Thursday, November 22, 2012

IABC Directions For 2013

I'm a member of the Canberra Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). A global reaching organisation, IABC helps communicators develop their careers and businesses.

Watch as President Kerbey Meyers and CEO Chris Sorek share IABC's plans for 2013.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Social Media Tactics From Obama and Romney

Watch out Wednesday! 

That's when the US Presidential race is finally over after a year of intense campaigning.  And, when there will be a vast outpouring of analysis on how the successful candidate used social media to support his bid.  

Both the Romney and Obama teams have extensively used social media to engage Americans through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other platforms. Early on they took heed of research showing social media users are more politically active, more issues-oriented, better connected and contribute more money than non-users.  

At least that's the view of David Almacy who spoke on social media in the US Election at the recent PRSA Conference. Almacy a senior executive of Edelman PR and a member of the Republican digital media team at the party's Convention in August, gave an engaging presentation, particularly for the few non-Americans in the audience. 

He believes both parties have used online channels to push out information, take the pulse of voter sentiment and draw people to candidate websites where they are invited to volunteer their time and money. 

What's missing of course is talk about engaging in real dialogue.  It seems minor candidates are more likely to engage in two way conversations than the two major parties, who remained focused on pushing out messages on an almost industrial scale, in the hope of avoiding journalistic filters.

Almacy also noted those participating in social media do not necessarily increase their political knowledge because most of the chatter has amplified traditional media coverage of events and issues.

An August article on the impact of social media on elections in the US publication The Atlantic reached similar conclusions.

Four Ways To Drive Content Marketing

Recently I heard US content guru Lee Odden talk about the power of content marketing.  Lee is the author of 29 Content Marketing Secrets.

The conversation was timely.  Today there are over seven billion connected devices and the number grows each day. A few weeks ago Facebook hit the one billion user mark.  Five years ago could you have imagined so many people communicating from a single grid?

In this age of connectivity we create, consume, publish, interact and transact at will.  

But what exactly do we communicate?  Is there quality in our conversations?

The answer is simple - if your social media horizons are personal.  You share the details of daily life with friends and family.  But a government, business or not for profit can't and won't do that.  Nor can they afford to fall into the trap of using social media as an electronic brochure simply blasting out their stuff. One way, self-centred conversations quickly become tiresome.

You can achieve far more if the content in your social media dialogue is grounded around a few essential basics such as
  • Your audience and their ambition, goals, needs and problems.
  • Stories of people who benefit or are impacted by what you do and stories of frontline staff interacting with others.
  • Your commitment to respond and interact, share information and cop criticism along with compliments
  • Communicating with passion and energy - the qualities which will really make you stand out and stand for something. 
This mirrors our real world conversations that add value to our lives so craft content along these lines and you're bound to succeed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Three PR Lessons from San Francisco

My recent visit to San Francisco for this year's Public Relations Society of America's International Conference was an eye-opener. 

Just as the Bay City led  the 60s with its flower power movement, the convention showed it remains a powerhouse of new ideas.

When 3000 PR-types from across the globe gather, you're bound to meet interesting people and discover good ideas. It's always a buzz tapping into the energy of PRs from all over the world. Akin to having communications jumper leads (or booster cables as Americans call them) wired up to your brain.  

This particular conference  revealed insights and emphasised three themes:  

  • Social media is now baked into every significant piece of marketing and communication.  PRs must be able to strategise, deliver, integrate and evaluate a social media program.  If you can't, then you stamp a sign on your forehead which shouts you have no future in the industry. Bosses expect you to be as adept as social media as you are at writing media releases or staging events. And, there can be no excuses when we are all surrounded by free advice, tips and techniques on the web and PRs willing to share their experiences.
  • A social media crisis can hit at  tweet-speed. And just as quickly it can pass by leaving a trail of busted reputations and broken staff. The risks of doing nothing are too great in a world of instant dialogue. The PR professional is expected to respond quickly which puts a premium on crisis communications skills.  Once the province of specialist communicators, managing crisis communications has now moved to the front row of PR competencies.  
  • Social media is introducing a new era of transparency.  The citizen, customer or client is king and queen and can and will vent frequently and fully.  The social media spotlight penetrates like a miner's lamp further and faster into the back offices and factory floors of government and business. Everyone needs to adapt.  That means HR as well as PR, and also count in the folks in finance, production, distribution and R&D.
If you're not using social media and using it effectively, be confident your competitors are -  to out-organise, out-sell, out-strategise or out-think you. 

While our core business objectives may not have changed, San Fransisco shows the communications landscape around them certainly has. We are going to have to do more in less time.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Talking To Politicans Cost Money

The intersection between money and communications is well known. Those with the dollars have far more communications options than the rest of us.

This is particularly true in political communications, and why fund raising is such an important part in US elections.

In coming days US Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Vice Presidential hopeful Paul Ryan are in Connecticut looking for cash.

They will appear at party fundraisers with hefty price tags. For example the Hartford Courant newspaper reports local Republican supporters will pay $10 000 per person for a round table discussion with Ryan. Attending a reception for him will cost $1000 while a photo with the Vice Presidential nominee will set you back $5 000.

The costs for engaging with the Vice President are similar.

So if you need to talk to the top pollies ahead of the US election, your best chance is to grab the cheque book, start up the limo and head for the mansions where the well heeled gather.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Ultimate Trade Show

Marketers instinctively know the power of events to introduce and promote brands.

The 2012 Antique Fair in Paris ranks among the world's most high end events.

Held in the Grande Palais, exhibitors such as Cartier and Bulgari have transformed this iconic Parisian building into a temple for luxury lines.

High end fashion mix with exquisite jewelry - and that's just what the visitors are wearing. On display are precious stones, antique objects d'art and paintings by famous artists.

The event planning and attention to detail are meticulous. The exhibition area is covered by designer carpet and display stands are architectural pieces in their own right.

The Paris show ranks as one if the world's great events where luxury brands meet the international jet set. But the principles of good planning, clever layout and stylish presentation could apply anywhere.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ironing Pants And Human Rights

You meet a lot of people while ironing pants.

On a recent visit to Geneva I was pressing clothes in a hotel ironing room and sharing iron boards - so to speak - with Hussien from Bahrain.

Hussien was in Geneva as part of a delegation to address the United Nations Human Rights Commission. He passionately outlined his hopes for more democracy and personal liberties in the Gulf States.

Rights we take for granted in the West, including the right to communicate about anything anytime, are not always available in other parts of the world.

I wished Hussein well for his presentation to the world body. And reflected that his presentation would be far more important than any I have ever made in my career.

Sometimes we all need wake up calls to remind us what's really important in life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Marketing Lessons From A Shopping Trolley

A COSTCO store recently opened in Canberra and already has established a loyal customer following.  Locally COSTCO is reinventing grocery shopping like Macdonalds reinvented fast food and The Body Shop redefined buying soap. 

COSTCO at Canberra Airport resembles a factory more than a traditional retail.   Bulk goods are stacked on industrial pallets and there are no signs to guide shoppers.  A first time visitor can easily get lost navigating the wide, unmarked aisles. COSTCO never advertises and apart from a burst of pre- opening publicity, the store never makes the Canberra media.   In fact the whole COSTCO approach to marketing seems counter intuitive.

Yet while Australian stores watch online sales erode profits, Canbera shoppers head to COSTCO for necessities, lifestyle products and the occasional luxury item. And they gladly pay annual fees to do so.

A recent CNBC TV report investigated COSTCO's global marketing which attracts three million customers each day.  The 28 minute program showed consistency, value and surprise play key roles in COSTCO's success. 

COSTCO routinely delivers prices shoppers are willing to pay.  Enormous attention to detail goes into the selection and testing of products and the chain regualry springs a surprise on the shopper.  While most lines revolve around staples (globally COSTCO's meat sales top $4.5 billion each year and toliet paper is a #1 seller) from time to time high- end watches, jewellery and other exclusive items are also on sale. 

The combination of value, consistency and doing the unexpected invites people to talk about their COSTCO experience with passion and keenly recommend it to others.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if others we routinely deal with, used the same highly effectively marketing mix to generate positive word of mouth. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't "Eastwood" Your Next Event

This month is Convention season as both major US political parties select their Presidential candidate for the  November 2012 Election.

Both Democrat and Republican gatherings are traditionally highly orchestrated and tightly run affairs.  So, it was quite the surprise when veteran  actor Clint Eastwood delivered a rambling 12 minute monologue to an empty chair, meant to represent President Obama.

Clint carried out the one-sided conversation with the imaginary leader of the free world (a long lost 60's phrase) that left everyone scratching their head.

It would have only been a few moments into the Eastwood monologue, when folks noticed the Hollywood tough guy was way off script.  The Republican event organizers, stage producers and other hands must have wished the earth would open and just swallow them up - or at least take Clint. The next day audiences of all descriptions- conventioneers and social media and TV audiences - were left wondering what Clint said and who checked what?

Events are a tool of the trade for PR people.  I have organised many in the last 20 years but fortunately never been Eastwooded in such the spectacular way Clint did to the Romney camp.  

I have witnessed the occasional speaker wander so far off their assigned topic, they needed a compass to find their way back to the audience.  And the more senior they are, the greater the potential there is for speakers to ramble and go off course.

If you are organising an event it is always wise to check beforehand: firstly that your scheduled speaker will show up but, more importantly to find out what they plan to say before they say it. So assure yourself the speakers at your next event will complement and not compete with the theme of your gathering.   

It takes diplomacy and persistent to tackle someone senior to find out what their pitch is.   Invariably you have to negotiate through the layers of ever-protective staff who surround VIPs and celebrities. 

But which would you prefer: making sure your speakers will reinforce the theme of your event or stand in the wings watching them Eastwood all your hard work.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blogging Makeover To Sharpen The Edge

It's about time I put the atomic drop on my blogging.

After 20 000 page views and over 250 posts it's time to revamp my blogging style to make it more engaging, useful and a bit edgier.

So far most of the content on this blog has been about "how to" communications tools, tips and tactics. Hopefully folks have found value in this approach.

While I plan to continue to share these types of thoughts, it's time to branch out.

Today we are drowning in oceans of advertising, marketing and PR speak. And the really sad part is most of it is insufferably bad.

Therefore from time to time, as we come across poor communications, we will " call it out."  By the same token we'll also be quick to praise the good work of those who engage us with compelling, persuasive and helpful information.

So watch this space for the normal - we hope useful content - but also join in celebrating and critiquing some of the communications efforts that confront us each week.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Sports Podcasts for Canberra

Justin Barrie shares insights for the new sports podcast series

Australia's national capital, Canberra, is home to many successful sporting leagues and clubs.
In the coming 12 months Sport and Recreation Services, part of the ACT Government, is offering Canberra's sports administrators free workshops to improve club performance in fundraising, marketing, managing volunteers and other key areas.

I'm helping Sport and Recreation Services to produce a four-part podcast series featuring local professionals involved in the workshops.
This morning I talked to Justin Barrie of Canberra-based company Design Managers Australia.  Justin shared insights into why your sports marketing mix needs social media, how clubs and codes can get started and the importance of social media planning. He also offered some interesting observations on social media during the recent London Olympics.

(I'll let you know when the podcasts are available.)  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Planning For Gold Medal PR

It seems the upcoming Olympics have created a local demand for PR skills.

Last week we were approached to provide PR workshops for sporting clubs, codes and large leagues in Australia's national capital.

Here are our early thoughts on the two workshops we are planning to offer. 

Earn Media Coverage for Your Club
A media workshop for small clubs and codes
2 hours

Media coverage is one of the most effective ways your Club or Code can reach people to let them know what you are doing.  This workshop helps Club PR/media officers in smaller organisations attract media attention.  

This is a highly interactive session and covers:

  • The duties of Club PR/media officers.
  • Who are the Canberra media? 
  • The single most important thing you can offer a media organization.
  • Do your homework before approaching the media.
  • Three media products your organization must have.
  • Club spokespersons can be more valuable than gold medal winners.
  • Four ways to go one on one with the media.
  • Helpful resources for your PR/media role.
Boost Your National Profile
Integrated communications for larger leagues
2 hours

This how to workshop is about developing an integrated communications campaign to boost the profile of ACT sporting organisations competing in national leagues.  

A highly interactive session it covers:

·          Why integrated communications is the new black.
·          Working with traditional media beyond the sports reporter in an era of change.
·          Social media: sometimes it should lead, sometimes it should follow.
·          Communications mash-ups for high impact results.
·          Build the right communications infrastructure on a small budget 

Tell us what you think. How could we improve these workshops?