Listen to PR Week, Reputation Institute and Lansons discuss corporate governance and reputation

Under the spotlight of the media, some of the world’s biggest companies have faced prominent reputation damage over the last couple of years.

From an undercover Guardian investigation into Sports Direct that revealed working practices indicative of a workhouse, Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 and recent indictment of acting Head of Samsung Lee Jae-yong, and Merlin Entertainment’s handling of the Alton Towers roller coaster crash. Plus many more.

As the old Warren Buffett quote goes,

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”

Without a doubt, corporate governance and the behaviour of businesses and their leaders is higher up on the agenda than ever before. It’s not difficult to think of examples of poor management, and runaway executive pay at FTSE-listed companies has tested public patience.

To discuss the state of corporate governance and how UK companies have performed so far this year Danny Rogers, Editor-in-Chief at PR Week; Ed Coke, Director of Consulting Services at Reputation Institute; and Tony Langham, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Lansons; join Jon Cronin, Head of Lansons Broadcast PR and Content, in a special podcast recorded in the Lansons studio.

You can listen to the podcast by streaming it below.

Some of the key topics discussed during the episode can be seen below, plus many more.

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Reputation as a holistic concept

For Reputation Institute, corporate governance is seen as shorthand for responsible business behaviour. This means looking at reputation as a holistic concept where governance is one part of this. By evaluating the seven key dimensions of reputation, products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and performance, it’s possible to have an altogether explanation of reputation.

Understanding governance

If we are to say the definition of governance is about fairness and transparency, then the media plays a significant role in how governance is shaped. It is something people would notice or not notice on a daily basis, therefore if a company isn’t in the news then people could think governance is good. Ultimately if society values authenticity and transparency from businesses, then it’s important for businesses to respond to this.

Being seen to communicate

Facebook and Google have both been under fire recently for not communicating or responding to issues. Most prominently Google as major brands pulled their millions out of Google advertising after extremist content appeared against brand ads across Google’s websites. Today there is an expectation from the public that businesses will respond robustly and quickly to accusations (that can cause complications when fake news is spread via social networks).

 

Disclaimer: This is a Lansons podcast, the multi-specialist consultancy I work for. 

Book review of Rich Leigh’s Myths of PR

Meaning of true ‘thought leadership’ has been lost by the media industry due to oversharing. News is being created out of news, opinions of developments are rife and so zealous to render the mere idea of revolution just another dull day in the office. Out of the darkness of ‘fictional futuristic PR’, a place where robots could take our jobs but nobody is smart enough to apply the technology yet, emerges a hero.

Rich Leigh, who started his PR agency as a 27-year-old and well-known founder of the website PRexamples.com. His book ‘Myths of PR: All publicity is good publicity and other popular misconceptions’ due to be released on 3rd April 2017 examines popular myths in the industry and uses them as a vehicle for helping start-up owners, practitioners, and students, to improve their practice.

myths of pr book cover

In Rich’s own words, “Myths are damaging. They hold us back and prevent us from looking at and assessing things clearly and intelligently”.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been lucky enough to have a digital pre-release copy of the book and reading it has been a real pleasure. Unlike other industry books, often tricky to break past academic or theoretical communication models, Rich writes as he speaks – this is not an easy feat. It’s effortless to read through chapters whilst learning and being challenged, almost as if Rich is having a one-on-one conversation with you.

A perusal of the book’s chapters awkwardly reveals the vast number of myths about the PR industry, some of which are not as straight-forward to answer as you may think. Starting from “PR is all spin, smokescreen and lies”, to “the press release is dead”, and ending on a potentially controversial but intelligent analysis on “gender wage gap figures”. One chapter that particularly challenged my way of thinking is “you have to pay to see social media benefits”.

The whole book really is a witty bundle of intelligent analysis brought to life by working world anecdotes. In many ways the launch of the book will breathe life into a quickly aging academic PR library; all of which far too irrelevant and difficult to penetrate by the types of people this book would be perfect for; practitioners, people looking to hire an agency, or students interested in entering the industry.

As Rich covers fairly early on in the book, the reason many myths exist about PR may be because we tend to be background operators. We desperately part with serious amounts of money to be recognised in glitzy industry awards because the reality is most the time practitioners are confined to the shadows. In fact, if you asked somebody on the street to name a PR person then Max Clifford’s name would probably appear, with connotations of unethical practice rife.

This needs to change and ‘Myths of PR’ is probably one of the first modern books on the market that understands all current industry debates, tackles myths with humour and evidence, all in a bid to improve the practice and understanding of its readers. I’m going to be buying at least 100 copies to give to people every time they ask what I do for a living.

‘Myths of PR’ comes out on the 3rd April 2017 and you can pre-order from Amazon here. You can also follow Rich on Twitter @RichLeighPR.

PS. I’m not buying 100 copies… but you should buy one.

The day you stop learning in PR, is the day you should stop practicing

University library

Learning is for life, if you’re not learning at least one new thing each day then it’s time for a change. Part of this means having the confidence to throw yourself into situations, occasionally opting for the ‘agree now, learn how to later’ approach. If you’ve got a drive and passion, an inquisitive mind, and a highly controlled inner ego that only wants to be recognised for high quality work, then these are some of the ingredients needed to succeed in the PR industry.

In reality though, what do any of these things mean? It’s emotive. If you were entering other professions such as law or accountancy, then you would have a logical framework to follow for entering the profession. A particular set of qualifications or work experiences needed, even a form of competency framework that shows you the core skills needed to progress from A to B.

In this respect the PR industry needs to work to identify the core competencies required in a role, the various ways to enter the profession, along with an effort on Continual Professional Development (CPD). To my knowledge the piece of work that gets closest to outlining the capabilities required in PR is Global Alliance’s ‘The Global Capabilities Framework Project’ – although do leave a comment if there is more recent research to read.

Both industry bodies, the PRCA and CIPR, offer CPD programmes and to complicate matters further, various agencies run their own development programmes who have accreditation with either industry body. Given this complicated landscape of qualifications and CPD programmes – how do you make sense of everything?

PRCA Industry vs. Academics Debate

To (eventually) help find an answer to this question, the PRCA ran their first ‘Industry vs. Academics’ debate in London last month. Chaired by Stephen Waddington of Ketchum, the panellists were:

Faith Howe, Director & Partner, Head of Talent Development, UK and Middle East at FleishmanHillard

Chris Owen, Director, M&C Saatchi PR

Dr. Nicky Garsten, PR and Communications Programme Director, Greenwich University

Robert Minton-Taylor, Senior Lecturer, School of Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, Leeds Becket University

A deliberately contentious title to draw in the crowds – It worked. Around 120 people filled the room, a mixture of academics and practitioners, many of who have gained industry recognition and influence for their dedication to the subject. It was a unique opportunity to catch up with old friends and contacts; all united in the belief that the PR industry needs to formalise education and career development.

The event led with the question ‘Is it necessary to have a PR degree?’ and obviously the answer is no… But the panel’s two main focuses were how people enter the profession and dealing with attrition later in a PR career. Particularly how PR education is often guilty of focusing too heavily on theory without giving practice enough attention. For a full write-up of the event visit Marcel’s blog.

The evening was not short of discussion and occasional moments of debate, particularly from some passionate supporters (mostly on Twitter) who saw PR degrees as providing the critical foundation knowledge for entering the profession. Although where higher education can provide a theoretical foundation of knowledge, it was noted many students lack the necessary ‘soft skills’ needed for activities such as holding conversations on the phone.

Even though I invested £20,000+ in a PR degree, it’s clear that there are many ways you can enter into PR. These days you could argue ‘degree required’ entry-level roles actually inadvertently filter for the same old ‘blueprint’ candidates. In this area the fabulous work of the Taylor Bennet Foundation to get Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) graduates into full-time work is critical – the fact this initiative is needed at all is a little embarrassing, why isn’t the industry diverse already?

What’s the answer?

The big question students were asking at the event was ‘Have I wasted my time and money on a PR degree?’ – my answer to that is no! I’ve blogged about that before here, my PR degree has paid off well for me so far and has probably accelerated my career journey in many ways.

There were many answers to the ‘industry vs. academics’ debate:

  1. To improve the quality of people entering the PR industry, there needs to be a better working relationship between practitioners and academics (often there is a blend between the two)
  2. There is a responsibility of managers and HR teams to recognise the importance of accepting a wide range of candidates to PR roles – don’t just get drawn towards the same white middle-class degree laden mould
  3. Despite the innovation brought by digital over the last 11 years, we’re still slow to accept the fact developments in automation (among other things) could have severe consequences to our bottom lines
  4. Given the importance of grounding PR work in theory, in my view there isn’t enough theory being updated to account for how digital has changed everything
  5. There are many ways to enter the PR industry, each way in relies on experience and eventually contacts

Ultimately, the day you stop learning in PR, is the day you should stop practicing.

Only 36% of PR practitioners admit digital efforts are “very effective”

Woman using laptop

New research shows that the Public Relations (PR) industry still seems to be struggling to remain relevant in an online world. One of the headline stats reveals that only 36% of PR practitioners admit that their digital campaign efforts are effective, with 24% claiming little to no effectiveness at all.

When surveyed about the greatest challenges expected in their industry over the next 12 months, prepare for difficult reading as a lack of investment, time, and training appear top of the list:

  • 61.9% say they expect a lack of resources or funds
  • 57.7% find it challenging to find the right measures/metrics to evaluate work results
  • 58.8% expect a lack of time to try new strategies/technologies
  • 51% say there is a challenge when it comes to internal skills and competencies

This is unchanged from 2015 as PR practitioners are forced to deal with growing workloads and expectations to produce creative campaigns without always the budget to support.

Appropriate measurement for PR programmes is an important area for me as it helps demonstrate the value of investment into digital activities. Whilst 61% of respondents say that return on investment is an important measure, 84% use follower increases as the most frequent measurement. Whilst nothing wrong with this, it does suggest that the PR industry is generally finding it difficult to deliver business results. Of course, this could also be a general symptom of social media and its challenge to be an acquisition channel without paid-for support.

The research that surveyed 2,500 PR practitioners across nine different countries was conducted by Mynewsdesk and Berghs School of Communication. Respondents work across local, regional and global PR firms across 17 different industries including media and entertainment, business services, software and internet, government, and non-profits. The results of the survey are being compiled into a three-part eBook series that is being published between December 2016 and March 2017.

Digital PR study

The first eBook boldly begins by explaining PR has an opportunity to implement digital tactics, potentially replacing traditional advertising that “… is often viewed by consumers as an imposition and an unwelcome intruder…”. A deep marketing transformation partly driven by consumer trends of streaming or recording television, paying for music services, and using AdBlocking software, provides the PR industry an opportunity to have a “revolution”.

The revolution of PR is a passionate ideal I once held when studying PR at University and practicing in entry-level roles, but today I’ve changed my mind. Looking back at my work throughout 2016 I would say only 50% of what I do could be considered traditional PR in the sense of issues management or media relations. The other half consists of digital marketing, working alongside public affairs, contributing to change and employee engagement programmes… PR cannot be an umbrella term, it’s too misinterpreted by its media relations undertones and it’s not practical for PR industry bodies to represent the entire marketing mix and management consultancy space.

Draw your own conclusions from the new research. Sign-up for the PR Revolution e-book series to discover more of the challenges, opportunities, and solutions the communications industry is facing.

 

Keep up with 350+ news sources without breaking a sweat

‘Don’t you ever worry that you’ll run out of things to say?’ was a bemused line delivered by a University friend back in 2008. Today it’s amusing; a Public Relations person running out of things to say? Bah… as if! Although oddly, I feel like he was onto an idea that I actually believe in today, if I’m to provide consultancy to organisations then I must have done my reading.

If you work in PR then you’ll relate to this next bit, if not then you’ll soon understand. Explaining what PR is to normal people is tough.

The industry agrees it is primarily about managing reputation but the growth of online has spurred evolution in the industry. Instead of speaking to journalists, the steady growth of social media over the last eight years has changed the way reputation needs to be managed. As a digital account director at Lansons my primary focus is how to manage the online reputations of organisations.

It’s a big job, but I’m thankful it’s not a physical one. The intensity is on the brain and I need to know the pulse of the digital industry including social media news, search engine optimisation updates, and online analytics. Keeping up-to-date about an industry that changes on an hourly basis is challenging and if I enter a client meeting without the latest news then my consultancy will be poor.

So whilst my friend’s innocent question was quaint, it touched on a truth; for every 10% of consultancy I provide it must be backed up by 90% research. In my professional life I treat clients like essays, the hardest part is the learning and analysing, the easiest part is the delivery of information. This balance of knowledge is part of what makes a good or poor consultant; in the agency world this is financial life or death.

Of course there are other factors at play. For instance, you could be the smartest person in the room but a real arse to deal with!

I know for certain that to be a successful consultant then you need to have a timely plan for how to digest and analyse news. This needs to stand tall even when your working weeks go into the interstellar 50+ hour mark. In the PR industry we’ve recently started calling the mixture of internal business cultures and balance of tools part of a business workflow.

Using Feedly to make news digestible

I’m dependent on Feedly, an online platform and app that delivers me the latest news from every blog, magazine and newspaper I choose to follow. Without Feedly most people would struggle to keep up-to-date with one newspaper, let alone that and 349 other news sources!

Feedly, overview of topics

As social media sites have progressed, Feedly has been a reliable tool to return to. Twitter has become too noisy, Facebook prioritises old viral videos, and Google+ is near extinct. For in-depth news my first visit is Feedly; on iPhone during commutes and via the browser whilst at work. It’s even played a small role helping position myself professionally in the industry through the Feedly app’s ease of social sharing.

Feedly finance

Whether you’re new to the industry or an old-timer, Feedly remains a simple and free way to keep up-to-date with the news. After having used the tool since the closure of Google Reader in 2013 I’m beginning to consider pro features such as collection sharing to help inform my client teams. As it’s my source for news, it has helped me maintain relationships with fellow bloggers and has been integral to the consultancy I’ve delivered for the last five years.

So my honest (unpaid!) advice for PR professionals is to consider Feedly as part of your PR workflow. It will only help make you smarter.

 

 

#FuturePRoof: A guide for managers of agencies and communications teams

FuturePRoof book cover

The challenge of the public relations industry is to remain accessible to future generations whilst striving towards professionalism. It’s this drive for constant improvement and reinvention that has brought 40+ practitioners together to complete 39 essays, forming the second edition of #FuturePRoof.

The second edition builds on the success of the first #FuturePRoof book, launched in October 2015, which secured over 2,500 sales and downloads. The book continues the discussion around key opportunities facing public relations, from convergence and skillset to Boardroom recognition and the pace of change. Its aim is to assert public relations as a management discipline and demonstrate its value to organisational success.

The second edition of #FuturePRoof has launched at a poignant time for me as I reflect on how my own public relations career has progressed. As a digital specialist, the only form of media relations I regularly undertake is blogger relations; most of the time I help organisations become their own newspapers.

I would be called in to assist with online reputation management, digital monitoring, and programme strategies. At times I question whether the work of the PRCA or CIPR adequately represent my daily workload or training requirements, especially as flagship events such as BrightonSEO talk more directly to my skillset.

With this in mind, I’ve been reading #FuturePRoof trying to understand its target audience. At first I struggled. All of us who are involved in the online public relations community are used to calls to professionalism, ethical practices, and equality. So whilst I agreed with chapters than ran this route, it’s the same beating drum. Perhaps this will raise awareness amongst senior practitioners in the industry to change their practices, but I think this is the point; words help bring topics to light but only we can work for change.

The 39 essays that form #FuturePRoof are wide ranging. Topics include audience insight, employee advocacy, influencer relations, tools and technology, agile strategy and business models. For this reason, the book won’t just appeal to one audience, but a range of different people who form the public relations industry.

One of the most memorable chapters for me is by Sarah Stimson, Programme Director at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, on the importance of hiring smart people who have diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It doesn’t speak directly to my role, except if I’m involved in a hiring decision, but highly relevant to HR teams.

The main message weaved throughout the book is clear: Corporate investment in people and technology and an individual focus on continuous professional development (CPD) will drive the public relations industry forward.

Agency owner and CIPR President-Elect candidate Sarah Hall is #FuturePRoof’s founder and editor.

She said:

“The success of #FuturePRoof shows that public relations practitioners are aware of the direction of travel and are no longer prepared for other disciplines to eat their lunch. The public relations fight back starts here and now.

“Demand shows professionals want to close their competency gaps in order to provide strategic advice at management level.

“What’s more, the public relations industry is waking up to the fact that if we are truly guiding organisational strategy, it is common sense that other disciplines answer to us within the corporate hierarchy. I expect this narrative to get louder and louder.”

#FuturePRoof: Edition Two is dedicated to Dr Jon White, a guiding force and inspiration for the project. His book How to Understand and Manage Public Relations celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

#FuturePRoof is available in hard copy via www.futureproofingcomms.co.uk and on Kindle via http://tinyurl.com/j8ocm4z.

How can companies manage their reputations online? [EVENT]

Social media email banner

How can regulated companies use social media for business results?

How can you convince C-Suite that managing and measuring reputation should be a priority?

How can data be used to better manage online reputation?

Please join us for an afternoon debate at Lansons about reputation management as an independent event for Social Media Week London, on Thursday 15 September, from 3.30pm to 5.00pm.

Our expert panel will be discussing how companies can manage their reputations in the digital age. Our influential panel has been specifically selected to represent a range of opinions, based on knowledge and practical experience.

The debate will feature an extensive Q&A section, with opportunities to quiz the panel and provide comment.

To register for a place at this event, please email[email protected] with your full details. Please note that we will confirm your place via email. We’re an independent Social Media Week London event, so you’ll need to book a place in advance and won’t be able to gain entry using your official SMW pass.

Speaking on the panel will be:

Francesco D’Orazio, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product and Research at Pulsar

Francesco is Vice President of Product at social analytics firm Pulsar, Chief Innovation Officer at innovation consultancy FACE and Co-Founder at the Visual Social Media Lab. He designs systems and research frameworks that help analyse social data and extract insights from social data using computational social science and data visualisation. He is a regular speaker at research, innovation and technology conferences such as Big Data Week, Social Media Week, Social Data Week, Strata, WARC, MRS, Esomar, Virtual Worlds Forum, World Business Forum. 

Magnus Boyd, Partner at Schillings

Magnus protects individual and corporate reputations by helping clients to manage unwanted media attention. He is frequently called upon before stories are published or broadcast to prevent inaccuracy and stop businesses and prominent individuals from being defamed or private information being published. Magnus also advises on information security and manages the risk to reputation that arises in the event of data loss. He is ranked as a leader in his field in Chambers & Partners and the Spear’s 500 Index. 

Ed Coke, Director of Consulting Services at Reputation Institute

Ed leads the advisory team at Reputation Institute, a research-based consultancy that measures the reputations of the largest and most visible companies around the world. He provides senior communications and marketing executives at global companies the single-best way to measure, communicate and manage reputation performance. With this insight, companies can protect their reputations, analyse risks and drive competitive advantage.

Rebecca Mayo, Joint Managing Director at Lansons

Over the last decade Rebecca has been responsible for many sector-leading and award-winning campaigns, including: the launch of Metro Bank, Britain’s first new high street bank in over 100 years; the five year market-leading thought leadership programme for life and pensions giant Scottish Widows;  the re-positioning and re-launching of Asda Money; the launch and decade long consumer champion programme for MoneySuperMarket; the integrated PR and PA campaign for the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion; and the decade long corporate and retail programme for Invesco Perpetual, including the recent departure of its star fund manager Neil Woodford. Rebecca has significant experience managing corporate issues ranging from FSA fines, non-compliant marketing communications, mis-selling, mergers and acquisitions, exiting markets, complex pricing strategies, and difficult underwriting decisions.

SEO is no longer a discipline, it’s a skillset

Brighton SEO - registration

Tickets selling out in four minutes, a mile-long queue outside the venue, over 1,700 attendees; you would have thought a West End Musical or international musician was visiting Brighton. No, this is Brighton SEO and over the last five years it has moved from an attic room in a pub that fit 30, to the Brighton Dome.

Last Friday I attended Brighton SEO to hear from top search engine optimisation specialists and digital marketers from around the world. I can’t write about the key takeaways from the event without first mentioning how friendly everyone was.

Brighton SEO queue

Before I even made it inside the venue I struck a conversation with a web design agency from Reading. In that conversation I released that my knowledge of PR was just as sacred as the in-depth SEO insight I was seeking. It highlighted that for modern PR to be successful an intermediate knowledge of SEO is required.

Brighton SEO - registration

As the founder of Brighton SEO, Kelvin Newman, mentioned to The Register:

Newman believes SEO has gone mainstream. “It used to be a discipline but now it’s a skillset,” he said. “A lot of people don’t only do SEO. They’re doing many other things as well.”

When working as a digital specialist it’s important to respect the breadth and variety of skills required in the digital industry. As a near-generalist, I can cover most subject areas, but this enforces the need for me to learn from the true experts at times. That is why I attended Brighton SEO and wow, I didn’t leave disappointed.

Brighton SEO Kelvin Newman

After 9 hours of talks and SEO conversations, I left Brighton not tired but buzzing! On my desk sits a mountain of reading, notes and ideas. I’ve wanted to attend Brighton SEO for the last three years and now that it’s happened, I just want to go back.

My mind is still recovering, and whilst I chew through the information shared, here are some of the top resources shared at the talks I attended. Word of advice: if you want to cover all the talks at Brighton SEO then you will need three or four people – it’s that big and busy.

Three must-read resources from Brighton SEO

How to fix any SEO problem by Jon Earnshaw

This had to be one of the best presentations I attended because it provided a practical insight into troubleshooting an SEO problem. Jon transparently covered how he fixed an issue Waterstones was having with Google UK when a number of its links were being replaced by the competition. He has kindly provided the full presentation on SlideShare.

Ranking-Factors reloaded – Why content is key to success by Marcus Tober

This Star Wars themed presentation hooked the audience immediately and provided a data-led insight into Google ranking factors. The best bits have to be the industry-specific research and the difference this makes to online user journeys, how modern content is being viewed online, and rethinking link strategies. This clever guy has also hidden his presentation behind a data capture form – fill in your details and download here.

Introduction to personal branding by Mel Carson

I’ve frequently expressed my disbelief at how so many people who work in PR or digital marketing don’t bother maintaining their own online brand presence. This was a lesson I learnt years ago at university when maintaining an active online presence allowed me to get my foot in the door for digital roles in London. After eight years of writing about digital, I’m still personally reaping the benefits of maintaining an online presence.

Brighton SEO Mel Carson

Mel’s talk provided straightforward advice about why a personal brand is important and how to do it. His book for 99p on Amazon is worth buying if you’re starting out.

 

The above is just a tiny snapshot of the talks I attended at Brighton SEO and over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more. Keep your eyes on the Lansons blog as I’ll be writing a financial services specific post in the next couple of days.