Sunday, January 31, 2010

Free PR Workshops in 2010

This year we are running six free PR workshops for not for profit organisations.

They will be jointly run with Volunteering ACT and the Lions Club of Canberra Lake Burley Griffin and go from February to September 2010.

The workshops are open to any registered not for profit body. They are held in Canberra and last between two to four hours each.

  • Workshop #1: Communicating to Community. Develop a 12-month PR plan that costs under $500 to carry out.
  • Workshop #2: Social media for charities and other not for profits. How not for profit groups can use social media to reach the community.
  • Workshop #3: Get Yourself PR Ready. Go behind the scenes to work out PR responsibilities, budgets and time-lines.
  • Workshop #4: Sponsorship and fundraising. Get sponsorships and manage sponsors so they return next year and beyond.
  • Workshop #5: Writing for the media. Learn to write media releases, media alerts and media backgrounders for mainstream and on-line media.
  • Workshop #6: Event planning. Seven steps to holding great events.
We are settling the dates for these sessions with Volunteering ACT and will post dates and other details shortly.

This series follows our previous volunteer PR efforts. Since 2003 over 200 not for profits throughout Australia have attended similar free workshops.

Meanwhile what do you think we should cover in each session?
What information would be the most helpful?
And what other types of workshops would you like to see after this series?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia's Best Storyteller

On Australia Day I spent three hours with Australia's best storyteller.  I learned tales of struggle and war, romance and misfortune, separation and reunion and looked into the love affairs of millions.
I was visiting the Love and War exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra where plain words, imagery and everyday objects tell the wartime stories of Australian men and women.

Since 1922 the Memorial has become Australia's best storyteller.  It preserves the memory of 102 000 Australians who died in conflict through the tales of individual servicemen and women, their families, neighbours, workmates and friends. 

The Memorial is among Australia’s most loved institutions and it is simply impossible to just spend a single hour there because its content is so compelling and absorbs both time and total attention.   

The Memorial is unique for a government agency.  While most departments of state communicate through the formal language of bureaucracy, the Memorial let’s the "average bloke" or as Americans say the "ordinary Joe" become the storyteller.   Their letters, souvenirs, keepsakes and imagery provide personal testimony to past battles.  Today we live in an age of celebrity.  But the Memorial has no celebrities.  The most prized of its spaces is the tomb of a single Unknown Soldier rather than monument to any general or world leader and its most popular sculpture is a man and a donkey.

The Memorial holds a lesson for all communicators. Even the most complex communal stories are best told through the words, experiences and emotions of the individual.

(Disclaimer: I sometimes work on PR programs at the Memorial)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Improve Your PR Productivity

There are number of free software tools on the market to help improve your PR productivity.

The ones I'm currently using are:
  • Evernote to clip and store material from the web including images, websites and documents.
  • Drop Box to share files and folders between desktops, laptops and mobile phones.
  • You Send It to email very large files such as videos and hi-res images.
  • Audio Boo to record an audio file to the web and then distribute it.
  • And of course, Facebook and Twitter to share ideas with other communications professionals.
So what are you using to save time and effort in your communications?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The PR of Climate Change

The threats posed to Earth by a changing climate are real and far reaching. 

So you would think it would be easy to tell people about the problems we face, what part they can play in helping the planet to adjust and then stand back and watch them take action.  If things were only that simple.

The recent Copenhagen Conference showed even governments armed with the latest, most compelling data cannot agree on what should be done. So what hope is there in convincing  Earth's six billion people to act for the common good.

Last month Columbia University's Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions released the Psychology of Climate Change Communications report. Meant for use by governments, scientists and environmental groups, it provides a framework to recognise the barriers to communicating climate change and recommends strategies and tools to convince people to act. These include:
  • Know your audience and appreciate their current level of knowledge about climate change. If there are misconceptions in their mental frameworks, replace these with facts and fresh information.
  • Get your audience's attention. Frame information in a manner that is comfortable for them and talk about the here and now rather than some abstract, imperilling future. People tend to discount environmental (and financial) consequences with every year they are delayed so add immediacy to the conversation and talk about the present.
  • Put the dire global situation into a local context and bring the message close to home.  Most often local leads because people show more concern with events in their neighbourhood than in far-off places. Tap into the desire people have of avoiding losing something and make them aware of the potential for current (as well as future) losses if  we fail to act.
  • Translate scientific data into concrete experiences, avoid using technical jargon and rely on simple language.  The goal for scientists should be to help their fellow citizens to quickly absorb information rather than spend time trying to decipher vocabulary.  Sure there is a place for charts, graphs and carefully worded text but these work far better when supported by vivid imagery, film, real world examples, personal case studies and simple analogies.
  • Avoid overusing emotional appeals.  Continually trying to scare people into action strains  our finite capacity to worry about things.  Our minds concentrate on what concerns us right now and too much long term fear can lead to emotional numbing.
  • Acknowledge the uncertainties surrounding climate change.  People will understand incomplete information better in a group where they have a chance to discuss it rather than as individuals trying to understand an issue alone.
  • Tap into social affiliations. Appeal to the various roles a person plays (parent, farmer etc).  Focus communications on the small group rather than the larger body and use local messengers who are more likely to be listened to than some distant authority.
  • Encourage participation because people are more likely to act if they have had a part in shaping an action.
  • Make it easy to take action.  Give people simple things they can do in the first place  that can build into a more extensive program.  Offer incentives and default options individuals can easily accept. 
The Pyschology of Climate Change Communications is a must read for those involved in environmental issues, community relations and critical social behavioural issues.  

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Community Relations Will Be The Emerging PR Discipline in 2010

In 2010 and beyond our communities will face significant, planet altering issues. And the irony is that right now often we can't even agree on the causes of these issues let alone articulate their solutions.

Climate Change, the Global Financial Crisis, Terrorism and other problems demand an response now. Yet at the same time we know that their solution will involve all of us for generations to come.

That is why in 2010 we are likely to see community relations emerge as a distinct PR discipline similar to how investor relations emerged in the 1990s. Community relations is the art and craft of sharing information and talking to communities to solve problems that affect people with common interests. In the future it will involve:
  • Actively listening to our communities through research, face to face discussion and what people say on social media platforms.
  • Educating people on the key dimensions of issues because the ones we face invariably are complex and have more than one dimension.
  • Presenting a vision for the future with a mix of facts, figures, case studies, projections and other data and communicating with logic and emotion in language and imagery that are easy to grasp.
  • Adjusting corporate behaviours and responses when the wisdom of the crowd, the state of the economy and the health of our planet tells us that things plainly are not working.
  • Persuading our organisations to have the courage to take a leadership position on the tough issues and continuously communicate what we must do with conviction and clarity.
This new breed of community relations is more than assembling media relations, social media, direct marketing and other traditional channels into yet another PR or marketing plan. Rather the new style community relations is likely to involve a whole new way of thinking, strategising, listening and delivering our communications.

Communicators hang on. Not only are the channels we use changing, the philosophy of what we do is about to undergo a tsunami-like shake-up.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010

Happy 2010.

Best of success and every peace to you and your loved ones in the coming year.