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TREND.iNSIGHT: Social Communications

TRENDAFRiCA September 18, 2013

A TREND. iNSIGHT report compiled by TREND. Publishing Editor Louise Marsland (@trendlives) brought to you in association with: FleishmanHillard and Lion’s Wing Brand Communications. 

1Lionswing     FL

SNAPSHOT: Disrupting PR

‘Social Communications’ is about how public relations agencies and communication strategists need to reengineer themselves as social businesses to meet their client’s communication needs. It is about integrating digital strategy (including social media and mobile) into client earned media campaigns.

Many public relations agencies, particularly the smaller ones and independents, are grappling with the embedded knowledge that is required – not just for them, but by their clients too.

If communication practitioners do not upskill and take ownership of the earned media space, advertising agencies and digital shops will subsume their roles in all client brand campaigns, taking over the function of the traditional PR in the earned media space because all communication and brand campaigns need to integrate digital across the board – from big brands to small niche clients. No campaign can afford to be without a social and digital element.

I believe there will be many mergers in the industry in the near future; as well as the larger PR agencies poaching digital agency staff and visa versa.

The next very important business imperative for PR agencies is that their campaigns now need to show clients measureable return on investment. Digital campaigns are measurable and the PR industry is also expected to generate business leads, not just procure column centimetres.

This is the time for communication practitioners because you are specialists in earned media – which is essentially where social media falls – this is what you do best. And you have the relationships with the media – not the digital agencies nor the ad agencies. You need to take ownership of the earned media space and make sure you are counted as the professionals that you are, providing the vital communications and branding services that you do.

#TRENDING

 1. Professionalising the industry: for a couple of years now, a regulatory committee born out of PRISA, but operating apart from the organisation, has been working on presenting a green paper to parliament on the industry in the hopes of professionalising it. The document lays out the education minimum to be called a public relations practitioner, and registration with a legislative body that will replace PRISA eventually with a ‘society of public relations practitioners’. It needs to be approved by parliament to professionalise the industry. As Bridget von Holdt, one of the primary drivers behind this move says: “The industry needs to be seen as being about more than the press release.”

2. Reputation management: is key because both B2C and B2B buyers do their own research and ask opinions before doing business or purchasing goods and services. Reputation, positive reviews and strong search and social visibility is key. “Instead of building episodic awareness, the new imperative for PR is to develop ongoing brand visibility and a strong reputation,” says Sarah Skerik, PR Newswire vice president of social media in the US.

3. Expanded measurement: social media is the norm for any communications and it needs to be measured, monitored and utilised by brands. We’ve all heard about big data, it is now about understanding and using the data being generated by all these new technologies that consumers are now interacting with. The are many apps and digital tools being developed to help synthesise data to benefit the end-user, as indicated by Melissa Todisco, vice president, Hunter PR, US.

4. Lead generation & conversion: PR needs to deliver measurable business results. ROI is essential. “We have to ask how we differentiate ourselves,” says Shana Harris, COO of the international Warchawski Agency. “What are our goals, and what are the audience’s pain points? We have to put ourselves in our target audience’s shoes, understand the target audience and understand the experience we want to create for them.”

5. Content PR: become an information leader for your niche and be useful (utility is key). Brands have an unparalleled opportunity to position themselves via content and storytelling. Content marketing, once the preserve of the PR industry, now forms part of all integrated marketing strategies and the lines of communication are blurring. PR practitioners need to be on top of their game to remain in control of earned media.

6. Micro stories: stories don’t have to be epic, but can be about one element. Oreo released a different Oreo on their Facebook page for 100 days – influenced by the news of the day, ie, gay rights issues with a ‘gay pride’ cookie; Curiosity’s landing on Mars; Elvis’s birthday, etc. A simple idea, simple concept. No press releases. The media sought them out and media exposure followed.

7. Mulitimedia content: video is the future of the web. Ad agencies do this well – every new, big campaign being released, now also has a “making of” video. People want the back story. They want to ‘see’ what they are reading. Visual communications are key as we’ve seen with the rise of services like Instagram and Pinterest. Nic Harambolous from Nic Socks says that he gets most sales conversions from posting his funky men’s sock designs on Instagram.

8. Seek out engagement opportunities: This is your turf! At SXSW in Texas this year, Mashable had a ‘house’ where geeks could take a photo with Grumpy Cat, creating an opportunity to connect with this specialised digital audience that generated buzz beyond a hard news product launch. It is all about the brand experience now.

9. Skills development: there is an emerging technologies skills gap at the top of organisations and an experience gap at the entry to an organisation. There needs to be mentoring and skills transfer by and for both, as well as ongoing education.

10. Authentic communications, not spin: brands have to demonstrate honesty and transparency, not just talk about it. This goes for all business processes and communication – from ethically sourced raw materials, to the factories you produce your goods in, to your social media conversations.

Bridget von Holdt
Bridget von Holdt

 

DECONSTRUCTING PUBLIC RELATIONS

Does public relations need a new definition? It certainly seems that way from the number of agencies rebranding themselves as communication agencies, communication strategists and reputation management specialists.

One could be forgiven for wondering if there are any ‘public relations’ agencies left in South Africa.

Public relations still seems to have a slight whiff of unsavoury spin attached to it in South Africa and it has seemed as if many in the industry don’t want to be associated with the ‘stigma’ attached to the colloquial definition of public relations.

We should be past that as an industry, but like the old analogies that abound in any industry like the shoemaker whose own kids have holes in their shoes – the public relations industry in South Africa must be among the worst when it comes to publicising and branding itself.

The global Chartered Marketing Officer’s Council (CMO) reported that its research showed that 60% of marketers worldwide would make an agency change in 2013, with social marketing, web design and PR firms topping the list – lack of innovation and value-added thinking was given as the primary reason for a change.

The old “boobs and balloons/PR poppie” definition of what a PRO represents hasn’t been applicable for a decade or so in South Africa, as most PR agencies have repositioned as communication strategists and business solutions providers, but the stereotype persists in some quarters and PR remains at the bottom of the marketing food chain, having to be content with budget scraps.

But, like all industries in the communication sector, PR has faced huge disruption in recent years.

When PR Newswire asked PR respondents across the globe to complete the sentence “PR is…?” they documented how much modern public relations has evolved in the last five to 10 years. Answers ranged from: “PR is… a key part of integrated marketing of the future; telling a story; content that adds value for a variety of readers; about creating understanding for a complex world; solving problems for organisations through strategic communication; relationship management; a channel for conversation; content that adds value for readers; engaging dialogue; a connection between a company and its publics…”

This quote from PR Newswire says it all: “Social media has changed customer expectations and introduced an age of radical transparency. Smart organisations have recalibrated their entire enterprise to connect with, communicate to and serve their customers and prospects.”

This means tactically, that there has to be collaboration and integration within organisations and all service providers looking after a brand, and listening and response, need to prioritise responding to customers immediately and 24/7.

Another key influencer is the disruption of the traditional media model. One of the most noteworthy stories from 2012 was Newsweek going all digital in 2013. In the marketing communication industry in South Africa in particular, we have seen the closure of almost all the print publications serving just this particular industry in the last decade in SA: Marketplace, Marketing Mix, Journal of Marketing and now AdVantage, and the rise of niche online media such as MarkLives, Grubstreet, TechCentral, Memeburn and TREND.

In the mainstream media, shrinking newspaper newsrooms and the closure of top consumer magazine brands, as well as the decimation of the business-to-business magazine print publishing industry have resulted in far fewer traditional media opportunities for communicators.

But the migration of niche B2B sites online, the popularity of social media platforms, the increase in community media in print and radio, as well as the impact of the 24-hour television news channel and cycle has led to other opportunities on a far larger scale, as influence becomes a bigger prize than column centimetres.

So how do brands compete online? “By consistently publishing unique, useful and interesting content – therein lies the opportunity for PR professionals,” says Susan Skerik of PR Newswire. But Skerik does warn organisations not to rely only on one social network to build brand presence – since they don’t have ownership over social networks and are therefore not in control of the process or changes in terms and conditions. Brands still need to develop direct connections with customers and direct them to their own websites.

That is why a two-year process born out of our own Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA) and leading industry professionals, to have Parliament recognise the industry as a legitimate profession with accompanying standards of education and regulation, should be seen as a welcome one and a significant step in professionalising the industry, setting standards and working as a unified lobby group on issues such as further education and skills transfer, particularly when it comes to digital training and measurement.

For PRISA stalwart Bridget von Holdt, who has also represented the South African PR industry on international bodies for many years, the fact that there is a green paper ready to go before parliament is the result of years of lobbying to professionalise the PR industry.

“One of my issues I’ve had, is that the entry level to PR is zero. Anyone can open up a PR company. I’ve worked hard, as has everyone else at PRISA, to professionalise the profession. I used to phone up companies who advertised for a ‘sales/PRO’ person and explain to them what a PRO was!

“I have wanted to legalise the profession, raise the entry level. We looked at how we could legislate public relations to give it more credibility. So you have to be registered to be a practising PR practitioner,” says Von Holdt who is managing director of the newly-formed The Glasshouse (her company was formerly Inzalo Communications).

PRISA defines PR as: “Public relations is the distinctive management function that establishes and maintains mutual communication, understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organisation and its publics.”

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has done a fair bit of work to come up with a global, modern, acceptable definition of public relations, even crowdsourcing views to take all opinion on board.

PRSA reports that the formal practice of what we know as “public relations” dates back to the early 20th century when the earliest definitions focussed on “press agentry and publicity”, to more modern definitions including “engagement and relationship building”.

In 2011, PRSA led a global challenge to modernise the definition of public relations, including a public vote. This is the definition decided on: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

PRSA gave this explanation: “Simple and straightforward, this definition focuses on the basic concept of public relations — as a communication process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing ‘mutually beneficial relationships’. ‘Process’ is preferable to ‘management function’, which can evoke ideas of control and top-down, one-way communications.

“’Relationships’ relates to public relations’ role in helping to bring together organizations and individuals with their key stakeholders. ‘Publics’ is preferable to ‘stakeholders’, as the former relates to the very ‘public’ nature of public relations, whereas ‘stakeholders’ has connotations of publicly-traded companies.”

PRSA then set about listing the management functions of public relations (quoted verbatim):

  • Anticipating, analysing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
  • Counselling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
  • Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
  • Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.

Figures released by PRISA in March, in South Africa this year, show that the public relations industry in South Africa and indeed in Africa, expects to show growth this year of between 5% and 9% growth, with some hoping for 10% and 20%. This was based on a survey by the International Communications Consultancy organisation (ICCO) in conjunction with The Holmes Report.

ICCO represents PR associations worldwide and PRISA members were among those surveyed.

While 51% believed that the industry would remain stable, 24% expected an improvement in the industry. However, 69% believe that macro business issues such as the economy, socio-political factors and BBBEE restrictions could create slower or lower growth in the communication industry. Continued “limited understanding of the role of PR and therefore low budget allocations” was a reason given for this, as was the fact that more PR firms were competing for the same piece of the action.

PRISA said the industry needs to educate the market on exactly how it adds value.

The issue of “red tape” in the SMME market was also raised as a restriction to both growth and sustainability.

“The respondents also feel that there are barriers to breaking into new markets due to ‘monopolies’, but it’s important to note here that many (47%) also see certain macro business issues assisting growth in our industry. This includes increased governance and stakeholder engagement requirements, the growth of community enterprises and the explosion of social media. Some believe, though, that the latter is too often too handed to digital agencies or conducted in-house, when brands and companies should be aware that this is a critical communication element and forms part of reputation management, the domain of the PR professional,” PRISA reported.

Industries that remain “good prospects” for growth in the PR industry were seen to be: telecommunications, pharmaceutical and healthcare, IT, food and drink, and consumer products. Bottom of the list was: mining, metals, freight transport, defence and security.

Areas cited in the research as being key income drivers were: corporate social responsibility campaigns, digital services content creation and management, integrated communication, and disaster management.

“PRISA highlights the fact that editorial services and social network management also ranked high, which means industry members themselves see the connection between these communications offerings in getting a single, strong message out for their clients.”

Interestingly, most of the respondents surveyed believed that digital business would grow by 77%, while marketing spend on PR for 2013 was “likely to remain the same”.

Attracting competent staff was named as one of the three biggest challenges in the industry (50%), while 34% saw the second biggest challenge as advertising and marketing companies stealing business from the PR and communication industry, with competition from local firms coming in as the third challenge at 28%.

The issue of media evaluation that was so controversial in the past seems to be resolving itself, with some 65% of those surveyed using the Barcelona Declaration and 25% using the processes listed in the Barcelona Accord. PRISA said it was pleased that so many firms were working towards standardising measurement and reporting metrics by using the Barcelona Accord.

Game changers

The biggest topic of conversation in the industry is digital integration. And accompanying that is the question as to who owns earned media?

Then comes the question of skills – are PR companies and PR practitioners that don’t upskill and acquire digital skills or enter into digital partnerships making themselves redundant?

According to IMTS top trends for PR and marketing in 2013, before social media and smart devices completely changed communication, the big change for public relations came about in the 1990s when the concept of integrated marketing blurred the lines between marketing and public relations. The key point to note here is that where case studies used to be owned by PR, they are now at the core of storytelling and content-driven programs run by anyone from internal marketing to branding and advertising agencies and digital agencies. Content marketing is at the top of the list of marketing and PR strategy today, fuelled by social media and the consumer’s insatiable desire for great content to share.

Mike Sharman
Mike Sharman

On the question of earned media – social media is seen as earned media. Public relations is earned media. So who should be leading the social media charge for clients?

Communications practitioners know how to tell stories and produce great content and ideas to enthral cynical journalists and gain column centimetres for clients. The job hasn’t changed, the medium has and your audience is closer to you, a click away instead of a deadline away.

It is not only the PR industry of course, that has had to reinvent itself in recent times. One of the reasons the PR industry is under threat is because advertising agencies have had to reinvent themselves too and digital agencies have taken ownership of social media.

The digital communications agencies of course, have a diametrically opposing viewpoint, although the end goal is the same as the traditional PR agencies.

The CEO of Gloo, Pete Case, mentions that the ever changing complex media landscape has given consumers a voice and influence and brands an audience 24/7.

“Over the past decade, the worlds of media and advertising have changed dramatically. Where brands and marketing managers were once the ones who decided what message they would communicate to the market, now their customers have a voice and they’re not afraid to use it,” Case says.

He explains that the creative team is no longer made up only of a copywriter and an art director reporting to a creative director. “In addition to these roles, the agency/client partnership of the future will pull in experts in customer service, product/service design, user experience, datamining, branding, reputation and more, to craft strategies that span channels and create an integrated platform for dialogue with customers. Business solutions are starting to interact with marketing and media. Owned media such as websites and mobile apps are transactional platforms, as well as the marketing and communications spaces brands use to talk to their audiences.”

Cerebra managing director, Craig Rodney, believes that the traditional PR role will become such a small role that clients will take it inside. He does believe that public relations needs a new definition as digital has been a massive game changer.

“I had a PR company, but we had technology clients, so we prided ourselves on our technology acumen and were at the forefront of the evolution of social media.”

He says the terminology ‘public relations’ limits thinking and they transformed into a media engagement communication company when his company (Emerging Media) joined forces with Cerebra.

“The shift that PR companies need to make is to recognise that their role is that of a content and conversation company.”

He explains that digital agencies create content for bought properties (paid media), while reaching ‘attention media’ (attracting the attention of the communities of these brands) is earned media.

Former actor and now owner of Retroviral social communication agency, Mike Sharman, believes he is the PR company of “the now”. He says public relations, largely unfairly, still has a “bad rap” defined by “pretty girls and canapés and the gin and tonic brigade”.

“Positioning is important. If you start out as a PR agency, you are relegated to being the ginger stepchild of the agency world that everyone wants to beat up on.”

Sharman defines the industry hierarchy as such: “Agencies are the cool kids. No one wants public relations in the agency context. Digital agencies are the hipsters. People want to hang out with us. We have cool things, cool toys… hipsters come with their lattes and skinny jeans and Instagram. PR has always been the ugly duckling of the industry.”

He defines Retroviral as a “word of mouth dissemination hype-creative agency”, but they are playing in the earned media space, like the PR agencies and digital agencies and social media agencies…

When he worked for a ‘traditional’ PR agency, Sharman says he was lucky to work with smart people who thought about strategy first.

“But still today, agencies sell tactics as strategy, they don’t know the difference. Strategy is how to support a business using communication. It is an umbrella strategy. It is not your tactics – that is social media, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn… We need to step back and ask what the business is doing? What the business strategy is?”

Sharman says that some communicators really don’t get digital: “They think that there are all these cool online spaces to hang out in and they want to be there.” He emphasises that it is about relevance and about not being intrusive or invasive. “That is why we play in the earned space rather than the paid-for space. We don’t want to be intrusive.”

One of the dangers to the industry is that brands are becoming publishers of their own content and are becoming very good at creating content that their customer wants, says Rodney.

“Look, this is the best thing to happen to the PR industry. It will cull the herd. PR was boring and crap. The average PR company out there was crap, because they don’t think. They are not thinking about their clients, their audience and about creating such amazing content that people want. They think their role is to create press releases and they limit their thinking according to the confines of the media they engage with.”

Rodney says PR people need to start thinking of themselves as content creators and storytellers. “The publishing part is becoming the easy part – as long as you get your thinking right and understand who your target audience is.”

There are a number of key influencers TREND. identified that have impacted on the public relations industry, forcing change:

  • Developing digital technologies – from the internet to social media and now apps and even Google Glass, how consumers consume content has changed which massively influences how we work in our own industries.
  • Disruption in the media industry – how we publish and how we curate content has changed. Newsweek has gone online only, the date for publication of the last newspaper has been set (it’s the Year 2043 according to the book ‘The Vanishing Newspaper’ by journalism professor Philip Meyer).
  • The emergence of the social enterprise – social business is a massive trend as it affects how every industry does and will do business and includes the integration of all enterprise-wide systems, for example, CRM including call centres; and elevates marketing and by definition communications, to a higher profile within an organisation as reputation will be all that matters in the end, not your historical legacy.
  • Dealing directly with the public via social media platforms and direct activations – PR is no longer just a conduit between client and media. Consumers respond directly to brand channels and the CEOs/marketing directors, on social media. This conversation has to be managed.
  • Public relations has become one part of what a communication management or strategic communication firm now does – this now includes media relations, reputation management, social media, content creation and curation, etc.

PROFESSIONALISING PR

There is currently a green paper ready to go before parliament to regulate the public relations industry. The process emerged from within PRISA as an initiative, and evolved into an independent body that will most likely replace PRISA at the end of the process.

It has been a two year process of engagement to date involving all stakeholders in the industry to draft a coherent plan to regulate the industry and professionalise it.

The rationale behind it is to enhance and promote the professional status of well-trained, competent PR professionals.

As Bridget von Holdt, head of the PRISA PR Consultants Chapter and the key instigator of the green paper, explains: “Reputational risk is the most fundamental and compelling reason for organisations to want to employ only professionals to be the guardian of their reputation, brand and good name. Why would companies want to put the reputation, image and good name of their organisation in the hands of someone who had no, or inadequate competence, qualifications or experience relevant to protecting, building and advancing the reputation on which the organisation trades, and on which its future business success depended?”

She says the PR and communication management profession has repeatedly been brought into disrepute in recent years due to the conduct of unregistered practitioners.

“Prisa has not always succeeded in sanctioning those that act in contravention of its Code of Ethics and Professional Practice, the Institute has nevertheless made great inroads in the last two years, increasing its membership base and working closely with government to include government communicators in Prisa. The Institute has all the means and frameworks in place to move to legislated self-regulation as this green paper will show.”

Von Holdt says it is important to note that this proposed legislation will not prevent a person from executing their own public relations or communication activities on behalf of themselves in a personal capacity. Any member of the public can launch a communication campaign on any issue or cause they may feel passionate about. Any organisation can promote and market their own business.

“What a legislated profession means is that communication professionals – those who seek to derive income from providing communication services on behalf of, or in the employ of, others and who also wish to represent themselves as a professional, whether via offering counsel or representing an organisation -  should be registered in terms of the legislation and adhere to minimum standards, qualifications, competencies and levels of experience.

“We further seek to ensure that when a person in a category of registration seeks to do work at a higher level than that for which he or she is registered, that this is done in conjunction with and under the supervision of a category of person who is recognised as competent to perform the work and derive income from that.”

Von Holdt believes the registration of a PR professional is in the public interest as it will enable professionals to register according to the category of competence and experience, indicating the work which they are competent to perform. But it will require continuous education and the upgrading of skills.

And this is what the task team – set up two years ago, spearheaded by PRISA and representing all communication sets from Government to sponsorships, PR educators, the IABC, etc. – set out to do: investigate how to legislate the public relations industry to give it more credibility and come up with something that lays down the minimum education requirement to be called a public relations practitioner, registering on an annual basis with a legislative body – managed by PRISA initially, but evolving into a new ‘society of public relations practitioners’.

The task team investigated other registered professional bodies, from engineers to doctors, to look at how they set about registering the PR profession.

“A huge amount of work has gone into this process. It is going to be formalised, hence the preparation of the green paper has been quite intense.” Von Holdt, who has been in the profession for 30 years and a member of PRISA for 20 years, said the document needed to go to parliament to lend it the gravitas and legal status that was needed to impose professional standards on the industry.

“This is one of the things I need to see before I retire: the professionalising of our profession. I would like to see it in practice. It is not going to happen overnight, but I would like to see people who have studied public relations reap the benefit of their studies.”

She agrees that the term ‘public relations’ has started to die, with more talk of communication management and the use of reputation management terminology. “Public relations is seen as only being about the press release. The definition of public relations is so much more than that.”

The aligning of communication with management in South Africa was probably driven by the JSE, which required more professional communication with stakeholders and journalists and that is when the profession in South Africa underwent its first evolution in the early 1990s, she says.

“Public relations had to become more creative in selling stories, as it became a popular profession and journalists had all these people popping stories into their fax machines.”

Two decades later and the digital era has seen the integration of the traditional PR campaign, eliminating any distinction between above-the-line, below-the-line traditional media and campaigns, with 90% of the entries into the annual PRISM Awards featuring a digital element.

Then the King III commission elevated public relations to the boardroom as stakeholder management must be managed at executive board level and should form part of the board agenda.

“It was a huge achievement for the public relations industry, but we haven’t capitalised on it as much as we should have,” Von Holdt says.

And that is not the only change, with communication now having to happen on a 24 hour basis. “In an ideal world technology was supposed to make things easier. We work harder than ever, we are forced to communicate on a 24 hour basis as our different audiences are communicating all the time. Also, the message doesn’t disappear, you have to continuously manage that reputation.”

The relevance of traditional PR principles still stands, according to Von Holdt. These are:

  1. Relationships still form the most important element of public relations because you have to influence the target audience to read your story and buy your product. You cannot hide behind a computer or a tablet. You have to build on that relationship and build the confidence of the consumer that you are talking to.
  2. To be able to tell a story, as short and sweetly as possible, is also important. Whether it is in a tweet or on your website, people have to get a grasp of what you need to say.
  3. You have to understand what the audience is consuming.
Kevin Welman
Kevin Welman

FleishmanHillard is one of the biggest PR agencies in South Africa. Managing director Kevin Welman has worked for the group for 17 years and agrees that the changes in the last three to four years have been immense.

“But the essence of what we do hasn’t changed: we have to deliver a message for a client to an audience. That audience is now accepting that message in a different way and social media is delivering it in such different ways.”

He thinks the word ‘digital’ should be outlawed as it is really about “social listening”.

The playing field has also expanded with the advent of social media tools and platforms and everyone from above-the-line advertising agencies, to digital agencies, to social media gurus, to large scale traditional media and niche PR agencies staking their claim.

Welman admits that with all the players now in this “social communications space”, that it must be terrifying for clients.

“Successful agencies have to understand what they are trying to do and you need to know what you are not doing.

“We are in charge of delivering the client’s message to audiences. We are a global public relations agency. If the best channel is print media, then that is the way to go. If it is to build a community around a product, then that is the way to go. Of course, our range of skills has to be much wider now and I can understand why smaller PR agencies are battling to meet clients’ needs in this regard.”

He says PR agencies cannot put a communication plan in front of a client without understanding their business.

“We went as far as building Twitter based tools to understand more about our clients and the people tweeting about their brands, and the kind of questions being asked online.

Janine Hills
Janine Hills

“When we hire people, we talk to them about their impression about a brand. To think about it, to have an opinion, to see the client’s business challenge.”

They now ask clients what customer experience they provide, where their customers get their leads from, how they hear about the client – questions they would not have asked five years ago.

Janine Hills, CEO of Vuma Reputation Management believes there has been “an awakening” in the communication industry and it is tied to the increasing demands placed on marketers.

“Chief marketing officers are not skilled enough in business to bridge the gap themselves between marketing communication and business. Many CMOs don’t understand the nature of the business. I don’t believe the industry has taken the time to spend ‘a day in the life’ of their employees – gone into factories, down the mines, onto the shop floor…”

Reputation management is the new black

There has been a shift in the focus of public relations over the last few years to reputation management. Reputation management sits at the top of the list of PR services. But it is becoming more than a core service and about everything a public relations agency does.

Of course the debate over which marketing communications discipline is responsible for social media – a core component of reputation management these days – has been around since social media, with PR, marketers, brand agencies, ad agencies, digital agencies and customer service, all having a finger on the keyboard. Corporate reputation is the keyword here.

As PR Daily warns:As more businesses recognize the opportunities (and threats) that social media present to their corporate reputation, and the demand from stakeholders for direct engagement, they are reaching out to PR agencies and practitioners for support. PR pros, who have long been responsible for managing the dialogue between an organization and the public, will emerge as trendsetters in the social space by providing valuable communications counsel and achieving results that directly impact clients’ bottom lines.”

Welman says it doesn’t matter where the uncontrolled conversation of social media sits. It is all about the PESO model: Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media. When they get a new client, they look at all the channels they use.

“We don’t want to play in every environment. But I truly believe you can never look at earned media in isolation to the other spaces, which is why you have to truly understand it.”

Paid media is obviously mostly advertising; earned media covers social media, company blogs with an engagement platform; the shared space can encompass brochures, marketing material, blogs, etc. – things a company shares with their communities; and the owned space is what the company has control over, such as websites, Facebook page, first tweets, the CEO blog, annual report and so on.

Welman says it is important to look at what the through-the-line full service agency is doing, what the digital agency is doing and look at the gaps and address them: ‘Are you creating engagement? Are you bringing people to the client’s world?’

Reputation management is part of risk management and should form part of internal business plans, says Hills.

“The role of reputation management has changed dramatically from the media sphere to being more about integrating communications into the business sphere. We see reputation management as a business tool, which is part of the organisation,” Hills explains.

One of the most important tasks is to try get business people to take the lead in the steps required to build a reputation, Hills adds. Reputation management tools deal with all aspects of a company’s risk management, from community consciousness – what companies are doing for a community if there is operational risk, to how your employees get to work. And in the case of a disaster – are there clinics nearby and what condition are they in?

Vuma also talks to companies about their responsibility towards their employees (i.e., are you creating future leaders in the community?); skills development; investment in education (i.e., to create the next generation of engineers for your mine); the standards being set to build the reputation of long term involvement by a company.

“It is about investing in your brand,” Hills reiterates.

Lion’s Wing Brand Communications managing director, Greg Forbes believes convergence is where public relations is going and that reputation management is becoming the pinnacle of everything – across every discipline.

“PR is going to start directing and playing an intricate role across all disciplines.”

Forbes talks about an “end-audience perspective” where technology has moved to a point where the end audience has the ability to consolidate information. He references Google Glass, already being trialed and due for consumer launch end-2013.

He believes that Google Glass will open the door for communications singularity. “Google Glass is a technology which will be the conduit for the individual to access any and all information across all channels. Everything is being filtered and funnelled down to what the consumer will be able to access at any given time.

“I, as an individual will have access to all information, regardless of where the content came from, to make choices. I’ll be able to stand in front of a shelf and get information instantly on products and the companies that make them. I’ll be able to stand in front of two restaurants and download the reviews instantaneously.”

Forbes says this means that advertising and communication has to work with the full reputation of a business.

“It is a huge paradigm shift. That is why PR will not be what it once was, advertising will not be what it once was. Companies will be forced to make sure their reputation is up to scratch at all times and sales will no longer be based just on price and emotional appeal, but on reputation.”

There is research that backs up Forbes’ comments: www.TREND.watching.com says the future belongs to ‘clean slate brands’ – brands that are so new, there is no scandal attached, no legacy issues and they can begin from a higher moral platform that some of their competitors with a rich brand heritage. They are brands that are “born clean”.

This is because younger consumers in particular perceive the newer brands to be more responsive, more transparent and without any legacy of poor business practice. This of course discounts traditional brand principles of trusted brand legacy and symbols with a strong heritage.

Another reason is declining trust in business, according to Havas. As www.TREND.watching.com outlines: “Simple, lean, transparent operations are what characterises the operations, supply chain, design and consumer interaction of clean slate brands. Consumers are particularly attracted to such brands after the legion of scandals, from the banking sector to horsemeat in food products and large scale business failures.”

Plainly put: consumers want brands that haven’t “sinned”. In fact, 64% of global consumers think most companies are only trying to be responsible to improve their image and are not really sincere (Havas Media 2011).

As Sarah Skerik, PR Newswire’s vice president of social media says, on reputation: “Today’s buyers (both consumer and B2B) conduct extensive research before contacting vendors. If a brand doesn’t have a good reputation, positive reviews and strong search and social visibility, it will be eliminated from consideration well before the prospect gets serious about buying.  Instead of building episodic awareness, the new imperative for PR is to develop on-going brand visibility and a strong reputation.”

“As communication professionals, we know the importance of reputation management to an organisation’s bottom line,” says marcusbrewster chairman, Marcus Brewster. “The global economic crisis was simply a very extreme example of what happens to share prices when public confidence is eviscerated.

“In our own research last year, we established that company reputation was the single most important qualifier of choice as to why clients appointed us as their PR agency of record. Company reputation far outpaced determinants like quality of service and low cost.

Galia Kerbel
Galia Kerbel

Greater Than managing director, Galia Kerbel believes that the key role for PR firms today is to create a digital communication and reputation management strategy within their offering to clients. “Where it becomes tricky is in being able to identify which of their stakeholders are using digital channels and what these are, develop the appropriate ways of communicating and engaging with them online, and then they having the skills to implement.”

Kerbel believes a new model needs to be developed where digital agencies and PR companies are integrated, both sharing and benefiting from the skills of each other.

“The agency of the future will have all its account managers and team members trained in how social media and digital channels work (if they don’t have that already). As crafters of the brand and company messages and custodians of their reputation, PR companies must take the lead in this arena.”

As to what PR means in today’s context, PR Powerhouse managing director Lebo Madiba, says it is true that PR has always felt like the “step-sister” of other disciplines in the industry.

“PR has been dying to be part of the marketing mix. Today’s environment is giving PR the opportunity to really be part of it all, and even sit at the core of a marketing strategy. We have always been the masters of creating messages and conversations. Social gives us a chance to merge message/conversation with creativity – creating a fit for us into a world (creative world) that previously battled to understand PR’s role.

“PR hasn’t changed, our platforms have changed. It is still a strategic tool. In defining it, we have to consider both online conversations and the boardroom conversations – whether it is online/social or in traditional media, it is still about creating perceptions and managing reputation… I don’t think that we need a new definition. The only thing that has changed is that our format of communication is changing from monologue to dialogue,” Madiba says.

Says Forbes: “We are moving towards a communications singularity. Regardless of what discipline you specialise in, you have to have a good understanding of where you fit in and how your task overlaps with everything else. When someone develops an ad campaign, you have to do media placement and reputation management. PR agencies will be placing ads.”

The question now is, will PR agencies which have the media relationships and can secure earned media content – become more sexy to clients than the ad agencies which are more used to buying influence in the paid media sector.

Forbes sees PR agencies evolving to become consultancies like McKinsey, where research will be key.

“That will make us survive, that is where the meat lies. In the future, where reputations are so incredibly important, we are the reputation management consultants.”

What it boils down to, says Forbes, is that companies cannot do one thing and say another. There is such a great degree of transparency of information that people can get access to, that companies and people can no longer be unethical.

The open and unmanaged dialogue on social media of course opens up a whole new ‘can of worms’ and if you are going to engage on social media, you need to understand and respect the rules of engagement with social media, Hills says. Vuma represented the Pistorius family during the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing earlier this year.

“Allow the ‘lid’ to open, but engage and be able to educate at the same time of engagement, taking things offline when you need to. Through the Oscar Pistorius process, people attacked me personally, so I went offline and picked up the phone and engaged with them directly, media included.

“One mustn’t take things personally – reputation management is about protecting the brands and the value of the brands. Allow the chatter, but monitor the chatter, respect the chatter. Then ask ‘what are we going to do’ and take those learnings and improve on what the company is offering.”

Reputation management is about respecting and understanding the law behind social media, as well as media law.

“Media law is becoming an important part of reputation management,” Hills says. “We have alliance partners with legal firms.”

Hills adds that search engine optimisation (SEO) is also a very important part of reputation management. “Your website is becoming so crucial. Your articles printed online are vital. More important than print, so SEO is so important to position a company’s website at the top of search terms, rather than articles written about them. What is the point of doing great advertising and great PR, but when you do a search, you can’t find anything positive about that company? SEO is so important in reputation management.”

This is Hills advice to communicators:

  1. Client service: understand your stakeholders – the media is one. Build relationships – but you have to constantly work at it. Too often I see young communicators coming through who don’t go into the effort to build relationships. They don’t do the personal investment in their own skills. Understand the business fully with your client. Don’t leave it at the formula:  three interviews a month/ six interviews a month. The key thing is to have the depth of skill in the organisation – have you met the CSO? The CEO? Don’t just write press releases without understanding the business.
  2. Deliverables: this comes from CEOs. Each account director has to understand the deliverables. You have to respect that business is under pressure worldwide. So if you still have money coming to you, it is a privilege. You need to know how to make that money work for the client. We are in a tough period right now. Build your personal reputation and the reputation of the organisation.
  3. Upskilling: it is a continuous process, the learning never stops.
  4. Integration: communicators need the ears of the board, they need to integrate into the business. Too many communicators still think that reputation management is only crisis management. It is about everything else too. There is definitely an opportunity for communicators to step up. Social media campaigns are fantastic, but have you read your audience? Do you understand what the company is going through?

CONTENT CURATION

Brands have an unparalleled opportunity to position themselves via content and storytelling. Content marketing, once the preserve of the PR industry, now forms part of all integrated marketing strategies and the lines of communication are blurring. PR practitioners need to be on top of their game to remain in control of earned media.

Idea Engineers MD, Janice Spark, believes that public relations is in crisis in South Africa. “Somewhere there is a space that says, ‘we need to evolve’, but ‘we’re not sure how’.”

Spark says communication solutions should always be built around the needs of the client, no matter the media channel. And content needs to be shaped around the needs of the brand, no matter the channel.

“PR agencies struggle with social media because you have to talk in a different way, even though the content is the same. It is a tonal thing. If you know your client, your message and audience, the context, then it is the simplest thing to do.

“The PR agency needs to leverage what they have: they have content, they have relationships with media. In the same way you will approach a print publication differently to a radio station, it is the same thing when it comes to social media channels. I don’t see it as being so difficult. Just a case of application. Every PR agency should be able to run a fully fledged social media campaign. Not the tech, but the content. Partnering comes in with the tech.”

Marcus Brewster, chairman of marcusbrewster, agrees that the PR industry needs to totally reinvent itself, form alliances with other specialists Brewster.M-30in the earned media and below the line media space, and seize the high ground.

“PR has always been the great provider of content. Now in the social media context, content is king and it is all about the best agencies to deliver that content – and content is what PR does well. We understand messaging, positioning and topical content. You can build important digital platforms, but they are going nowhere without content.”

Brewster said PR agencies needed to understand the central role in content generation that is the positioning that PR needs to nudge itself into.

“We do media liaison well, but traditional media is losing its position. Many marketers and brand managers want to see activity in action on social media and the PR industry is very well geared to being able to respond to it,” Brewster reiterates.

Delivering the right solution to the client is what matters, Spark says, not whether it falls under PR, social media or advertising. However, the written media release as a primary means of communication is a thing of the past, Spark believes.

In fact it is Etiket ad agency creative director, Ricardo Rocha, who says that consumers need to make personal connections with brands and that is where great content comes in to create that connection and provide the ‘back story’ in what he terms the ‘face economy’.

“We live in an age of technology; an era that has arguably made our lives more sophisticated. However, technology advancement is also bringing the fight to a faceless monster – the disconnected world where the things we buy and subsequent companies we support are phantoms of commerce.

“We now have the means to care about the people behind the business and want to know more about them. It speaks to our humanity as we find comfort in understanding the context that supports the person behind the product,” says Rocha. “It gives us joy to know there was a degree of love put into the creation of the product we bought. Also, we love the back story as it enables us to add it to our own narrative which is – in itself – unique and interesting. It adds value to our lives.”

The fact is, stories don’t have to be epic, but can be about one element, micro stories. And whether we are in the technology age, the age of the individual, the basics of communications practice still apply: the principles of communications 101; great content and ideas; media relationships; etc. In fact storytelling and media relationships is what should put communications professionals at the top of the industry in the earned media space as this is what they do best.

The rise of the smartphone society means that mobile-friendly content targeted and designed to meet the specific needs of individual preferences is an essential part of strategy. All websites need to be mobile-capable and content needs to be snackable.

Telling stories is at the heart of content marketing and public relations. In its ‘Top TREND.s for PR and Marketing in 2013’, IMTS suggests that not all stories need to be long and involved, “micro stories – little stories that address one point” can be just as effective, for example, in the manufacturing/technology sector: a customer challenge that was solved satisfactorily.

In his ‘7 strategies for developing compelling content in 2013’, Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute says first everyone should watch ‘Content 2020’ from Coca-Cola, in which it details its mission statement in moving the organisation from creative excellence to content excellence.

“Marketing professionals are hungry for any way that they can continue their content marketing journey and attract and retain customers with compelling content,” Pulizzi says.

The first step is to develop an editorial mission or content marketing mission statement in order to then execute a content strategy: “Every person that touches the content marketing program should know, by heart, what the mission of the content strategy is.”

Pulizzi believes brands are not taking their content seriously enough and that a new mindset is needed in order to become the “leading informational provider for your niche”. Mike Silver of Stretch Experimental Marketing, specialises in brand activations targeting the consumer directly – and incidentally, delivering up genuine, authentic, real time consumer brand interaction. However, in many cases, he says brands don’t seed this great content to their social media and PR channels, or don’t involve the digital agency or their communication agency in the strategy.

Pulizzi’s points are: tell stories; define and answer your customers’ questions; involve your employees in content marketing; and the co-creation of content with partners.

Pulizzi advises taking a hard look at your content to see if what you are producing is actually useful for your customers and enriches their lives in some way.

The mobile phone is becoming the primary news resource around the world, driven in part by Twitter which is now the leading source for breaking news in most parts of the world; smartphone penetration; tablet growth; the more mobile lifestyle and work environment; and, most importantly, the ability to drill down in depth consumer segmentation and target the consumer at any time on this 24/7 always on – always on the consumer, device. Research has shown that people would rather leave their wallet at home than their mobile phone.

What needs to happen now is that marketers and PRs need to develop snackable content that is targeted correctly to the right audience and in the right format – it is not enough to merely format media or adverts to appear on mobile. The growth of mobile apps is also providing incredible opportunities for marketers to engage with their consumers.

Retroviral’s Mike Sharman pegs the “holy trinity” for any successful brand campaign as: activation; digital; PR.

He says public relations has become almost “global” relations as influence has become about linked influence. “Ultimately you want your concept to go viral. That is the holy grail. The only way you do that is through having a very good concept which can be seeded out to bloggers and the press. There is so much noise on the internet. You, as a journalist or blogger, are looking for uniqueness every day. It is all about exclusives.”

Kenneth Kracmer, managing partner and PR director, HCK2 Partners in the US, is firm in his assertion that social media is now officially part of the communication mix.For many, mobile devices serve as a primary vehicle for receiving and sending information. Organizations will need to continue to adapt and learn best practices for properly communicating through these channels in order to reach, engage and educate their audiences.

“The PR function for organizations has long been the driver for consistent, relevant content. Organic SEO strategies, social media vehicles and blogs require a constant flow of information that is audience specific, impactful and thought provoking,” said Kracmer.

Most importantly, Galia Gerbel, MD at Greater Than, believes that PR agencies will in time create their own newsrooms for curating content.

“The PR agency of the future will also embrace the content curation trend because great content and storytelling lies at the heart of what we do. That is why agencies have and always will employ journalists and writers. I believe this will always remain the skill of the PR agency, however the danger lies in these resources not understanding the digital realm. In fact I believe the agency of the future will create their own newsrooms for curating content and therefore will have to employ more writers and journalists who understand the digital world.”

At the heart of this, she says, is telling the clients’ “story” in an engaging way – to reach specific markets/stakeholders.

Glynnis Braithwaite, MD of Protactic Strategic Communications, agrees that social media is earned media: “To create those conversations, we need content from the client.”

Ruth Golembo, Lange 360 managing director, believes that public relations has an edge on other parts of the marketing mix when it comes to the way company and brand information is packaged.

“What PR does for its clients is to connect business (or brands) with all its stakeholders, often through storytelling by providing proof points in engaging ways. It does this by generating content which consumers can share with others either by word of mouth or via social media.”

While the PR skills set began evolving radically from about 1995, Golembo says creative writing and message crafting abilities remain at the top of the list.

“Irrespective of their fields of training (we employ a variety of graduates, from economists to lawyers), ideal PR industry players should be creative thinkers who can best harness existing (or create new) channels to connect with all stakeholders and provide the best ways to create appropriate positive perceptions.

“Old style PR provided communication (from the company via its own media – i.e.  website, blog, Twitter or custom published magazine)  – and via earned media,  but today there is more of an opportunity to blend and create what might look like earned media but is really advertising in another guise (sponsorship/advertorials/brand ambassadors/industry think tanks) all of which can add to creating positive public perceptions and provide credible touch points,” Golembo points out .

Lion’s Wing Brand Communication CEO, Greg Forbes, admits there is a tussle already as to under whose domain earned media and social media falls.

“As we have seen, public relations and digital communications management are starting to do the same things. Digital agencies have seen bloggers as their ownership, but we are saying bloggers fall under earned media/PR.”

The biggest challenge, Golembo believes, is understanding all the new channels available and the best way to measure them – as well as educating clients about the opportunities and threats inherent in the various channels, including social media.

“While social media gives you scale and allows you to drive conversation in a word of mouth marketing way, it’s at its best when it is really earned. This should ideally follow a positive brand experience and genuine excitement in a specific product performance or service. However, by making the consumer your ‘channel’ and allowing them spread your news, it becomes harder to control the message,” Golembo says.

Ruth Golembo MD of Lange 360
Ruth Golembo MD of Lange 360

Video killed the PRO

A future disruptor of the PR industry is also video. You hear it everywhere now: “video is the future of the internet”. PROs need to “think multimedia” for every marketing effort undertaken. Multimedia communications is less of a trend, and more of a strategic imperative for communicators, notes PR Newswire.

Ad agencies do this well – every new, big campaign being released, now also has a “making of” video. People want the back story. They want to ‘see’ what they are reading. Visual communications are key as we’ve seen with the rise of services like Instagram and Pinterest.

PR Daily reports: “The rise of infographics, photo sharing, and visual storytelling will push PR pros and their clients to deploy messages visually in order to compete in a crowded content market. All Things D reported that in August, smartphone users spent more time on Instagram than on Twitter for the first time since Instagram launched in 2010. This is indicative of a broader shift toward visual content in the digital space. As the old saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’; more important, it might also be worth your customer’s attention.”

Press releases with multimedia assets such as photos, videos, downloadable files, apps, can get up to 91.7 times more views than traditional text-only releases according to PR Newswire research. This is the Age of the Infographic  after all.

Says Susie Parker from Steamfeed.com: “We are visual creatures and the more (and better) we can help our audience understand our message with eye-catching graphics, the more uptake we will realize in that call to action. These visuals need to support your news release though. Eye catching graphics won’t make up for a poorly written press release because these stunning graphics may never be seen if the accompanying press release is not compelling enough for the editor/writer. Great writing is always in style.”

Social media marketing is not digital PR and understanding the difference is extremely important to ensure the successful implementation of a digital strategy, says Lucinda Boddy, MD of Livewired PR.

“Simply put, digital PR is building presence on the internet and managing online reputation for brands and businesses. This can be done through various means such as social media, websites, blogging, and online media coverage.”

Boddy believes search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most effective tools for PROs to use for clients to improve a brand or company’s search visibility.

Ultimately, SEO assists brands to build their online reputation and widen their reach, she says. “The objective of SEO is to improve a brand or company’s search visibility. This is done through the creation of compelling content in the form of press releases, blogs, audio and visual clips, and the like, in which key search words have been strategically included.

“The main objective of social media marketing is to initiate positive interactions with consumers and if possible, influential online personalities. It involves the development of online content that emphasises positive news around the brand, minimising the effect of negative publicity,” Boddy explains.

She includes video, audio and podcasts among a brand’s digital assets, as submitting assets such as these to socially interactive sites only increases your brand’s number of entry points on the web.

She believes that PR needs to evolve into the “principle driver” of a brand’s visual development.

“PR and visual messaging have previously been regarded as completely separate aspects of a brand’s strategy. There’s a reason why data visualisation has become so popular in the business environment. Google, for instance, has established that people are far more likely to click on links that were accompanied by images they trust, which has led to the success of their personalised searches.”

And be your own journalist, says Chirene Campbell, Owlhurst Communications MD : “Take video, sound clips, etc., on your smartphone when you’re with a client to get impromptu interview material which can be uploaded to a dedicated site for journalists to have easy access to. Provide the media with more than one format of information.”

Boddy says the rising influence of visual communication is further evidenced by the increasing use of infographics, as well as the popularity of social media sites like Pinterest and applications such as Instagram.

“Storytelling has always been the most important element of PR – and that will never change – the story is simply going to become a lot more visual. Whether it’s through graphics that accompany presentations, cartoons, illustrations or graphic recording, expect to see a great deal more visual representation in brand communications. The nature of critical business meetings, pitches, and traditional and social media strategies are starting to adapt as infographics are used to engage viewers and help them to assimilate more complicated information, by tapping into their emotional and cognitive responses to images that appeal to them.”

Clients also need to be educated, Campbell says. “In today’s context I believe that the role of PR is exactly the same, but the way in which we communicate has had to change because of the many more engagement platforms available to us. We can’t just rely on a press release – we need to ‘mutlimunicate’ through voice, words, sound, video, pictures, social media, etc.”

What the industry has to get used to, is that there are no longer office hours as social media is a constant stream that needs to be monitored for opportunities for clients, says Campbell.

Brian Berkman
Brian Berkman

The media relations card

The biggest card the PR industry holds is that of media relations. It is public relations professionals that have the relationship with the media – not the client, not the ad agency, not the digital agency, not the media agency.

When social media trends towards tabloid journalism, you hold the key to getting credible, independent journalistic opinion, to influencing journalists.

The problem is, that media relations is not nearly as high on PR agendas as it should be. There is still too much spam, too little knowledge of media products and how the media works, too much of the spray and pray approach.

With daily digital media gobbling up press releases because some have too little resources to appoint real journalists and senior content curators, everyone else needs a different angle, an exclusive story – from your daily newspaper to your weekly columnist.

Unfortunately some agencies still think media relations entails updating media lists once every three years and calling up journalists to ask if they received their press releases.

PR Daily believes that the rise of blogging and social media has increased the need for content curation and reputable journalists to counter misinformation and rumour.

The media is still there to provide an independent and objective view of the news, reviews, profiles etc.

What is social media, but distilled real life, that authenticity again that brands need to tap into. To do that of course, you need to be able to reach your audience in the best possible channel. Professional media relationships are key to this.

Public relations practitioners also need to safeguard the democratic media process and freedom of speech by respecting editorial independence and educating clients in this regard. There is a worrying tendancy for corporates and industry organisations to try control the press coverage they receive by threatening to withhold media accreditation to key industry or business events if journalists don’t agree to draconian terms such as “mandatory” attendance at press conferences and the submission of bylined articles and letters from editors as “proof” that they are credible journalists.

Certain travel PROs have been guilty of insisting that coverage is guaranteed before confirming invites to review places of interest.

The South African Editor’s Forum (SANEF) has recently had to tackle several industry bodies and events for example, as regards the media accreditation process  and treatment of journalists in covering news events. The public relations industry and brands must realise that they have as much of a responsibility, as the media does, to ensure media independence and integrity. Media independence means news and reporting cannot be dictated to or controlled. Independent comment needs to be respected.

This is where media relations comes in and is so important for the PR industry in building relationships of trust to buffer unrealistic client expectations and, in turn, poor journalism of course.

PR is about more than just generating media coverage – it is about being an agent and representative for clients, Karey Evert, Wired Communications MD, says. “I believe PR is all about messaging… honest, genuine and credible messaging and messaging that can lead to storytelling, events, creative executions of all sorts.”

She would like to see PR agencies not just generating content, but also strategically directing ‘content’ campaigns on behalf of clients.

“I’ve always believed that PR agencies have to sell themselves all the time and now ever more so, it would seem because the demands are higher in tougher economic times.”

Adds PR-Net founder, Brian Berkman: “In eight years, social media has exploded to the point where, from my PR perspective, I value bloggers as highly as other media, provided they are speaking to the people I want to reach.”

So why are PR professionals so slow at building their own media profiles? asks Boddy.

“As PR professionals we are well aware of the world of opportunities that social media platforms have provided, hence the reason why we spend our time encouraging our clients to tweet, blog and post. We research their industries, seek opportunities to establish them as thought leaders and make sure we’re always one step ahead of the pack.

“Browse the websites of almost any PR consultancy and you’re bound to see that it’s not quite as up to date as it should be. Ask a PR professional the last time they spoke at an industry event, or wrote a blog post on PR or even posted examples of their own work – chances are they won’t be able to tell you.”

Boddy questions this and says that creating your own brand and establishing yourself as a voice in the industry is just as important as the job you do for clients and advises drawing up a PR plan for your business much in the same way you would do for clients.

“It’s about outlining your objectives, defining the strategies that will assist you to achieve those objectives, deciding on your tactics and timeline, as well as the way in which you will measure the results. Ultimately, you want a creative strategy that will set you apart from others in your field. The digital revolution and associated rise of social media provides ample opportunities for PR professionals to create a presence for their brands.

Glynnis Braithwaite, however, says the basics of communication are still the same, with digital as a another channel that needs to be integrated into the full service communications offering to clients.

“Advertising is you saying good things about your company – PR is when the media say good things about your company. That hasn’t changed.”

She believes that the media are inundated with too much information and that face-to-face meetings are still the most valuable.

The biggest tool for the earned space is relationships, Sharman agrees.

“We have relationships with the biggest online influencers in the country: bloggers, social media influencers, DJs, even journalists. The important thing is to make friends, but not in a contrived way.”

Working in the social media earned media space you have to be very focussed with your messaging, Sharman says. If you give a campaign the best possible legs, there will be overflow and it will reach the mainstream media.

The social media space is also about investment. “We get so invested in the campaigns that we run that we watch everything people are saying on the campaigns, we are personally invested in how consumers are having their experiences,” adds Sharman.

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Kevin Welman
Kevin Welman

PUBLIC RELATIONS – MORE EVOLUTIONARY THAN REVOLUTIONARY

Thought leadership provided by report sponsor FleishmanHillard

By Kevin Welman, managing director of FleishmanHillard SA

Our industry is transforming, we have yet to experience a ‘eureka!’ moment worthy of Archimedes’ bath time revelation, however we’ve all noticed an understated, yet sudden shift in the very foundation underlying the strategies and approaches we have grown used to over the years.

Today, defining one’s self or business in terms of the once highly esteemed and respected divide between public relations, advertising and marketing is as archaic an approach as keeping your life’s savings under the mattress or sending a fax to a friend.

The simple truth is that the lines between these disciplines have been irreversibly blurred by the advent of the digital age. Rather than shy away, most of us have embraced this new paradigm as an opportunity to broaden client strategies and reach new audiences in increasingly meaningful ways.

All the excitement in the air has encouraged greater creativity within PR than ever before.  With this has come a maturity of sorts; the kind that will inevitably determine the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘great’ understanding of where corporate communications is headed in the years to come.

It’s no longer enough to simply shout ‘we’ve gone digital’ from the rafters while frantically brainstorming a social media strategy in the backroom. Clients have come to expect weighty concepts coupled with deeper iNSIGHTS and a presence that encompasses the full spectrum of the marketing mix.

There is now a very apparent need for agencies to operate throughout the bought, owned and earned media spaces. The digital revolution has given us the tools required to represent client messaging in every area of opportunity, instead of within the exclusive jurisdiction of earned media.

Agencies that fail to integrate both traditional and digital approaches into each of these spaces should expect an unpleasant awakening as the market matures. Those that focus on acquiring new skill sets and developing integrated strategies will reap the rewards time and time again.

We have also witnessed a shift in client expectations around iNSIGHTS and reporting. The real value in entering media spaces previously unknown or forbidden to PR lies in gaining a deeper understanding of the audience.

In the future, those who are best able to combine real analytics with a healthy PR mix will be the kings and queens of the marketing boardroom table.

This means gaining real knowledge of how, why and where the message is landing. Digital channels are just tools to be used to gain a better understanding of how to best position an emerging brand, or reinvent a cold fish.

Our apish ancestors knew that stone utensils were a means to an end. By using innovation to find food, they discovered more about the nature of the element they were interacting with. Emerging offerings within the online space are no different – these encourage conversation and should ultimately act as conduits into the hopes and expectations of those who choose to engage.

These factors also hold significant implications for traditionally focused PR efforts. Social media facilitates access to unfathomable quantities of information in a highly conversational manner. Using these networks to contact and present custom-made material to journalists should now play a significant role in every traditional strategy.

If you are reading this as a PR practitioner, then you are more fortunate that you may realise. Although the changes we are living through may seem overwhelming, and at times intimidating, they are breathing new life into an established and reputable industry.

It’s moments like these when country music artist Paul Brandt’s infamous quote seems more relevant than ever.

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon”.

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BUSINESS ROI 

Public relations needs to deliver measurable and trackable business results today. Lead generation and conversion is now the measurable impact of public relations, not column centimetres – and return on investment in any campaign and service is essential.

The fact remains that the ‘practice’ of PR has changed at a fundamental level. PR Newswire VP, Sarah Skerik writes that traditionally, PR outcomes were campaign based and measured in terms of media pick up and AVEs, not the business bottomline. Now public relations is expected to contribute to the bottom line and generate business leads as well as develop reputation and generate “lasting mindshare”.

Reports Skerik: “One of the strongest emerging trends is the requirement for PR to deliver hard, measurable business results, whether that’s measured in an increase in website traffic, or leads generated.  Delivering results that hit the top line, while formerly the domain of marketing, is increasingly expected of PR departments, and to PR’s benefit (in my mind, at least). Information drives many purchasing decisions today, and it’s only natural that the department responsible for conveying much of an organization’s information plays a strong role in influencing customer decisions. However, doing that requires PR to become much attuned to the audiences, and to develop messages within that context.”

It requires that public relations firms evolve beyond the press release, beyond media relations. It requires them to become professional communications businesses, competing head on with the advertising and digital agencies to retain market share.

Global public relations firm FleishmanHillard believes the solution lies in becoming channel agnostic. The firm says it has redefined the boundaries of traditional public relations by evolving into a fully integrated communications company this year, able to solve client business problems by working across paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) media channels.

Said global FleishmanHillard president and CEO, Dave Senay: “Many years ago we recognised the changing communications environment and increasingly heard client demands for integrated solutions. We reimagined and reinvented our business. We invested in non-traditional talent and new capabilities behind four significant growth areas driving our business today: the alignment of brand and reputation; analytics and iNSIGHTS; social enterprise; and strategic integration across paid, earned, shared and owned media channels.”

Five years ago, when a listed company would release their results, all the PR firm was required to do was get the results, make a statement, send a press release to the media.

Now, as FleishmanHillard South Africa MD, Kevin Welman explains, the PR firm has to package that content in six or seven different ways: creating new content for the business press, live stream that content on Summit TV or CNBC Africa, have a more in depth story ready for the weekly or Sunday press, a range of different angles for social media, read-made tweets, and information ready for Facebook or the online community.

Newsrooms have changed and Welman says communicators need to understand the primary audience, the media and the multiple channels now available.

“A tweet from (business editor) Bruce Whitfield about your client is as powerful as a page four story in Business Day. We will prepare our 15 to 20 tweets in advance and then we literally wait for specific journalists to be at their desks and tweeting to tweet at them at that moment and hope they retweet it. You have to understand how to build this audience!”

FleishmanHillard built a separate digital business within the company, integrating it fully into the agency in the last year. “Clients are wanting integrated solutions.”

Welman has no issue with the traditional definition of PR. What agencies need to do is look at the new channels for their information. “You have to understand your client better and your environment better.”

Marcusbrewster chairman, Marcus Brewster, has transformed his company in recent months into a firm that now positions itself as providing ‘managed communications services’. He recognised that the way they had done things for the past 20 years as ‘PR’ would not necessarily make them successful for the next 20 years, despite wanting to rest on their laurels.

“The market will not really be asking for PR in the way we have always understood it, because of the need to integrate too many service providers. Clients are looking for a holistic solution, more services, more specialists. We see our position going forward as a gatekeeper agency for these services and will apply our 360 understanding of all the touchpoints and bring in the experts as needed.”

Obviously, they would still drive things from a PR below the line point of view, Brewster said. “Our DNA is PR.”

Brewster recognised that traditional agencies were being challenged in their retention of client relationships and that companies are hiring specialised digital marketing solution and service providers to implement social and interactive strategies. He was candid about their limitations and brought in PR doyen Ingrid Lotze to consult to the firm because of her long history in ICT PR, as well as knowledge of the digital realm. Brewster invited her to assist with “rebooting” the agency and steering the change management process that would bring the agency into the digital age.

Ingrid Lotze
Ingrid Lotze

Lotze explains: “We achieved this within six short months. Taking a legacy agency like marcusbrewster and rebooting the agency was both surprising and fraught with challenges as the shift to digital and social channels significantly impacts on agency internal operations, internal meetings, idea generation needs to be expanded, staff competence needs to be broadened to allow for this expansion, reporting structures need to change, compensation models, and use of marketing technology, as well as measurement systems all need to be reviewed…

“Marketing expenditures are under incredible pressure in today’s business environment. Objective, quantifiable measurement of communications effectiveness is a requirement – and the days of giving AVE ROI are over. It is critical for companies to adopt measurement tools and technologies that are far broader in its organisational scope than at any time in the past,” Lotze went on to say.

Greater Than MD, Galia Kerbel believes that the PR agency of the future has already embraced digital in all their communications, for themselves and their clients.

“The opportunity for PR firms to go directly to their stakeholders and engage with them (without going through the media) has always been a tactic within the PR service offering. You see this through experiential activities – such as promotions, launches, events, sponsorships and so on. You also see this with stakeholder engagement tactics.’

“Now Public relations firms have another way to engage with their stakeholders (some of whom are readily using social media and some who are not) through digital platforms.”

South by South West (SXSW) is probably by now the most famous technology and media culture conference in the world, held every year in Austin, Texas, and featuring trends in the latest in digital innovation (Foursquare launched there in 2009 and this year the 3D printer was demonstrated), to film, music and media.

Hunter PR vice president, Melissa Todisco, told PR News after SXSW this year that she had an epiphany about evolving media relations in this new digital era: “I think my biggest lesson learned was that the media don’t necessarily need to be pitched about your news, but rather they prefer to discover it themselves through mentions in sessions and social-media buzz. PR professionals typically go through the media to reach their target audience, yet at SXSW, appealing to conference attendees and influencers helps to reach the media and generate even more buzz.”

Her prediction of the next digital communications trend was the emergence of data measurement companies offering tools to help analyse data to generate consumer iNSIGHTS, as well as track social media conversations in new ways. “These kinds of solutions will be very beneficial to PR professionals looking for new measurement solutions to justify ROI on PR initiatives,” Todisco says.

And don’t discount social platforms like LinkedIn, which is becoming the social network for business to network across, attract talent and connect directly with business professionals. More and more brands are using it for B2B marketing, according to PR Daily.

PR-Net’s Brian Berkman believes that those with the relationship with the client have the ultimate power as they have access to the purse strings and can help the client decide where the money will be spent. That person could very well be a PR person as earned media, including PR, provides a more cost-effective return on investment.

Lange 360 MD, Ruth Golembo says the challenge continues to be on how to best improve all touchpoints with the public for a brand or an organisation and how best to channel the messages from strategic communications initiatives.

“We have had to show clients how to extend communications in a 360 degree way to include all the brand’s target audiences – i.e. employees (brand ambassadors), suppliers and government  – in order to best pump up the volume and far more positively influence.”

Lotze, who is CEO of her own company, Puruma, says people still need public relations, but the difference now is that there are multi-channel disciplines.

“Our industry as a whole has battled with the change process. They have recognised the need and know they have to upskill and send staff on training, but the struggle is to bring integrated communications into fee structures and the client offering. Clients are looking at integrated communications and saying it’s too expensive… digital should be free… Public relations people are struggling with that process.”

Proof of return on investment (ROI) is also far more difficult when AVE measurements are thrown out the window, Lotze says.

“PR agencies have recognised that they are losing market share to digital agencies and individuals who say they are an online marketing strategist or social media expert, etc., who are all playing in the earned media space.”

And the disruptions only continue, Lotze says, with Facebook changes, new social media launches, mobile developments…

Golembo believes public relations could become the lead agency in integrated communications campaigns which the other disciplines (ATL advertising, digital, events and promotions) all hang off, instead of as an add-on to advertising campaigns.

“The challenge remains to find new ways to blend media and to connect the dots between the various channels, creating inter links between paid and earned media and between, for example, celebrity and media influencers and the target audiences,” she says.

Lebo Madiba
Lebo Madiba

Continuous education

The gulf between education and actual practice is widening due to the incredible speed of developing digital technologies. Education needs to be continuous and the need seems to be greater for those entering the job market and those at the top leading smaller to medium PR companies. The end result is that the industry will get younger and there will be more of a blurring of functions in the entire communications sphere.

Vuma CEO, Janine Hills urges communication strategists to upskill themselves. “Go and experience your client’s business. Go to the factory floor and understand what it takes, understand the business, otherwise you won’t be able to write the best communication strategy around it.”

Of course communicators need to uplift their own understanding and business skills too, she says: “The amount of times I sit in meetings and business people say their PR and marketing people don’t understand the business…”

New skills and fresh approaches are needed within agencies to get the staff excited about new opportunities and growth potential. There should be a co-learning approach, where account directors can learn from interns just as much as the other way around.

Lotze encourages a culture of sharing interesting and educational content so that there is continual learning. Add a brainstorm session to your weekly staff meetings so that new ideas and new skills are on the agenda in top of mind all the time, she encourages.

PR Powerhouse MD, Lebo Madiba, has come to the realisation that it is no longer agency size that matters, but expertise: “The world of communications has changed, more rapidly perhaps than we thought it could. Not only in terms of media platforms, but client budgets and client needs – forcing a change in the type of people that work for PR agencies. The realisation for me has been that it is no longer about size but about expertise – we are serving a new world of media and we are also now serving communities instead of the single consumer or brand.

“The world is churning out all sorts of experts every day, as they discover new areas to explore for the benefit of their clients and to meet consumer needs. So what this has done for PR is that it has created an environment for imaginative engagement for the audiences it serves,” Madiba points out.

Brian Berkman says PR professionals need to know more now than they ever needed to know before, including about advertising, digital, social media, production cycles, social marketing, and so on. They have to understand how the entire marketing communications value chain works, he reiterates.

‘Listening’ is also a large part of the new roles that exist in the industry, Berkman says. “My colleagues and I are spending time watching and listening to what is going on in the social media space and letting the client know the tone of voice that people are adopting at any given moment.”

For the smaller independents, self-learning is the way to upskill, says Chirene Campbell, Owlhurst MD. “We have to be digital gurus ourselves and know when to tweet (and when not to), when to Facebook and when to pick up the phone to journalists/clients and know the advantages of each media platform because that is essentially what they are. We also need to be prepared to pitch stories differently – use Twitter, WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook, etc., according to what the personal preferences of each journalist is,” Campbell says.

To upskill in the digital sphere, it seems as if the PR agencies spend much of their time on courses and as Kerbel points out, it would greatly assist the industry if the pricing of digital courses came down, as she believes it would be more affordable for many smaller consultancies to send even more staff on them.

To the ‘traditional’ PRO still grappling with the wild web world, Retroviral’s Mike Sharman says “dive in”.

“Listen and see what is happening online. Start reading online, set up a Twitter handle, follow the influencers. Build from one step to the next. Read case studies.

“Marketing is about finding the common iNSIGHT into what your target market subscribes to. We tap in to common themes and now it becomes a meme. Agencies have almost forgotten about research: finding what makes consumers tick. People need to research more, read more.”

Sharman’s definition of PR today is: “Remarkable content seeded to the right people with  exceptional results. It all comes down to content. The foundation of communication now is a strong narrative.”

Lion’s Wing MD, Greg Forbes says with the evolution of PR to meet the demands of the digital world, wider new skills sets are definitely needed, including business consulting knowledge, creative, digital skills, writing talent, research, content management, and so on.

The evolution of PR

So do we need a new definition of PR?

The consensus seems to be no, but a better understanding of the value of the public relations industry needs to be fostered among all stakeholders, from clients to media. Public relations has evolved to become part of broader communication strategy in this new wired, ever connected world.

The past decade has been one of significant echange for the PR industry, says Golembo.

“PR agencies have definitely had to reengineer themselves to meet clients’ communications needs. They have had to retool and reinvigorate their services to answer to the need for the always-on, real-time torrents of information which the interconnected world we live in has brought about.

“PR practitioners need to see themselves today as strategic, proactive information disseminators and, depending on the kinds of clients they work for, they need to include all kinds of new ways, including online advocacy campaigns (in which customers become the channel). They also need to listen to the conversations others are having about their products and brands (i.e. find better ways to mine social chatter for business intelligence). PR practitioners today need to create compelling multimedia (think edutainment) messages to drive executive thought leadership and find effective ways to manage through-the-line corporate presences and digital communities,” says Golembo.

Berkman also points out that given that the media landscape has changed radically, 50% of the reporters invited to events now will be bloggers and online media with followings that he wants to engage with for his clients.

Kerbel is emphatic that PR is and always will be about creating meaningful relationships with all a company’s stakeholders through various communication tactics, with the aim of achieving key business and reputational objectives.

“At the heart of this is achieving earned exposure for newsworthy content. PR is exactly the same as what it used to be.”

The industry doesn’t need a new definition, Kerbel says, but it does need to recognise that there are now different tools and channels to work through to take the client’s messaging to their audiences.

The industry also needs to grapple with perception around what is PR and what is not; and continue to educate clients on the value of public relations and gain their understanding of the tools/channels and why what they recommend will work and why certain channels won’t work.

“In the social media world it is key for us as an industry to position the value of these channels where they are most appropriate – not suggest a one size fits all approach.

“We need to drive the client’s perception of online channels and platforms and continue to educate them on the opportunities. From an agency perspective there is a huge opportunity to offer beautiful content driven campaigns to provide the publishing industry with content which is often sorely lacking due to declining budgets and resources. This content is not only through the written word but also pictorial, video or audio,” says Kerbel.

Golembo sums up that the essence of good communications (PR) is still about distilling the appropriate message, amplifying it to the right receiver at the right time and using the right channel. The channel is very important.

“Just because social media has greater reach and is more cost effective, doesn’t necessarily make it the right channel for all PR related communications. Generally the most effective is a blend of mediums and activities to best get credible corporate and brand messages to all the stakeholders.”

The PR agency of the future needs to reclaim the “realm of strategic communications”, Golembo says, or else they will be swallowed by the new age advertising agencies of the future.

“Given the move by ad agencies to evolve into communications agencies themselves (by adding digital, experiential and content driven advertising) in a move to grab attention in the wake of changing media consumption habits, PR needs to differentiate itself by being the driver of trust in brands,” Golembo concludes.

Kerbel believes there is a misperception of the true value of the public relations professional: “For example some clients still believe that PR is event management.  That is not PR and will never be, so the challenge still exists to continue challenging those perceptions and educating the market about PR.”

Public relations opportunities now lie in reputation management, together with research and together with a more integrated approach to marketing communication, such as public affairs, media relations, corporate communication, CRM – every touch point of every single stakeholder, reiterates Forbes.

“That is where the PR industry will move towards,” he adds.

What is still on the table – even more so with digital now added to the communication mix and the continuing conversation on how to track influence – is measurement.

AVEs are a small component of PR measurement now. “Our international clients want to know how we are on strategy, positive engagement, how we are engaging, are we getting adoption/talkability, reach of message. We haven’t dismissed AVEs, but it is one small component,” explains Forbes.

Forbes says it is clear that the media monitoring companies don’t know how to measure influence and while many PR companies, particularly internationally, have tossed AVEs out the door and adopted various international protocols, the fact is that many remain unsure as to how to measure the social conversation and bill clients for it, or even justify their efforts.

Independent digital analytics agencies like Brandseye have also stepped into the fray to hear what the industry needs in terms of measurement online, recently hosting workshops to consult with the industry in this regard.

Watch this space…!

Sponsor iNSIGHT:

1Lionswing big

Greg Forbes, MD - Lions Wing Brand Communications
Greg Forbes, MD – Lion’s Wing Brand Communications

SA PUBLIC RELATIONS INDUSTRY IN NEED OF A FULL REVIEW TO ELIMINATE THE CURRENT LACK OF BASIC STANDARDS

Thought leadership provided by report sponsor Lion’s Wing Brand Communications

By Greg Forbes, managing director, Lion’s Wing Brand Communications

The South African public relations industry is riddled with inconsistencies and a serious lack of basic standards and practices. Coupled with this the ever increasing number of public relations companies, what South Africa can soon expect to see is an industry in total chaos.

The problems lie across the board and, in one way or another, influences every facet of the PR industry. Simply put, the South African PR industry is in desperate need of a regulatory body that will oversee the standards and practices to ensure that all agencies live up to the highest standards.

This is incredibly important in today’s society, where the reputation of a business can be destroyed in a matter of seconds, due in large part to the ever increasing demand for transparency as well as the use of electronic communication, dominated by social networking sites that disseminate news faster than ever before.

We see that the following areas must be addressed, so that the SA PR industry can develop further, and remain relevant in the converging communications phenomenon.

Legislation and Governance

While many PR companies and individual practitioners recognise that there are significant inconsistencies, many will agree that it is impossible for the industry to voluntarily agree on a path forward. In order to expediate the process and ensure common compliance, it is necessary for legislation to be introduced that will:

a) Seek all PR company’s to register with an industry body, without which businesses will not be able to operate.

b) Adopt the international best practices recommended by the governing body, and ensure compliance through regular audits.

Industry Body Representation

Similarly, this governing body will represent the PR industry’s national and global representation. This is not a new approach, as various nations have adopted the need for a self-regulating industry body that oversees the implementation of services.

Processes for Self-Governance

The South African advertising industry has, to a degree, successfully implemented self-regulating organisations that oversee such matters as pitch processes, conflicts, and advertising standards. Similarly, it is important that the PR industry follows this example and, in the absence of legislation, develop a self-governing and self-regulating processes to ensure best practice.

Mandatory Accreditation: Barrier to Entry for practitioners and consultancies

The issue of mandatory accreditation for both consultancies and practitioners is one that will, most probably, receive the highest number of complaints. Undoubtedly, such a measure will eliminate a number of consultancies, however when one weighs the need for adherence to basic standards, it becomes evident that it is necessary.

Take, for example, investor and media relations for listed businesses. More than any other business, listed companies require extremely strict control over the implementation of a communications plan. Its not a nice to have, but a must have. A slip-up on the part of a PR agency or practitioner that does not fully understand ‘closed periods’ or regulation relating to ‘insider trading’ and ‘confidentiality’, will not only impact on the reputation of the business, but further impact on the share price, not to mention subjecting the client to the wrath of the relevant stock exchange. And, even further, if the listed company’s shares are held by investment houses representing pension funds, the ignorance of the PR agency has a direct and measurable negative impact on ordinary people.

In light of this, is it not a better idea to ensure that there are mandatory requirements for such reputation management businesses, to ensure that they know and understand the impact their services will have, and perhaps are held accountable when such negligent instances happen?

Training and Education

This brings us back to a review of what is being taught to the future practitioners. The problem is that students studying communications and tertiary institutions are, (a) not being taught a consistency syllabus based on industry or international best practices; and (b) are not being properly prepared for entry into the PR industry. What this means is that students who seek internships within PR agencies are faced with a complete re-education of the PR industry, and the PR company has to invest more time than it should to train the intern up into a productive resource.

If the PR industry was represented by an industry body, and that the entire PR industry adhered to basic best practice standards, then the governing body could influence what is being taught (with the guidance of PR companies).

Measurement and Reporting

Measurement and reporting of campaigns has, and possibly will always remain a very large and juicy bone of contention. At least, for the most part, all PR practitioners, consultancies and clients agree that measurement and reporting is important and required.

But exactly how should we all be measuring and reporting? Voluntary adherence to specific measurement and reporting will not happen, and yes, rigorous debate should take place, but that requires PR consultancies to get involved.

In the absence of a common view to self-regulate the market, the proposed legislation, mandatory accreditation, process adoption and auditing, as well as changes to the educational syllabus will, in the long term, rectify this.

Industry Awards

Perhaps the last issue would be a review of our industry awards. While the advertising industry has an award programme for, what it seems, every possible project, approach and measurement, the South African PR industry has a handful, and yes, while there are various international awards that we can enter, perhaps a review of the current awards programmes may be an opportunity to educate on best practices and start the implementation of standard process and practices. Once again, rigorous debate is necessary, and yes, that will require practitioners and consultancies to participate.

I recognise that these issues need to be discussed far more broadly, and yes, there will be many that will criticise and disagree with me on one, if not all of the points raised. But, if these proposed changes get people talking, gets the debate going, and drives participation, then we are at least moving in the right direction. I will welcome debate, as I am sure PRISA will too.

 Sponsor iNSIGHT ends.

SOURCES

Attree, Melissa: digital marketer and strategist, Cerebra. (Direct interview)

Braithwaite, Glynnis: managing director, Protactic. (Direct interview)

Boddy, Lucinda: managing director, Livewired PR. Create your own PR plan’. Feb 2013

Boddy, Lucinda: managing director, Livewired PR. Understanding digital PR’. March 2013

Boddy, Lucinda: managing director, Livewired PR. ‘Picture perfect PR’. April 2013

Berkman, Brian: founder, PR-Net. (Direct interview)

Brewster, Marcus: chairman, marcusbrewster. (Direct interview)

Campbell, Chirene: managing director, Owlhurst. (Direct interview)

Case, Pete: CEO, Gloo. ‘The search for a new agency model’. March 2013

Charted Marketers’ Officers (CMO) Council: www.cmocouncil.org

Evert, Karey: managing director, Wired Communications. (Direct interview)

Falkow, Sally: digital PR and social media strategist. Publisher: The Proactive Report, California, USA. (Direct interview)

Forbes, Greg: managing director, Lion’s Wing Brand Communications. (Direct interview)

Golembo, Ruth: managing director, Lange 360. (Direct interview)

Harambolous, Nic: founder, Nic Socks. (Direct interview)

Hills, Janine: CEO, Vuma Reputation Management. (Direct interview)

IMTS: Top TREND.s for PR and Marketing in 2013’.

Kerbel, Galia: managing director, Greater Than. (Direct interview)

Kracmer, Kenneth: managing partner & PR director, HCK2 Partners. ‘How to spend your valuable marketing dollars’, www.commpro.biz. December 2012.

Lotze, Ingrid: CEO, Puruma. (Direct interview)

Madiba,Lebo: managing director, PR Powerhouse. (Direct interview)

Maker, Melody: digital strategist, Acceleration Media. ‘Are social media agencies prostituting their brands?’ September 2012

Parker, Susie: founder of Sparker Strategy Group, USA. ‘3 Public Relations TREND.s to Expect in 2013’, January 2013.

PR Daily: www.prdaily.com. ‘6 PR and social media predictions for 2013’.

PR Newswire: www.prnewswire.com

Public Relations Society of America: http://www.prsa.org

Public Relations Society of South Africa: “ICCO survey sheds light on SA communication industry”. March 2013

Pulizzi, Joe: founder of the Content Marketing Institute, USA. ‘7 strategies for developing compelling content in 2013’. www.contentmarketinginstitute.com

Rocha, Ricardo: creative director, Etiket. ‘This economy has a new face’.

Rodney, Craig: managing director, Cerebra. (Direct interview)

Senay, Dave: president and CEO, FleishmanHillard. ‘FleishmanHillard evolves brand identity to reflect world’s most fully integrated communications company’. April 2013

Sharman, Mike: owner, Retroviral. (Direct interview)

Silver, Mike: managing director, Stretch Experiential Marketing. (Direct interview)

Skerik, Sarah: vice president of social media, PR Newswire, USA. ‘PR trends for 2013: Outcomes & Tactics’. www.prnewswire.com

Spark, Janice: managing director, Idea Engineers. (Direct interview)

Todisco, Melissa, vice president, Hunter PR, USA: ‘The biggest PR trends from 2013 SXSW’ by Bill Miltenberg, www.prnewsonline.com, March 2013.

TREND.watching.com: ‘Clean slate brands’. April 2013 http://www.trendwatching.com/trends/cleanslatebrands/

Von Holdt, Bridget: CEO, The Glasshouse. (Direct interview)

Welman, Kevin: managing director, FleishmanHillard. (Direct interview)

 

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