Thursday, December 22, 2011

What A Wonderful World!

Enjoy this video and be thankful for all the good things 2011 brought us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Make Stories Part of Your Communications Toolkit

PR people have long known the power of stories to engage the media.  However storytelling is becoming an important tool in corporate communications.  Management fads may come and go but stories still resonate with people - even in the workplace.
Denning's book is a guide to corporate storytelling

I'm currently reading The Leader's Guide to Storytelling by former World Bank executive and Australian author Stephen Denning.  

Denning describes the intrinsic power of stories, the range of stories that can further organisational goals, and how to construct  effective narratives in particular situations.

He identifies a corporate communications catalogue of stories that can be used to:
  • Springboard staff into adopting new practices.
  • Introduce a manager and his or her vision.
  • Communicate an organisation's brand to external audiences. 
  • Transmit culture and values throughout an organisation.
  • Pass along knowledge and highlight the benefits of collaboration.
  • Deliberately set out to counter workplace gossip and rumours.

Stories are the language of the human camp.  They have been around 40 000 years and  continue to be as effective today as they were back then.  They work in our personal lives so we as communicators should borrow their power and make it work for us in our work lives.

Denning's book is good guide to story telling so I'll be blogging highlights and practical tips in future posts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Social Media Can Improve Media Relationships

Social media can improve relationships between journalists and PRs

Mia Pearson of the Canadian Globe and Mail recently blogged about how social media is changing relationships between PR people and journalists. Mia offers good advice, so here is an extract from her article.


Social networking has completely changed the way companies and public relations practitioners engage with media.This evolution of technology has enabled faster communication and, in turn, the news cycle has now become instantaneous. 

This evolution of technology has enabled faster communication and, in turn, the news cycle has now become instantaneous.Many traditional journalists have also become bloggers, using their own social media channels as key communications outlets to share their stories and opinions.

But much more than this, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have created essential forums on which to build greater relationships between PR practitioners and journalists, and more insight in advance about what is being written. 

Smart companies are turning to social media tools to follow, monitor and respond to reporters in more meaningful and targeted ways.We see it happening all the time:

  • Reporters will ask a question on Twitter, seeking expert sources for a particular article they are working on.

  • They will tweet their opinion of how a CEO is doing at a press conference, in real time, before the event is even over. 
  • News updates will be posted as a print story is being written, giving companies insight into the overall tone or angle a reporter will be taking for the story.
This is all valuable insight. And it is works for both sides.

Reporters get better information, more tailored to their beat and readers, and PR professionals get better insight into what the reporter is focusing on.It is better to make your company part of a natural news cycle than try to pitch a story on its own. At the end of the day, reporters are looking to provide great stories to their readers and viewers and the better a PR professional understands what that means, the better the relationship will be over the long term.

Before picking up the phone, or pressing send on an e-mail, here are a few tips on how to ensure your story idea gets noticed by reporters. 

  • Following a journalist on Twitter or Facebook can allow you access to their personal and professional interests, making you more aware of the types of stories they may be interested in covering.This can be an important factor in developing a relationship, as you are able to connect with them on a more personal level and provide story ideas that resonate.
  • In addition to posting links to their stories through social media channels, many journalists post questions or polls for upcoming story content.This can give you an inside track on future story ideas or topics they may be currently researching; you might spot a good fit for your business.
  • Let the journalist know that you can offer assistance – like providing a great quote from your company expert or a unique product for their gift guide round-up.Interact on the social media platforms so your story ideas don’t get lost in e-mail.
  • It can be tricky at the best of times to stay up to date on which outlets or beats a journalist is writing for, but following them on social media will provide you with that insight. Add journalists to your LinkedIn connections and keep an eye on updates indicating changes in media outlets, beats and locations. There can be a lot of movement even within one media outlet, with staff journalists reassigned to cover new topics quickly.
  • Be helpful. If a reporter tweets about needing something for a story, and it is not tied to your company and products, but you have a contact, set it up.Good media relationships are based on trust and value. The more helpful you can be in providing sources and spokespeople when you do not have an agenda, the more receptive a reporter will be to your story ideas when your company has something to say.
Social media is changing the way PR practitioners build relationships and interact with reporters. Pay attention to what they are posting and tweeting. Their time is valuable and, the more targeted and insightful your “pitches are, the more likely your story will get picked up.
Special thanks to Mia and The Globe and Mail

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why Humble Can Work Best In Media Relations

 Recently CNN presenter Soledad O'Brien talked about what she looks for when someone approaches her with a story.  She was speaking at the 2011 Public Relations Society of America International Conference.

O'Brien's most important question is "where is the character" in this story?" Who is the person who best represents the issue? What situation are they in? What challenges do they face?  And how are they rising above their circumstances to break through and succeed?

The veteran CNN journalist points out you might have loads of statistics but the rest of us may find them dry and boring.  For her stories she wants an individual who can put a real face to those facts and figures.

My 20+ years in media relations suggests there is an order of people to choose from when it comes to presenting your issue in the media.

The very best individual you can select is someone you are helping or who benefits from what your organisation does.  They might be a client, a customer or a citizen.  People on the receiving end of your efforts provide authenticity and powerful testimony.  Yet sometimes these individuals may be shy, anxious about privacy or disinclined to be profiled for cultural, religious or other reasons.

Steeping down, the next best person to represent your story in the media is someone from your organisation on the front line directly involved in bringing about change.  It could be a staff member or a volunteer doing something that improves the lot of others, solves a problem or in some way builds a better world. 

For example the most powerful figure to emerge in wartime news reporting can be the "strategic corporal." A junior serviceman or woman, carrying out their mission, can tell you more about the conflict around them, and do it better, than any statesman or diplomat.

The least effective people to represent your cause just might be your boss, CEO or chairman or a politician.  Why should that be so?  Journalists and the public expect authority figures to say good things about their programs. That's their job.  They get paid to do that along with all the privileges of their position.  Besides prominent figures can sometimes muddy an issue and their past deeds, statements or performance can detract from your story.

The take-way from O'Brien's presentation: offer the media a real person. Their situation may be humble but their story is often powerful. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

4Cs To Boost Your PR Career

 It is university graduation time in Australia and a hundreds of PR students across the country are leaving college and looking for their first real job.  It is time for them to set aside the books and begin their professional life in earnest.

Let me share some tips from leading US PR professional Cheryl Proctor Rogers who recently outlined the 4Cs to boost your PR career.  Cheryl was speaking at the Public Relations Society of America Conference in Florida in October. 

#1  Capabilities: You need to set out on a path of continuous self improvement to expand your PR knowledge and skills. You never stop learning in the communications industry.

#2  Careers:  Join networks and professional associations and take advantage of their training programs and opportunities to meet other professionals.  Network, network, network when you first start out and make it a hallmark of your career.

#3   Cabinet:  Presidents and prime ministers have cabinets of trusted advisers so why can't you? Seek out and learn from mentors, advisers, supporters, peers and friends. Draw on their experience to increase your own.

#4   Community:  Volunteer to help out with PR for a not for profit. Your first job may not give you the range of professional opportunities you would like.  Helping a charity is good for the soul and importantly can lead you down different communications avenues.

Good luck if you are just starting your career.  Remember the success of your career will be proportional to your effort, enthusiasm and the generosity of your spirit. Enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Four Principles of Change Communications

 This past week I have been involved in change communications both as sender and receiver. 

As part of a government reference group I'm helping with a report on an environmental issue likely to attract community interest. On the other hand a government agency is proving advice on a significant shift in its tourism strategy to the organisation I'm currently with. 

Quite similar communications principles emerged even though both unfolding situations are very different: 

• You can never give people too much information when your issue affects their interests. People hunger for information if they have a personal stake in the outcome.

• Never assume people know what you know, until they prove otherwise. Your knowledge achieves true value when you share it. 

• Just when you grow tired of giving out information, people are just beginning to understand or recognize your issue. Consistent communications is the hallmark in good change programs.

• It is better to progressively give out information as it comes to hand rather than save everything for a grand announcement. When change is imminent people speculate in the absence of communication . Rumours start and people fill in the gaps with their own theories.  And besides, grand announcements often fail to live up to their expectations. They either diappoint or draw ciriticism if people feel they have not been adequately consulted.

Communicators already know these sentiments, but it was interesting to see them driven home and affirmed in quite different situations over the space of a few days.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pro Bono PR Workshops Hit The Mark

Since 2003 I have conducted free PR workshops for nearly 300 not for profit organisations. The feedback is generally positive and we enjoy supporting those who support their communities.

Volunteering ACT (VACT) mentioned these efforts in its 2010 - 2011 Annual Report.

"....volunteer agencies have benefited greatly from the pro bono series of workshops presented by Bob Crawshaw of Maine Street Marketing.  Feedback from participants in these workshops has been overwhelmingly positive, with ongoing feedback indicating the great value to all agencies concerned.  

All workshops in the series were over subscribed.  
VACT Education extends warm appreciation to Mr Crawshaw for 
his generous and expert contributions."

Throughout the 2011 seminar series it was certainly a great pleasure for me to work with the highly professional and always engaging VACT Education Manager, Roger McFarlane. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

How Often Should You Advertise?

I belong to an online community interested in social marketing.  

This very active group of people generously shares research and experiences on strategies that encourage people to change personal and group behaviour to achieve positive personal, community, environmental or other outcomes.

Recently a forum member asked " there a certain number of times that a consumer needs to be exposed to a message before it leads to a behavior change?"

I do a lot of advertising so the topic captured my attention.  

I was particularly impressed with Linda Brennan's response. Linda is Professor of Advertising at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).  She replied (quoted in full):

"The rule of thumb in advertising is 3 repeats in order for people to remember it. There are some generalisations about this idea that suggest that recall is a good first step in generating attention.

However, behaviour change is not about exposure to the message; it is about engagement with the message. That is, it must be relevant to the audience, accepted and credible, they must have formed some sort of attachment to the ideas embedded in the message/exposure and then they must have actively decided to behave differently. Some time after that comes behaviour and only then if the social ecology (environment) in which they live allows for them to behave differently to previous behaviours.

So, do not over expose your message and hope it will work for you (it won't)."

Someone else highlighted research by Gerard J Tellis of the University of Southern California and his research paper titled Effective Frequency: One Exposure or Three Factors

Advertising can be a powerful weapon to introduce an issue or to reinforce a message, but in this age of communications-saturation it has long since lost favour as a silver bullet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not For Profit PR Podcasts

 This past week we started production with North American broadcaster, Wayne Kelly, on a 10-part podcast series on PR and not for profits

The series is intended for volunteers and staff working in small to medium-size community service organizations.  They are the people who do such great work in our communities and are keen to tell clients, supporters, governments, donors and their towns about what their organisation does.

The series covers:
  • Why marketing is a must for not for profits. 
  • What a simple, 12 month marketing plan looks like. 
  • Three marketing strategies for less than $500 a year. 
  • The power of events for not for profits. 
  • Becoming social media-savvy. 
  • Word of mouth marketing. 
  • Funding, sponsorship and government relations. 
  • Marketing channels such as print and direct marketing. 
  • And the boring but essential things like budgets, timetables, and measurement.
The series will be a companion to our upcoming book PR on a Tiny Budget: How Not For Profits Can Win Attention and, like the book, will be available in the new year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Social Media Revolution 2011

Watch this great video on social media.  

Like a lot of web content it is hard to know if the figures are accurate, but it certainly makes you stop and think about how our digital worlds are changing. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

10 Ways To Judge Speaking Success

I have a dear friend who works for a well known not for profit and speaks to community groups about cancer-related issues.  

Recently she asked me how she could judge her speaking success.  

Your community group may have a speakers program as part of its PR activity.  So how do you measure if speaking to other organisations is worth the time and effort that goes into preparing and delivering such a talk.

Some measures that might help you measure whether your next talk is successful, are:
  • Did you motivate some-one in your audience to do something as a result of listening to you? Did they visit your website, ask for a brochure, call a hot line or come up to you after you finished to register their interest or continue the conversation? 
  • If you had a particular call to action in your presentation, how many people responded?
  • What reaction did you get during your talk? What was the mood in the room?  Were the audience engaged and interested or were they bored and tuned out as you rambled on?
  • How many questions were asked during and after you spoke? The number and nature of questions and comments is often a clear sign if you have engaged your audience.
  • How people collected a brochure, business card or other material you may have brought along and distributed?
  • How many people accessed  your presentation online if you shared it through Slideshare or other  platforms. Or asked you to email them a white paper or more information?
  • Did you receive any feedback a couple of days after the event?
  • Did the organisers feel your presentation was of such value,  they donated funds (if that was the goal of your presentation) or did they invite you back to speak again?
  • Did one speaking opportunity lead to another invitation to present.  I heard you speak at x.  Can you come and speak to our group.
  • Did you speech get reported or were you asked for information for your host's newsletter, website, blog or elsewhere.
These are the effectiveness measures I look: but how do you measure speaking success in your organisation? 

Let's share some ideas.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Social Media Is Not All Wild West

We often hear social media is a bit like the Wild West, full of outlaws where things happen fast and loose. Well, not always.

This past week in the lead up to Remembrance Day in Australia (Veterans Day in the US), the online discount site DealMe carried an offer for a photography course with heavily reduced  tuition prices.  Illustrating the offer was a selection of images taken by the people who run the training.  Among those images was a picture of the Australian War Memorial.

Australians view the Memorial as a special place that honours the men an women who gave their lives in the wartime service of Australia.  So the use of this particular image to advertise a sale - for completely non-related commercial purposes - would be regarded as insensitive by many people.  

The DealMe staff were contacted about the issue, recognised its significance, apologised and within minutes the Memorial image was gone .... off the site.

Internet selling certainly has its rogues gallery, but there are also many decent folks who respect the concerns of others. 

(Disclaimer: I do work for the Australian War Memorial)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Elections And Story Telling

I spent this weekend at a Lions convention in the south west Victorian town of Portland.

Lions is that wonderful organisation that does so much to help families, protect the environment and strengthen communities.

Part of the convention involved electing a new District Governor to lead the 1500 members of local clubs in 2012.

Delegates had to choose between three candidates, each with impressive community experiences over many years.

Each addressed the convention before ballots were cast. Two candidates spoke about the appointments they had held, where they had served etc. The third told a story.

Tapping into Australians' abiding interest in the ANZACS, he spoke of his experiences visiting Gallipoli where Australians had battled opposing Turkish forces in 1915.

In particular he related the story of a Turkish soldier saving the life of an Australian digger. An illustration of humanity cutting across barriers even in war. This image of one man helping another had, and still motivates him in his not for profit work.

The story teller won the election.

Of course there are other reasons why members chose him, but his story telling was certainly a factor in engaging his fellow Lions.

I took it as a small but powerful example of how storytelling can impact not for profits and other organisations but more importantly how it grips people.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Insiders Reveal Ocean City's Best Kept Secrets

The US city of Ocean City is a mid Atlantic seaside destination attracting millions of visitors each year.  But it is in competition with  holiday destinations like nearby Washington DC and Virginia Beach.

Consumers often turn to peer-to-peer advice to help plan their holidays and increasingly these conversations are happening through social media.  That's why the City's PR team has recruited online volunteer ambassadors to help promote Ocean City as a vacation spot.

20 Ocean City Insiders have been chosen to represent the area by spreading positive and valuable online information  to potential visitors. They offer travel advice, suggestions and answer questions on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor, and through a special area on the municipal website.

So far results are impressive:
  • Insiders have provided over 8500 answers to questions posted to the Town website.
  • In four months there were 100,000 unique visits to Insiders sections of
  • There have been hundreds of thousands of impressions to ambassador-posted content.
City merchants support the program and hard working Ocean City tourist staff benefit from having additional online help, which means:
  • Less time spent answering questions.
  • Ensuring the accuracy of answers and reviews that other people post online.
  • Increasing search engine optimization for the City website.
  • Enhancing Ocean City’s online presence.
The program has the hallmarks of a great online campaign - positive user generated content, limited budget and authenticity.  Real people talking passionately about a place they love.

You can download helpful program resources at