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How global media might affect PR

​A couple of weeks ago, I argued that Australian media was about to be swamped by the impending globalisation of media. I briefly touched on what that might mean for the PR sector, but thought it warranted a further analysis, specifically in relation to Australian PR and agencies.

My first thought on the issue is, I certainly don’t have all the answers so I’m not even going to pretend that I do. As we’ve discussed on Influencing over the last couple of weeks, the PR sector is probably ripe for significant disruption so any analysis of PR trends right now can only exist on a rocky foundation of unsubstantiated assumptions. So instead, let me throw up five talking points...

1) Bigger, riskier stories

One of the key trends that I identified in my initial piece was that the bar would continued to be raised, as to what stories would constitute local coverage. With so much content able to be pulled in from international partner sources, local journalists will be looking for big, marquee content for their home pages with little justification for anything else. So news needs to be bigger, more sensational, and generally that implies more risk. I would argue that makes the agency partner more valuable, as having different insights and views will make for better decision-making.

Some companies should forget about PR — if you’ve got a lot wrong within your organisation, it’s probably just best to hide until you’ve got things right.

2) Less reliance on earned media

If the media ceases to be interested in your story, it becomes critical that you’re able to tell that story through other channels and that’s why content marketing is becoming so popular and important. With little guarantee that media will pick up any piece you’re working on, you’ve got to be able to re-spin those stories for your own channels, or else deal with many PR campaigns coming to little.

Indeed, as media gets tougher, agencies in particular will need to find other ways to make a buck across initiatives like content marketing, strategic brand counsel, internal communications and social relations. Thought leadership becomes critical.

3) Local, local, local

You already see in those publications that are operating as global publishing businesses, there becomes a laser focus on Australian stories for local reporters. Lazy, repurposing of international stories just won’t cut it, anymore. If you look at the first three points in this article then one of the biggest skills of any PR professional or organisation, is going to be a skill generally more traditionally aligned with journalism — story discovery. You need to get into the guts of your organisation/s and really dig up your flow of local news stories and interest items. More smaller, local items — less big, flashy launches.

4) The importance of agency networks

Globalisation is not just impacting media and PR. Increasingly, the internet is breaking down barriers to international competition and more Australian firms, particularly those ambitious firms who are most likely to want to use the services of PR agencies, are increasingly born-global or have international objectives. So they want a PR strategy not just for Australia, but for international markets as well, and they’re going to want one PR program to achieve that.

This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring an multi-national agency, but I think boutique and independent agencies need to have relationships so they can extend their reach into international markets. Of course, the flipside is, having those relationships will almost certainly mean it will also flow the other way with international organisations wanting Australian PR well-before they consider setting up an office or dealing with local suppliers.

5) Better tools and systems

If you want to discover the limitations of email, start working on international collaborations. As someone who works with staff on three different continents, I can tell you that this is when you have to step up your use of collaboration and workflow tools. PR agencies tend to get by, with lots of meetings and a flood of emails, but those less than optimum methods fall down quickly when you’re dealing with different time-zones and people you can’t just sit down with, to iron out the rough bits.

Indeed, you’ll need to become familiar with a whole range of new tools and systems as you expand your business beyond media relations and beyond geographic boundaries. What newswires do you use internationally? How do you manage social, content, etc and what ties it all back together into your reporting mechanism?

The nice thing here is there is not a lot to be lost, by preparing yourself for these kinds of changes. Let’s say, I’m wrong about all of this, and nothing really changes. If you get cracking on any of the above items, they’re only going to make you better at the work you’re already doing. 

Phil Sim is the CEO of MediaConnect Australia, whose flagship product is the Influencing online PR management suite. Influencing is a media database and tool kit, that helps agencies and PR departments slash their admin and work smarter and faster. Register for your FREE community login at www.influencing.com.au.

Why social streams don’t work as well in business

​At last week’s National RCG Leaders conference, which MediaConnect was proud to sponsor, Ben Thompson from Think EI was talking about the benefits that cloud-based software could deliver to PR agencies.

At one point, he asked how many agencies were using social business software tools like Yammer, Chatter or Google Plus.

It didn’t surprise me at all when just a couple of people raised their hand.

We actually built that style of “social feed” into the core of our Influencing PR management suite, and we’ve had very little take-up of the functionality.

That initially puzzled me, as we use it internally to track all our conversations with journalists and it works unbelievably well. However, talking to customers, I’ve come to understand why it’s, to date, gained far less traction that we expected.

Firstly, PR agencies are, as an industry, horribly late adopters of new technology. So many still run their businesses on 30-year desktop software like Excel and Word.

I made the point during the event that you can pretty much make a spreadsheet do anything, and PR agencies pretty much have, but everything you do on a spreadsheet is a process done poorly.

Spreadsheets were made for accountants, not to run PR agencies on.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, that’s something they’re going to have to change if they’re going to keep up with the general pace of the marketing industry.

However, I think even outside of the industry, these social business tools, which you can think of as Facebook for business, have struggled to get traction unless you have a largish number of staff.

Our rationale for building a stream of activities into Influencing was all about how much intellectual property could an agency or PR department capture, if logging media activities was made as simple as updating your Facebook status. And that’s what we built.

However, what Facebook delivers that most social business software implementations don’t, is an immediate emotional response. When you post to Facebook, it’s been scientifically proven that all of those likes and comments triggers a release of endorphins. And that makes it addictive, and something you'll want to do over and over again.

However, when you post a status update about having just completed that research project you’ve been working on the past week, you’re team mates seldom jump into Yammer to congratulate you. When we’re at work, we tend to become particularly selfish as we seek to complete our own tasks and responsibilities, and spending all day giving other people pats on the back we tend to view as counter-productive. As such, there is little motivation to post work-related posts. It’s a problem that LinkedIn struggles with as well. It’s users seldom go back every day to check LinkedIn for what’s feeding into their stream.

If you’re in a company of thousands, there may be enough people who are bored enough at any particular time to jump in and like your latest work update, or carry on a fun dialogue about the latest office misadventure, but in teams that are the size of Australian PR agencies, the typical experience is most everyone in the office is just too busy to really care.

We had to go back to the drawing board on this one. Getting people to share their work day and collaborate better with their workmates is a massive pain point for agencies and PR departments who spend far too much time stuck in meetings or trawling through an endless stream of emails they’ve been CC’d into as an ‘FYI’. We actually think we’ve cracked it, and it’s based on our own experiences. But more on that soon, as we’ve got what we think is one of the coolest things we’ve ever created, ready to launch next month.

However, in general for PR agencies, I’d suggest it’s a matter of baby steps. Start by getting your media lists out of spreadsheets and into a database, whether it be a professional managed media database like Influencing or even if its loading your contacts into an online CRM system. Contacts are the lifeblood of any PR agency so it’s the ideal place to start modernising your systems and processes before moving onto more sophisticated technologies like social business software.

Observations from the National RCG Leaders conference

​As we mentioned on this blog last week, MediaConnect had the great pleasure to sponsor the National RCG Leaders conference in Sydney on Friday.

I’ve got to say it was one of the best day’s content I’ve experienced. I’m of course biased on that front because the goals of the RCG event are very in line with what we hope to achieve at MediaConnect with our Influencing platform, which is to help PR companies be more successful. A big thank you to PRIA and the RCG for the event, and allowing us to be involved.

My favourite presentation was the opening address from Paul Holmes of The Holmes Report and Sabre Awards fame. Holmes delivered a truly thought-provoking hour-long presentation on the direction that the public relations industry was taking and what PR agencies of the future might look like.

You can read my summary of the event here on Influencing.

Presentations throughout the day carried on the theme. We heard presentations about improving the business development capability of an agency, and one on best-practice human resources management.

All the way though, I found myself nodding and saying yes, this is the future.

However, the reality is that for all of these transformations and additional capabilities that are available to agencies, that most are just pressed to keep up with what’s on their plates at the moment.

As such, in order to move forward and put the additional time and resources into becoming a transformational agency, you have to free up time. The way to do that is to take the time to review your tools and processes, automate as much as you can, and then re-invest the time that you earn back into new business activities.

That’s, of course, our primary goal with our Influencing platform. As an end-to-end PR tool, we know that we can save our clients many hours by automating things like coverage reports, media list maintenance and sourcing features lists. Why would any modern-day PR agency ask their consultants to get bogged down in such menial tasks when there are so many new ways to extend a PR program, across areas like social media relations and content marketing?

I jokingly boasted when given the opportunity to speak that mine would be the most important talk delegates would hear on the day, because without getting their tools and processes humming, agencies just won’t have the time or capability to keep up with the market. 

So if your agency is still running on a multitude of Excel spreadsheets floating around your office, it really is time to take a look at what modern day, cloud-based PR management services can do for your business. 

Phil Sim is the CEO of MediaConnect Australia, whose flagship product is the Influencing online PR management suite. Influencing is a media database and tool kit, that helps agencies and PR departments slash their admin and work smarter and faster. Register for your FREE community login at www.influencing.com.au.

MediaConnect introduces Tech Leaders brand to Kickstart

MediaConnect will introduce the Tech Leaders brand to its annual Kickstart conference as it seeks to extend its platform for helping Australia’s leading technology spokespeople to connect with media and influencers.

Kickstart Forum 2014 will be held at Sanctuary Cove resort from February 16 to 18 next year. The event brings approximately 50 of Australia’s most influential journalists together to hear about the trends that will shape the industry over the coming months.

MediaConnect CEO Phil Sim said that the decision to refresh Kickstart with the Tech Leader brand came following feedback from journalists and a review of the outcomes generated from most recent events.

“Kickstart has always generated media coverage, but it’s fair to say that it was an outcome we didn’t emphasise, instead promoting its networking and educational benefits,” Sim explained. “However, in recent years, the amount of exposure that Kickstart has received via both media articles and social media has exploded because the reality is online journalists are always looking to file.

“We felt that Kickstart Forum, while a strong brand within the tech media and PR community, didn’t really communicate to the public what the event was about, whereas Tech Leaders does that much better.”

Last year, for instance, Kickstart interviews formed the basis for two Sky Business News technology episodes and Malcolm Turnbull’s keynote generated more than 30 stories. Kickstart was also consistently a trending topic on Twitter during the event.

“We saw on Twitter a lot of people asking ‘what is this Kickstart Forum all about?’, and we believe Tech Leaders is much better positioning for the event, for those presenting and for those reporting on it.”

Sim said that all presentations would be professionally filmed and hosted on a soon-to-launch video-based website at techleaders.com.au.

“We’ve taken inspiration from the TED talks,” Sim remarked. “We want to get a whole bunch of really smart Australian technology professionals to talk about what’s changing our industry, because that’s the type of content journalists want to hear.”

Indeed, journalists will vote on what is the best presentation and will award a Tech Leader of 2014.

Tech Leaders will now make up the first two days of Kickstart Forum, with the third-day shifting to a product focus.

“Kickstart Forum has become very business technology and thought-leadership focused over the last couple of years, and we felt the third-day needed something a little different. We’re also trying to provide a platform for those companies who are predominantly product-focused, and for more consumer technology journalists.”

Kickstart is now in its 12th year, and Sim said the secret to its success was a continual refinement of the format to fit the market requirements.

“It’s fair to say that the raison d'être for the event — that journalists had little time for face-to-face and background briefings — is as compelling as ever, as newsrooms and editorial resources continue to shrink.

“However, what we’ve found is that the publicity benefit of the event has ramped up dramatically and so we’re tweaking the brand and format to reflect that.”

Technology vendors and PRs interested in attending the event can contact Mike Woodcock on (02) 9894 6277 or mike@mediaconnect.com.au. Technology journalists and influencers who are interested in attending can express their interest by contacting Gursi Kaur at gursi@mediaconnect.com.au.

More information about Kickstart Forum 2014 can be found at www.kickstartforum.com.

MediaConnect proud to sponsor PRIA RCG conference

​On Friday, MediaConnect will be Gold Sponsor of PRIA’s Registered Consultant Group conference in Sydney.

We’re delighted to support PRIA’s RCG group. We believe of all the providers to PR agencies in Australia, none has a better relationship with the agency community than MediaConnect.

Agencies make up the bulk of our client base, and because we’re very client-focused, they have shaped the way we have evolved our Influencing and PRWire products.

Here at MediaConnect, we believe that the agency community is reaching a tipping point in terms of moving their PR workflow and tools to the cloud. If you’re in business, you’ve probably heard of this “cloud” concept before - it’s about using Internet-based tools to work more collaboratively, in real-time and with greater efficiency. We’re seeing an increasing number of our clients, finally making the move away from their Excel spreadsheets and embracing cloud-based tools like Influencing - which is the only real end-to-end PR management suite in Australia.

The beauty of PR in the cloud, is that you can eliminate most of your admin. Today, clients have so many demands of their agency’s that there just isn’t room for admin costs in any retainer. With content marketing, social media relations and the like, alongside traditional media relations and stakeholder comms, the best PR agencies are working hard on their tools and processes to help their consultants work as efficiently and as intelligently as possible.

That’s our motivation for supporting this event. It’s to thank our wonderful base of PR agency clients, many who have been with us since we were founded in 2000. But also to help get the message out to other agencies, who haven’t yet started down the path of moving their operations to the cloud. 

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