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A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal – Measurement and evaluation = strategic communication

This month, in partnership with the Public Relations Institute of Australia, we mark Global PR Measurement Month by speaking with adjunct professor, lecturer, researcher, presenter – Fraser Likely – from his hometown in Ottawa Canada.

PR Measurement and Evaluation with Fraser Likely

Having an industry level discussion to highlight the importance of measurement has never been more critical. According to a recent study into continuing professional development conducted by the Public Relations Institute of Australia, measurement and evaluation is one of the top three priorities for Australia’s professional communicators.

While Fraser Likely is today synonymous with PR measurement and evaluation, for 30 years, while running his own communication management firm, Fraser never spoke about measurement and evaluation. It was simply performance management.

And while the tools, technology and techniques are now more sophisticated, at its heart measurement and evaluation is still all about performance – whether that be of a program, a campaign, a team or an organisation.

Fraser defines seven units of measurement: we can measure a specific communication activity and associated messages; a project or campaign;  programs such as internal comms or issues management; how PR helps the whole organisation achieve its business goals; how organisation do in regard its environment and society around it (CSR or reputation); the performance of individual practitioners; or the overall communication function and what value it has to an organisation.

With measurement and evaluation more sophisticated than ever, the greatest question today is what is the uptake among practitioners? For Fraser, engagement with measurement and evaluation goes hand in hand with the role communications plays in an organisation. Those professional communicators with a seat at the table and part of the strategic management process will look at measurement and evaluation in a much more sophisticated way.

Fraser references a  recent research piece involving 20 Chief Communication Officers, that showed senior practitioners never showed the management team traditional media metrics, social media measurements or web hits for the simple reason this was backward looking intel. What they did was analyse this data to help inform insights for their management – here’s what we’ve learnt, here’s what we know, here’s what we think is going to happen so here is how we should adjust our strategic plan. Using the data to turn it into strategic insight to feed into the management decision-making.

Fraser says in recent years there has also been a more overt distinction made between measurement (effectiveness) and evaluation (value).

Measurement is what we all do. We are using tools and technology to collect and analyse data. What this shows is the effectiveness of our communication efforts. Did we reach who we wanted to reach? What impact did it have? Did it change opinion or behaviour?

Evaluation is more the assessment of value or the merit or worth of the campaign / program / project. It answers questions such as was this valuable for us or not?

Where measurement is objective and quantitative and looks at effectiveness, evaluation is subjective and looks at value. This is how management tend to assess PR programs and departments.

Looking forward, Fraser cites Maturity Models such as the one by AMEC that allows  users to compare and contrast against what you have in place now and best practice to help practitioners improve and further the organisation’s  measurement and evaluation capabilities.

Be sure to checkout the other initiatives on the PRIA website marking Global PR Measurement Month, including a recent webinar: Measurement: Get Serious to be taken Seriously

Mental health and wellbeing in PR: What the research tells us

In the final episode of this special Smoke Signal series on mental health and wellbeing in the PR sector, Sophie Holland shares the latest research and insight coming out of the UK.

Sophie heads up the mental health research team at UK-based insight agency Opinium. Having studied Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, Sophie is dedicated to giving people greater understanding on the topic of mental health so we can more effectively take a preventative rather than a reactive approach.

Opinium recently released a report titled Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing at Work and in a survey of 400 PR professionals in the UK to be released this month, Opinium found:

  • 89% have struggled with their mental health in the last 12 months (that includes stress, anxiety, feeling low / down, panic attacks, exhaustion/ burnout, stress, other mental health problems), versus 62% in wider worker population
  • Only 31% of those who struggled took any time off work for their mental health (vs. 36% wider worker population). Compared to 63% for physical health (vs. 59% wider worker population).

 Top stresses in PR:

  • Workload (59%)
  • Impending deadline/ targets (45%)
  • Not feeling good at their job (41%)
  • Demands from clients (41%)
  • Poor work-life balance (40%)

Promisingly 53% think their employer takes the mental health and wellbeing of their employees seriously (vs 44% in wider worker population).

To help employers address mental health and wellbeing of their employees, Opinium has launched a workplace audit that is academically robust and gives a tailored approach to give both actionable insights and a benchmark to assess and compare mental health wellbeing.

We continue hearing the #threewishes from PR leaders from around the world with this episode featuring Mark Worthington from Klareco in Singapore; Kornelia Spodzeieja from  Charles Barker in Germany; Sarah Matthew, Founder of Vibrant Company in the UK; and Michael Pooley, Founder Map Collective.

Mental Health and Wellbeing in PR: Setting minimum standards

“We all have mental health – it is not a thing that only a few people have. It is both good and bad, it’s on a spectrum, everyone will have good days and bad days and we will all be touched by it. And the fact that we are all touched by it, means we need to stop treating it like a taboo subject and be able to have better conversations to improve mental health in our industry,” Andy Wright.

Andy Wright is co-chair of the Mentally Healthy Change Group – founded by a group of leaders from across the creative, marketing and media sector. Its aim is to de-stigmatise mental health as a topic of discussion and help facilitate the conversation between leaders in the industry and employees.

The Mentally Healthy Change Group evolved from a survey of over 1800 workers across the creative, media and marketing sectors – the biggest study ever done into mental health in the sector – which found 56% were displaying mild to severe levels of depression and 55% were displaying mild to severe levels of anxiety.

To help set the sector on the right path,  the Healthy Change Group recently released a set of minimum standards to put a line in the sand. Since being launched, 45 businesses and agencies have signed up – including Facebook, Edelman and Havas to name a few. In our discussion, Andy describes the goal of the minimum standards as two- fold – to bring the topic of mental health front of mind for employers and a framework for employees to raise issues if they feel they are not being delivered on.

Andy shares his three for the media, creative and marketing sector:

  1. A lot of businesses will say their people are their most important asset – I wish we would actually believe that and treat them like your most important asset
  2. The industry starts to address some of the systemic issues – the client-agency relationship dynamics and the ways of working that are peculiar to our sector
  3. We can treat mental health like we do mental health – take away the stigma of having a day off because you need to rest or recover, just as if my back is really bad.

In this episode we also the #threewishes from Edelman’s Michelle Hutton; Nicky Young – Group Managing Director of MullenLowe salt; Karen Van Bergan – CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group; Arwa Husain from India’s largest independent PR agency – Adfactors; and Jo Hooper, founder of Mad and Sad Club.

Mental health and wellbeing in PR: Why workplaces are so important

For the past six years I have had the privilege of working closely with the Margo Lydon, CEO of Superfriend – a not for profit workplace mental health and wellbeing organisation that was established by the Superannuation industry.

Margo has been in and around the industry for the past 20 years and when it comes to raising awareness of mental health and wellness I have never met anyone more passionate than Margo.

In this special episode to mark World Mental Health Day this week, Margo shares her insights into why the workplace, all workplaces, are so important in supporting individual’s mental health.

Here are a few of her pearls of wisdom:

  • The sense of belonging that a workplace gives is a really important antidote for mental illness and suicide
  • It is important for mental health to have that connected-ness, and the workplace provides an amazing setting for that to happen
  • Workplaces who invest in creating mentally healthy environments for their people generally experience increased productivity, through increased discretionary effort, engagement and creativity. There is also a direct cost reduction – worker absenteeism, staff turnover and reduced workers compensation among others
  • It is not just about the fruit bowl or the yoga. It is not just a tick a box exercise. Do a stock take, what could we do better and take it from a positive lens – what makes this a great workplace and build on what you already have in place
  • Employers need to understand that investing in this will not just help my business – and there is a genuine business imperative here – it will also absolutely help your people be happy, healthy and thriving – and who wouldn’t want that?  

To raise awareness and provoke discussion of this topic in PR, I have asked senior PR leaders from around the world to share their three wishes when it comes to mental health and wellness. In this episode we hear from: Chris  Savage, James Wright from Red Havas, Angela Scaffidi from Senate SHJ and Robyn Sefiani.

Margo’s #threewishes are:

  1. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others – it is not hard
  2. We have a greater respect for renewal, weekends, downtime, doing nothing and being mindful – the benefit of that is it strengthens your mental health
  3. As society we lean into people who are experiencing a mental illness

Mental health and wellbeing in PR: What are your three wishes?

To mark World Mental Health Day, I am thrilled to launch the first in a series of episodes this week discussing the topic of mental health and wellness in the PR sector.

These are the statistics: 1 in 5 Australians workers are suffering a mental health condition in any 12 month period; 45% of the population aged 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime – that is 1 in 2 of us!

To raise awareness and provoke discussion of this topic in PR, I have asked senior PR leaders from around the world to share their three wishes when it comes to mental health and wellness in the PR sector.

In this first episode I speak with UK practitioner Jane Fordham who coined the three wishes concept as a way to get PR leaders to share their three wishes, three tips, three kernals of advice for moving the discussion on mental health forward in a positive way.

Jane, who has held a range of agency roles over the past two decades, including head of people and talent at 150 strong UK agency Golin before more recently striking out as a consultant on all things people, culture and diversity within creative industry and corporate sector, says the topic of mental health in PR cuts across competitor industry divides, different disciplines or different levels.

She admits the success of #threewishes has been both sobering as to how big the need and the challenge is but also empowering with seeing it gathering momentum.

There is no shortage of data showing there is a business imperative to having this discussion. Leaders and cultures that are built around humility, curiosity, empathy a true ability to listen, Jane says, will have happier staff, more engaged staff who are going to be in a better position to deliver outcome for clients.

She references a statistic from Sean Archer – a Harvard psychologist – who has found that your brain at positive, so when you are feel happy, engaged and or well, is 31% more productive than at negative or neutral – who wouldn’t want that?

Jane’s #threewishes are:

  1. Truly listen to your staff and engage on an ongoing basis to have meaningful dialogue
  2. True change requires cultural and behavioural shifts which are not quick and easy
  3. Supporting and training your managers – giving them permission and trusting them to deliver support to your staff

Following in this episode, Ava Lawler – Possibility Partnership; Matt Holmes – Poem; Richard Brett – CEO of OPR; and David Brain – Enero; also share their three wishes.

I first heard the concept when Michelle Hutton spoke at Mumbrella CommsCon earlier this year and thanks to Michelle and Jane for their support in getting this series together.

Be sure to subscribe to hear from other industry leaders in coming days and do also share your views using #threewishes .

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 19 – Unleashing the power of the spoken word

Matthew Gain moved from agency to in house three-and-a-half years ago with a clear goal of working at one of the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google). He wanted to work in a growth industry, to immerse himself in big data and he was a true believer that the future of media was going to be in global digital brands.

He landed at Audible, not in a communications role though, but as country head of the emerging business. Now, as Head of Audible in JAPAC and India, Matthew shares his journey from PR consultant to running a growing technology company across the region, and one that is owned by one of the world’s biggest growth companies – Amazon, no less.

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

Audible’s mission is to unlock the power of the spoken word. It allows people to consume books at times and in places they previously couldn’t – while driving a car, exercising, cooking or cleaning. Matthew notes that 84% of audible users say they still love the smell of books, so Audible is not about replacing physical books, but creating enjoyable entertainment experiences that keep people coming back.

The competition, in Matthew’s view, is not Netflix or other subscription services but time and attention. To grab this attention, Audible is increasingly focusing on original content –working with authors in Australia,  movie stars in Bollywood, actors in off-broadway theatre – creating great experiences that are brought to life for listening first and foremost.

At its core Audible is a data business and this, Matthew says, was one of the steepest learning curves in the move from PR.

“Sometimes I think the data knows more about us than we do ourselves,” Matthew says. “At Audible, the data informs our strategy. Every single person I work with is fluent in data and understand how to use data to inform the decisions they make. It is a huge a part of our day and part of every conversation.”

Matthew describes a future where voice becomes ever more prevalent – we use voice to engage with the devices around us, today’s smart speakers become smarter personal assistants, and the vast majority of people – especially non-english speakers – use voice to interact with the internet and technology.

After three and a half years Matthew says he’s still learning and shares a great anecdote about Audible for Dogs – that is some PR campaigns are just that, for PR, and not necessarily profitable business ventures. It shows you can’t take the PR out of the guy.

In the news this episode I discuss the fallout from a recent article in the UK Guardian that revealed a lobbying firm run by Lynton Crosby – CTF Partners – allegedly built a network of unbranded websites and news pages on facebook for dozens of clients that were reportedly promoted as independent online news sources.

I thought astroturfing was something I’d left behind in the university textbooks but it seems it is alive and well and ti seems has only become more prevalent in the age of social and digital media. With one industry veteran telling the UK’s PR week that astroturfing is “just another tool in the PR box that is widely used.”

This is a story that is worth watching as it evolves.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 18- Postcard from Cannes

The Cannes International Festival of Creativity is the only global stage where so many pieces of our industry come together at one time to celebrate creativity and celebrate what we do as an industry.

Against the sun-soaked backdrop in the South of France, the Cannes Lions are the industry’s premiere awards for creativity. PR in many ways is the new kid on the block but in an age when ”earned creative” is more valuable than ever they are increasingly making their presence felt.

PR stalwart Michelle Hutton this year held the privileged role of President of the PR Jury – a role she describes as a “career highlight” – and in this episode gives us insight into how the jury whittled down close to 2000 entries from 67 countries to six Gold Lions (and excitingly – or perhaps perplexingly – for the first time one that originated from a PR agency!).

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

President of the 2019 Cannes Lions PR Jury Michelle Hutton

Michelle said the Jury came together around three clear guidelines. Firstly they wanted to see campaigns that had PR as an input, not just an output. That is, work that was designed with PR thinking at its core, not just PR that amplified someone else’s creative. Secondly, the work had to have a clear insight that the creative then developed around. Thirdly, it had to have great measurement that looked at not only outputs but the real impact of the campaign.

Michelle said the jury really wanted to not only recognise and reward great work but set benchmarks about where the industry should be going. Some of her favourite campaigns were:  

  • Mums For Safety Campaign created by Sydney’s Houston Group for Lend Lease and took home a Silver Lion
  • #Stopmithania created by Leo Burnett for HDFC Bank in India to encourage blood donations won a Silver Lion
  • The Land of the Free Press by TBWA/Helsinki FInland also took home a Silver Lion for its defence of press freedom

Michelle distills two key takeouts from the festival:

  • There is no doubt that earned creative is winning across the festival. Work that earns the right to be part of the conversation is not just successful in awards but is the type of work that brands need today to be successful. It is yet another proof point that the industry is well placed, this is our time and we should be showing up at the C-Suite to have bigger and broader conversations around how we can protect and promote brands.
  • The brilliant work that stood out was those that used data to underpin earned-centric thinking to identify the insight; to target the audience; to amplify the work; and to measure the impact. So for those looking to future proof our work data and analytics has never been more important.

Michelle said Australia again punched above its weight at the festival and so she is excited to return to Australia later this month when she returns to take the reigns as Edelman’s Australia CEO and Chief Growth Officer for Asia Pacific.

“We have some fabulous talent in Australia and in many respects we have been ahead of the curve for many years and I have no doubt we can continue to do that,” Michelle said.

“Australia is an innovative market and there are many businesses and brands who can take some risks and I think that’s the wonderful opportunity we have – to do things differently and to lead. That is certainly something I will be focusing on in our business.”

In the news this episode I check in with UK pracademic Andy Green in Smoke Signal Episode 5.

At the time, Andy was spearheading what had been coined the Dublin Definition – a grassroots effort to better define and make sense of the world of PR and how communications need to evolve and change to make a difference.

In the 12 months since the Dublin Conversations have continue online and across the world and last week, Andy and his colleagues toured Ireland to share the outcomes. I look at how the conversation has progressed.

And finally, I am also personally thrilled that Smoke Signal has been named one of Feedspot’s top Top 25 PR Podcasts on the web. Thank you for listening. Do rate Smoke Signal on  iTunes or subscribe via the blog.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 17 – The rise and rise of the gig economy

The gig economy – made up of contractors, consultants, and freelancers – has emerged rapidly over recent years. Driven by the move away from traditional employment models – by both employers and employees – and the rise of digital technologies that create marketplaces for talent to be matched with job opportunities.

The side hustle has quickly become the favourite barbeque conversation as people look for opportunities to learn new skills and try new opportunities.

In this episode of Smoke Signal, I speak to Luke Achterstraat, CEO of Commtract – Australia and New Zealand’s first marketplace for professional communicators.

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

The Grattan Institute estimates over 80,000 Australians earn some type of income from a peer to peer platform – be that Uber, AirTasker  or Commtract – in any given month. By 2020 almost 40 per cent of the ASX 200 workplace will be non permanent, in some form consultants or freelancers.

When founded just over two years ago, Commtract hit on what Luke describes as two mega trends: from an organisational perspective there was an increasing restriction on headcount, movement to an agile workforce and the increased demand for talent immediately. Effectively companies needing to do more with less.

The accompanying employee mega trend saw the rise of people seeking autonomy and greater variety in the work they do – especially among experienced professionals who started looking for a “portfolio career”.

Luke talks to an on-demand economy that will only get bigger, with more platforms that become hyper specialized (check out snappr for photographers as a case in point) and a greater focus of community around these platforms.

His advice – whether starting out as a grad or an experienced professional – don’t fear the way the market is moving as it is by no means a new phenomenon. The key is to embrace the opportunity it presents.

In the news this episode  I look at the 2019 Digital News Report – a global study into the issues facing news media that was just released by the Oxford University-aligned Reuters Institute.

The report is based on a survey of over 75,000 people in 38 countries, including 2000 in Australia. Some interesting trends that emerge, include:

  • The level of trust in news continues to fall in all countries with less than half of Australians (44%) trusting news reporting (placing Australia 18/38 countries surveyed).
  • The smartphone is the most popular device in Australia to access news, with 58% of Australians reading news on their smartphone in the past week.
  • Voice-activated smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to grow rapidly – usage in Australia doubled over the past year from 4% to 8% of respondents.
  • Almost a third of Australians actively avoid news . The report posits that this  may be because the world has become a more depressing place, or because the media tends to be relentlessly negative – or most likely a mix of both.
  • Despite a tumultuous 12 months being in the spotlight the ABC remains the most trusted brand with some 40% of Australians getting their news from ABC TV or Radio at least once a week and 22% using ABC online weekly.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 16 – David Brain

In this episode I speak with industry veteran David Brain post the Accenture acquisition of Droga5 – an acquisition by a management consultancy into a creative agency that is of a size and scale that makes it different to what we have seen before.

David Brain uses an apt analogy to describe the competition the PR industry now faces from management consultants who are moving into brand strategy and creative: the PR industry has been training for the past decade to take on the boxing world champion in the weight class above them (creative agencies) but now having stepped into the boxing ring it has found an MMA athlete waiting for us as well.

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

David Brain has worked at some of the largest agencies globally, including 13 years at the world’s largest PR firm, Edelman, where he was a member of its global management Board as well as holding a number of regional CEO roles across Europe and Asia.

He’s recently taken a “step back” and now is on the board of ASX-listed communications network Enero; an advisory Board member of online New Zealand news magazine The Spinoff;  an investor and advisory Board member in start-up Parkable; and is currently launching a new research software Stickybeak.

In a recent blog David described the acquisition of Droga5 an ‘at scale threat’ to creative agencies that marks the end of PR’s brief chance to become a lead brand discipline.

David believes there was a moment in time, that is now closing due to greater competition from management consultants – the likes of Accenture, KPMG, Deloitte –  for PR to get more of the CMO budget (that can be anywhere from ten to twenty times the size of an organisation’s PR budget) by moving into strategy and creative.

That is, rather than falling in behind an idea and “making it famous through earned media”, PR could lead the creative idea from the beginning. But to do this PR agencies now must fight not only against  creative agencies (the boxer) but with acquisitions like Droga5 by Accenture we now face even greater competition by management consultancies (the MMA athlete).

David says: “That is a big fight for our industry to pick and win. There are no doubt individual agencies who can win that battle, but as an industry on mass, I don’t feel we now have the opportunity of being the lead strategy or creative agencies, an area that five or six years ago I thought we could own.”

“We have to be smarter and not go head to head with creative agencies who are more creative and management consultancies who arguably are more strategic from a business standpoint.”

David sees a better ‘on ramp’ to those larger CMO budgets, now being an area that is often dismissed – marketing automation.

The opportunity: marketing automation tools and technology – such as Marketo (purchased by Adobe for $4bn) and HubSpot – that is now more fundamental in how companies are managing their relationships with customers and partners and managing their outreach to prospects and customers.

“At their heart is placing different content in front of different people in different channels – that seems a natural area that PR can play.”

In the news I share my take-outs from the 2019 University of Southern California Annenberg Centre for Public Relations 2019 Global Communications Report which this year is titled PR:Tech.

Timely following the release of my PR Tech Tools Ecosystem, this year’s survey – of more than 1500 PR practitioners and this year for the first time 200 CEOs – focuses specifically the increasing impact of technology on improving (not replacing) the practice of public relations.

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