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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.

Internships: time consuming but worth it

19 Dec


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 Alex Lyall, PRINZ Student Ambassador at University of Canterbury.

Though internships aren’t exactly how they are in the movies – I have not once followed my boss around as they eccentrically dictate to me their exotic coffee orders – they’re still jobs which eat up an enormous amount of time in your day.  And as all students know, no day is filled with empty hours as it is. We all have about a billion other commitments, on top of socialising and sleeping.

It’s probably worth asking why I, or anybody, would take on an internship with a schedule as crammed as that. Why add more work when you’re up to your neck already? Well, I realised I needed to work harder after attending the PRINZ Young Professionals event with a panel fitted with young public-relations professionals with 1-5 years experience. They were inspiring (and I don’t use that word lightly) not just in their successes but through their words too. Their bluntness alone made attending the panel worth it. The key quote of the night was this:

“Even though you have a degree, so does everyone else.”

Basically, once you begin looking for jobs you can’t rely on your degree alone to land you that dream job. Or any job, for that matter.

I honestly hadn’t thought about it like that before, but it made sense. It bugged me for the rest of the night as gaining a degree was all I had been aiming for. As if from a cheesy movie, the next day an invitation arrived in my university inbox looking for internship applications. I put myself forward with the panellist’s words in mind.

My conclusion from three months of interning is that internships are worth it. Even though time has often seemed restrictive, their importance has revealed itself in several ways.

First of all, internships can lead onto better things.

My internship originally asked for me to perform for three months, that has since extended and I am now able to be with my organisation for as long as I like. Internships provide opportunity: the chance for you to really go and prove yourself. It is not uncommon at all for employers to be so wooed by your work that they end up offering you permanent employment.

Even if employment doesn’t eventuate, internships are fantastic opportunities to learn on the job. Some internships provide this in a setting that is calm, encouraging and fun – mine very much falling into this category. Calmness especially has been important for mine. Once when writing a weekly review, I came across some news on the internet about a certain rapper facing criticism. It seemed too juicy to leave out however the subject matter seemed a little ill-fitting for my organisation’s aim. I grappled with its inclusion, ultimately deciding to put it in. Wrong move. I got an email a few days later asking for its removal. Hindsight is 20/20 but you live and learn. It was one lesson I still refer to when making decisions – trust your instinct. In this case, I knew it was wrong to include in my article but that other, more troublemaking, side got to me. Often, those words of advice from your supervisor can be an invaluable reward. You will realise for yourself that it’s affordable to make those mistakes now while you’re young and learning and not after you’ve started your first proper job.

Secondly, internships by design exist in order to give you a wee taste. This taste can influence you, before it’s too late, as to whether or not you feel that working in this line of work is right for you. For me, three months was enough for me to realise that I enjoyed music journalism a lot and that it was definitely something I would want to pursue further. Then on a side note, while some don’t offer payment they make up for it in freebies. In the music journalism world, albums, downloads and press passes are frequent. It’s the kind of currency that gets you involved in the first place.

For me, interning has been like riding my bike with the training wheels still on. It’s this stage where I’m doing something really exciting, and the support is there if I happen to fall. You mustn’t neglect the other busy parts of your life, but give it a go and see how far you can ride.

Image credit: @Istock


Stakeholder Engagement and Community Relations

6 Sep

Written by Bruce Fraser, FPRINZ, Fraser Consultants


PR professionals do loads of different stuff in their organisations and for their clients but one of the most important is to act as the eyes and ears. We scan media channels, listen to what’s being said, talk with frontline staff and undertake research so that we can better understand the needs of our customers, suppliers, neighbours, communities, agencies and others we interact with.

Armed with that information and proudly wearing our PR hats, we then represent those views within our organisations to help inform good decision making. We advocate for those stakeholders and provide sound intelligence for the decision makers to consider all aspects of an issue before planning future actions.

Our job then is to support organisational goals with great PR planning and implementation to develop strong relationships with those various groups who affect our businesses or are affected by our businesses. The profession of Public Relations revolves around building sound relationships with those sectors that matter to us through mutual understanding and excellent communications.

PRINZ has a Stakeholder Engagement and Community Relations course planned for Tauranga on 27 September that will look in more depth at how we can be better at identifying and engaging with groups and planning ways for our organisations to be great corporate citizens. If you are interested in attending, register here.

Image credit: Istock

Pushing a domino.

29 Aug


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 Phubeth Udomsilp, PRINZ Student Ambassador at Unitec Institute of Technology.

It was September 2015. I remember arriving at the Glengarry Victoria Park Wine Room for a PRINZ student event. Arriving early, I joined my friends from Unitec outside the premises. As a second year student, it was refreshing to see my peers looking nice and tidy for the event. The vibe felt different from University, but you could feel the excitement in the air. The room was ready for the event. I noticed that most students were standing in their own groups, with familiar university peers. However, there was a group of young professional women standing next to the stage – I decided to leave my own Unitec group and introduce myself. The ladies happened to be discussing whether students would come and introduce themselves or not, and were the young professionals on the panel. I also remember an enthusiastic communicator, Louisa Jones announcing herself as a last-minute substitute MC in Brad Pogson’s absence. After a brief introduction and discussion, the ladies excused themselves to start the panel. Insights from Young Professionals – A PRINZ Student event was about to begin.

The panellists shared their experiences and advice on being a student, getting internships, and the world of work. The young professionals discussed their experiences in the workplace. Discussions included their experiences around being nervous, working hard, and finding confidence. The panellists also shared stories about how they found jobs through connecting with industry people early in their careers. The speakers also shared advice on not being scared to ask for help and encouraged us to get out there and meet people. The panel event ended with a Q+A session.

After the panel event students and lectures got to meet some of the speakers and ask more questions. I got to re-meet some of the professionals and ask them about their work. I remember the experience being a bit tricky, as crowds of students gathered around the speakers to talk. I wanted to speak to Louisa, but she was busy talking to other students.

I am looking forward to this year’s Insights from Young Professionals. The panellists for the night are:

  • Rebecca Lee
  • Lydia Tebbutt
  • Susana Suisuiki (Sana)
  • Alex Harman
  • Keith Cowden-Brown
  • Rachel Mayall
  • Tessa Williams
  • Eugene Afanassiev.

I already know a couple of the panellists from previous networking events, such as Rebecca Lee. I am excited to hear her stories and advice, as her driven and friendly personality shone through when we first met. She also gave great advice!

Then there’s Tessa Williams. She works for the Public Relations agency, Porter Novelli, where I am currently interning.

Tessa is a hard worker with a fearless approach to new challenges. She has provided me with help and guidance during my time at Porter Novelli, and is an aspiring role model to work with.

I landed my internship after meeting Louisa Jones, the MC from last year’s Insight from Young Professionals event. Due to missing her after last year’s panel discussion, I arranged a catch up after the event to talk about University and work. I now work under Louisa, where she has been mentoring me and guiding me through agency life.

To all PR and media students I do recommend attending this year’s Insight from Young Professionals event. I suggest pursuing the connections you make, and making the most of the advice from the panel. Go beyond the horizon, be different, and make real connections with the people you meet. Just like how I met Louisa, and pushed a domino.

Picture credit: iStock

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

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

Communications in a political environment

28 Apr

Written by Bruce Fraser, PRINZ President

man on podium with microphone old background - vector illustration. eps 10

Communications is communications right? Well yes, the principles of great PR apply across a wide range of situations where they’re applied. Robust research, sound planning, sensible budgeting, great implementation and measurement that is clearly linked to your SMART objectives all contribute to effective campaigns and ongoing communications.

These all apply whether you’re undertaking PR for a large corporate, a not for profit organisation or small business. However, if you’re providing communications advice in a government department, it’s all that and more. You have a political overlay that provides the context and backdrop to everything you do. Budgets are often more constrained, appetite for risk is lower, flashiness is unwelcome, tactics will be more conservative and politicians to consider.

Your communications don’t need to be boring though. There are plenty of great work examples that come from government departments and the ‘PR Strategy and Planning for Government’ course will look at some of them. You’ll learn about best practice covering all the aspects of communications that are relevant for government communications practitioners. This is a mix of learning, doing and sharing in a lively, interactive session that will leave you with practical steps to take your career to the next level.

The New Zealand Transport Agency won the Government or Quasi Government Public Relations section of the annual PRINZ awards in 2013 with its campaign to education kiwis about changes to the give way rules. We saw great research, deep understanding of driver behaviour and highly effective implementation of well-planned tactics. Great PR all done within a political environment and the results were amazing with very few crashes and a speedy changeover in driving patterns.

Good communications are good communications but you’re working in a particular environment where there other considerations. Expect to cover the elements of effective communications set in a political world. Whether you’re currently working in a government department, thinking of applying for jobs there or need to understand how they work, this course will provide a robust mix of theory and practice for you.

Bruce will be presenting a PRINZ course ‘PR Strategy and Planning for Government’ on 16 June in Wellington, see here for details.

Image credit: iStock

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