PRINZ Senior PR Insight blog series:  Anne-Marie Robinson, MPRINZ, Christchurch City Council

17 Jul

Throughout 2015 PRINZ will be interviewing senior PR practitioners about their career, discovering what they believe is the key to being successful in PR, what tips they were given and have used in their career, and what they expect of a junior PR practitioner in 2015. 

 

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 21:  during the PRINZ 2015 Awards Gala Dinner on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – MAY 21: during the PRINZ 2015 Awards Gala Dinner on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)


This month we feature Christchurch-based Anne-Marie Robinson, MPRINZ, a senior communications advisor at the Christchurch City Council. Anne-Marie and her colleague Linda Bennett won the PRINZ 2015 Supreme Award for their project ‘Home truths – communicating the risk of landslides to Port Hills residents’

How long have you worked in PR/Communications industry?
I’ve worked in communications for the last 14 years – mostly at the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development and now Christchurch City Council. My time in communications has been intertwined with some of my most intensive years of parenting too. I’ve had a pre-schooler for 12 of those 14 years and have mostly worked part-time thanks to some wonderful managers who have been very flexible and supportive. I’ve been lucky and have had many opportunities and some very challenging projects but I’m still hoping the best is yet to come with my youngest child starting school in February.

What attracted you to the industry?

I was working as a journalist at NZPA and began to feel a bit vulnerable during some restructuring. I signed up for a postgraduate course in PR through Massey University motivated by nothing more than the need to claw back a feeling of job security. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it. Many of the things I enjoyed about journalism are also part of public relations – becoming absorbed in writing, the challenge of quickly building a rapport with people, and engaging with contesting viewpoints.

Did you complete tertiary study? If so, what and when?

Most of my study was through the University of Canterbury, I’ve got an honours degree in history and a post graduate diploma in journalism.  I’ve always wanted to do further study in PR and completing the APR course through PRINZ was hugely helpful for me. It helped me feel like I was a really solid practitioner, filled a few gaps in my knowledge and the good feedback I got gave me much more confidence interacting with clients and senior managers.

What has been your favourite piece of work to date?
I probably should say our award-winning Port Hills project but it wouldn’t be true! The end result, the accolades and the fantastic relationships we developed with the project team were all deeply satisfying but the process of getting there felt like a nightmare at times. Revamping internal communications at the Ministry of Health is my favourite project so far – it was just me and another mum both working part-time (the story of my life!) but we tapped into lots of support and wisdom within the organisation and had so much fun coming up with some creative solutions, including a brand new intranet called MOH@WK and horse-racing themes for our Gallup engagement surveys!

What is the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
A friend in HR told me to always work with the best people you possibly can as so much of what you learn is through that everyday role modelling of good practice, and I’ve taken that to heart. My piece of career advice to anyone who knows that both their family and their career will be a big part of their lives is to make sure you find a supportive partner who will share the workload at home and take your career seriously too. My mother-in-law is your original hippie feminist and if it wasn’t for her raising a fantastic human being, I don’t think I’d be where I am today (and yes I have thanked her!).

Who do you look up to/who did you look up to as a young practitioner?
I struck it lucky sitting next to Fiona Cassidy on my first day ever in PR! She was busy putting dots on cars as part of an immunisation campaign, while I had to launch a diabetes waita CD at Parliament and had no idea where to start. Fiona really helped me out, we got great media coverage, the songs were played on iwi radio and the band even went on to bigger things! She has been an ongoing influence, as has Peter Abernethy from the Ministry of Health. Peter is an amazing strategist and I still hear his voice in my head when I strike a tricky situation.

What do you expect of young practitioners that they may not be aware of?

I like to work with people who focus on being really decent human beings, as well as being the best they can be professionally.  In PR you can face some really tough situations and in my opinion it is no place for overly shallow or aggressive people.It is never too early in your career to think carefully about your values, reflect on how you behave under stress and pressure and think carefully about how and why you make decisions and the type of advice you give people.  I arrived in Christchurch post-quakes but have been really impressed by colleagues here who show real empathy, resilience and perspective that has no doubt been honed through the challenging times they’ve lived through. Incidentally, you can’t live here and not realise what a huge difference good communications can make to people’s ability to cope with difficult and uncertain situations – it has been a great motivation for me professionally.

PR’s about relationships – Behaviour not publicity

7 Jul

Written by Bruce Fraser FPRINZ, PRINZ President. Sourced from ‘The Friday PR Tip’ blog, to subscribe to this please email Bruce.

Stand out speaker at the World PR Forum in Madrid was Paul Holmes, CEO of The Holmes Group. He brought PR right down to the critical essentials – it’s about managing relationships and is not about publicity or earned media.

As PR practitioners we haven’t always shown CEOs the real value that we can add. Here are some of the key points from Paul Holmes’ plenary session.

  • PR is about defining the relationship between an organisation and its various publics that impact on its outcome
  • Brand building is becoming more about engagement with stakeholders than advertising and marketing
  • Brand is not what you say about yourself but, in these days of burgeoning social media, what your stakeholders say about you
  • Employees are critical brand ambassadors so great internal communication is vital

​Some of the CEOs that I speak with see PR only as helping promote their companies or gaining media coverage. My challenge is to work with them to show that PR will achieve much more in helping them build stronger relationships with their various stakeholders.

Bruce Fraser FPRINZ,  will be presenting at an upcoming PRINZ course ‘Stakeholder Engagement and Community Relations’.Please register here by Monday 13 July to secure your place.

Communications and the not-for-profit sector – Wellington

6 Jul

Grace Loftus (MPRINZ), Communications Advisor – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Erin Brown, Communications Advisor – Volunteering NZ talk about a PRINZ event they organised and ran during National Volunteer Week 2015.

Grace and Erin were matched as mentor and mentee respectively through one of the organisations presenting at the event  – the Community Comms Collective.

National Volunteer Week took place from 21-27 June 2015. This year’s theme, chosen by Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ), was “he wahi mohou hei tuao” translated as “There is a place for you to volunteer.”

As part of a programme of events running for the week, VNZ hosted Sue McCabe and Gail Marshall from the Community Comms Collective and Vanisa Dhiru, Executive Director of the 2020 Communications Trust to talk about their experience of working with communications volunteers and the lessons they have learned from working in the not-for-profit space.

Sue and Gail spoke about the story behind them setting up the Community Comms Collective – a charity that enables communications practitioners to give back to the community using their professional skills.

They spoke about what they learned along the way, the not-for-profits they’ve worked with, the importance of listening to what the not-for-profit is asking for so volunteers can deliver relevant advice, the importance of setting expectations, and the need to check in on how the volunteer/not-for-profit arrangement is going.

As someone who has made a career out of volunteering, Vanisa spoke about her experiences in working with great and not-so-great communications volunteers and what makes a great volunteer.

She also advised anyone thinking about volunteering to think strategically before they put their hand up to volunteer about want they want to do. She also suggested they think about how volunteering can help their career and motivation to help the cause.

She also had the following advice for communicators wanting to volunteer on Boards:

  • You may get ‘stuck’ leading the strategy
  • You will get ‘stuck’ with marketing implementation
  • Your networks will be used – that’s part of your stewardship role
  • You need to think about your skills in strategic planning and user or audience segmentation
  • You might have to coach the chair, the CEO, the communications person, or the person implementing communications (who may not even realise it), ie. administrator
  • You will need to ask the hard questions
  • You will need to be good at being the person that plays Devil’s advocate, but be aware that you may not make friends around the Board table by doing so.

Speaking after the event, VNZ Chief Executive, Scott Miller said “NVW is a unique time to thank each and every volunteer in New Zealand for their time and energy.  Not only was this this event a great way to do that, it was also an opportunity to learn more about the work currently going on in this space.”

If you are a communications professional or an organisation looking for communications support, you can find out more by visiting the Community Collective website.

For more information about VNZ, National Volunteer Week, or to find a volunteer opportunity go to the Volunteering New Zealand website.

PRINZ Senior PR Insight blog series:  Peter Heath, MPRINZ, Due North

12 Jun

Throughout 2015 PRINZ is interviewing senior PR practitioners about their career, discovering what they believe is the key to being successful in PR, what tips they were given and have used in their career, and what they expect of a junior PR practitioner today.  

 Peter Heath

Peter’s career in public relations spans four continents. He has worked both in-house and in leading consultancies and has extensive corporate communication experience in the technology, manufacturing, retail, energy, environmental and travel sectors. He and his family have chosen to make their home in Northland’s stunning Bay of Islands from where Peter now runs Due North, a full-service public relations consultancy with clients throughout New Zealand. He is a member of both PRINZ and the CIPR.

How long have you worked in PR/Communications industry?

I’ve worked in PR for 24 years.  I’ve been in consultancy for most of that time but I’ve kept things interesting by throwing in a hefty bit of in-house work for good measure.

What attracted you to the industry?

It would be nice to say that my involvement in PR was part of a carefully-considered career strategy. But it wasn’t. After leaving varsity I thought advertising would be my thing but a close family friend who was a very well-known broadcaster put me right and said PR was where I should be. She arranged an introduction with the man who would become my PR mentor and I haven’t looked back since.

Did you complete tertiary study? If so, what and when?

My CV says that I failed to complete my BA Communication degree at the University of Zimbabwe “due to political disruption.” Of course that’s entirely true but it really doesn’t provide an accurate picture of the horror of my time there; lectures disrupted by armed policemen bursting in to corral and interrogate students, First year students being force-marched into central Harare to stone the offices of South African Airways, social gatherings subverted by the intelligence agency. I’ve often wished I could have afforded to go to a South African university, as all my mates did. But – no student loans available in Zimbabwe. So I ditched varsity and moved straight into a junior account executive position at Spectrum Public Relations in Harare, under the tutelage of George Foot, Jill Day and my mentor, Stan Higgins. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

What do you think is the most significant industry change you’ve experienced?
I blogged recently about the changes in process and approach. I smile and, yes, cringe inwardly at some of the ways we used to do things. But for me the most significant industry change really has to be the ability people now have to share and pass judgement on information, and to create news and distribute it worldwide within seconds.

Also, the proliferation of really effective communication channels available to any organisation (let’s all drink a toast to the long-overdue, but still pending death, of the long-suffering news release).

Oh, and also the deep, almost-instinctive initial scepticism that now exists widely of pretty much anything any organisation has to say. This is a good thing – it’s forcing them to become better listeners and to engage properly with people.

What has been your favourite piece of work to date?

I’m going to resist the temptation to go all dewy-eyed about the most rewarding, career-enhancing or satisfying piece of work. There have been a great many of these and, thank God, they continue to roll in. And, thinking about it, I can’t actually disclose details of the ones that really rocked my world.

Instead, I’m going to take the question at face value and talk about my favourite piece of work.  No doubt – it has to be doing the destination publicity for the Caribbean island of Grenada as a 20-something Account Manager at Pielle + Co in London. I have particularly fond memories of a media trip to the island involving hectic days, long nights, warm seas,  and the world’s finest Rum Punch.

What is the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

Your personal brand is immensely important. Be great at what you do, be a nice human being and you will create a personal brand of significant value. Then hold onto it at all costs and never, ever let it be absorbed into the corporate persona of any single client or employer.

And, on a related note, don’t drink the corporate Kool Aid. It does bad stuff to otherwise rational people.

Who do you look up to/who did you look up to as a young practitioner?

In professional terms: Anyone who has built a successful PR business from the ground up or carved out a path to be responsible for PR at the corporate boardroom table. It’s jolly hard work. And the selfless mentors like my former boss Stan Higgins who take the time and the trouble to teach juniors about the real-life skills and bear-traps that academia doesn’t know about and can never prepare young practitioners for.

In management terms, people who can motivate and enthuse diverse teams and inspire the individuals within them to stretch outside their personal comfort zones to achieve more than they thought possible.

In human terms, the real leaders like my former client the late David Brown who would take the time to talk to even the most junior person in the crowded room, devoting his entire attention to that person and making him or her feel like they were the only other person there.

What do you expect of young practitioners that they may not be aware of?

Ours is truly a people business; you can teach skills but when it comes down to it I’m looking for personality. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really fantastic young practitioners and they all had the stuff I’m looking for; a spark in their eyes, a ready smile, a thick skin, a hunger to succeed but without the arrogance of naked ambition, an ability to absorb stuff and a political nose.

But above all, a backbone. A willingness to say: get stuffed, you’re taking the mickey. Regardless of the consequences. And, after being knocked down, the fortitude to get up, dust themselves off and carry on carrying on.

#PRConf15 guest blog seven: ‘Success: conceive it, believe it, achieve it’

29 May

Written by Amy Hacon, Associate Programme Executive at Hotwire PR

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 21:  during the annual Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Conference on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Dr David Keane, author of ‘The Art of Deliberate Success’ (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Everyone wants to know that one killer secret to success… but, what is success!?

As the last speaker of day one at the 2015 PRINZ conference, Dr David Keane, author of The Art of Deliberate Success, had an audience full of weary-eyed PR practitioners. The word SUCCESS was mentioned and the room suddenly lit up with energy.

As a grad and relatively new to the PR industry, I thought long and hard about this question: what is success?

Of course, the obvious answers jump to mind – being financially secure, achieving great results at work and being happy; however, the more you think about it, the more you start to realise the broader picture of how diverse the meaning of success can be.

Rather than asking what is success and how do I achieve this so-called greatness, it’s a matter of asking: “What does success mean to me?”

We are constantly being driven by our competitive nature to accomplish more than our peers, often confusing the fact that being on top doesn’t necessarily make us ‘successful’.

David challenged this competitive nature and examined how everyone can be successful, proposing that it’s our individual dreams that define what success means to us. He used this concept to define success as “being on the pathway to the achievement of worthwhile dreams – whatever these dreams may be”.

Before giving up everything to follow your dreams in the hope of becoming a ‘success’, David noted three important tips:

  1. Clarity – Write down what’s important to you and carry it in your wallet as a reminder. Don’t live life by chance.
  2. Priority – Pursue what’s important, not necessarily urgent.
  3. Execution – Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Through my own experiences traveling and working, I have learnt that our dreams continue to evolve so it’s vital to keep re-evaluating what’s important. As David said: “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Many thanks to David for giving each of our delegates a copy of his book ‘The Art of Deliberate Success’

#PRConf15 guest blog six: ‘You are what you communicate’

29 May

Written by Craig Tiriana, Manager CE’s Office, Rotorua Lakes Council

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 22:  during the annual Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Conference on May 22, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Dr Anne Gregory, Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

I do love Anne Gregory.

It’s true, despite the fact Anne was quoted as describing my home patch as “Stinkyville” during Karen Sander’s Blair, Machiavelli, Leadership and Trust opening to day 2 of PRINZ’s Mind the Gap conference.

Karen and Anne – the Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management – were the foreign double act responsible for dusting off the post awards cobwebs of many as observations on leadership, trust and authenticity rang true.

A first time visitor to Aotearoa, Karen said she and Anne had enjoyed a few days of sightseeing which included a visit to Rotorua or “Stinkyville” and a look at some bubbling geysers.

I think there’s a lesson there: it is indeed very hard to change a reputation when basically the sulphur air gives it away.

Anyway, Karen set the scene with a thought provoking look at Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic leadership book The Prince of 1532 and the birth of the Machiavellian type: cunning scheming and unscrupulous, particularly in politics or self-advancement. This was then blended into a modern scene with Tony Blair’s former advisor Jonathan Powell’s 2010 offering The New Machiavelli.

Once in the melting pot the discussion turned to credibility and the need for leaders to be able to calculate risk, act decisively, be courageous and most of all, not be complacent about integrity.

With the scene set @GregsAnne then probed further, taking the audience deep into the bowels of organisations where the onus is now on modern day public relations professionals to get their noses amongst it and understand what is going on.

Why? Simple: an organisation is what it communicates. Everything it says or does is communicated and if it’s valued, your audience is listening and judging.

These actions tell a corporate narrative that is more powerful than words and images.

Did you know SOS equals “send out stuff?” Not the way for a modern communicator to operate.

That’s why leaders need a public relations professional to interpret what is going on, to trawl the communicative intelligence and understand reasonable expectations and connections.

An organisation’s values are paramount in the integrity stakes.

Values define the delivery and leaders not living the values destroy trust.

“Organisations are defined and constituted by communications, not just enabled by it,” Anne observed.

“People don’t want regulation and compliance _ they expect an organisation is part of solutions.”

“Reputation is society’s judgement on how we perform.”

#PRConf15 guest blog five: Conference golden nuggets

28 May

Written by Heather Claycomb FPRINZ, Director of HMC Communications

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 22:  during the annual Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Conference on May 22, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Panel of Trish Sherson, Colin Espiner and Charmaine Ngarimu discuss the changing media landscape (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

PRINZ conference was full of ‘golden nuggets’ – gems of information that will have a positive effect on my professional effectiveness as I implement them.

Here are just a few:

Sending out media releases with great visuals is non-negotiable

In the ‘Reframing Media Relations’ panel discussion, Trish Sherson talked about how often she is framing client stories around a great photo. In fact she often uses a visual to determine exactly how to write a news story.

Her implication was that if you are sending out media releases without great visuals, you are mad. The days of writing up a news release and then trying to figure out how you can rustle up a photo quickly (which ends up being of the back of people’s heads and 100kb) are well and truly gone.

Getting a great visual – photo, video or infographic – needs to be as important as the news story itself.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 21:  during the annual Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Conference on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Richard Spencer, Head of Digital at Two Social (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Make it shareable or don’t bother

Richard Spencer of Two Social shared a surprising statistic: Facebook now limits your organic reach to 6%. This means only 6% of the people who like your company page will see your post if no one likes or shares that post. This means if you aren’t posting shareable, engaging and consumable content you are wasting your time!

This is a lesson that goes well beyond Facebook – it’s applicable to every social media channel. But more than that, it’s applicable to just about every piece of content PRs create. We are immersed in a ‘clickable’ society.

If your messages aren’t honed, interesting and engaging – whether it’s a staff newsletter story, Tweet or media release – you won’t achieve your communications objectives at the end of the day.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 21:  during the annual Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Conference on May 21, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Gavin Ellis, Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Your ‘good news story’ requires more commentary and balance

Opening speaker, Gavin Ellis, talked about how journalists have very little time for research and, in fact, 50% of news content can be traced back to press release. It’s common for releases to be printed verbatim without checks and balances, which puts more onus on our profession to get it right.

Gavin went so far as to suggest that the news stories we generate should provide contextualised background and multiple quotes from supporting sources. And . . . . (are you sitting down?), he even suggested this new media landscape might require PRs to report alternative viewpoints to those of our company/client. I have to admit, I’m still digesting that one! But it’s food for thought.

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