Monthly Archives: January 2017

Fun, strategic, creative – a career in PR

Peter Lazar, author of ‘So you want to be in PR?’

Research at University of Southern Queensland a few years ago showed that only about 11% of our PR students had heard of the profession by the time they reached Year 12.

Knowledge of the profession and how it works is still abysmally low.

That’s why a new book by Australian PR pioneer Peter Lazar should be on the shelves of every career guidance counselor and PR undergraduate student.

So you want to be in PR? is a series of short, easy to read anecdotes of Peter’s experiences in the industry, from the early 1960s to 2015.

The range of case studies – 46 are presented here – give a comprehensive picture of what a job in PR would involve.  Just reading a few of them could give enough information for career decisions.

It gives terrific insight into the activities involved in good PR: creativity, a strong sense of what is right, detailed organizational skills and clever execution.

For instance, can you imagine using a giant dressmaker’s tape to measure up an elephant for some gargantuan cotton underpants?  Or the media coverage that would generate for the client, the Australian cotton industry?

What about convincing a traditionally reclusive client like the Freemasons to get into the limelight and be open about the organisation to successfully head off a storm created by Dan Brown’s book, The Lost Symbol?

And the logistics of launching a new sheep drench in the Sydney CBD complete with sheep, sheep dogs and very Australian shepherds?

Or, my favourites, the cases that describe him counseling organisations and industries to quit riding roughshod over stakeholders; to change their behaviour to silence media criticism rather than engage the firm to ‘spin’ them out of trouble.

Peter’s informal style and his obvious love for his job shows how rewarding and fun this industry is in ways that formal academic case studies and award entries do not.

He gets sidetracked sometimes, and there are a few annoying in-joke moments, but if you are in PR and struggle to explain your job to family, friends and school-leaver mates who have asked you about it – buy them or lend them this book.

Funny, insightful, and heartening for those of us in PR who believe in the social value of our job.

Barbara Ryan is a senior lecturer in public relations at the University of Southern Queensland and believes that PR really is The Best Job in the World.





Six ways to connect with Millennials in a crisis

teenager-1494975__340They don’t watch free to air or pay TV, they get their news from Facebook, and they listen to streaming services instead of radio stations.

How do we reach these high-speed Millennials in a crisis or disaster?

According to a new Swedish study, it’s via Facebook (no surprise there) – but the secret to cutting through to them is how you frame the story. Ulrika Sjöberg discovered there are six ways to frame story to best establish a connection with young people aged 10 -16.

Network “I” framing – where personal digital network provides a platform for decision-making based on the influence of certain people within that network and likes and dislikes posted material might have.  Sjöberg says that becoming part of the logic of sharing is a crucial issue for any agency in building relationships with teens before or during a crisis. Finding out which social media they use and the credibility they assign each is also important.

Celebrity framing – celebrities are opinion leaders where legitimacy is not gained through credibility, but by the volume of followings and they way the young person identifies with the celebrity. The pre-established relationship of trust could provide agencies with avenues of contact with Millennials. For Swedish girls it is bloggers their own age, for boys, gamers and YouTubers, particularly comedians.

Proximity framing – relevant not just to location, but details on how the crisis could affect the individual.  Sjöberg stresses the importance of knowing what young people will want to know, the issues they feel are relevant.  This information needs to be presented on demand and updated constantly.

Easy access framing – “We can’t just sit and wait…it has to happen now.” Visuals will remain important because they facilitate the high speed absorption of information. Simplicity of language and lack of jargon is also critical.

Interactivity and gaming framing – collaboration and data sharing is extending the sensemaking period before action.  Gamification and entertainment can reduce this sensemaking process – but highlights the importance of developing a relationship before a crisis threatens.

Suspicion framing – the plethora of sources on the web has reduced the ability of children to know which one to trust.  Agencies must compete in this environment and should not assume that status as a government department makes them automatically the most trusted source with the final say on what’s happening.  The good news is that to determine what to believe, the Swedish children studied turned to mainstream media online, which were regarded as reliable editorial gatekeepers.

There is much overlap between framing approaches, which shows the complexity of entering this relationship space. Sjöberg calls this the App Generation – and suggests that games and apps are the way to make the connection.

It’s heartening to find that conventional media is still in the mix for young people – if this study is anything to go by.

Barbara Ryan is a disaster information seeking researcher and recently completed a Ph.D on how people look for information in a disaster. She teaches into USQ’s Graduate Certificate of Business (Emergency and Disaster Communication).