Thursday, February 26, 2009

Distancing Yourself From Former Clients or Bosses

I came across this Chicago example of a PR agency distancing itself from a former client.

In Rugby League it's a bit like confronting a Kiwi haka.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pick Up The Phone And Share PR

Next time you need to communicate with a dispersed audience, don't forget the humble telephone.

A tele-conference call is a great way to pass highly relevant information to an individual or very specific group of people at the same time.

This past week, as part of a national PR campaign, we hosted PR teleconferences for not for profit groups around the country. We dealt with around 20 community groups around Australia that had recently received a Commonwealth Government grant for grass roots community relations programs.

The tele-workshops were set up to share thoughts on how these organisations could raise community awareness about the important work they plan to do.

The workshops covered media relations, social media and word of mouth marketing and explored how local not for profits could use these three strategies. People representing six to eight organisations took part in each 60 minute call. Keeping the numbers small made for an intimate atmosphere where people could raise issues and offer their thoughts on what works for volunteers and what doesn't.

To provide a focus for discussion we circulated a slide package highlighting key PR and marketing points before each tele-conference. People on the call either printed it off or followed it through their computer.

We conducted six sessions and received very positive feedback. We also found that after some minor technical problems (which Optus promptly fixed) the tele-conferences were easy to set up and manage.

In tight times when funds are limited, the telephone and speaker remain handy and cheap tools that people in different parts of the country can use to share thoughts on PR and marketing.

Judging International Communications

This weekend I'm in Melbourne helping to judge the 2009 Gold Quill entries from the Asia Pacific Region.

The International Association of Business Communicators sponsors the Gold Quills which recognise excellence in communications. This weekend the judging (which is the first level of assessment) will focus on around 80 entries from PR, marketing and other communicators from India, Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand and the Philippines.

Successful entries from
this weekend's judging go through to final review in San Francisco later in the year. The 2009 Gold Quill winners are announced in June 2009.

I'm looking forward to the judging experience. It's always informative to see how organisations in other cultural climates are getting their message to the people they to reach.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recession Proof Your Marketing and PR

We are living through a perilous economic period with lots of talk about budget cuts and job losses. It is a troubling time for communicators facing cuts in their PR budgets and job losses. If you are a corporate, government or not for profit communicator invariably your marketing and PR efforts are under sustained and serious challenge.

It would be nice to able to apply a marketing template and come up with an answer for the future. But we are in unprecedented times. We can only determine the way forward by reviewing the lessons of the past, understanding the changing environment we find ourselves in and applying all our skills, experience and intuition to the current situation. And of course we will all need a little luck.

Let me share some personal thoughts as you set out on the road ahead.

Firstly strip away all the high blown definitions of marketing and PR. Marketing and PR is about talking to your customers, clients or community and helping them meet their needs. Whether you are in a down time or a boom time you can only achieve real results through having a continuing conversation with these people.

Cease the conversation and you cease the relationship

So rule #1 in difficult circumstances is keep the conversation going. US studies dating back to the 1970s show companies that continue to market during tough periods increase their sales not only during the downturn but for up to two years afterwards.

When people slash marketing budgets they are effectively abandoning the conversation with the people that matter most. They leave behind a vacuum which organisations with more active communications often step in and fill.

Marketing in tough times is akin to the effort required by cyclists in the
annual Tour de France road race. At the start every competitor is fresh and ready to win. But as the race enters its mountainous stretches, the individual who puts in the greatest and most sustained uphill effort often sets himself up to win the race.

But while you should continue to communicate it can never be a blind effort. Now more than ever is the time to be strategic and to move forward with serious and sustained intent. This means:
  • Marketing to a simple, well thought plan and not acting on impulse or being paralyzed by fear.
  • Keeping whatever marketing and PR efforts you can in-house. Only bring in outside expertise for absolutely essential tasks you cannot do yourself. Now is the time to skill up your team in those PR and marketing jobs which in better times you may have outsourced.
  • Replacing high cost marketing activities with more accountable options such as structured word of mouth marketing, referral and alliance marketing, direct mail and communicating through digital media. These may be less glamorous than glitzy events, glossy publications and the glories of TV advertising but in the end they are likely to prove more sustainable and will certainly be less expensive.
  • Measuring all your outreach efforts so you can accurately calculate the return on investment (ROI) for each marketing tool you use. Starting now you need hard data to make conscious, well thought out decisions about where your effort and money (now both in short supply) should go.
And above all recognise that consumers, citizens and communities are in the process of redefining their concepts of value. Smaller wallets and lighter purses may mean they hold off longer on new purchases and they are more prone to negotiate. But when they do decide to act, they will be looking for a balance of price, reliability, performance and a sense of safety and confidence in the goods and services they purchase.

So if your marketing has gone missing in action during the recession, there's little hope of convincing them you are the one to meet these fundamental needs.

Without doubt organisations will need guts and persistence to hold their marketing nerve and continue to communicate. But the quality and level of your marketing now could well determine if your organisation makes it to the other side of this recession.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Assumptions Are The Biggest Mistake in PR

Never assume anything when you communicate:
  • Never assume any communications task is easy. Invariably it won't be.
  • Never assume those you work with know what you are doing. They don't. Unless you specifically tell them.
  • Never assume those beyond your organisation have received your information and understood it. Chances are they haven't.
Recently I had a humbling experience.

At the end of a meeting with two key supporters of a particular program, they asked where this program fitted "in the grand scheme of things" and requested simpler explanations of the program that could be passed on to their members. Simple requests but startling statements. I had been dealing with these organisations since 2003. For six years I assumed because I knew, they knew.

PR-wise it was embarrassing. In building our relationships with these key groups, it seems we overlooked three fundamental PR tenets.
  • Always keep key people in organisations that support your program fully informed. In particular make special efforts to let them what is happening in times of significant change. Even if you can't reveal the full story tell them as much as you can.
  • Write your publications and produce your multimedia for others ... not for yourself. Sometimes we becomes so obsessed with how we want our information presented and what senior management will finally approve, we forget to ask if our intended audiences will actually understand our material.
  • And always follow up to see if your material hits the mark. I have worked with organisations where the energy involved in just getting "things out of the door" (often because of cumbersome approval processes) leaves the communications team too exhausted to check their information is received, understood and acted upon.
For organisations with a monopoly on services, funding or information, push down communications might still work. But even then I think those days are numbered.

If like most of us, your organisation competes for the limited time and attention of citizens, consumers or communities, you need to continually engage your audiences with easy to understand and updated information. Or run the real risk of being among the thousands of PR and marketing messages people discard each day.

Is this basic? Yes it is? And I can see some communicators thinking these observations are wasting valuable blog space. But no matter how good we think our PR is, from time to time it's good to challenge ourselves to never assume anything when you communicate with others.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stop Facebook Spam

Is sending media releases through Facebook spam?

I just got a media release on my Facebook page from Australian federal politician, Joe Hockey MP, about the Liberal Party's opposition to the Australian Government's latest Australian economic stimulus package.

I have asked to be removed from Joe's media release distribution list. Otherwise I'm happy to hear what he is up to in his electorate and his general comings and goings in the community.

Is sending a media release to Facebook friends (who you don't know) legitimate communications?

Or is it social media spam?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trust May Be Declining But Still Critical

The executive summary of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer* was released in London last week.

Now in its 10th year the Barometer is a measure of the trust people around the world have in institutions. Not surprisingly in the midst of very difficult times in global markets, trust in business and government is on the decline.

Edelman reports "62% of 25-to-64-year-olds surveyed in 20 countries—say they trust corporations less now than they did a year ago. When it comes to being distrusted, business is not alone. Globally, trust in business, media, and government is half-empty; and trust in
government scores even lower than trust in business".

However not for profit organisations are the most trusted global institutions. Which should encourage those community groups, charities and others that struggle to get attention. State your case clearly and people are likely to respect what you have to say, more so than information from other types of organisations.

But does trust really matter? According to the survey the answer is a resounding "yes":

  • In the past year, 91% of 25-to-64-year-olds around the world indicated they bought a product or service from a company they trusted.
  • 77% refused to buy a product or service from a distrusted company.
  • Being able to trust a company is one of the most important factors in determining a company’s reputation, ranking just below the quality of its products, the treatment of employees and on par with its financial future.
  • Companies seen as responsible are significantly more likely to be supported in their efforts to sell goods and services, pursue changes in local laws, seek preferential treatment or have foreign investors assume a controlling stake in the business.
Trust from stakeholders is one of the most important assets a company can have. It is difficult to define and harder to earn. And paradoxically we most appreciate the value of trust when it is absent. Trust provides the foundation for effective public relations and that's why as communicators we need to be among the leaders in our organisations in continually nurturing and growing it.

The complete report is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

Source of information: Edelman PR

City Provides Internet Tools For Volunteers

In some respects Australia's councils are leading other government agencies in using the Internet to connect citizens.

In an Australian first, the City of Casey in Victoria is establishing an on-line community for groups and individuals who live, work or meet in the municipality.

The Casey Connect project is providing a web-based portal for local groups to help them communicate with members, promote their services and generally link to the wider community.

The City is providing the Internet infrastructure that lets local voluntary organisations create their own web presence, I particularly like the interactive nature of these sites and the list of resources to get people started is impressive - on-line tutorials, user manuals and help guides.

The City of Casey is providing a service few volunteer bodies could afford.