Book Review: PR crucial in crisis management

24 Feb

By Nikki Wright, MPRINZ, Managing Director, Wright Communications Limited

Issue and Crisis Management Exploring issues, crises, risk and reputation by Tony Jaques (Oxford University Press, 2014) IMAGE

The changing nature of public engagement has made the role of public relations practitioners in issue management more important than ever, according to a new book.

The role of PR in responding to issues and crises is explored in Issue and Crisis Management: Exploring issues, crises, risk and reputation by Tony Jaques (Oxford University Press, 2014), the first specialist book on the subject in Australasia.

Jaques, an Australian, established Issue Outcomes in 1997 as a provider of management training and consulting services. He has worked for more than 20 years in Corporate Issue and Crisis Management, mainly in Asia-Pacific.

A key message of his book is that companies can tick all the legal and technical boxes but still be found guilty in the court of public opinion.

Importantly, Jaques warns that being factually correct is not enough: if something is seen by stakeholders and/or the public to be a problem then it is a problem.

Because of this, clear communication is crucial and public relations practitioners have an important role to play in making sure the message is easily understood.

“Engineers and other executives in technical fields are prone to using complex language and jargon, which might be accurate and legally approved, but comes across to the stakeholder as arrogant and insensitive,” he writes.

“As the organisation’s language expert, the public relations person needs to produce communication that is technically correct, but that ensures all stakeholders understand its intended meaning.”

The book draws lessons from a mix of prominent international case studies and ones closer to home, including the infamous “Where the bloody hell are you?” advertising campaign in Australia and the Pike River disaster in New Zealand.

It also draws a clear distinction between issues, crises, emergencies and disasters, offering easily understandable definitions for each.

As it explains, an ‘issue’ can do much more damage to a company than a ‘disaster’, which can create immense disruption but does not create any reputational harm to the individual company unless it worsens the situation through its own actions (or inaction).

One of the areas Jaques explores is agenda setting, which has traditionally been dominated by mainstream media playing what he describes as a ‘gatekeeper’ role.

He says the growing use of social media now allows individuals and organisations outside of the traditional forms of media to set the agenda, meaning organisations need to do more than just read the newspaper each morning to keep across potential risks.

“Internet-mediated agenda-setting has dramatically increased the number of ‘gatekeepers’, so that bloggers and other online activists now have powerful new tools to push their own priorities onto the public agenda.”

He expands on the role of the internet in a chapter looking at activism and the tactics used by activists to promote their views and attack their opponents.

“Without doubt the greatest advance in issue management in the last 20 years has been the rise of the internet and social media,” Jaques writes.

“For activists, the digital revolution has brought particularly profound change, giving them a new weapon that can alter the organisation-stakeholder dynamic, potentially increase the power of activist groups, and make their concerns more salient to organisations and society.”

For new entrants into the public relations industry, Issue and Crisis Management provides a clear and comprehensive introduction to these crucial concepts.

For more experienced practitioners it offers a useful refresher to keep them up to speed with developments in the sector, especially in the rapidly evolving online landscape.

Tony Jacques is a speaker at the 2015 PRINZ Conference in May, presenting two sessions; Issues and crisis; Best and worst. How do you stack up? And So what REALLY is the role of a CEO in a crisis?

Read more here.

Book tickets here.

Reflections on the 2014 Sally Logan-Milne Young Practitioner of the Year entries from lead judge Tracey Bridges, FPRINZ.

18 Feb

PRINZ Awards generic

In anticipation of the 2015 PRINZ Awards, Sally Logan-Milne Young Practitioner of the Year head judge Tracey Bridges, FPRINZ, shares some insight into the judging of last year’s award.


From Tracey’s 2014 Awards night speech: “The entrants gave the judges a very difficult task. The following questions – and their answers – shed some light on this awards category, the depth of entrants we received, and show how hotly contested this is becoming.

The first question is, it’s a big age range – can someone at the beginning of their career win against someone who can demonstrate a longer list of career achievements?

Second, if a candidate doesn’t win one year, is it possible for them to enter – and even win – in a subsequent year?

And lastly – are the “old school” values that this award represents relevant to the modern practice of public relations – and can someone working, for example, in the digital field achieve highly in the category?

The answer to each of these questions is a resounding yes.

With this award we set a very high bar, but any young practitioner who can demonstrate a personal philosophy for our practice, who has a passion for learning, a commitment to problem solving and who can demonstrate measurable results against clear objectives can win, regardless of whether they’re very new in our profession, whether they’ve had a bash at winning before, or whether they’re working in digital communications or some other branch of our profession.

The trick, of course, is to demonstrate these things to a higher standard than the other entrants.

We had some outstanding entrants, with different backgrounds, strengths and achievements.

This means the unsuccessful candidates can hold their heads up high, and the successful entrants can be doubly proud.”

The 2014 winner of the Sally Logan-Milne Young Practitioner of the Year award was Erin Roberts and the highly commended recipient was Cindy Bangs.


The 2015 PRINZ Awards Facebook live chat, held 17 February, featured a Q&A on the Sally Logan-Milne Young Practitioner of the Year category, read on for the questions and answers.

Q: Do the judges prefer the five focus points for the Young Practitioner of the Year category to be explicitly addressed? Or can the entrant generally cover the five points?

A: Don’t leave it up to the judges to second guess, provide as much relevant detail as possible within the word count. Be sure all questions are covered in your essay.
Q: Do the judges use a point weighted system for the Yong Practitioner of the Year category like the others? E.g. is one of the focus points “worth” more?

P: The four assessment areas are equally weighted – see here.
Q: Do the seniority of the references you provide matter in the judging process for Young Practitioner of the Year? Or is the interest more in what’s said?
A: What the referee says is important and judges will pay this close attention, however judges would expect the referee to be a manager or team leader, rather than a peer. The criteria says: Submit written references from two people who are clients for your work (either internal or external to your organisation), attesting to your personal and professional attributes.

The details

 The Sally Logan-Milne Young Practitioner of the Year award celebrates the achievements of one outstanding young practitioner. The Award is run as part of the annual PRINZ Awards and is open to any practitioner under the age of 30 at the time of entry close (March 12, 2015).

Each entrant must submit an essay of up to 1200 words telling the story of their career in public relations and include two references to attest to their personal and professional attributes. The award is named after the late Sally Logan-Milne.

The winner receives $500 from the Sally Logan-Milne legacy fund, a framed certificate and the chance to access short term mentoring with a PRNZ Fellow.  Entries are open now and close on 5 March, with an extended entry period of one week and a higher entry fee ending 12 March 5pm. If you have any questions about the PRINZ Awards email Simone ( or call 09 358 9804.

Academic research; Professionals are from Venus, scholars are from Mars

4 Feb
Image credit:

Image credit:

By Margalit Toledano, PhD., APR, Fellow PRSA, Fellow PRINZ, Senior lecturer at the University of Waikato

“Professionals are from Venus, scholars are from Mars” this was a title of a paper that was written by Professor Betteke van Ruler from the Netherlands ten years ago. The paper was published in Public Relations Review (Vol 31, issue 2, June 2005), the leading scholarly journal of public relations, and it generated many responses, comments and citations. Prof Van Ruler argued that “in defining what professionalism is all about, practitioners and scholars live in different worlds” and suggested certain integration of values.

In the footsteps of van Ruler we, as academics, try to understand and clarify what practitioners are actually experiencing and describe the role they play in society. These questions inspired a growing number of journal publications, books, and international conference debates. The increasing research activity established public relations as a legitimate topic within the disciplines of communication, management, strategy, and other areas of study. Have practitioners participated in this professional development? Some have indeed benefited from research informed educational programmes at universities, however, most were not that involved and missed an opportunity to reflect on the profession.

As a former practitioner who now teaches in a university, I’m keen for some interplanetary conversations.

This blog invites PRINZ members to contribute their perspectives and knowledge to current research. It follows up on a project I managed in 2010 based on two focus groups with PRINZ members who contributed significant insight into the challenges involved in using social media on behalf of organisations. This research was published in Ethical Space: The International Journals of Communication Ethics in 2011.

My current research tries to identify the impact of the cultural environment on practitioners’ professional values and concepts and find out if practitioners experience social media differently in different environments. It is a comparative study that uses the same questionnaire in New Zealand (in English) and in Israel (in Hebrew).

To come up with any valid conclusions I need your help in answering the questionnaire that is distributed to New Zealand public relations practitioners via PRINZ. Can you please make your contribution to public relations research by submitting your answers via this link, it only takes a few minutes.

It is a very short, anonymous questionnaire with some challenging questions that might interest you. We promise to share our findings with PRINZ members and appreciate your help.

Practitioners might be from Venus but some people from Mars are part of the same galaxy and are interested in you and your opinions. Please be a star and make your contribution to growing the PR Body of Knowledge today.

Thank you

Margalit Toledano


Senior lecturer, the University of Waikato

Digital tools for 2015

6 Jan

Chelsea Came, Communications Advisor, PRINZ.

Last year I completed the PRINZ Advanced Digital Strategy course facilitated by Catherine Arrow. The course focused on developing your organisational digital strategy and the importance of aligning it with the overarching organisational strategy. We also discussed practical solutions to a variety of case studies and tested some new digital tools. Below I’ve listed my top five:

Mentionmapp takes your most recent tweets and creates a mind-map featuring the people you’ve recently tweeted at and hashtags you’ve recently used. It allows you to visually see who interacts with you most on Twitter and what their interests are  – great for identifying your online community and potential new thought leaders.


Tagboard pulls together all the mentions of a hashtag across all social media and gives you data on the use of that hashtag i.e. positive/neutral/negative sentiment, posts per hour and a trending map, as well as related tags. This is good for seeing all the mentions of your hashtag in one place, visually.


Socialbakers tracks, analyses and benchmarks social profiles across a myriad of social media to produce relevant (monthly) reports on social users – see the November 2014 New Zealand Social Marketing report, which contains information on the top brands on Facebook in New Zealand.


Spike is a news tool that allows you to track stories or topics as they grow. You can filter by location and topic, time period and even rank by Facebook likes, velocity, Tweets and more. You can enter a search term to see what content is trending around the topic and combine multiple filters to get the most relevant and useful data to you. You can then save as many ‘newsrooms’ as you want, and be emailed about each one as often as you’d like.


Create a visual story about any topic – just search (you can filter by media) and drag the pictures, videos, and quotes across to your board. It’s a great visual display of your chosen topic and you can have multiple contributors. To view the full version of the example below, click here.

Screenshot 2015-01-06 15.26.46

Human Rights Day 2014 – a storify created by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

If you are interested in attending Advanced Digital Strategy in 2015 book here.

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.




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