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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
“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:
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
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
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.
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:
Be kind to yourself and be kind to others – it
is not hard
We have a greater respect for renewal, weekends,
downtime, doing nothing and being mindful – the benefit of that is it
strengthens your mental health
As society we lean into people who are
experiencing a mental illness
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:
Truly listen to your staff and engage on an ongoing basis to have meaningful dialogue
True change requires cultural and behavioural shifts which are not quick and easy
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 .
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.
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
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.
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!).
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:
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.”
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
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.