Archive for May, 2012

How do Brands and Customers Interact on Social Media?

The social media revolution has swept the globe with such force in recent years that it is only now, after some time has elapsed, that we can look in the rear view mirror and see exactly what effect it has had, and continues to have on how customers interact with brands.

Interesting new research commissioned by Fishburn Hedges in collaboration with Echo Research have released surprising new findings about just how social media has changed how, why, when and how often customers interact with brands.

Among their findings are the following golden little snippets:

  • The number of consumers that interact with brands via social media (in the United Kingdom) has doubled in the 8 months from August 2011 to April 2012
  • 65% of respondents would rather interact with a brand’s social media page than ring a call centre
  • 40% of respondents believe that the use of social media by brands improves their customer service
  • Social media is not just for the young – while almost half of the age group 18-24 use social media to interact with brands, the figures are high across all demographics, including 27.4% for the 55+ age bracket

This is fascinating research and it would be fair to propose that a similar phenomenon is taking place here in Australia.  It reinforces the view that the investment that major brands (particularly those in the B2C sector) have made in social media is actually paying dividends, particularly for those wanting to target the fickle and elusive youth market.

To read the report in full, including the groovy infographic, click here

I would be interested to know from the readers just how social media is changing the way that you interact with your brands, and with your own customers.

Yours in PR

Why Journalists Should Think Like PR Agencies

Previously I have written about how those working in PR need to think like journalists and to get a better understanding of how the media works, so as to better influence  it on behalf of their clients.  Indeed, an entire section of our monthly e-news, Queentessentials, is devoted to Meet the Media, providing insights into just how the media works, so that we can all target the information that we send them for best effect.

Today Paul McIntyre from AdNews wrote an article in which he quoted the views of Fairfax Media’s General Manager for News, Darren Burden, who has encouraged Fairfax journalists to think more like PR people.

Intriguing!  Let’s hear more.  Burden assets that the conventional way newspapers approach stories was to break the stories then walk way and let radio and TV take the story on.

That, Burden says, is about to change.  “We need to think more like a PR agency, which shocks people a bit but it’s about when you have a great story and you set the agenda, you don’t walk away from it. Instead you take it and drive it for three days so people understand what the story is about.”

This will be a surprising revelation for many journalists, who although they reportedly source up to 50% or more of their content from PR, and can be critical of publicists, sometimes referring to PR as being the ‘dark side’ of the news.

Burden says journalists need to start driving stories and owning them.  I find this a fascinating insight, and I think it adds much to the commentary about the fuzzy grey line between news and PR, how these industries collaborate, how they compete and how each can learn from the other.

From my experience, working with journalists is a wonderful symbiotic relationship, where, if handled well, everyone wins – the client gets media coverage and the journalist writes a great story.  This is not to say that this interplay is not without its challenges.

To read Darren Burden’s remarks in full, visit the article here.  I would welcome your views on this controversial topic.

Yours in PR

Publicity Queen Featured in PR Report

One of the most powerful ways in which to build the strength of your brand is through garnering endorsments from esteemed publications from within your own industry, and with this in mind, it was very pleasing that Publicity Queen was featured in the current edition of The PR Report.

The story on Publicity Queen focusses on the celebration of our tenth anniversary in April 2012, which is a remarkable result given the difficult financial conditions that the Australian market is still working through.

Marking this important milestone in this way has given me and the team an important touchstone to reflect on all of the great results we have achieved for our clients, and to project with great energy and enthusiasm about all that is still left for us to do in the future.

What I want to share with readers of our blog is the importance of industry and trade publications as a way to reinforce your own position within your industry.  While trade-specific publications tend to be read primarily by people within the industry that you are working in, they are also an important reference tool for someone choosing a new service provider.  It can also be a great way to attract potential business partners and staff members.

They can also be great sources of referrals from people within your own industry, who perhaps might specialise in a different aspect of your industry, or who have too much work on and are happy to refer clients to you that perhaps they are unable to service at that point in time.

So, when the opportunity presents itself, don’t pass up the chance to get a run in your own industry publication, as you never know where it might lead to, or what business opportunities it may present.

Yours in PR


Buffett Bullish About Future, Admits Mistakes

Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders is much anticipated by his followers around the world. It is almost as carefully read as this blog… I said ALMOST!

In case you missed it, here are pearls of wisdom from the letter, extracted for your reading pleasure, as summarised by our friends at SmartCompany.

The successor question has been answered, at least internally

Buffett is not naming names, but he has revealed that Berkshire Hathaway does have his replacement picked.

Buffett’s still hungry for a big deal

Last year, Buffett warned his “elephant gun” was loaded looking for a big acquisition. That hasn’t changed.  “Over time, the businesses we currently own should increase their aggregate earnings, and we hope also to purchase some large operations that will give us a further boost. We now have eight subsidiaries that would each be included in the Fortune 500 were they stand-alone companies. That leaves only 492 to go. My task is clear, and I’m on the prowl.”

Buffett’s big bet remains on the US economy – and it’s already paying off

When Buffett bought railway group Burlington National in November 2009, he described it as an all-in bet on the US economy. And despite the fact the US looks weak, Buffett’s American businesses are performing well.  “Our major businesses did well last year. Unless the economy weakens in 2012, each of our fabulous five should again set a record, with aggregate earnings comfortably topping $10 billion.”

A one man economic stimulator

Buffett can’t keep the US economy going by himself, but it’s clear Berkshire is having a crack through the way it spends.  “In total, our entire string of operating companies spent $8.2 billion for property, plant and equipment in 2011, smashing our previous record by more than $2 billion.”

Berkshire Hathaway has its own “big four”

Forget the Australian banks, there is a new “big four” in town – Coca-Cola (Berkshire has a 8.8% stake), IBM (5.5% stake), Wells Fargo (7.6% stake) and American Express (13% stake). These are the rocks on which the company’s portfolio will be built.  “A decade from now, our current holdings of the four companies might well account for earnings of $7 billion, of which $2 billion in dividends would come to us.”

Buffett was wrong on the housing market…

As usual, Buffett used his letter to fess up to some dud calls, including an investment in a Texas gas company which was “a major unforced error”. But his biggest dud call was on one of the key sectors in the US.  “Last year, I told you that “a housing recovery will probably begin within a year or so.” I was dead wrong.

…but hormones mean he’ll eventually be right

But he still contends housing will bounce back for a simple reason – hormones will eventually create new demand for housing.  “That devastating supply/demand equation is now reversed: Every day we are creating more households than housing units. People may postpone hitching up during uncertain times, but eventually hormones take over.

Why Buffett is slow to sell underperforming companies

Buffett admits that several companies in his manufacturing division are underperforming, and takes the blame for being the person who over-estimated their long-term prospects. But he won’t hear of dumping them because of what he says is a commitment he made.

How one of Berkshire’s subsidiaries bounced back from the Japanese tsunami

Berkshire’s cutting tool company Iscar (it owns 80%) bounced back from its own little disaster in 2011, when a company Iscar owns called Tungaloy suffered damage in the tsunami that hit Japan in early 2011.

America’s most prolific investor and corporate mogul always has great wisdom to share, and it is equally refreshing to recognise that sometimes even The Buff gets it wrong.  Gives us all hope, doesn’t  it?

Yours in PR

Are Women Better at PR?

Recently I wrote to you all in response to questions raised about PR being a ‘Pink Ghetto‘.

Well, as a neat corollary to that article, I wanted to bring to your attention a companion piece that has raised the idea that women are actually better at PR than men, and may I say in anticipation of much ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ that this article was written by a real life MAN.  And while I am not sure I agree, certainly this article makes for great water cooler conversation, so let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

The brave man in question who has posed this proposition is Craig Pearce, Founder of Craig Pearce Strategic Communication, who says in his recent blog for PRIA that women have a leading edge in PR based on their natural attributes.
Craig says these attributes include:

  • Empathy. He says women come out ahead of men through the application of empathy because women in PR are able to ‘feel’ the situation faced by their clients and act accordingly.
  • Empowerment. Apparently women are better than men at sharing power, encouraging and mentoring employees (including direct reports) and sharing and giving praise (although it would seem to me that these characteristics would be useful not just in PR but in any industry).
  • Creativity in PR. Craig says that in exploring their creativity, women are more readily able to let go of the strictures that inhibit the mind from flying free and coming up with fresh ideas.  Fascinating!
  • Women are better writers than men. Indeed, this is a big call.  Craig says that writing is the number one PR skill, and while he is not claiming that women in PR are better writers than their male counterparts, he says that he has come across some ‘fantastic ones’.  Hmmm, this has failed to convince me, to be honest, but let’s continue…
  • Conversational.  Craig makes the point that perhaps due to empathy, as listed above, women they are superior at having conversations with a wide range of people, which is an excellent basis upon which to build meaningful relationships with stakeholders, and they have a seemingly natural aptitude for social media.
  • Women are more intelligent than men. Ok, hold on, we are on shaky ground here, but Craig makes the point that there are a lot more women getting into PR courses than men in Australia.  What can we extrapolate from this? Perhaps that more women than men are interested in PR, and therefore more are applying, not necessarily that they are more intelligent.  I am unconvinced by this one, although I can vouch for the many, many highly intelligent women who work for me and whom I have met and worked with in the field of PR.
  • Multitasking superiority in PR. Now here Craig may be onto something.  Women are known to be better multi-taskers than men, with PR being a very heavy multi-tasking environment. But is PR more multi-task driven than other professions?  That remains unclear.
  • Women are more ethical than men. OK now this is controversial.  I agree that being ethical is a fundamental component of best practice PR, but are women more ethical than men? Hmm, not so sure.
  • Men in marcomms are too up themselves. Wow!  Not sure how to respond to this.  Craig cites an article in Australia’s Marketing magazine by Mark Ritson who claimed that women in marketing are more humble than men. The former are more likely to put the good of the organisation ahead of their own ego. I am intrigued.  I can personally vouch for the fact that my team certainly put the needs of the client ahead of their own personal quest for kudos or glory, but is it just women who work this way?  I am not sure.

Now this article will put the cat among the pigeons for sure, (I suspect this is its intention) but it does raise some interesting points.  I would agree that women naturally suited to work in PR, due to their innate strengths in communication, collaboration and empathy.  But are they better suited than men, that is the question.

What do you think?

Yours in PR

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