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PR industry Professionals must stand up for integrity

It is a sad day when PR firms tarnish the reputation of the industry as a whole. For those not in the know a UK-based PR firm, Bell Pottinger and its MD in South Africa are under the microscope when The Citizen revealed documents of the firm’s shenanigans on behalf of the Gupta family.  According to the article the PR firm has been accused of “intentionally sowing the seeds of racial division in order to distract from allegations of state capture by the Gupta family and Zuma".

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The PR professional’s role in the Boardroom

PR professionals today play a critical role as advisors to the business, a key theme which was echoed at the PRISA Annual Conference held in Durban last month. 

The message is clear: a PR strategy can no longer stand alone, it must form part of the business strategy to drive business results for the organisation. As the role of PR continues to advance at board and executive levels, professionals must add value and deliver on business KPI’s. 

Thabisile Phumo, PRISA President and VP of Communication at Sibanye Gold explained that influence is not positional. “Every PR professional no matter their position must become influential to the business,” she believes.

And Carol Allers Issues and Crisis Communication Manager from Eskom agrees, “PR professionals are the eyes and ears of the organisation. We must bring valuable information to enable CEO's to make decisions or delay them.” As such she believes that communicators bring the real world into the room and their role has become one of educators and advisors. 

As PR professionals we have to earn the status of trusted advisor – through our experience, qualifications, knowledge of the world of communications and yes ...ours and other’s mistakes. At the same time, we need to continue to lead the charge that PR is worthy of a position at board level, because the right advice from the right person can alter how companies are perceived following their decisions and actions. 

 What is the role of the advisor? An advisor typically has in-depth or specialist knowledge about a specific area, for example in finance, legal or Government/regulatory. This role requires one to have studied/trained for a certain number of years and have experience in an area that requires specific skills and understanding which the average business person does not have. 

So what qualifies the experienced communications professional to be an advisor? 

1. An understanding of the fundamentals that underpin all communications strategies.

2. A strong understanding of the business and its competitive landscape. 

3. The most comprehensive view of the communications landscape and understanding of the unique needs of all stakeholders and how messages are delivered. 

4. An expert at creating balanced, multi-tiered programs involving a variety of disciplines and communications elements. 

5. Understanding of how to analyse and understand all the factors, including research, that influence people’s attitudes toward companies, individuals or brands. 

6. Has the skill to anticipate potential problems, needs or opportunities. 

7. Knows how to plan to improve the attitude of a group to overcome misunderstandings and promote good will. 

8. Has in-depth experience with the tools of Public Relations to carry out planned activities.

9. Provides feedback, evaluation and adjustment.   

There is a much wider issue at stake: our view of ourselves and the role we play. If we continue to view our industry and ourselves outside of the trusted circle of advisors to the business, we will never change the way others see our industry. This requires a dedication to learning, updating skills and adding breadth and depth to our PR experience. Explore new trends and ways of doing PR, join industry organisations, follow international and local research and case studies and get more experience. Whilst also sharing these with our peers and colleagues and giving them the opportunity to do the same. This means that we need to expand our general knowledge. We need to understand business, the economy, local and international politics and seek new and innovative ways of doing things. We need to understand our clients industry and business. Only then can we truly call ourselves PR advisors. 



PR Expert wins Global World Award

PR Expert has won a Global World Award for its campaign launching SA’s first dance movie, Hear Me Move, proving that South African agencies have what it takes to play on the global stage. 

After winning the 2016 PRISM Campaign of the Year Award in April, PR Expert today clinched a Golden World award given by the IPRA (International Public Relations Association) for excellence in PR in the category PR on a shoestring budget. 

Janine Lloyd, CEO of PR Expert comments: “The IPRA Golden World Awards observes excellence in the PR industry globally and provides worldwide recognition for world-class Public Relations programs. A South African agency winning this award is a big deal, proving that our talent is world-class and that local agencies are producing an exceptionally high standard of work.” 

Marilyn Watson PRISM awards Chief Judge says, “We are delighted at the news of PR Expert winning this prestigious award and congratulate Janine Lloyd and the Hear me Move team for flying the South African flag high at the IPRA Awards.  The Campaign is a wonderful example of how when excellence in public relations is combined with a passion for what you do, the results can be remarkable. 

“We believe that this is only the start of PR Expert’s journey to winning many more awards and creating other amazing campaigns.” 

The campaign entry titled “Creating Groundswell for South Africa’s First Dance Movie” for film company Coal Stove Pictures, relied solely on PR as a strategy to drive word of mouth and excitement for the movie. 

Adele Paulsen, Executive Director of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA) adds, “The hard work that PR Expert, Janine Lloyd and the Hear me Move team (students from UJ) put into this campaign is phenomenal. Winning the PRISM Campaign of the Year Award and IPRA GWA Award is evident of the excellence that this campaign demonstrates.” 

Lloyd emphasises that this campaign proved that you don’t have to have a big budget to do Public Relations incredibly well. 

“It’s all about knowing your craft really well, creatively thinking beyond the obstacles and then pulling out all the stops to make it work. Public Relations has a massive role to play and when strategically planned and executed well, using all the tools available, drives business results,” she says.

To learn more Janine Lloyd will be speaking at the #PRISArise2016 Conference in August sharing how PR Expert got to this #wowmoment.

A total of 19 judges from all over the world including Bulgaria, the UK, Finland, Egypt, The Philippines and Russia converged into the centre of the EU to judge the entries from America, the EU, Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific (see regional breakdown below). 

How to attract the bees – 7 ways to keep journalists happy

Imagine journalists as bees and PR companies as flowers. In order for a flower to not go extinct they need the bees to spread their pollen, and in order for the bees to keep buzzing they need the pollen from the flowers to feed themselves. Unlike the flowers and the bees, journalists and PR companies have a bit of “bad blood”. Since they make use of each other so often in order to keep “buzzing”, journalists, unlike bees, can get quite annoyed if the “flower” is not compatible.  

We have compiled this list of 7 peeves that you can learn from to make sure you are compatible and attract more “bees”.  

1. Get to the point!

Journalists have deadlines that are not flexible and they cannot afford to spend 5 to 10 minutes reading your lengthy pitch. Deliver your pitches succinctly and get straight to the point.  Use bullet points, short sentences and put the most important points upfront.  If you want to catch their attention make sure you have a catchy subject line in your email. Provide a summary and add a hyperlink to longer information instead of typing all the details in the email. 

2. Send stories to journalists that relate to their beats.

PR companies send their stories to every single journalist on their contact list. This annoys journalists because the story may not be relevant to the type of beat they work on. Imagine being a journalist that focuses on the environment and receiving a story about an up-and-coming film! Make sure your media list has the beat of each journalist listed properly and only send your story to those that would be interested. If you haven’t listed the journalist’s beat then go back to the drawing board and find it out - unless you want to keep on spamming and get no results.  

3. Only call when it is necessary.

Many PR professionals call journalists within minutes of sending the email to check it was received. You’re probably thinking “well that’s not bad at all”. Well, it annoys media when you call and they haven’t even got to your mail yet. Instead call after about a day and only if the journalist has not replied. If you have an excellent relationship with the media they will read your emails. If not, then you may have to invest more time building these relationships. 

4. Do your research prior to sending your pitch/release.

When a journalist, let’s call her Ann, gets an email addressed to Andrew, she does one of two things: she gets annoyed because you haven’t bothered to check her name or she may think the pitch or release was meant for someone else. It’s simple, get the person’s name right and also make sure it is spelt correctly. You would be surprised at how many of these mails media get from PR companies. 

5. Don’t send journalists poorly written press releases.

A journalist’s job is to write high quality articles and when a piece is sent to them containing poor language, grammar and punctuation it’s just a big old NO. There is no excuse for bad English when there is grammar and spell check on our laptops, and we have editors who can proofread an article before we press the send button. Often clients change releases and we don’t check their changes thoroughly – this is not good practice because it is our company’s reputation on the line.

6. Make your contact details clear.

When a pitch sparks a journalist’s interest and they need further information about it, they need to contact you or the client .This means that all contact details need to be in your email. You don’t want a journalist to play FBI agent in order to track you down; they will just ditch you for another story. Then make sure you or the client are available to answer their queries. 

7. No means No.

A PR company’s perseverance is defiantly an admirable trait but when a journalist says no it usually means no. Sure you can try once more to win over the journalist with another angle, but after the second no its time to give up. Rather accept the no and move on to the next journalist than keep wasting time on a conversation that isn’t going anywhere.






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