Tag Archive for: Relationships

Keeping the spark in your client relationships

client-engagement-slider-watirmelon(image: watirmelon.com)

As with any relationship, the one you have with your client will no doubt have its ups and downs. At the start of a working relationship both parties experience the usual emotions – apprehension, anticipation, excitement. Will the agency do a good job now you’ve committed to six months with them? Will the client always be this nice?

At Ignite we’ve had long-standing relationships with many of our clients. We’ve been Poolwerx’s exclusive PR partner for five years and looked after Hire A Hubby’s PR program for more than two years. The average tenure with our clients is three years. So, what is the key to a great working relationship?

Keeping things fresh is an obvious, yet important, factor. If you’ve been working with a company for several years it can be all too easy to settle into a ‘routine’ – and you run the risk of falling out of love with each other.

Mutual respect is also critical to a successful relationship, as is understanding each other’s needs. If you lose sight of the bigger picture you won’t be helping your client achieve their long-term goals – and you might find yourself getting dumped for a newer model.

We’ve listed out our top five tips for keeping the spark in your client relationships below.

1) Call regularly – while email is the preferred choice of communication for many these days, nothing beats the courtesy of a quick phone call once a week. It will remind both of you that there’s a real, live human being on the other end of those correspondences, encouraging a better relationship. We have a service promise of at least three contacts a week.

2) Have a date night – take your clients out for dinner/lunch/coffee when you can. It’s a chance to get out of the corporate environment and for you to both get to know each other a bit better. Many will attest to the benefits of a social outing when it comes to fostering a stronger personal and, ultimately, working relationship with clients.

3) Role play – if you’re feeling disenchanted with your client, put yourself in their shoes for a while. Imagine the workload and consider any pressure points you might know of. Are you aware of any personal issues? Be understanding and be an adult – if the problem doesn’t seem to be going away, talk about it. It’s much better to clear the air than let a relationship run into distress.

4) Show an interest – don’t just ‘do the job’. Flag items of interest you’ve seen in the news or heard through the grapevine that’s relevant to their industry. Not only will this show your commitment to understanding the industry landscape and where your client fits, it’ll show that you’re continuously on the pulse of industry news and issues. This kind of assurance is critical to engaging your clients beyond the regular day-to-day activity.

5) Make them feel special – agency PR people will know all too well the juggling skills required to manage multiple clients. However, the number one rule in client relations is to never, ever make your client feel like they are anything less than your number one priority – regardless of how busy you are.

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.

Christmas party etiquette

Christmas party etiquette

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to refresh ourselves about the potential hazards of the office party. Chances are you’ve been discussing when and where this year’s party will be and how great it will feel to finally relax after a busy year and celebrate with your co-workers and clients.
Too often we hear stories of Christmas party nightmares and the after effects both personally and professionally. One bad judgment call could lead to your name and with social media in the mix now, easily accessible pictures of yourself plastered across the internet for all to see, (and you know they will).
This year we would like to offer some [obvious] tips on how to have a great time at your work Christmas party without tainting your career and professional reputation.

Drinks: There’s most likely going to be plenty of, [and free] drinks at your party to ease you into the nights proceedings.
Do: Moderation is the key. Spread your drinks out and follow-up with a water chaser. You might find you will avoid that dreaded hangover the next day and keep yourself in check. On a more serious note, many businesses and organisations have an alcohol policy, which means if they’re hosting the function you must abide by their rules. Also, leave the car at home. Take a cab or public transport with your co-workers and stay safe and ready for 2012.
Don’t: The last thing you want to do is let fly with a comment or an impromptu dance off in front of the CEO or other professionals in your industry. By keeping things in moderation, you can avoid any regrettable actions and a discussion [or worse] with your manager the next day.

Professional relationships:

Do: Mingle with not only your co-workers but others too, it’s a great time to make connections and share your stories, but, leave the shop talk at the door as it’s an opportunity to network and you never know who you will meet. Keep it professional and have a good time with new friends.
Don’t: Get too social and close with your superiors and clients and certainly don’t over step the boundaries by telling them what you think. Your ‘confidence’ levels might rise during the party [a drink or two will do that] and the last thing you want is to over step the mark or say something you regret the next.

What to wear:

Do: Keep it professional. Unless the party has a specific fancy dress theme, wear your regular business attire or smart casual, you can do so and still be classy and feel good about yourself. Remember what you wear reflects who you are.

Don’t: Remove your clothes or part thereof or wear an inappropriate outfit. The last thing you want is to be the centre of a gossip story and be ‘that girl’ or ‘that guy’ who….

At the end of the night [or day], it’s all about having a great time and enjoying the festivities. If you follow these simple tips, you’re sure to have a fantastic time and strengthen your professional relationships. Your work Christmas party should be a night to remember for all the right reasons.

Have an enjoyable and safe Christmas and New Year’s.

Image courtesy of: Getty Images

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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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The basics of body language

At presentation skills training it’s always drilled into you that it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. So you could be delivering the most brilliant speech ever, but if it’s done badly – mumbling, monotone, no eye contact, etc – then you may as well be reciting a nursery rhyme for all that your audience will take away from their experience. Perhaps a little extreme, but one aspect of delivery is body language. It’s a key part of how you present yourself, whether it’s in a speech, an interview or presentation. Every eyebrow twitch, hair twirl, eye movement or leg-crossing can indicate something about you.

Whilst we’re certainly not experts on the subject, we’ve done some research to offer you some top tips on understanding body language so that you can hopefully make it work in your favour.

1)      First impressions really count. When first meeting people it’s vital to make a good impression – make sure you have a firm (but not too firm) handshake with no sweaty palms; make proper eye contact (but don’t stare); be alert, if sitting down make sure you have a relaxed but upright posture.

2)      Learn the art of ‘mirroring’. This is when you pick up gestures and tone from a person and ‘mirror’ what they are doing. When done in a subtle way this is often said to make people feel more comfortable in your presence as it’s often something that occurs between close friends and family members. Don’t be too obvious though as otherwise people might assume that you’re making a mockery of them.

3)      Be ‘arm aware’. What are your arms and hands doing? Crossing your arms across your chest can be viewed as defensive, expressing opposition or being insecure; if sitting at a table, folding your hands in your lap or having them under the table can be viewed as untrustworthy; wringing your hands can be seen as a sign of nervousness; and when presenting an idea or talking be wary about being too wild in your gestures.

4)      Respect personal space. Never get too close to someone, especially in a workplace situation, unless you know them really well. People can really take offence; it can create nervous tension and create a negative atmosphere.

5)      Are you flirting with me? Women especially can have a minefield to manoeuvre round when it comes to body language being interpreted as flirtatious behaviour, for example stroking your neck (nervous) or fiddling with your hair (anxious). Be wary of this, especially when dealing with people of the opposite sex.

Another tip worth noting is for doing presentations and speeches – film yourself practicing and then play it back without any sound. You will notice any nervous ‘tics’ or repetitive actions as well as what works.

Whilst this blog post is our own work, we used a number of articles to inform our words: Forbes.com, Thinkquest.org, New York Business Partners and eHow.com.

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6 questions: Jen Bishop, Editor and Publisher, Dynamic Business

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 Jen Bishop, editor and publisher of Dynamic Business, Australia’s highest circulating magazine for SMEs.

1)      What is your deadline day?

I have a different deadline every day of the week! We work on a two-month lead time as a rule, and don’t give out deadlines because if we haven’t commissioned something, why do you need to know?

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

Always my email. Press releases by fax or post end up in recycling and I’m so often not at my desk, phone isn’t a good way to get me. I’m usually really quick to reply to emails and tweets/DMs though!

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

Not really.

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

Sometimes. I like venues close to my office so it’s less time out.

5)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

One: Chasing up the press release sent half an hour ago.

Two: Not doing your research and getting my name wrong/knowing nothing about the magazine.

Three: Phoning up and reading off a script (usually the intern).

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

The best pitches are those targeted specifically to my publication by someone who has taken the time to look at it.

I get the best pitches from Caroline and Melissa Shawyer from the PR Group because they know exactly what I need and want and they make my life easier by thoroughly thinking something out before they pick up the phone.

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6 questions: Cayla Dengate, Features Editor, mX

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 Cayla Dengate, features editor of free newspaper mX.

1)      What is your deadline day?

We write mX News early each morning to be ready on the street by 2.30pm, so our news deadline is about 9am Monday to Friday; however features are arranged weeks earlier. Ideally, we want to know about an event two weeks in advance.

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

I like to get to know contacts in Brisbane, so a phone call is always appreciated, but email is the failsafe.

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

I’m in the office 6.30am-2.30pm Monday to Wednesday.

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

I find the best way to meet contacts is at launches and openings. That way, I can meet PRs in their element and hopefully get some story ideas in the process.

5)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

One: Mobile contact – unless it’s genuinely urgent, I’d prefer work messages to stay on my work phone.

Two: Calling the day of an event – by that stage, it’s mostly too late for mX.

Three: Forced familiarity – it’s not expected for a PR to know everything about every journalist they contact, and it can be embarrassing when they pretend to.

Having said that, I mostly love working with the PR community. Quite a few PRs have helped out mX with last-minute photo requests and contact information!

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

While I’d like to say the perfect pitch is one that’s baked into a cupcake, that’s not necessary. mX is looking for stories that directly relate to the 18-35 age demographic. Whether it’s a serious issue or a community event, we want to know why young people should be interested. In terms of photos, we are always looking for a brightly coloured shoot with young, spunky people and lots of props and movement.

There have been some very memorable PR pitches – from an offer to find me my Soul Mate (already taken, thanks) to a photo opportunity with live tigers – but my favourites have to be the illustrated invitations that arrive before fashion week each year. They’re tiny pieces of art that I often keep for years to come.

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BRW’s five questions to ask a PR firm

Last year, BRW wrote an article about some of the top PR firms in Australia, as part of that article it recommended five questions to ask a PR consultancy before considering appointing them. We thought it would be a useful exercise to give you our answers to those questions.

1)      Have any of your staff worked as journalists?

Yes, our senior account manager is trained as a journalist and spent several years working as a journalist and newsreader in FM radio.

Many of our account managers have journalism or communications qualifications, ensuring they know what makes and how to write a good story. And all our staff are tertiary trained in either journalism or public relations writing.

2)      What is your approach to developing a PR strategy?

We sit down with the prospective client and ask why they think PR is a good idea for their business and try to determine what their underlying business objectives are. These questions are critical because if a client is just interested in launching or promoting a particular product, for example, and looking for instant enquiries / sales, then advertising may be a more effective option for them. However, if the client is looking to increase the brand awareness and reputation of their organisation, this is where PR can be most effective.

The most important question is almost always “Why do you feel your business/ organisation needs PR?” the answer to this question often determines the direction of our strategy.

With a clear idea of their business objectives and expectations, we go back to the Ignite team and open the discussion up for ideas generation on the best strategy mix for the client. Given that we specialise in the franchising industry we may, for example, choose to focus our efforts on a number of different parts of the industry depending on the client needs. These might mean we develop a plan that incorporates activity targeting consumer media (for a retail product), business media (for corporate level exposure) and franchising media (for franchise business development).

The strategy mix depends entirely on the client’s industry and their objectives.

3)      Who would be working on my account?

As a rule our clients have at least two people working on them at all times. This usually consists of a senior manager or director, who handles the contact with the client and more complicated content, while an account manager may handle some of the simple content and background work.

However, all staff within the agency are briefed on the details of all new accounts, so are able to step in quickly to work on content if required.

4)      How do you measure results?

As any good agency should: in a variety of ways.

To start with, if we are talking about straight ‘column centimetres’ PR then it is possible to measure what is called Advertising Value Equivalent. This is good for clients as it gives some measurable numbers from a return on investment point of view, but it also only tells about half of the story and should not be used as the only measure of success.

It’s one thing to achieve a large number of clippings, which add weight to an AVE measurement, but if these clips are ‘off message’ then their value is negligible. We also run qualitative analysis on the key message statements of our clients to make sure they are appearing in the coverage they are receiving.

Finally, we run quarterly client satisfaction surveys to ensure our account management staff are performing at the highest possible level. Our aim is for our clients to feel that they have their own in-house PR and marketing manager and these surveys are the best way for us to ensure that this level of service is always being delivered.

5)      How proactive is your team?

In our client surveys, one of questions relates to ’proactive ideas generation’ and this is a key factor on which staff are selected for the agency. As a boutique agency with smaller staff numbers, it’s vitally important that everyone in our team is able to think on their feet and come up with creative, out-of-the-box ideas, not only for addressing client needs, but also to harness opportunities, especially in the media arena, which may not be immediately obvious to the client themselves.

6 questions: Krystal Manson, Drive journalist and newsreader, 101.9 Fox FM

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 Krystal Manson, Drive journalist and newsreader from 101.9 Fox FM in Melbourne.

1)      What are your deadlines throughout the day?

3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm for bulletins at 4, 5 and 6pm.

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

Email is best.

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

For my particular shift before 3pm; between about midday and 3pm is preferred.

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

No. There’s no time for that really in radio. 

5)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

One: PR people that call right in the middle of a reading shift or close to news time (6-9am and 4-6pm).

Two: Sending out a release then not having the talent ready to go.

Three: Really looooong phone pitches without taking a breath to let us say NO THANKS!

Also, please don’t ask me what questions I’m going to ask or for a copy of what went to air.

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

The best story pitches are the ones with the best stories. Don’t waste my time if what you are trying to sell isn’t timely (in the news at the time) or meaty (have some research to back up what you’re saying).  I can’t say that I’ve had any amazing pitches, but the ones I usually go for are short, not pushy, and relevant (something I would have likely put a phone call in for anyway).

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6 questions: Jayne Munday, Journalist, Queensland Business Review

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 Jayne Munday, journalist from QBR – Queensland’s only dedicated online news source for business owners and operators [QBR is also on Twitter].

1)      What is your deadline day?

QBR is an online publication, so stories are uploaded throughout the day (Monday to Friday). Our daily e-newsletter is compiled in the afternoon comprising all the top news from the day and is then sent to subscribers at around 3pm.

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

Email is usually the best option in case I am conducting an interview or in a meeting. If it’s sitting in my inbox I can always go back to it once I get some down time.

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

Later in the morning and early afternoon are ideal for phone calls. The 3pm e-newsletter deadline means my afternoons are fairly busy. However, I am happy to receive emails 24/7 – news never stops!

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

I am always willing to build better working relationships with PR people and Queensland companies – it just depends on my work schedule. Daily deadlines can make it tricky to leave the office.

5)      What are your three pet peeves about PRs?

As a business journalist I welcome the contact from PR people. While I can’t say I have any ‘pet peeves’ as such, I do prefer follow-up calls/emails to wait a few days once the initial email is sent.

Knowing about the publication (whether it is online or print) is always a plus, as it shows you have done your research.

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

While no one pitch in particular stands out, I can say a one or two page press release with a photo attachment usually catches my eye when checking emails. A visual component is always good to accompany an online story.

It’s also a bonus if the news is given to me before it hits the mainstream media. Being a daily publication means I can get the news out to readers in a timely fashion.

If the ‘hard’ news is made clear in the first two paragraphs it is also more likely to get picked up.

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