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Internal Comms in a Natural Disaster

4 Apr

Written by Annalie Brown, MPRINZ, Massey University and Central Committee member


Speakers (starting from left to right): Fiona Robinson-Morey, Lindsay Davis, Rebecca Kennedy and Rachel Helson.

On the 15th March, PRINZ Central Division were treated to a very honest account of the experience that four Wellington senior internal comms practitioners had in the wake of the Kaikoura Earthquake.

Each of the four panellists brought a very different flavour to the discussion but there was some collective advice that all communications professionals can learn from.

Here were the top tips shared by our panellists on how to make sure things go smoothly:

  • Having a position on the Incident/Crisis Management Team is critical. Not just to be the order taker, but to influence decisions. Comms is often the only discipline that brings the voice and concerns of the staff to the table. Also able to hold people accountable – do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.
  • Establish a one point sign off process for all comms. The last thing you need is a laborious sign off chain, so establish who has responsibility for comms on the IMT/CMT and they are it. Doesn’t need to be the incident controller but needs to be someone senior.
  • Face-to-face meetings are vital to gaining the trust of employees, and make sure you get experts in to give the full picture. It gives employees the chance to ask questions and it also makes your leaders more human. Make sure you show compassion and a willingness to listen to your staff.
  • Early communication should be sent to ALL staff, not just those directly impacted. Many staff will be concerned for their colleagues so they will want to know as well. As the sense of urgency diminishes, start to refine your audiences to impacted staff and people leaders across the organisation.
  • Develop your people leaders as communicators NOW! They are an essential channel for staff when things go wrong and they will often be the first port of call. Make sure they know what’s expected of them as a communicator in different situations. Some will naturally be better than others so make sure information is still accessible to all on a chosen channel.
  • Social media – public or private – are a quick solution to update staff when your own IT systems are unavailable but you have to trust that staff are following you. It can’t be relied on as the only channel. So think about how you get your staff following your social channels ahead of any incidents. Often you’ll have IT issues preventing access to the intranet or even email, while social media is accessible from anywhere.
  • The timeliness, tone and content of your comms is more important than how it looks. People will forgive you some small mistakes or misjudgements if they feel informed and that you’re being transparent.
  • If staff have been out of the office for any period of time, consider the comms needs when they start to return to work – e.g. Welcome back message from the CEO, what’s open in the vicinity, what are they likely to see around the office that wasn’t there before, FAQs like reminders of how to reset passwords. And make the Leadership Team walk the floors – make them visible.
  • Teams may set up their own unofficial comms channels, such as Viber, Whatsapp and Facebook groups. Don’t inhibit this as it will become an additional channel that people will use/trust.

PRINZ event – Creating a movement for change

10 Nov


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 Charlotte Wright, PRINZ Student Ambassador at Massey University Wellington.

On Thursday 13 October, PRINZ hosted members in the stunning setting of the Grand Hall at Wellington’s Parliamentary Buildings. The event which was hosted by Melissa Lee, National MP bought together three political experts Andrew Kirton, New Zealand Labour Party; Richard Harman, Politik; Jenna Raeburn, Barton Deakin and one experienced journalist Sean Plunket. The event led to an impassioned discussion on the insights of political campaigning. The panel was asked a variety of questions that both allowed them to provide insight to their thoughts on successful campaigning and also challenged their perspectives. PRINZ was fortunate to have Sean Plunket as the interviewer, who has a strong background in politics, leading the discussion.

Richard Harman gave some interesting points on how campaigns have changed over the last forty years, saying that what was once a “linear, rigid, and sometimes totally boring” subject to report on, political journalism is now focused more on entertainment and encouragement of ‘gotcha journalism’. He went on to explain that “a lot of people out there are looking to ankle tap politicians” to get noticed in the media space.

Jenna Raeburn elaborated on this and explained how campaigns are “changing exponentially” and that the use of data, technology and social media are all now critical tools in targeting specific demographics during campaigns. “You used to have to call, and then visit a target to find out which way they might vote, but now data on Facebook shows us this already, so we can target instantly and with purpose,” she said. She also discussed how the immediacy of social media and online news made rectifying media errors a tough task, saying that it was a long a difficult process to unwind what people hear in the media to ensure accuracy.

Andrew Kirton agreed that it was important for campaigns to integrate social media into their strategies, but assured that the Labour Party were not going to ignore more traditional methods of outreach in next year’s campaign. He said that the way news operates was changing, and by analysing the way people are using media, they would re-balance their campaign priorities and tactics accordingly. He noted that he didn’t think that the New Zealand media would act like the U.S media have in the lead up to the U.S election, saying that the Kiwi culture understands “not to be too silly” when it comes to political reporting.

After some moments of heated discussion, the conversation closed with the panellists’ final thoughts on the New Zealand media space and the role of journalism in society. They all agreed that good journalists were the ones that fact checked, got both sides of the story, and acted as a fourth estate – however, this was at risk with journalistic pressures and the likely possibility of a Fairfax and NZME merger. “Duplicating stories across the media space with no fact-checking and taking out the competition will be bad,” Richard Harman concluded – and an equally risky possibility could be that access to the media could be restricted with a pay-wall, which will mean that media consumption could soon be “a thing for the rich,” he said, looking concerned.

#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 

Inspiring education for future PR professionals

24 Feb

Written by Simone Bell, MPRINZ, PRINZ CEO

Rebecca Deemer (UIndy)2

Dr. Rebecca Deemer from University of Indianapolis, presenting at a joint PRINZ and AUT event.

PRINZ members were privileged to hear from Dr Rebecca Deemer (bio below) from the University of Indianapolis (UIndy) at a joint PRINZ/AUT event all about bringing together education and industry in very practical ways.

Rebecca’s faculty at UIndy leads the way in educating future PR professionals, so much so that students fly in from all over American to enrol.  The student-led consultancy Top Dog Communications has twice won “Best student-run PR firm” in the USA (from the PRSA) and fostered student readiness for the industry.

Some of the innovative things she does, which count toward the student’s final grade, include: a weekly current affairs quiz, professional activity points for industry involvement and a client survey that measures project outcomes as well as professionalism, etiquette, timeliness, dress and other important work-ready aspects.

Setting the room a goal to improve the perception of the industry by 2020, Rebeca inspired us to take action. Her state has 2 million more people than New Zealand’s total population, so the changes she is making through educating future professionals are a drop in the American bucket. However in New Zealand we are small, nimble, well-networked which she suggests, can create change quickly.

Here are a few ideas to consider implementing at your organisation if you don’t already:

  • Give communications staff a set number of hours a year (10 perhaps) to invest their time into PR education.
  • Ask for reverse mentoring – get students to teach you the logistics (not the strategy) of using social media.
  • Take part in industry focus groups run by educators – ensure you are a voice for PR education because others will be and you don’t want to miss out.
  • Contribute your organisation’s data to academics (within ethics protocols) for research that will benefit both parties.
  • Consider sponsoring a student’s PRINZ membership or attendance at the annual PRINZ Conference.
  • To allay any fear a student may have about attending an event on their own, be open to meeting beforehand to host them, and then sit with them at the event.

About Rebecca

Dr. Rebecca Gilliland Deemer, APR, is the Distinguished Professor of Service Learning and a tenured Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Indianapolis (UIndy) in the USA. She is also the advisor for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Chapter at UIndy. In 2007, Deemer assumed responsibility for the student-run agency Top Dog Communication (TDC) and has worked as the faculty advisor for the agency since that time. She totally restructured the agency, centering on professionalism of the students, service learning, and applied experiences. Her dedication to excellence has guided her students to numerous awards, most notably two national PRSSA awards for TDC as the Teahan Firm of the Year (Most Outstanding Student-Run Firm in the Nation) in 2011 and 2013. Deemer has been invited to present at conferences and symposiums across the globe, providing strong foundations and careful elaboration on topics like curriculum development, student-run public relations agencies, and evaluative measures. She has also been named a Plank Fellow and a Fulbright Specialist. She has practiced public relations for professional sports teams, corporations, and non-profit organisations.

Fundraising for the homeless and hungry

1 Dec

Written by Katie Mathison, FPRINZ, New Zealand Customs Service

Homelessness isn’t the rough-sleeping stereotype you see on the street; it can be out of sight – people sleeping on friends’ couches or in spare rooms, in cars, or sharing someone else’s home. Incredibly, one in 120 people are now homeless. And most people are only two pay packets away from homelessness.

These are issues the Salvation Army sought to raise awareness of, and funds for, on World Homeless Day on 10 October. Wellington PRINZ members gathered with Fundraising Institute colleagues to hear Public Relations Coordinator David Smith explain how they brought the challenge to life. Attendees then heard from Kaibosh Food Rescue General Manager Matt Dagger, who ran the Make a Meal in May campaign to raise funds to redistribute surplus food to community groups.

Wellington Fundraising Event - David Smith, Salvation Army

David Smith from Salvation Army, presenting at the Wellington event ‘The impact of great communications on fundraising campaigns.’

14 Hours Homeless

In Wellington, the Salvation Army got together with its sister welfare organisations DCM, Wellington Night Shelter, Soup Kitchen, and Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust, to raise funds to help them address homelessness in Wellington.  This collaborative approach was unique to Wellington and comes under the umbrella strategy Te Mahana, which means the warmth that comes from a home both in the physical and wellbeing sense. City Mission and Wellington Free Ambulance were also non-fundraising supporting partners.

The services held an event called ’14 hours homeless’, inviting ordinary people like you and me to experience 14 hours as a homeless person, sleeping in a cardboard box, on a couch, or in a car. Two hundred and thirty participants chose the cardboard box option, and gathered to spend the night at a safe, well-lit location outside Wesley Methodist church: the organisers had to strike a careful balance between authenticity and safety.

The participants also toured the agencies involved, and watched a Kiwi-made movie on homelessness, The Insatiable Moon. They had a debrief session afterwards, and were invited to write their thoughts about this experience on a piece of cardboard.  Photos of these cardboard billboards were then posted on the 14 hours homeless website. Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown took part, sleeping rough alongside fellow Wellingtonians, which helped raise the profile.

While the event didn’t raise as much money as expected; it is money the agencies would not otherwise have had, and the organisers are hopeful the event will build momentum next year. A registration fee might be considered in future, as people seem to be willing to pay such fees to participate in other sporting-type fundraising events.

David spoke about some of the lessons learned. He said that it was interesting most people chose the cardboard box sleeping option, even though the main purpose was to raise awareness of the more hidden side of homelessness: the couch and car sleepers.

In terms of target audience, the event did not draw in corporate teams as might have been expected, and the people who took part were mostly already strongly aligned with social justice issues, rather than ‘new’ audiences.

Some of the participants wanted to hear from homeless people rather than the agencies who serve them, but David said that gets tricky because it might be seen as intruding, particularly as these people are already under stress simply trying to live from one day to the next.

Working collaboratively with other agencies has its upsides and downsides. At times there were tensions amongst the governance committee as to what everyone wanted. The event has its own branding, which came at the expense of individual brands like the Salvation Army’s. But overall David agreed there was strength through collaboration.

He said that the online fundraising platform Everyday Hero was good for a multiple agency event, as it allowed each organisation to register the participants it brought in and claim those funds (although one drawback was that Salvation Army had to collect the total and distribute it). The site featured videos of homeless situations to get visitors thinking, and showed how many funds has been raised.

Matt Dagger from Kaibosh, presenting at the Wellington event.

Matt Dagger from Kaibosh, presenting at the Wellington event ‘The impact of great communications on fundraising campaigns.’

Make a Meal in May

Last year, Kaibosh ran the ‘Miss a Meal in May’ campaign, but General Manager Matt Dagger told us that this year they repositioned the fundraising event more positively as ‘Make a Meal in May’. This meant that people were raising funds with friends around a dining table, rather than the ironically less popular choice of going hungry alone. Matt said the change in emphasis worked and they raised more funds as a result.

The target audience was gen x/y, and so the campaign was relaxed and fun-focussed, and was mostly based on email and social media, with no registration needed. Matt said that one of the best tactics was spending some money on Facebook advertising, as they got a good reach for a relatively small outlay. John Campbell also gave the campaign a welcome TV boost by doing a segment on ‘a day in the life of Kaibosh’.

A social media competition – post a picture of your meal and win a La Boca Loca chef to cook at your home –  proved popular and kept the event alive for longer. A downloadable meal pack with games, fun facts, and an infographic showing how many meals a donation would buy, was also a great success.

Matt shared some of the things that didn’t work so well. A drawing competition where Kaibosh engaged with families face to face in public areas to get kids to draw a picture of a meal and submit it with their parents’ email addresses, resulted in only a few parents then taking part in the campaign. A launch party where guests signed a donation pledge card was well-attended, but not many people actually honoured their pledge. Similarly to the Salvation Army’s experience, corporates did not take part.

Matt said they now need to work out how to collect the email addresses of the ‘Make a Meal’ guests who attended dinner parties, and encourage them to hold their own next year.  This will help spread the word, raise awareness and hopefully the funds Kaibosh needs to keep distributing food to those in need.


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

‘In-house or agency?’ Wellington August 2015 PRINZ Event

31 Aug

Written by Leanne Rate, MPRINZ, Corporate Communications Manager at the Open Polytechnic, PRINZ Central division committee member. 

Thanks to Annalie Brown, MRPINZ, Communications Account Manager – Organisational Services at ACC and  PRINZ Central division committee members for organising the panel discussion.

Speakers: Daniel Paul, FPRINZ (The PR Company), Michael Player, FPRINZ (ACC), Amanda Woodbridge (Ideas Shop), Philippa Ross-James, MPRINZ (Fletcher Construction).

Event speakers: Daniel Paul, FPRINZ, Michael Player, FPRINZ, Amanda Woodbridge, Philippa Ross-James, MPRINZ.

Things turning to custard?  Does the in-house communications team have the objectivity to deal with what’s going wrong, or is it time to call in an external PR agency to get a different perspective?

That was one of the questions the panel talked about at a PRINZ Wellington event in August which looked at whether an organisation should stick with their in-house communications team, no matter what the circumstances; whether a mix of in-house/agency worked best; or if there were times when an agency had the upper hand in terms of expertise.

Speakers at the well-attended panel discussion included Daniel Paul, FPRINZ (The PR Company), Philippa Ross-James, MPRINZ (Fletcher Construction), Michael Player, FPRINZ (ACC) and Amanda Woodbridge (Ideas Shop).

Philippa kicked off the discussion by affirming the positives of using in-house practitioners.  Key points centred on the strong internal relationships in-house communicators have with senior management which can help get messages signed off more quickly – especially when the practitioner has a deep understanding of the strategy, key messages, brand and culture of their organisation.

She also pointed out that in-house staff aren’t conflicted by juggling multiple client priorities, something agencies deal with on a regular basis.  The benefits of working in-house included being able to lead a variety of projects, and building skills across a wide range of areas.  That said, Philippa acknowledged that there is a place for contracting-in agencies, and it was important to be a good client in those situations.

Amanda Woodbridge from Ideas Shop agreed that there was value in having in-house teams, as contracting-in an agency can be expensive, but pointed out that when resources were tight and deadlines were fast approaching, agencies can help ease workload pressures.  Agencies are also a valuable resource when you need a second opinion to back up, or build on, the advice you’re giving.

As well as having expertise in a wide variety of areas built up over multiple contracts, Amanda pointed out that PR agencies have access to a significant range of networks they have built relationships up with over time, which can benefit clients who need access to key influencers on specific projects, and having that access through the agency can save client’s time and money.

There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to using in-house vs. agency, according to Michael Player, it just depends on what the brief is. He argues that in-house works best in a large scale organisation due to the complexity of the communication needs, whereas in small or medium sized organisations it makes sense to invest in an agency on a partnership basis.  In his experience an agency can bring fresh eyes to an issue, and they have a part to play when there’s a need for contestable advice, such as in times of restructures in large organisations.  However, it’s important that large organisations don’t seek an agency to carry out all their communications work, as it creates financial risk for the agency if they have too much invested in one large client.

Daniel Paul picked up on the points that other panel members had raised, agreeing that it’s important for in-house and agency to work in partnership, and that often agencies are brought in to act as a sounding board on advice, and provide objectivity as they aren’t dealing with the day-to-day politics of an organisation.  Agencies are useful when you need access to expertise you don’t have in-house, or need help with media relations or advocacy work.

What was clear from the panel discussion is that there is a place for in-house and agency to work in tandem to deal with tricky issues, take care of overflow, or ensure that advice is independent in times of high stakes problems.


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