylett, Karen Miller, Tim Entwisle, Janet Bosserman, Jeff Botti, Mike Spear, Rosanne Gain and Susanne Dupes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Rise and Rise of Twitter

In recent days two reports have been released on Twitter. Both outline why and how organisations can use Twitter to reach the people they need to talk to. Both are simply written and certainly worth a read. Together they reflect the rise and rise of social media in today's communications mix.

Not For Profits Face Tough Marketing Challenges

In July 2009 the Centre for Social Impact, the Fundraising Institute of Australia and PricewaterhouseCooper released Managing in an Uncertain Economy. This 24 page report outlines how Australian not for profits are handling the downturned economy.

It concludes that:

  • Incomes of not for profits are declining but government funding is stable.
  • Incomes are reducing at the same time as costs are rising.
  • 30% of not for profits have taken measures to reduce costs and more plan to do so in the next 12 months.
  • Larger organisations are faring better. Probably because they have more reserves, are better known and so far they have been more proactive in introducing cost saving measures.

The report states that marketing and raising brand awareness will be priority items on the to do lists of many charities and volunteer groups as they head into 2010.
  • Many will put more emphasis on winning government funding so government relations tools and tactics will increasingly feature in their marketing mix.
  • About a third of organisations plan to upgrade their websites and 35% are planning to improve communications with stakeholders.
  • Many are considering collaboration or partnerships with others but very few would consider a merger.
  • There will be a greater call for volunteers as one way to meet increased demand for services as staffing levels either remain static or drop.

The PR and marketing implications from this study are stark.

In the coming year not for profits need to develop and implement simple, cost effective marketing efforts that deliver both dollars and volunteers. That's if they
intend to continue to offer the same level of services their communities have come to expect ... and keep the doors open and the lights on.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fun But Pointless Advertising

I've just come across a very effective viral marketing campaign. It's creative, cleverly executed and finishes with an unusual flourish.

The pomegranate mobile phone video ad shows a mobile device that does everything: as well as the normal phone functions it brews coffee, shows movies and comes with an in-built language translation service.

Sound too good to be too true? Well it is. In fact the ad is a hoax that leads to another online ad promoting the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

There's probably a clever Canadian ad director (dressed in the ad industry's obligatory black jeans and T-shirt uniform) counting clicks to the ad and reporting to clients even Australians have viewed the ad.

Like a lot of advertising today it holds out the promise of one thing but fails to deliver. So how effective is it if it fails to do the real job of promoting Nova Scotia? I might have started out interested in next generation phones but I finished up definitely not interested in Nova Scotia.

At the end of the day, are more people interested in Nova Scotia? If not, what's the point? It is easy to be clever online but it's much harder to be effective and deliver real world results.

Am I being too precious? Should I just sit back and enjoy it? Watch the ad and tell me what you think?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Social Media Musical

I thought you might enjoy this short video.
Is this the world's first social media musical?

And well done to fellow blogger Chris Lake for posting two great sets of presentations.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Get Buy-In Before Crossing the Digital Divide

You are already to use social media in your next marketing venture. The problem is those around you are not supporting your efforts. How do you get buy-in?

At today's Public Sector Marketing Conference in Canberra, two speakers offered practical ideas to help you get others behind your online efforts.

Jason Davey of Bullseye, an Australian Aussie digital marketing firm, suggests to persuade the Boss you should:
  • Detail the data. Successive research reports are showing Australians are increasingly going online for their information. A good start in letting your Boss know the facts and stats would be the latest report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (read here).
  • Educate and immerse the Boss in the social media application you want to use. There is nothing better than getting him or her to test drive the new tool.
  • Pick out a similar organisation (or one the Boss admires) and show how they are successfully using social media.
  • Mock up tweets, blog pages or sites to show how the final product will look. Seeing is believing so try a demonstration.
  • Suggest running a pilot program. The words "pilot" or "trial" can go a long way in removing the corporate fear factor when trying something new. It's a good way to reassure the doubtful as you head into new territory.

My Twitter buddy Diana Mounter from the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW offers practical tips for getting the IT guys on board when you want to introduce social media into your marketing:

  • Develop a relationship with the IT team and get to know their issues before proposing anything too radical.
  • Regular informal discussion is a great way to make sure a new venture starts properly and then stays on track.
  • Talk about your communications needs rather than the technology you want. Chances are your IT guy has other options that could meet your marketing needs better than the one you're suggesting.

The key take-out: build support within your organisation before crossing the digital divide.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sponsorship and Fund Raising Presentation

Go here for our latest fund raising presentation for community groups.

If you have ideas on how not for profits can keep their cash flow going in these uncertain times please share them with others by leaving a comment.


Sponsorship And Small Business

Small businesses often get approached for sponsorship, whether it is for the local sporting team, craft show or another business’s seminar. Although money is tighter this year, no doubt many of you will still be approached and in certain cases utilising sponsorship can be an effective marketing tactic.

Before you decide to be a sponsor consider the following:

Relevance for Your Customers

Choose sponsorships that are relevant to your brand or business and appeal to your current and potential customers. Try not to choose sponsorships that only interest you or a particular employee. It is no use sponsoring the local football team if the players or spectators are not your target market.

What Are You Getting for Your Sponsorship?

Make sure you discuss with the organisation or event organiser how you can maximise your sponsorship dollars and get in writing what exposure your business will receive.
Some questions to ask are:

• Where will my logo, brand or business name appear?
• How and how often will my logo, brand or business name appear?
• Is it an exclusive sponsorship or is it shared with other businesses?
• What additional benefits will I receive for my sponsorship?
• Insist on approving all material featuring your logo.
• What marketing activities are being done to promote the event and the sponsors?
• Will I have access to the customer database?

Check past Sponsorship Results

If there have been past sponsors, ask why they are no longer sponsoring the event or activity and if possible speak to the past sponsor. Although information may be confidential, see if you can access the results that have occurred from past sponsorship deals.

Cost Versus Benefit

Analyse the cost of your sponsorship versus the estimated results you want to achieve. Compare your sponsorship costs to other marketing tactic costs to determine if your money could be better spent on an alternative marketing tactic. For example, if you sponsor a luncheon how many leads do you hope to generate from the sponsorship? Would you generate more leads from a direct mail or email campaign to the same customer base?

Setting a Budget

Set a budget for how much you want to commit to sponsorship. Plan in advance what event, organisations etc you wish to sponsor for the year and stick to your plan.

Tracking Results

Tracking of sponsorship tactics is often difficult due to the wide audience they have the potential to reach. Some ways to track your sponsorship results include:

• Measuring the media exposure from the sponsorship eg. mention of the event and your sponsorship in the local newspaper, on the radio station etc
• New customers that have come from your sponsorship involvement eg. asking customers where they heard about you or undertaking market research which analyses customer recall of where they saw your brand or business name.

Sponsorship can be a great marketing tactic; however it is always wise to work out what it will do for your small business before you commit to spending your valuable marketing dollars.

(I came across the above article recently. I can't remember the author but I'd be very pleased to attribute it fully if it was you and you let me know).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Aussies Are SMS Mad

Telstra's State of the Nation Report released this morning shows Aussies are text message mad:
  • One in three Australians said they choose SMS to communicate major life events – compared to using the phone, email or social networking sites.
  • We are more likely to SMS news of a birth (25%), or a promotion (18%) compared to other major life events.
  • Four in 10 Aussies indicated that they send between 3 and 7 text messages every day to family, friends and their partner respectively.
  • It seems few places are text-free - 34% admitting sending them while at the movies, 21% in a business meeting and 15% whilst attending a funeral, christening or wedding.
We'd love the hear how you are using text messaging in your marketing?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rudd, Turnbull And That Ute

This past few days accusations have been flying around the Australian Parliament about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (or his staff) allegedly using his position to help a friend gain access to government-supplied finance.

The same friend has "lent" Mr Rudd a utility truck (ute) which he uses as a mobile billboard in his Brisbane electorate.

The Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull sees this a a flagrant abuse of Prime Ministerial power while Mr Rudd denies the accusations. An Auditor General's investigation into the matter kicks off shortly but right now it's a case of he said she said.

One PR outcome is certain. Either the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader is likely to emerge with damage to his personal brand.

Mr Rudd has consistently advocated for open and transparent government. If the accusation is proven the Prime Minister's credibility and reputation will take a hit. He will be seen as failing to walk the talk on ministerial accountability and broken a key PR commandment: you can't say one thing then do another.

In the end if Mr Turnbull's charges fail he will be criticised for misleading the public. And many people will wonder why he chose to divert the national attention to a trivial matter and way from key issues such as climate change and an uncertain economy.

Meanwhile the rest of us will watch this issue unfold - mostly in the media - as both men go all out to prove their communications credibility. It's likely to prove a fascinating case study in media relations, reputation management perhaps even crisis communications.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Communications Lessons from Obama's Cairo Speech

This past week President Obama delivered a speech on building bridges between the US and the Muslim world. Immediately after he delivered the speech in Cairo it was posted to the White House and media websites around the world and so far has received warm endorsement in the US and abroad.

Obama is a masterful communicator, perhaps the most effective Presidential orator since Ronald Reagan. Aside from its strategically critical content, the speech was a significant piece of communications and something from which we can all learn as we speak out on behalf of our own organisations:
  • Obama spoke with a keen awareness of his audience - not only the 3000 strong audience at the University of Cairo but to Muslims listening throughout the world. He started by acknowledging the contributions Islam has made to world history and by noting his own personal credentials, namely his childhood experiences in the Muslim world. He established a connection between himself and those listening to him, acutely mindful of the cultural sensitivities that have plagued US - Arab relations in recent years.
  • He outlined how the US and the Arab community might connect better in five specific areas providing examples of how closer cooperation in each might be achieved. The speech had both vision and detail.
  • The speech was simple and clear. It was big on optimism yet at the same time he acknowledged that moving ahead was not going to be easy. So often great communications start by focusing on what brings people together and then identifying the way ahead for resolving the challenges that keep them apart.
Hopefully Obama's aspirations for a safer Middle East will be realised. At least they have started with more empathetic and effective communications than we have seen in a very long time.

Top Aussie PR Blogs And Twittering Journos

This week we are grateful to:
We know how much work goes into starting lists like these so well done Kylie and David.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Travelling To The Communications Pointy End

This past week I have been "Susan Boyled".

Being "Susan Boyled" is the term I'm now using to describe how a person's initial expectations and assumptions can be seriously challenged as they learn more about a situation or a person. It refers to British singer Susan Boyle's first appearance on a UK talent show when she became an overnight sensation.

This past week I have been doing market research for a national PR campaign. I've been observing how staff in two cities deal with customers. I sat in on a number of customer interactions and saw at first hand the level of pre-existing knowledge customers had, and how staff went about explaining what are often complex, sometimes emotional transactions. In all cases I was impressed by the approach taken by the customers and staff I saw.

So this week's experience has reminded me about two valuable communications lessons:
  • Sure, you can read market research studies and speak to management but nothing provides better insights than actually watching "stuff happening on the ground". This is blatantly obvious but how many of us routinely "travel to the communications pointy end" to ensure what we are doing is actually helping our staff and customers.
  • Before this week I made certain assumptions about the websites, brochures and other communications products that support customer interactions. What I saw has now given me the opportunity to pause and review how we communicate complex issues.
As communicators we sometimes lock ourselves into past practice because that's how we have always done something. Or because something has been successful in the past we automatically assume it will work again. Or we may simply lack the energy to tackle management biases and preconceptions. In seeking out convenience we can easily overlook how things have changed ... particularly our customers.

It's always good communications practice, no matter how senior you are, to regularly challenge your own assumptions and the advice you give others. And when challenged by a new approach, refrain from saying "we've tried that before and it didn't work" without reflecting on why an idea may have previously failed and why it might just succeed as circumstances change.

If you often travel to the communications pointy end you'll rarely be "Susan Boyled".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Where Australians Go Online

Last week I attended a presentation by Hitwise Asia Pacific on where Australians go online for information, particularly which government sites they visit.

March 2009 data shows the most popular online destinations for Australians are search engines and social networks. Australia has around 6500 government websites and these account for 2.4% of all Australian online visits - higher than the US (1.7%) and the UK (0.9%).

Federal Government websites account for 60% of all visits, State Government websites accounted for 29.7% visits while
6.2% of visits went to Local Government sites.

In March 2009 the most popular Federal Government websites were:
  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • Centrelink
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Australian Job Search
  • Australian Taxation Office - Tax Agent Portal
The most popular State Government websites were:
  • Victoria Country Fire Authority
  • CityRail
  • Roads and Traffic Authority NSW
  • Better Health Channel
  • Transport Infoline
With the top Local Government sites being:
  • Brisbane City Council
  • Gold Coast City Council
  • City of Sydney.
  • City of Melbourne
As well as their own online efforts, social networks could provide a key opportunity for Governments to share information with Australians. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Wikipedia all ranked in the top 15 websites that Australians visited this past March .

Referrals from social networks sites to government information are up 16.1% in the last 12 months.

Get the full report from Hitwise

The Power of Community Relations

Smart organisations instinctively know their survival is linked to their community. And that long term success depends on their relations with other organisations and individuals in the areas and environments in which they operate.

Those same organisations invest time, money and effort in community relations programs and continually look for ways to link to their communities. Effective community relations can increase their visibility and influence and help their bottom line by fending off unwarranted restrictions or criticisms.

Effective community relations gives them a "license to operate".

The University of Canberra apparently understands the power and importance of community. In the past 12 months it has embarked on a program aimed at drawing it closer to those living in Australia's national capital and the surrounding region.

What's attractive about the University's approach is it is simple and seems to be effective. For example this year the University:

  • Entered a team in the Mothers Day Breast Cancer Walk joining around 4000 locals to raise awareness of this critical women's health issue. The team's brilliant orange T shirts announced their presence and the University won the award for the education institution making the biggest contribution on Mothers Day to the cause in Canberra.
  • Is sponsoring (for the second year running) a competition to encourage the development of young Canberra film makers in their final year of school. Run in conjunction with the Tuggeranong Arts Centre the sponsorship connects the University to local schools and, importantly to influential personalities in Canberra's arts community.
  • Has established a Canberra Award to acknowledge students who undertake an active program of personal development over the course of their university studies. Through the award students develop their skills by a combination of academic work, paid work experience or voluntary participation in community activities. At graduation they get a certificate of achievement which in today's tough employment market could be just the thing to make them stand out from other job seekers.
The community relations program seems to be cutting through. Along with vigorous marketing efforts, this year both the University's domestic and international students enrolments are well up.

(Disclosure: My partner works at the University of Canberra)
Publish Post

Monday, May 4, 2009

Marketing Starts Inside the Organization

Recently we came across this marketing presentation which provides a clear overview of the fundamentals of marketing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Branding, Culture and Communications

In our workshops for not for profit groups, we cover the relationship of organisational culture, communicating with staff and branding. And we show how all three intersect to present your image to the world.

We came across this very good blogpost on branding and internal culture which is worth a read.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Manage Social Media Before It Manages You

In the past few weeks we've been helping an agency to pull together a social media policy. The intent is to come up with a simple document to guide staff on how and when to respond and contribute to social media when they're on company time.

And last week Australia's biggest telco,Telstra, announced a social media policy for its employees.

With more and more people communicating online, and brands increasingly finding themselves mentioned on Twitter, Facebook etc, organisations interested in protecting their brand need guidelines on how to manage these digital discussions.

We base our approach around a few fundamentals we hope are easy to understand and easy to apply.

  • Organisations should be clear about who can represent their brand on social media platforms. Can all staff take part or only designated people. When first starting out ask yourself do you want everybody involved? Or is it better to limit participation to say staff with communications or client service responsibilities? At least initially.
  • It is in your organisation's interests to ensure the people who represent your online interests have personal profiles on Facebook and other sites that are consistent with what you expect from your spokespersons.
  • Google never forgets. Staff need to be careful about what they post online. Materiel destined for online audiences must be accurate and respect commercial in confidence, privacy, copyright, trademark and other requirements. It will be an art finding the balance between speed and accuracy.
  • It can be tempting to respond with sarcasm, fury or even be condescending when commenting on online information you think is misguided, plain wrong or mischievous. Online conversations are easily inflamed so remind staff to keep conversations professional and to the point.
Social media is not going to go away. Nor do I think will it completely replace more traditional communications.

Now is the time to learn how to learn to manage social media before it manages you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Communications Lessons From Susan Boyle

A middle aged woman from a Scottish village looking very much like the lady next door stuns a TV audience with her angelic voice. Her story captures the mainstream media and sweeps through the online world.

With 25 million YouTube hits and nearly a half million new friends on Facebook people everywhere are applauding Susan Boyle's entry into the singing world. In the coming weeks her success on that UK Talent Show may well continue to be a hot media topic and win her even more digital endorsement.

Ms Boyle's fame may be short lived. As easily as the media is jumping aboard her bandwagon, it could just as easily get off at the next stop. In the ways of instant celebrity she could be into her first minute of Andy Warhol's 15 minute of fame. Or she goes on to fulfill her ambition to sing as a career.

Personally I wish her every success. In this era of often vapid celebrity it's encouraging to see real people recognised for good things and the fact that from apparent ordinariness they can offer us something special.

But Susan Boyle's story is as much about communications as it is about singing.

If Susan hadn't gathered the courage to enter that talent show and risk the potential for failure and ridicule, the world would be ignorant of her great gift. And I'm pretty certain there were those in her Scottish village who predicted her failure even as she set out for London.

Many of us work for organizations, manage our careers or lead our lives in a state of nervous timidity, continually anxious about stepping out to try something new. Susan Boyle's story shows that only by daring to communicate can we achieve the recognition we deserve.

Ms Boyle's story is counter intuitive. Her voice does not match her image. Her "branding" seems all wrong. Perhaps in recent years we have grown too accustomed to style over substance as the media has over-exposed us to the antics of celebrity heiresses, errant footballers, high fliers of finance and others. And yet despite all the coverage and attention those people have received - often at the expense of the worthwhile causes that are the real stuff of our communities - in the end they leave us with little of real value.

Susan's story is about substance elbowing
aside style. And that people, just like those in that initially skeptical London audience, will always stand to applaud the "real thing" when they see it. They just need the opportunity to see it for themselves.

Thanks Ms Boyle for reminding us of two fundamentals of communications. To win
firstly you must dare. And cool always crumbles before character.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Be Clear About Why You Should March In The Social Media Parade

In the past three months I've noticed the interest in social media continues to grow in Australia. The references to Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have increased in mainstream media stories and every communications-related conference now has the almost obligatory social media panel discussion.

Whereas twelve months ago many people were skeptical about the new media, now those same people want to know more about it and how it can help their business.

Social media is certainly an attractive addition to conventional marketing and PR. And given time it may even replace more traditional practices in some areas. But before you join the ranks of the passing social media parade, please take the time to think through what you want to achieve and how best to incorporate the new media into your operations in a planned and sustained way.

Suitable objectives for introducing social media into your communications mix could be:
  • To find out what people are saying online about you and your brand.
  • To correct misunderstandings in on-line conversations and confront errors of fact .
  • To manage your brand's online reputation.
  • To contribute to online communities that share your interests or to form or support such communities.
  • To use social media to proactively share information with individuals and communities online.
  • To contain or reduce the costs of conventional communications.
Undoubtedly there are many other reasons. The point is don't just launch into the new digital spaces because it is topical, trendy or because others are joining the parade.

Before you commit money, time and effort into the new media clearly and specifically articulate your communications objectives and have solid ideas on how you want social media to work for your organisation.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Social Media Moving Beyond Communications to Entertainment

This blogpost by Mitch Joel on how social media is moving beyond communications to entertainment is worth a read.

It seems that not only are we increasingly communicating online, we see social media as a form of entertainment.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Social Media and Local Government

Local Government Focus is a trade publication serving the needs of senior decision makers in councils and shires throughout Australia.

It recently published our thoughts on the current state of play of how Local Governments are embracing social media.

Here is the article.