In this episode Trevor Young and Dionne Lew explain why they set up a content-driven public communications firm, Zoetic Agency, and provide a glimpse into where they see the world of PR heading.
They discuss why they have placed social and content at the heart of their new agency rather than bolting them on as ‘nice-to-haves’, plus explain why client training and education is a key part of their business.
Trevor and Dionne chat about the roadblocks for brands in creating content. Many businesses struggle with a lack of time, producing bulk content is one way to address this.
They also discuss the power of live broadcasting in humanising organisations. Indeed, this episode of PR Leads was live streamed through Facebook and will continue to be so.
Too often businesses publish hackneyed content that looks similar to everyone else’s. It is important to use an organisation’s people to share ideas and insights and tell personal stories that are unique.
Social media strategist Sally Falkow recently published an infographic entitled ‘15 Digital Skills for PR and Marketing’.
In this episode of PR Leads – part 2 of a conversation on this topic – Trevor Young and Dionne Lew discuss the remaining nine of Sally’s list of skills, digging in with some detail as to why these new skill-sets are important for PR professionals, and in doing so provide context and examples from the trenches of modern public relations practice.
The nine remaining sigital skill-sets are:
- Social advertising
- Influencer Relationships
- Media Analysis
- Digital Media Relations
- Basic Coding
- Google Analytics
- Digital Dashboard
- Report ROI
Dionne and I decided to Facebook live stream the recording of our PR Leads podcast this morning. The episode focuses on where we see PR heading and why we have set up Zoetic Agency the way we have.
We’ve both done Facebook Live personally before, but this was the first time we’d done it as a duo. Call it ‘walking our talk’, or ‘eating our own dog food’. We’re huge advocates of doing more with less when it comes to content marketing for PR. Reimagine your content in different ways. Create content once, but spread across various channels where possible (and when it makes sense to do so).
For example, this one discussion we streamed live on Dionne’s Facebook page, which we promptly shared on our Zoetic Agency Facebook Page (you can like or follow our Facebook Page here). Once the podcast is published on Podbean (our hosting platform), it will automatically be syndicated via RSS to iTunes plus the Zoetic Agency blog.
Plus we’ve shared various snippets via our respective personal and business social media channels, including LinkedIn and Twitter. Not bad coverage for a 20-minute conversation!
Regarding Facebook Live …
It was terrific to see people engaging in real-time so we’ve decided we are going to record PR Leads in this way every time (also known as ‘building a rod for our own backs’)
Dionne assures us that next time her hair won’t be sticking out! It’s certainly something I need to be aware of for my good self as well.
We look forward to chatting with you then!
You own a thriving business. Maybe you’re a marketer or PR person within a company or organisation. Or perhaps you’re a solo professional and the business you run revolves around your personal brand.
It doesn’t matter.
Publishing original content that serves a particular audience can work effectively in all instances.
But to be effective, it needs to have some sort of an impact. And to do that, it needs to tick one or more boxes.
So I ask the question:
Does the content you produce educate, inform, inspire or entertain people?
Does it empower people with knowledge, making them smarter and more informed?
Will it improve their lives if they act upon the information you provide … make them richer, happier, or more motivated, focused and productive?
Will your content provoke thought and challenge the way people think about a particular topic or issue?
Will it make them laugh or cry or get angry, or simply make them feel good about doing business with you, validating in their own mind you know what you’re talking about and can be trusted?
At the very least, will it address an informational need people have around your business, cause, issue or industry?
Just as important, does your content influence a desired outcome such as change people’s perceptions of your brand, or perhaps enhance purchase consideration for the products and services you provide?
This will come down to your goals and what you’re trying to achieve of course, but a content-driven approach to an organisation’s communications certainly does need to be thought out strategically otherwise you’ll end up producing a lot of stuff but potentially not ‘move the needle’ in any way.
Think about the impact you want to have in the marketplace and then lock it back to what you’re trying to achieve.
Then, and only then, will you start getting value from this thing we call content marketing.
Australians’ trust in business, media, government and NGOs is down across the board. This is the first time all four institutions have declined in trust in the one year, and the shocks don’t stop there.
According to new research released by PR giant Edelman, non-establishment voices are growing louder and they’re capturing the mood of the nation. Brexit and Donald Trump are large-scale reflections of this sentiment globally, but we continue to see it take place in myriad nooks and crannies of society across the board.
Here are a few stark snapshots from the 2017 Australian Edelman Trust Barometer (presentation slides were photographed at the Melbourne launch event).
We don’t trust company statements
The Edelman research shows Australians find individuals more believable as sources of information versus institutions (70 per cent vs 30 per cent); interestingly, 74 per cent are more likely to believe leaked information about a company over official press statements.
Along a similar theme, at 64 per cent we trust a speaker (e.g. company representative) who appears spontaneous a lot more than someone who comes across as obviously rehearsed (36 per cent). Also, while providing data can be an effective way to get our message across, we find that speakers who share personal experiences to be more believable (59 per cent).
ZOETIC INSIGHT: After years of putting up with meaningless jargon-filled press statements, it’s little wonder the public does not swallow the official line issued by companies. The opportunity is for the leadership of businesses and community organisations to become more open and connected – not hide behind overly-polished press releases but rather, use the likes of Twitter, blog posts and YouTube videos to communicate directly with the public. Two examples of this are Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison’s message about unacceptable behaviour and GoDaddy CEO, Blake Irving, who pulled a Super Bowl Ad featuring a golden retriever puppy that found its way home after falling out of a truck, only to find its owner had used GoDaddy to set up a website that let her sell the dog to a new owner. The ad attracted a flood of complaints and Irving promptly used the company blog plus his personal Twitter account to communicate to the public how his company had ‘missed the mark’. In short, authenticity, humanity and telling stories all help build trust!
Who do we trust?
One of the fascinating findings of the Trust Barometer year in, year out, has been who we trust as a source of information on behalf of a company or organisation.
Academic and technical experts continue to top the table as the most trusted and credible sources of information for a company or organisation sitting at 58 per cent apiece – this has been the case for years – while “a person like yourself” weighs in at 56 per cent and employees fourth at 48 per cent.
Meanwhile, the CEO’s credibility has plummeted to a low of just 26 per cent (a drop of 13 points from 2016), just a smidgen above boards of directors at 24 per cent.
ZOETIC INSIGHT: The figures might change from year to year but the pattern largely remains intact. Academics, internal experts and peers are trusted, but organisational leaders are not. This throws up two powerful ‘book-end’ scenarios all businesses and organisations should be thinking about from a PR and communications perspective (a) Get your people – especially technical experts – out of the cubicle farm and onto your owned media and social channels, plus consider partnering with credible academics relevant to your brand and your business, and (b) get your leaders out from the shadows of the boardroom and again, onto your owned media and social channels – but not in a stiff, polished and jargon-filled way, but as genuinely passionate human beings who show interest in people and topics beyond their brand, products and services.
Trust in media plunges (but there is evidence of a rebound)
The media took a hit in this year’s Trust Barometer, plunging to an all-time low in the trust stakes in 17 countries and distrusted by 82 per cent of countries that are included in the global research.
In Australia, the level of trust in the media sits at 32 per cent, down 10 percentage points on a year ago.
Whether the shenanigans in the US with Trump & Co. have skewed our perception of the media is partly to blame is anyone’s guess. But there’s no doubt the stripping back of newsrooms has made life difficult for journalists who are under constant deadline pressure and perhaps do not have the time and space to research stories and double-check facts like they once did and this is starting to have an effect.
Interestingly, it’s not just the Edelman research that has identified the public’s distrust of the media.
Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with just 32 per cent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media (coincidentally, this is the same as Australia). This is down eight percentage points from last year. (SOURCE)
But on the flipside, a recent study by Morning Consult found that the majority of the people find the major media outlets are credible. At the top, ABC News was found credible by 67 per cent, CBS by 65 per cent, The New York Times by 63 per cent and CNN by 60 per cent of the public (SOURCE).
Indeed, The New York Times is experiencing a surge in popularity, with the paper recently reporting it added 276,000 new digital news subscriptions in the fourth quarter of 2016, its best quarter since 2011. On the print side, NYT added 25,000 subscribers, its best result in six years.
ZOETIC INSIGHT: Companies and organisations should take the opportunity to become their own media channel and communicate directly with customers, influencers and other stakeholders. At Zoetic Agency, we are still very bullish on the power of ‘earned media’, but remember the media is not just represented by mainstream newspapers, magazines, TV and radio any more; there are plenty of blogs and podcasts and YouTube channels that have the potential to influence niche audiences in any industry, sector or niche you care to name. But the power comes from having an active owned media platform first that feeds both social and earned media ongoing.
Influence continues to shift hands
Interestingly, we are seeing a seismic shift of influence away from leaders to the masses. This has been occurring for some time and will continue to do so while business and community leaders remain disengaged with the real world.
Put bluntly, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and it ain’t going back in!
ZOETIC INSIGHT: The future belongs to those brands that are socially-connected with the community, including at the organisational top end . It’s not about being authoritative, but building genuine authority that people recognise and respect; equally, it’s about bringing people along for the journey – your customers, stakeholders, employees and the people who influence them. Business and community leaders need to earn the right to influence, it doesn’t come from a title anymore.
Glass half empty, or half full?
On the surface, we might bemoan this ‘lack of trust’ trend. And with good reason. Many institutions are behind the eight-ball and have a lot of catching up to do. That’s the hard-arsed glass half empty view.
But let’s look at the glass half-full version. With so much distrust around, companies and organisations have the opportunity to rise above the plethora of disconnected and disengaged companies and organisations that continue to operate like it’s 1999.
Trust leads to reputation.
Reputation is forged by deed but shaped by communications, and communications is driven by public relations.
At the heart of a robust public relations program beats five foundational elements that are critical to the ongoing reputational health (and success) of any business, government body or nonprofit organisation.
We call them PR’s VITAL signs, and they are Visibility, Influence, Trust, Advocacy and Leadership. You can learn more about them here. Bottom line – a strategic ongoing program of owned, earned and social media can have a positive effect on an organisation’s reputation, and the level of trust people place in it.
As content marketing heats up and brands jostle mercilessly for people’s attention along with media outlets and individual content creators, the winners will be those that …
- CREATE relevant content specifically for defined audiences;
- TELL genuinely authentic stories that strike an emotional chord with people;
- PRESENT their content in a professional way that suggests quality without necessarily being too slick and polished;
- PUBLISH content ‘in real time’ around topical issues and events when the situation requires it.
Okay, you’re sold on the idea but actually doing all that takes skill-sets you simply don’t have within the four walls of your organisation.
This is when it makes sense to engage the services of a professional journalist (freelance tends to be a good option). Basically a good journalist can do more things than simply writing blog posts. For example:
1. Create multimedia content for your organisation
Don’t simply hire a journalist and then limit their output to churning out blog posts en masse. Maybe your business could be producing whitepapers or ebooks or guides or special reports, or ghostwriting opinion pieces for the boss for other people’s online publications.
While some journalists prefer to stick to just writing, others are adept with audio and video. Maybe these are storytelling avenues you might like to try.
Obviously going tactical without first having a strategic plan in place will probably guarantee your content efforts will get messy down the line, but the goal here is to not be afraid to experiment with different content formats. A good journalist – or combination of journalists – will provide you with a range of skill-sets you’ll be able to tap to stay ahead of the content game.
More than that, they’ll probably do it quicker and more professionally than many inside your organisation who already have enough on their plates without having to sit down and write articles with depth and quality.
2. Extract stories from your people
The value a professional journalist brings to the table is not just writing or producing editorial-style video but being able to extract the right stories from people, stories that matter for an audience.
Journalists know a good yarn when they hear one. If a journalist chats in-depth with your people – the leaders of the organisation, the internal subject matter experts – there is every chance that intuitively they will identify a load of interesting story hooks and angles that can be turned into compelling content for your brand.
Of course, the journalist doesn’t need to just talk with your employees; great stories can also come from others within your ‘brand orbit’ – customers and partners, for example.
Not only will a good journalist present these stories professionally and in the right format, but there is every chance the end product will be superior to what can be achieved internally by non-professional writers.
3. Improve the finished product through editing
This is something I hear happening more and more these days, and it makes a lot of sense. It works like this:
Content is created by a company’s internal staff; they come up with the ideas and share the workload with a number of people given the task of writing articles for the company blog, for example.
More often than not one person is charged with coordinating the effort so stories are delivered on time. Then the finished articles are handed over to a professional journalist who not only checks and edits the copy but also makes improvements to the headline and all-important introductory paragraphs, as well as selecting stock images to accompany the story. If need be, articles are also cut back in length and finessed until they are in the best possible shape for the reader.
The goal here is to ensure that any stories published have not only been checked and improved in terms of grammar and overall writing, but also that over time all content has a consistent look and feel, a style that fits the brand. This is particularly important with multi-author blogs where the quality and styles of writing can vary enormously.
Whatever your content marketing needs are, there’s every chance that by working with a professional journalist you will improve the quality of the content you produce as an organisation and along with it, a better chance of hitting reaching the goals you set down in the first place.
At the heart of a robust public relations program beats five foundational elements that, when combined strategically, are critical to the ongoing reputational health (and success) of any business, government body or nonprofit organisation.
I call them PR’s VITAL signs, and they are:
WHAT ABOUT YOUR COMPANY OR ORGANISATION?
- Does it have an ongoing visible presence in the marketplace or community in which you operate?
- Are you able to have an impact by motivating people to take a specific course of action?
- Do people trust your brand?
- Are you purposefully building and cultivating a base of fans, allies and champions of your organisation, people who will spread word positively about your brand and if necessary go into bat for you if and when the shit hits the fan?
- Is your business or organisation considered to be a leader in its field or the community or industry in which you operate?
While a solid spread of these keystone elements of PR will help businesses and organisations grow and fortify their brand and reputation, I’m cognisant an organisation’s goals will ultimately dictate those areas where extra heft is needed.
That said, I am in no doubt the organisations that leverage the power of owned, earned and social media (not just media relations!) to strategically build visibility, influence, trust, advocacy and leadership in the marketplace ongoing, over time, will be those that are in the best position to thrive in tomorrow’s increasingly complex, noisy and ever-changing world.
Social media strategist Sally Falkow recently published an infographic entitled ‘15 Digital Skills for PR and Marketing’.
In this episode of PR Leads – the first for 2017 – Trevor Young and Dionne Lew discuss the first six of Sally’s list of skills, digging in with some detail as to why these new skill-sets are important for PR professionals, and in doing so provide context and examples from the trenches of modern public relations practice.
The six digital skill-set are:
- Monitor social media
- Keyword research
- Visual literacy
- Original image creation
Dionne and Trevor cover skill-sets 7-15 inclusive in the next episode of PR Leads (#13).
This is the final PR Leads episode for 2016. It’s the time of year when plenty of people in the industry get on their prediction freak on: What’s going to be the next big thing next year?
Usually such predictions revolve around hot new technologies, but Dionne Lew and Trevor Young eschew all that in this episode, preferring to focus on the basics.
They kick off with content – a topic that has dominated previous PR Leads episodes because of the massive opportunity it provides in-house communicators.
When it comes to producing content for your organisation’s owned media and social channels, both Dionne and Trevor agree brands are going to have to lift the bar.
There’s just too much template stuff being churned out, almost by rote. It’s not just a case of being targeted and useful to your audience; there’s a bigger picture at play – content needs to adhere to a purpose that’s unique to the organisation that produced it.
As Dionne advises: “Take a break, step back … ask yourself why you’re here; what’s the purpose, what’s the vision, what do you want to achieve.”
Trevor discusses his concept of ‘respectful reminders’, and why influence, reputation and trust will continue to be big-ticket items in the year ahead, while Dionne explains the potency of major premium content pieces (i.e. research) that will not only get noticed but also potentially create impact over the year as a result of being repurposed or ‘chunked down’ for different channels.
“It’s about leveraging that key expertise that you have … in ways that are going to resonate,” says Dionne.
Dionne and Trevor’s wish for 2017 (not necessarily a prediction) is that it becomes the year of human communications and the flight to quality in terms of more meaningful content being produced by brands.
Understand the new technologies that are emerging by all means, but don’t be distracted by them; instead, focus on humanity, quality and thoughtfulness, and understand (and reflect in everything you do) your company’s ‘why’.
Brands mentioned: Firebrand Talent, Buffer, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.