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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

BLOG: You don’t know what its got till its gone…

Trust is a fundamental pillar of society. But it is broken.

Last week I heard a speech by Richard Harris, the anaesthetist who was a central figure in the Thai cave rescue, helping to sedate the stricken boys before they dived into the water to exit the flooded cave.

Here was the ultimate act of trust. These boys, their families, the world, put their trust into the hands of Dr Harris and his peers. And an amazing result, or what most, including Dr Harris, have described as a miracle, was achieved.

But in the age of Trump and fake news, trust, it seems, is broken – trust in media, in governments, and in organisations is at an all-time low.

A Roy Morgan research poll this week found the most trusted brand in Australia is Aldi – a German supermarket chain.

Top 10 trusted brands

Aldi entered Australia in the early 2000s to disrupt the Coles and Woolworths grocery duopoly and has earned this trusted position for the simple reason it does what it says it will – deliver quality products at a lower price by switching big brands for home brands and focusing less on marketing, merchandising and loyalty programs and more on customer satisfaction.

Bunnings, with its lowest prices guaranteed, and ING, delivering simple, straightforward products, and Qantas, with its commitment to safety, service and reliability, all made Roy Morgan’s latest list of the top 10 most trusted brands. They did so by living and breathing their brand promise.

Trust is an interesting concept as it is both rational and emotional. It is something we think but also feel. Why do we believe (or not believe) online reviews? Why are we comfortable with Uber and getting into cars with strangers? Or using Airbnb to rent houses from strangers? Or going on dates with someone we’ve only “met” on an app?

The thing about trust is that it is hard to earn but can be easy to lose. Or put another way, it’s easier to maintain trust than restore it.

Take my brother-in-law, for example. He had his business, home and both cars insured with NRMA and had been a loyal customer for 26 years. He had trusted (as clearly do many Australians, given  NRMA is also among the top 10 most trusted brands) that he was getting a good deal. So he was surprised when he recently got his car insurance renewal from NRMA and it was $200 more expensive than the previous year. A fair hike in anyone’s book.

After calling the NRMA and pleading his case he was told there was nothing it could do, so he rang around and found an alternate car insurance policy for $480 cheaper. That’s right, $480. Suffice to say he won’t be so trusting of NRMA anytime soon.

Trust is earned by not only doing what you say, but doing it consistently and for all. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for our politicians too.

The Roy Morgan survey not only looks at the most trusted brands but also the brands with the largest distrust scores. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the royal commission into banking and financial services and ongoing negative headlines, AMP and the big four banks have some of the biggest distrust scores.

The inaugural Deloitte Trust Index launched this week found that only 20 per cent of Australians believe that banks in general are ethical – that they do what is good, right and fair.

Trust doesn’t discriminate, either. Facebook, among the world’s most valuable brands, is also on this least trusted list. The issues of the past year have hit its brand hard. Privacy and data protection are now at the forefront in the minds of many users.

So why does trust matter? RBA Governor Philip Lowe put it bluntly when he said this week: “Our economy, and our society, works best when there are high levels of trust.”

For organisations, trust is rewarded with loyalty and conversely, Roy Morgan says, distrust can lead to customer churn and loss of market share, and it is a bellwether for an unsustainable future.

The bottom line: if I trust a brand I am more likely to buy it time and time again, and perhaps even more important, recommend it to others. It’s the barbecue effect. And in case your wondering, my wife does our shopping and chooses our insurance. I suppose that means she’s the only one I trust.

This article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald / The Age on 25 November 2018.

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 5 – Creating a tribe of change makers

Why after 120 years don’t we have a universally accepted definition of public relations? According to UK pracademic (practitioner and academic) Andy Green it is because we have been asking the wrong question.

Andy is spearheading what has been called, The Dublin Conversation. As described in my earlier blog There’s something going on in the world of comms, this includes proposed definitions of PR, comms, advertising and brand and is a starting point for 100 conversations in 100 days.

Listen now or subscribe on iTunes

After seven years of struggling to arrive at a definition for public relations that was fit for purpose, Andy finally realised that previous thinking was blinkered in trying to define PR in isolation rather than as part of a bigger universe.

In this podcast, Andy discusses a new theoretic PR canvas, based on the work by Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman who identified that five things govern all social interaction – being known, liked, trusted, front of mind and being talked about.

According to Andy, and as detailed in the Dublin Conversation, these conditions form the foundation stone of any communication campaign as you are invariably looking to do these five things.

On that canvas – which we are all operating whether you are in public relations, advertising, digital marketing or any ‘comms’ role – there are then four channels of interaction: paid, earned, social, owned (PESO).

In this world of ‘comms’, advertising and PR work in polarity of each other with advertising being born out of the need to be known and PR out of the need to be trusted. In other words, advertising leads with paid (PESO) and PR has earned at its core (ESOP).

At the heart of PR is earned trust and PR five prime activities:

  1. Managing the activity of earning, growing and measuring trust
  2. Champion of corporate listening to its wider environment
  3. Advice and counsel on brand character
  4. Building social capital
  5. Managing narrative, storytelling, media relations, and content marketing or inbound PR

The reality of existing PR practice is that we tend to focus on the last point, so by broadening this out further creates a whole new extended platform of future PR practice

The good news, this validates existing global definitions of public relations but also gives us as practitioners greater clarity and focus on what we can/should deliver in practice and always with earned trust as the cornerstone of what we do.

Join the conversation here, or write a comment below. I look forward to the debate.

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