Inbound a new way of doing PR and Comms

Does public relations and communications need a new concept of ‘Inbound PR’?

‘Yes’ is the resounding answer from Iliyana Stareva in her new book ‘Inbound PR’, This is an essential read for any forward-thinking Comms and PR professional, and a huge wake up call to a PR industry facing a tsunami of change.

You don’t read this book. You breeze through it. It’s full of profound overviews of the challenges we face coupled with process how-to steps that whisk you from theory to practice, and before you know it, you’re an Inbound PR expert.

Inbound PR is a means of identifying and understanding an audience or public and using its content to start a conversation to build relationships based on meeting a need rather than creating a need. As a result, you build relationships, trust and influence.

It’s all stress-tested from Iliyana’s extensive experience. She bridges thought leadership and thought doing through her work as Global Partner Program Manager at Hubspot. Practising what she preaches, Iliyana has collected her insight, tools and processes in a book.

She argues there are two main reasons why ‘inbound’ is the perfect fit for PR: Read more

End of an era as I sell the Wakefield Media Centre


I am marking the end of an era following the sale of my business, the Wakefield Media & Creativity Centre at King Street, Wakefield.

Being a former ‘Wakefield Business of the Year’, ‘Yorkshire Public Relations Professional of the Year, and ‘Yorkshire Regeneration Pioneer Award’ winner it ends a 35 year relationship with the city and Yorkshire.

I was founder director of the Wakefield Media Centre and former Managing Director of GREEN public relations. I’m now focussing on a new career, based in Barry Island in south Wales, where I am planning to launch in the New Year a new social enterprise, ‘Grow Social Capital’ to tackle the changing levels of social capital in communities across the UK.

I was an active figure in the Wakefield and the Yorkshire business community. I was a former Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Yorkshire group, creating in 1994 the world’s first Festival of Public Relations in Leeds – a week-long celebration of the public relations profession, a member of the first Board for the Huddersfield Media Centre and the Round Foundry Media Centre, Leeds, and also a judge on the Yorkshire Awards. (For my sins I was a member of the panel that bestowed the ‘Yorkshireman of the Year’ award on Jimmy Saville. I did atone with a contrite feature article in the Yorkshire Post many years later.)

For the Wakefield district I served as a Board member on the Wakefield City Centre Partnership, and also the Wakefield Theatres Trust. I set up a residents group at my home on St. John’s Square Wakefield, where on leaving we planted a tree to mark my family’s local roots.

My legacies for Wakefield and Yorkshire include:
• Transforming in the late 1980’s the County’s Yorkshire Day celebrations on August 1st with a national award-winning campaign which raised over 10 years an estimated £250,000 for local charities
• In 1991 saving the Leeds-based Treats Ice Cream company (later to become Richmond Ice Cream) from closure by Unilver
• Conceived and delivered an award-winning creative industries hub, the Wakefield Media Centre, creating new jobs, training opportunities and cultural events in an area hit by the decline of the mining industry and is still running after 14 years
• The ‘Story of Media’ statue on the outside of the Wakefield Media Centre building which I designed with local artist John Milsom
• Opening the first IndyCube co-working centre in England at the Wakefield Media Centre
• Putting Wakefield on the creative industries map with the first major public relations agency to be based in the city and establishing a local creative industries networks, the forerunner to the city’s Cognitiv group, now part of the Wakefield BID
• Creating an Investors in People backed graduate training scheme providing a chance for local graduates to get their first break in PR
• Five of my former staff now running their own public relations agencies in the region
• Was a founder director of the Bully-Banks campaign group which secured partial justice for 18,200 small businesses across the UK who were recognised as victims of bank mis-selling who received £2.2 billion in redress

Reflecting on my time in Wakefield and Yorkshire I became an adopted Yorkshireman and am both proud of helping others during my time, but also sad in marking the end of an era cutting my formal ties to Wakefield and Yorkshire.

 

 

We had many good laughs over the years. Like the time I had the idea of inventing a new art form ‘audio sculpture’ by making our Media Centre Britain’s only ‘moo-ing building’ (we broadcast the sound of a cow moo-ing every hour.) I got my old mate Jay Jones, who lives in San Francisco to do a photocall while he was visiting us, posing as a ‘Californian Audio Sculpturist’.

 

Helping Ireland lead the way in new qualification for Creativity in PR and Comms


I am really delighted to be working in partnership with the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) to launch a new professional qualification in ‘Creativity’ for the communications industry – believed to be a world first – enabling professionals to achieve a competitive advantage in their work.

The course is designed to provide both the strategic and tactical skills to achieve better results in offline and online communications and improve delegates’ management of the creative dimension at work.

Delivered through four linked weekend courses, with assessment based on producing a campaign case study, successful delegates will receive a Certificate in ‘Creativity and Creativity Management in PR and Comms’. Read more

Interview: Mark Borkowski and Andy Green

Andy:  Mark, how would you describe yourself?
Mark:   ‘A good human’.

A:  A good human in a vocational sense?
M: In a vocational sense I think my Skype handle is ‘publicist’ so I am a publicist. That’s on my passport. I think that I would have said ten years ago I was a storyteller, but that has become much maligned and everybody now’s a friggin’ storyteller. Read more

7 lessons from running for President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

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A year ago I ran in the elections for President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). I only decided to stand a week before the deadline, while working in Ghana, to ensure there would be an election.

What started out as a last-minute, genuine desire to do good became horribly distorted with the divisive nature of electioneering; imagine the recent Referendum campaign but this time it’s personal, coupled with the ignominy of my being disqualified, and got even worse.

Standing for election was a huge cost in time, energy, health and well-being – even hurting those I love the most in this world.

Like any negative experience, time can often be a great healer. It enables you to put the torrid times in a wider perspective. You unearth dividends from disruptive thinking – sparking new insights and ideas you wouldn’t have garnered had you not found yourself in an unexpected situation.

Crucially, the bad times provide valuable lessons to learn and grow from.

Here is my account of the positives gained and hopefully serve as a guide for the 3 excellent candidates standing in this year’s CIPR Presidential election. (I happen to be backing Sarah Hall.)

I am sure they won’t have to go through what I did, but there’s still some wider lessons. Read more

Why the PRCA must keep ‘public relations’ – for the future of PR – and even humankind.

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The UK organisation currently known as the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) is about to make a decision to change its name – even considering dispensing with the words ‘Public Relations’.

This is a plea to keep the epithet ‘Public Relations’ for its own self-interest and for the wider good of the profession – and the world at large.

For its own self-interest retaining ‘Public Relations’ preserves its acronym and most common usage of its title – ‘the PRCA’.

Neither do you need a crystal ball to predict that at some point, in the not-too-distant future, there is going to have to be a debate about whether there should be a merger between the two organizations operating within the UK public relations sector – the PRCA and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. The PRCA retaining the ‘Public Relations’ part of its name facilitates any future marriage.

It is understandable that an organization formed in 1969 recognized the need to reflect the fact that it was no longer limited to just those working as consultants. ‘Consultants’ has to go.

Yet, the advent of integrated communications, with the blurring of the lines between different communications disciplines such as advertising, brand management and digital marketing could tempt a forward-looking strategist to adopt ‘Professional Communicators’ as a catch-all theme.

This would be fundamentally wrong.

Read more

How Leave won the Meme Wars in Referendum and lessons for you

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The UK is still reeling from a Referendum vote that surprised the global markets, institutions, and even the Leave campaign supporters.

One lesson is how the Remain campaign lost the ‘Meme War’.

Mention ‘memes’ and the fashion now is to think of virial Internet messages that capture people’s imagination and get passed on.

Yet memes are more profound, I would argue they form the DNA of communications, of how information gets passed on, received and crucially passed-on again.

And what’s clear the Leave campaign won its Meme War – by gaining a disproportionate part of popular culture – leading to a majority result in favour of the UK leaving the EU.

Read more

How the BREXIT vote is the latest consequence of our Social Capital crisis

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How many working class people do you know? Did half the people you know vote Brexit?

The Referendum result revealed a disturbing reality of two tribes within Britain – and what’s worse they’re increasingly having less to do with each other.

It is all part of a hidden crisis within our society – the decline of Social Capital – and it was partly responsible for the recent Referendum result.

This hidden Social Capital crisis affects the very heartbeat of how our communities work. Fewer people devote themselves to the communal good. Less of us are getting involved in doing things, running things or just hanging around with each other – how we help each other to help each other – reducing our capacity to connect, co-operate and collaborate.

As a result, things we took for granted in our communities start to happen less and less, or not happen at all, and people are increasingly operating within distinct silos of like-minded people – and we are all poorer as a result.

Read more

Tired of redefining the story of PR? Yet we’re nearly there

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A sign of a good friendship is that it can withstand differences of point of view. Hope my relationships with Stephen Waddington – Wadds – stands this test.

We have a shared interest is in the evolving story of public relations – how the profession and industry needs to adapt to revolutionary new circumstances.

In a recent blog Wadds raised the issue of what he calls ‘definition fatigue’ in the efforts to redefine public relations where he states:

“My view is that the constant calls to redefine public relations help no one. They fuel confusion and show public relations to be an insecure and anxious profession.’

He highlights studies that report recording over 476 definitions of public relations.

And he makes the direct point, Practitioners such Andy Green suggest that public relations theory is poor. This too is unhelpful and does nothing to improve to the relationship between theory and practice.”

“A theory is a theory until someone debunks it or comes up with a better one. If you don’t like the theory come up with a better one. But do it properly through a literature review, original research, and critical analysis.”

Wadds is someone I regard as a dear friend, whom I hold in deep respect and regard his stint as CIPR President as one of the Institute’s best-ever leaders.

As I respond, two phrases come to mind:

The first is, ‘If two people agree on everything, one of them is useless.’ The other, by the science fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is already here. It is just unevenly distributed.”

Our future is already here. It’s just a case of spotting the early warning indicators.

And the future for public relations is going to be much worse than a case of fatigue, but a poorer place for everyone working in public relations and our society.

If we care about our profession, the difference we can make to our world, we actually need to be insecure and anxious, because there’s a certain writing on the wall.

Yes, it is a tiring exercise but if we ignore the wake-up calls then our world, and the wider world, will be a worse place.

The current state of public relations

Where are we now with public relations?

At the very least the well-being of Public Relations is flat-lining. I believe this to be a portent to a long-term decline – unless is something is done.

The volume of Google searches on a subject is a brilliant tool for anticipating the next. Searches for ‘public relations are flat-lining.

In recent weeks I’ve witnessed a host of anecdotal evidence confirming this flat-lining within the industry, such as comments overheard among PR consultants that budgets are flat-lining at best.

And if I needed mega-indications of the significance  of this issue came the announcement this week by the UK Public Relations Consultants’ Association that it is reviewing its very name – where it may not even be called ‘public relations’ any more.

Their announcement contained a fascinating study among UK PR consultancies on whether they include the term ‘public relations’ in their name, or even refer to it on the home pages of their web site, and other key indicators.

The study revealed:

  • Less than 10% of the UK top 50 consultancies have ‘PR’ in their name.
  • Just over 20% have a reference to ‘PR’ on their home page
  • Just over 40% use ‘PR’ in their description of ‘About Us’ on their web site
  • Just over 50% use ‘PR’ in their Google short descriptor.

The PRCA also noted that, ‘Comparable data does not appear to exist regarding the names adopted by in-house teams. Our sense however from speaking with members operating in that part of the industry is that relatively few term themselves as ‘PR Teams’ .

In my own work, I teach part-time ‘international public relations’ on a Masters degree at Cardiff University. The course is not called ‘international public relations’ but rather ‘Global Communications Management.

This is the reality of ‘public relations’. There is a growing trend of people not even using the term ‘public relations’.

My strong belief is that this is part of a long-term decline and downward trend.

And it’s not just a matter of academic debate.

PR agencies are reporting that they are getting further down the line in not being the first port of call with organizations addressing their communications and engagement needs. Digital marketing, advertising and brand consultancies are increasingly getting first dibs, with decreasing crumbs for PR.

That’s smaller budgets, less power and declining prestige and influence.

My experience last year of being disqualified in the CIPR President election because I was guilty of ‘advertising’ shows how pernicious this issue of uncertainty and a lack of definition of ‘public relations’ – and consequently ‘advertising’ – can be. (I still totally refute the charge of ‘advertising’ where my activity consisting of offering a £50 book token prize for a design competition among a creative community. As a consequence, the Institute currently has a formal definition of ‘advertising’ as any form of ‘paid publicity’.)

So, the lack of a clear-cut definition impacts on us in many ways.

And the main reason I believe for the decline in public relations is a lack of clear definition of ‘PR’ with a supporting theoretical framework. In an era of revolutionary change and upheaval in communications and communications channels PR’s response has been hindered by a lack of definition of what it does, and why it exists.

In my work on memes it is not the ‘best’ that survive and thrive. It is the most coherent and easily copy-able.

A future of a lesser public relations is not inevitable, nor the optimum outcome for our society, but a consequence of millions of responses to the challenge of how do we communicate and engage following the paths of least resistance and easiness – all away from ‘public relations’

I can understand Wadds’ fatigue. We worked together on launching #PR redefined project 3 years ago. (And it still contains much valuable insight and this Google community is one of its legacies.)

Yet I’m reminded of something Danny Boyle, the film director once told me: “If success was a door with a neon light above it saying ‘Success’, you can bet there will be a big queue. And the rich will be at the front of it.”

Redefining PR hasn’t been easy.

I believe the task has been hampered by too narrow a focus on its own narrative, and seeking to change from within its sphere rather than from inter-sections with other domains, while also seemingly ignoring the revolution in neuroscience and psychology.

If there have already been 476 definitions I invoke the Thomas Edison quote that he tried 10,000 different ways to invent the light bulb. Yet, each iteration somehow took him a step nearer his destination. It’s been only 476 plus.

To create change we need new concepts and theory which is accompanied by change in the real world.

The irony of Wadds declaration is that I believe we are almost there, nearly at the finishing tape.

Catherine Arrow has produced an excellent case which mirrors much of my thinking.

We have an existing body of insight, including much from Wadds himself, that awaits further synthesis into a coherent conceptual framework and narrative.

We are nearly there.

I would challenge Wadds on how paradigms change. Kuhn’s analysis of paradigm change is not like a new washing powder coming along and people choosing new Brand X over their regular powder.

Change instead, works through outliers, or innovators creating new thinking and ways of doing with Early Adopters creating a new way of doing. The Early and Late Majority only change when upholding their status quo become too painful.

Often, the reality of paradigm change only comes when the upholders of the dominant paradigm start dying out.

And I do take the call from Wadds as a ‘put up or shut up’ challenge, to which I will be shortly responding in the next few weeks.

Yes, I will be supplying a literature review, original research, and critical analysis. And what’s more, will make it meme-friendly with an easy-to-use Checklist to make it easy to put into practice.

The quest for redefining public relations is not about disappearing down a self-indulgent, self-defeating rabbit hole.

Yes, it is a tiring exercise

We are however, near the start of a 5 lane super highway that connects to a better future for public relations and as a vital tool for human society.

Watch this space, but don’t give up just quite yet. It has been a tiring journey but we’re almost there.

 

 

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