World Public Relations Forum Research Colloquium - Call for Abstracts open

Theme: Communication Without Borders

This year, PRIA will host the 7th World Public Relations Forum in Melbourne from 18 to 20 November.

The forum includes a full-day research colloquium, and two-day conference program. It will bring together thought leaders, industry experts, researchers, educators, and delegates from around the world.

The forum aims to examine, explore and reflect on the impact of globalization on our profession within the context of rapid changes. As global communities merge and media systems converge, the boundaries within which we communicate are blurring and disappearing. The shifts in economic and political power present new challenges and opportunities for public relations and communication practitioners and scholars. Global issues such as climate change, health, food security, poverty reduction and transitioning democracies offer our discipline a much larger template in which to work. Stakeholders and audiences are not easily defined as they become more mobile, more media-savvy and more multicultural. Moreover, audiences are active ‘produsers’ of media messages in a world interconnected by advancing technologies.

It is within this context that we ask how organisations and individual practitioners respond to this new world without borders? How will universities prepare future practitioners for this shifting template? How do we connect and meaningfully engage with cultures that may otherwise be unfamiliar? Will English continue to be the lingua franca of the profession? How will public relations be positioned with advertising, marketing, public diplomacy and strategic communication? To what extent should the practice move from a ‘command and control’ to an ‘inform and influence’ model of communication? Will ethics and corporate social responsibility drive organisations to maintain their social license to operate? What is the role of public relations in society, and in engendering social change?

Academics and practitioners are invited to submit 500-word abstracts that address these questions or others that relate to the main conference theme. There is also an opportunity to submit 1500-word extended abstracts for consideration in published conference proceedings. Also, a special issue of the Asia-Pacific Public Relations Journal will publish selected papers from the colloquium. The Journal of Communication Management will also accept a limited number of papers. An international panel of scholars will review the submissions.

Selected abstracts will be considered for presentation in the research colloquium and the two-day conference. Please indicate if you have a preference.

Deadlines

23 January Submission of abstracts opens
29 February Submission of abstracts closes
15 April Notification of results
31 May Confirmation of acceptance of abstract and conference attendance
30 June Submission of extended abstracts and full papers due

Please submit your abstracts to info@worldprforum.com. If you have any queries, please contact Dr Marianne Sison, Chair, Academic Program Committee: marianne.sison@rmit.edu.au

 

Finding a foothold on the slippery slope

Guest blog post: Monique Zytnik, Zytnik Consulting

Humans are easily adaptable and this can be both a good and a bad thing. Although we often dislike change, we can adapt when need be. Something that seems a ‘little on the nose’ or ‘not quite the done thing’ one day, can easily be commonplace practice the next. In ethics, we often speak about the slippery slope of morality.

At university we study ethics in public relations. Many years have passed and I am a firm believer that as communications professionals, the wielders of the dark arts of persuasion, communication and influence, we have more than our share of responsibility to behave ethically. Sometimes we may be the only gate between the shades of grey, the money decision and the moral decision. It is a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously.

So where do my heavy handed, dark views on our responsibilities come from? In a recent trip to Poland, I faced the atrocity of Auschwitz. It was not something I wanted to see, but rather something I had to see. Empty suitcases, each with a name and address, a room full of human hair and cloth made from it, torture cells, execution walls and a long railway line ending in leftover rubble. We were led through the museum on a three and a half hour tour by a knowledgeable guide.

I can not begin to possibly explain what I saw at Auschwitz, but needless to say I finally understood that crimes had gradually built in scale over time. It was an overwhelming realisation and at the time I felt quite numb. Think of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies or George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Things started small. In 1941, Auschwitz was still a traditional concentration camp and some political prisoners were actually released and given their clothes back. Things started small and over a few years and months, inhumane acts grew and then extermination developed to the mass scale that we know of.

Once dignity and respect is stripped from an individual, they are no better than animals. Public humiliation, reduction of liberties, sleep deprivation, longer working hours, strict routines and separation from family can be implemented and advocated until these things become normal. It was the educated people - those in positions of power - doctors, architects and leaders who committed some of the worst crimes against humanity during the Nazi reign.

The lasting words from our professional guide were that each of us is responsible for standing up to acts against humankind – finding a firm foothold on the slippery slope of morality.

As the adaptable human beings that we are, we just try to survive. If this means treading on others to appear more favourable to the authorities, then so be it. What I am talking about is the tendency towards survival at the expense of others, taking advantage of our situation in a plumb job or making friends with those in high places for favours. Letting something slide because it is too much trouble to stand up for what you know to be right.

As communication professionals we are often in the privileged position of trusted adviser. We have a responsibility to use our skills and position to uphold values and advocate ethical decisions. If we sit back and say nothing when we see injustice being done, rot will take hold within our organisation. Moral decay will start, creeping into our valued work culture and company brand. Take advantage of your skills in persuasion and influence. Use it for the greater good, and to uphold justice and decent moral standards within your circle of control.

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ - Edmund Burke
 

PRIA Ian Robertson awardee gets a taste of living and working in the Big Apple!

Guest blog post by Sarah Golding, winner of the 2011/2012 Ian Robertson Award for an outstanding new or emerging public relations professional in Queensland

One week into living and working in New York City and I can see why it’s called the city that never sleeps! It’s been go, go, go this week on my PRIA Ian Robertson Award study tour.

On Monday I started a two-week internship with the American Australian Association (AAA) working on the AAA and G’Day USA Black Tie Gala. The Gala is the key New York event during the annual G’Day USA program which promotes all things Australian and builds partnerships, networks and ties between Australia and the States. In between finalising the guest list and making arrangements for the VIPs, there was time for some advice from Australians who have made the move over to the States to work in communications and international relations.

This week I also visited some boutique public relations and communication firms as part of my PR agency “round robin discovery”. One of the key highlights was definitely my visit to DiGennaro Communications – one of NYC's fastest growing marketing communications agencies – and my discussion with Managing Director and former Forbes journalist Melanie Wells about the future of PR and communications, and the growth of thought leadership and social media in today’s changing corporate environment

All in all it’s been a fabulous week – taking the subway to work from my trendy West Village apartment which is right across the road from Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the City apartment (special thanks to my host Kylie Robertson), catching a hit Broadway show (or two) after work and exploring the unique burroughs and neighbourhoods of one of the world’s most exciting cities. 

Stay tuned for more highlights! On the itinerary next week is a visit to The Bradman Agency who specialise in luxury travel, tourism, real estate and lifestyle brands, and the AAA/G’Day USA Black Tie Gala on Friday night at Cipriani, Wall Street. 

Images, clockwise from top left: Hard at work on the Hard at work on the AAA G'Day USA NY Ball; View from the Empire State Building; enjoying a Magnolia Bakery cupcake on Carrie Bradshaw's steps;Times Square - day before NYE.

Five key themes to watch this earnings season

Guest blog post: David Loch is the Managing Director of Unicus, a boutique investor and media relations, corporate and transaction communications firm with offices in Melbourne and Perth.
For more information: www.unicusgroup.com.au

Between now and 29 February 2012, a large number of the 2,313 ASX listed companies will be required to report their financial results for the period ended 31 December 2011. This bi-annual reporting window is commonly referred to as the ‘earnings season’.

Corporate communication around results and associated PR is critical as it frames current expectations, shapes future expectations and provides a stepping stone for the remainder of the year and beyond.

This earnings season is expected to be particularly significant for listed companies with a number of key themes reflecting current market conditions including:

  1. Macro Environment – As sentiment turns more circumspect, market participants will increasingly be focussing on the macro environment including what direct and indirect effects this is having on listed companies – be armed with information and position your story to take advantage of this current environment;
  2. Funding & Liquidity – With debt funding margins and costs rising in 2011, corporate CFOs will again be back in the spotlight to communicate their funding and liquidity strategy as global credit markets tighten and bankers pass through cost increases to corporate Australia – be prepared for this including the risk mitigation strategies employed by the company;
  3. Risk Management – In the current environment, the financial community is expected to have a renewed interest around risk management including systems, processes, culture and how risk management supports the corporate strategy – use this as an opportunity to differentiate your organisation and build confidence in the business platform;
  4. Topical Issues – These are numerous although there are common threads to questions likely to be raised. Such topical issues may well include sovereign/political risk, regulatory/legislative change, consumer/business environment, market/economic conditions, skills shortage – prepare for these inevitable questions, have a corporate position and demonstrate thought leadership; and
  5. Strategy – Take the earnings season as an opportunity to focus more of the communications around the company’s strategy and less around historical financial results. Each of the likely issues to arise can be framed in the context of the corporate strategy reinforcing key messages.

 

Do you have any insights, predictions or tips for the trends coming up in 2012 that you would like to share? Let us know - it could be anything: investor relations; digital strategy; government; corporate social responsibility; and the list goes on. Send us your ideas and your blog posts!

Putting the heart into crisis communication

Guest blog post: Michelle Palmer, Manager Corporate Communications, Powerlink Queensland

The week of 9th January marked the one year anniversary of Queensland’s most severe flooding in 100 years and it will soon be a year on from another of Queensland’s 2011 natural disasters - severe Cyclone Yasi. Yasi crossed the coast south of Innisfail in the early hours of Thursday 3 February 2011. It was said to be the ‘State’s worst cyclone in history,’ with gale force winds of 285km per hour interrupting power supply to over 40,000 customers and causing millions of dollars worth of damage to property and crops.

When I look back on our approach to crisis communication for Yasi (which was recognised through the Golden Target Awards in 2011), along with the approaches we have taken to other major crisis communication situations over the years (also recognised through PRIA awards), I have come to the conclusion that the aspect of ‘heart’ in our approach was what helped us achieve such positive outcomes.

It is a privilege and significant responsibility to have the opportunity to contribute to the recovery efforts of a community following a natural disaster. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate your organisation’s ‘citizenship in action’. Not just through the delivery of a smooth operational and communication response, but through really demonstrating respect, compassion and understanding for the people you are communicating to – putting the ‘heart’ into your response.

By ‘heart’ I mean really connecting with the key stakeholders – the community leaders, emergency services and media outlets – who are at the front line, championing their community’s recovery. To really listen to – and understand how – your organisation can make the most relevant difference to their plight, to make operational decisions based on what you are being told and ensure that stakeholders understand how their input has informed your actions.

After keeping people safe and ensuring they have a place to sleep, returning the supply of electricity to a region is one of the most vital activities in a recovery effort. The technical job of repairing the lines was one that could have been managed from anywhere – but for us, being on the spot and engaging with those affected was vital.

Directly before the cyclone our COO and I travelled to Townsville to wait for the cyclone to pass. This enabled us to be on the ground immediately following the cyclone and able to liaise with front line responders and do things such as work-in with an Army Black Hawk helicopter run to patrol for damage to the transmission network and meet with Mayors of stricken towns in person to understand their most initial and urgent needs.

We put a lot of ‘heart’ into our response through ongoing face-to-face meetings and follow up calls with those Mayors and other key stakeholders to understand their evolving situation, their needs and concerns and, eventually, their successes.

Their feedback genuinely influenced our COO’s operational decisions and shaped how we communicated more broadly. Beyond that, we were also able to add additional value by putting them in touch with people we knew could help with other issues that may not have been directly related to our area of business.

Today there is a lot of talk around ‘genuine’ stakeholder engagement and participation. We are all getting better at doing this as part of ‘business as usual’ – but we also need to remember these concepts during times of crisis.

You can only be in the position to do this through a committed best practice approach to crisis preparedness. Ensuring that relevant operational and communication processes, team structure and supporting resources are well practiced and in sync with priorities frees up the ‘brain space’ in the middle of a crisis go that extra step and put real ‘heart’ into your response.

Hopefully in 2012 we don’t receive a Golden Target Award for crisis response because we are practising our crisis preparedness through exercises and not via the real thing – I think Queenslander’s are ready for a rest from natural disasters.

Your SMART New Year's Resolution

Guest blog: Pam Lassiter, Founder of Lassiter Consulting, a boutique career coaching firm, and author of the award winning book, The New Job Security. First featured on ‘Personal Branding Network’ on December 27, 2010.

That’s about to change.

This year, as the ball is lowering in Times Square and you’re filling your glass with champagne, turn to the dearest person in your life and say, “Let’s toast to my New Year’s Resolution. I’m going to have a recognized brand by this time next year.”

Let me know your Significant Other’s reaction.

A brand quiz
Let’s do a quick association test. Say the first word that comes into your mind when you see these company names:

Volvo:
BMW:
Ford:
Edsel:
You:

You raced right through the first four, didn’t you? Safety, performance, truck (okay, that’s where my brain goes), and failure are reputations that the companies have worked hard to associate with their products, even the “failure” one with Edsel. Do you pass an association test? Does a key word or reputation pop out of your mouth when you’re looking at “you” on the list?

Now’s the perfect time

What key word would you like to be associated with by this time next year? You can pick out a “soft” identify (leader, communicator, team builder) or a hard one (financial analyst, software coder, bi-lingual). The act of picking one is the important part. Not to worry. You have 2012 to build on, deepen, or change what you began in 2011, but now is the time to get started. Waiting for the perfect idea to come along can freeze you into inaction, so just pick one…now!

Poof! You just got SMART

So you’ve chosen your goal for 2011…to have a clearer reputation as a leader by the end of the year, let’s say. Bravo. Now, how do we make it SMART?

George Doran introduced SMART goals in 1981 in The Management Review as a way to make things happen. Goals like, “I’d like to be a better leader” are New Year’s Failures because they’re too vague. Meet his five requirements for your own brand goal and you’ll reverse any vagueness that may have plagued you by the next time you wear party hats and make champagne toasts.

A SMART Goal is:

S: Specific
M: Measurable
A: Attainable
R: Relevant, Results-focused
T: Time-bound

Making your brand SMART

How could you convert your goal to be known as a leader into a SMART goal?

“I’ll volunteer to lead the integration project that starts in February and have positive evaluations by my team on leadership skills using a 360 assessment. We’ll have the IT, financial, and human resource consolidation plans agreed upon by Q4.”

You couldn’t get much SMARTer than that. Do you see all five parts of the SMART goal definition coming into play? Can you imagine what pulling that off will do for your brand as a leader?

Pick something big and hairy

You don’t need to be timid and shoot too low with the goal you’re going to pick to demonstrate your brand. Leading the company picnic isn’t going to get you the bonus points that you need to advance your career and paycheck. As long as you meet the SMART goals test, you’re not going to choose a goal that isn’t “Attainable.” Be “Audacious.”

After all, you have a whole year to do it.

Let’s meet same time, same place, next year and compare notes. You’re going to be easy to find because your brand will be glowing.

‘Tis the season for giving

Guest blog post: Lachlan McKenzie APRIA – Account Manager, BBS Communications

Since joining the ranks of the public relations industry earlier in 2011, I have been pleasantly surprised about the way public relations can help not-for-profit organisations in simple ways, to extend their research and amplify their awareness across target publics.

Coming from a government background and into a consultancy has given me a healthy cynicism for how charities are viewed by an often apathetic corporate sector and a great deal of sympathy for an ever growing concentration of fundraising events battling it out for media attention. All of this combined has given me more motivation to try and get the best outcomes for our not-for-profit clients.

The case in point comes to Vinnies CEO Sleepout that is being held for the third time in Brisbane in 2012. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the planning and implementation of the media plan for the 2011 event and have since taken on the account for next year.

Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a national fundraising event and the biggest in the Vinnies calendar. It asks CEOs of all industries to sleep out on concrete barely softened by cardboard for one night in June, and by doing so increase awareness about Vinnies’ mission and request sponsorship from their networks to fundraise for the organisation.

The 2011 event was a great step forward for Vinnies in comparison to the inaugural Queensland Sleepout in 2010. These outcomes included:

- Doubling the Queensland CEO participation to 116 sleeping out on the night
- Raising over half a million dollars for Vinnies Queensland
- Having the largest fundraising increase in comparison to the 2010 event across the country
- Securing over 160 media hits

Now that we’re sitting down to work out how we can make the 2012 event a bigger success for Vinnies, I’ve come to a few simple truths that help us as ethical public relations practitioners engage with not-for-profits and help them in ways regular hourly work does not always quantify. They’re easier and less of a challenge than you’d think.

The major contribution we offer not-for-profits is our reach to the corporate sector, and ability to package up their offering to target different industries.

  • Being corporate beasts ourselves most of the time, means we understand the business dealings of the private sector and can link one sector to another by forging a conduit that appeals to both parties.
  • Along with this we have a natural array of networks across different industries that look to us for advice which more often than not comes down to reputation management.
  • This is simple stuff when it comes to not-for-profits because all corporates need a vehicle to show their commitment and in some cases investment in corporate social responsibility.
  • Because not-for-profits, like most other organisations, are so driven by their profession or mission, they can sometimes limit the benefit of their offering by forgetting who they are talking to.
  • As an intermediary that should understand their clients background thoroughly, we can help suggest ways to appeal to different corporates and get some internal buy-in along the way.

The deficiency I find has been most parties view the relationship as money for publicity, but it can be far easier, less superficial and more beneficial than an exchange of funding.

  • The biggest barrier to attracting corporates to link with a not-for-profit is working to identify links common in both organisations to spark this appeal.
  • It doesn’t always need to come down to money and it can be a far easier transaction of resources, especially for the corporate.
  • Exposure to membership at an event, in-kind support with a venue or even direct services of the corporate’s chosen profession are often far more accessible forms of appeal from the not-for-profit’s point of view.

I’m hoping some of these ideas can help you out next time you look at working with a client for the not-for-profit sector and you can wow them with your networks and ability to talk the lingo.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t plug the Vinnies CEO Sleep out, happening nationally on 21 June 2012 – sign up your boss or yourself if you’re in a management position: www.ceosleepout.org.au

It’s a great way to help out one of our oldest and well established charities, as well as reach out and meet operators from different sectors.

 

Moving clients from tactical to strategic is a two-way street

Guest blog: Jeanette Bitz, owner and principal of Engage PR, a public relations firm that sees itself as a communications partner whose role is to ‘raise visibility and build mindshare for clients across all forms of digital media’. First featured on ‘PRWeek’ on December 7, 2011.

It's easy to complain about clients that seem firmly set in tactical mode. We're also all aware of clients who have let an agency go because of its lack of strategic insight or inability to drive a successful PR program.

Clients seek PR support because they have a business challenge or a goal in mind, but it is sometimes presented in tactical terms and short timeframes. For example, the client wants to launch a product next month, secure an industry award, or garner more coverage than competitors. Or the client may just want you to handle media relations and speaking opportunities. As PR counselors, we need to guide their thinking.

These thoughts on thinking strategically and staying on strategy can help to ensure everyone is reading from the same PR plan.

PR professionals should ask questions that will help client executives think in larger terms about overall business and marketing goals.

They should also establish expectations for PR and educate clients on the role PR plays in contributing to sales and business success. Be upfront and honest about what is and is not achievable.
 

PR practitioners should also be objective, while showing that we understand the client's technology and industry, that we know market conditions and the competitive landscape, and that we can respond creatively to communications opportunities and challenges.

Show we understand how PR fits within the larger marketing mix and amplifies and extends other channels. This is critical to building agency credibility and hence the client's willingness to seek out and accept PR counsel.

PR professionals must also demonstrate a systematic approach to PR planning and goal-setting. Gaining client buy-in to a PR plan that identifies measureable goals and objectives by audience, and that links key strategies and tactics to them, is critical to success.

Another goal should be to maintain the agreed-upon PR plan as a living document, regularly reviewing and updating it according to results-to-date and changing realities.

PR practitioners should also refer to the PR plan to focus both client and agency on what is or is not a strategic use of time or budget. The agency should spend its time on projects of greatest strategic impact, not on seductive but low-value opportunities or standalone tactics.

Ultimately, being a strategic partner in achieving results and managing resources is the best way to ensure that clients also behave strategically.
 

Converting fans into customers

Guest blog: Mark Cameron, CEO of Working Three, a social media and digital strategy agency that is ‘future focused’. First featured on ‘MarketingMag.com.au’ on December 6, 2011.

As 2011 winds down, and before the party season gets underway, it is worth putting time aside to take stock and plan for the the coming months. 2012 will see social media marketing shift gears in a big way. Now is the time to consider how to convert your social media ‘fans’ into customers.

Much has been discussed about return on investment (ROI) in the social media space. Some commentators say ROI needs to focus on areas like brand perception and customer satisfaction – but these are notoriously difficult measure accurately. While I agree that these areas need to be taken into consideration, not having well defined metrics and ignoring conversion goals simply makes no sense. In short, there needs to be clear alignment with the business objectives.

The great thing about social media is it allows you to capture vast quantities of demographic and psychometric data. This data can, and should, be used for targeted messaging. The segments you market to will be fairly broad to start with but will become increasingly granular over time. After testing the waters it will be possible to economically communicate to individuals with tailored messaging – messaging that understands the individual on a personal level.

You don’t always need a ‘hard sell’ approach to move potential customers down a sales conversion path. Sometimes it’s enough to show them that you know and care and are prepared to communicate on a personal level. In this ultra-personalised digital world, your market, particularly the segment that has grown up on the web, now expect everything to be personalised. In fact it is often the only way to get noticed.

A research report published in October this year from the Australian Centre of Retail Studies concluded that the more channels in which a consumer encounters a particular brand, the more likely they are to purchase and the higher their overall spend will be. The lesson here is not rocket science. Once you have used social media to develop your contact list, find out how to communicate with them via email, mobile, social media and your website. Get all the channels working together.

The final step on the conversion journey is the execution. Communicating in a customised way via multiple channels can be expensive if there is not a strong system sitting in the background. What’s more, these interactions in social media mean that you are never sure when someone will take the first step in the conversion cycle. Platforms like ExactTarget allow you to not only automate communications through many different channels, but also provide the necessary tools to refine the sales strategy as additional customer data flows in.

So it is possible to create an effective social media conversion strategy. Just remember to keep things simple and stay focused on what the customer wants.

This week on Broadcast PR: what will the future bring for the PR industry?

This week on Broadcast PR, Jack Herbert, Adviser at CPR Communications and Public Relations joins us for the final time to share his ideas about what the future will bring for the PR industry. In discussing social and political climate’s impact on the Public Relations industry, and explaining what the internet means as a new medium for communication, Jack highlights the potential challenges and opportunities this future will likely bring to practitioners.

Make sure, to tune in next week as we hear from our next industry professional, Nicola Mendleson.

As Jack said, events such as PRIA’s Young Communicators events provide a valuable opportunity to young practitioners to get together and share their thoughts and insights about the Public Relations industry. For more information about any of these upcoming events visit our events page.

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