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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.

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.

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

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

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

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

Listen here or download on iTunes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 7 – Jim Macnamara Keep Learning

“Distinguished Professor of Public Communication at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) former journalist, PR practitioner and media researcher” – Jim Macnamara’s twitter profile was the briefest descriptor I could find to summarise the career of Jim who started as a journalist; has worked in agencies; owned and sold his own business; is a published author; award winning researcher; and today a Distinguished Professor at UTS.

I’ve had the privilege of being both a student of Jim’s during my Masters of Public Communication and a colleague when working as a casual tutor and lecturer at UTS. I am excited to have Jim as a guest on this episode of Smoke Signal.

Listen here or download on iTunes

In the field of Public Communications Jim has many passions (he truly believes society is communication) and among other things I was thrilled to talk about three of them in this podcast: education; measurement and evaluation; and organisational listening

The changing face of PR education

After months of research and feedback from industry bodies, agencies and alumni, UTS has recently unveiled two new Public Communications Masters degrees – Master of Strategic Communication and Executive Master of Strategic Communication. The former is for recent graduates and international students with little or no working experience; the latter is for working professionals and delivers advanced learning that applies back to their roles.

The degrees will include a lot of new material such as digital media; creativity and innovation; communication and media law; and research to understand audiences.

However, Jim is quick to point out education today is more than just sharing knowledge or what you can teach students today but rather is about creating an environment that gives students a life-long thirst for learning. Helping them be open to others, to be flexible, to be creative. These skills are what will help practitioners be able to adapt to new technologies, new challenges and new opportunities.

When it comes to Strategic Communication, Jim firmly believes it is important for students, and practitioners, to think more holistically. It shouldn’t matter if it is paid, owned, shared or earned. Practitioners of the future will not sit in silos but rather use whatever means is most appropriate/effective to solve a communication issue and reach and engage stakeholders.

Measurement and evaluation

Jim has worked with the PRIA, AMEC, the UK Government and the European Commission and the US Standards body and strongly believes, echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln, that the need for measurement and evaluation should be self-evident.

However, he realises the industry has lagged in this area for years and this is often because the majority of practitioners are creative people and measurement requires a more pragmatic approach.

For Jim, this needs to change. And the reason? Because until we measure outcomes, PR is simply a cost centre, not a value-adding centre.

And there is no excuse, as there are many many methods to measure from low cost and simple through to sophisticated, but it requires practitioners to build their knowledge.

Brexit didn’t surprise me as the government wasn’t listening

We’ve treated communication for many years as disseminating organisational messages but the reality is we need to do more listening, as that is the only way to regenerate the continuing falling trust in organisations.

Jim is in the midst of an international research project looking at communication in 55 organisations globally, looking at how often they are talking, i.e. disseminating messages, versus how often they are listening to their stakeholders. The shocking conclusion is that 80-95% of what we call corporate communications is actually putting out information and messages from the organisation

For Jim, if the UK Government had listened they would have seen Brexit coming.

Jim sees a great opportunity for tomorrow’s practitioners to shift strategic communication from mass, top down communication. The reality is, Millennial and Gen Z don’t tolerate that approach and organisations, and communicators, are struggling to adapt with a new generation that is more educated, that want to be listened to, want to be involved, want to participate and want to have a say. The organisations that do adapt and engage in true communications will be very successful.

Following the discussion with Jim, in the news this episode I look at the recent investigative series into the state of journalism by Mumbrella. The statistic that just one quarter of journalism grads find a job in media was one that resonated with me.

I have long been concerned that while journalism courses continue to rise in popularity, and universities continue to pump our journalism grads, the number of journalist roles is falling. So where will they all go? This, to me, this is an issue not just for the journalism profession or PR practitioners but society more broadly as we should be encouraging and supporting the next generation of journalists.

 

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