Paying for brand ambassadors: worth it or not?

In our last blog post we touched upon how your employees were your best brand ambassadors. However, many brands also pay high profile celebrities to endorse their products and/or services such as Brumby’s, who has recently announced its partnership with Matthew Hayden.

While many brands have successfully leveraged a celebrity relationship to their benefit, a large number have failed to engage their core consumer with the new ‘face’ of their business.

Why so?

Brand ambassadors must be picked carefully. Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean your target consumer will instantly warm to them. What’s key here is to ensure your brand ambassador is relevant to your products and services and, in turn, your customer.

The main aim of having a celebrity brand ambassador on board is to transfer the equity of said person to your business, resulting in enhanced preference and a heightened perceived credibility for your brand. They should be instantly recognisable and aligned with your proposition.

Target has recently demonstrated a great re-positioning campaign using the services of fashion guru, Gok Wan. This has worked brilliantly for them as Gok is well-known – and, importantly, liked – by consumers from all walks of life. He is neither too ‘fashion-forward’ nor hyper-critical, meaning the average Target customer feels assured that he – and therefore Target  –  really does have their best fashion interests at heart.

Linking with a public figure who is known for their brilliant charity or community work can also be an effective way to ‘piggy-back’ your messaging. Our client, Poolwerx, recently did exactly that, joining forces with Kids Alive founder, Laurie Lawrence, to promote swimming pool safety this summer. You can see more about that here.

Of course, it can go horribly wrong. Affiliating yourself fully with a celebrity means that if they fall from a great height, so do you. Think Kate Moss and the cocaine scandal – hugely embarrassing for the likes of Chanel and Burberry.

On the flipside, some great crisis PR can rescue your brand and even turn a disaster into a success. Rimmel stuck by Moss and some have argued that it actually boosted its profile and helped Moss obtain even greater international appeal. Her rock ‘n’ roll goddess status certainly didn’t take a hit – it just added to her ‘bad girl’ persona, which Rimmel evidently thrived upon.

But in truth, does anyone really want their brand to be associated with such negative connotations, regardless of the outcome?

In summary, there is certainly a place for celebrities in marketing and PR campaigns. Just be sure to choose someone who will reflect your company’s ethos and values, and who will bring more than just their name to your brand.

Corporate Trolls

We are all familiar with the recent case of Charlotte Dawson who used her large online presence to bring to the fore the issue of trolls. Unfortunately, this gave the offenders the public recognition they undeniably crave and we saw every troll come out from under their metaphorical bridges and poor Dawson wound up in hospital.

While this example was a personal attack, the issue with trolls extends to the corporate world and businesses need to be prepared to handle them.

There is a rise in “Corporate trolling” and we are not talking about healthy online banter where people share opinions and views about a product or an opinion. Troll comments are usually unwarranted negativity that is personal, defamatory and generally anonymous.

The perception is that because the comments are made online they are somehow easier to ignore or “block”, but taking it from public view does not eliminate the problem and at times can add fuel to the fire.

Social media is the forefront for trolls and unfortunately victims are not able to confront their faceless attackers thanks to privacy policies that many online platforms have. These policies that exist to protect our online information from being shared is now the “mask” for these online predators.

Earlier this year Commonwealth Bank Australia was the victim of a troll who impersonated one of its senior Bankwest executives. The troll created a fake account under the guise of the staff member and posted inflammatory material about the company. Uncovering the identity of the troll was a costly and unsuccessful exercise because of privacy policies set up by Twitter.          

Social media risk management is fast becoming a profession in itself with businesses looking to their protect brands online and prevent them from becoming prey to these kinds of attacks.

While it’s important your brand is using social media as part of its online strategy, equally imperative is identifying risks of online networking and implementing a plan to deal with issues quickly and effectively.


Remind staff of their responsibilities online. Employees are able to associate themselves with your brand via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In doing so they have a responsibility to ensure these connections do not reflect negatively on your brand. Develop a staff policy that covers posts both personally and on behalf of your brand.

Intellectual property

Company trolls are fast becoming an issue. Staff should be warned about the consequence of anyone found leaking sensitive or confidential information online or using “inside” information against their employers.

She said what?!

Trolls like to attack the vulnerable. Keep messaging in post’s clear and concise. Don’t be left apologising for a comment that was misconstrued or taken the wrong way by a user. Online faux pas spread quicker than wildfire, so always proofread. .


Hashtags are an excellent way to comment on trending topics. However creating your own can result in what is called a hashtag hijack. Be wary of personalised tags especially in a crisis.

Customer relations

Indentifying genuine customer concerns from a troll can be difficult. A real issue left by a customer will provide a means of contacting the user, content will have information that is related to a store, time or place and they will be able to provide evidence of the incident. Trolls are usually anonymous and leave little information.

Social media provides a large opportunity for businesses to engage online with a broad audience. Trolls are a minority of that audience and with the right policy you will be able to handle issues and negativity quickly and effectively before they become a trending topic on twitter.

Social Media Age


If you haven’t already noticed social media looks like it’s around to stay. Choosing to ignore it could mean you are missing out on golden opportunities to communicate with customers, gain valuable exposure for your brand and keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Whilst I am sure you don’t doubt the importance of social media it is time consuming, at times stressful and involves a whole hearted approach. So if you are considering tackling the world of social media here are a few good reasons to look at involving an agency.


Whilst it’s ok to sometimes post fun irrelevant updates too many businesses make the mistake of making these post’s the core of their content. The flip side to this is don’t want to flood your followers/friends etc. with all business and no pleasure either. It is all about balance and finding that balance is easier when you have a strategy. This involves planning content, knowing your audience and having social media guidelines for your business to follow.


These three letter acronyms are on everyone’s lips. If we had a dollar for every time we heard “I want to be the first listing on Google” we probably wouldn’t be writing this blog. Social Media Optimisation, Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing all go hand in hand when increasing your Google ranking. Social media plays an important role in keeping up to date information about your company online and accessible to potential customers, while assisting in flushing out negative sentiment that may be online about your brand. Social media enables you to utilise links and content that works with Google’s search algorithms. Remember, if Google rankings are your goal it should always be coupled with a SEM and SEO plan.

Rules of engagement

The experts in social media will be able to give you tips and techniques on handling social media engagement, good and bad. The potential for negativity is a real risk for any brand but it is not a bad thing if it is handled well and never ignored. Proper engagement and management is just as important as being on the platform. Followers of your page never want blatant advertising, narcissistic self promotion or constant pictures of your two pugs, not matter how cute they are. Keep it real always engaging and remember who you are talking to and why.

Choose your platforms wisely

While it’s great to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, have a blog and YouTube channel, unless you’re managing social media 24/7 – and let’s be serious who has the time- the result will be stagnant pages. Maintaining quality consistent content is imperative for social media success. An agency will be able to give you expert advice on what platforms your business should be focussing on and assisting in creating quality content for you.

Social media should be treated with as much care and scrutiny as any other form of marketing you decide to invest in. This is why you want to start it off on the right foot. Treat it like any relationship with your customers, and remember you don’t have a second chance at a first impression.

If you are looking at Social Media as part of your PR and Marketing strategy for 2012 contact Ignite PR & Marketing for more tips.

Image Source – Mashable Comics

2012 Olympic Games – Week 1

Olympic Game’s fever has taken over the globe and amidst the record breaks, racial commentary from athletes, doping scandals and PR agencies promoting infidelity websites for athletes there are journalists everywhere thinking of the next hot headline and waiting for an athlete to fall from grace. Has our thirst for juicy headlines overshadowed the Olympic spirit and hampered the performance of our athletes?

Before the Games we had the utmost confidence in our athletes. James Magnussen is a perfect example of solid hopes we placed in one athlete to bring us home the gold thanks to strong media attention prior to the games, outstanding performances and interviews radiating confidence and invincibility. Like a good salesman he told us we bought a Ferrari.

So what happened the moment he didn’t live up to expectation? The media and much of the nation turned on him when he needed support most.  Now some will argue had he not shown such a consistent self assured, perhaps verging on cocky, attitude everyone would have been kinder but the question begs did we have the right to put someone under such scrutiny because he felt confident leading into the games. Was James overconfident or was he just asked questions that can only be answered in one way “yes I am going to win”.

The flip side is the winners circle. High performing athletes are heavily scrutinised by the mistakes of the past and disbelief when someone does exceptionally well. Young Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen blitzed the last leg of her medley, smashing previous record holders out of the water. Questions are now being posed; how did a 16 year old girl beat the previous male record? Were the same questions asked when Phelps broke every record in the book? This win was gold for not only Ye but media outlets around the world.

It comes down to how you handle the media. Sally Pearson who embodies everything Australia loves. Humble winner who has the “I’ll give it my best” attitude but continuously shows how talented she really is only on the track. She won the hearts of Australian media and spectators alike. Why? She comes without arrogance and is not a tall poppy waiting gloriously to be taken down a peg or two. Sally never gives too much away – Aussie sweetheart or just media savvy.

So how does the media attention affect the performance of our athletes? Probably less than we think (or maybe more), but like any good PR knows it does shape our perception of the athletes. Are headlines of off field frivolities and personality flaws really what we want to be publicising about our athletes when support comes from the public who read our papers? Unfortunately, happy flawless athletes don’t sell papers. Accessibility of news and need for constant updates have taken the focus from performance updates and wins alone to delving into the deeper darker side of our athlete’s just for content. So why is this style of reporting so popular? Because people want answers when our winners aren’t winners and the winners are…. 16 year old Chinese school girls.

Australians’ quintessentially do not like arrogance, tantrum throwers or a bad sport and unfortunately these traits are not unheard of amongst high profile athletes. The media has partial responsibility though for shaping perceptions and overall the support we have for the athletes representing our country. Reporting of the Olympic Games needs to focus less on controversy and more on what our athletes (not just Australian) are good at – Sport.

Finding your Perfect PR Partner

Public Relations is a cost effective way to ignite your brand with the right audiences and it should be part of every marketing communications plan. But when is the right time to hire a PR agency and when and how do you find one that matches your brand?

Ask yourself this. Does your business have the capacity to fully manage PR efforts internally? Or, are you ready to take your brand to the next level by putting it in the spotlight?

The marketing function specifically is a specialist area and not all entrepreneurs or managers understand it fully, nor should they need to. This is why many look for supporting agencies.

How do I find a PR agency? Google search using key words relevant to your company like franchising, retail, pr agency. Or, research companies you admire or that are similar to you and look at who is doing their PR through their online press releases. 

But outsourcing to the experts is a tough decision to make. The PR agency becomes an extension of your operation. It speaks with media on your behalf and represents your brand. How do I pick the perfect PR match? Two words: experience and communication.


Are you a coffee franchise? Look for PR agencies who have worked with other coffee franchises before. They understand your needs, understand the market and will hit the ground running when they learn your brand. Look to see if they have hit results similar to what you’re expecting with your brand. This could be coverage in national newspapers or consumer magazines.

But don’t look past an agency that isn’t heavily experienced in your respective industry. The key to good PR is the ability to forge relationships with editors and broadcasters for your company and any agency with a good PR account team can do this well. Look for client testimonials from brands similar to yours, and see what they say about the prospective agency.


Good PRs have exceptional communication skills, so you be the judge. How did you feel the first time you spoke or met with an agency? Do you feel comfortable with them and excited about potentially working with them or do you feel like you’re being “sold”? If this is how they represent their brand, it’s probably how they’ll represent your brand.

Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about how they work. How often you can expect communication from them, particularly when it comes to activity and results. Ignite PR & Marketing sends weekly wraps of PR activity to all of our clients as well as monthly or bi-annual PR reports. We meet with clients monthly to discuss successes, challenges and any upcoming opportunities. We find that consistent communication with clients gives us the best opportunity to ignite their brands.

Our Director, Trina McColl, is always available to answer questions about how we can help ignite your brand. 

Ignite PR & Marketing is an established and experienced firm with a strong background in both franchising and retail services.

Driving award success with PR

Late last year we gave you tips on how to prepare a great award submission. Last week we put together a list of some of the business awards coming up across a number of categories this year including the BRW Fast Franchises List, Telstra Business Awards and Franchise Council of Australia Excellence in Franchising Awards. We also talked about how entering awards can benefit your business but what we’ve only touched on is how to maximise award success and leverage the credibility that comes with it. 

We’ll touch on a few common tactics used and you’ll learn that sometimes it doesn’t matter if you’re first or fifth. What does matter is timing, making sure your tactics are prepared and executed on time so you’re not announcing your success when it’s too late.

Before the winners are announced

“Congratulations”, says the email. “Your company has been shortlisted for the 2012 Amazing Company of the Year Awards”. Some awards will let you know you’re in the running which means it’s time to put your PR hat on.


Prepare your message. Be clear on what to say if you win. Firstly, the General Manager or CEO should be the nominated spokesperson for interviews. Some key information you should have prepared are company initiatives (ie the projects that won you the “green” award, for example), sales and profit growth (it might not always be appropriate to boast your exact figures but % growth still shows your company had a strong year) and the other elements contributing to your company’s success.


Prepare a media release. In the weeks or days leading up to the announcement prepare a media release detailing all the above juicy information about your company. What is it that really differentiated your company in the market that year. This is what you’ll use to send information to journalists and key media contacts and it should be ready to go out as soon as the announcement is made.

Look for relevant features. BRW sends all shortlisted franchises an editorial survey to complete prior to the announcement of its Fast Franchises List. If you get an email like this make sure you reply as your responses are used for feature stories. In fact, get in touch with any publication – print or online – that generally covers the award you’ve entered to ask about what feature stories it may be developing and if your company has experienced the trends or themes they’re writing about let them know.

After the winners are announced

Pitching. Get your media release out to all contacts relevant to your award. Everyone will be doing this so make sure your point of difference is clear. Continue to follow up with your contacts keeping in mind what it is about your company’s success that is most interesting to what they’re writing about.

Credibility of an award. Winning an award highlights you as an industry leader or innovator and has the potential to attract new clients and customers. Let stakeholders know – customers, suppliers etc. All suitable touch points of communication (company website, email signatures & business cards, company letterheads, newsletters, collateral and brochures) should mention your win also. Use the award’s logo and a brief line similar to as follows. ie. 2012 Small Business Awards Winner (logo).

Social Media. Social networking sites are another great way to reach out to your audience (ie. use hash tags likes #telstrabizawards on Twitter or announce your win on your business’s Facebook page) and share any exposure you may receive as a result of your award success.

Not the best but among the best

We encourage our clients to enter awards that are relevant to their respective industries. Often, companies won’t enter awards if they don’t think they’ll win. Our experience has proved it sometimes doesn’t matter if you win, so long as you’re seen among the best.

Two of our clients made the 2011 BRW Fast Franchises List last year. Pool and spa care franchise PoolWerx made the list for the eighth consecutive year while home appliance rental franchise Mr Rental made it for the first time and we achieved positive coverage for both of them for very different reasons. For PoolWerx, it was about what the company was doing to remain at the top for a number of years. For Mr Rental, it was about what strategies over that previous year had lead to its business success and resulting recognition among the top franchises in Australia.

Over the past five years, Ignite PR & Marketing has had success entering its clients  in awards including BRW Fast Franchises List, Telstra Business Awards, BRW Fast Starters, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, BRW ANZ Private Business Awards, ActionCOACH My Business Awards, Franchise Council of Australia Excellence in Franchising Awards. If you’d like further advice on entering your company in business awards get in touch with Ignite here.

Targeted strategy: a campaign that hits the mark

Companies want to see themselves in the media; online, print and broadcast, but what they are doing or saying in this space determines its relevance or value to that company. Let’s have a look at the basic steps involved in planning an effective and measureable PR campaign.

Firstly, you must know the company goals. What it is the company trying to achieve and how can PR work to help achieve them.

Who are you talking to? Determine who it is you want your campaign to communicate with, your target audience. Is it the people buying your products/services, prospective employees, local businesses? Here are 15 questions you can ask yourself to define your target market.

What are the brand messages? I’m a good corporate citizen. I’m a great business to work for. I deliver trustworthy and high quality products and services. Your key message is what you want your audience to learn from your campaign. It’s what you’ll use to relate and appeal to them. A PR campaign may very well have multiple key messages to attract different target audiences.

This is a very simplified outline of planning for a campaign but if you have these key elements determined it will help your tactical execution be more relevant and effective. Here are some tactical ideas to help achieve your communication goals.

Good PR influences an audience. It’s the voice, and if no-one is listening it is failing. It’s not good enough to just get any old type of coverage if it’s not achieving anything.

Here are a few good measures we use to help evaluate the outcome of a campaign and these are important to consider when planning your tactical execution.

1. Overall sentiment – we evaluate exposure by its overall sentiment (negative, neutral or positive). Does the newspaper article position the company positively or negatively? This is a measure of the general tone and it’s usually very obvious.

2. Supports brand messages – does the exposure include your key brand messages related to your company goals? This is what differentiates your company and if these aren’t included then the PR has failed.

3. Call to action – is your target audience encouraged to take action? A successful PR piece will incite a call to action like visiting your company’s website or calling your phone number or to think about changing behaviour. This is what allows your customer to take the next step and engage with your brand.

4. Support above the line campaigns – PR is in a unique position where it provides the opportunity to validate a company’s brand messages. Whereas advertising screams “buy me”, PR subtly informs consumers about reasons why “buying you” will benefit them. Any good exposure driven by PR should support above the line campaigns.

Adding value to your brand through Facebook

Just this month Commonwealth Bank became one of the first Australian banks to start using location-based marketing through Facebook giving away a year’s worth of free movie tickets to anyone who opened an account with the bank after “checking in”. The offer was available to the first 2,200 customers and expired within weeks.

Gone are the days of broadcasting through Facebook – raving about new products, pushing news stories. Just as our friends don’t care when we boast, we’ve come to realise our Facebook fans don’t either.

Facebook has developed into an important communication tool for businesses and the better we understand its fundaments the better we can utilise it.

The opportunity Facebook presents to connect with our customers is enormous. With just the click of a button we can engage a new audience and interact with existing customers in new and exciting ways.

But with the amount of posts generated each day we need to produce engaging content to be noticed. We need to use Facebook as added value to have consumers create a connection with the brand – customers won’t react if we don’t excite them. We need to be fun, creative and respond to their needs.

Here are some things that show you’re doing it right:

Content is key. Build a resource, be creative

Think about what your customers are interesting in. We should be offering our customers something extra that they can’t get elsewhere.

Creating a resource is a great way for customers to engage with our brands – providing information and tips on how to use our products and services, for example. Understanding that small business owners buy computers Dell created a social media resource so small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.

Give fans teasers in the lead up to a product launch, exclusive information or a sneak peek. We’re not all good writers so be fun and creative. Use engaging materials like video blogs, photos and interesting links. Offer contests and coupons exclusively to Facebook users.

Two-way communication

Invoke responses by asking questions (questions at the end of posts are likely to generate a better response). Utilise the opportunity to listen and interact with customers. Listen and learn about your product, how customers use it and how it’s perceived.

Try to respond to all customer questions and comments and facilitate conversation but remember you can’t change what they think. We only have to go back a year to Nestlé’s palm oil social media debacle to see why.



Fun and casual tone to match the medium

Keep messages clear and concise – shorter posts have a higher engagement rate. Words like “winner”, “win”, “event”, “special”, and “offer” will resonate well if running a promotion. Requests to “like”, “post”, “comment”, or “tell” us something improve our chances of engagement.

Snapshot of the best

Coca-cola  runs innovative promotions and fun, interactive features and has been great at encouraging its 33+ million fans to leave comments, photos and videos on its page.

When a non-fan lands on Red Bull’s page, they’re encouraged to “Like” it with an attention-grabbing image straight away. The team behind the page is extremely in tune with Red Bull’s target audience and creates custom apps and unique content.

Competitions and games are a great way to engage fans and Skittles does this well.  “Fame the Rainbow”, which puts a fans face as the profile pic for a week, does this well and is consistent with the brand. 

Creating a Facebook fan page for your business is simple, but getting it well established with customers takes time and planning. You can’t expect to have a huge following overnight. Content is key – be creative and interesting and make it easy to share or participate in.

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Five ways to maximize your agency spend

Spending hard-earned money to hire a creative or public relations agency is a big decision for many small business or franchise owners. If you are paying someone else to help you build your business (especially when you might not be paying yourself) you need to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Here are five ways to ensure you are getting the most out of your agency spend.

1)      Get your agency to manage the liaisons and marketing collateral with designers. There are some good designers out there but there are also many who will chew up your precious time and consistently fail to deliver. Agencies only use designers they can rely on as their livelihood depends upon it. Agencies are also skilled at handling erratic creative types, so give them the brief, then hand over the responsibility to save time and money. Don’t attempt to do your own logo unless you are a graphic designer.

2)      Let your agency be creative. You hired an agency to help you build your brand, obtain publicity and to generate awareness. Agency staff  know what they are talking about and are results and service orientated. Trust them to do their job to help deliver you the best outcome. If you aren’t going to let them have any creative reign, don’t hire them in the first place.

3)      Attend agency functions and events. If your agency puts on an event to show gratitude for your business make sure you turn up with an open-mind and ample business cards. Agency events, whether social or educational, provide excellent opportunities to network with other results-orientated businesses and can be a great way to expand your network. It can also be a great opportunity to learn something new and enhance your skills.

4)      Be open to new ideas.  What’s the point in hiring people to help you grow your brand if you are going to shut down everything they say? Some of the best ideas have come out of agencies. Listen and give them a chance to prove their worth.

5)      Get your agency to negotiate media buying and advertising for you. As well as having strong relationships with designers, most agencies will also have excellent relationships with advertising representatives. This means they have more power when negotiating deals and know how much they can push ad reps to obtain maximum value.

Wrap up 2010 with thoughtful presents to build your presence


Christmas is known as a time of giving and showing goodwill. A fantastic way to show you care about the people you have worked with all year is by sending them a simple Christmas present or a Thank You card. In today’s world of cyberspace it’s rare we send a card or a gift to someone through traditional mail. E-cards, Facebook messages and even Christmas texts are sadly all too common.

Sending traditional ‘snail mail’ presents or cards are often overlooked as relationship builders, yet if  used wisely they can help retain clients and show your suppliers you care. Relationships go a long way in this business and while some will argue a client will never stay just because you sent them a gift, a client that feels valued, knows the agency cares and who has a personal relationship with the team will find it much harder to sever the ties.

Before you send anything you should conduct a little bit of research – notice what your clients or suppliers eat and drink at functions, listen to comments about interests outside the office and pay attention to how they react to criticism or compliments.

Our top presents for suppliers or clients:

Fruit can make a refreshing change

1)      Chocolates (you’ll know their favourites from your preliminary research)

2)      Well packaged alcohol (as above)

3)      Quality gourmet hampers or fruit baskets

4)      Gift vouchers

5)      Flowers (if they aren’t allergic – again find out their favourites before hand)

Stay away from:

1)      Heavily perfumed products

2)      Foul smelling food items such as blue cheese or items with garlic

3)      Anything that could smash or leak in the delivery process

4)      ‘Joke’ presents – any item that could be misconstrued and taken offensively

5)      Cheesy photos of your team

Source: Bad Humour articles

Think class not crass

As for choosing cards, our general rule is to stay away from comedy, flirtatious words or the cards with music or voiceovers inside.

Select cards that look professional but still have an element of style that matches your business personality.

You can also get creative with gifts and provide something memorable and different. We give boxes of cherries to clients because they are not typical and it is something they can share with their team or take home for the family.

Merry Christmas!