The future of PR

The future of PR

A while ago I was asked to be part of an IABC panel event to talk to our communications industry about the future of PR, and what it'll look like in 2027. It's not often I'm asked to share my reckons, especially about a topic that I'm reasonably opinionated about, so I was excited to be invited, particularly to join a panel with such important people in our industry. If you missed the event last night or are interested more in where I see PR going, please read on.

I've been working in the PR industry for nearly 18 years, and while I've dabbled in a few other things in that time, largely, PR is my core trade. You don't need me to tell you that PR is constantly evolving. It has been in motion since the late 90's and it's not about to stop now. Traditionally it was all about media relations for a company and what coverage in the mainstream media and glossy titles could do for them. Media relations is still a part of what we do, but if PR people want to remain useful and employed in this brave new world, they're going need to add a lot more to their LinkedIn endorsement list, beyond press releases.

My friend Gini Dietrich of Chicago based PR firm Arment Dietrich and founder of my most favourite blog ever, Spin Sucks, says that communications professionals need to be hybrid communicators and I agree with her. To be a hybrid communicator you'll need to fully understand media relations and all that entails, but also be completely proficient in digital storytelling and content planning, social media, and paid advertising. 

Talking about paid ads, I'm sure we're all familiar with the PESO communications model, and even as little as a year ago, I would have said that the "PAID" part of PESO for PR people, meant sorting out facebook ads and sponsoring posts. Not anymore. In the future, or now, when your client is launching a product that needs a fully integrated launch plan, you're going to need to master media buying. Sure, you might have friends or an agreement with an ad agency to help you, however, the value you will add to your client by being able to take the lead on the launch including their paid advertising is pretty phenomenal. My firm has been leading the launch for new cricket platform BehindTheSeams.TV and a hybrid role here has been absolutely necessary.

Next up is metrics. And I don't mean advertising equivalents like we touted in the 90's. I mean true measurements of how effective your work is for getting leads in the door of your clients. In the future, and you can start this today actually, PR people need to show demonstrable evidence of their work contributing to a company's bottom line. Google have made it really easy for PR firms to measure their work, with its analytics tool. You don't need to go all gung-ho on guaranteeing leads to your clients if you're not comfortable with that (I get it, baby steps), but when you see users downloading content and signing up for lists, you can give yourself a pat on the back, as this means your work has made a positive impact to a company.

It's pretty clear that digital PR will be super prominent in the future - it is now, so there's no turning back. But how we embrace new technology like AI, will be key to the importance of PR practitioners in the future. AI robots as I like to call them, won't be taking your job, but they'll change it. Imagine how much time you spend on writing, and then think of the time freed up when a cute AI robot writes the majority for you based on some keywords and long tail questions you prepare for it. Your writing role will evolve into an editing role to shape the content and soften it with emotion and tone. AI probably can't do that for you, so take a breath, your job is safe.

Strategic advice is my final point today. And this one is really important. PR people need to get a seat at the top table and in time they will. When discussing business strategy and planning, our experience in communicating a message and via what methods is crucial to the success of a company. This will be more important in Government departments across the world, too. We only need to mention the Trump administration debacle and how disjointed and offensive to many, certain characters have behaved with their opinions and reckons. Communication controlled by a presence at the top table, could have saved some face.

I wish to thank the New Zealand chapter of IABC for inviting me to join their panel event, special mention to my panel colleagues, Sharon Hunter (international speaker), IABC Global Chair,  Regan Savage, Kiwibank GM Marketing CommunicationsDebbie Barber, Ministry of Health GM Communications, and thank you to IABC Wellington President Shaun Jones for the top notch facilitation.

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.

Why you should plan your PR, and how to do it super quick.

Why you should plan your PR, and how to do it super quick.

A blog from Laura at Spin Sucks made me chuckle today. It's about why her dog hates your PR plan and you should read it, it's very good. But it reminded me that while some of her customers have plans that don't really achieve anything, there's a lot of businesses out there that don't have a bad PR plan, because they don't have one at all. And I get it. There's a lot going on in your business,  especially if you have staff.

The number one reason why you need a plan is largely so you end up telling the stories in your business that are important to you, you tell them well in a strategic manner (no knee jerks please), and you gain some traction against your business goals using communications as a tactic. Comms and PR with no plan is like using a chocolate teapot. Don't do it. Messy end.

Sometimes it's not a time or priority issue, it's because you don't know where to start. I know this, because a quick glance at the searches for comms and pr plans in Google, indicate that "Comms plan how", "PR plan template free", and "What's a PR plan" are of a reasonably high level each month.

The bore of doing a Google search to find some insight is that what's on offer is usually either a Government based resource which isn't great as it's a completely different model,  or something from the United States which is kinda worse because it's not relevant to New Zealand, or it's something tailored for a specific business and it's just too confusing to pop your own details over the top. And maybe some PR plans you've seen, are fuelled with a single tactic of running to media any chance you get, instead of focusing on integration. So today, you can learn (if you want) how to drum up an integrated PR plan for your organisation - super quick. 

1) Pick a story in your business you'd like to share and a minimum of three ways it can be told. A blog, a video, an infographic, a white paper, a webinar, a case study, a podcast, an EDM - pick three. One of the three needs to be a blog on your website, so you have a reference point for metrics.

2) Identify the audience you'd like to hear about your story and make sure that your audience is receptive to at least one of the formats above you've chosen.

3) Write, produce, do the story. Get it peer reviewed to make sure all formats are good.

4) Set up your metrics. The goal is to tell your story, but ideally you want people to engage with it and if that engagement brings them back to your website, they might want to read more about you, sign up to your list, and holy smokes, maybe even buy from you. I know, smart huh? Now if you have a good metric snapshot to start with, you'll be able to see whether or not anyone was interested in your story, which will inform whether you tell those types of stories in the future, or if you need to completely change tack.

Likes on Twitter and Facebook aren't going to cut it sadly, but as an entry point without getting all Gung-ho on it, include things like your website domain authority, your current website visitors, and where visitors have come from to get to your site. If they are predominantly social media traffic, then you'll know to spend a bit of time perfecting your post there. If they are mainly from search, then you might want to consider some paid Google ads if your domain authority is average and you can't compete for page one organically.

Go here to read my blog on metrics, to learn more about it.

5) Media relations. This is a fun one. Typically media relations just meant engaging with mainstream media, but actually, if you've got media relations skills, then you should pitch some of your content (point 1 and 3) to other blogs as guest content.  You need to carefully consider whether your story has legs for a mainstream media audience before pitching it to a busy journalist. Business wins business and is happy about it is not something a mainstream journalist will be interested in. 

6) Publishing. If you have content going up in other areas get the date they are being published and the link so you can publish your blog with links out to various sites. Your blog will be summing up your story briefly, supported with examples in other places. If you have secured mainstream media coverage, edit your blog post and include this link when it's out.

That's it. If you've gone through these steps more or less, you've planned and executed one story. Take a look at your metrics. What are the differences you can see? Did you have more visitors to your website? Did you have more views of existing content? Did anyone sign up to your list? Analyse what new things have happened, make your tweaks for the next story, rinse and repeat.

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.

Magical metrics

Magical metrics

I love metrics. LOVE THEM. Which is rare for someone in PR. Typically what we really love is getting coverage of your story in mainstream media - the pitch, the success of seeing a story published. The rush from seeing your story that we took and presented to a really tough media crowd of journalists and editors in several different newspapers, well. You can only imagine. But what happened over the last few years is that while we are very good at representing you to the media, there's also a bunch of other stuff we learned to do really well. We're now focused on purpose. On integration. On making sure that the work we do is useful, rather than just giving us a high at the end of the day when we nail it. It's about you, getting value out of us being useful. Bye bye long lunch at SPQR.

So metrics. It's a bit of a face palm moment that we didn't do this ages ago, because it's really easy and the insights are phenomenal. They tell us exactly how a story idea has performed, and whether or not we should keep going with that tactic or axe it and do something better.

Largely all of my metric, geekiness love has come from following a leader in our industry who is just golden. Avinash Kaushik. He knows what's up when it comes to data of this ilk. Thanks Avinash!

Like everything, you can have a metrics dashboard as big as Russia and not know what's up. It's not necessary while you're starting out, so give this entry level metrics DIY Dashboard a go. 

Build a dashboard (sorta) in under an hour

1) Write down your domain authority. We want to monitor this periodically to see if it's going up or down.

2) Find out what your monthly average visitor number to your website is. It's good to see whether the content you're pushing out (in a very general sense) is useful to someone, somewhere.

3) Out of those visitors, find out what percentage come from searching in Google for you, and what percentage come from social media posts or other sites. 

4) Now split your dashboard between organic search, social media and any other promotional channel you use.  We need to do this because if the ratio in your channel is 40/30/20/10 and you treat it like 25/25/25/25, then you're not off to a great start and nobody wants that. What we want is to see is what channels for sharing content are good for you and your business. .0001% of visitors coming from your Pinterest channel is not enough to keep investing in its maintenance. See what I mean?

Ultimately, we are measuring how people are coming to your website, how long they are staying, and what they are doing there, via the content and social media chit chat you put out. We want to see what's working for your business and where to put more emphasis.

So let's get a bit more specific. Write these questions down and fill them in when you have some results. Usually we would pick a reporting period of two weeks from content going out.

- Out of all clicks on a social media post to your website (you can enter this when you have an actual post to put up) what was the bounce rate percentage - i.e how many went to your website and then left again without looking at anything else. And the same for organic search - how many people searched for you, then left super quickly? This tells us whether your content is on brand for your business and how authentic it is for your audience. Remember we want people to come to our website to have a good time and get lots of value and eventually buy from us.

- How interesting are you on your social media platforms? What is the percentage of all the comments, and replies, out of your follower number. If you have 100 followers but only one comment or action on everything you do, you might like the consistency of Jane's support, but it's 1% engagement at the end of it and probably a good time to rethink what you're sharing. However, 80 comments from 100 followers, is much better. You may celebrate! 

- If you haven't driven people to comment, perhaps you've driven them to share which is still rather good. So again, what's the percentage of the shares and retweets of your story link on a social platform out of your follower number. Extending on this, your amplification feeds into your reach number. And so with the help of a handy analytics tool, you can see what the size of your network was able to see your post. You'll want to keep that figure in mind when seeing how good a piece of content was, and also, see how many new followers you're getting!

- Do the same for likes as a percentage of followers. This will give you your applause rate. Let's not crack the bubbly over 100 likes when you have 25 million followers, though.

And finally what are people doing when they click your link and go to your website or search in Google to get to your site? Great if they are reading more content and generally having a nice time on your website, but what we'd really like, is for them to sign up to your list and become a lead. What percentage of people who click through from a social platform go ahead and sign up to your list or contact you through your form, and what percentage of those highly engaged people are doing the same thing from a Google search? Get these two percentages to round out your effectiveness report, which will inform how you play out another story or piece of content. 

So there you have it folks! The fun part is displaying this information in whatever way that will make sense to you when it's time to present and act on your findings. 

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.

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.


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.