Creating talkability with PR

A large part of our Updates job revolves around receiving press releases, loading them onto our websites and reading through them for possible story leads. So I’m hesitant to say that the traditional press release is a redundancy in today’s increasingly social and digital world. However, I can certainly relate to FH Digital’s Casey Monteiro’s recent tweet, which stated, “PR comes down to one thing, ‘talkability’. Great PR creates talkability; it tells a bigger relevant story that differentiates a brand.”

This is because while those press releases form the backbone of our websites, there’s not much that differentiates one from the next, and so I wonder how far they really go to differentiate the brand or event they’re publicising. Monteiro says the primary role of PR is to understand how people view a product, service or brand and then think about how the client wants it to be perceived. Therefore, “the art of PR is to bridge that gap, to move a group of people from thinking about a brand in one way and opening it up into another discussion.” The only way to do that is to create relevant content for your target audience, which allows them to interact with your brand and adds value for them in a unique and interesting way.

To read more about how Monteiro suggests you do that, click through to my Editorial Desk article on Publicity Update this week.

Improving the media-PR relationship

Today has been a good day so far – all the press releases flying into my inbox have been relevant so far. But make no mistake, this is a rare occurrence. Emails from misguided lay people asking us to place an ad in Die Burger aside (can we help it if our SEO is good?), it’s those press releases sent to us from PRs that have nothing to do with the media, PR or marketing industry that cause the most irritation, and sometimes mirth, in our office. Because, really, how hard is it to visit our website and take a look at the type of content we include?

Okay, vent over. The truth is, we do need PRs and their content, or our websites would be significantly quieter. What it boils down to, however, is the need for better communication on both parts, and better research on the part of PRs.

I think first and foremost, as Marion Scher puts it, the idea of sending one press release to everyone, in a ‘spray and pray’ approach, does not work. Jacqui O’Sullivan, General Manager for the Sasol Group, adds that there are good and bad PRs, but the bad PRs sully the reputation of the industry by not formulating relationships with the media or understanding who they are talking to.

So, the solution to this, according to Editor, Leigh Andrews, is research – both in terms of the audience you are targeting and, subsequently, which media to use to get the message across, and which criteria will make it a good choice in reaching those you are targeting. In addition, Aloysius Magerman, Public Relations Manager of Boost SA, says that it’s important to understand the slant and beat of the publication/ media you are targeting, which comes back to where we started – the need for effective communication.

Of course, it’s a two-way street and the media needs to be receptive to the efforts of PR practitioners and point them in the right direction should they be barking up the wrong tree. In this way, a more positive and mutually beneficial relationship should begin to exist between the two industries, resulting in a better ‘fit’ of press release to publication.

‘Shave or spray’ to show your support for CANSA

ImageNoticed a more than average number of people walking around with shiny, bald heads in the past few days? What about people with multi-coloured hair – a new craze, perhaps? No, if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the media lately, you’d know the CANSAShavathon took place over the past weekend – a public demonstrationof South Africa’s solidarity with cancer survivors and a popular fundraising exercise for the Cancer Association of South Africa.

By getting members of the public to shave or colour spray their heads and make a donation to do so, CANSA aims to unite the nation in the fight against cancer and help raise funds so they can continue supporting cancer survivors and those affected by cancer, says Sue Janse Van Rensburg, CANSA CEO and cancer survivor of 27 years.

This has certainly been a successful endeavour – looking at 2011 alone, several big organisations, including Suncoast Casino and Entertainment WorldSouthern Sun,Media24 and SABC2, got involved in the corporate shavathon, many celebrities showed their support either by lending their voices to the campaign, spraying their hair or even broadcasting live from Shavathon events, and the general public turned up in their droves at their nearest shopping centres to show their support.

A great way not only to raise funds and awareness for CANSA, but also for boosting corporate image and employee morale. And, at the end of the day, there are few better causes to get involved in than those raising awareness, publicity and funds for a disease that has become part of so many lives. I think that’s what lies at the heart of the success of the CANSA Shavathon – it’s a tangible way to show your support, not only in monetary terms, but physically, for those suffering from cancer, or in remembrance of those who have lost the battle… and yet it’s fun, too.

Politics move into the online realm

Let’s relook at the typical message transmission model we’re taught in Communication 101. This depicts the media/ PR/ public relationship with the media in the middle, as a go-between for the public relations industry and the public.

ImageIt works by disseminating a message from a company (Let’s call this factor A) which is filtered through the media (we’ll call the media factor B, and let’s not forget it has the ability to alter or completely ignore factor A’s message). If the message passes successfully from factor A through factor B, it will reach factor C, the intended audience, which is expected to act on or respond to the information they receive. So in the long run, the public hears the message that the company intended them to, based on how effectively the media transmits it.

There’s no doubt that social media innovations are greatly altering this model, rendering the media not as an invalid aspect but rather a platform through which both parties have their say – a party posting a message on Facebook can be responded to within seconds by its intended audience of Facebook users. In this case, the social network is acting as a two-way message conductor – media communication is no longer a one-way flow with a delayed response (if any).

Things get interesting when we add politics to the mix. Everyone wants a say in how the country is run, and the internet gives them a space to air their views for all and sundry to see and comment on. Read my article about the recent ‘State of the Nation Drinking Game’ which lead to a spike in the amount of trending topics on Twitter relating to the speech, encouraging further commentary from ‘the little people’ – local government is said to have followed all comments made with the official #SONA2011 hashtag, as they feel this ‘represents a considerable part of the constituency’.

Interesting- thanks to social media, government is listening. What are your views? Please share them below…

PR and media are so similar, why can’t we all get along?

by Leigh Andrews on 07 February 2011

With articles offering advice on ‘how to write a press release’ and ‘writing to suit your target market’ doing the rounds, I thought it prudent to write about the sometimes volatile relationship between the media and public relations industries this week.
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One of my favourite bloggers, Laurian Clemence, who works in the PR department for Google, wrote recently: “Our department is not unlike a newsroom. In essence, it is a newsroom. We deal with the press. We are the people that give statements, pitch ideas to journalists, conduct interviews, find spokespeople, deal with the overall company communication.”

In essence, it’s busy busy busy. Ask a journalist and they will paint you a similar picture – our days are filled with fielding calls, answering emails, sourcing information, attending events, meeting deadlines and generally running around like headless chickens. What this little comparison boils down to, ultimately, is that the PR and media industries are very similar, and actually rely on each other to get by.

Sometimes called a ‘love/ hate’ relationship, sometimes referred to as the ‘dark side divide’, It’s no secret that things don’t always go smoothly in this relationship, but I have noticed a definite trend towards trying to improve the relationship of late.

Do you sit on one side of the PR/ media fence? Do you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share? If so, please leave them below.

MTN Lions sponsorship a ‘golden’ opportunity?

Yesterday MTN announced that it is partnering with the Golden Lions as the rugby team’s main sponsor. MTN Chief Marketing Officer, Serame Taukobong, said at the sponsorship launch that MTN had been waiting for “the right partner with the right vision and shared objectives before stepping into the unchartered territory of rugby sponsorship.”

It’s nothing new having a sporting team or event sponsored by a cellular service provider – MTN itself is already sponsor of ODI cricket and the football teams, Golden Arrows, Black Leopards and Ajax Cape Town, and who can forget its role in the 2010 FIFA World Cup? What makes the new rugby sponsorship interesting, however, is the fact that the MTN Lions will be playing in the Vodacom Super 15, and probably at some stage against the Vodacom Blue Bulls – novel way of coming up against your competitor, I daresay… and perhaps even more reason for each team to want to win!

Twitter was abuzz with commentary on the sponsorship announcement yesterday, with Dean Oelschig of communication agency, Halo, asking, “Why would MTN sponsor the Lions? Expect this headline over the next 2 months: ‘Vodacom Bulls thrash MTN Lions’, Wow that’s nice PR” and adding, “Or another, ‘MTN Lions fail again in Vodacom Super 15!’”

It’s true – the Lions haven’t exactly been known for their winning performance of late, so from that perspective this sponsorship is perhaps a bit of an odd choice… surely you want to align your brand with the winning team? Having said that, and I’m no rugby expert or even follower, but I’ve heard a few murmurs that the Lions are beginning their upwards climb, so maybe MTN wants to be there to bask in the glory.

Or maybe it’s just the ultimate in ambush marketing… MTN may not be sponsoring the Super 15, but it’s certainly made sure it’s name will be appearing in the tournament one way or another!

Too little, too late?

ImageI say ‘PR disaster’, you think ‘BP’, most likely. There’s no denying that the oil spill was not dealt with in a very publicity-savvy manner, and that’s just the most recent in a list of ‘enviro-crimes’ stacked against the oil company. While the event gained more and more publicity – mostly of the negative type – big wigs stood back. Good news then, that Forbes.com reports the following: “In an effort to wipe the slate clean and return to the business of making money… the London-based oil and gas giant agreed to pay $373 million in fines and restitution for violating U.S. environmental laws and defrauding customers through manipulation of energy markets.”

But most feel BP simply took too long to get to this point. It actually has the worst safety and environmental record of all companies operating in the US, and it will take a huge effort to wipe the slate clean.

My colleagues, and those I have spoken to about Joost Van Der Westhuizen’s feel-good toy shopping spree for disadvantaged kiddies see it in the same light – nice move, but frankly, it’s too little too late, and certainly not enough to change perceptions of him following the Joostgate sex tape scandal.

What are your thoughts? Has Joost’s act of charity really wiped the slate clean? Are people that quick to forget, and was this act enough to redeem him? On that note, does celebrity and publicity go hand-in-hand? Is doing good for others an ethical way of edging your way into the ‘positive spotlight’ too? Please share your thoughts below.

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