February 5th, 2011 / 4:01 am
Guest post by Rodrigo Capella of São Paulo, Brazil
If there is something we always think about in the communications world, it is: How can we do something really different? This question is as wide as the possible answers. However, it may be – oddly enough – answered in one word: creativity.
In Brazil, there is a dispute between the public relations firms and the digital agencies concerning who is best able to build programs and create content for social media. To explain that, I am going to present two Brazilian examples.
To promote the sale of Xbox, the virtual shop Saraiva announced on Twitter an interactive campaign with its followers, developed by digital agency iThink. The followers’ participation was the key distinction of this effort. To be part of it, you had to follow @saraivaonline (so far, nothing original) and tweet an image simulating a scene or a character from any Xbox game (this is the insight of the campaign). The twenty best pictures went to a popular vote and the author of the most voted image won an Xbox. To see the best photos of the campaign, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/saraivaxbox
Another interesting campaign was undertaken by public relations agency LVBA for Nokia. To make it known that a mobile application had been developed to access digital channels (social networks, sites, blogs, etc.), LVBA raffled – via Twitter – a Nokia 5235 with the ‘Comes With Music’ embedded app.
The initiative itself was simple. Just follow the profile of the agency (@lvba), Re-Tweet (‘RT’) a specific phrase, and you are already participating. The originality was in raffling a cell phone with an application, offering a user experience for the Twitter followers.
These two actions – creative in certain aspects – have helped to consolidate Twitter as an innovative, agile and intelligent tool in communications programs.
In the past, communication campaigns in Brazil were limited to the RT of some messages on Twitter to get discounts or win some products; nowadays, we’re seeing an additional dimension to these new programs: real interactivity, either through the imitation of an Xbox character, or through a mobile application experience.
It is a new kind of communication being created by digital and PR agencies. It doesn’t matter who does it. The initiative is becoming increasingly more social, more fun and certainly not predictable.
What is coming next?
Rodrigo Capella is a Brazilian public relations professional. A lecturer and writer, he edits the blog PR Interview and has more than twenty books published. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @rodrigo_capella
December 20th, 2010 / 5:00 am
Guest post by Christine Jones
I had probably my worst travel trip last week. It took 50 hours to get from Shanghai to Brisbane, Australia where I live. Yes, I was travelling by plane – though I forgive you for thinking I was on some kind of mission to get there by other means of transport. And no, there were no stopovers, hotels or beds involved. Just a catalogue of delays, missed connections and unhelpful airline staff at several airports along the way.
It’s a test of human nature when these unexpected incidents occur. Seeing how people react. Some get angry, some get upset, some just sit, some sigh with a kind of helpless resolve. We see it all the time on the news when airlines go on strike or get delayed due to bad weather. It’s just it usually doesn’t happen to me. So I started to think of my situation as an issues and crisis management case study. Yeah right, you say? But hey, I had to sit in three different airports for an aggregate total of 30 hours, excluding flying time, so I had to do something to stay sane.
So here’s what I observed:
First, communication is key. At all three airports – Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, no-one kept us informed so we had no idea what was going on. Even if the news was bad, or if they’d told us they were not sure what was happening, it would have been better than saying nothing. This is what people were grumbling about the most. This is the first rule of issues and crisis management – communicate quickly, regularly and accept responsibility. It builds credibility. Strike one to the airline.
Second, customer service is critical. Unhappy customers today equals no customers tomorrow. The airline did everything it could to minimise the cost of dealing with the situation. We were not given a hotel and had to sleep in chairs in a lounge for the night, we were not given anything to eat or drink until we got to the lounge (which took three hours), and no extra staff were made available to help us. This is the second rule of issues and crisis management – how do you want to be remembered after the crisis is over? Clearly for me and the scores of other disgruntled passengers, we won’t be flying with the airline in question again. They forgot about building or maintaining relationships. Strike two to the airline.
Third, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. No matter how frustrated I was, getting angry was not going to help. Some passengers kept going up to the counter. They hovered, they complained, they kept asking the same question – what’s happening? Clearly this wasn’t going to make the slightest difference to anything other than their own blood pressure. Although they did get answers, mostly made-up by the staff to fob them off. I chose to sit with a few other passengers – ok we grumbled amongst ourselves – but we knew the situation was out of our hands. But, the airline kept promising things they couldn’t deliver. We will board shortly, we will be underway soon, we will help you. None of which was true. Third rule of issues and crisis management – stick to the facts and don’t make promises you will later regret. This builds trust. Strike three and out to the airline.
If you have a travel story – funny, frustrating or fabulous – send it to this blog. Or, email me as I’d love to know what happened to you and how you reacted.
Christine Jones is regional managing director at Burson-Marsteller in Asia Pacific and is based in Australia. Travel is one of the most rewarding parts of her professional and personal life. Her favourite airline is Singapore airlines; favourite public transport is the tram system in Basel, Switzerland and the London Underground ; and her worst trip (until this one) was on a public bus in Uganda which used bamboo shoots to keep the wheels on when the bolts flew off in an “incident”. Email your travel stories to Chrissy on email@example.com
December 6th, 2010 / 10:59 am
Guest post by Zack Sandor-Kerr
Opinions about interns are about as many and diverse as the sweaty-palmed young-guns who clamour for available positions. As far as I have read, however, most of those opinions come from the top. From the decision makers who hire the interns.
I’m not one of those guys. I’m the intern. Well, former intern actually. Over the past 13 weeks, I have worked in Burson-Marsteller’s Sydney office. I’ll begin by saying my experience was exemplary: challenging, enriching, filled with teachable moments and opportunities to take initiative and flex my PR muscles. I received mentorship, respect and the trust from an impressive batch of PR pros.
Not all interns are so lucky.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about interns and internships. I’ve made a number of observations.
I suspect that everyone reading this has had a horrible intern experience. I empathize. Under-performers are out there. I also appreciate that interns represent a significant investment in your organization’s time, money, resources and sometimes, patience. I further understand that you don’t have the budget to pay them as much as they would like; or the time to hold their hands through every challenge.
I get it. There are a lot of dynamics around hiring us.
Employers are thinking about interns.
I can also tell you from my own experience that interns are thinking about their employers. Just as you consider whether you would hire us, we consider whether we would say yes.
So what does the intern really think about your company?
1. Your intern has something to contribute, value to add, ideas to table.
I leapt at every opportunity to sit in on a brainstorm, strategy session, or client briefing. I listened to my colleagues’ client challenges and sent them articles that I thought would be of interest. I shared what I knew about SEO with the team when a new website was launched.
And a funny thing happened. I saw those brainstorm ideas, strategic insights, questions, observations, blog URLs and pointers trickling into client briefs, pitches, action plans and search results.
My colleagues trusted me with sitting in. They took a calculated risk by introducing me to the client. Their trust was repaid with a fresh perspective and stuff they could use.
When interns are given the time and space to shine, they are more likely to do so. Going into my internship, I knew that I would have to build media lists and make photocopies. I hoped it wasn’t all I would be asked to do. It wasn’t. My colleagues recognized that I had more to add than just warming a seat and filing. That recognition got the best out of me.
2. Your intern doesn’t expect a lot.
Your intern doesn’t (or perhaps shouldn’t) expect a gold star for every error-free keystroke. Your intern doesn’t (or shouldn’t) expect to be invited to every single meeting and high-level business strategy session.
Your intern doesn’t (or shouldn’t) expect the world from you; however there are a couple of things that are reasonable for the intern to expect:
To receive mentorship, guidance, direction, feedback. We are here to learn. Please give us that opportunity. We are hungry for knowledge, interested in new experiences and eager to meet new challenges. If we’re not being trained, briefed, or mentored, then how can you as an employer ever hope to get the best out of us?
To feel like a part of the team. We are around only for a short time, but we still want to feel involved. Employees may tend to view this transience as an excuse not to get to know the new face. Why both getting to know the intern when they’re going to be out the door in a few weeks time anyway? Employers will get more out of interns who are welcomed, valued, and respected. Encourage your employees to invite the intern out for lunch and out for drinks. Include them in relevant meetings and email threads.
To have a chance to prove himself or herself. We want to excel. We want to show you our best work. We want to impress you. As hard as we try, we can’t wow you with our photocopying and data entry skills. When my employer issued a professional challenge, I jumped to meet it. I was motivated. I was dedicated. I was enthusiastic. And I learned. A lot. I surprised my colleagues with my capabilities when I had the room to explore them. I surprised myself as well.
3. Your intern is making an investment in you and your company.
When a company hires an intern, it makes a significant commitment of resources: Training and onboarding, staff time, desk space, supplies, a stipend. Staff may be hesitant to hand over their precious client relationships or delicate client work. It’s an investment of time, energy and trust.
When an intern joins a company, he or she also takes a risk and makes an investment. Often it yields dividends, but it’s not always an easy step to take. Going into debt to cover rent while working for free is not appealing. That is an investment in a company.
There are a lot of busy consultancies out. Extremely busy. Budgets are tight, but boy wouldn’t it be nice to have another set of hands to help out? Cue the intern! There are a lot of workplaces seeking interns. Why should an intern choose yours?
4. Your intern believes his or her time is worth something.
I realize that I am walking into a minefield. I have read and heard various strong opinions about the matter of paying interns: I’ve been warned.
I am going to just say it: Interns should be paid. With money.
It doesn’t have to be much. We’re not doing it for the money. We want the experience. We want to prove ourselves. We want to build our networks and portfolios. We also want to eat more than Raman noodles and ketchup packets.
I understand the arguments opposed to paying interns. I don’t buy them. Yes, we get experience and access to tremendous opportunities; but you also get access to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Sometimes you get a dud, and your incredible mentorship and training program is wasted; but other times, you get an absolute star. A modest wage or stipend may be the only thing standing between you and the market’s top young talent. HR theory tells us if you invest the time in the recruitment process, you will see a return.
5. Your intern will talk about your company’s brand to his or her intern friends.
Eighty-two people graduated in my PR post-graduate class. As a group, we experienced about 75 workplaces on our internships. Some experiences were horrible. I’ve heard about them. Some were incredible. I know about those ones too.
If someone in this network tells me they were treated like crap on their internship, I will think long and hard before I apply for or accept a job with that organization. How a company treats its interns indicates, to me, how it will treat its new hires.
The thing about mistreated interns is that they don’t stay interns forever. They become competitors, stakeholders and decision makers. First impressions count for a lot.
The question is: how many bad first impressions can your brand withstand before it has a full-fledged bad reputation among young talent? Do you want your reputation to drive top people to your competitors?
Internships add value to the workplace experience. The mutually-beneficial arrangement offers new graduates opportunities to learn, grow their skills and apply their knowledge, while (hopefully) providing companies with inexpensive, driven and intelligent keeners who help get the job done.
My own internship experience was invaluable. It affirmed my career choice. It empowered my professional growth. It positioned me for entry into the workforce.
I think my company did a pretty good job.
Zack Sandor-Kerr is a public relations practitioner from Toronto, Canada. He has spent the last 13 weeks as in intern at Burson-Marsteller in Sydney. He returns from his travels in March, where he will begin his job search. Zack blogs on Pizza Friday.
November 19th, 2010 / 4:00 am
Three things you need to succeed in a career in PR
Guest post by Christine Jones
Women are in the headlines a lot these days. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar a few days ago marked another remarkable step in the journey of this inspirational yet humble woman. Last month, there was the canonisation of Mary McKillop, Australia’s first saint – again, a woman driven to help others in her quiet, self-assured but determined way. Less humbly, but by no means with less determination, we see women in politics – Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister; Hillary Rodham Clinton, US secretary of state who recently visited our region; Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany – also the country’s first female leader; and even Sarah Palin, who looks like having another go at the White House. Then there’s women in business – Gail Kelly, the CEO of Westpac Bank in Australia; Wei Sun Christianson, CEO of Morgan Stanley in China – who has prevailed in what is still considered a man’s world; and Oprah Winfrey – due to touch down in Australia next month, whose name and show can literally turn any business or person into an instant, multimillion dollar success.
So what do these women have in common? And more to the point, what does that have to do with me and the thousands of other ordinary women like me, working just as hard every day?
You see, I believe there are three things these women have in common and all women need to achieve success. It’s not a gender target – although I don’t mind the Australian Government letting businesses know it’s time to get serious about creating an even playing field. It’s not necessarily a good education – though it obviously helps; or good luck, which can clearly play a part for some, but not all people.
No, the three things that any one of us need are ability, self-belief and opportunity.
Ability is not necessarily defined by education, but by knowing yourself and identifying a skill you have – be that a connection with others, creativity, great writing skills or business acumen.
Then, you have to have the self-belief to act upon this skill and use to it to go further than where you are now. This requires inner strength so you are not defeated when faced with the setbacks you will inevitably encounter on your journey to your future.
And lastly, you need opportunity. If this does not exist, then you must seek or create it. Take Aung San Suu Kyi. She has spent the last seven years under house arrest with seemingly little chance of keeping her dream for democracy going. Yet, here she is, free again, with just as much support as she had all those years ago, despite her situation.
So, in your current role – whatever and where ever that is – at university, in an agency, corporate or Government department, you must ask yourself three questions and answer them with brutal honesty. What am I really good at? What does my ideal job look like? And, does this company offer me the opportunity to become the best I can be?
That’s what I like about Burson-Marsteller and what drew me back to the firm from a senior, global in-house role at the headquarters of a large pharmaceutical company.
When people think about B-M, they probably think about Harold Burson as the elder statesman of the PR industry. I bet they don’t know that B-M in Asia-Pacific employs more women in senior roles that just about any PR agency I know. In every country on the Asian mainland where B-M has an office, its market leader is a local woman. Beyond that, there are women at every level of management – in business development, finance and marketing.
Now, you might say I am biased because I work here. But facts are facts. All I am saying is, you need to make sure you are in a place where you can genuinely use your best skills and create and seize opportunities. It’s not all you need, but it is a vital ingredient.
Christine Jones is regional managing director at Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific and is based in Australia. She has 25 years of experience working in communications roles in Australia, Asia, Europe and UK. She is married with two children aged 10 and 9 and loves the beach, exercise and hanging out with her family and friends. If you have a question about your career in communications you can email Chrissy on firstname.lastname@example.org
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