Category Archives: Uncategorised

“People trust you” – working in PR is a privilege for USQ adviser

We’ve started a series profiling the amazing practitioners we have on our PR discipline advisory committee here at USQ.  The discipline advisory committee identifies PR trends and guides us on what to teach.

Heather Smith is one of our local practitioner members and a Golden Target Award winner (PRIA). Heather is a skilled and trusted public relations practitioner with 15 years experience working with a variety of organisations.

“My favourite type of work is managing creative communication projects from concept to completion. Currently, I am producing a children’s story book for a client to help raise awareness about people with a disability. I involved 16 school students to help write and illustrate the hard-cover book that will be launched during National Disability Action Week next month. I’ve also recently achieved a government grant on behalf of a client to implement a public awareness campaign that will focus on senior citizens in our community.

I enjoy working as a consultant in my own business because I can choose and ultimately design the types of projects I work on. I also enjoy the autonomy and freedom of being self-employed despite the long hours, hard work and income changeability.

Working in public relations is a privilege. People trust you to do the best you can by their business or brand. The tools we have available are constantly changing. It is amazing to reflect on how I ‘did PR’ five or 10 years ago in relation to how and why I do things today. Technology, culture and trends are always evolving and your practice needs to reflect that too.

I joined the Advisory Committee because I wanted to give back to USQ and the public relations team. Both have played an important role in my development as a practitioner. I believe it is important and necessary to contribute to the institutions who are producing the next generation of public relations professionals.”

New book communicates for success

Understanding communication and how people process messages is any public relations practitioner’s job – but Dr Chris Kossen has taken this understanding to another level with a new book on just that in Communicating for Success, a book he wrote with co-authors Eleanor Kiernan (Senior Lecturer USQ)  and Professor Jill Lawrence (USQ), published in January 2018.

“In this book we aim to help everyone understand what effect communication has on every aspect of our lives,” Chris says.

“We can think of communication as anything that involves a transaction of meaning as a result of messages being sent and received between people. These messages include both intentional and unintentional messages, for example, your yawn at the breakfast table may be unintentional, but it communicates a message, most probably that you are tired.”

Dr Chris Kossen teaches first, second and third year public relations and organisational communication at USQ.

“For public relations students, understanding all the aspects of communication that affect behaviour is critical for them to be successful in their field, and my job teaching PR students was one of the real drivers for me to write this book with my USQ Colleagues.

“We’ve all had the experience of saying or doing something and then being surprised to find that someone else interprets what we have said or done in a way that we never intended. The importance of managing risk in communication holds particularly true today in our world of social media.

“Communication is a complex process with many opportunities for mistakes and misunderstandings to occur, so we hope we can help students, and anyone else interested in communication, avoid and manage these problems.”

“The more effectively we communicate the better we can are able to function across a wide range of areas critical to success.  This includes our ability to manage relationships, to coordinate people, achieve goals and advance one’s career including university studies.”

Dr Chris Kossen is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations at USQ.  He is currently conducting research into the experiences of backpackers in the casual horticultural labour market in Australia.

Quirky fringe events could deepen connection to place and increase local community engagement – USQ PR research

Detail of Mary-Kate Khoo’s Bed of Roses from Avant Garden 2007.

Research by our own Andrew Mason and Dr Rebecca Scollen shows that it pays to take a risk by adding innovative fringe events to mainstream festivals to increase engagement and involvement amongst local residents.

Their study of the community’s involvement in the quirky ‘Avant Garden’, part of the mainstream Carnival of Flowers in Toowoomba, Queensland, has shown that innovative ideas at mainstream festivals can deepen community engagement and widen appeal of the main event. This deeper engagement has implications for place-making and perceptions of identity by residents.

Avant Garden was held from 2007 to 2010, when the southern Queensland region, and the Carnival of Flowers, was suffering from the effects of a 10-year drought.

Andrew and Rebecca aimed to investigate the role of a grassroots initiative in engaging local people in an innovative place-making fringe festival to determine if such fringe events could contribute to place-making through marketing and engagement. They found that:

  • Fringe festivals can play an important role in broadening the capacity and appeal of the main festival
  • They can improve the capacity for the local community to build local identity
  • Fringe festivals can trigger longer term innovations to place branding

The important takeaway for regional event managers of this paper is that innovative grass-roots initiatives like Avant Garden can provide authentic, and therefore more effective, methods to get more of the community involved in their local festival, and involved in a deeper way.

The bottom-up approach used by Avant Garden organisers was shown to strengthen the links between place and identity for local people attending the event.  Respondents described Avant Garden as ‘quirky’, a good way of showcasing local talent, and a good way to bolster the drought-affected Carnival of Flowers. Andrew and Rebecca found that Avant Garden provided a connection to local public parks for some people who had come to the Carnival specifically this part of the festival, many of them first time Carnival of Flowers attendees.

The research supports the effect of community-generated innovation in regional events, and along with that innovation, some risk taking.

Andrew and Rebecca used observation and a survey of 504 people (13% of total visitors and three quarters of them local people) to come up with their conclusions.  Their paper has been published in the Journal of Place Management and Development.

Careers and internship seminar for USQ PR students

Catching employers’ attention and getting a job

RSVP by Monday:


Ms Yasmine Gray, Principal, Red Agency

Mr Mike Thomason, Career Development Practitioner, USQ

Ms Rebecca Boddington, Senior Career Development Officer, USQ

Date:       Wednesday 28 June 2017

Time:       1pm – 2pm

Location:   Toowoomba campus, G314A and Zoom (Zoom link:

RSVP:      Monday June 26 2017 |  |  07 4631 1042

Yasmine Gray is Principal of Red Agency in Brisbane – Red Agency is Australia’s most awarded PR agency, and is currently PR Week Asia, CommsCon and PRIA Agency of the Year. Yasmine will tell you what employers look for in an intern, and what gets an intern a job with a firm.

Mike Thomason is an experienced career development adviser with special insights into how LinkedIn can not only get you in front of potential employers, but alert you to job opportunities as soon as they come up.  Clever use of LinkedIn can also provide constant professional development that is critical to your progress in the field of PR.

Rebecca Boddington is senior career development officer at USQ who has extensive experience in human resources and graduate recruitment.  Rebecca will discuss what can give you an edge over other PR graduates and win you the interview.

The session will be recorded and posted on the Public Relations @ USQ Facebook page.











New disaster communications post-grad course to start!

Photo credit: Alexas Fotos, Pixabay

With 20% of problems encountered in disaster management related to media affairs and  communication with the community, qualified emergency communicators are more important than ever to a successful emergency management response.

That’s why the University of Southern Queensland now has a graduate certificate for communicators in emergency management.

The Graduate Certificate of Business – Emergency and Disaster Communication is a four course qualification with special flexibility to work around disaster seasons that students are dealing with around the world.  It covers communication for all phases of disaster management, with special emphasis on change communication, community engagement and disaster management.  Social media or crisis communication can also be included in the qualification.

The new program starts in July 2017 and is part of the Master of Project Management, which students can elect to continue once they have finished the graduate certificate with the emergency and disaster communication specialisation.  We also have pathways using these courses into other Masters programs.

Talk to us about credit for skills, experience and previous post-graduate study in communication fields!

Key staff for the program are Matt Grant and Dr Barbara Ryan.  Matt has extensive crisis and disaster response experience with the Australian Defence Force working as the senior communications manager for a range of military operations in the Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern theatres and in 2004-5 coordinated Whole of Government communications on the ground from Banda Aceh, Indonesia after the Boxing Day tsunami.  He has also been regional news director for WINTV Queensland and has held corporate public affairs roles. He has worked in journalism and public affairs for 25 years.

Barbara Ryan has a Ph.D in how people get information in disasters, and experience in response and recovery communications for bushfires and floods at local disaster management level.  She also spent seven years as volunteer co-ordinator of communication for a district disaster management group in Queensland, Australia.  She was a Mary Fran Myers Scholarship winner for early career disaster researchers, and currently conducts research for agencies in Australia. Barbara is also a co-founder and former director of Emergency Media and Public Affairs, a membership organisation for disaster communicators, and organised the 2013 Fulbright Fellowship with former FEMA Acting Director External Affairs and U.S. Department of Homeland Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Public Affairs, Bob Jensen. She has more than 20 years public relations experience.

The University of Southern Queensland is located in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, and is a world leading distance education university.  We have a 92% satisfaction rating amongst communication post-graduates for their courses!








Information will be the biggest need in Airlie Beach now

The Airlie Beach community is pretty tough.  I discovered this when I did some interview research after Airlie Beach was hit in 2010 by Cyclone Ului, which was a Category 3 cyclone when it made landfall.

So what will the people in this community be doing right now?

Information gathering will be a focus, between long periods of cleaning up.

Based on my interviews, in the days after the cyclone most will be trying to get a sense of what the destruction means for them in terms of home and work.  This means checking out their properties and checking on neighbours.

Some might even drive to work to see if it is still standing.  All very rational behaviour.

Once they have this sorted out, they will be looking out for friends or getting together with the community groups they belong to, and setting up sausage sizzles for the stranded backpackers or clearing up for older neighbours.

By Day 2, they will be working with other people to clear their homes and neighbourhoods.

The questions I asked in 2010 were about their experiences leading up to, during and after the storm, and how they got information about what was happening. People’s approach to the cyclone was calm, educated and practical.

Most heard early (about six days out) and used their normal weather website to track the path of the storm.  They talked to other people about it, but the experienced people made their decisions based on information coming from BOM and other well-known websites.

Residents fairly new to the area and who hadn’t experienced a cyclone consulted friends, relatives and neighbours who did have experience.

Everyone used the information to trigger their preparation – some relying on experience to guide the process, some referring to council and agency preparation materials they received at the start of cyclone season or had in their Sensis phone book.

This diagram shows what their activity looked like and where its focus was – each of the bigger circles represents more mentions of concepts within these themes, and more connections to other concepts.  To generate this map, I fed all the interview transcripts from Airlie Beach into concept mapping software to see what the main themes were and how they were connected with others.

You can see the biggest circles (which represent the most interconnected activities) were news, information and visuals. Other people were a feature too – you can see this by the more intense colour on this circle and its close relationship to family.

News was the biggest – which seems like a no-brainer.  Everyone wants to know what is going on, the extent of the damage and what it means for them.  The big component of this need for news is making sense of what the situation means for each family or individual – can they go to work or school when this is all over, will they still have an income? Sense-making is a big driver for the information-seeking process in disaster literature, and much of that will happen the day after the cyclone – Wednesday, for people in Airlie Beach.  It will probably go on for weeks for some people.

Information is very tightly linked with news in this sense-making activity.  It has been separated from news in this computer-generated analysis because the linkages are not only with news, but other sources of information such as agencies and – most of all – other people.  You can see it is also very close to the concept ‘looking’ – in fact, news, information and looking are a cluster with connections to other key sources, radio and weather websites.

People and family are separate but joined concepts, and these are among the most important sources of information for anyone involved in any disaster.  So today, people in Airlie Beach will be listening to their battery-operated radios as other people call in to report damage. This important information will enable residents to get a sense of what has happened to their community.  They will have contacted friends and family.  Those family and friends outside the district will have added more pieces to the jigsaw showing the big picture of what just happened. Other people will remain a key source of information throughout the recovery process. It will become most distressing for residents if they lose contact with family and friends because landline, internet and mobile phone connections are down.

What this diagram shows is that agencies will have to be very good at communicating across all sources of information, particularly harnessing ‘other people’ to help spread the word about what has happened, safety issues, what is going to happen and the recovery process.

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from my interviews at Airlie Beach after that comparatively minor cyclone was its effect on the tourism industry.  Tourist perceptions that the town had been destroyed persisted for months afterward, even though operators had cleaned up and were back in business within the week.  This will be the case for the entire Whitsunday Coast.

Image by – lion_down

Dr Barbara Ryan researches disaster behaviour and teaches in the Graduate Certificate of Business (Emergency and Disaster Communication) (which starts July this year) at the University of Southern Queensland.  She used the content analysis software, Leximancer, for this project.













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).






Hello PR world!

Public relations is such a fast changing world that it’s hard for practitioners to keep up with what’s developing – and even harder for universities to fit everything into a PR program and keep it current.
That’s why we, the PR teaching team at the University of Southern Queensland, have decided to collate information about best practice and new developments in this new blog, PR Pulse.
We are Matt Grant, Chris Kossen, Andrew Mason and Barbara Ryan.  We  are determined to present PR practitioners with interesting and informative articles that help practitioners do their job.  In the process we will be passing on trends and skill development to our students while they study, and adding to their knowledge once they graduate.
Do you need to know something about the industry in a short and easy read?  Send us ideas for blog articles.
We’d also love to host guest bloggers, so if you are an expert in something, please contact us!