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A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 14 – The Financial Soulmate

Numbers, budgeting and forecasting are not normally the natural domain for PR professionals. However, if you’ve ever worked in an agency there is one thing we certainly know well – timesheets. But is filling out timesheets and billing our services at an hourly rate devaluing the work we do as a profession?

In this episode I speak to Financial Soulmate for creative agencies, Kathryn Williams, about a different approach to pricing: Value Based Pricing.

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

Timesheets are not unique to public relations. They are used by lawyers, accountants and management consultants just to name a few. However, according to Kathryn where we fall down in MarComms is we are generally not left brain enough to record our hours properly and take them seriously. But if this is the way we sell ourselves then it IS very serious.

Kathryn wrote this recent blog on Value Based Pricing that piqued my interest. At its core Value Based Pricing looks at what is the ultimate value of a piece of work for a client. It is about looking at what I am giving not what I am going to do and how long it will take. Instead of tracking hours or widgets you are tracking deliverables.

Timesheets are not necessarily broken, she says, they just need to be managed with respect.

The reliance on timesheets also hides the facts there are many other modes of pricing: time, commission, mark up, and Value Based Pricing would be another.

Value Based Pricing should cover your costs as well as recognise the value you are delivering to the client. Kathryn outlines three steps to implementing a Value Based Pricing approach:

  1. Decide you are going to give Value Based Pricing a go;
  2. Identify the metrics or targets that are meaningful for the client;
  3. Assign a value (a price) to those metrics (this will be based on what will the market bear and your confidence).

Introducing Value Based Pricing has flow on effects across an agency. According to Kathryn a lot more agencies are now also hiring from the top down, staffing up based on demand. This fits with the uber-isation of the workforce where talent moves more often and more freely, particularly in our sector where freelancers are widely available. It becomes much more efficient to staff up from a strong pool of freelancers and that could be local or offshore resources.

Although it has been around for a long time this is very much a new space for many agencies. We are not going to see the end of timesheets, rather it should add and complement to the way we bill and ultimately make agencies more efficient and profitable.

Kathryn gives some great one-liners throughout the podcast, here’s a few of my favourites:

  • We are talking about how a firm manages its most important asset – its people.
  • We continue to give more away and not value ourselves.
  • It is about the ROI and the business outcome – not what we do; but rather what we achieve.
  • There are thousands of dollars a month left on the floor – look for ways to bill that properly or not spend not so long on the job if we have delivered what we promised.
  • Every member of staff should understand the impact of poor timesheets.

In the news this episode a brief discussion on the Public Relations Tech Ecosystem that I released earlier this month.

The technology underpinning the practice of public relations continues to change and evolve and this tool maps the technology ecosystem across 8 different areas of PR practice. It gives practitioners a starting point for what tech tools are out there and I hope it can be shared and added to as this is an area that will continue to evolve and change in coming years.

BLOG: The PR tech ecosystem

Mapping the PR technology landscape

The PR tech toolkit is rapidly changing – from media monitoring to reporting and web analytics, the breadth of tools PR practitioners now need to master is growing exponentially.

As such I am thrilled to launch the Public Relations Tech Ecosystem. Designed specifically for Australian PR practitioners, the ecosystem outlines technology tools across eight core areas of PR practice.

Google Analytics, Factiva and Skype may today be common in everyday practice, but increasingly new tools are appearing to facilitate everything from Video Creation (Shootsta), Social analytics (SimilarWeb) to media engagement (Public Address) and internal collaboration (Slack).

This ecosystem is designed to provide practitioners with a thorough overview of existing and emerging tools designed to support the practice of public relations.

It can be a challenging landscape to navigate but each of these tools is designed to help make the practice of public relations more effective and efficient so the opportunity is for practitioners to embrace the tools that will help achieve this.

The ecosystem will continue to evolve and grow and input is welcome on ones that may be worth adding  

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 13 – modernising media relations

Reports of the death of media relations have been greatly exaggerated.

According to practitioner and entrepreneur, Shane Allison, media relations accounted for 51% of agency revenues in 2018. As such it remains a core skill for PR professionals, but in many ways the way we practice media relations has not evolved from when we used fax machines to reach journalists.

Shane has launched a new platform, Public Address, bringing much needed innovation and technology to improve the practice of media relations and help remove the friction that can exist between PR practitioners and journalists.

Listen here or download on iTunes

In this episode, Shane supports the view of David Skapinker in Smoke Signal episode 8 that there are now more journalists and media outlets than ever before.

As a profession we’ve gone from interacting with 2500 media outlets in 2013 to nearly 5000 media outlets today. In the same time we’ve seen nearly 1000 journalists added to the population of journalists.

As Shane puts it: “You look at that explosion of media outlets you understand why the PR is struggling to meet the needs of journalists. There are so many different titles and outlets that we need to be communicating with, and pitching to, on a daily basis.

“As a result we have never been busier as an industry. The number of people employed in PR has doubled in the last 8 years… We are putting more and more resources to get the same impact as we would have done five years ago with a placement in mainstream media… So the net effect for the PR profession has been declining productivity.”

For Shane, the PR profession has often confused innovation with diversification. So we’ve innovated by diversifying away from media relations – we’ve introduced video, social, content creation, community management among other skills. But, in Shane’s view, that is now holding us back, we need to come back to our core and ask how we innovate in this core skill of media relations.

Shane is excited about what he sees as the imminent golden age of media relations in a time when media relations has never been more valuable for brands  – the process can be improved and evolve but the discipline will remain at the core of what we do.

In the news

Earlier this month I attended the launch of the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. In the news this episode I discuss three of the key findings:

  1. Media is becoming more trusted than ever
  2. Trust in social media as a source of news and information continues to be persistently low, especially in Australia
  3. A trust gap has arisen between men and women – women are less trusting

Take a listen and you can view the full results here.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 12 – Dr Happy

With it being that time of year when we are getting back to work, I thought it would be timely to speak to an expert about how we can stay positive as our holidays quickly fade into the memory.

Who better than Dr Happy! Listen here or download on iTunes

Dr Tim Sharp has two great titles – Dr Happy and Chief Happiness Officer of the Happiness Institute. Tim is an academic, an author, an executive coach, a podcaster and a brand ambassador.

He approaches mental health and wellness from a positive psychology perspective – how can we all thrive and flourish.

The key to happiness is to make it tangible (what is happiness to me) and to have a plan of how you’ll get there (just like losing weight or saving for a holiday).

Hand in hand with happiness comes resilience. Because sh&t happens. No matter how happy you are, in the real world things happen that are outside of your control, and it takes strength to bounce back from these challenges.

The main attributes of resilient people: they keep looking at light at end of tunnel rather than losing hope; they take care of their physical health during the difficult times; they are positive; and they have strong relationships and ask for help when they need it.

Organisations can be happy too

One of the myths about happiness is it is just about feeling good; however, meaning and purpose are also important.

For organisations, a sense of purpose is vitally important for attraction, retention and engagement of staff. Research shows those organisations with purpose outperform.

And while Brand Purpose been the PR a buzzword in 2018, Dr Happy provides a timely reminder that  a lot of these concepts have been around a long time – the language changes over the years but the main concepts have been consistent; what we are seeing is stronger research to support these concepts.

And as we await the findings from the Royal Commission into Banking, Dr Tim Sharp’s advice for the banks and other large institutions whose reputation has been impacted – get back to basic principles and values of purpose and trust. And most importantly, make sure the day to day behaviours of the organisation match these values.

The challenge:  whether it’s a small PR firm with 10 staff or a big bank with 30,000 employees, creating cultural change is easier said than done as the reality is more complex than theory.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 11 – Is PR true to label?

Throughout 2018 I’ve had the opportunity to interview a range of interesting people across the PR profession. One question I’ve asked them all is: Does the term public relations adequately describe what we as professionals do today?

The term PR often comes with negative connotations around spin and dishonesty. It is one of the reasons I named this podcast Smoke Signal – as PR is often clouded in mystery and not well understood.

In the final episode of 2018 I bring together responses from across the spectrum.

Listen here or download on iTunes

Some, such as UK pracademic Andy Green, see the writing on the wall for the term “PR” unless we do something about it, and quickly. While others like PR Warrior Trevor Young and HSPR’s Sarah Mason are sticking strong to the old school definition, seeing relations a key word describing what we do.

I tend to agree with the latter, but it is an open debate and one that continues not just locally, but globally.

In the news on this episode of Smoke Signal, I discuss one of the many 2019 outlook pieces out there. This one, by social media monitoring platform Talkwalker, looks at the 12 social media trends that  will impact PR and marketing in 2019.

The rise of data, ongoing technological innovation and dramatic societal changes will be felt in 2019.

Here’s a link to the report and take a listen to the podcast for the trends I found particularly interesting.

*Image attribution © AdobeStock/canbedone

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 10 – A look inside the fast-paced world of consumer PR

In this episode we delve into the world of Consumer PR with Bessie Hassan – Head of PR Australia at finder.com.au.

Listen here or download on iTunes

Finder compares everything from personal loans to pet insurance and Bessie is charged with engaging individuals on a topic that is not always top of mind – finance.

The trick – understanding the readers are just like ‘me’ – they want helpful advice in simple language.

We discuss some of the current buzzwords and what these mean for consumer PR professionals:

  • Content Marketing: Brands need to be targeting audiences from all angles – video, facebook, blogs and the more the better. Experiment, look for ways to reach new audiences in new ways – and those ways are constantly changing.
  • Thought leadership: This means coming out with an opinion but it needs to be genuine. Ultimately, it needs to be something that is different, that is going to change the industry you are working in.
  • Influencer marketing: It needs to again, form part of an integrated approach. You want a genuine relationship that is well aligned and that will work in the long term.
  • Creativity: To stand out you need to not be afraid to try something new.
  • Brand purpose: Once you do have that clear purpose you are becoming a brand that customers and employees are not just buying, but are buying into, and that is how brands move to the next level.
  • Measurement: creating a dashboard of metrics to show how PR is helping to achieve real business goals.

Bessie is an accomplished journalist and also shares some great lessons of her career journey.

In the news this episode I discuss a new report from the University of Southern California Annenberg Centre for Public Relations – the 2019 Relevance Report.

The Report is a compilation of contributed articles from leading industry academics and practitioners. Each article gives a snapshot of a trend or issue that is likely to impact the public relations profession in 2019.

The introduction is cleverly titled Fast Froward, playing on the ongoing pace of change the industry has experienced over the past 12 months. The report states that this change has been driven by five T’s. Technology, transformation, transgression, turmoil, and of course, Trump.

According to USC’s Global Communication Report – a report conducted in conjunction with the Holmes Report and discussed in Episode 3 – 75% of communications professionals believe this dramatic pace of change will continue well into the future.

“As the communications report becomes more complex, PR executives must become more sophisticated. Reading the USC Relevance Report is one way to do that.”

I recommend you download and have a read here

BLOG: You don’t know what its got till its gone…

Trust is a fundamental pillar of society. But it is broken.

Last week I heard a speech by Richard Harris, the anaesthetist who was a central figure in the Thai cave rescue, helping to sedate the stricken boys before they dived into the water to exit the flooded cave.

Here was the ultimate act of trust. These boys, their families, the world, put their trust into the hands of Dr Harris and his peers. And an amazing result, or what most, including Dr Harris, have described as a miracle, was achieved.

But in the age of Trump and fake news, trust, it seems, is broken – trust in media, in governments, and in organisations is at an all-time low.

A Roy Morgan research poll this week found the most trusted brand in Australia is Aldi – a German supermarket chain.

Top 10 trusted brands

Aldi entered Australia in the early 2000s to disrupt the Coles and Woolworths grocery duopoly and has earned this trusted position for the simple reason it does what it says it will – deliver quality products at a lower price by switching big brands for home brands and focusing less on marketing, merchandising and loyalty programs and more on customer satisfaction.

Bunnings, with its lowest prices guaranteed, and ING, delivering simple, straightforward products, and Qantas, with its commitment to safety, service and reliability, all made Roy Morgan’s latest list of the top 10 most trusted brands. They did so by living and breathing their brand promise.

Trust is an interesting concept as it is both rational and emotional. It is something we think but also feel. Why do we believe (or not believe) online reviews? Why are we comfortable with Uber and getting into cars with strangers? Or using Airbnb to rent houses from strangers? Or going on dates with someone we’ve only “met” on an app?

The thing about trust is that it is hard to earn but can be easy to lose. Or put another way, it’s easier to maintain trust than restore it.

Take my brother-in-law, for example. He had his business, home and both cars insured with NRMA and had been a loyal customer for 26 years. He had trusted (as clearly do many Australians, given  NRMA is also among the top 10 most trusted brands) that he was getting a good deal. So he was surprised when he recently got his car insurance renewal from NRMA and it was $200 more expensive than the previous year. A fair hike in anyone’s book.

After calling the NRMA and pleading his case he was told there was nothing it could do, so he rang around and found an alternate car insurance policy for $480 cheaper. That’s right, $480. Suffice to say he won’t be so trusting of NRMA anytime soon.

Trust is earned by not only doing what you say, but doing it consistently and for all. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for our politicians too.

The Roy Morgan survey not only looks at the most trusted brands but also the brands with the largest distrust scores. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the royal commission into banking and financial services and ongoing negative headlines, AMP and the big four banks have some of the biggest distrust scores.

The inaugural Deloitte Trust Index launched this week found that only 20 per cent of Australians believe that banks in general are ethical – that they do what is good, right and fair.

Trust doesn’t discriminate, either. Facebook, among the world’s most valuable brands, is also on this least trusted list. The issues of the past year have hit its brand hard. Privacy and data protection are now at the forefront in the minds of many users.

So why does trust matter? RBA Governor Philip Lowe put it bluntly when he said this week: “Our economy, and our society, works best when there are high levels of trust.”

For organisations, trust is rewarded with loyalty and conversely, Roy Morgan says, distrust can lead to customer churn and loss of market share, and it is a bellwether for an unsustainable future.

The bottom line: if I trust a brand I am more likely to buy it time and time again, and perhaps even more important, recommend it to others. It’s the barbecue effect. And in case your wondering, my wife does our shopping and chooses our insurance. I suppose that means she’s the only one I trust.

This article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald / The Age on 25 November 2018.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 9 – Respectful Disrupter

The title on Alan VanderMolen’s bio is Respectful Disrupter – in his words, our industry, and the environment in which clients operate, is being greatly disrupted by technology. At the same time, we’ve seen the massive disruption in the media ecosystem. So in that environment, Alan’s role at WE Communication is to disrupt the agency’s business model to make sure it is keeping pace with the external environment.

Alan was in Australia recently to launch WE Communications second global Brands in Motion research.

Listen here or download on iTunes

The research challenges the traditional concept of brand perception as a static indicator, by arguing that all brands are constantly in motion – either driven by, or inspired by, technology.

In this episode, Alan, takes us through a few of the key findings:

Consumers still want a high level of innovation. However, given real concerns about data security consumers are getting nervous about the pace of innovation and now expect brands to use technology and innovate ethically and responsibly

Consumers and B2B decision makers are defaulting to rationality. That is, show me, prove it, versus tell me. Consumers have become increasingly weary of being talked to, and marketed at, and want to be engaged with.

Consumers have become binary. They tend to love you or loathe you, there is not a lot of in between and that has been a big change over the last 12 months. In this environment, it is more difficult for brands to be consistently loved.

On the hot topic of brand purpose, 72% of respondents think it is important for brands to take a stand on important issues. There is a nuance to that – the brand has to have permission to take that stand. Permission is given by having a good product or service from an organisation that is operating ethically and responsibly – then consumers are  very interested in the brand having a purpose. In other words, brands need to start with do – do what they say will do; move to the how – act in a way that meets community expectations; and then end with the why – the broader purpose of the business.

So what it means for PR professionals? For Alan, this represents a call to action for PR professionals to take responsibility for the moral and ethical behaviour of brands and not just be focused on promoting products and services.

Beyond the research Alan believes the future for the profession is a positive one. As issues become more real time and more transparent, the communications function will re-establish itself in the C-Suite. We’ve seen communications subsumed to marketing in the past three to five years but that trend is reversing. Alan believes you will see communication re-emerge primarily because there is a massive call for responsibility and ethics to be embedded in innovation and that is clearly the domain of PR versus marketing.

In the news this episode, I share another survey that follows on from Brands in Motion. Global Creative Agency Future Brand recently released the 2018 Future Brand Index .

The Index looks at the world’s 100 largest companies and ranks by brand perception two key trends to emerge:

  1. A strong corporate purpose and better experiences are key to those brands who outperformed; and
  2. Surprisingly it is not necessarily the ”new era” brands of Apple, Amazon or Netflix that dominate the rankings.

Actually this year it was Walt Disney Company that ranked number one in the company – despite being the 51st largest company in terms of market capitalisation. It proves established companies can cut though even in this time of continuous change and upheaval.

There’s a good Echo Chamber podcast from the Holmes Report featuring Future Brand’s chief strategy officer Jon Tipple, if you want to hear more about the research.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 8 – Insights from the nexus of PR and media

David Skapinker is a Corporate Affairs and media relations specialist having spent his career working  in agency (consumer), in-house (corporate), and today in a self-described tech start-up – having founded the Australian office of Telum Media in 2014.

Telum Media, in David’s words, looks to alleviate the friction between PR professionals and journalists and make that interaction a little smoother. Telum Media also delivers news services covering both the PR and media industry.

It is insights from this this unique viewpoint that David shares in the latest episode of Smoke Signal. Trends, issues and themes we discuss in this episode, include:

  • The number of journalism jobs is actually increasing NOT decreasing. While the big media houses have consolidated and are clearly shrinking; the media industry more broadly is definitely not shrinking, if anything it is growing. Journalism jobs today though are more likely though to be outside the traditional media houses.
  • Never has there been more media. There has never been more content being produced and consumed. The publications that are doing well are the ones that have a well-defined audience that is appealing to advertisers. Relevance is key – geographic or industry – those are the titles that are growing.
  • PR practitioners are being asked to do more than ever. They are being asked to consult on advertising, social and many more areas. There’s just a huge range of skills that PRs have had to pick to up very quickly.
  • The Asia Pacific PR sector are looking far more regionally and far more global than Australian practitioners. PR professionals in Asia are spending a significant portion of time looking at Australian media where Australian PR practitioners aren’t, on the whole, looking at regional media.
  • Measurement: It’s a difficult thing to do and nobody has got it right.

In the news this month, I touch on the rise of brand purpose and the move by Nike to feature controversial American footballer Colin Kaepernick in its latest Dream Crazy campaign.

Brands are increasingly being expected to not just be good corporate citizens but take a position on issues and stand alongside their customers on issues that are important for them.

A recent UK study found that nine out of ten people think businesses should take a stance on societal issues. Specifically hard to crack issues that Government can solve themselves.

Nike certainly has stepped into controversy but the campaign is achieving what it set out to achieve  – it has had impact, reignited an important conversation and set further set Nike in the ultra competitive consumer sector.

Don’t forget to subscribe via my blog or on iTunes – just search for Smoke Signal Podcast.

 

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