Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Media Are Hungry For Pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words

Today our lives are so busy and time poor we rely on images as short cuts to help us process information and make decisions.

Media organisations have a constant appetite for images for their screens, on-line pages and portals.  Even radio station websites cry out for pictures.  That means a not for profit, business or agency that can offer compelling video or digital imagery to communicate its cause increases the likelihood of getting its story told.

Think about the imagery associated with your story before even approaching journalists  You can supply your own photos and video to the media. This can work well with local papers and other small outlets with limited staff, however it rarely satisfies larger media organizations that need broadcast or print quality imagery.  The best approach with them is to set up deliberate opportunities at your event for their news photographers and TV crews to get good pictures.

Good imagery - whether video or photographs – graphically and emotionally depicts what your organisation does.  It might show a client using a service, staff helping someone or some picture-worthy aspect of your operation.  The more emotion an image sends, the more likely the media will use it and the more likely they will report your story.   

Imagery is so important you need to think through about what you can provide and then how you could describe your imagery over the phone to a TV producer or reporter. If you plan to send imagery to a local outlet regularly it is certainly a good investment in time and money to get a commercial photographer to help you or build up your own in-house skills.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What The Royal Wedding Teaches About Events

Today Royals William and Kate get married and the world is abuzz with excitement.

There is nothing like an event to bring people together, get them talking and spread the news.
In this age of disconnected digital conversations, events continue to be a powerful communication tactics.

While most events lack the glam of the Royal wedding, or the celebrity of the Oscars, any event planned well and based on a wow idea is certain to draw attention to your organization.

So put as much thought into how to create buzz as you put into the mechanics of planning your next event.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Automation Poses PR Risk For Qantas

If you recently travelled Qantas from Sydney, you will have used the airline's automated check-in and bag drop services. 

The DIY check-in has been around a while but the self serve bag drop is new. 

Qantas seems hell bent on using automation to contain costs and remain competitive. For example it is cheaper to book a Qantas ticket online than over the phone. Hopefully all this results in better priced travel. 

Of course technology is replacing people in many industries. But is it the best strategy? The more hi-tech our world becomes, the more we crave hi-touch. As humans we want to engage with others when we travel, bank or are otherwise involved in transactions where making errors can cost us. Rightly or wrongly we think dealing with people is less risky than dealing with microchips. 

With the new automated bag drops (which are clumsy to use) aircrews may now be the only Qantas staff most people ever meet. That means the pressure is firmly on hard worked cabin staff to carry forward the company brand. 

In recent times how often have you remarked on improved service when you fly?  Probably not very often. Increasingly air travel is a frustrating experience. Airport parking fees are exorbitant, restrooms are smelly and on planes and terminals you pay high prices for everything including the coffee. 10 years on from September 11 security checks remain onerous. 

By removing people-facing staff, Qantas has embarked on a high risk strategy. How will the cumulative effect  of these changes be seen by customers? Will they be happy dealing with machines or do they prefer the friendly staff for which QANTAS has become rightly famous? The accountants might be happy but the marketers must be holding their breath.

It will be interesting to see the data on Qantas' customer satisfaction levels 12 months from now. My feeling is the new measures will be as popular as going through airport security.

In previous times Australians used to applaud the pilot when the plane landed safely.  However in less than a generation air travel has gone from an experience to a commodity.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Defence In Communications War

If the Australian Defence Force loosened its control over communications it would gain more control over its public image. 

I say this as the Australian Defence Academy is embroiled in a sex scandal which Australia's media is reporting in detail.This latest incident follows a litany of problems with the public image of Defence. These include claims of ongoing equipment cost blow-outs, inappropriate behavior by service personnel, poor maintenance and pay glitches suffered by frontline troops. 

Defence is known for keeping an iron grip on its media relations and communications with the public. This must frustrate the thousands of servicemen and women who perform creditably each day often in tough, tough circumstances. They really deserve to have their efforts recognized. 

Occasionally we learn about their work but mostly it is rare for Australians to meet a serviceman  or woman in the course of a normal year and hear or see what they do. 

I also know a lack of information from Defence has frustrated the generation of journalists I have worked with. 

Australians have a deep affection for their soldiers, sailors, airmen and women stemming from the legend of the ANZACs. So perhaps Defence would be better served sharing their stories in a open, transparent way with rest of us rather than only communicating  when faced with scandal.

Disclaimer: I served 30 plus in the Australian Army including as the Army's first Director of Public Affairs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Selling A City

This past week I have been at the Australian Tourism Exchange. It is the annual gathering where international travel companies come to see what holiday experiences Australia offers global travelers.

Over 1500 Australian companies exhibit in the hope of attracting business. Their brochures are beautiful, their imagery is rich and they offer delegates first class hospitality To exhibit costs money, time and effort. It is an expensive undertaking.

I have been working with a smaller size exhibitor marketing Australia's national capital - Canberra - and its cultural attractions. We don't have the budget to match the efforts of big states and large corporate players. However I'd like to think we compensate by passion for our city and its tourism products And we use the ancient power of the story to sell the City.

While big bucks back the marketing that others do, our promotional efforts are fueled by people, passion and stories. Using that simple but proven mix we hope to strike through the clutter that must swamp international delegates.

It is international marketing on a modest budget: one delegate at a time, one story at a time, one conversion at a time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Write Well And Win Attention

I was in the military for years so I grew up with a stiff, formal and jargon-laden writing style.

I had to change when I entered PR but it took years to bring a more relaxed tone to my writing.

Five things I learned along the way are:

•Always opt for simple language over formal structures and if given the choice select a 25 cent word over a $10 one every time. 25 cent words are the simple words we use in everyday conversation.

• Shorter sentences are punchier sentences. Keep sentences short and certainly to 25 words or less. Sentences with too many words drain the energy from readers.

• Write in the active rather than passive voice. This helps to convey a sense of urgency, impact and energy. Passive language tends to clog up communication.

• Each word and every sentence must justify its existence. Eliminate unnecessary language.

• Get an independent assessment of your writing. I routinely use the Flesch-Kincaid readability tool in Microsoft Word and the UK software, StyleWriter, to rate my writing. And often I will ask someone to review an important piece of work before I send it off.

We are under enormous time pressures these days, so clear writing is at a premium.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Get Content Get Customers: Book Review

Get Content Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett
‘Content is king’ is an old marketing maxim.  According to US authors Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett, content is now the undisputed monarch when it comes to successful marketing.

With so much choice and so little difference between many product and service offerings, the best way to engage and keep customers is to give them valuable information that will enrich their experience with your organisation.

Internet-savy customers look everywhere for information before making their buying decisions.  Selling to them has become more difficult and traditional media channels are less influential.  Pulizzi and Barrett are urging companies to take advantage of new digital technologies to become their own publishing houses and deliver high quality editorial content to the people who matter most – clients and customers. In over 250 pages of delightfully simple to understand language they show the reader how to develop and follow through on a content marketing mindset.

A content-based approach starts with knowing what customers want, similar to traditional marketing.  Who are my customers and what do they need from my product now and in the long-term?  What and when is the best way to engage them are questions that demand better answers than merely reaching in the bottom drawer for another tired advertising schedule. In today’s environment it is totally about ‘them, not me and you.’

Pulizzi and Barrett identify how companies can deliver information straight to customers.  Their communications menu includes websites, on-line forums, social media, e-books, white papers, webcasts, digital magazines, blogs, podcasts, videos, road shows and face to face contact.  Corporate magazines and newsletters get a new lease of life under a content marketing strategy and the authors identify 15 tips to repurpose information from a traditional company magazine to increase the return on investment on each story.  

One of the book’s real strengths is the 15 case studies showing companies in different industries using content marketing to drive sales and increase market share. They include a couple of Australian examples, a rare find in US marketing books. It seems Melbourne-based, website developer Bitemark is using content marketing to create leads and drive sales and giant American manufacturer has strengthened ties to Australian customers through a print and on-line program that bridges business cultures.

Marketing instinctively know the importance of credible information.  Get Content Get Customers shows how to develop that information and deliver it directly to customers to get short and long-term impact.   

Get the book because this is a worthwhile read.