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Communications in 2010: Insights from PRIA Conference

Last week I had the good fortune to attend the Public Relations Industry of Australia (PRIA2010) national conference in Darwin.  While this post-conference blog has been written primarily with the Y’s needs in mind, the learnings will be relevant to any organisation wishing to improve its reputation and communications with its stakeholders – particularly in the realm of social media.  With Autralians the most prolific users of social media in the world “the new water cooler where people congregate”, any organisation not considering social media in its marketing communications mix is seriously out of touch. Facebook is where most people are – and Twitter is where journalists  go in a crisis.  Here’s a summary of what struck me most:

  • Put your people first and happy customers will follow.  Think  the Virgin brand. Virtually everyone (self excluded) wanted to work for Virgin after a riveting presentation from the Head of Austronaut Relations for Virgin Galactic, Stephen Attenborough!
  • Communicative organisations listen, engage and lead.

New media and the role of communications:

  • While communications is now everyone’s business – ie everyone can create content via social media – the role of communications is to provide context, reflection and analyis.
  • Create and influence an ‘eco system’ of advocates to steward and shape your brand, values, and reputation. Eg, the opportunity is for our managers to be online advocates of their staff teams, their centres, their programs. Given that many of our staff and volunteers are Gen Y – social media is where to find”em.
  • Train staff and volunteers, and give them guidelines for using social media, but let them go for it.
  • Get your CEO on board as your ‘social media superstar’.  (Good on you Peter Burns, you’re already a Facebook star!).
  • Personal brands help to build and enhance corporate brands – again, why not ask our leaders to lead in social media?
  • Use new media to ‘draw people together’ and listen to people and communities unlike yourself to increase understanding and genuine dialogue. Loved this message from the Pope’s Office!
  • With recent changes to the way search engine giant Google gathers and ranks organisations and information locally – if you’ve covered off all of the usual search engine optimisation strategies – blogging is one of the few real opportunities to get your brand to the top of a seach list.
  • What others are saying about you is your reputation – so listen to the conversations going on about your brand in social media – and engage where appropriate and useful.
  • Before any Board decision is made – put it through the filter of communications.  Good public relations is a powerful asset not a cost – remember, what others are saying about you is your reputation.

Crisis Communications:

  • With the 24-hour hungry beast news cycle you have one hour to respond in a crisis.  If you don’t – others will.
  • Monitor social media not just traditional media in a crisis and enter the dialogue or other voices will fill the void.
  • Do not try to be funny in a crisis.
  • Use strong and consistent messaging to build trust – and don’t waffle or be evasive.

Story telling:

  • Real people, telling real stories is a powerful form of building a brand.  Think young round-the-world sailor Jessica Watson, and the Mining Industry’s television advertising campaign that brought country people into the hearts of city voters to combat the proposed so-called Super Mining Industry Profits Tax.
  • Go out early ‘warts and all’ with announcements, again, ala Virgin Brand announcing plans to fly commercial passengers to space, and you will build trust with your publics and bring them along with you on your journey.
  • Share milestones with stakeholders along the way when a project has a long gestation period (eg Virgin Galactic commercial flights into space).   Stakeholders don’t want “stuff” – they want priveleged access to information and insights.

What’s next?

  • Mobile technology – well it’s already here, but it’s only going to get bigger. The opportunity exists to develop relevant applications for your brand, and to deliver training via mobile technology.

For further insights from on the PRIA Conference check out the series of short pearls of wisdom from keynote speakers on YouTube or the ‘tweets’ at #pria2010, including my own @ DiFromTheY. If you don’t know about twitter yet – don’t be afraid to ask me.


About Di from the Y

Dianne McDonald is Executive Manager of Communications with YMCA Australia, and a parent of two primary school aged children, one with additional needs (Asperger Syndrome). She has a strong interest in sharing life's learnings with others.


One thought on “Communications in 2010: Insights from PRIA Conference

  1. Nice summary, thanks for posting 🙂

    Posted by Cameron | November 15, 2010, 3:24 am

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