‘Public Relations’ Category:

Media diversity is everyone’s business

Posted in: Public Relations

As a university student, I had to write an essay on the diversity of sources in Australian media. I wrote another essay on Australia’s cross-media ownership laws. While I no longer have a copy of those essays, I remember much of the content, and it’s as relevant today as almost 20 years ago.

Times have certainly changed regarding the layout of Australia’s media landscape. The rise of online media has put substantial financial pressures and seen the demise of outlets, including newspapers.  The “two out of three rule”, the basis of Australia’s cross-media ownership laws, preventing a single media company from owning both a television and radio station or both a television station and a newspaper in the same market no longer exists.

Changes to the legislation have now seen Fairfax Media, publishers of Australia’s oldest newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald (1831), taken over by the Nine Network with its entirely different editorial style and ethos.

The Walkley Foundation, which supports excellence and high standards in Australian journalism, holds a storyology festival annually. The event explores changes to the media and includes panel discussions with some of Australia’s finest journalists.

Discussion at the most recent Storyology event was much around massive changes to the news media in recent years including the takeover of Fairfax, the rise of digital mediums, so-called citizen journalism, and the term “fake news”.

Fairfax journalists have always prided themselves on editorial independence, in 1988 fighting for, and winning, a formal charter of editorial independence. The charter meant journalists could report free from commercial pressure to satisfy their advertisers. Journalists are hoping this charter will be honoured by Nine.

In my essays as an enthusiastic young student, I remember vigorously writing about the need for diversity of media ownership and media sources.  A variety of media sources and ownership of media outlets to me remains a sign of a well-functioning democracy. Gender, age, and cultural diversity ensures meaningful discussion from different perspectives. In essence, it makes us all think about issues from a different perspective.

How I cover an event may be different from how a colleague views an event or issue and this is part of makes us unique as people. As a journalist, unless I’m presenting an opinion in an editorial, I’ll try to remain impartial. However, inevitably my thoughts on how a topic should be reported and what is the angle of the story may be different from that of another journalist.

The differences in perspectives are essential for all consumers of news to make up their minds about issues and stories. However, if as journalists we all come from similar ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and work for the same organisation with a particular culture (even if a for a different medium) then inevitably coverage of issues will lack diversity.

In a multicultural democratic society, we need a diversity of sources in Australian Media with a range of opinions.  My work centres around changing this status quo of women as media sources providing them with the training and public relations to be more confident to get their voices heard.  A survey by the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia has found women still only represent 21 per cent of sources directly quoted in news articles.

Today, Which-50 media has come out and said this July they secretly erased men from their platform only sourcing women in all of their articles. It’s not that Which-50 was against men. Instead, they just realised they were not quoting women enough.

“It turns out we are as bad as everyone else, as the stats around our stories reveal,” wrote editor Tess Bennett.

“In June 2018, Which-50s editorial coverage mentioned 111 men and 24 women (and seven of those women appeared in a single story).”

Race and age diversity are also still under-represented as news sources. In a country which for many years has prided itself on multi-culturalism, cultural diversity of media sources is still lacking.  The recent debate about the media coverage of so-called African street gangs in Melbourne has highlighted this need for more culturally diverse voices in the media.

More people are growing older and healthier all over the world, and the population aged over 65 is projected to triple by 2050.  We need to value, the voices of older Australians. I appreciate working with colleagues and partners older than myself. Their life and career experience are vast and their mentorship invaluable.

I’ve been pondering the question how do we ensure more diverse media sources, voices and reporting in the media?  To me, one of the solutions lies with the rise of an independent media sector and businesses publishing content.

When I was a young child, a family friend owned a small, independent weekly newspaper. He was a thorough investigative journalist who was very outspoken and inspired me to go into journalism. Over the years, he uncovered corruption in local councils, put forth a diverse range of voices and thoroughly covered stories often not given attention in the mainstream media.

In the face of many cutbacks, buyouts, and demise of mainstream outlets in recent years, we have seen the rise of independent publications. It is the rise of these independents which I now see as a significant solution to ensuring diverse coverage of stories and sources.

Like the independent newspaper in my local town as a child, blogs, digital and hardcopy publications, podcasts can all ensure a diverse range of voices and views.  Similarly, if you’re planning an event then look to provide a diverse range of speakers and panel guests. Promote and train as media spokespeople a diverse range of people of different ages, gender, and race.

Denise Shrivell is the founder of MediaScope, Peggy’s List, Don’s List and a rising political activist. She founded Peggy’s List a couple of years ago to encourage speaker and panel gender diversity at conferences. More than 330 women in the marketing, advertising and media sectors who are available to speak at events are now on the list.  As a follow-on, she created Don’s List, which promotes men who support gender diversity on panels.

“Australia has a solid and vibrant public interest journalism space, and they’re often ex-journalists out of the larger media houses,” she says.

“They are pushing out content on a daily basis that is often deeper and detailed than you may get in mainstream media but they often struggle in reach and monetisation.

“But to me, that’s where public interest journalism really lives even though I don’t want to take away from some of the very good journalism we still see out of mainstream publishers.”

Denise says we should all be seeking out and finding these publishers to show our support by consuming their content, subscribing to newsletters, clicking on and buying from their advertisers.

She says as an industry the media has a huge responsibility to promote diversity because it influences culture.  She is now focusing on not just promoting gender but all types of diversity.

“We are an industry which very much influences what you see in the culture, so there is certainly a responsibility to reflect the very multicultural landscape that is Australia,” she says.

“We are having good discussions about gender, but other forms of diversity such as age, socio-economic, ethnicity, disability all also need to be addressed.”

The Ancient Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said: “The only thing that is constant is change”.   The Australian media in the past few years has certainly gone through change but so too has our society and culture.  Rather than feeling despondent about changes to the traditional media, I’m feeling hopeful that the rise of new media could see a more diverse range of reporting on topics and lead to greater diversity.

If you would like to learn more about developing a strategy to bring greater diversity to your content and events get in touch via email to: nadine@nadinemcgrath.com.au

BY NADINE MCGRATH

What makes news: a 101 crash course

Posted in: Public Relations

Do you watch, listen or read the news? Do you have your favourite news outlet? Do you not consume news because you feel it’s filled with terrible, sad and depressing events?

You know when you’re at a social event and people ask what do? In my almost 20 years as a journalist and public relations consultant, I’ve found opinions about the media and what makes news are rife. My job can certainly become a conversation starter.

However, if you’re not consuming news as a woman business leader or change-maker, then you should reconsider. Learn what makes news, consider offering your expertise or insight to the media which will, in turn, raise your profile and impact.

So here’s a quick “What Makes News 101 Crash Course”. If you’ve ever thought about media exposure, you’ll have a basic understanding of how the media determines what stories to tell.

What is newsworthiness?

Timing

The word news is exactly like it sounds – it’s new. Topics which are current are good to think about when pitching news stories. Think about can you provide a different angle, an update, insight into current topics. Outlets quickly discard the old but journalists are always on the hunt for a fresh angle.

You need to think and act fast for topical stories or those with a date-frame. If it happened today, it’s news. If the same thing happened last week, it’s no longer interesting or out of date like sour milk.

Significance

The number of people affected by the story vital. Think how many people are affected by say a new change to legislation or a tax hike. This is why train crash in which hundreds of people died is likely to receive more coverage than a crash killing a dozen. Is your story significant?

Proximity

Stories happening close to us have more significance and are more newsworthy. In this day and age where technology has brought the world closer together, this doesn’t always mean geographical distance because where we feel at home or our community can be across international borders. Take for example the #Me Too stories and movement which women feel a bond with world-wide.

Prominence

Famous people do tend to get more coverage simply because of their fame and profile. If you have a baby, it may not make the news, but Princess Kate of England having her third baby receives mass international coverage.

Human Interest

There is an exception with human interest stories, which often disregard the main rules of newsworthiness. Human interest stories don’t date, don’t need to affect a lot of people and may not matter where in the world the story takes place.

Human interest stories appeal to emotion. They aim to evoke an emotional response such as empathy, sadness or inspiration. I love writing human interest stories. While the news is often grim, television news often place a humorous or feel-good piece at the end of the show to finish on an uplifting note, while newspapers will also have fun stories. I used to love writing these stories because they made me feel good too.

Top 3 tips for media exposure

1. Think strategically

Observe the media outlet that you want to appear. What type of stories do they cover? What angles could you provide that would appeal to them? Who is their target audience? Read comments if available from their readers on articles. Journalists, media organisations can get hundreds of pitches – often not relevant to their publication which can be off-putting.

2. Know your audience

It’s always about knowing your audience/clients and effective communication. Daily you’re talking to clients and it’s through this communication, you’ll find story ideas. Why did they come to you? What problems are they facing? What are their pain-points and how are you helping to solve these? These all form the basis for good stories. Sometimes we get bogged down with statistics but don’t lead with figures, weave them into the story and start with one person you can talk about who is part of that statistic.

3. Pitch your story & angle

Reach out and pitch a story to editors, other bloggers, podcasters to see if they would be interested in interviewing you or your contributions. However, make sure you do your research first to ensure you’re offering a relevant story and contribution.

If you’ve often thought about getting media coverage for greater exposure and impact, then reach out. Everyone has a story to tell and I’d love to brainstorm yours with you.

Why fake reviews aren’t worth the risk

Posted in: Public Relations, Reputation Management

I love getting positive feedback or a review from people who have worked with me or enjoyed reading my articles. As human beings, we all like to be praised and validated for our efforts, while it also is a positive endorsement to others who may be considering my services. In turn, I like to sing the praises and give positive reviews for people who have delivered a great product or service to me.

However, I feel strongly about giving fake reviews or testimonials. From a personal perspective, false reviews go against my values. As a PR consultant and journalist working with women entrepreneurs and leaders, false reviews can just do more harm than good.

A recent post on a Facebook business group asked people to give fake reviews of each other’s websites or Facebook page. The post to date has had almost 1.5k comments and most in favour of giving each other false reviews. The popularity of that post has led to similar posts and shout-outs for fake reviews.

I was one of a small number of people to speak up against false reviews. The reasons I included were:

  1. You’re damaging your reputation and potentially causing a public relations crisis for your business if word gets out you’ve been conjuring up reviews.
  2. Search engines and social media platforms can penalise you for trying to beat the system. I have written a post on this topic – it forms part of what is known as “black hat tactics”.
  3. Made up reviews are dishonest, unethical and a reason why people have less trust in marketing. (Research the many articles on this topic)
  4. False reviews go against best practice. You may want reviews but as the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Do the hard work and earn reviews. In the long term, your business will benefit from the trust you’re building.

My views are supported by leadership coach, author and keynote speaker Sonia McDonald, who is known as a social media influencer with a large following on LinkedIn and other platforms. 

We’ve been working with Sonia on her brand marketing strategy and public relations. She has an impressive amount of positive reviews and testimonials, regularly updated on her website, social media and other marketing collateral.

She says fake reviews eradicate the essential trust needed in business and their leaders. 

“You eventually disregard all the real reviews businesses get, making customers trust less,” she says.

“Reviews mean you’ve worked with someone and helped them – they’re incredibly precious.”

“Fake reviews can damage your business if any of your prospects find out and contribute towards a complete disintegration of you as a business and leader.

You get income by offering a unique solution to someone else’s problem and by having legitimate and real conversations that turn into sales.”

She says she has built up such strong reviews and a following on LinkedIn and her other social media channels through her work and engaging with her audience over many years.

“I have built up my following over many years – there are no real quick solutions and I can honestly say I don’t focus on vanity metrics such as followers or likes on a page or post.

“I’ve had great results from just being ‘social’ on social media, engaging in groups, answering questions, being curious, commenting and sharing posts.”

My speciality of public relations is maintaining and protecting a person or business’s favourable public image.  Building a successful business takes time and work. There are often no quick or easy solutions and fake reviews will do more harm than good in the long term. 

Digital PR: Boost your profile & SEO

Posted in: Public Relations, SEO

Digital PR has become an integral part of a communication strategy to grow the profiles of a business or personal brand, boost domain authority and SEO. When I first started in journalism, PR consultants would send press releases, then call to see if we received the release and were interested in doing a story.

Emailing press releases and is still a common practice today. However, PR leaders like Hubspot’s Illiyana Stareva, credited with creating the concept Inbound PR, encourage a different and more effective approach.

Illiyana says focusing your PR strategy on digital has now become vital as content is the name of the buying game today.

“We make our decisions based on our research online by reading blogs, magazines, social media recommendations and any other online materials,” Illiyana says.

“If you haven’t focused your PR efforts on your digital appearance and building up your domain authority through more inbound links, you are not setting your business up for success in our content-driven world.”

Building your own digital PR strategy through media channels to focus more on the people you want to reach is delivering impressive results.

It’s not to say don’t write a press release or alert journalists or publications in your industry about a good story you may have for them. However, make the most of your online presence through great content to entice journalists, your target audience, influencers and other bloggers to your site.  It’s all part of the inbound method where you entice people to take notice of your content rather than pushing it out upon them.

How Inbound PR can improve SEO

Inbound PR combines techniques of traditional PR approaches – building relationships, identifying stories, creating news – with the approaches of inbound marketing. A benefit of inbound PR strategies is its boost to SEO. Gone are the days of dodgy black hat backlink tactics to show the popularity of your site by getting backlinks to irrelevant sites. Google technology and algorithms are much cleverer now and will penalise such underhanded tactics.

However, features of your brand and links to your website still play a vital role in improving your search visibility, that is the number of people able to find your business, products and services via the search engines. You need to build quality backlinks and raise your profile as an authoritative source, which is where digital PR shines.

Inbound PR can help boost your SEO and profile through:

• Promoting quality content.
• Driving traffic to your website and owned media.
• Building relationships with your brand and highly authoritative industry influencers, press publications and bloggers.
• Create quality content and raise your profile through citations, mentions and links.

Make the most of co-citations

The co-citation algorithm is where Google is starting to look at what people are talking about on a page. For example, if public relations and Nadine McGrath appear in the same article, even if there’s not a single link if enough different sources cite the two together then that will carry authority. Google will start to see Nadine McGrath keeps coming up repeatedly with the words public relations so must be associated with public relations.

Google is constantly trying to discover what matters when someone is searching. Do elements like social signals, shares, mentions matter? It’s no longer just about linking strategies anymore. You need a social presence and want other people talking about you so Google can see you are credible.

How to build a valuable earned media strategy

When people look to earned media they often have grand plans of contributing or being interviewed for top news sites or publications in their field. However, start small and work your way up. Earned media means “earned” for a reason. Look first at getting in your local paper, radio or television news. Your local community is often where your target audience is, so it makes sense to try for coverage in this area. Once you establish your media profile locally, then look for bigger opportunities or industry media. A good place to start is sites like SourceBottle, journorequests or Help a Reporter. Offer your knowledge and opinion by registering on sites like Quora.

Be PR Ready, have a good working website that reads well for people and is easy to navigate. Have a short bio to submit to publications or other sites.  All effective media strategy equals quality content plus network. If you have quality content, it may or may not get found. If you have quality content to share with a strong network, then that’s a solid formula for success. Start building your network.

Don’t cram your content with keywords. Remember chasing a number one ranking for certain keywords doesn’t matter anymore because of personalisation. Nadine McGrath will come up when I search public relations not necessarily because I’m number one but because I have shared it so many times. Google is guessing Nadine McGrath is what I want to show up when I type in public relations. People connected to me who have seen my shares will see it higher up than other people who may not know Nadine McGrath.

Take a layered approach to digital PR strategy with reactive and proactive techniques used side by side.

What is the reactive PR?

A reactive PR technique means responding to what is happening within your business or topical issues in your industry that you can make a comment and might get coverage.

On the reactive side, consider the use of Twitter hashtags like #journorequest and #PRrequest to find journalists looking for help with their stories.

What is proactive PR?

Proactive PR is where creativity comes into play and businesses can start creating ‘news from nothing’.

This means developing a strong understanding of your target publications and audience, to create content which suits their desires and therefore gains widespread high-quality coverage.

Conclusion: Know your audience and PR goals

When developing a digital PR strategy do your research and consider your goals. Public relations is not a quick fix solution to gain more sales or clients but is about building up your credibility and influence. Public relations should be considered an essential component of any communications or marketing strategy for your brand. As Virgin founder Richard Branson says: “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”

Five tips to handle a PR crisis

Posted in: Public Relations, Reputation Management

No one likes to be criticised, especially publicly so ensuring you feel equipt to handle a situation which can tarnish the reputation of your business is vital. Every business or leader will at one time or another experience a situation that could potentially impact reputation, operations, and financial stability.

In these fast-paced digital times, the speed at which stories and issues can unfold is phenomenal. We’ve seen the rise of citizen journalists who can take photos and videos of incidents on their mobile devices to send instantly to media organisations. Lobby groups and individuals can now report their grievances through social and traditional media more quickly and with greater intensity than ever before severely damaging businesses.

Larger organisations, political parties or public figures have media advisors on their team trained to both avoid a crisis and deal with one if it unfolds.  But most of us don’t have the luxury of a PR or media advisor on our team to handle a crisis. We may have marketing people to look at the odd negative review or trolling on social media, but even then you need a more consistent and diligent response. (See our post on dealing with negative reviews.)

The advice here is generic. It’s not intended to fill all needs but outline options for if and when you are in the midst of a PR storm. Be aware of other issues, including legal and financial consequences, must be taken into consideration at this critical time.

What is a PR crisis?

A PR crisis is any situation threatening the reputation of your brand. There are many examples of PR crises including immoral or inappropriate conduct by an employee or senior figure in your business, a disaster or accident causing harm to employees and/or members of the public. It may also be where the media or general public perceive business didn’t act appropriately. Below are five tips for handling a PR crisis.

1. Select a Crisis Management Response Team (CMRT)

When a situation arises which is perceived to be a PR crisis or possible crisis the first reaction should be for the business head or next in line to confirm all facts relating to the incident and select a Crisis Management Response Team (CMRT). Even if you are a one-person operation, you’re going to want and need advisors, whether that be PR, legal or both.

A CMRT meeting should be held as soon as possible after you become aware of the incident and also include anyone who can provide insight into how the disaster unfolded, such as a witness or employees.

The meeting should:

  • Ensure everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation, short and long-term consequences.
  • Establish if an external expert needs to be called in to consult on the crisis.
  • Identify who may criticise the business publicly.
  • Develop an action plan around what to say and how to inform your stakeholders, e.g. clients or customers and suppliers plus media.

2. Plan for a media onslaught

It’s vital to have a guide for handling the media. The frontline staff of a business will often have the initial contact by phone, email, social media or in person with journalists. How they handle this contact is a reflection of the business and will reflect its media coverage.

Frontline staff should:

  • Treat the media at all times respectfully.
  • Tell the journalist they’re not authorised to comment on behalf of the business.
  • Take the journalist’s details and tell them you’ll arrange for a call back as soon as possible.
  • Immediately tell the appropriate supervisor of the query.
  • Avoiding giving information to the media as “off the record” or even say “no comment”.
  • Treat any information or comment to journalists as going to be used in coverage, even if given in confidence.
  • All of your frontline staff should receive basic training on the points listed above even before a PR crisis because often the first you’ll hear about it will be from a journalist seeking a comment.

3. Select a media spokesperson

To maintain consistency in messaging only the company head or an authorised person (decided by the CMRT) should provide comment. Public relations advisors will decide upon the best format for each media response such as:

  • Phone call/interview.
  • Holding statement (see below) or press release.
  • In person interview or media conference.

4. Write a holding statement.

In the event of an incident attracting immediate media attention, it may be necessary to issue a holding statement before all the details are available such as: “We confirm that (state the nature of the incident) occurred at (state place) at (state time). This incident is being investigated and dealt with at the moment by (who). We’ll issue a full statement at the earliest possible time. We appreciate your co-operation on this matter. For further media information contact (details of public relations officer).

5. Have media training before a crisis hits.

When a crisis happens, there’ll be minimal time for training, so its best to ensure all potential spokespeople have media training in your organisation. This training should include information sessions on how the media operates along with role-playing and interview practice.

A public relations crisis will feel highly emotive and the media can be relentless in their pursuit of someone to blame. It is vital everyone stays calm, works together, anticipates possible worst-case scenario interview questions and assists the spokesperson prepare answers to what could be a media onslaught. Avoid knee-jerk reactions by thinking through the worst-case scenarios about what they can say about you or your business then work out a response.

Below is a list of possible questions you may be asked by a journalist:

  • Can you tell us what happened?
  • Who is to responsible for what happened?
  • How long have you known about the problem?
  • How could you have not known about the problem?
  • Why didn’t you act earlier to prevent the situation?
  • How much will this situation impact your business?
  • Do you admit negligence?
  • Do you admit you were at fault?
  • What are you doing to help those affected?

For many of these questions, especially those that may have legal implications such as around negligence and admitting fault, public relations and legal advisors must together to determine appropriate ways for the spokesperson to answer.

Conclusion

If you look at the news daily, you will see individual public figures political parties, companies, schools, health care providers and yes smaller businesses too dealing with a PR crisis.  Unfortunately, we can’t make you immune from criticism, but help guide you to “weather the storm”.