ICCO President: PR business needs people with “sparks in the eyes”

The Holmes Report CEO Arun Sundhaman talks to Maxim Behar on modern PR, old school, building teams, social media, ethics and fake news

Arun Sudhaman: Welcome to the Echo Chamber. This is Arun Sudhaman from the Holmes Report. We are very lucky to be joined today by Maxim Behar, who is the CEO and Chairman at M3 Communications Group, Inc. in Bulgaria, and of course, widely known around the global PR industry as the President of the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO). Max, welcome to the Echo Chamber podcast.

Maxim Behar: Hello, Arun. Very nice to be with you in this prominent program.

AS: Thank you very much. So, Max, you have been doing a lot of traveling around the world for your ICCO duties. It seems you have been speaking at most of the conferences on PR in various countries. I am curious to know how you are seeing the growth of the global PR industry from your perspective.

MB: I don’t call it growth, I would call it rather change. Because in some countries, which are more advanced in the social media and in some countries where people do understand the market as general, understand the changes in our business, there might be growth. But in other countries where people are not so advanced to change rapidly the way they do their business, the approach to their customers, it is not necessary to be growth. But the fact is that nowadays PR business is the most dynamic business in the world, having in mind that since many, many years, more than 100 years, since this business existed, there is one change, which happened several years ago and has never ever happened before. And this is the ownership of media. You remember, Arun, something like 10 years ago the clients were coming to our offices, they entered our big conference rooms, they sat down and said: “Mr. PR expert, please, help us to get our product to the media. Because that was our main business – how to get to the media, how to make it more attractive, more interesting, what would be our approach to the journalists, how to attract them. But these days they don’t need to do this and we don’t need to do this, because we all own media. The first and most important change to our business, which happened recently, is that from mediators, from bridges between media and our clients, now we are much more managers or publishers than mediators. So, it means that in our offices, we should start learning how to manage media, how to make content, how to put this content in a way that it is not controversial, it is honest, ethical and also influential. So, this is really the first important change – the change of the ownership of the media. But the second change is happening these days and this is the very fast, almost invisible, but existing merge between the three main elements of our PR business – and this is advertising, digital and public relations. And there are many, many opinions among experts, which of those three businesses will lead the future business, the future merged business. And I really think it will be the Public Relations.

AS: Now, it is interesting what you have talked about in terms of the change. But I wonder in some of the less mature PR markets, that you and I are both familiar with, is it that much of a change, or is it just kind of what they have known about what have the PR started with? Perhaps, they are more comfortable with this new reality, because they haven’t had to change.

MB: It is a change. It is a big change. Sometimes, even very often the clients don’t understand that we operate in a different communications environment, because the commercial environment very often is the same. And when they approach us, and negotiate with us, PR companies or experts, they really prefer that we operate with the same, old-fashioned ways and instruments, and tools – just to invite journalists, to have a media breakfast, to start convincing them how good is the product or service, but in fact this is a change. Because even the traditional media, they take their news from the social media, as social media are much faster, much more independent, which is their biggest advantage, and also I would say much more influential than the traditional media.

AS: It is interesting because it seems to me that these changes require in many PR markets perhaps a different consideration of the types of skills, and the types of talent, that work within whether it is PR agencies or communications departments. How do you see in that play out? Do you feel like that the industry is doing a good job in bringing in different skills?

MB: You are absolutely right. In our offices we observe total change of the skills which the stuff or the managers should have regarding the new way of doing business. First of all, we should emphasize very much on the speed. In order to react in a high speed in a PR situation or crisis we must be absolutely well prepared. Something which happened 10 years ago in 10 minutes now we don’t even have 10 seconds to solve it. It requires a lot of preparation and a lot of simulation training of different PR cases which may happen. And another example, 10-12 years ago the clients were having crisis in the morning in the newspaper and then usually we had about 10 hours to solve this crisis – to had a press conference or a press message, meet the client, discuss with the team. But if we had 10 hours in the past, now we don’t have even 10 seconds. Once the bad news is online it may spread in a way that it will go beyond our expectation, it will go internationally, it will reach many more countries, it may hurt the international business plans of the client. So the advanced preparation is one of the most needed requirements, which we have in our offices. Secondly, simplicity is something, which is very crucial. Nowadays we are overloaded with international news, different information, social media, some of this information is fake, even if not majority of this information might be fake depending on the case. So we must create a very simple way to differentiate the most important news, the priorities we have in a way that our client feels in good and secure hands. So providing very fast service to them, emphasizing on the priorities of the projects, is something which is the base of the modern PR, not talking excellent knowledge how to create content, how to create a story, how to make this story a real one, influential one, but also very interesting and serving the client. Because I know a lot of people are dealing now with a storytelling and in every second forum or summit or conference I go storytelling is obligatory one of the main topics, but in the end of the day storytelling is nothing else than journalism. Because we are journalists. I used to be a journalist for about 20 years. And what were we doing in the newspapers, radio stations or TV channels? We were creating stories – nice stories, good stories, interesting, catchy. So that is the job of the PR expert these days. And going back to my vision or point of view that now we should be masters of the content it covers really the biggest change.

AS: It seems that in the kind of skills that are required there are as you mentioned a change. As you may not always be that easy to find people who can do all of those things. What does it look when you hire new people?

MB: Usually I am training them, because I don’t think the old-school PR professionals or experts might be changed very easily. So the new generation, the Generation F, which I call them up to the title of my book a couple of years ago, Generation F, which comes from “Facebook”, “Fear”, and one more word with four letters. A lot of young people say “We don’t care”. They say: (sorry for the language) “Fuck off. We don’t care. We don’t want to live in this world, we would like to live in another world with different relations, we don’t want to be approached by fake profiles, by fake news, by trolls. So the second word was “fear”, because a lot of people experience a lot of fear from the new media environment. Because they are not used to this. In the past we used to have one TV channel and one newspaper, and that was it. But the Generation F, the new generation, which manages very well with the new environment – I think is very easy to be trained. And also in our business I see a very weak enlargement of the need of professionals in different fields. And I usually say I can make from a doctor a good PR expert in 6 months. But I cannot make from a PR expert a doctor. So it means that I hire doctors, engineers, financial experts, and train them in our offices to learn how to manage with the social media and the public communications and it is a much easier way than to rely on (sorry to say that) the university education. What I see recently is a huge gap between the university education in PR or marketing and our practice. And this is because, as a trend all over the world, education is moving 20 miles/h and in our offices, in case studies, in practice we are moving with 100 miles/h. And it is not the problem of two speeds, it is a problem of the fact that if they are moving with 20 miles/h and we are moving with 100 miles/h, then this gap between us is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, so in any case we hire a person graduated in Marketing or PR anywhere in the world, and I still need to train this person 6 to 8 months in the office, to explain the practical approaches, the practical ways to make PR successful and to make our clients happy.

AS: So when you are looking for someone to hire, even if you are going to train them, what are the characteristics of people, who you are looking for?

MB: It might be weird for you, but I will tell you now. When I have an interview I usually look at the eyes of the candidate and I have one and only one request to the candidate – and this is “sparks in the eyes. Because if the young man or woman have these sparks in the eyes – it means they are ambitious to make a career, to handle the business, to be better and better professionals. It means that everything might be fixed. Because I can make from an amateur a professional from 6 to 8 months, but I cannot make from a lazy person a hardworking one. I cannot make from someone, who creates intrigues within the team, a team worker. So these are characteristics that most probably cannot be changed. So for me, of course English language, and some communication skills are the basics, which I am not even talking about, but when I see that a person has a good attitude to the business, which I called “sparks in the eyes” and would like to make a successful career, then for me it is more than enough. Nowadays you can teach very easily your employees.

AS: That is a great point and I think a useful one for anyone who wants to have a successful career in this industry should bear in mind. So you mentioned Generation F – it seems to me that when you write the next edition of that book you can add another four letter word beginning with “F” – “Fake”. What do you thing the fake news era means for the PR practitioners?

MB: It is a very good point because unfortunately the word “fake” has been circulating in our business much more aggressively in the past 1 to 2 years. And the reason, first of all, is fake news which became much more visible during the US elections last year, but also were existing and still are existing in many countries in the local elections and they concern mainly politicians and politics. I think that this is a problem for the PR business, because we must unite ourselves, we must declare to the society that the professional PR business has to do it transparently, ethically, of course, to take engagement, to take the full commitment that PR professionals will never use trolls, will never use nicknames, will never work illegally on Wikipedia, which happens very often, will never try to influence the society with illegal approaches, or approaches which are very much on the border of legally and illegally. So this is an important task again because PR experts in the past years started to create content. We are the content managers. If we create content and if we are journalists from a certain point of view, because it is a journalism – even to write a short post on Twitter, or even to write a post on your Facebook wall. It is also journalism. So, it is very actual for ICCO, we are discussing with our Board and our Executive Committee to launch a code of content, which will make all the real PR professionals to commit themselves that they will stick to the code of content and whenever they write content it will be only transparent, only the truth, only the real one. So if we manage to convince our colleagues from the PR business worldwide it will be a great step ahead.

AS: Is this something that you are looking to do via ICCO because it seems that it would be a good vehicle to develop this kind of a code of conduct?

MB: We have a draft Code of conduct written by me to discuss within the Executive Committee, and I would like to put it to the attention of the Board very soon. I also had long and extensive talks with my colleague from IPRA, who you know very well – Bart de Vries, the President of IPRA, so we agreed both ICCO and IPRA, that if we have a good basis for such a code of conduct or code of content we will sign it together. ICCO and IPRA, I guess, can cover something like of 60-70% of the PR business all over the world. And it would be a good message. But again I don’t expect that the politicians will sign and promise something. I don’t expect that the media will say we will keep the ethical standards, we will write only the good truth and the reality. Or they can say it is OK and they fully support this. But I think that also it is a code of the PR business to say a word, to make an international appeal that we should keep the standards of honest and ethical business.

AS: Tell us a little bit about your work at ICCO. I think it would be useful perhaps for our listeners to get a better understanding of what ICCO does and perhaps what benefits it could bring to agencies that are part of the organization.

MB: The International Communications Consultancy Organization is a great community, which I am involved within the Executive Committee and the board for the past 12-13 years. And I had the privilege and the amazing chance to follow the development of ICCO, which nowadays unites 48 countries. And we unite the PR associations with more than 4,000 company’s members of these associations. Which means that our voice is getting stronger and stronger every year. And I think that we really do represent the PR communities all over the world. And it is very worth to whatever country or organization or PR agency joins us even just of the fact to be a member of this big group of experts and professionals. With our awards, ICCO Global Awards, we gather more and more excellent projects every year, like you do in the Holmes Awards and the Holmes project, which is much more advanced than ours in ICCO, not only because of the years, but because of the coverage of the topics. I think that we have the good chemistry and the good way to work together, to cooperate. So all those contests, all those award ceremonies at the end of the day are good benchmarks, public and professional benchmarks, for all our members to know how their achievements are progressive and innovative. Secondly, we are organizing every year the ICCO Summit. A lot of people, hundreds of people are joining the Summit exchanging their opinions, but also meeting and exchanging business cards, talking to each other, getting to know the latest trends in the business. So belonging to the voice of the international PR community, keeping a good professional and ethical standards, is a big advantage for each company or national association.

AS: Max, thank you so much, not just for taking part in this podcast, but frankly for all the work you do on behalf of the global PR community. I am aware that you do most of this for no payment at all, and that is very important work. I hope to see you soon and indeed it is a good news that, of course, the Holmes report is working closely with ICCO now in terms of our own global events calendar.

MB: I would like to thank you personally and also to my good friend Paul Holmes for the excellent cooperation, for what you are doing for the PR community, because you are amazing innovators, for the event management and also for the networking between the communities. So without you, guys, maybe without us as well, but without you the PR business in the world will be completely different.

AS: Well, Max, you are too kind. Thank you very much. I hope to see you soon. I am sure I will. Thank you for taking part in our little chat today. We will be back on the Echo Chamber soon. Thank you.

MB: Thank you, Arun. Bye, bye


Full audio you can listen here: http://www.holmesreport.com/latest/podcast/article/podcast-david-singleton-on-uk-politics-maxim-behar-on-global-pr

PR’s fake news: finding meaningful metrics

Blog post by Jack Peat, Head of Digital at SWNS Media Group / 72Point

How many people were actually at Donald Trump’s inauguration? Official estimates say a maximum of 900,000 were in attendance, 100,000 fewer than Obama’s second inauguration and close to a million fewer than his first. Certain publications were happy to pitch much lower than that and soon a stream of images flooded social media showing vast swathes of empty spaces earning journalists the reputation of being “among the most dishonest human beings on earth” according to the incoming President.

In fact, so great is the challenge of fake news that President Trump used his first full day in office to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd. But whatever your opinions are of the man his incoming ceremony showed that the time for playing guesstimations is up, and media and PR professionals need to start listening up.

The PR industry has long wrestled with metrics and has at times become consumed by them. Having to prove the value of brand awareness and the actionable response of positive press coverage is no easy task, and in trying we have almost created our industry’s version of ‘fake news’ in statistics that try to convey a meaningful message, but often end up saying very little at all. Without getting all President Trump on the industry, we really need to look at our numbers.

Let’s start with AVEs. I mean, it’s 2017 and we are still constantly asked to supply these godforsaken metrics. These are the sort of figures provided back in the days when PR account executives would sit with a ruler and a bundle of newspapers and measure the size and space of a piece of coverage to generate an “equivalent advertising value” for that space. Today, people use it because the figures returned are often much higher than any PR budget and so they make PR people look good, but it’s fake news.

Even the more sophisticated measurements are struggling to keep up. Take SimilarWeb. They collect multiple amounts of data and apply an evolving algorithm with a scalable estimator to come up with a ‘best guess’ number ofLet’s start with AVEs. I mean, it’s 2017 and we are still constantly asked to supply these godforsaken metrics how many people view a piece of coverage. It takes into account the popularity of the publication, average click through rates and where the coverage sits on the homepage, but it still returns ludicrously over-beefed numbers that rarely correlate with the number of shares and other actionable responses. In fact, the PR numbers often converge with the top piece of news content from that day, even though anyone with an ounce of rationale would see the disparity.

The problem we are really trying to confront in the PR world is that we’re trying to assign arbitrary numbers (where bigger=better) to disparate campaigns which are all out to achieve disparate objectives. I have been sent countless invites to seminars discussing how best to calculate a measure of success for the PR industry, and on each occasion, I decline on the basis that surely a one-size-fits-all approach is part of the problem.

At 72Point we take each project by its individual merit. If it’s big numbers you are looking for then that’s what we can deliver – we landed on an average of 14 sites per story in December with an average of over half a million eyes per story. If it’s generating a social buzz, then we’re well set up for that too  – our stories achieved an average of 5,546 social shares in the same month. And if it’s generating a bit of Google juice with follow-links and keyword optimised content then let us know, because we are one of few companies in the industry that have eschewed fake metrics for real results, because that is what ultimately counts for our clients.

Top 10 social media trends for 2017

Article by Danny Whatmough, Head of Social, EMEA at Weber Shandwick

The pace of social media change is perhaps the biggest cliché in our industry. As with many clichés, it’s also true. But as well as paying attention to the new tools arriving at speed, we must also regularly step back and assess the broader trends that social media innovations point towards.

So here are my top ten key trends in social media. Some are more macro, some less obvious. But they all give a sense of what we as marketers, and the businesses we work for, should be focusing on in 2017.

The social media identity crisis

In the early days of social, it was all about engagement. Then networks realised they also needed to make money, and paid social/social as a direct response channel took off. As brands now find themselves juggling both, this year we need to look afresh at the way we approach social to better manage the two aspects.

The death of the silo

Social is no longer responsibility of the marketing team: it impacts every part of a business, from HR and product development to customer service and employee engagement. The role of the social media team therefore needs to pivot from being seen as a marketing function, to one that prioritises innovation across the business and acts as a collaborator and integrator.

Immersive social experiences

A trend that just keeps on giving. As the race for attention intensifies, the need to provide social experiences that grab an audience is at its peak. The year of video has come and gone and pure video alone is now not even enough: see the rise of formats such as Facebook Canvas, Live 360 video and Stories (on every channel!).

Messaging apps at tipping point

Monthly active users for messaging apps have surpassed that of social networks. Facebook in particular is going all-in on developing Messenger. But if you really want to see where all this is headed, take a look at the sort of features and functionality that Asian audiences enjoy on platforms such as WeChat. While Europe’s social ecosystem is much more fragmented, it’s still clear that messaging has plenty of scope for evolution.

The battle for live

Facebook and Twitter are both going all-out to be seen as platforms for real-time content. The question for brands to ask is whether something really justifies being live versus pre-recorded. And there are still plenty of reasons why the latter is often the more sensible option.

Transparency in metrics and measurement

Last year, questions were raised around accurate metrics from third-party sites on the average view times of videos. As more money pours into social media marketing, scrutiny around metrics – from viewability and bot traffic to ad blockers and attribution – will only intensify.

Automation and AI

Social media is no stranger to automation; algorithms and analytics have featured automated processes for many years. But as automation intensifies – from driverless cars to drone deliveries and innovative retail concepts like Amazon Go – the question for brands and businesses will be where to draw the line between automation and human interaction.

Data-driven social

Adobe estimates that 72% of the US display market is likely to be programmatic during 2017. Data has the potential to transform social from a “spray and pray” tactic into a highly-targeted vehicle for reaching the right audience with the right message. And yet, too many brands are still relying on broad targeting based solely on data held by the social networks. I’d encourage brands to begin experimenting with how they can use their owned data as well as data from third party sources to improve their social media activity and impact.

Authenticity of social voice

Authentic opportunities to engage audiences will become important this year. Influencer marketing is one option and will certainly continue to see growth, and I also think we’ll see an increased focus on employee advocacy as a channel.

The slow death of always-on

Always-on has been the bedrock of social media marketing for years. But the power of this approach is diminishing. The need for paid support, combined with the need for high-quality content, means that less is definitely more.

This, along with the other nine trends, challenges businesses to really think about the value that social media can add to their business and the value they can bring to their audiences through social.

Then we’ll really see the power of social media.

In conversation with ICCO’s new Regional President – Europe, Juergen Gangoly

In December 2016 ICCO announced the appointment of 5 Regional Presidents, who represent the recently formed Regional Groups covering Europe, Americas, Middle East, Africa and Asia. 

We chat to ICCO’s new Regional President for Europe, Juergen Gangoly, about his new role in the organisation, and his thoughts about the state of the European PR market.

1. You have recently been appointed ICCO’s Regional President for Europe. What does this mean to you, both on a personal and professional level?

To be elected by the European members of ICCO and to represent them in the region is a big honour, but also loaded with lots of visions, expectations and – of course – work. So far, during almost 10 years as an ICCO board member, I can contribute to the development of ICCO and also learn a lot. I am very grateful for all these experiences, cooperation and personal friendship within ICCO. Over all, that’s a good foundation to jointly further grow ICCO and to strengthen the representation of the PR industry on regional and international level.

2. What are your main priorities as ICCO’s Regional President – Europe?

A quite ambitious working program has been developed. Together with the board members and other colleagues in our member organisation, we strive to further grow our successful existing events, projects and our membership base. Further on we plan to develop new projects in areas such as training & education, business ethics, quality standards and guidelines. To make Europe’s PR industry better heard and to set-up regular contacts with governmental and public institutions in Europe is an important task for the years to come. And last, but not least: cross-border business facilitation, new member services and a cross-border expert and agency database are on the wish-list of our members and on our agenda.

3. What is your take on the state of the public relations industry in Europe?

Decision-making structures, the economy and our societies in general are changing rapidly at the moment – and it’s more and more all about professional and efficient communications. Good for us! The PR industry should and could be the innovative front runner of all communications disciplines. We have the experience and qualifications to contribute to society and to the business success of our clients at the same time. The PR industry can heavily benefit from the actual developments in technology and public media reception, but we must put even more focus on measurable results, creativity and quality in execution, business ethics and talent development.

4. Why did you get into communications?

Originally educated as inter-cultural trainer and youth social worker, I started in and with professional PR to communicate NGO projects and educational programs almost 25 years ago. For me, it’s always been about having the opportunity to better explain complex issues and to contribute to society. To help clients from all sorts of backgrounds and to influence – or even change – public views and behaviours fascinated me from minute one in public relations – and it still does.

5. In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry?

Anybody who pretends to be able to look that far in the future has not arrived in the present yet. Change, ever faster change, will be the only constant driver of the PR industry for the foreseeable years to come. Our biggest challenges will probably be the continuous losing of established partners in traditional media and public institutions. They will be replaced by new forms of content generation, other influencers, new – hopefully – democratic structures and modern, more participative forms of decision-making. All this will definitely make professional and strategic communications faster, more personal, more technical, more efficient, but also far more complex. Overall, a great business and working area for experts and for the real “communications architects” in PR.

Conducting research with your own customers

Article by Kevin Smith, author at OnePoll


So you have a customer base and you’d like to conduct an online survey to find out their thoughts on a number of topics. But where do you start? Below are our top tips on how to successfully poll your own customers.

1 : Understand your end goal

As with any research project, understanding your overall aims and objectives for the research should be your first priority. Are you using the research to gauge ongoing customer satisfaction, or as a one off project? Do you want some form of written responses, or purely statistical? If the survey is ongoing, how often would you want to pull the data down? These sorts of questions will affect how you structure your survey and the style of questioning.

2 : Don’t rely on survey templates

There are a wealth of options online whereby you can download or use standard questionnaires. These can be somewhat dangerous as they encourage a lazy and standardised approach. If you are investing time and money into insight amongst your customers or clients, you should fully immerse yourself into understanding exactly what questions you want to ask and what options should be included in those questions. Start with a blank canvas and your results will thank you for it.

3 : Brand it up

The beauty of polling your own database is that ‘you’ are in control of the look and feel of the survey. With this in mind, be sure to include elements in your survey that your contacts will be familiar with. Incorporate your brand identity and this will ensure your respondents will feel at ease answering the survey and trust where their data is going. If you can, include your brand name in the survey url as an additional touch. Keep these design elements consistent too if you are emailing a link to your database with the survey url.

Brand It Up
4 : Engage using variation

Any experienced researcher will tell you how important it is to ensure you keep your respondents engaged during a survey, but this is even more important when surveying your own contacts. Whereas we have a panel of our own that are used to answering surveys, your panel will not fill out surveys on a weekly basis. Therefore, be sure to offer the respondents good variation with question types, question wording and engaging media such as images and videos. The more ‘pretty’ the survey looks, the more likely the respondent will complete the job.

Don’t forget too to add in questions that you may want to cut the data by at the end. For example, if you want to cut by gender or age, be sure to add those into the survey questions.  

5 : Include an opening statement

When respondents start a survey, it’s vitally important to ensure they understand what the survey is about, why it is being conducted, what will happen with the results, how long it will take and (where applicable) what reward or prize they are entitled to. This paints a picture for the respondent and brings them on board with your aims and objectives. The more invested the respondent is, the better quality data they will provide for you. If they understand how long the survey will take from the start, they will more likely continue to the end.

Don’t forget freetext
6 : Don’t forget freetext

As with the nature of online quantitative research, we can become somewhat obsessed with stats and figures. The real secret to a strong piece of research is to gather not only percentages, but also written responses from the respondents. For example, if you know that 5% didn’t do something, why not ask ‘why?’ and have them write a little explanation. You can then go over this data post study and dig a little deeper to understand the thoughts and opinions behind those answers.

7 : Offer a reward or potential incentive

Fortunately here at OnePoll, we have a tried and tested incentive scheme for our panelists that ensures we gain excellent response rates and a high standard of data. For respondents that aren’t used to being part of an incentivised panel, it is worth considering offering them something in return for their time spent responding to your survey. This could be freebies, discounts on products or an entry into a prize draw. You can then gather contact details during the survey (with their consent) and announce the winner post research.

8 : Keep the survey concise

Don’t be fooled with this being low down on our list, as keeping a survey short and snappy is perhaps our most important piece of advice. Whilst you will want to take this opportunity to ask as many questions as possible, try and remain as focused as possible. Avoid asking any questions that won’t be completely useful to you. Ideally, the survey shouldn’t last longer than 10-15 minutes for the respondent to complete. Any more than this and there is a high chance respondents will drop out. And again, be sure to let the respondents know how long the survey will likely take at the very start of the survey.

9 : Don’t neglect effective survey distribution

We often hear clients talk about how big their database is and how they expect to receive thousands of responses to their survey – however, at this point you need to be realistic. A cold database that isn’t used to answering surveys will likely see under 5% response rate, perhaps even as low as 1-2%. With this in mind, make sure you share your survey a number of times via e-mail and other means you have. Anywhere from your website, social media, shop receipts, leaflets…the list goes on. Don’t give up and keep pushing until you’re happy you’ve got as many responses as you can.

10 : Give the data the time it deserves

You’ve done it! You’ve received thousands of responses to your beloved survey and you’re excited about what the stats will reveal. This is where you can get creative with the results. Cut the data as many ways as you possibly can to reveal interesting insights and comparisons. Our MRS accredited research team can help here in terms of how best to analyse your data. In addition, if you’re preparing the results for a big meeting or sales pitch, think about visualising your data with reports, animations, or infographics.

For more information visit: http://www.onepoll.com/

Clean business is good business: corporate governance in a digital age

Article by Claudia Gioia, ‎President & CEO, Hill+Knowlton Latin America

Over the past decade, corporate governance has been the subject of increasing attention and scrutiny, leading to a growing demand for transparency, social responsibility, and higher ethical governance standards.

Corporate governance, which refers to the policies and practices leaders use to manage themselves and fulfill their responsibilities to investors, employees, and other stakeholders, has widespread impact. It affects and dictates the internal functioning and morale of a company, and it also projects externally to the public.

In today’s business environment, having a social media presence is a must for companies. Without one, a company is competitively limited and seen as both archaic and out of touch. Moreover, it allows companies to communicate not only externally, but also internally with employees. Social media then becomes an extension of communication strategy by allowing enhanced transparency and increased interaction between companies, their stakeholders, employees, and the public.

As such, social media can be a powerful tool to enhance reputation, create opportunities, and promote a business, but it also opens a wide lens into the inner workings of a corporation and its leadership. Traditional media exposure and increasing “citizens’ policing” by those globally connected also give way to a new set of more rigorous ethical and transparency standards, revolutionising principles of corporate governance.

In some regions, such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, certain tendencies in corporate governance have emerged.

Corporate governance expert Dr. Richard LeBlanc explains there are several major trends that can be applicable across borders.

These trends include:

1. Ensuring social independence between boards of directors and management.

2. Imposing limits on directors’ term lengths, as well as ensuring organizations are diverse.

3. Choosing directors strictly based on capabilities, skills, and expertise.

4. Implementing audit committees at all levels to lower risk of corruption.

5. Increasing and improving cybersecurity, including the internal management of information, preventing hackings, and providing a secure platform for the board of directors.

In addition to the above trends in corporate governance, it is also critical there be regulation of leadership, as certain leadership models are more conducive to corruption. Susan Frank Divers, senior advisor, LRN Corporation, explains that “it is not enough to create documents with behaviour codes or impose trainings on a company, an introspective analysis must be done.

Leadership models and management corporate structures based on control and secrecy eventually lead to bad corporate conduct.” Additionally, it is a very costly mistake for leaders to ignore the concerns and recommendations of their employees. In today’s digital communications age, a company without transparency is destined to fail.

It is important to highlight the role of the media in stalling corruption and continuing to provide a space for transparency and compliance. The media, and especially social media, provides visibility to the inner workings of companies, often exposing irregularities and instances of corruption. In addition to providing a platform for each individual to do their part, the media helps uncover and follow corruption stories. It has also contributed to making institutions adopt more rigorous and ethical transparency and corporate governance standards.

In this new global information environment, companies that turn away from the policies of honesty and transparency lose credibility and competitive advantages. Let us hope that public criticism, social vigilance, and sanctions by governments and private institutions, as well as ethical leadership programs, will continue to push companies to adopt practices with social conscience and integrity.


Deepak Kumar & Prerna Singh International Journal of Research (IJR) Vol-1, Issue-4, May 2014

Issues & Crisis Communications Capacity Building is not on your To-Do List in 2017? Here is why it should be

Article by Samer Costantini*


Very few would argue against the statement that 2016 has been quite an eventful year when it comes to news. Heck, some might even consider “eventful” as a gross understatement. 

Around the first week of January, and in my annual ‘happy new year’ row-call to friends and family, I asked what some of my friends think 2017 is going to be like. Mind you, those “friends” that I approached advise presidents and heads of states for a living; so their words carry some merit.  Every one of them agreed that 2017 would be about one word: Anticipation.

As a communications professional and adviser, anticipation does not fit well in my neighborhood. We, PR practitioners, prefer facts; and we like them hard and rock-solid. It is either a YES or a NO. Anticipation, on the other hands, is like squeezing a ‘maybe’ in between. In the PR world, there are many examples to why answering with a maybe is not one should be provided to media or stakeholders. Maybe means I am not sure. ‘Maybe’ means I do not have the facts. And not having all the facts automatically puts any communications professionals who is worth his money, in auto-crisis mode.

So, why is 2017 all about anticipating answers?

First, global geopolitics. The 2016 US elections is a no-brainer (no pun intended). One of the most colorful elections that affected individuals, communities, business and even countries around the world. The current US president, unlike his predecessors, does not shy away from naming individuals and/or organizations on his twitter. His tweets against a few named carmakers, for example, got stock prices plummeting and CEOs rethinking their go-to-market plans. In 2017, and along with his Twitter account, the world will be in anticipation for the new US president’s 100 day plan.

In 2016, the world also witnessed the first European country voting for a breakup from the EU. Not just any European country, but a nation that is one of the big five, a member of the G 20 and occupies one of the five permanent seats in Security Council.

The immediate effects of Brexit were felt across London, the UK and the the world’s financial markets. Many businesses that operate in London still have to deal with the ripples and the aftershocks to playout 2017 on the GBP and the future plans of London-based multinationals.

Brexit clearly shows that wherever politics goes, economy usually follows. And in the Middle East, our never-ending geopolitically troubled region, economic challenges are amplified even further. For example, one may argue that the region has seen the worst of oil prices shock in 2015. Many advisors believe that 2017 will be the year a number of companies will take solid steps to offset the changes in government spending, consumer spending and new policies set in place in 2016. Already a number of companies came public with restructuring, mergers and acquisition plans.

To answer all the questions of who, where, what and why, communication practitioners need not only have the facts, but the story behind them. This takes us to the third reason why 2017 is about anticipating answers.

Today’s information consumers do not want to read press statements with charts and tables. They want to see people giving them the answers. Whether on their mobile phones or tablets via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, today’s information and news seekers have changed the way the game is played. They want the information, the full and complete picture, they want it in a way they can share with their networks of friends and family to understand, and they want it now.

A few years ago, being ready to receive any question, from anyone, at any point of time, and with the expectation that you will provide an answer that holds facts that is easy to understand, narrate and aggregate – that is what fundamentally is being in crisis communication mode.

So, to all communication practitioners out there, gear up and brush up on your right-off-the-bat messages. Understanding the dynamics of issues and crisis communication is not a once-a-year drill or a two-day training workshop. In today’s ever-changing geopolitical and economic climate, in today’s evolving information consumption habits, in today’s rapidly technology disrupting innovations; PR and communications practitioners must embrace crisis communication skills as a daily way of life and must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and wear the crisis communications hat at any hour on any day.


*Samer Costantini is a moderator in the “Let’s Talk” Crisis Communications Forum taking place in Dubai this March. He is communication adviser with two decades of experience in corporate communications and public affairs. He served various governmental, international and multinational organizations on global assignments. He can be reached on Twitter at @scdxb  

The death of the big idea

Article by Nick Bishop, Head of Corporate, Golin 

President Trump and Nigel Farage do not seem like the type of politicians to love an algorithm. Both are instinctive campaigners seemingly more attuned to Big Emotion than Big Data. Yet the role of data in helping secure victory for the Leave campaign in the EU Referendum and making Donald Trump the most powerful man on the planet has come into question.

And a mythology has emerged in which a little known firm, Cambridge Analytica, has become a key player in these surprise election outcomes. Cambridge Analytica’s methods rely on a combination of psychometric data – acquired from millions of personality tests – and data collated through voluntary surveys and social media. The company’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, is unashamed about the quantity of data it holds; in the US, close to 5000 data points on every individual.

In the case of the US Presidential election, this data was used to target advertising on social channels, strengthening the conviction of Trump voters in the election run-up, while also persuading Clinton supporters to stay at home.

The effectiveness of the campaigns supporting Trump and the Leave campaign have been scrutinised and rubbished by many. Among the many arguments made against Cambridge Analytica is that before they worked for Trump they worked for Ted Cruz, and that Trump annihilated Cruz at the polls.

Irrespective of Cambridge Analytica’s impact, what no one disputes is the importance of data science in changing behaviour and the sheer sophistication of micro-targeting in election campaigns. If we learn nothing else it is that simple demographic segmentation is outdated. The sheer notion that all Millennials, for example, can be grouped and marketed to as a single homogenous group is ridiculous.

In order to be more relevant, we need to think about segmenting audiences by interest or psychological traits, much as Cambridge Analytica have done. Why then is it still the case – eight years after Obama swept to victory with the support of Blue State Digital – that brand communication programmes are often built on nothing more than perceived wisdom?

The reality is that much of this perceived wisdom is wrong. Audiences probably don’t behave in the way we think they do (or they say they do). Their behaviours and the media mix are more complex than ever before and are changing more frequently.

This ability to segment audiences, test messages and predict behaviour heralds the possibility of an end to mass communications. At the least, it increasingly looks like a blunt and imprecise approach. In the consumer products sector, terabytes of consumer data are being used to sharpen production forecasting, identify the most and least profitable products and determine the most efficient routes for distribution operations. They are also being used for micro persuasion – the targeting of disparate groups, based on their beliefs. Business, like politics, is leading the way.

The communications industry often puts the Big Idea ahead of Big Data. The latter likely holds the seeds for a great many big ideas however – and tells you where to plant them.

Successful pitching – “juniors and giraffes”

Blog post by Adrian Wheeler, FPRCA – accredited PRCA trainer.

Get 20% off all webinars and qualifications throughout January 2017. Click here for more details. 


In a pitch, clients look for evidence that they will get on with us. It’s all-important. No-one ever buys anything from someone they don’t like. In professional business services like PR, chemistry is very often the only reliable indicator.

Most clients, like the rest of us, try to rationalise this factor. ‘They speak our language’. ‘They are on the same page’. ‘They’re on our wavelength’. It means they feel happy to see us every other day for the coming year. Making the wrong choice is embarrassing and possibly career-threatening.

We have to come across as real, three-dimensional people in the brief time we are given for our pitch. If we’re charismatic geniuses, no problem. But what if we’re normal?

I suggest that a pitch should be planned and rehearsed like a play. Each ‘actor’ needs a part which they can perform to perfection. This might happen without planning and rehearsal, but it probably won’t: why take the chance? Don’t forget that smart clients ignore the brilliance of our senior people; they concentrate on the ‘juniors’, who they know will be doing the work.


The other kind of chemistry is what’s going on between members of our pitch team. Clients look for some kind of fizz or buzz. They don’t often see it but, when they do, they want it.

Maybe your pitch team displays sparkling interaction anyway. But why leave it to chance? One agency goes as far as scripting the jokes, interventions and teasing which will show their clients they are a creative hothouse. They win a lot of pitches.

An easier method is the ‘giraffe game’. On the way to the pitch, each team-member is given a word to use in their presentation. It has to be a word that would never normally appear in a new business pitch (like giraffe). The challenge is to use the word without the clients interrupting or laughing.

This game produces a kind of suppressed excitement which selection panels find intriguing. What’s going on? There’s obviously pretty good chemistry between these people…

The best-ever example was the word Jan gave to Sue on the way to pitch for IBM. It cannot be mentioned in a family newspaper, but if we meet at a PRCA event I’ll tell you how Sue managed it. She didn’t have to buy a single drink that evening.

A land of magical realism

Article by Gustavo Averbuj, Partner, Regional Director, Latin America & CEO, Ketchum, Argentina for the World PR Report 2016


A decade of populist governments in the region (Hugo Chavez & Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, plus the Kirchners in Argentina) created years of strong growth in public affairs – as organisations sought to connect with politicians, governments and other decision-makers. Now the political pendulum has swung back to right-to-centre, pro-market governments, demand for PR in Latin America is shape shifting again.  Today digital work, influencer relations, creative campaigning and new media is centre stage. Crisis management skills are also in demand, particularly in markets with significant political unrest like Venezuela.

The big hit that the Brazilian economy has taken recently has obviously impacted in the rest of Latin America.  Most of our economies now expect only moderate GDP growth in the short term.

Each market in the region is at a different stage of development and evolution. Some are close to what you might see in any global PR marketplace, whilst others lag behind – lacking the agencies that insist on global standards. However most global PR networks have some presence in the region.

Whilst Latin America represents between 8 and 15 % of income for most global Fortune companies, PR budgets are usually less generous than they might be elsewhere. The effect is that, unable to replicate bigger more comprehensive Western campaigns, agencies here have had to find new routes to success via creativity.  This approach has brought dividends at global award shows like the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Several areas are at different development stages in the region : digital and mobile capacity, our approach to talent acquisition and training (where just a few of us offer global standard capabilities). Our collective investment in sustainability and CSR is high in a region where the majority of kids are poor and the majority of poor are kids.

Another reason for our creative success is that South America is a cradle of magical realism in literature. We are great storytellers. The lust for life here, and our sense of collective ambition means we naturally collaborate and imbue our work with an uncommon emotional intelligence.  We also bring plenty of passion to our profession and our businesses. It’s fun to work here.

There are global agencies , medium sized boutiques and lots of small specialist shops. With advertising experiencing an identity crisis, PR firms are getting a reputation for conjuring up campaign leading ideas that work across all channels.  Indeed we are also seeing some PR firms leading entire campaign execution across paid, earned, shared and owned media.

In Latam, creativity and imagination reign supreme no matter where ideas originate from.


Download a free online version of the ICCO/PRWeek World PR Report 2016 here.