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A deep dive into PR measurement and evaluation with global expert, Jim Macnamara

Why Measurement & Evaluation (and Learning) is critical to your success

Measurement, Evaluation and Learning is how we should be reframing the discussion around metrics in public communication according Jim Macnamara, in a special Measurement Month episode of PR podcast Smoke Signal.

Measurement and Evaluation in the New Normal – Jim Macnamara

Jim Macnamara is a Distinguished Professor of Public Communication in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He is internationally recognised for his research into evaluation of public communication and for his work on organisational listening.
We begin this discussion with a look at Jim’s latest book – released in July this year – Beyond Post-Communication: Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation.

The book challenges the notion that fake news and the rise of distrust on all levels is a result of a “few bad apples” such as Trump, Russian trolls or the power of social media platforms. Rather Jim presents a compelling argument, citing numerous examples in our discussion, to show that in fact professional communicators – PR professionals, government advisers, advertisers and journalists –are as much, if not more, to blame for widespread dissemination of disinformation.

However, the book is not about finger pointing but rather how we move forward as a profession – Jim shares some of his strategies for improving the practice of professional communication.

It is in this context we discuss, Measurement and Evaluation. If we’ve moved into a post communication, post trust world, how does measurement and evaluation need to evolve.

And for Jim, the oft-repeated reasons for not doing rigorous evaluation – lack of budget, lack of time – are simply excuses. To move from being a cost-centre to a value-add centre, we need to show outcomes and business impact. It is also, according to Jim, the key for PR professionals to progress their careers and truly get a “seat at the table”.

It is also why Jim talks more today about M, E & L. Measurement and evaluation is often looking in the review mirror, a process of looking back to justify. Rather, Jim says the emphasis should be more on the learnings – both how can we use these measures to assess how can we improve our programs and campaigns moving forward; and also applying learnings to ourselves and how can we can continually improve measurement and evaluation.

In this discussion, Jim uses two current case studies as examples of how measurement can showcase tangible business outcomes – a review he is leading for the World Health Organisation on its evaluation of communication programs globally and a project he oversaw for global financial services firm Achmea.

While these are large scale projects, Jim recommends practitioners start small, show a result, prove your value and then go back and say we can do more. And once the business sees tangible results they naturally become even more committed to PR and communications.

Jim’s final word of advice for practitioners when it comes to measurement and evaluation: Practitioners need to know research methods from Google Analytics and social media analytics through to surveys. You need to be evidence based – that is what is required by management. Too often in our field we rely on feeling and intuition.

The PRIA Education Community Committee is driving a series of initiatives to mark AMEC’s Measurement Month throughout November. Be sure to visit www.pria.com.au or www.educompria.wordpress.com to see a full list of events.

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Taking a break…

2020 has certainly been a year none of us will ever forget. Fires raged in January and Caronavirus hit our shores in March.

It has impacted everyone and every workplace.

In my view, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further demonstrated the value of PR and communications. This new ‘new normal’ is about building trust not selling, about educating and engaging. That is what we do.

After two years hosting Smoke Signal, I have decided to take a break from the podcast as I look to focus on other passions – managing a growing agency, spending more time with family and keeping up my favourite pastime – running.

I have thoroughly enjoyed building this podcast and speaking to so many interesting people across the PR and marketing spectrum. Thank you to everyone who has been involved.

I also see an increasing number of other sources of news and insight – The Public Relations Institute of Australia has recently held a series of informative webinars and there is fellow PR Podcast TalkTrack with Shane Allison being joined by Mylan Vu this season.

Perhaps down the track I’ll pick the podcast back up. I’ve also recently read some interesting PR books so may post about them from time to time.

Thank you to everyone who listened and engaged with the podcast. I really appreciated the support and interest in what I find the fascinating world of PR.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal – Summer PR Reading List

In the final episode of Smoke Signal for 2019 I share a summer reading list for PR practitioners, speaking to a number of practitioners who have recently – or will soon – become published authors.

Book: Reputation Management: The Future of Corporate Communications and Public Relations

Published: 2019

Author: Tony Langham

One other book you’d recommend a practitioner read: John Doorley and Helio Fred Garcia – Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication (the 4th edition due in 2020)

Published as part of the PRCA Practice Guide Series, the book makes the central case that is in the title – that reputation management is the future of Corporate Communications and Public Relations.

Why?

According to Tony, what organisations need to succeed is a great reputation and while that comes from making good products – Rolex making great watches and Lego making great toys – they can’t have that great reputation unless their behaviour and communication matches.

Tony cites a range of reasons why communication advisers have to start talking about reputation management:

  • Reputation is a topic that is discussed in the boardroom whereas in most cases PR is not
  • You can clearly measure your reputation.
  • You can actively manage it – and this is what the book details.

Book: Content Marketing for PR: How to build brand visibility, influence and trust in today’s social age.

Published: 2019

Author: Trevor Young

One other book you’d recommend a practitioner read: Mark Schaefer – Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins AND Ron Tite – Think. Do. Say: How to Seize Attention and Build Trust in a Busy, Busy World.

This book looks at content marketing through a PR lens and is aimed at anyone struggling to cut through the noise and get a message to market – whether organisations, not for profit, government or thought leaders.

Inspiration for the book came from Trevor’s belief that the content marketing conversation had been hijacked by inbound marketers, and while he accepts that is right for some businesses, it is not right for everyone.

For Trevor, PR should be focused on deepening the level of connection to the people that matter the most to the success of our business, cause or issue – and we now have a myriad of tools to do that more effectively allowing PR and comms professionals to do what they always should have been doing.

In a crowded market, where consumers are not just hyper connected but also hyper empowered, this book aims to give a how to guide to help cut through the noise.

Book: Beliefonomics

Published: Early 2020

Author: Mark Jones

One other book you’d recommend a practitioner read: Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow

Beliefonomics offers what Mark calls the first brand storytelling framework to help organisations unlock the true power of their stories.

Mark explains how we each  see all our decision making through “belief coloured glasses”. At the heart of story is not just a great framework or something that captures you emotionally; but the degree it connects with something deeply fundamentally important to you.

The book features a range of tools to help practitioners to create really compelling stories, each based on three journey’s that underpin strong brand stories:

  • Brand journey: unpacking the story of your organisation
  • Belief journey: a customer’s journey from unbelief to belief in your product, service or sector
  • Channel journey: earned, owned, paid and shared – what is the most effective channel to tell your story

Book: Shot by Both Sides: What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

Published: February 2020

Author: Eaon Pritchard

One other book you’d recommend a practitioner read: Edward O. Wilson – The Origins of Creativity

The genesis of his first book –  Where Did It All Go Wrong: Adventures At the Dunning-Kruger Peak of Advertising  – was an article written in 2015 that resonated and morphed into a book. The basic premise was that the chaotic, conflicting and jargon happy world of advertising had lost its way. Taking a reader’s on a humorous journey of the current state of advertising.

The idea of his second book – Shot By Both Sides – is being stuck in the middle. On one side you have the anti-digital brigade and on the other side are the pure programmatic, adtech people. The reality is the truth is somewhere in the middle but, like current state of politics, it seems very few want to take the middle ground.

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.

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 15 – James Wright’s Red Sky Predictions

Evolving role of influencers, social networks becoming increasingly attentive to their broader role in society, and the continued rise of voice are just a few of the forecast trends discussed in Red Agency’s recently released 2019 Red Sky Predictions Report.

In this episode, Global Chairman of Havas PR Collective and CEO of Havas PR for North America, James Wright, takes us through this look at the top 10 trends predicted to hit the Australian communications landscape in 2019.

Listen here, watch on YouTube or download on iTunes

James is a well-recognised face in the Australian PR landscape, having spearheaded the growth and reputation of the Red Agency. I catchup with James on how he’s found the New York market since landing in January. Apart from the obvious – bloody cold; he shares his experience to date – higher budgets, a much deeper media landscape and bigger businesses.

We then jump into the Red Sky Predictions report which focuses on Australia, but James hopes to take global in the near future. Some of the trends we discuss include:

Social platforms becoming society platforms as they become increasingly mindful of their role in society: There is ever greater pressure on social platforms to take an increased responsibility to monitor and administer public safety: whether in terms of detection of public threats; or health and wellness around screen time; or social bullying and data privacy. And contrary to many media reports, James is already seeing a shift in approach by major social networks, as they move to better ensure they are looking after the huge numbers of people that are on their platforms.

Defining the role of influences: We’ve always had influencers in some way – whether celebrity, a blogger, a journalist. But James explains that today, brands are now using influencer marketing more strategically to drive a brand narrative. James describes the emergence three new categories of influencers – co-creators (work together to co-create a piece of content); distributors (those with access to an audience that you want to reach); and narrators (offer a media appeal outside of social networks; and used in owned media as a trusted brand representative).

Quality journalism to rise again: There will be a continued migration back to trusted information. Newspapers have become brands in themselves and the report predicts 2019 will see a renaissance in investigative journalism as publishers reinvest in the traditional business model that will increasingly attract increasingly larger audiences. And for James, such journalism is a cornerstone of the democratised world in keeping politicians and organisations accountable.

The rise of ‘ears in’ generation: Voice has made a huge impact in the past year.  Everyone today has their headphones in – millennials spend 40 hours a week with their headphones on. At the same time, we are also talking more – not just to each other but to devices – think Alexa. And this is only going to grow as it is only at its infancy.

Check out the report for all 10 predictions for 2019.

In the news this episode I recap on two of the sessions that resonated with me at the recent 2019 Mumbrella CommsCon – the rise of the slow movement and the need for the PR sector to get more serious about mental health and wellness.

BLOG: My lessons from a PR podcast start-up

A decade ago we discovered the simplicity of music streaming with the likes of Spotify. Then came Netflix and the joys of bingeing on TV shows and movies. Today it is the turn of podcasting with Forbes declaring 2019 the year of audio.

In Australia, there are more than 3.5 million regular podcast listeners and those listeners tend to be more affluent. Research shows they spend 39% more than average on cars, 37% more on entertainment and 33% more on holidays.

There’s a podcast for every topic: cooking, crime, comedy. I even recently started my own podcast on public relations. And there’s a podcast for every occasion: commuting, cooking, exercising or driving.

Podcasting hit the headlines in Australia late last year when ABC podcast Trace exposed new information that saw the Victorian Coroner reopen the investigation into the murder of Melbourne bookshop owner Maria James.

There is also a real opportunity for brands to tap into this rising demand and use the unique power of podcasting to connect with highly engaged listeners directly.

Here’s five reasons why organisations should use podcasts as part of their communication mix:

  1. Put a face (or at least a voice) to the brand and tell your story in your own words
  2. Build trust by sharing your knowledge and expertise  
  3. Educate your audiences on themes, issues, opportunities
  4. Access a new touchpoint in the marketing funnel by capturing prospects when and where they want to be reached
  5. Create branded content that drives SEO/SEM activity

The great thing about podcasts is it doesn’t have to be too expensive. Of course, you can hire a studio and make it professional but often a bit of uncut personality comes off more authentic.

Here are ten tools to help you create your own podcast on a budget:

  1. You can record podcasts using tools such as skype or zencaster
  2. You can easily edit the podcast, overlay sound tracks and add sound effects using audacity or garageband
  3. You can host your podcast on platforms such as and share via itunes and soundcloud
  4. Republish your podcast on youtube by using repurpose
  5. Syndicate your podcast on platforms such as whooshkaa or libsyn to reach a broad audience

It is easy to see why podcasting has become a passion for both creators and listeners.

This blog first appeared on honner.com.au

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

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