PRINZ Senior Practitioners’ Event guest blog three: Wicked Problems are for leaders

7 Oct

Written by Tim Marshall, LPRINZ, Communication by Design


How often do you hear the refrain “public relations should be at the top table”? I have many times. Well wicked problems could be the opportunity to secure your place there folks. Are you ready?

According to Keith Grint, Professor of Public Leadership and Management at Warwick Business School, wicked problems are the domain of leaders.

In his provocatively named address, Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions, Professor Grint defines three different forms of authority – Command, Management and Leadership – each appropriate for different situations. (See


For example: The Command style of authority is used by armed forces or emergency services where immediate responses to orders from above are needed to respond effectively to critical situations.

The Management style is typical of “business as usual” production, be that a factory, a mine or a surgical operating theatre.

Leadership is required for wicked problems which, by definition, have no known solutions. The leader’s job is to ask the right type of questions and engage in high levels of collaboration. I say this creates opportunities for people who are expert at stakeholder engagement – surely a role for PR and communication management practitioners.

National security consultant Steven Nixon’s views complement Grint’s. He says wicked problems are a feature of our networked world and involve many stakeholders with shared power arrangements. “The part we struggle with is stakeholder participation,” he says. Again I say this opens the door for PR practitioners to use our skills and further develop our expertise in this space.

As Nixon’s highly watchable five minute YouTube presentation points out, what passes for stakeholder participation is often posturing, lobbying, horse trading, filibustering and fear-mongering akin to an episode of Survivor. (See

By contrast, he says, stakeholder participation should be characterised by lateral thinking, authentic conversations, active listening, empathy, suspended judgment and trust.

“We still need experts who can design technical solutions … but we also need expert teams that can design the stakeholder collaboration process.”

The PRINZ Senior Practitioners’ Event brings together people from various disciplines who deal with wicked problems and/or are developing techniques to address them. Organisational leaders need help to engage with stakeholders to address wicked problems. This event will help you step up to the plate.

Register here for the Wicked Problems – Senior Practitioners’ Event – non-members in the industry are welcome.

Image credit: iStock

Event Management blog series – Where does creativity come from?

29 Sep

Written by Kathy Cunningham, empire PR


If you are struggling to solve a problem or come up with a really amazing idea for your next event, how do you do this?

How much time do you spend brainstorming and just not coming up with the right answer?

Although I am a strong proponent of group discussions to debate, think and play with an idea, I also believe that shower moments are significant!

When was the last time you had an ‘AHA’ or ‘Eureka’ moment?  Where were you when this occurred? I will take an educated guess that you were out for a walk, taking a bath or thinking of something else.

So, where do these ideas come from?  I believe that creativity is all around us – in the music we listen to, the images that inspire us and the people that challenge and support us to do great things.

We have so much information in our brain, and so we concentrate on the thing we are trying to solve. However, I have found that when we walk away from our desks, the solution comes.

I hope that I am not making this sound too easy, it isn’t. Finding the right creative solution takes time, practice and perfecting the art of play.  This is something we will focus on during the Event Management Master Class.

Kathy will be presenting the ‘Event Management Master Class’ course on 15 October. Register here.

Image credit: iStock

Event Management blog series – We need to celebrate more

18 Sep

Written by Kathy Cunningham, empire PR

Business concept vector illustration: Teamwork is a winning combination

I have been spending time in Whanganui facilitating a series of Event Management Training Sessions to an eclectic, interesting and passionate group of people.

During the last of the four sessions, we celebrated the team of people who have recently won “Best Regional Event” at the NZAEP Awards. The Cemetery Circuit is a motorcycle race held on Boxing Day since 1951 that brings international media attention and generates economic activity to Whanganui.

As our group learned more about the event and the challenges they faced we also celebrated their successes – the award, history, heritage, passion and determination to succeed.

When was the last time you recognised all the hard work and said thanks to your team and stakeholders?

What will you do to celebrate your next event success?

In this series of blogs, we will look at several topics that will be covered in the Event Management workshop hosted by PRINZ and facilitated by me! Next week’s blog will look at the challenges we face when organising an event.

Kathy will be presenting the ‘Event Management Master Class’ course on 15 October. Register here.

Image credit: iStock

Learning curve: my real life campaign experience

17 Sep

Written by Sarah George, PRINZ Student Ambassador


In 2015 PRINZ introduced a ‘PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme’ to increase engagement with students and, in addition to the Graduate Member class, give them a membership pathway. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Sarah George, PRINZ Office Assistant and Student Ambassador at AUT University, Auckland.

Nothing is more valuable to learning than practical, hands-on experience. This semester as part of the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Public Relations major, we had the opportunity to create our first campaigns. Our teams had the opportunity to work with some of the most deserving charities and not-for-profit organisations within New Zealand including Starship, Recreate and the Halberg Foundation.

My group was fortunate enough to land the client Able Products. Able is an organisation aiming to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. They have created an environment where their employees, all with some form of disability, can work without feeling self-conscious or bullied. Their employees are energetic and enthusiastic, working to build self-respect and confidence. By selling everyday cleaning products such as spray and wipe, glass cleaner, dishwashing liquid and toilet cleaner, Able can create a better work life for people with disabilities.

Throughout my time with Able Products I learnt incredibly valuable information that I can apply to my future work in the public relations industry. Below are five key lessons I learnt from creating my first PR campaign:

  1. Timing

Timing is everything – the saying you hear over and over again. We found that use of a timeline was hugely beneficial, keeping us up to date on meetings, tasks and deadlines. Another crucial aspect of timing that I learnt was the importance of allowing enough time to get things done. Overloading yourself with tasks or being too optimistic about how long jobs will take will be detrimental in the long run. Be realistic – allow time for changes, proofreading and editing to produce your best work.

  1. Research is key

During my time at university they really tried to drum the idea of research into our brains. It’s easy to jump ahead to the creative planning part of a campaign but throughout this experience it became obvious that without research to support our ideas, they were incomplete.

  1. Determining team member strengths

Our group was extremely fortunate in that we each had different strengths. By discovering these early on in the project we were better able to delegate roles and responsibilities. This was a huge benefit to our team and enabled each of us to complete our personal tasks to a high standard.

  1. Advice

Never be scared to seek a second opinion. Whether of a team member, mentor, friend or family member, sometimes an outsider’s fresh approach can see things you might have missed.

  1. Be prepared for change

Event postponements, strategy alterations, clients changing their minds – there are lots of areas where change is often inevitable. It is important to be flexible and keep an open mind in order to better respond to these changes.

These are just five lessons I have learnt from campaign experience.  I look forward to gaining more valuable skills and insights as I progress on the public relations career path.


Picture credit: iStock

Useful insights for newbies to PR and Comms

17 Sep

Written by Luciana Hoffmann Nunes, PRINZ Student Ambassador


In 2015 PRINZ introduced a ‘PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme’ to increase engagement with students and, in addition to the Graduate Member class, give them a membership pathway. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Luciana Hoffman Nunes, PRINZ Student Ambassador at Unitec University, Auckland.

Are you relatively new to PR and Communications and want to get a job and succeed in this career?  Great! Here, I share with you some useful insights I got after attending the Young Professionals PRINZ Event in Auckland during September. Panellists Jessica Salamonsz, Blind Foundation; Amy Hacon, Hotwire PR; Rebecca Foote, SKYCITY Entertainment group; Hazel Buckingham, SenateSHJ and Courtney Bennet, Spark New Zealand offered tips and career advice in a discussion lead by MC for the evening Louisa Jones of Porter Novelli.

First things first. Undoubtedly, it’s necessary to understand the basic stuff such as what PR and Communications actually are and why you want to work in this industry.  For example, do you know you can work within a PR agency with a range of clients, or you can be an in-house (or internal) PR practitioner in an organisation? To get to know your possibilities, try to be involved in extra activities and go to events, conferences and networking meetings.

Ok, now, you need to put yourself more out there. Put your name in any internship or job opportunity. When you apply for a job, you also need to know about the organisation or the agency you want to work with. Explore their website and social media activities; send an email to their Comms team. Show your interest beforehand. And of course, make the best presentation of yourself. Having a top CV and cover letter is the key. Keep in mind, the simpler, the better. Follow up after you apply for any vacancy. Persist!

In the interviews, create a conversation, “be hungry”, have your own questions and stories to tell. You can keep interview diaries as well to learn from what you did and how you can improve it.

When you finally get a job, remember it’s all about being committed, proactive, listening to others and having an open mind, but doing what’s manageable.  Prove you worth by paying attention to details and proposing new things.

All of this is useful, but the most essential value is being yourself. So, don’t worry, there are multiple ways to succeed in PR and Comms!

Picture credit:  iStock

PRINZ Senior Practitioners’ Event guest blog two: Wicked Problems right here, right now

4 Sep

Written by Tim Marshall, LPRINZ, Communication by Design


What are wicked problems? And why should PR and communications practitioners care about them?

Wicked problems are difficult to solve because even defining the problem is hard, and they involve multiple stakeholders – usually with conflicting views, and the information around them is incomplete and the situation is evolving too fast for conventional planning processes.

The opposite of wicked problems are “tame problems” which have clear boundaries, a well-defined and stable problem statement and a defined stopping point once the solution is reached. See this link for a slightly more academic take on Wicked Problems to this clip which is more informal although no less informative. Watch one today if nothing else!

As a PR or communications practitioner it is likely you deal with “wicked problems” and “tame problems” already – although you may not know them by those terms. A quick look at this year’s PRINZ Awards throws up a number with wicked elements:

Southern Cross’s Healthcare Think Tank, a Porter Novelli project, looked to generate conversation among New Zealand’s health care decision-makers about health care costs rising at twice the rate of inflation. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research in 2014 estimated the country had about eight years to change health spending before it causes a Government budget blowout. Managing health care costs is undoubtedly a super gnarly multi-stakeholder issue where the problem definition is being changed by rapidly advancing technologies. See the entry here.

Gisborne’s entry into the Chorus Giga-town competition to win one gigabit per second internet and $700,000 was the subject of ExpressPR’s PRINZ award entry Gig-borne: The city that dared to dream. The Giga-town entry itself was “tame” because the competition had well-defined parameters but the problems it addressed were undoubtedly wicked. “With the lowest internet access in New Zealand and high deprivation statistics, Gisborne was ready for transformation. Winning Gigatown was the goal. But the real prize would be widespread community engagement, [and] improved digital literacy.” See the entry here.

The term “wicked problem” is recognised in the fields of management (see, public service (see, economics, design and environmental protection to name a few. Experts in these fields agree addressing wicked problems requires stakeholder engagement – which puts them squarely in the domain of PR and communications management – and this is why you should care.

When something is named, defined and accepted – as wicked problems are now – people in the sphere of interest start to think about how they might be approached.

The PRINZ Senior Practitioners’ Event this year brings together people from various disciplines who deal with wicked problems and/or are developing techniques to address them: People like Jane Strange from social innovation laboratory Auckland Co-design lab and big data expert Shaun Hendy from Te Punaha Matatini. Jane, Shaun and Housing New Zealand’s General Manager Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Bryony Hilless will discuss with attendees housing as New Zealand’s “wicked problem du jour”.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who coined the term ‘zombie towns’ in his book Growing Apart – Regional Prosperity in New Zealand, reckons every economic problem is a wicked one, will join a panel of other thought leaders including the MD of Xero, Victoria Crone and CEO of The Icehouse, Andy Hamilton, who will share their thoughts and provoke yours. Wicked Problems senior PRINZ event on Friday 30 October will bring you into the conversation and up-to-speed with techniques being developed in this emerging field.

Register here for the Wicked Problems – Senior Practitioners’ Event – non-members in the industry are welcome.

Note: A senior professional is one with at least 8 years’ experience in the industry or one closely related.


Picture credit: iStock

PRINZ interviews Steve Clayton, Creative Director and GM of Microsoft’s Global Image team

3 Sep

On a rare trip to New Zealand this week, Microsoft’s Creative Director and General Manager of Microsoft’s Global Image team, Steve Clayton, took the time to chat with PRINZ about storytelling.

Steve Clayton - Global Image

Steve leads the team responsible for Microsoft’s internal and external company storytelling with a mission to change the perception of Microsoft through stories. Here’s what we learned:

What is the purpose of your visit to New Zealand?

Two fold – primarily to attend and present at Microsoft’s Ignite conference. My session is titled “secrets to telling awesome stories” – a 45m canter through my experiences of telling stories from inside Microsoft for the last five years. I’ve had the pleasure of helping to build out websites such as and as well as working with our new CEO, Satya Nadella, to help tell the story of a changing Microsoft. Along the way, my team and I have learnt some interesting stuff on how to tell a great story – digitally and physically so I’m here to share. The second reason is to meet with our local teams and talk about Microsoft’s new mission and how we communicate that internally and externally.

Who are you meeting?

Hopefully a packed room at Ignite but beyond that, I aim to meet the odd barista, sommelier and chef as I’m a big fan of the culture and cuisine here in New Zealand. I also seem to have amassed a decent sized collection of ex-colleagues, friends and university pals who all live in Auckland so I’m meeting up with many of them too!

What’s the biggest mistake brands make with their storytelling efforts?

The most common mistake I see is not telling a story – and talking about a product. When this happens it feels like the advertorials you see in magazines – content that is perfectly valid in many cases but masquerading at something else.

What other global brands – in your opinion – do a good job of storytelling?

Nike with Instagram in particular, Red Bull with social/stunts/videos and GE with storytelling from inside a giant organisation.

For storytelling, Microsoft uses YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, any others? And what’s coming next on the horizon re: social and sharing platforms

We use those channels as well as recently launching our Instagram channel and taking a unique approach there that is non product oriented. The other thing we do though is build our own platforms – most significantly where we tell long-form stories from inside Microsoft. But storytelling is even broader that this in my mind – it includes events and how we produce them as that helps to tell the story of the company. I don’t really know what’s coming next – people are exploring Snapchat and other new social platforms but content is the core of storytelling so great writing will continue to win out and on the web, great photography is vital. That’s where we’ve invested a lot.

You’re passionate about technology and its impact on the world – what’s the most positive impact you’ve seen in 18 years at Microsoft?

There are many but the most recent one was a story we told in Kenya at – where a small group of entrepreneurs have worked with Microsoft Research to deploy a technology called TV white spaces. While there are other efforts with balloons and drones that aim to do this, we’ve already connected over 200,000 people across several continents with this amazing technology. It uses traditional TV radio spectrum to deliver WiFi over a very wide area at low cost – on Kenya resulting in schools that are now connected to the Internet and seeing their educational quality rise almost overnight.

If you could tell young aspiring storytellers/content creators the most valuable thing you’ve learned in 18 years, what is it?

This sounds obvious but all great stories start with people – find the people behind a story and you’ll be on the right path.

Where does your team fit within the public relations/marketing/social media structure of Microsoft Corporation?

My team is part of the marketing organisation inside of Microsoft which has a communications team in which I sit. Our team includes corporate social media – managing the official Microsoft handles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. Another team manages them for products such as Windows, Xbox, Office etc.

A lot of Microsoft’s successes are highly technical. What’s your process for translating that information from jargon to relevant and digestible material for your audiences?

It’s a real talent that we try to nurture – often by employing writers from outside the tech sphere as they’ll ask questions to seek to understand the jargon and can then translate for readers. The most important thing though is pushing yourself to use language that you could use with friends and family not in the tech world – which often means using analogies or talking about what the technology enables rather than get caught up in the excitement of how it works. If I tried to explain Machine Learning to someone using tech language I’d lose them quickly – so starting with “machine learning helps predict the weather” is a more accessible way to enter that story.

Any other comments?

Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms – and it really is an art. My advice for people who want to get better at it is 1) read Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate 2) be naturally curious – ask why a lot 3) think visually – photos/images really do convey a thousand words.


About Steve:
Steve Clayton is Creative Director and General Manager of Microsoft’s Global Image team. The team is responsible for Microsoft’s company storytelling both internally and externally with a mission to change the perception of Microsoft through stories. Steve and his team produce company events that harness the CEO and executive voices along with digital properties such as Microsoft News Centre, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Prior to this, Steve held roles as Chief Storyteller for Microsoft and prior to that was Director of Cloud Strategy in Microsoft International and CTO of Microsoft’s UK Partner Group. He has worked at Microsoft for over 18 years in a range of sales and technical roles – always with a passion for technology and its potential impact on the world.


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