Blog: The rise and demise of Sir Martin Sorrell

It’s been a month since Sir Martin Sorrel was ousted from the head of the global agency holding group WPP.

He built the world’s largest advertising agency and in the process became an accidental PR mogul, whose empire grew to include some of Australia’s (and the world’s) biggest PR agencies, including Ogilvy, Hill & Knowlton and Burson-Marstellar.

A lot has been written and said over the rise and demise of Sir Martin Sorrell, so here’s five articles that give a good snapshot of one of the most unexpected industry stories this year:

  1. The New Yorker on the rise, reign and fall of Martin Sorrell
  2. Arun Sudhaman and the Holmes Report give a wrap of industry response to the news
  3. An insider’s guide to working with Marin Sorrell
  4. David Brain on Martin Sorrell’s advocacy for agency model
  5. The Wall Street Journal on why WPP may be better off without Martin Sorrell

But it may not be all over yet with the FT reporting Sir Martin Sorrell may ‘start again’.

PODCAST: The PR Warrior

In Episode 3 of Smoke Signal I speak with Trevor Young, a.k.a. the PR Warrior

Listen below or download on iTunes

 

Trevor is well known on the PR circuit, having been a practitioner for over two decades, a regular speaker at industry events, and one of Australia’s earliest PR bloggers and tweeters. His blog, PR Warrior was ranked in the world’s top 100 PR blogs to follow in 2018 (#33).

The lines between PR and content marketing have certainly merged in recent years. In fact, in a recent global PR survey (which I speak more about in the In The News section of this podcast); nearly two-thirds of PR practitioners surveyed believe that in five years the average consumer will not be able to tell the difference between paid, earned and owned media.

In this context Trevor Young talks about the need for brands (and individuals) to embrace content marketing as a way to deeply engage and influence consumers.

Trevor defines content marketing as “strategically creating, publishing and amplifying original content that is of interest, relevance and value to a specific audience with an ultimate goal of influencing a desired outcome.”

He believes it is VITAL (Visibility, Influence, Trust, Advocacy and Leadership) that individuals and brands use the tools that we have available to make a connection with the audiences that are important to you.

Trevor admits today there is a lot of junk content out there but the common denominator among organisations who do it well is passion. They embrace it and have a culture of content in their organisation.

We discuss the different types of content and that while utility-based content (FAQs, informational needs, addressing pain points etc) is useful, and every organisation needs to do that, it is through leadership content where you can really set yourself apart by pushing the boundaries and inspiring people to think differently.

And the biggest mistakes when it comes to content marketing: wanting instant results;  doing things as a campaign (it is not a campaign); and succumbing to pressure to repeatedly talk about your own products and services (follow the 80:20 rule).

You can follow Trevor Young on twitter (@trevoryoung), on LinkedIn or via his blog.

PODCAST: The creativity coach

In this episode Andy Eklund, a.k.a. the Creativity Coach, takes us into the wonderful world of creativity.

Listen now or download on iTunes

According to Andy, who defines business creativity as the act of combining two different ideas in an unusual way to create something unique, useful or new, creativity is one of the most important life skills that everyone should learn. He believes it should also be taught in schools!

Creativity seems and ever more important skill for PR practitioners where creativity is becoming more and more vital as brands look to differentiate themselves and cut through the clutter.

Andy currently runs his own creativity coaching business, having held both in house and agency roles, including Global Creative Director for Burson Marsteller in the 1990’s where he was involved in 4-6 brainstorms a day.

According to Andy brainstorming gets a bad wrap. In reality brainstorming is simply the act of your brain coming up with an idea – whether that’s in a formal team setting or a chat in the hallway.

Some of his tips on brainstorms that he discusses in this podcast are:

  • You need ice breakers to help participants become creative
  • Understand 90/10 rule – it’ll take at least 10 ideas to get one good one
  • To brainstorm in the absence of the audience is a complete waste of time

We also discuss the fact that while creativity is a right side of the brain, it also requires discipline and consistency that is left brain thinking. And relax, creativity can be taught, you just have to really want to learn.

In the news this week we look at what feels like the only story going around – the Facebook Cambridge Analytica controversy. The story has continued to roll on since I wrote this blog and it shows no sign of since Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress to admit guilt and apologise.

There is no doubt a lot more to come on this story but restoring trust will be a key challenge now for Facebook.

If you enjoy this podcast then do be sure to check out Andy’s blog www.andyeklund.com where you can get a lot more tips on creativity.

 

BLOG: You are not the customer you are the product

The Social Network forever engraved Facebook into contemporary pop culture, but its latest controversy is causing many to more deeply consider the personal information they have for a long time been giving away.

cambridge-analytica-facebook

The hits to Facebook’s reputation keep coming thick and fast with Cambridge Analytica data breach being the latest issue in a long list of controversies, some of which include:

The latest crisis has hit Facebook where it hurts most – its share price – and comes at a time when individuals are increasingly realising the importance of data.

While there has been much written about how organisations can benefit from the rise of big data, individuals are equally becoming aware of privacy implications and the value of the personal information they have, to date, freely shared.

The way Mark Zuckerberg handled the latest controversy was a PR lesson in how not to handle a crisis. But that is a story for another day.

The question for Facebook is how it rebuilds trust with users (who are now actually it product if you listen to some). In an age when trust in business, government, media and even more recently sport, is at an all time low, this will be no easy feat.

The #deletefacebook hashtag continues to trend, with big names such as billionare Elon Musk, actor Will Ferrell and numerous brands leading the campaign to stand up against Facebook misusing the personal information of users.

With 2 billion users Facebook its unlikely #deletefacebook will materially impact Facebook’s prominence in our day to day lives but it will be interesting to see how long it can continue to withstand controversies like this that go to the core personal principles of privacy and trust.

PODCAST – Smoke Signal: The global state of public relations

In episode 1 of Smoke Signal we speak with Editor-in-Chief and CEO of the Holmes Report, Arun Sudhaman.

“Bell Pottinger is probably the biggest story that I will cover in my career,” reveals Arun in episode one of Smoke Signal.

The demise of the venerable Bell Pottinger brand was not only the biggest story in the last 12 months but of his whole career, a big call for a journalist who has been covering the PR sector for over a decade.

As well as giving an inside view into the collapse of Bell Pottinger, Arun shares his views on some of the key themes that he’s seeing as major influences impacting the practice of PR globally – the emergence of purpose as a key driver for brands; the increased role of data and analytics in creating and measuring campaigns; and the impact technology now plays in everything we do in PR today.

While the quality of PR campaigns across the globe has never been higher, as seen in awards winners being given globally, Arun believes there still a breadth of work that is “relatively average” that continues to plague the industry.

The cricket loving Arun (he hosts a podcast on this too), also shares his views on the increased presence of creativity; the role of awards in the PR sector; and the rise and rise of crisis management as an important facet in the PR toolkit.

In this episode we also take a look ‘inside the news’ at one of the more bizarre stories of recent times with ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, telling a group of communications professionals that he  “hates journalists and is over mainstream media”.

Enjoy episode one of Smoke Signal.

 

PODCAST – Smoke Signal: Pilot

In this pilot episode of Smoke Signal we kick off the podcast by taking a step outside of the PR bubble and speak with someone who is not in the day to day hustle – my wife Jennifer Cheal.

In this podcast we discuss the origins of Smoke Signal, the changing media landscape, the rise of social media and trust in this day and age of “fake news”.

Enjoy this pilot episode of Smoke Signal.

BLOG: Purpose is now a comms must-have, but it’s got to ring true to label

When it comes to publicising purpose, corporate organisations need to tread carefully in order to appear authentic, writes Paul Cheal, managing director of financial and corporate comms agency Honner.

March 6, 2018

Larry Fink’s annual New Year letter to CEOs received much media attention and emphasised the need for brands to not only generate profit but have a higher social purpose. The note kicked off a debate that has now well and truly hit Australian shores.

According to Fink, the CEO of the world’s largest asset management firm BlackRock: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

For organisations, and in particular financial organisations, this poses many questions around proactively supporting and advocating for societal issues.

Ken Henry, chair of National Australia Bank, picked up this theme in recent weeks saying that businesses must demonstrate a social purpose that drives the way the firm operates. Organisations, he said, need to demonstrate that they are more than just profit.

The most publicised social purpose campaign in recent times was Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s support for marriage equality – for which he received a pie in the face, but ultimately widespread praise.

Social issues don’t necessarily need to be controversial. Richard Branson says the focus at Virgin includes diversity and inclusion, giving back to communities, and many important global environmental and social issues – from climate change to LGBT rights to ending the war on drugs. All worthy causes.

Late last year, Honner worked with Ariel Investments to provide a joint submission to ASIC calling on the regulator to create a platform whereby local banks, investment managers and other financial companies can support financial literacy programs in Australian primary schools.

It is no surprise the rise of social purpose for organisations has grown as the number of gen Y and millennials grow as both employees and customers. More than eight in 10 millennials (81%) expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.

Brands are increasingly responding to this trend.

In a recent interview with the Australian Financial Review, Coca Cola Amatil CEO Alison Watkins said stakeholders expect more than simply short-term profit delivery. “At Coca Cola Amatil, we need to be leaders in reducing obesity and waste. I also recognise that I am responsible and accountable to our shareholders; however, I look at that as a long-term responsibility even though we have some short-term shareholders.”

From a communications perspective, building a consistent message and projecting your organisation’s values builds trust and generates commitment — whether from employees, customers, industry or other stakeholders.

However, the social purpose needs to be true-to-label. It needs to reflect who you are as an organisation and it needs to resonate through your entire organisation. Alan Joyce drove the marriage equality debate from the top down; Virgin’s values flow through all it does; Honner works to educate individuals on financial services every day.

Anything less than an open, transparent and true-to-label approach will be quickly spotted.pexels-photo-207896.jpeg

This blog was first published on Mumbrella.

BLOG: PR more than just media

And it is not flattering to say the least.

One of the interesting findings from the primary research undertaken of senior PR and journalist figures and outlined in the book is more about what PR does that is not seen, than what is visible.

Titled the “Other Invisible Side of PR” by Macnamara, he highlights that the “more invisible element of PR unseen and unrecognised even by journalists” is “PR as Counsellor”.

That is providing  strategic advice to senior management. In fact, Macnamara’s findings reinforce the fact that “much PR is nothing to do with mass media.

You can’t go a day without reading about the changing media landscape. Driven by the rise of online, social, digital, the consumers are now producers (“prosumers”) of news.

The mass media is struggling to transform its business models in response. Crikey.com reported this week that Seven in 10 Australians aged over 18 say they have no intention of paying for online news, according to an Essential polling, saying that mainstream media would need to revert to “content marketing” or “native advertising” to survive.

So too PR needs to adapt – and it is. As this research by Macnamara shows, senior professionals recognise media is still an important channel, but just that, a channel. Not the be all and end all of our profession.

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