Telecom to Spark – moving from Icon to I can

26 Nov

PRINZ members were privileged to hear from Andrew Pirie, GM of Corporate Relations at Spark New Zealand last night on the iconic brand’s transformation from Telecom to Spark in August this year – moving from Icon to I can.

Attendees heard insight into the initial planning, subsequent phasing of communications, specific timing of announcements, the ‘internal before external’ comms and considerable ‘war room’ set up both at announcement and launch. In thanking Andrew last night I described the transformation as ‘conveyed with a beguiling simplicity’. In fact, in best practice PR and communications, the detail that takes place behind our work is what makes it appear simple.

SPARK2In the early stages of the brand transformation, the then Telecom spoke with its counterparts at Z and ANZ, learning from their experience and, in particular, the focus on getting the inside right first. For me, the sharing and collegial aspect of corporate leadership in New Zealand came through in the anecdote.

Talking through the results, Andrew said ‘this is what we’ve learned so far’, the ‘so far’ SPARKsentiment resonating with me. As we know, communications is a cycle so evaluation and planning don’t really stop when done well.

Finally, a ‘Thanks ATM’, the brainchild of consultancy Sherson Wills pulled on my heart strings. With a pensioner getting a $35,000 homeline refund (every bill she’d ever paid), to a family getting a TV and a young adult receiving thousands in tertiary education, this ‘digital tardis’ was fun and memorable, created impressive earned media, aligned with the launch strategy and allowed the brand to take the lead by thanking Spark’s customers early on in the process.

The campaign as presented by Andrew presented well-planned public relations at its best to a scale not often seen. Thanks Spark for the opportunity to hear about lessons learned on your incredible journey.

View Andrew’s presentation: How our customers inspired the change to Spark.

I’ve achieved my APR, what’s next?

25 Nov

Grace Loftus MPRINZ, Communications Advisor, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Last year I participated in the PRINZ Accreditation in Public Relations programme (APR). I found it a great experience as a mid-level practitioner to learn about those areas of public relations I had not had the opportunity to work in during my career.

PRINZ APR LogoAPR has given me much more of an awareness of who I am as a practitioner, an internationally-recognised qualification, and a network of peers I respect and admire.

I learned on completion of my APR that I would be able to cross-credit it towards an Open Polytechnic Bachelor of Applied Science (with or without a Communication major), Bachelor of Arts (with or without a Communication major), Certificate in Public Relations and Communication Management, or a Diploma in Public Relations and Communication Management.

I decided to start with the Certificate in Public Relations and Communication Management as it was something I had capacity to do over a few months alongside my day-to-day work. I have now become the first student in New Zealand to complete the APR and Open Polytechnic cross-credit programme.

Distance learning has really helped me with my time management skills and my work/life balance. I also liked the interaction with lecturers and other students outside of traditional face-to-face meetings.

Open-Poly-LogoThe business communication course I completed from the Open Polytechnic to gain the Certificate in Public Relations and Communication Management has also given me an additional perspective on my day-to-day work. I am now more mindful of how communication should work in an organisation and the need for staff to have a say in what goes on in the business.

I’ve really enjoyed the need to be more aware of what I do with my time and how to successfully juggle competing priorities – work, study, social activities etc. Having to work and study at the same time, as well as work collaboratively with other people from different cultures, was a real eye-opener for me. I loved it.

I would advise anyone wondering what to do next, to go for it.

Ethics remain hot media topic

23 Oct

Bruce Fraser, PRINZ President 

The behaviours of PR practitioners continue to come under the media spotlight with features in North & South Magazine and Radio NZ’s Media Watch.

I believe that our Code of Ethics provides a very clear guideline for us all in how we conduct our communications management practices. The recent video featuring Life member and past President Tim Marshall sets out the principles and guidelines of the Code succinctly. The recent World PR Forum in Madrid took the theme Communication with Conscience and we heard from many speakers about the erosion of trust that people have in governments, businesses and organisations. One of our roles as PR professionals is to be the conscience of our organisations – we have a duty to help restore some of the lost trust for our employers and clients.

With many PR practitioners now in senior positions and able to influence company strategy and culture, we can help build authenticity through high quality, open, transparent communications. We’ve moved away from the role Global Alliance Chair Anne Gregory describes as SOS – Sending Out Stuff – to being integrated across all tables in our organisations, not just the executive table.

We need to see ourselves as agents of change, where we bring the outside in and conduct ourselves ethically. We don’t pay bloggers to misrepresent our clients’ interests, we don’t assume false identities to comment on issues and we don’t engage in personal attacks on opponents to our causes, services or products.

We continue to provide top quality communications that are grounded in best practice, sound theory, experience and ethical stances.



For students: A guide to PR

21 Oct

Last Thursday we attended the University of Waikato’s Gordon Chesterman PR Campaigns Awards in Hamilton. This long-standing event is the cherry on top of the Waikato communications degree – allowing students to present their implemented campaigns and showcase their abilities to a room filled with PR practitioners, family, friends and a panel of judges. Each of the four student groups was tasked with creating a campaign for the Electoral Commission that would increase voter turnout and/or awareness.

It was an extraordinary event – the quality of the presented campaigns was high and the amount of work that had gone into each was no small feat. The creativity within the campaigns was memorable, humorous and well-executed, and it was great to see so many future PR practitioners in one room.


University of Waikato PR students. Photo credit: University of Waikato

On the same night as the Chesterman Awards in Hamilton, future PR talent was also the focus of the AUT-student organised ‘The night of your career’ networking event held for employers and alumni.

PRINZ was pleased to attend and observe young people at the start of their promising careers, and we all know they’ve chosen a great one!

We wish all graduating and continuing students (onto a Masters anyone?) all the best and don’t forget about the recently introduced ‘Graduate membership’ at a reduced rate for your first year after study.

Those entering the workforce will find the below very valuable – a guide to your first PR job, by Sophie Kurta, former Account Manager at Network Communication. This blog was originally posted in May 2014.

So you’ve started your first PR job. Your big break. Goodbye retail, hospo and shift work… Hello, 9-5.

You’ve made it. Except, you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have been asked to complete, aren’t you? The vast number of media you are meant to know the names and deadlines for? The intimidatingly articulate practitioners around you? Those acronyms you hear in meetings –   you have to Google them, don’t you? And at the end of the day, you go home and feel like you’ll never get the hang of it and before long people will find out you don’t know what you are doing.

Never fear, my first year in PR was exactly the same. And rest assured it does get easier…eventually. Heck, you even start to enjoy it. “PR” becomes an instinctive, intrinsic way of life – you can find a story in anything, you dream up ideas in your sleep and you squeal in excitement when your campaign is on the 6pm news.  A job in PR is exciting; you just have to give it time to get that way.

To help you navigate the common challenges we young PR kids face, I thought I’d share a few of the tips that helped me move from an Account Executive to Account Manager in just over 6 months.

Challenge 1: You have no idea what media we have in New Zealand or who you should be pitching your stories too.

magazinesJust breathe; many of us started our jobs not knowing who all the editors were for publications. Although those above you blurt out their names with ease as though they just had dinner with them and have them on speed dial… at one stage, they had no idea who they were either. Take some time to look through the mags, papers and websites out there, see what kind of stories they are writing about, what sections they run, little features they are prone to doing.  Learning names is less important than learning publications. If you know your story will fit in to the publication, that it works within their format, then you are highly likely to be successful.  Media will appreciate you for pitching them a story that is actually relevant and you’ll subsequently start to build relationships. And guess what? You will begin to learn their names.

Challenge 2: The colleagues around you are so intelligent, are amazing with words and are editing your writing to shreds.

Good! The best thing you can do when you first start your job in PR is to let those above you review everything – emails to clients, briefs to suppliers, tweets to celebs and pitches to media. If you are anything like me you will experience some intense tracked changes, making the end product look nothing like what you sent them, but what you slowly learn is the art of crafting, making every word count and every point clear. The more you get your words butchered, the quicker you improve.  I continue to send pitches past another colleague to review. Fresh eyes, and more experienced ones at that, can offer insights that push your writing from mediocre to amazing – and from pitches that media don’t reply to, to pitches where media call you. Learn from those around you and your writing will reap the benefits.

Challenge 3: You are overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do, and feel like you are never getting on top of things.

This is pretty much the life of a PR Practitioner, and slowly you will come to terms with the fact that you will never be able to cross everything off your list. If you did, you wouldn’t have any work to do and you wouldn’t have a job. Your job is a busy one – it is meant to be – and it is ok to always have a list of things to do. In fact, embrace the list, write everything down, prioritise it, and feel comforted by the fact that it is now written down on paper so you can get to it when it’s time. Take a pad and paper with you everywhere, to every meeting, every chat with your boss, every brainstorm – you will always need it and there will always be something you have to remember to do.

Challenge 4: You don’t have a clue what you are doing. You’ve been asked to start something but you don’t even know what it is.

ASK. Ask questions – lots of them. Those above you appreciate your enthusiasm and questioning and love imparting their knowledge on to others. Remember they were in your boat once too and they will see that you are determined to do a good job, are humble and are willing to admit when you don’t know where to start. If you’re asked to draft a document, release or pitch and haven’t written in that style before, ask your colleagues for examples. You can use these examples to form a template and to better understand the style to write in.

My final words of wisdom: Stick to deadlines, or tell people that you will need more time. The worst thing you can do is wait for them to chase you. This makes you appear complacent and is not how you want to be viewed. Be proactive, positive and persistent. If you can do this – you will finish your first year and may even do some ladder climbing while you’re at it.

Trust me, the first few months in PR are always overwhelming but if you give it the time it deserves you will start loving it. All jobs have their boring patches, but in PR, there aren’t many of them.

Good luck!


PRINZ holds various events throughout the year in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch. Attending these is a great way to network, meet the right people and gain valuable insight into the  industry. Keep an eye out for upcoming events near you in the PRINZ 2014 Events Calendar.

All images sourced from Thinkstock: Getty Images.

Report 1 from #WPRF2014 – The CEO and the PR practitioner

23 Sep

Bruce Fraser, PRINZ President

World PR Forum 2014 plenary speaker, Professor Robert Heath from Houston University said that the PR practitioner needs to have access to and influence with the CEO of the company to be completely effective.

Nice concept but its realisation requires many, interrelated conditions to be aligned.

Foremost amongst those is a switched on CEO who understands and appreciates the value that great PR can bring to the company or organisation. He or she will be committed to high quality communications and will understand the importance of logo-web-wprf1stakeholder engagement and reputation management. Their previous experience and worldviews will have prepared them to appoint a high performing PR manager. The CEO will appreciate the value-add that the PR person brings to the executive table where the PR perspective is appreciated as much as those provided by the CFO or operations manager.

That PR manager will be experienced in a wide range of communication practices, though probably not all and be well qualified with a communications or PR degree.

Additionally s/he will be well versed in business practices and speak the language that matters most to the business that s/he is working in. Balance sheets and finances will not be scary items of discussion but will be integral parts of the way that the PR Manager works. S/he will have a deep understanding of the company, its goals, values and strategic direction. In fact, they will have contributed to the development of those high level, executive business planks.

Another alignment feature will be the ability of the PR Manager to demonstrate ongoing value in furthering the company goals. With research, measurement, deep understanding of strategic planning, highly-effective implementation and robust reporting back, the PR Manager will consistently demonstrate that the professional discipline helps lead to stronger corporate outcomes.

Of course, these are all undertaken ethically. The PR manager will adopt transparent, honest approaches pointing out the risks, opportunities and best practices that will enable the company to better achieve its goals.

So, how often does this nirvana exist in New Zealand companies and organisations? There are some great examples of PR practitioners operating at this level either in-house or as consultants. Unfortunately though, they are not as common as the PR industry would ideally like to see. There are too few enlightened CEOs and sadly, not enough PR Managers who can achieve the alignment of those other features that will result in them contributing strongly around the executive table.

In my ideal world, all major companies will have a great PR person at the top – someone who works proactively in the business and not simply the person who produces the media release, the brochure or the web content.

From Dirty Politics to Clean PR

18 Sep

Margalit Toledano, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRiNZ
Senior Lecturer, Dept of Management Communication, The University of Waikato

New Zealand’s PR industry suffered collateral damage in the recent “Dirty Politics” scandals. The leaks exposed behind-the-scene deals between PR practitioners and bloggers that orchestrated smear campaigns on behalf of their political and business clients. According to John Drinnan (The New Zealand Herald Sept 5, 2014), it casts “a cloud” over the practice.

Paying bloggers, in cash or kind, for comments to promote the interests of powerful clients, or to shut out the voices of powerless opponents, is indeed unacceptable practice. Besides misleading public opinion, it puts at risk the democratic values of equality and freedom of expression.

Not disclosing the real identity of the interests behind news items violates the rule of “transparency in all communications” included in all PR codes of ethics. The practice exposed in New Zealand would be recognised as unethical and unprofessional by PR communities all over the world. It was rightly denounced by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRiNZ).

Members of national PR associations have committed to codes of ethics, the teaching of ethics as part of the PR curriculum has increased worldwide, and scholarly research on PR ethics has also expanded. In reality, in spite of this growth, the profession retains a reputation for being unethical and manipulative. Ethical challenges for the profession have intensified further in the current unedited social media environment.

Ethics2One major challenge is the contradiction embedded in the profession’s DNA: practitioners are committed to truth, transparency, and service to the public interest while at the same time they are paid to be loyal to clients and employers and to advocate on their behalf. To conduct ethical PR, practitioners need to rely on strong personal integrity and a deep understanding of the profession’s responsibility not only to clients but also to society. They need to be empowered by high-level training programmes provided by academic education and professional associations.

They also depend on a supportive environment inspired by ethical political systems and markets. In societies where corruption is accepted as business as usual PR practitioners find it difficult to maintain ethical standards.

New Zealand has been privileged to date by its relatively high transparency and ethical standards. We rank at the top of the Transparency International list and are recognised for socially responsible practices. Research has shown that the New Zealand PR industry, compared to other countries, expects fairer play and a higher level of commitment to ethics..

That’s why it has been so alarming to witness the current government’s dismissal of Dirty Politics as a marginal issue, just a “derailment” from the real issues on the election campaign. On TV3’s The Nation programme (Sat, Sept 6), the Minister Bill English was not able to denounce clearly unethical behaviour and kept repeating “there are bigger issues”. Of similar concern has been PM John Key’s attempt to brush aside the book’s revelations by defending manipulative National Party communication tactics as things that everybody was doing.

Is a discussion on tax cuts really more important than the ethical behaviour of elected officials? Shouldn’t voters be able to make their choice of government based on trust in the elected politicians? Comments by political leaders about ethics in the last month raise a red flag to any citizen who cares about New Zealand’s democracy and who expects ethical conduct from its politicians and professional communicators.

Love it or hate it, PR is here to stay. The profession is growing and more organisations in government, business and the non-profit sector rely on communication managers: They help organisations build understanding and trustworthy relationships with stakeholders; they have significant influence on the public arena; and their ethical behaviour is crucial for securing open, inclusive, and democratic public discussions.

The Dirty Politics scandal might serve as a wake-up call to the involved politicians, the media, and the public relations industry: Don’t take New Zealand democracy and freedoms for granted. Put ethics high on political, public, and professional agendas. Dirty linen and passing clouds aren’t strong enough language for the persistence of corruption in society. Once the rot becomes accepted and sets in, fixing the house and getting citizens to trust politicians and the media can become a Herculean task. The scandals from Dirty Politics should motivate the professions to clean up their conduct and become more proactive in ethical education and behaviour. Hopefully they might also help New Zealanders to choose ethics on election-day.

PRINZ encourages members to write blogs for this page, but notes that individual views do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.   All PRINZ members are bound by the Code of Ethics.

Proud to be a PRINZ member

3 Sep

Simone Bell, PRINZ Member since 2000, and PRINZ Chief Executive

It’s been suggested to me that the industry thinks ‘it’s all fine’ and the activities described in ‘Dirty Politics’ aren’t an issue.

This is not the case.

Public relations and communication management is complex and often takes place around issues, rapidly moving situations, change and long term planning. To the general public (members have told me of their neighbours, family or colleagues questioning what they do) the contents of some of ‘Dirty Politics’ has created an unjustified perception of ‘what we do’ as PR practitioners (put simply it’s; building and sustaining the relationships and reputation necessary to maintain a license to operate).

I know that PRINZ members do great work. The past three years’ Award case study compilation alone demonstrates that. The case studies of Award finalists acknowledge and celebrate work that changes organisations, businesses and society for the better. The work of our members also informs, educates, cares and entertains. The PRINZ Awards are just one example of a time that I am very proud of the industry and the great work done by members.

Every week I hear from members who send me their success stories and how these contribute to society. Members also readily and proudly tell me in person about their work and sometimes want to share their experience with a wider network of members to help them learn and develop.

Learning and development are vital to a profession, and hundreds of the 1,200 PRINZ members take part in courses, APR accreditation, RIVER CPD, events and Awards for that very reason.

Please remember and take heart in the fact that the sign of your professionalism is your voluntary membership of PRINZ. By joining PRINZ we have all signed up to the PRINZ Code of Ethics, which is a reference to guide behaviour and decision-making. It also demonstrates to the wider public our commitment to good practice. The opportunity we now have as an industry and as a profession is to reinforce and reiterate the Code to anyone willing to listen.

In the past week I have read pieces that reinforce our role as ethical and professional. I would love to see PRINZ members contribute similarly, here, on their own forum (blogs and websites) and provide a balance to the wider discussion.


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