You’re a winner. Congrats. Now what?

Maximising business award sucess

If you’ve just been voted the best in your industry, and you really are the best, you should know to leverage your podium position for all it’s worth.

Whether it’s operational excellence, marketing expertise or innovation, or a combination of all of these, highlighting a company’s core strengths will help improve its reputation. However, doing so with cut-through in a dynamic media world can be a challenge.

So how do you leverage an award win for maximum gain?

We’re glad you asked. PR has always been effective in building credibility for brands through – among other things – communicating key messages to target audiences. It’s no different when it comes to maximising an award win. PR people will extract the interesting information from a company’s success story and use it in a compelling way that actually generates awareness and credibility for the brand.

While you can’t straight up say you’re the ‘industry leader’ and expect people to believe you, good PR people will help you determine and develop key messages, identify your audiences, and then marry the two together through developing communication tactics that position your company in the public domain with this objective in mind.

For the past two years we’ve written successful award submissions for our franchise clients in the NAB Excellence in Franchising Awards and then gone on to leverage them to boost their company profiles and support franchise development. In fact, leveraging success at a local level and national level has been significant in helping our franchise clients attract high quality franchise candidates and grow their businesses in a competitive environment.

Here are a few of our tips on leveraging success:

1. Message (the what you’re saying bit)

Why have you been recognised? Cut to the core of why you’ve been recognised. It’s about the hard-hitting strategy underpinning success that media wants to report on, not that you provide unbeatable customer service.

2. Audience (the who you want to/should talk to bit)

You may have a larger audience than you first think. It’s not just about the people buying your products or services. It’s also about the people who work for your organisation, your suppliers, and other stakeholders who have an interest in your company.

3. Tactics (the magical part where the two link)

Media announcement – Taking your success story to mainstream media requires a different approach to industry media. The two have different interests and therefore your story needs to be told differently. PR people will help you do this.

Internal/stakeholder engagement ­– What’s going to resonate well with your stakeholders? Is it a simple story in the next newsletter or is it a short, sharp video production that visually showcases the personality behind the brand. Content is again key here.

New media opportunities – You’re the best, so position yourself as the best. Use your new credibility to seek new media opportunities for your key spokespeople to share your company’s leadership and industry insights.

If you’d like further advice on entering your company into business awards or leveraging your achievements, please get in touch with us here.

Ignite PR has successfully entered its clients into awards including FCA Excellence in Franchising Awards, BRW Fast Franchises List, Telstra Business Awards, BRW Fast Starters, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, BRW ANZ Private Business Awards and ActionCOACH My Business Awards.

Five questions

It’s always interesting to get hints and tips for pitching to media direct from the journos themselves. We asked Fairfax Media’s small business editor, Ali Cain, for some insights on how she likes to work with PRs.

1)      What are your deadlines and what is the best time to contact you with a potential story?

As the small business editor for Fairfax, I start work at 4.30am and publish my first two articles on the Herald/The Age by 6.00am. I don’t really have deadlines as such – I just have to make sure I publish two articles a day on the homepage, on my page and also on the business home page.

So there’s no best time to contact me – but I literally don’t have the capacity to answer my phone to PR people. I must get about five calls an hour and that’s not exaggerating! If I answered them all I would not get my work done. So send me an email and if it’s interesting I’ll respond. I try to tell PRs ‘thanks but no thanks’ if I don’t want a story, but just like the phone calls it really is impossible for me to get to every email.

2)      How do you prefer to be contacted (i.e. email, phone, text message, Twitter)?

See above.

3)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

People who pitch me ideas totally outside my area of interest, people who ask me if I have received a media release – yes, amazingly email does work fine – and people who offer me an exclusive when the story has already run elsewhere.

4)      What would the perfect story pitch be for you? And what’s the best PR pitch you have ever had?

Something that has popular appeal, in a business context, involving pictures of shirtless men I can publish because those stories generate the most hits. Sad but true. I ran a story recently on a guy who is a junior gambling mogul and may well be the ‘the next James Packer’. The story did really well for me. I knew as soon as I’d spoken to him that I needed to publish ASAP to make sure I had the story first. I did the interview and the story was up within an hour.

5)      How important is it for PRs to approach you with a fully-packaged story (i.e. case studies, spokespeople, images) rather than just a media release/headline?

I generally won’t publish stories based on media releases because I know the story has been shopped all over town. These days pics are really important. But we’re not in the business of publishing advertorial, so I prefer my journalists to find their own case studies, mostly.

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.

Hashtag Highjack – Lessons from the #Qantasluxury Fiasco

You’ve heard the story of Pandora’s Box: Zeus gives the trinket to Pandora as a gift and tells her never to open it, but curiosity gets the best of Pandora and she does anyway.  In doing so she unleashes untold evils into the world, which can never be put back in the box.

Enter #Qantasluxury, stage left.

Just in case you missed it here’s how it went down. On Tuesday November 22 Qantas kicked off a competition on Twitter to win a set of its first-class pyjamas:

It wasn’t long before #QantasLuxury was the top Twitter trending topic in Australia with over 14,700 mentions. Unfortunately for Qantas almost all of them came with a double helping of either sarcasm or outright anger:

#QantasLuxury is getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire

#QantasLuxury is a complimentary cheap hotel room because your airline left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide.

#QantasLuxury is a massive executive bonus while your workers starve and your former customers choke

#QantasLuxury is more than 3mins notice that the whole service has been grounded

My #QantasLuxury experience would be no matter what time or duration of the flight a proper meal is served a cookie is not a meal it’s a joke

#QantasLuxury is flights that leave on schedule because Management doesn’t arbitrarily shut down the airline

#QantasLuxury is planes that arrive intact and on time because they’re staffed and maintained by properly paid, Australia-based personnel.

#Qantasluxury is not being told you can apply for refund online & finding out they only refund via a phone that no one answers for 4hrs

And my personal favourite

#Qantasluxury Somewhere inside Qantas HQ a middle aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media “expert” to make it stop

So what went wrong and what can we learn from the Qantas Luxury fail.

Like comedy, in social media timing is everything

What’s puzzling is that a consensus could be reached in the Qantas marketing ranks that this was a good idea. Qantas simply should have known to be more cautious about dipping their toe in the murky waters of social media so soon after the grounding of the Qantas fleet in October. Alicia Kennedy of online monitoring service Meltwater puts it beautifully.

Had the thousands of people who were inconvenienced by the recent lock out moved past the issue?  Were the public ready to talk about the positives of the company yet again? Judging from a social media analysis, the answer is a resounding no .In the three days after the Qantas grounding, the brand received over 37,000 negative social media mentions and that alone should have sent warning signals to Qantas’ social media team.”

Should have, but didn’t.

Any publicity is NOT good publicity

Some observers will swear this was a deliberate ploy from Qantas to re-engage with customers.

Make no mistake, the grounding of the Qantas fleet has tarnished the brand significantly and this gaffe has rubbed salt into an open wound. The once untouchable flying kangaroo has battled a string of issues that have affected customers, then turned around and given them a public platform to publish their grievances for all to see, share and compare. There’s just no up-side to it.

Bad campaigns = bad news

How is it that Australia’s largest airline, with its multimillion dollar marketing budget, couldn’t come up with a better social media campaign than a pair of pyjamas and a self-serving hashtag. The fact is #QantasLuxury was ill conceived to begin with. Toss in the existing negative sentiment and it goes from being a poor campaign to a nightmare one that achieved nothing beyond highlighting a company out of touch with customers.

Respond – especially if you started it

Twitter facilitates conversations which don’t occur in our day-to-day lives and these are often between customers and brands. As in a real-life chat, you can’t always control the direction of the conversation. It’s a two way street, but you can respond, and you must respond if you initiated the dialogue in the first place.

After announcing the competition and being hounded with complaints, Qantas tweeted the following – “Some very creative tweeps out there. Keep the entries coming”, along with the hashtag “QantasWeHearYou”.

They deserve to be commended for this at least.

Even if it will probably be ignored, a considered, empathetic response which reaffirms your core brand values is always best.

Don’t despair and don’t give up

Whether Qantas handled the saga appropriately is an open question, but ultimately what #QantasLuxury does is highlight the importance of taking full ownership of your brand presence online.

If your brand is being trashed on social media, you must address it. If, instead, you disconnected from your social media platforms and simply choose “not to get involved” you will be viewed as silent and uncaring.

Giving up on social media after bad feedback, or even a campaign as poor as #QantasLuxury, is the worst thing you can do.

If you find yourself totally overwhelmed I recommend revisiting Pandora. Re-read the story and you’ll find that after the contents had escaped, one thing remained in the bottom of the box – Hope!

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Are you ready to pitch?

If you’re like me, you excitably began your internship eager to make your mark and learn as much as you can toward building your PR experience. Armed with a wealth of knowledge, (and theory), you confidently begin your journey and start your quest. From assisting with media releases, to creating media lists and other various writing tasks, you get involved in whatever you can, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.

You get the call

That media release you just helped write for a top client has now been approved by them, and is ready

‘For Immediate Release’, and the Account Manager asks you to ‘pitch it out’ using your media list.

It all sounds simple enough, all I have to do is call a journalist and they will run my story, I can do that!

The Light Bulb moment

Even with many years of work experience under my belt, calling customers and liaising with a variety of people over the phone, including journalists, I was reasonably confident that I could do this and get great results. However, I had a moment where I stopped and thought, this is a little different in terms of the story, purpose and desired result, and maybe I should pause before I engage, after all, I don’t want to make a mistake with this one.

Time to pitch:

How hard can it be’ you might ask? It’s just a phone call or an email right? Wrong!

Many PR students are simply not taught how to pitch while they are at University, (I’m one of them), but if you have, then congratulations, you are one up on many of us. Often interns are only exposed to this process when they do an internship or work experience with little or no knowledge of the how to’s or thoughts across how to speak with journalists effectively and confidently.

Top Tips:

Just the thought of calling a journalist or editor is daunting to some, so how can you help overcome these thoughts and make your first pitch, (remember it will get easier the more you do). Your ultimate goal is to gain the most effective coverage you can reasonably achieve for your client, here are some tips that I have learn’t so far:

  • 1, 2 and 3 – Be prepared! Make sure you understand the release and the angle. This is your opportunity to ‘sell’ the value of your story and differentiate it from ‘just another pitch’. Have the    release in front of you and note the key points of your angle.
  •  Know the name of the journalist or editor you are calling, the last thing you want is to be ‘umming’   and ‘ahhing’ when the call is answered.
  • Be straight to the point and be real. Obviously you must be professional, but an honest yet concise conversation with the person you are speaking to goes a long way, you will most likely be speaking to them again very soon.
  • Ask for advice. It’s expected that you will have dozens of questions throughout your internship, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice and tips. Despite what I thought I knew, I asked lots of questions    that made all the difference, and will help you craft your own style.
  • Evaluate each pitch. After each of your first pitches, take a moment to recap and evaluate how the pitch went, think about how you can make the next one better, and any comments you picked up on. It’s all part of honing your skills toward becoming a great PR professional, you are already on your way!

The rumors:

You might have already heard that there is a space of contention between some journalists and PR professionals. Both groups are busy people in their own right and under pressure to work to deadlines but here are some interesting facts:

Oriella PR Network polled nearly 500 journalists and found that the number one resource that journalists in this study are using for sourcing was PR agencies, with a whopping 62 percent.

As for the first port of call when researching a news or feature story? PR again! Nearly 22 percent of respondents say their initial stop is a press release., (Allen, K. 2011).

Ultimately Journalists and PR pros’ need each other, so it is important to build your understanding and play an active part in this relationship toward a successful outcome. You may not always get your story across the line but if you continue to learn and hone your skills you are destined for great success. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your piece in a major national or even international publication, knowing your efforts helped get it there.


PRIA is an excellent resource in areas such as pitching and often run workshops to help you grow. Kevin Allen is a regular contributor to Ragan’s

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Media storm of the month August 2011 – Channel 9 Choppergate

When a media outlet is caught up in a scandal, rather than busy exposing one, the results are often nasty and always very public.

The News of the World scandal shone the light on the worst of the U.K tabloids and their non-existent relationship with ethics – and the scalps followed.

Now here we are with the cringe worthy media storm of the month for August: Channel NINE Brisbane’s faked chopper crosses.

Sure, the deceit might be less extreme than the phone tapping saga, but the recriminations have been just as severe.

Since the fakery was exposed two NINE journalists (Melissa Mallet, Cameron Price) and a producer have been given their marching orders and seasoned news director Lee Anderson has resigned in protest over the sackings.

So what exactly went down? It goes a little something like this:

It was a wet and windy night in Brisbane on Sunday August 2 and the NINE news chopper was grounded on the network’s helipad by air traffic control.

The search for the body of Daniel Morcombe was big news in Queensland and the obvious lead story of the day. In TV newsland this kind of news necessitates a live cross, as throwing to a reporter who is “on the scene” lends an added layer of credibility to the report.

With this in mind it’s easy to see, with the 6pm deadline looming, how the fudged cross could have happened.

Viewers were none the wiser that Cameron Price was in fact sitting in the grounded chopper at Mt Coot-tha, despite apparently hovering somewhere “near Beerwah”.

The next day the secret was revealed. Seven News footage showed the NINE chopper on the helipad at the time of the cross and the network was forced into the usual motions: apologies were issued, investigations were launched.

But the real kicker came the following day, Tuesday August 23, when it was revealed that NINE had also faked another live cross just a day earlier.

On Saturday August 20 the NINE news anchor threw to Journalist Melissa Mallet apparently again “Near Beerwah” for an update on the Daniel Morcombe Story.

Unfortunately for NINE Airservices Australia flight tracker data showed the helicopter again nowhere near Beerwah at the time of the cross.

The chopper orbited NINE HQ at Mt Coot-tha for about ten minutes, then hovered above nearby Chapel Hill before landing again.

Commentators mourned the death of honest journalism, NINE was blasted from all sides and the embarrassed network was forced to fire some of those involved as damage control.

So what have we learned?

It’s obvious the journalists involved may have had no choice in the faked crosses and it’s sad to see promising careers ruined by some very poor judgment somewhere in the chain of command at NINE.

In the increasingly cutthroat, budget driven media landscape it’s not surprising that fakeries of this kind occur. Expect to see more as newsroom budgets in Australia continue to contract.

But despite all this, the biggest lesson for NINE must be that duping its audience for the sake of cheap showmanship is never, ever a good idea.

The level of public backlash to the faked crosses is proof positive that in 2011 people still value, and expect, truth and accuracy in news – a fact all media outlets would do well to heed.

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6 Questions: Emma Malone, Editor at CGB Publishing

Next up in our 6 Questions series finding out how journalists like to work, any issues they have with PRs, how they like stories to be pitched to them etc, we chat with Emma Malone Editor at CGB Publishing.

1)      What is your deadline day/ time?  CGB Publishing has three different magazines, Business Franchise Australia (published six times a year) Business Franchise New Zealand (published four times a year) and the Franchisor (published two times a year).  Add to this the Franchise Guide – a full length book (published annually) and the Franchise Directory (published annually) and there is no day or time when we do not have a deadline!

2)      How do you prefer to be contacted (i.e. email, phone, fax, post)?  I prefer an email followed up by a phone call.  It gives me a chance to review the information and see if it would be of any value to our publications.

3)      Is there a particular time of day you prefer to be contacted?  Preferably late morning. This gives me a chance to catch up on the mountain of emails and action items first.

4)      Do you like to meet companies and bosses for coffee/ lunch? If yes, do you have any favorite venues?  I would love to meet for coffee, but our deadlines don’t really allow for this.  Emails and phone calls are much more effective for my schedule.

5)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?  I am not sure I have pet peeves.  PR firms have a job to do, just like the rest of us.

6)      What would the perfect story pitch be for you? And what’s the best PR pitch you have ever had?  There is no perfect pitch – at least not that I have seen (yet) – I appreciate PR people who tell me about the company, what they are trying to achieve and what they would like from our publication – no sales dances.

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Media storm of the month – July 2011

We wouldn’t be doing our job if the focus for Media Storm was on anything else but the News of the World “phone hacking” scandal. It has brought to light two interesting topics, one in regards to the impact of international events on Australia and also privacy rights in the media realm.

An event on the other side of the world immediately sparked the question of freedom of press at News Ltd outlets and the need for a healthy debate about rights to privacy down under.

Julia Gillard perhaps missed a good opportunity to state publicly the difference in media culture in Australia to that in the UK and to show goodwill to the Murdoch media, which is often accused of using its clout to oppose government policy, and making a new start.

Having worked in the UK, I would agree our media is somewhat different. A robust media will always be critical of a government but the question here is privacy. Some British newspapers are quite prepared to probe the lives of celebrities if they can get a story that will sell. I don’t think our papers get this carried away.

We have had the odd one slip through though. Lara Bingle, Jess Origliasso and Ruby Rose, Nick Riewoldt – you have to question the lack of public interest in these cases.

The Federal Government has now moved to introduce a legal right to privacy so it seems something is happening. The debate will need to consider our changing media environment with new media, smart phones and other new technologies allowing easy information share.

As for Australia’s media landscape, some seem concerned about the News Ltd stake (70 percent of print media) for whatever reasons. Is the Australian market place big enough for two dominant players? It could be more interesting and bolster the role of media in a democracy.

For those of you who watched ABC’s Media Watch on Monday night (25 July), it concluded by suggesting that with the News Corp. position weakened by the event in the UK it could possibly lead to Murdoch leaving with his newspapers, or at least many of them in Australia.

Perhaps another competitive player would strengthen Australia’s media landscape. Other countries wouldn’t allow 70 percent print media ownership by one party.

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6 questions: Susan Ronai, Managing Editor, BUSINESSbne

Next up in our series finding out how journalists like to work, any issues they have with PRs, how they like stories to be pitched to them, etc, is Susan Ronai, managing editor of BUSINESSbne, a Brisbane specific magazine aimed at SMEs and targeted at business owners, managers and employees; effectively anyone who works in the business world.

1)      What is your deadline day?

My magazine is published 6 weekly, so the deadlines vary… the balance of this year is June 30, August 11, September 22 and November 4 and the time is close of business on that day.

2)      How do you prefer to be contacted (i.e. email, phone, fax, post)?

Prefer email by far.

3)      Is there a particular time of day you prefer to be contacted?

Doesn’t matter, but I don’t have mobile email, so I may not get an email until I’m back in the office.

4)      Do you like to meet companies and bosses for coffee/ lunch? If yes, do you have any favourite venues?

Anywhere except in town… the parking charges are prohibitive!

5)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

I don’t have any.

6)      What would the perfect story pitch be for you? And what’s the best PR pitch you have ever had?

I have recently asked Ignite to join with me in supplying copy once every 6 weeks for an interview style piece either on a person of note for “Have a Coffee with ….” or on a business for a “Business Success Story”, so would be interested in receiving pitches for those sections. The [best PR pitch] hasn’t happened yet so I can’t answer any further.

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