Archive for PR management

Which Company Has the Best (and Worst) Newsroom?

Ever wondered which companies in Australia that feature on the ASX Top 100 have the best in-house news hub? Well, wait no longer.. drumroll please… The winner of this prestigious accolade, according to a research report by Comnicate, is: Rio Tinto!

In Comnicate’s Report, the survey they conducted studied content, distribution and user experience (i.e. what news is online, how easy it is to access, can news be shared), and found wide disparities between the best and worst online media newsrooms for ASX100 companies according to key criteria.  The research produced some interesting results about the ASX100 companies as to how well they communicate their news.

The highest score was achieved by Rio Tinto at 91, and the mean average score for the ASX100 was 52. Disappointingly for Bank of Queensland, they came in at the bottom of the list.  I thought you might like to know who featured in the top ten, so here goes:

1. Rio Tinto
2. AMP
3. Telstra
4. ANZ Banking Group
5. Woodside Petroleum
6. Origin Energy
7. Treasury Wines
8. Commonwealth Bank
9. Qantas
10. Iluka Resources

From looking at this list, some thoughts occur to me.  Little wonder that a resources company like Rio Tinto should perform best in this survey, and that Iluka, Woodside and Origin are featured, as resources companies tend to have deep pockets plus a strong corporate imperative to communicate their messages, given the negative press that has attended their sector in recent years.  Similarly, from a tech point of view, you might expect Telstra to be in this list, as surely their team would have access to the latest and greatest gizmos.

What is surprising is that a relatively unknown winery like Treasury should be in the list, and this news is encouraging for SMEs.  While it certainly helps if you have the resources of one of the big four banks to run a good online newsroom, in the words of the classic “it ain’t necessarily so.”

So, what are the key learnings from this? Your online newsroom should be focussed on:

a) providing good content
b) making the user’s experience as easy and enjoyable as possible
c) ensuring good news distribution – and by good, I mean not spamming about every little thing, but quality news, sent out before everyone else knows about it.

How does your online newsroom rate? To read the report in full, click here to find out.

Yours in PR

Ita’s Take on Media Ownership

When Australian media icon Ita Buttrose adressed the National Press Club last week, she was speaking as an advocate for Alzheimer’s Australia, but given what a tumultuous week it has been for the Australian media, question time soon turned into a fascinating exchange about editorial independence.

These National Press Club events can be rather droll affairs, but not this one!  Following her warm and funny speech about Alzheimer’s, the assembled media pack, who rightly recognised they were in the presence of a giant in their field, asked Ms Buttrose about the latest machinations at News Ltd and Fairfax, and her answers delivered a genuinely fascinating insight (from close range and long experience) about what it is like for a senior reporter, publisher and editor to work for different media masters.  Her remarks were also picked up by Milanda Rout of The Australian.

She called on the media industry to stand up for itself against calls for government regulation and tell politicians to “get out of our turf”, and called on journalists to start advocating for themselves in the face of “knee-jerk” reactions by politicians to regulate the media.

In the face of concerns about what the potential influence of media wannabe owners, like Gina Rinehart, she said what really mattered was that the public understood proprietors influenced their publications, “balanced by good journalism of the kind that provides an impartial point of view”.  Journalistic impartiality and independence – I remember that!

Ita said: “It seems a new blood sport to guess what Gina Rinehart might or might not do if she was to get a seat or two on Fairfax media,” she said. “It is all too readily assumed that the Australian public are mugs who buy any line that is spun to them, whether by politicians or the media.  My experience tells me that this is simply is not true . . . the public eventually has the good common sense to make up its own mind about what is being said. I find it disturbing that the knee-jerk reaction to events in the media is that it should be regulated.”

Rather than being pessimistic about the future of Australian journalism, she said the future for newspapers was bright and journalists might all become publishers because “you will be able to do it from your bedroom”.  “We will be able to do things in digital publishing that we have not been able to do before,” she said. “It’s a good world we are moving to and we should be excited about that, not negative.”

For her fellow media colleagues Buttrose expressed concerns about the number of job losses that were anticipated under the restructure.

What was also fascinating was her recount of the real and actual influence exerted by media moguls she had worked for in the past including Sir Warwick Fairfax and Kerry Packer, who according to Ita, left their staff in no doubt about the kinds of stories they wanted covered in their newspapers.  Is it realistic to expect any modern-day media barons to hold back from similar influence? Surely this is naive at best.

There is a universal truth that applies here, and it is about the intrinsic quality of the reporting done for a media outlet will always tell – as Oscar Wilde once wrote – the truth will always out.

Any journalist worth their salt will not play it safe and run the ‘party’ line – they will continue to do investigative reports about matters of serious import, they will break the news, not repeat it or quote it from a media release, and they will continue to provide an invaluable service to the Australian people in reporting the big stories that reflect who we are as a nation, and inform our national identity.  If they don’t, people just won’t buy their newspapers, or sign on for their digital subscriptions, and the media companies will be penalised accordingly.

To watch Ita’s address in full, click here.  It is thoroughly worth a look.

Yours in PR

Is Print Media Dead? Ask Fairfax

The future of print media as we know it in Australia was dealt a body blow this week when Fairfax Media announced that they would shed 1,900 jobs, shrink the size of their print versions of key news titles and charge for subscriptions to their online sites.

This is obviously devastating news for the people affected by the job cuts, but beyond those immediate concerns, there are questions being asked about what these changes mean for the future of the media in Australia.

I’m all in favour of both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age moving to a smaller size – it’s not the size that matters (!) it’s the content and the editorial charter.  What may affect this more deeply, is the loss of so many journalists; with pundits assuming one in every four or five Fairfax journos being shown the door.

I’m also in favour of purchasing online content because we need to place value on high-quality online content.  Fairfax has been running with this model for quite some so an extension to their SMH and Age titles is a natural and sensible progression.

What is frightening is that soooo many wonderful and talented journalists will be unemployed and it’s unlikely that any of the Murdoch titles have the capacity to take many on – although I do suspect some interesting cherry picking to ensue!

However, with every cloud…

This move by Fairfax may in fact create a significant wave of change in Australia’s media make-up if some of the sacked Fairfax journalists follow in the footsteps of their previous Fairfax colleagues – I refer to of course Amanda Gome at and Alan Kohler at  With the possibility of key Australian journalists left wanting to ply their craft, they may create their own online media outlets –meaning we may in fact get the opportunity to relish increased diversification in our media through innovative and passionate ex-Fairfax reporters.

Perhaps the sadness in all of this is Fairfax’s grand underestimation of the value of its brand. Fairfax holds a unique place in the Australian media landscape with flagship titles such as The Australian Financial Review and BRW in addition to Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.  It seems to me that rather than playing to their strengths, they’ve been overtaken by their weaknesses – for this the management needs to answer…

Yours in PR

Re-Branding or Just Window-Dressing?

When is re-branding a meritorious attempt to reintroduce a product, concept or service into the market, and when is it just mere window dressing with no tangible outcome whatsoever?  This is an important question worth considering prior to any attempt to re-brand something, as has been observed in yet the latest attempt to re-brand the Gold Coast, as was reported in the Gold Coast Bulletin recently.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that great effort and expense was invested in re-branding the Gold Coast as part of the ‘Very GC’ campaign, which did get good traction with the yound set but tended to alienate older and long-time residents of the ‘Goldie’, and yet here we are again with another attempt to re-package and re-sell it, with the multi-million dollar price tag to boot.

Why now?  The answer to this is primarily two-fold – with the Gold Coast awarded the rights to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018, there is an urgent need to position the Gold Coast in a favourable light for inbound atheletes and tourists from around the world.  Those of us old enough to remember the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982 will recall the great uplift in civic pride that was visited upon the River City, and the effect was repeated just six years later for Expo 88. (Yes, I am that old, but it’s our little secret, ok?)

The second reason is that the Gold Coast despite its beautiful beaches, amenable climate, theme parks and attractions, restaurants and hotels has several major detractions, including a persistent problem with drugs and crime, and has grown at such an exponential rate that its local road network is utterly unable to cope with the ongoing influx of tourists and permanent residents who settle there in their thousands each and every year, making it a very difficult place in which to get around either quickly or easily.

The difficulty is that any re-branding campaign at best will alter superficial perceptions of something, but without fixing the systemic problems that are the heart of the matter, and that are in and of themselves the cause that has precipitated the need for a new image, and therefore will not live beyond their existence as a superficiality.  At worst, what might happen is that your slick marketing campaign may in fact draw people in, who trust that they might actually have a new experience, and then the gap between their perception of something new or better when it is juxtaposed against the reality that nothing has actually changed, can actually cause real brand damage.

If on the other hand, a major effort was made to fix the problems that have caused the negative perception, and THEN to re-brand it, as part of a process of re-education and re-positioning in the market, THAT is is a different prospect altogether, and if handled correctly, does have the capacity to create an experience that completely alters not just our perceptions of a place, product or service, but our experience of it.

So, I am interested to know, when has a re-branding experience left you cynical and cold?  I would love to know your thoughts on this.

Yours in PR

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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