It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you this evening. And it’s great to see so many people from different businesses and organisations. I’m here not be become your PR agency. I’m here because we believe that with focused training – you can do a lot of this PR activity in-house – and save fees in the process! I hope that what will follow will encourage you to think about getting in touch with us at Guru in a Bottle and so we have an opportunity to talk to you after tonight’s event. But before I kick off, I want to thank OMEC and in particular Radziah for all her efforts in organising tonight’s event. I’d also like to thank the team at Corus Hotel for looking after us this evening.
As long as I can remember, PR has been in my blood – whether being on the receiving end as a journalist with the BBC or some of the many communication roles I have held in my career for organisations in the private and public sectors, such as Andersen Consulting and the Defence Academy of the UK.
I worked in news and current affairs – and in many cases I still do! This is John Humphries who I had the privilege of working with on the Today programme on Radio 4. We would receive a small mountain of news releases and other material in to the production office and one of my tasks was to evaluate the value of this stuff.
Although I left the BBC back in 1992, I’m still using those skills I acquired in radio and TV and recently was commissioned to make a film about the impact of the inauguration of Barack Obama on British society and culture. The film was commissioned for a special live event at the House of Commons and if you’re interested you can watch this short film on YouTube by searching for me or the title of the film, It’s a New Day. The point here is that everything I’m going to cover this evening I’ve actually done! Sometimes it’s been very successful and at other times, I ‘ve had my set backs. But throughout, I’ve learnt an incredible amount about the management of effective PR. And from a professional perspective, for many years I served as a director and chairman of membership for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and also chalked up some awards for PR along the way.
This is ambitious in anyone’s book – and usually we would spend a day with you and your team at your premises focused on particular areas of skills and knowledge you want to acquire and completely bespoke this programme for meeting your needs and requirements. So regard tonight as a taster, if you will. I hope it whets your appetite to learn more. And that’s where we come in.
Who thinks its about this kind of thing?
Who immediately thinks of Richard Branson when they hear the words PR?
Or do you equate PR with this man?
Are you confused about the distinction between advertising and PR? Sometimes, advertising like this ends up as the news story – so it’s not surprising! But there’s a world of difference, as I’ll explain this evening…
Many people when asked what they think when they hear the words PR think about spin, don’t they? That’s what the politicians always bang on about – and they are the spin masters, so it’s a bit rich! All of these men are experts at news manipulation and in the case of David Cameron, he used to do it for a living before he became an MP when he was director of public relations at Carlton TV.
Anyone heard this when discussing PR who have never worked in the industry?
It’s not about fluffy rabbits at Easter – although it could be. PR is much more important and significant than that. The current General Election is one big PR battle. And the media provides the battle ground for every twist and turn in the story. At the Institute, we were very clear about the role of PR. It boils down to the managing the flow of information in a professional way according to legal and ethical standards. It’s about the management of your reputation – both as an organisation, whether public or private sector and as you as a person, too.
I thought it may be instructive to look at some of the PR disasters that have happened only in the last couple of months. And some have been of Titanic proportions!
Sir Peter Vigers is standing down..as a result of the MPs expenses scandal..
Sir Fred Goodwin’s pay off from the Government for the collapse of RBS at the end of last year was equivalent to having won the national lottery – a few times. This unleashed a tidal way of hostility and public disgust at the way bankers appear to be treated differently from anyone else in the business world.
And if you watched Channel 4’s Dispatches programme in March, you would have seen these three former cabinet Ministers as you’ve never seen them before – salivating at the chance to abuse their privilege as a former Minister in order to make loads of money – and in some cases at the expense of British companies attempting to secure defence contracts.
In the 1960s in the UK was a programme called Candid Camera where it caught people out as the reporter pretended to be an ordinary member of the public. You would have thought they would remember such a programme, wouldn’t you? OK, so does this ring any bells?
Sasha Baron Cohen has made a healthy living out of duping unwitting famous people..
Sir Allen Stamford, the disgraced billionaire who promised sponsorship to the ECB of its Twenty20 series and made a deal that ultimately wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. He was convicted of fraud and the ECB’s judgment was called into question, with its reputation in tatters.. Perhaps it should’ve done its due diligence and not have got seduced by the untold wealth he was promising but which never materialised..
Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross thought it was a whizz to leave lurid sexual claims on actor Andrew Sach’s answer machine about his grand daughter. That would’ve have been bad enough except they decided to this on a live radio programme before millions of listeners. I used to produce live radio programmes at the BBC – and you sit next to the studio manager who can simply cut the mics so this was totally avoidable on the orders of the producer. But they sat there and did nothing. The BBC quite rightly was barbequed for allowing presenters to run riot as producers sat powerless to stop these multi-millionaires from destroying the reputation of a public service broadcaster. No wonder Ross was eventually suspended and then didn’t get his lucrative contracts renewed this year. Stand by ITV..
Unbelievably, the world’s largest car maker should have fallen from grace in such a spectacular way. By sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the problem with brakes on certain models was a breathtaking miscalculation and an example of how arrogant it had become when it came to thinking about managing its reputation. The worldwide recall of 436,000 hybrid cars including its latest Prius model has lead credit rating agency Moody's to issue an announcement that it’s likely to downgrade Toyota's credit rating. There are parallels between this and a PR disaster back in 2002 when Firestone tyres on Ford Explorer 4x4s started to burst at a certain speed. Ford also stuck its head in the sand until accidents and deaths on the road occurred in Europe too and was then forced into a costly recall, which again damaged its reputation . Toyota are finding out that had they taken more decisive action as soon as they were aware of the problem – their customers would not only have thanked them – they would have earned their trust too.
British Airways isn’t the world’s favourite airline – particularly amongst its cabin crew right now.. Yet again, industrial action is blighting what was once a national treasure – but no more. Macho management techniques have been the order of the day at BA – well before Willie Walsh became CEO..
Amongst the glare of arc lights and the theatre that literally accompanies the launch of yet another product from Steve Job’s Apple Corporation, devotees of the brand queued all night to be the first to get their hands on the iPad. But WiFi connection problems and malfunctioning units created market scepticism that led to a dip in Apple’s share price the following day… The made rush to launch new products without proper testing and resilience strategies in place is common place with large corporations hungry for profit and increases in share price that often triggers individual bonuses…but does nothing for the long term reputation of the business..
Goldman Sachs is probably admired and hated in equal measure. It’s survival is now in the hands of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Having gone cap in hand to the US Government to borrow money, it then pays it back and makes a thumping profit. And now there’s a question mark as to whether it had been selling worthless paper to clients whilst at the same time allowing a hedge fund manager to bet against these deals maturing. And in the UK, the FSA is now investigating the bank. And it’s just shared over three billion in bonuses with its partners. But society judges organisations not just on what they make but how they make their money. Someone forgot to tell that to the partners, so it could be the beginning of the end for Goldman Sachs...
All those examples were put forward as PR disasters and of course they were much more than just about PR. Which is an important point of principle. Words must be matched by deeds. If the product or service sucks, then no matter how good the PR plan, the amount of money thrown at the service or product, if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck – then it’s likely to be a duck. What is often very frightening is the complete lack of understanding that organisations have when it comes to their own PR. It’s a turn off to be self obsessed and assume everyone is waiting on your every word. All PR needs to be relevant and that means understanding your customer, client, audience, stakeholder. It relies on segmentation.
But the old demographic and psychographic ways of segmentation can’t provide us with the granularity of data that we need to make sense of our PR efforts. We have to go deeper. We need to look through the lens of attitudes, values and beliefs that can help us get closer to who we wish to communicate with.
Anyone want to take a guess at what this is saying? The point here is we need to take an outside in perspective rather than look at the world inside out. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of t The language, tone and content of communication needs to be in their world if we are to succeed in getting through..
There are two realms of understanding – your realm of understanding and that of the audience you are trying to connect with. In this elegant diagram, there’s a lot of process going on which then gets converted into a series of messages. The hope is that these messages are delivered, decoded and received. The receiver will then change their behaviour in some way (which means we know they got the message) and we’ll get feedback as a result. That’s a perfect world situation. The reality is very different. Messages sometimes don’t get to their intended destination because of the background noise around them – and these are other distractions as well as other messages that are fighting for the audience short attention span. Creating powerful and persuasive messages needs to cut through this clutter.
What makes a strong message?(Ask)
Three short words defined a campaign that ultimately led him to the White House. The film I made was looking at this message of hope. Perhaps one of the most powerful and motivating messages of the 21 st century.. Messages must be simple, easy to understand, capable of not being confusing or misinterpreted, memorable, add value and ultimately influence behaviour. Easy peasy, right? Well, if it was that simple, why does so much advertising and PR fail?
A good way to measure the effectiveness of your message is to see if it passes the elevator pitch test. Who knows what that is? (Ask)
Messages are just one of the tools in the PR kit bag that you need. Another important and powerful tool is the ability to tell a compelling story. As children, we learned about our world through listening to our parents and family members telling us stories. I have a three year old girl who can recount word perfect one of the story books – The Selfish Crocodile. And she can’t read yet (well, I don’t think she can!) That’s a great example of the power of the narrative. We recently sent our photographer to the Cadbury factory ahead of the Easter rush. Don’t underestimate how important photography is in how we communicate.
The trouble with much marketing and PR that I see produced is that it all looks the same. You hear people saying its so difficult to differentiate between their product or service and the competition. Rubbish! You just need to think about what it is you do that is unique, adds value, delivers benefits – in the way that you do it. Stop talking about what you offer – everyone does that – and start talking about what you deliver. It’s more than a change in syntax. It’s a whole mindset change.
I’ve never been a great fan of spending more and more money on marketing and PR in the vain hope that I’ll get some fantastic result. You won’t. You’ll just waste money. Communication has to be much more laser like and precise. Understanding the channels of communication, the appropriateness of channels mapped against the audience you are trying to reach as well as the content you wish to communicate must all be weighed up very carefully.
How many of us here have faced these decisions? So how did we make sense of the fragmentation of media and as a result the fragmentation of audiences? I believe that training is the key. We need to expand our knowledge and understanding – we sometimes forget that technology isn’t the change we have to focus on – technology is an enabler of change. Behaviour is key. Which is why social networks occupy a significant amount of importance in our PR plans.
Arguably, the UK General Election will mirror what happened in the US two years’ ago where President Barack Obama harnessed the power of social networking in order to raise money for his campaign as well as engage with voters who had traditionally felt disenfranchised from the political process and whom now had a way of being heard through social networks.
Reaching a global community has never been simpler – the key is whether they want to hear what you have to say and whether you’re prepared to listen to what they have to say. None of these “receive” channels should be taken for granted – in many ways they are also your most critical audience as they won’t hold back in expressing their views. Twitter, for example, is an excellent ‘quick and dirty’ way of getting instantaneous feedback from those who follow you.
The products of PR can be dressed up with technical sounding names, smoke and mirrors – let’s face it, PR agencies are good at making it sound like its rocket science. My boss at Andersen Consulting taught me about PR that holds firm today. It falls into three product areas – News Releases, Case Studies and Background Briefs. I’m not bothered whether you call these by different names – the point is that the principles are the same.
What makes a News Release – sometimes called a Press Release(ask) What’s the most important piece of information on a News Release?
What makes a good case study (ask)?
If you haven’t got news or a case study – you can still engage with the media with a background brief. I was asked by the de Bono Foundation to help them promote Edward de Bono’s latest book – Think Before its Too Late – last year. Although a new book can be a possible news hook – it’s up against and competing with other stories – so commentary by me on the whole issue of lateral thinking which then referred to the book became a background brief for further discussion and follow up with the media.
This is critical and yet so much of PR activity fails to get measured in any meaningful way. Setting target for coverage that are realistic can be very motivating and keeps people o their toes. Simply measuring how many news releases were issued in any one month won’t tell you whether that was effective or not or whether it was a good use of resources. Reviewing and tracking the coverage will provide a better reading – was the coverage positive, negative or neutral? Who was quoted? What were the issues covered? Who else was quoted? What was the last occasion when this journalist wrote/broadcast on us? It’s about output of course but also about outcomes.
I’ll leave you with some of our top tips – there’s so much more I’d like to share with you but I’ve run out of time! I hope you found this workshop useful and do ask me any questions on any aspect of tonight’s presentation or for that matter on any communication issue you like and I’ll try to help. Check out our web site - and we’d love to talk to you about how we can improve you and your team’s performance in PR.