I'm very very sowwy: or how to apologise

I'm very very sowwy: or how to apologise

Over the weekend a bit of a hullabaloo broke out when a 2-day old tweet from Nicky Wagner, the Minister for Disability Issues, showed some ... you might say flippancy, towards her portfolio and the issues within.

What to do in a PR Crisis

What to do in a PR Crisis

Despite the best of intentions, the best of behaviour, and the best of staff, things can go wrong. And they can go wrong spectacularly. And when they do it can feel like you're in the middle of a hurricane, being buffeted by criticism and negativity and that it will never ever end and things will always be bad.

Take a breath. Things will nearly always be ok.

Where else can my story go?

Where else can my story go?

At DCG, we’re trying to rock the boat a little when it comes to PR agencies and what they do for their clients. For a starter, that sweet little cash cow – the press release – that probably costs you anywhere between $400 and $1000 is not something we’re going to aggressively sell you, because largely they are a waste of time. We’re certainly not perfect, but selling a product or service that we know is next to useless, is unethical and we don’t roll that way.

We do roll via the PESO model. PESO was coined by Gini Dietrich back in 2014. It stands for Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned when referring to content creation. What it encourages is a more integrated approach to communications and content, which is infinitely better than running to the media with your non-story.

PESO also promotes a mantra I’ve stood by for many years: that every story has a home. And by home, I mean an audience. This approach slows things down a little, and gives us time to examine who really needs to know about this information. In some cases the media do need to be engaged, but 80% of the time they do not, and so we (everyone else) should really stop bugging them with nonsensical press releases.

It also promotes accountability. When you’re in charge of a company’s communications budget, you need to make sure that you’re spending it wisely. Frittering it away on press release and journalist spamming time isn’t great. But, by considering the audience and making sure that those people get that information, and then potentially doing something useful with it, well, for us at DCG, that’s when you become valuable to your clients.

Our clients at DCG hire us in the first place because we sell integrated communications rather than just being a media coverage PR firm. This means we’ll place a story where it gets the most bang for buck. It might not even be a story. We encouraged our client Snapper to engage with their end users when they rolled out their shiny new top up kiosks, with an easy competition. Just a media story relies on people happening upon your story when it goes up so they actually see it, and then how many of those would have felt compelled to go out and try the kiosks? Very few. In the end, the media were keen to talk about the kiosks anyway, and so it was a good result for Snapper. Our concept was about engaging with the user, the audience, in the best way possible.

The feedback we get from some businesses is that media coverage is still the golden child. They firmly believe that securing a story in the NZH or elsewhere is what will solve all their problems. It won’t.  However, playing the long game, with some strategic thinking and focusing on the audience who you are really trying to gain the attention of, will do a better job.

So where else can your story go? Here’s some ideas.

  • Your own website, promoted by social media, paid and organic.
  • Someone else’s website as a guest post, promoted through their social channels, and your own.
  • A company newsletter that by checking the open rates, gets opened and read by the people you want to share this story with.
  • As a micro-post on any of your social channels
  • As a video sent out via your newsletter
  • To a local news site, such as What is IT Wellington (disclaimer, this is run by DCG)

Here’s a radical idea. Word of mouth. Tell someone who tells James, who is sure to mention to his boss that she should look into xyz because of abc.

 

You could also do this at a networking event. “What’s new in the dev world, Jane?” “Well Ed, have you heard of Code Club Aotearoa – they’re teaching the kids to code. You mentioned last week you were looking at options to sponsor, this would be great for you”

There’s no denying that coverage in mainstream media – or any media at all is pretty exciting. It’s exciting for us when we pitch a story and it runs, especially cover stories. But when you save your media destined stories for media, and your other news for the exact audience and channel it belongs in, the ROI becomes crystal clear, because you’ll have put your audience first.

 

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

Who should I send my press release to?

Who should I send my press release to?

I just want to cover a bit about press releases, why we don't do them as everyone else does, and also what a press kit is, because that's not the same thing and I feel like maybe some people don't know that. So here goes.

Public relations covers a good number of things, but the one thing people get hung up on, is media relations. That's the bit where you tell a journalist about the thing going on in your business in the hope they'll want to investigate, write about it in their own words and publish it in their newspaper. We've written about this before, but "business wins business and is happy about it" does not make a news story, nor does 95% of what's happening at work for you. That doesn't mean you should scrap your story idea completely, you just need to find the right home for it and there is a home for every single story idea - so don't fret. 

Generally speaking, we don't bother with press releases in the fashion you know them as. It is much quicker for us and fewer $$ for our clients to spend, if we summarise a story idea in a sentence or two and use that to pitch a journalist.

A press kit on the other hand, is very useful. It's what you put together for a journalist who has requested one, i.e. they are interested in your story idea, and they now need a bit more information, examples, and contacts of people to speak with.

A press kit could have official quotes from subject matter experts that might be too hard to reach for a direct on the record quote to the journalist. The kit might have images of the people concerned, videos and other content. It doesn't have to be packaged up in a pretty bow, but it will be a source of information to help the journalist do their job.

The other thing about press kits is that they can be time consuming to put together, particularly a good, useful one, and this time needs to be considered. If you pitch a story to a journalist and they are interested, you don't have very long to get the information together for that journalist. On the flip side, there's very little point building a hub of resource and information for no one in the newsroom because they don't want to run your story.

Lastly, if you are still pretty keen on that press release, or you've managed to narrow it down to a a much briefer pitch, consider where you'll send that email. If you've got more than one journalist from a news organisation to send your email to, choose the best person who is most likely to be interested and scrap the rest. Here's why.

If you were given a project at the same time as three other people in your business and you all go about working on this project, only learning after an hour that four of you were doing the same job, it'd be a bit annoying, right? Same for journalists and newsrooms. Frustrating, right?

David has written about why press releases are a waste of time, and he even guest-lectured at Massey University to the PR students about why you don't need to bother with releases anymore. Time willing, go on and read that blog too, it's very good.

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

 

What do I blog about?

What do I blog about?

Welcome to 2017, how's it going so far?

Our year at DCG has kicked off with a hiss and a roar.. lots of interesting conversations, and companies from industries we haven't worked with before signing on and it's all jolly good. However, out of those conversations, there has been a resounding common theme - what sort of content should those companies be sharing.

"I understand I need to produce some written content on my companies expertise, but what am I supposed to write about?"

And so today, I want to go outside of our content plan of things we would normally write about to talk about blogging and how to do it. When you understand what to do, it's not as onerous a task as you think, and also, you're too busy to be developing stressful set backs on writing a blog.

The main reason you've been asked to write a blog is because you've been identified as someone who knows a fair bit about a fair bit, and your company wants to get more visitors to its website. In my experience search outranks just about every other tactic of getting people to visit your website. And so in order to make it easier for people to find your website, you'll want to attract them via a content plan including a few different things, but blogging is a big part it.

The biggest problem for most people who need to blog for their job, is coming up with the subjects to write about and how to frame those subjects into some useful information for your readers. So here is the golden rule.

Answer the question people are searching for.

Think of when you google for information, it is nearly always a question. What is xyz? How do I xyz? Where is xyz? And so on.

There are ways to check in Google what people are searching for, and if you wanted to you could optimise that content so your blog posts would appear on the first page of Google search results, however, that's a little bit harder and you might need a specialist to help you do that.

But for now, you're going to build a mini plan of topic ideas that people are searching for.

Think about the work you do, your industry, some of the typical things people ask you about your work in social settings. Make a list of those questions, and then, write your answer to each question in about 500 words.

By doing that, you've not only got yourself a blog, but a plan to produce more content when requested.

Now, go go go - write up those blogs and get back to your real job.

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

 

At the top table

At the top table

It's pretty rare that the CEOs of organisations have come up through the PR/communication route. Usually it's a finance person, or a legal person or a policy person. Comms and PR folk are usually held back at the 2nd tier because they're there to fix it up if something goes wrong. They don't need to be involved in the decision making process.

Wrong.

Admittedly I've set up a straw-man that I'm now going to argue against but nevertheless, while anecdotal, it's fairly common to hear that comms people don't get a seat at the senior leadership table. More often than not the communications and PR manager reports into someone at the top table; this can have negative consequences for you and your organisation's brand and reputation.

It's easy enough to fall into the trap that communications and PR people just need to be informed of what's going on. That from this information they can work with management's decisions to do their job, help your organisation and improve your reputation and brand. But wouldn't it be cool if you had a communications person sitting at the top table with you? Helping you make decisions instead of being told what they are.

If you're thinking of making a business decision it's going to have an impact on your reputation and brand. It doesn't matter what that decision is, there will be an impact. It might be tiny, it might be large, but the point of having a communications manager is so they can assess that impact and help mitigate if it's bad, or promote if it's good. And this isn't just external facing decisions either, business decisions get made that have impacts internally all the time. How will staff react to it? How will it be perceived by the people who are at the coal face doing the hard work? If it’s going to go badly should the business be doing it at all? Cutting off crappy reputational decisions before they are made could save you a world pain later on.

Having a comms person sit at the top table who can let you know if your business decisions will have a positive or negative outcome means you can sometimes save yourself from serious issues born of unintended consequences. We know what we’re talking about when it comes to reputation so use our skills in the decision making process. Not just the cleaning up process.

 

 

Which PR firm should I hire?

Which PR firm should I hire?

Ours.  End of blog.

Ha! Just kidding. Seriously, if your business is at the stage where you need some help raising its profile and you're doing the rounds of firms to choose then before you go ahead and sign on the line, here are some questions to ask to make sure you're partnering with a firm that knows what's up.

How do you measure your efforts?

Most PR firms are getting serious about metrics.  Advertising value equivalents in media relations was kicked out years ago, so any firm still peddling this non-measurement is probably not a forward thinking one.  Firms that ask for access to your website analytics, or firms asking you on the regular how many new email sign ups or contacts you've had and where that traffic has come from are ones to pay close attention to.  If an activity is showing in your analytics that it's having massive new and returning traffic, it gives a good indication that you're focusing on the right thing for your business goals.  If not, and for example's sake, your Tweets are getting zero love, you know right away that you can take the focus off that particular platform. A good PR firm will embrace web-analytics as a measurement tool of activity.

Do you have experience working in my industry?

It's not expected of PR people that they will have your industry experience, but a good working knowledge of what your business does is a pretty good start. And if they haven't got any experience but can demonstrate reasons why they are keen to work with you (aside from winning a new client) hear them out.  PR people work reasonably tirelessly to achieve a great result, and that result is often better when your account team is led by a passionate or industry involved account lead.

For example, our client CricHQ is led by David (a self-confessed cricket addict). He loves the work he does with them and the weekly WIP meetings are progressive and useful because he has knowledge, experience and passion for cricket and tech.

Who will be representing us?

It's not a secret that PR firms often send their best and brightest stars into a pitch meeting, then when the work has been won, schedule a junior account manager or someone completely different to do the work.  And while this is often common practice, it's better if you know up front who the worker bees will be, representing you and your company.  

What does representation look like and how will we work together?

If this is the first PR firm you've hired, you should ask them about their work preference and what level of service is included.  If you think being a first time client of a PR firm might lead you to need a lot of support, that should be included in your service level agreement so everyone is on the same page.  You might require a weekly progress meeting or be happy with a monthly workshop.  Whatever you need, checking that the firm you want to hire has the capability to meet your need is really important.

How much of my time will you need?

You may have a comms team in your business already and the support you require from a PR firm is to assist them with some specific tactics to achieve your goals.  Your comms team may have been able to get on with the job without too much involvement from you, however, an external PR firm often needs your time to help complete media interviews, op-eds, thought leadership and the like.  A good PR firm will have an idea of how standard tactics operate and can tell you pretty early on in the relationship what time commitment they'll require to finish the job properly.

Successful PR firm/business partnerships can thrive beautifully in an honest and transparent environment.  Asking these questions to help you select a firm to work with you could be the difference between achieving your business goals and not at all. 

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

Plan next year's PR in a flash - 3 ways to kick it off

Plan next year's PR in a flash - 3 ways to kick it off

Have you started your business planning for 2017 yet? 

No major if you haven't. Some business owners usually do that on the mini-break between Christmas and New Year, so you've plenty of time if that's how you roll.

While we can't write your entire business plan, we can help with PR planning. And that my friends, should be a reasonably big section of your business plan and if it isn't, then you need to make it so.

PR is not messing around with press releases, sending them to a cast of thousands in the hope someone will care about your news, PR is how you talk to the people that matter. That could be customers, stakeholders, and media. It could be influencers, industry colleagues, staff, and your favourite Aunt who loves telling everyone about your business and what you're up to.

So if we look at PR as "What you are going to say and when" it makes a bit more sense why you'd want to place some weight on its importance.

Here's how to get it started super quick, so you can get back to your holiday cocktails.

1) Editorial calendar aka content plan

An editorial calendar or a content plan is the central hub to your PR plan. It's the place to write down and schedule all the evergreen content you know your audience will enjoy that isn't time sensitive. This could be industry news, new and exciting things you're doing in your business, expertise to strengthen what you'd like to be known for, guides that are useful to people - that sort of thing. It could be in the format of blog posts, a regular mail out, or other types of content you know your audience respond well to.

When the flexible, evergreen content ideas have been panned out, (you can get help with doing this), you need to focus on things you envisage that will be time-sensitive. If you're an accountant, you might like to consider notifying your audience when various tax returns or provisional payments are due. If you're a charity, adding your appeal week and supporting content around that time could be useful.

By this point, you should have a content plan that is half-full leaving the remainder for all the current news and events that you can't predict will happen. In the case of last month's natural disasters, you know that important communications regarding your operations are far more important than your evergreen content, so the gaps are for you to shuffle around the flexible topics for things that are more urgent and time-sensitive.

2) Where does media fit in?

Some of those topics of yours could very well be topics that mainstream media is interested in. I'll be honest, business gets business and is happy about it, is not a story the media are interested in. So before you get stuck in crafting a media release it's likely to be a waste of time.

So, if we keep in our minds, that mainstream media is not going to be interested in the majority of your stories, we need to reach out to different types of media. Guest posts are it, my friends! Make a list of all the company and industry blogs relevant to your business and pitch your individual content idea to them. You'll need to learn about their blog site, figure out if you think there's a match and if they say yes, ask if they will link back to your own website.  If their domain authority is higher than yours and they agree to a link back, that's some good ranking gold for you. If not, feel free to pitch the story anyway as they could have some interesting traffic that could be useful for you.

If you're in a tech business, you can submit all of your news to sites like What is IT Wellington.

3) Metrics

For any of this work to have a purpose, you need to set up some seriously measurable metrics. Google analytics makes it real easy to figure out whether the work you're doing is driving more eyeballs to your content and whether that is having a positive effect on your business. In order to do this easily, make your website as the benchmark. Out of all traffic that flows to your website, how much of it came from:

1) guest posting on other blogs

2) social media channels

3) mainstream media

4) other platforms and channels you use to share your stories

Knowing what's popular will give you insight into what you should focus on the most as that's what your audience is telling you they like.

In summary:

1) Content plans are the best, easiest way to sort your PR for next year

2) Reach out to other media types not just mainstream

3) Measure everything

(Disclaimer: What is IT Wellington is run by Draper Cormack Group)

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

 

The lowdown on the links

The lowdown on the links

As a working parent of two kids (ages five and one), my life is pretty busy. I know so many business owners are in the same boat, so when I advise on communication strategies and tactics there needs to be a business goal in place or a reason to do the work, otherwise, what's the point, and who's got time to do pointless things?

Content marketing is a term thrown around quite a lot right now.  And about 15 years ago when blogging really became a thing for businesses to get into, I was one of those PR advisors telling my clients to go ahead and get a blog.

They'd ask me why, and I couldn't give them a good reason.  They'd ask me what to write about, and I'd tell them "anything you like.  Just have a damn blog."

Today, that's just not good enough. Blogging is like a competitive sport. It requires strategic thinking, a solid plan detailing the content, the audience, the purpose, and a Call To Action (CTA). You have a blog because it will be a tactic from a strategy that meets a business goal.  The most common business goal I hear of daily is a version of "increase traffic to our website".

So how do you do that? I've written about what domain authority is and how it affects your chances of getting found on the first page of Google results.  And I've written about how to increase your domain authority too, so you have a better chance of being on the first page of Google results. Links are just one ingredient, in conjunction with a bunch of other things that will help your domain authority become strong and healthy.  That's why links are important and there are two kinds so it's important to understand both.

The two kinds of links are DoFollow links and NoFollow links.  

DoFollow links are great.  These are links that happily contribute towards your domain authority and are a true joy to have as part of your content marketing strategy.  Every time a site with a higher domain authority than you links to content on your website with no rules around it, Google takes the influence from the higher domain site and rewards your site with domain authority points(this process is a lot more complex than I've explained here, but hopefully, you get the idea).

NoFollow links are pretty much the opposite.  They are sneaky little things that have a line of code wrapped around the link that is pointing to the content on your website, instructing Google to pay no attention to them where domain authority ranking is involved.  While they are sneaky, they are still good for referral traffic.  So if someone is reading your content and feels inspired to click on a link that points back to a page in your site, they'll be able to do that.  But the end effect on your domain authority will not be as great as if they were a DoFollow link without that instruction.

So if they are so sneaky, why do websites use them?  Good question.  NoFollow was actually invented to try and counter the amount of spammy links that people would often put in a comments section, or a forum or other community which made it really annoying for actual users wanting to contribute properly.  So from that perspective, they're a good thing because they are reducing spammy comments.

There is an easy way and a hard way to determine whether links are DoFollow or NoFollow.  The easy way is to use the free Moz toolbar.  And by clicking on the pencil icon and then the "NoFollow" button, the links on your page that have NoFollow attributed to them will be highlighted.  Similarly, links that are happy to share their page rank will also make themselves known. The harder way is to right click on the link in question, select "inspect" and look for a tag that says "NoFollow".  It's only harder to do it that way, because some people may find a screen of code a tiny bit overwhelming.  Try both and see what you like best.  It's pretty clear in all of my blogs that I prefer Moz.

But what's really important when creating your content strategy that includes having other sites link back to your own site, is to not try too hard.  Google can see when you're purposely trying to have all DoFollow links or if your site is full of NoFollow links because you've been careless with where you pitch your content to.  And they really like authenticity the best.  

So in summary

1) Authenticity in content and links is the best approach

2) NoFollow links are sneaky, but it's not the end of the world if you have them

3) DoFollow links are wonderful, but only if they're authentic.

Are we good? Yes?  Great!  If you need help making sense of this, please ask.  Content strategy is just so damned exciting, I want to tell everyone about it!

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.

 

 

Winning awards is really great for your business profile...

Winning awards is really great for your business profile...

The work for awards submissions, however, can be like zzz zzz zzz...

Except not for us.  We really enjoy it and we're really good at it.  So much in fact, that we've launched awardshub.nz!

Awardshub.nz is a free resource site packed full of details on awards you can enter your company (or yourself) into. And the best bit, you can go ahead and work on those submissions yourself, or yell out to us and we'll help you with as much or as little support as you need. 

Over the last 12 months, DCG (that's us) has had some success with award submissions with many of our awards clients getting to finalist stage and others winning their categories.  We're pleased to have supported Thomas Mitchell to receive NZ Young IT Professional of the Year, and Victoria MacLennan to receive NZ IT Professional of the Year at ITx Awards.

It doesn't stop there, our successes have led our client CricHQ to take home awards from ITx and reach finalist level for NZ Innovation awards and others off-shore.

And so now we've launched Awardshub.nz which will help you to choose awards for your company to enter and support on hand if you need it.

Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.