What do you do when you feel an inch of self-inflicted pressure?

16 Aug

Written by Deanna Morse, PRINZ Student Ambassador


The PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme allows students studying relevant qualifications to become involved and engaged in the communication and public relations industry. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Deanna Morse, PRINZ Student Ambassador at University of Waikato.

Self-inflicted pressure is what you see when people are lining up for a job interview; slightly slouched and folded in, protecting themselves. Within PR, this pressure can be found before pitching to a new client, public speaking or any stressful activity – no matter how confident you feel within your presence and knowledge – it’s nerve-wracking.

When productivity, results and reputation are on the line, how can you feel less stressed and more confident?

“Our bodies change our minds. Our minds change our behaviour. Our behaviour changes our outcomes.”

‘Communication’ – we’re trained professionals in our natural habitat, our passion and purpose at least five days a week. What about non-verbal communication? This is still part of communication after all. We often think about how our verbal communication governs how other people think and feel about us, but it is even more influential to understand the potential of how our non-verbal communication governs how we think and feel about ourselves – our thoughts, feelings and psychology.

Your body language shapes who you are. Do you know how to control and influence this?

Amy Cuddy- social psychologist, author, and lecturer at Harvard Business School offers us a life-hack: change your posture. By doing so, you can significantly change how your life unfolds.

Right now – make an audit of your body. Audit your posture throughout the day during different situations. Do you typically hold your arms, cross your ankles or hunch forward?

Expressions of power dynamics are universal and traditional. Let’s implement this expression into our daily life and see what happens.

What to do? Power pose.

Step 1: Dedicate two minutes in a comfortable setting

Step 2: Hands on hips, stand up straight, tilt your head slightly upwards and breathe.

Step 3: Feel the power – if you feel silly, remove all negativity from your thoughts and solely concentrate on feeling powerful within your posture. All it takes is two minutes.

Science works. Your testosterone rises and your cortisol drops, meaning your hormones configure your brain to be more assertive, comfortable and confident. You will also be less reactive to stress.

How can power posing really change your life in meaningful ways? Try it in evaluative situations: public speaking, delivering pitches or job interviews. As public relations practitioners, we’re pushing boundaries. We’re constantly making noise and forming relationships – we need our body and brain to be on our side.

What will happen?

You will feel it, you will become 100% ‘you’. Experiments show your presence will be captivating, comfortable, authentic, confident, passionate and enthusiastic. Tiny tweaks equal big changes.

It only takes two minutes, what’s stopping you? Try the pose then share the science.

To watch to Amy Cuddy’s ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’ TED Talk, click here.

Picture credit: iStock

Why Do People Speed Up in Passing Lanes?

10 Aug

Written by Carl Davidson, Director of Strategy and Insight at Research First


It seems like such an annoying problem: You find yourself stuck behind a car that is crawling along as the road twists and turns its way through the countryside, only to have them speed up once you reach the passing lanes. Why does this happen?

One way to explain this phenomenon is to assume that the driver in the slower car is acting deliberately; that he or she is somehow trying to stop you overtaking them by accelerating ahead. And, in the process, that the other driver is consciously attempting to prevent you from reaching your destination in a timely manner. This view of other drivers sees the road as a place of contest and malice. A Darwinian struggle, red in tooth and claw, just to get to your destination. Explained like this, is it any wonder that people experience road rage?

Fortunately, there are better explanations we can draw on. As any good social scientist will point out, Hanlon’s Law tells us that we should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by human frailty. The ‘frailty’ in this case is one of perception, and in particular how our brains perceive speed. Simply put, narrower roads increase the perception of speed, and wider roads decrease that perception.

Which may seem obvious, but how does it explain why people actually speed up when the road widens? To do that, we need to refer to what is known as ‘risk homeostasis’. This is the idea that all of us have a certain amount of perceived risk that we think is acceptable. When the perceived risk is below that particular level (or goes above it), we change our behaviour to adjust how much risk we feel. When a narrow road becomes wider (such as with the addition of a passing lane), the risk sensation decreases and our behaviour changes to reflect that.

Homeostatsis works just like the thermostat in your heat pump at home, turning up the heat or cooling down the room to keep the desired temperature. You can see it in action in passing lanes as people speed up as the road widens and slow down as the passing lane ends and the road narrows. It may look like they are playing cat-and-mouse with you, but they’re not (at least not most of the time).

Research from Europe demonstrates just how much impact road width can have on driving behaviour. Increasing the width of a road lane from 6m to 8m sees average speeds increase from 80kmh to between 90 and 100kmh. Moreover, adding to the number of lanes on a road (such as with passing lanes) produces faster speeds even where the width of individual lanes remains constant.

What is interesting about the link between road width and the perception of speed is that road designers clearly know this. They often use what are called ‘gateway treatments’ to make roads appear narrower as they enter populated areas. These ‘gateways’ can be physical or they can simply be visual (such as different road markings).

Yet this understanding of how width affects the perception of speed seems strangely out of synch with the posters and signs that often get erected to remind drivers to be considerate, to pull over, and let others pass. That is, the built environment sends drivers one set of signals while the signs and posters attempt to send the opposite signal. In many ways that is like sitting down to the all-you-can-eat buffet at your favourite restaurant while surrounded by posters warning about the dangers of obesity.

Researchers also know that perceptions of speed are strongly influenced by peripheral vision and noise. The evidence is clear that peripheral vision deteriorates with age (with the size of our visual field decreasing by about three degree per decade). Researchers from the University of Chicago have argued that this leads to older drivers having lower risk thresholds (and hence driving slower) to compensate for this lack of vision.

Similarly, we all use noise to help estimate our speed. This means that better sealed roads (such as in passing lanes) will also lead to lower perceived speeds. Equally, it means that people in older cars may well think they are travelling faster than they are.

So why do people speed up in passing lanes? Because we have created the perfect environment to encourage them to do so. With the best will in the world, we have created a passing infrastructure that makes it difficult to pass.

This may seem like a cosmic joke but it is an example of what social scientists call ‘the law of unintended consequences’. This warns us that interventions in complex systems tend to have unanticipated and often perverse outcomes. Which might point to the real insight contained in Hanlon’s Law: that in the absence of proper understanding, human frailty often appears indistinguishable from malice.

Research First is PRINZ’s research partner, and specialises in impact measurement, behaviour change, and evidence-based insights.

Why is everyone so busy?

13 Jul

Written by Carl Davidson, Director of Strategy and Insight, Research First

To do list with so many things note on paper with paper balls and pen

If you’re like most people, you probably get to the end of the day wondering where the hours went. Equally, you probably struggle to remember the last time you had a conversation that didn’t involve someone talking about how busy they were.

The expression ‘time-poor’ emerged towards the end of the twentieth-century and it seems to undeniably describe modern living. For those who like to supersize their maladies, there is the notion of ‘hurry sickness’. According to Psychology Today, this describes a pattern of behaviour characterised by “continual rushing and anxiousness; an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency [where] a person feels chronically short of time”. If you easily get frustrated with delays, you probably have it. And if a slow internet connection enrages you, then you definitely do. But it could be worse, in Japan there is a condition known as ‘karoshi’, which translates roughly as ‘death from overwork’.

A quick search of Google reveals that there are two broad responses to this escalation of busyness in our lives. The first response is all about finding ways to use our time more effectively and efficiently. It’s hard to escape the impression that this is billion dollar industry, with a seemingly endless selection of tools, apps, books, and training course to make us all more productive.
The second response involves some measure of unplugging from modern life. In this corner we have an equally impressive array of people and products promising to help us downshift, declutter, and disengage.

Not for the first time (and with apologies to Anthony Giddens), social science suggests there is a third way. This response starts from the counterintuitive point that our lives aren’t really any busier than they were in the past.

Despite how it might seem, the evidence is clear that New Zealanders in paid employment work fewer hours, on average, than they did in 2001. Equally, the data we have about leisure time (or what social scientists call ‘time spent free of obligation and necessity’) shows no decrease over the last 20 years.

How we spend our leisure time has definitely changed (more time in front of screens and less time in organised sport), as have the parts week that get counted as ‘leisure’, but it’s not getting any scarcer.

It’s true that these are general patterns drawn from averages and your mileage may vary. But the argument is stronger if we reverse it: there is no evidence that we are more ‘time-poor’ than in the past. This in itself is a remarkable insight.

It is also the kind of paradox that social scientists love. Clearly being ‘time-poor’ or having a dose of ‘hurry-sickness’ is real for many people (and it’s particularly hard to fake karoshi). Yet the cause must lie in something other than an objective intensification of everyday life.

The answer seems to be in how perceive our time in the context of the number of ways we have of spending it. What the world we live in clearly does is magnify the conflict between the parts of our brains that crave novelty and fear loss. This is then further magnified by the rapid diffusion of digital technology. No matter what you are doing, there is a world of distraction just a click away.

In this context, choosing to do just one thing, no matter how worthy, means not doing any number of others. Even where you like the choice you have made, the act of discounting the alternatives creates stress. As does second-guessing your choices by thinking about the more productive ways you could have used your time. In this regard we are all like Proust, in search of lost time.

But life is too short and Proust is too long to live this way. The view from the social sciences is that the key to overcoming hurry sickness is to place more value on our time. Doing so will help arrest the tendency many of us have to be easily distracted. Here what matters is not so much how to save time but how to spend our attention.

Because, to paraphrase Annie Dillard – ‘how we spend our hours is, of course, how we spend our lives’.

Research First is PRINZ’s research partner, and specialises in impact measurement, behaviour change, and evidence-based insights.

Why I chose PR – #PRConf16

29 Jun

Written by Georgia Ward, PRINZ Student Ambassador

 Georgia Ward

(Georgia Ward, PRINZ Student Ambassador AUT; Kirsty Pickett; Deanna Morse, PRINZ Student Ambassador, University of Waikato).

The PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme allows students studying relevant qualifications to become involved and engaged in the communication and public relations industry. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Georgia Ward, PRINZ Student Ambassador at AUT University, Auckland.

It has been a month since I was lucky enough to attend the recent PRINZ conference ‘Challenge to Opportunity’ as a Student Volunteer.

Hearing lines such as ” What got you here won’t get you there!” or “If you do what you always do, you’re always going to get what you get” come from industry professionals Chris Savage, The Savage Company and Sean Smith, Isentia was inspiring and at times a little overwhelming.

You see, at the risk of sounding clichéd, those lines have rung in my ears for weeks after.

For myself and the other students that attended, it was an eye-opening experience into not only what we’re getting ourselves into, but why we’re getting ourselves into it.

Firstly, the desire to work hard and achieve visible results.

I’ve learnt quickly that the euphoria of dreams and desires in this industry is replaced with hard work, tenacity and drive – without those three things any goals, dreams and desires do not become reality.

For the majority of students, our definition of working hard is juggling full-time university, with an internship, work experience and paid employment, as well as finding time to sleep in amongst there as well.

In the big wide communication world, this is, of course, different.

Students, there are times when it may seem unimaginable and never ending, but those hours of work, commitment, and content creation are what leads to the moment that allows each of us students to create our own personal brand, brand ‘YOU’. A brand we get to take out into the industry, showcasing who we are as individuals in the communication world.

As Chris Savage of the Savage Company said: “What got you here – won’t get you there”. Good things in this day and age come to those who hustle, and this hustle to achieve results can take you and your client great places!

Secondly, PR allows you to be creative and innovative. 

Creating generic campaigns does not cut it in this fast-paced world. Now, quirky, fun, experimental and challenging campaigns create the engagement and results that clients and businesses love to see! It’s a case of old tricks reinvented. Experimenting with the channels, content and messaging can lead to greater results in the long run.

We’ve entered a new world that is rapidly changing thanks to new media. Audience fragmentation is greater than ever, and having the ability to rapidly think and adapt to new and exciting situations can put you one step ahead of the person sitting next to you.

From media kits to experiential campaigns; boundaries and ideas are being pushed every day and it is so inspiring to be the one who generally gets to pack those media kits up, and see what awesome stuff is created! I see it as knowing the old; creating the new.

Finally, impact.

For myself, one of the key decisions in choosing PR is the impact it can have on people’s everyday life. Sadly, it is often referred to as spin, however, thanks to organisations such as PRINZ this is slowly being diminished.

The Research First breakfast on the second day of the conference confirmed that many professionals in this industry complete pro bono work on a regular basis. The question of “Why do we do it?” was posed.

It makes us feel good knowing we can use our skills to help someone else. The relationship PRINZ has with the Community Comms Collective and the response by PRINZ members to the Manurewa Marae’s call for help are just two recent examples.

Whether it is promoting a new product that a brand you represent has launched; or communicating the success a charity has had in order for them to retain their lifeblood sponsorship; PR has an impact on everything and everyone in between.

Like all those who I sat in the conference room listening to speakers, workshops, or asking questions to learn more, we all have the same innate desire and determination to help people grow success in this world through communication.

With that, I leave you with the silence-inducing words at Conference of Stacey Shortall, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts: “Who did you help today?”.

Happy National Volunteer Week!

20 Jun

Written by Lana Corrigan, PRINZ

Megaphone in hand front of blackboard

#NVW2016 is a perfect opportunity to thank all our wonderful PRINZ volunteers. As a membership not-for-profit organisation, we rely on, and appreciate, help from our volunteers in the day-to-day running of PRINZ.

PRINZ is proud to be governed by PR and communication professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to help improve, advocate and promote the excellence of the industry. We would like to thank Katie Mathison, FPRINZ, our newly elected #PRINZPresident, our National Council members Bruce Fraser, FPRINZ, Brian Finn, FPRINZ, Angela Paul, MPRINZ, Dan Walraven, Fiona Cassidy, FPRINZ, Catherine Arrow, FPRINZ, Diana Wolken, FPRINZ, Heather Claycomb, FPRINZ, Jacky James, MPRINZ, Pauline Rose, FPRINZ and all past PRINZ Presidents and National Council members for their dedication, guidance and for helping make PRINZ what it is today.

Our committee members who help run events in different regions and promote PRINZ also volunteer their time. We would like to thank Northern Division members alongside chair Brian Finn, FPRINZ, Ady Swartfeger, FPRINZ, Chloe Vaughan, Lisa Finucane, FPRINZ, Rachael Joel, MPRINZ, Rebecca Foote, Simon Roche, MPRINZ and Shannon Huse Caldwell, Alexander Danne; Central Division members alongside chair Angela Paul, MPRINZ, Daniel Glover, Grace Loftus, MPRINZ, Miriam Dawson, Annalie Brown, Leanne Rate, MPRINZ and Oliver Ibbetson, and Southern Division members alongside chair Dan Walraven, Effie Lochrane, Kathryn Ruge, Linda Chalmers, MPRINZ, Michele Hider, MPRINZ, Janet Luxton, MPRINZ, Donovan Ryan, Angela Harden and Katrin Johnston.

We would also like to extend a big thanks to all members who have been involved with our PRINZ Awards, the College of Fellows, Mentoring programme, APR Accreditation, Conference, Learning Lunch events and everyone who has responded to our calls of assistance.

It is also worth commending the number of PRINZ members who participate in other volunteering activities outside of PRINZ. As findings from our latest Research First PRINZ Insights Survey show, many of our members also participate in pro-bono work. The report will be made available soon.

Without all the help from our amazing members and volunteers, PRINZ wouldn’t be the great professional network it is today so from us here at the PRINZ office, Elaine, Lana, Anna and Rosa, THANK YOU!

Image credit: iStock

We Have To Talk About Donald Trump

8 Jun

Written by Carl Davidson, Director of Strategy and Insight, Research First

Judgment road sign

It seems too easy here in New Zealand to watch the American Republican Party primary election unfold in disbelief. Only in America, you might think, could Donald Trump’s inanity and witlessness be the qualities that determine their party’s presidential candidate. If you’re old enough to remember Hunter S Thompson before the Johnny Depp caricature, you may even think that it’s time to revive the ‘fear and loathing on the campaign trail’ theme.

But, as one of my old psychology professors used to warn me, ‘everything looks simple from the distance of ignorance’. Rather than representing something unique about the Republican Party (or even about the state of the USA in 2016), the popularity of Trump could illustrate two useful social science insights (and in the process reveal a great deal about us and the world we live in).

The first insight is that we are just not very good at judging other people.

The second is that political campaigns provide very poor information to shape those judgements.

The first insight comes from psychology, and shows that we form judgements about people from how they look and behave long before we hear what they have to say. No matter how unfair it seems, better-looking people tend to be judged more favourably than the rest of us; make more money; and are treated more leniently by others when they get into trouble. It starts early too, with teachers favouring their more attractive students and judging them as smarter.

As if this ‘beauty bias’ wasn’t bad enough, there is also a ‘height premium’. This describes how taller people, on average, earn more money than shorter people; are more likely to be considered intelligent; and are more likely to be picked as leaders. John Adams was probably only half-joking when he said that George Washington became president because he was ‘always the tallest man in the room’.

Finally, the research into how we judge others is clear that we see those who speak-up first, or loudest, or most often, as being more charismatic than those that don’t. This is a key part of what we mean when we say someone ‘makes a great leader’. And here is the really important part, they are considered better leaders regardless of what they actually have to say.

Google ‘how to be more charismatic’ and what you will find are endless lists about how to talk, dress, and impress but very little about the quality of your message. If you get the impression that ‘being charismatic’ is largely an act, you’re close to understanding the appeal of Donald Trump.

And this is where the second insight helps us. Playing into these psychological biases is the changing sociology of political campaigns. As hard as it is to believe today, in 1858 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas took part in a series of debates that involved one candidate opening with a 60 minute speech, followed by a 90 minute response from the other. They did this seven times, with no moderator present.

By 1968 the average length of a soundbite from a US presidential candidate was down to 42 seconds; then 10 seconds in 1988; and around seven seconds today. For some context, if you talk faster than normal, you might get through 25 words in seven seconds.

Even before we consider how carefully scripted those soundbites are, there is very little real meaning you can convey in so little time. Add in the fact that those soundbites are designed to compress the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought (as Churchill once said about something else), and what hope do any of us have? The cult of celebrity really does trivialise everything it touches.

To be clear, none of this should be taken as a vindication of Donald Trump. If anything, it should help explain why there is less to his candidacy than meets the eye.

But it is one thing to notice that the sideshow has somehow taken over the main tent, and quite another to resist the draw of a skilled carnival barker.

Research First is the research partner for PRINZ. Visit them at www.researchfirst.co.nz.

Image credit: iStock

#PRConf16 – Hard Work is Invaluable to Success

3 Jun

Written by PRINZ member Cassie Arauzo, The Clique, as published on The Clique blog

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 13: PRINZ conference day two on May 13, 2016 in Auckland, Auckland. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Chris savage at the PRINZ Conference May 13, 2016 in Auckland (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Cassie is an Account Executive at The Clique, she graduated from AUT in 2015 with a BCS degree. At this year’s PRINZ Awards Cassie and her AUT teammate won the Paul Dryden Tertiary Award.

Chris Savage, a business growth specialist at the Savage Company was the last to speak at the PRINZ 2016 conference. Admittedly, I was starting to get tired on a Friday late afternoon so had positioned myself in a corner at the back. However, when he said “the only place that success comes before work is the dictionary.” I got up and moved to a closer table.

In a world of confusing, conflicting advice this resonated with my own experience where hard work is the true recipe of success. It is just about the only thing that can’t be taught. In today’s age, the millennial generation is faced with an array of contradictions on how to be successful and happy. As a millennial I am faced with heavy competition, impossible deadlines, and changes that are the speed of lightning.

We are told we must look after ourselves, practice mindfulness and have a good work life balance. But how do I do all this as well as climb the ladder of success in the race of life?

Chris Savage discussed some points that particularly resonated with me:

Conditions are always perfect. As humans, we think we will be happy once we get the promotion, or we will work harder once we get that dream holiday – waiting for the perfect version of us. However, the time is always perfect because if we carry that mindset we will be waiting forever. Enjoy the perfection of where you are at and act now. Feedback is the food of champions. Another funny attribute about us humans is we often do not like criticism or feedback. However, we are always learning so to grow it is vital to take that feedback on.

Create a 3-year plan with a vivid image of success. Imagine Christmas 2018 and think about what you want to say about yourself.  Write down a plan with deadlines, make a long list of all things you have to do to achieve that plan and then break it up into phases. Get started immediately and do something towards it everyday. Then laminate it and keep it in your shower.

Don’t let yourself down. Be your own best coach, put pressure on yourself and work smarter than anybody else. Trust me, we are capable of so much more than we can imagine.

Finally, something that stayed with me was his message that in the blink of an eye you go from being the youngest to the oldest in the room. We are in a life marathon, constantly learning, with rapid changes. He told us how he used a typewriter and noted how we all found it amusing. Emphasizing the speed of life and our constant need to learn was this sobering statement: In 20 years time, when I employ a version of me, they will laugh a lot louder at my iPhone 6 than I ever did at a typewriter.

See below to find out more about Chris Savage

PRINZ presentation here

Check out his blog 


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