Tag Archive for: public relations

Small businesses giving back: why CSR isn’t just for multi-nationals

Hundreds of small businesses got behind Clean Up Australia Day last week. Image source – www.cleanup.org.au

While many small businesses view both time and money as a barrier to developing a CSR strategy, they’re merely a minor speed bump at the start of what is potentially an ongoing road of strong community engagement and brand recognition.

For years, companies have edged their way closer to customers and now – through new media – they’re closer than they ever expected to be. This means modern day consumers (and stakeholders) now have an expectation of corporate behavior and choose to engage or work with businesses that do some kind or ‘good’ work for society.

Charitable initiatives that boost a business’s profile locally and engage with the community without direct business interest can produce long term commercial gain. After all, it’s a well-known fact that consumers (read: your customers) will often choose to engage or work with a company they know have values closely aligned with their own.

For small business this could be as simple as providing help at a grass-roots level – volunteering at a local homeless shelter or aged care facility, or donating (time or money) to a cause that is close to the community’s heart such as the local school, sports club or helping a family that’s doing it tough.

To ensure a CSR strategy is successful, it should always be executed with the full support of the organisation delivering it – otherwise it will look like an ‘add on’ initiative for commercial gain. Today’s consumers aren’t stupid, and they will easily understand your intentions.

It is therefore important that CSR activity is communicated appropriately and sensitively, so as not to appear like you are ‘tooting your own horn’. Good work should be done because it will make a difference and a business should never seek thanks or expect plaudits for it.

However, that’s not to say it shouldn’t be recognised. Indeed, we work with hundreds of franchisees who get their hands dirty in their local area and we have carefully told this story to their local community without sounding ‘preachy’. We have simply narrated their contribution to the local area which has resulted in a boost of business for many.

It could be as simple as communication through social media. This small Aussie business below participated in Clean Up Australia Day yesterday and simply shared its involvement through Instagram.

So if you haven’t already incorporated CSR into your business strategy, it’s time to take action. Regardless of the size of your business you can make a real difference in your community without having to spend huge amounts of time or money in doing so. Give back this year – and it will undoubtedly give back to you, too.

Engaging future franchisees through Thought Leadership

Image source - makemorerainblog.org

Image source – makemorerainblog.org

While some franchises have long realised the benefits of thought leadership as a communications tactic, many still fail to embrace it.

Thought leadership can shape thinking around the nature of a franchise, reveal its corporate culture, and introduce new ideas to the industry that might be important to a franchise’s future. Ultimately, it can demonstrate that a franchise’s expertise is driven by a deep understanding of its own work and the sector.

It can also be used to support one of the most fundamental challenges for franchisors – attracting quality franchise recruits suitable for the next wave of growth. One of the key drivers in a person’s decision to purchase a franchise is their respect for the franchisor’s drive and passion for the business. Thought leadership provides an excellent way to help a brand engage and resonate with potential new franchisees by sharing its vision.

So how can thought leadership be deployed effectively to engage next gen franchising?

Fortunately Australia’s $128 billion franchising industry is extremely dynamic. With long-term trends forcing franchisors to plan for the future, they have the opportunity to demonstrate their appreciation of future economic challenges, rising above company-specific issues to provide industry or national leadership on broader topics and trends.

A growth strategy encouraging independent operators to join a franchise system might mean good thinking around the increasing costs and complexities associated with operating an independent business or how to embrace e-commerce in the current retail environment. If you’re targeting corporate career changers, thinking might involve insights into the reasons underpinning why a significant number of highly experienced corporate executives are turning to the franchising sector.

However, like most communication strategies thought leadership has its rules. Original, good thinking is critical. Using research will ensure it is not only original, but comprehensive and relevant to the target audience. Effective thought leadership also requires a commitment of time from the executive management team, and collaboration with a good PR team to ensure thinking not only resonates with your target audience but also has cut through in the current media landscape.

Ignite PR works with Australia’s leading franchise brands providing strategic communications advice leading to both increased brand awareness and improved franchise development. Contact us today. 

The etiquette balance

Talking with fellow PRs recently, the subject of client relations cropped up. As agency employees, we fully understand the importance of good PR etiquette; however, the majority of us agreed this respect is not always reciprocated by clients.

Courteous, ethical and well-mannered communication is key to any relationship, as is transparency and honesty. Clients who hold out on decisions around PR plans and proposals are unknowingly causing their agency sleepless nights; while putting PR work out to tender without informing the incumbent agency is becoming all too frequent in the PR industry.

Of course, the door swings both ways. To ensure a healthy, happy working relationship, it’s imperative that both parties treat each other as they expect to be treated in return. As the old adage goes, it takes two to tango.

We’ve put together a few tips for both clients and PRs below.

PR etiquette:

1) Communicate well and often – while the PR wheels are grinding back in the office, your client might not always realise that’s the case. Not updating your client makes it look like you’re not doing much even when you are. Aim to have three points of contact with your client each week, including an end-of-week activity summary.

2) Don’t harass your client – while a client no doubt understands they aren’t your only client, equally you must realise your client has priorities other than PR. Give them plenty of time to sign off materials and respond to your questions. A little nudge is okay every now and then, but don’t bombard them.

3) Acknowledge correspondence – even if you can’t respond straight away, let your client know that his/her email has been received and noted, and give a time that you’ll get back to them.

Client etiquette:

1) Be considerate – receiving a brief and being asked for an ‘urgent’ proposal is a huge bugbear for PR agencies, especially when said proposal is then ignored for weeks or months.  We’re all for pulling out the stops to help meet a deadline, but 24-hour’s notice is never appreciated.

2) Don’t treat your PR as your PA – while you are a top priority for your PR agency, you are unlikely to be their sole client. Unless you are paying for 100 per cent of their time, bear in mind that other deadlines and clients exist. Please be understanding – we’re only human!

3) Say thanks – it’s a simple yet important gesture. Yes, we’re paid to get you great coverage, but it will only benefit the relationship if you take a second to acknowledge a great result. We’re happy if you’re happy, so let us know that you are.

The real value of internships

There’s been much discussion of late around the non-payment of PR interns in Australia, and whether or not those who engage interns are doing so for ‘free labour’ and not much else.

Sadly in some (rare) cases, the benefit the employer gains by far outweighs that of the intern. This defeats the object of work experience which, as the name implies, is intended to provide someone with valuable experience in their field of interest.

In order for both parties to reap the benefits of a PR internship it’s important that PR managers nurture their interns just as they would a paid employee. After all, we will soon be relying on this new generation of creative talent to take the helm and drive PR forward in Australia.

However, it is equally important that the intern behaves as a paid employee – the role playing works both ways. If an intern rocks up late on the first day, dressed shabbily and looking like they came straight from the University bar, they cannot expect to be treated as a real member of the working team.

Some may argue that as unpaid workers, an intern has no obligation to turn up on time or dress smartly. And that’s fine if the intern isn’t that bothered about getting a job at the end of it or indeed, a glowing reference.

However, the majority of interns are genuinely committed to getting hands-on experience and seeing what life is like in the legendary ‘agency world’.

The point of internships is, and always has been, to learn the ropes through on-the-ground experience. Everyone at Ignite from the MD down kick-started their career by interning which is why we fully recognise the value of work placements for those trying to break into PR.

I myself interned for several months in London when I graduated from university and received no payment – rather, I earned my stripes as an eager, ambitious potential junior account executive and landed a job in less than half the time of those who relied solely upon academic qualifications.

PR is about communicating, and communicating well. That can’t be learned through tutorials or lectures, which is why PR students are encouraged to enter into professional environments to see how it works in the real world.

If both the intern and employer enter into the relationship whole-heartedly with a clear development plan and list of desired outcomes from each side, the rewards offered by an unpaid internship can be far more enriching than any monetary reimbursement.

Kate Ward, Account Director

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.


Two brains are better than one: The benefits of brainstorming

Public relations is an industry in which professionals must constantly develop creative solutions to problems, generate clever ideas to increase brand awareness and find a way to make a brand newsworthy when in reality there may be nothing new happening at all.

This is where brainstorming steps in to make the impossible, possible. Brainstorming is where a group of people bounce ideas off one another in order to foster creativity and generate solutions to a problem. There are only so many times one person can pull new ideas out of nowhere and that is why brainstorming is such an effective tool in public relations.

The main aim of brainstorming is to build on and extend others’ ideas. It is quite common for a number of ideas to be rolled into one. It’s not about one person coming up with the best idea.

In order to get the most out of an idea generation session consider the following tips next time you sit down for a brainstorm.

  1. Know what you want to achieve- have a goal or outcome that you want to achieve from the creative thinking session.
  2. Set a time limit.
  3. Conduct the brainstorm in a calm and friendly environment.
  4. Have one person record the ideas on writing materials that can be seen by all such as whiteboards or easels.
  5. Create a relaxed space that fosters creativity and playfulness. Provide things such as food, comfortable chairs or a talking stick or object (a ball is easy to get around a room).
  6. Focus on quantity of ideas.
  7. Have people brainstorm individually before the creative thinking session then come together and build on these ideas as a group.
  8. Refrain from judging and/or criticizing others’ ideas.
  9. Only sort through and narrow ideas at the end of the session.
  10. Encourage creativity. It’s equally as important for participants to come up with reasonable, valid suggestions as it is for them to generate crazy and outlandish ideas- sometimes what may seem like a wild idea at first is actually a great solution to the problem.

There are also patterns that arise in creative thinking sessions that hinder the process so make sure to look out for the following during your next brainstorm.

AVOID :  groupthink

  • “Groupthink” occurs when a team of individuals settle on a single idea rather than continuing to generate new ideas as the single idea was accepted by the group as a good solution. This act boils down to a person’s desire to be socially accepted by their peers. Individuals would rather agree with something they don’t whole heartedly believe in than risk exclusion by challenging an idea.

AVOID :  social loafing

  • Social loafing can be explained like this: put one person in a room by themselves and give them a task with a deadline. Then put two people in a room and give them the same task and deadline. Who will be more productive? The team or the individual? Social loafing is when individuals put less effort into a task due to working in a team.

SOLUTION: mind mapping

  • Mind mapping allows for ideas to be generated individually before the group comes together to brainstorm. It involves writing down a word or phrase and getting each person to build on the original theme and map out their thought process. Everyone then brings their mind map to the group brainstorm and after all the ideas have been shared, the team can evaluate as a whole. This reduces the risk of groupthink and social loafing.

Check out some other great articles on brainstorming :


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.

AWARDS – Generate awareness of your business


You’ve got to be in it to win it

It’s that time of year again; award season. Unfortunately we’re not talking about the red carpet kind where women dress in beautiful gowns and men don tuxedos. We’re talking about the far less glamorous but nevertheless important; business awards.

Entering business awards has the obvious advantage that if you win an award you gain industry recognition and publicity for your business but it’s not all about winning. There’s also the less obvious but significant benefit that award submissions are a great way to review your business and discover what you are doing right and what you could be doing better.

We’ve compiled a list of 2012’s business awards across several different categories. Entries have now closed for some of the awards listed below but this is all the more reason to put them in your calendar as you don’t want to miss out next year. It’s time to get cracking on those award submissions!

The Australian Business Awards

–          Registration currently open, entries open from 6 February, entries close 30 March

Telstra Business Awards

–          Nominations currently open, entries open from 6 February, entries close 2 April

Franchise Council of Australia Excellence in Franchising Awards

–          Regional Categories – entries currently open, entries close 1 March, award submissions due 15 March

–          National Categories – entries open 1 April, entries close 1 June, award submissions due 15 June

BRW Fast Starters

–          Entries currently open, entries close 9 March

Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

–          Registration currently open, registration closes 16 March

BRW ANZ Private Business Awards

–          Entries currently open, further dates yet to be released

SmartCompany Smart 50 Awards

–          Currently able to register interest, dates yet to be released

ActionCOACH My Business Awards

–          Dates yet to be released

Australian Retailers Association Australian Retail Awards

–          Dates yet to be released

BRW Fast 100

–          Dates yet to be released

Cool Company Awards

–          Dates yet to be released

Anthill Smart 100

–          Dates yet to be released

Anthill 30under30

–          Dates yet to be released

BRW Fast Franchises List

–          Entries closed 8 December 2011

BRW Client Choice Awards

–          Entries closed December 2011 will reopen for 2013 later in the year

BRW Top 500 Private Companies

–          Entries closed July 2011will reopen later in the year for 2013

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.