Thursday, September 21, 2006

Course recommendation: Creating a PR Strategy @ The CIPR

This week, I attended the CIPR's 1-day Creating a PR Strategy Workshop. As well as being a great chance to get out of the office for the day and network with other communications professionals, it was a thoroughly valuable course.

Dennis Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Business School, facilitated the workshop and reminded us of the importance of planning in strategy creation. We had rather a long discussion about definitions, with the key takeaway being that the terms aims, objectives, strategy and tactics all being using fairly interchangeablely (and inaccurately) in practice.

He outlined why strategic PR (or communications) was important, and what we stood to gain personally and professionally if we throught and operated more strategically. He walked through 4 simple steps for strategic planning - the audit, creating the strategy, implementation and evaluation. We worked on a case study throughout the day that illustrated the key points, and were quite surprised at what we could collectively come up with for an area that for pretty much all of the participants, was out of our area of expertise.

It was also interesting to hear the participants talk about what continues to be a common theme amongst PR and comms types - how to measure what we do effectively. Dennis outlined the different levels of measurement; inputs, outputs, out-takes, outcomes and outflows, and we all estimated we were measuring our efforts around Level 2 (output). We did however, have a good brainstorming session about how we could get more creative in measuring results - using hard metrics, rather than the "fluffy stuff", as Dennis was adamant we avoid.

The workshop was a timely reminder that every now and then it's worth looking up from the mountain of media queries, internal requests and day-to-day stuff, and take a big picture look at your entire communications program and it's objectives. Much food for thought!

I'm doing the CIPR's Reputation Management workshop in a couple of weeks, which I'm also looking forward to.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I want to deal with more organisations that listen!

I had an experience this week that personally proved to me that companies who take the time to engage with bloggers can start to truly get to know their customers in a way that database segmentation or direct marketing campaigns could never achieve.

In my spare time, I maintain a travel blog, and I have written about some of the tours I’ve done lately with Explore. My experiences with the company have been entirely positive – the tours I did around Iceland and Croatia with Explore this year were excellent, and I would not hesitate to recommend them to family and friends. Explore tours are well organized, great value for money, FUN, and have a great combination of structured and free time. What really appeals to me is that they get to some really obscure places. I plan to do more Explore tours as time and money allow – and no, they are not paying me to say this!

What impressed me about Paul, the “ECommerce Bod” from Explore who emailed me, was that he offered help in getting me more information if I needed it, offered some information about their affiliate program (which I may or may not pursue, but it wasn’t a hard sell), and shared some personal observations about Lake Bled, Slovenia, where we’d both visited recently. It was clear he knew his stuff. He was authentic – and that’s important.

When I replied, he continued our conversation about the rather scary cable car that scales the cliffs surrounding Lake Bohinj en route to the ski resort that overlooks the entire valley. Talk about great views! He mentioned that the next Explore brochure was coming out soon, and to keep an eye out for more tours. As if I need any encouragement!

I thought it was cool. And relevant and appropriate. It makes me feel like the people at Explore are actually interested in what their customers are saying about their company – good or bad. They talk to me about stuff that interests me, and not in polished corporate speak but with a friendly, conversational tone. The tours themselves are great, but this personal touch, way after the fact, is really refreshing.

He also said he’d keep reading my blog. So, Paul, if you are reading this, thanks for your emails, and I hope you get to do one of the Explore train tours soon.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dimwitticisms get airplay Down Under

In the (dare I say it) ongoing spirit of our cliche campaign pinging round the world, and morphing into an analysis of Dimwitticisms, the Dimwitticism tracker hit the Australian airwaves over the weekend, on ABC News Radio.

Presenter Kel Richards featured the most frequently used "dimwit" word, "ongoing" in his Word Watch slot.

Citizen journalism and the London Fire Brigade Exhibition

I love photography, it's importance in the news, and the way it provides a permanent reminder of a particular scene.

So the current exhibition at the Photographers' Gallery in London was a perfect way to spend an hour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The London Fire Brigade Archive is a small exhibition at the gallery running until 17 September and features nearly 100 black and white images from the broader collection of some 300,000 images.

According to the official blurb:
"The captions of each photograph will also form a prominent part of the exhibition. They document a verbal account of what happened which was recorded and attached to the back of the photograph. This documentation is a fascinating insight on how the recording and documentation of incidents has changed over the years."

Before you go into the actual exhibition, there is a smaller, equally engaging photo montage about how citizen journalism came into play during the July 7 bombings last year. It analysed which newspapers ran with some of the more shocking pictures taken with the mobile phones of commuters trapped in the various carriage and underground stations. It was still chilling to see those pictures more than a year later, but certainly interesting to see how citizen journalism did and will continue to re-shape the news agenda by providing pictures and commentary of world-changing events.