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Wieck Australasia goes to CAS 2011

Our omniscient leader Warren Kirby will be sitting in on a panel at CAS 2011. Hear what he has to say about "Thriving in a Networked World: New Tools and Tried-and-Tested Rules for Media Relations", Thursday 26th May

PR is important – honestly!

November 7, 2011

Feeling a little down in the dumps about your chosen career as a PR professional?

Well Ragan’s PR Daily has created a list just for you in a post titled “10 reasons PR matters”.

The list itself is not particularly new or insightful however it is a well articulated way of communicating your skills and import to the C suite.

It’s well worth checking out – especially if your feeling like you don’t matter!

Find it


Digital Delivery of Multimedia PR Material is Essential to the Media – Part 2

November 3, 2011

In Part 1 we looked at some of the forces that were in play in the 1990’s that started to shift the media’s reliance on the PR industry from one of hostility to a more symbiotic relationship.  The web was established as a valuable journalistic tool for  researching and fact checking. From 2000 – the present,  the World Wide Web has matured and grown into a dynamic, media rich environment that has fundamentally changed the way people receive the news and the way the media needs to deliver it – therefore the way PR needs to supply it.

Many organisations were dabbling in the idea of developing an online resource for the media to retrieve corporate news and information – an Online Newsroom. Kay Bransford of Vocus released a white paper based the results of a survey undertaken in 2001 titled “The Ten Essential Elements of an Online Newsroom”.

The survey was of 1000 reporters from print publications to include daily newspapers, newsletters and magazines. While the study demonstrated that 86% of journalists used websites to gather information more than 50% of the time, 9 out of 10 reporters that responded say they are usually unable to find the information they need from corporate websites.

The study also asked respondents to name top three items a website should provide in its newsroom.

The Top 10 Elements were:

  1. Link directly from your homepage.
  2. Post press releases simultaneously with distribution to the press.
  3. Maintain a searchable database of press releases.
  4. Make it easy for reporters to reach you.
  5. Offer online media kits.
  6. Provide additional tools and information.
  7. Include corporate and executive information.
  8. Feature a searchable database of recent coverage.
  9. Allow reporters to request news.
  10. List awards and recognition.

In 2003 the media’s increasing reliance on PR was further highlighted with research done by Hobson and Company which found that “a typical PR department spends approximately 300 hours per year formatting postings for the Web site and answering simple questions that could otherwise be answered by self-service” in an online newsroom.

Vocus released another white paper in 2004 titled “What Journalists Want To See On Your Web Site”. Significantly, they asked PR practitioners the same questions and discovered how wide the gap had become between what reporters found valuable, and what was being provided.

This study also marked the increased importance journalists were placing on media rich content, such as images.

The desire for multimedia content correlates almost exactly with improvements in the speed of the Internet.

Broadband internet services were offered in Australia for the first time in 2000 however take up was slow. It wasn’t until 2006 that ADSL2+ was introduced and Telstra lifted it’s artificial limit on ADSL that broadband was widely embraced by the population.

Traditional media outlets were also coming to grips with the increasing amount of new media emerging. While the term “blog” was not coined until the late 1990s, the history of blogging starts with several digital precursors to it. However it wasn’t until 2001-2004 that blogging had a dramatic impact on the media landscape and was considered as a genuine influence. This period also saw the introduction of platforms like WordPress which provided anyone with a computer and the Internet the ability to quickly and easily publish content.

The mid 2000’s also saw the emergence of social media as a powerhouse force on the world wide web. From Youtube to Facebook, the world was able to access and share media rich content, forcing the media to dramatically reassess and redefine their position.

While ninemsn was established in 1997, it wasn’t until 2006 that it became a genuine news portal. News Limited announced the creation of a new division, News Digital Media, in 2006. Yahoo!7 was founded in 2006. Fairfax Digital began in 2007. These sites were all designed to re-establish traditional media’s stranglehold on the news however they were originally designed as extensions of the printed editions, rather than as a delivery system in it’s own right.

By 2009 the media’s desire for rich content prompted Renai LeMay, news editor of technology site ZDNet to issue an open letter to all of his PR contacts claiming “In short, we feel that the age of plain text journalism is dead.” And concluded with “So please, if you are thinking of sending us high-resolution images, audio or video of any kind, please do so. If we publish a story on a statement you issue, there is a very high likelihood we will include rich media.”

Despite the shift in the requirements of Australian media, a survey conducted by PR firm Burson-Marsteller in 2010 concluded that online newsrooms in Australia are “generally ineffectual”, with none of the top 20 brands in Australia competing with global best practice.

According to Burson Marsteller, the online newsrooms of surveyed companies generally lacked supporting materials such as photography, logos and video content – resulting in missed opportunities to improve the quality of coverage and media relationships.

They found that media centres were typically static repositories of text-based news releases and very few even offer search and sharing functions.  They were not user friendly, even at a basic level.

The survey also noted that effective online newsrooms can ‘automate’ many media relations processes (i.e. provision of photography and supporting information) freeing up Corporate Communications professionals to focus on strategic and proactive programs.

Awareness of the need to provide video content was given a boost in early in 2011 when a US based video production company, D.S. Simon released the 2011 Web Influencers Survey. According to their survey of 1,000 media across TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and web media properties 85% use online video content to cover the news. That was an increase of 33% from 2010 and almost 80% of respondents thought they would be using more or much more in 2012. It’s also important to note that 84% of these use video content supplied by PR.

In may 2011, John Sullivan published a fascinating and well researched article on titled “PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms”. In it Sullivan examines the relationship between the diminishing amount of journalists and the rise of the PR profession. He proposed the void created by the collapse of traditional journalism is being filled by public relations.

Among his findings is data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which found that the number of journalists has fallen drastically while public relations people have multiplied at an even faster rate. In 1980, there were about .45 PR workers per 100,000 population compared with .36 journalists. In 2008, there were .90 PR people per 100,000 compared to .25 journalists. The ratio of PRs to journalists has changed from around 1:1 to 3:1 over a 30 year period.

Also in May 2011, the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) and Middleberg Communications announced the results of the 3rd Annual Survey of the Media in the Wired World led by SNCR Senior Fellow Don Middleberg and Jen McClure, president of the Society for New Communications Research.

For corporations, probably the most significant finding was that 78 percent of journalists use company websites as a reporting tool.

Other key findings include:

  • 75% of journalists use Facebook as a tool to assist in reporting, a 6% increase from 2010 study.
  • 69% of journalists use Twitter as a tool to assist in reporting, a 21% increase from 2010 study.
  • 68% of journalists believe that reliance on social media has increased significantly.
  • 95% of journalists believe that social media can be a reliable tool for sourcing stories.
  • 69% of journalists use mobile technology to search, use social networking apps, and capture videos and pictures for reporting.

The 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer also turned up some interesting results on how consumers are getting their news.

The Trust Barometer showed online search engines (such as Google) have become the go-to for news with 29% of respondents rating that as their first source when it comes to news about a company. Online news sources comes in second place with 19%. News from the company’s website (11%) ranked just behind traditional media outlets of radio/TV (12%) and print (15%) suggesting that the importance of having an effective online newsroom is almost as important as traditional media outlets when it comes to corporate reputation.

If this isn’t enough evidence to support the need for an effective online newsroom to the ‘C suite’ perhaps the best you can do is send them this link

Digital Delivery of Multimedia PR Material is Essential to the Media – Part 1

November 2, 2011

The last 20 years has seen a dramatic shift in the way journalists and PR’s interact. In this two part post, we examine how the media has changed to become completely reliant on what it once considered a parasite – commonly known as PR – and how the PR Industry has been forced to provide far more than a press release to keep up with the rapidly changing demands. The World Wide Web is now 20 years old. Part 1 looks at how the media changed in the first 10 years of the World Wide Web and some of the catalysts for their change in attitude. Part 2 will examine the last 10 years and how this has driven the change in the types of content media now expect will be provided to them.

Most of the changes in the media can be attributed to the Digital Age and the maturation of the World Wide Web from something that promised to be information super highway (at the time filled with potholes) into an integral part of our daily lives however that isn’t the whole story.

The cracks in the media industry first started to appear in 1990 with the merger of The Herald and The Sun News-Pictorial in Melbourne and The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mirror. This change not only lead to the eventually demise of afternoon editions but also instigated widespread (and generous) redundancies within the entire News Limited empire. It also lead to the demise of the traditional cadetship model – the single biggest breeding ground for journalists and photographers in the country.

The significance of this cannot be overstated, newspapers were, indeed still are, not only the largest source of journalists but also the agenda setters of the day. Even now 57% of Australians believe newspapers drive the news. And simultaneously the elder statesmen (and women) of the profession went into early retirement and the training structure for the next generation was abandoned.

This change coincided with the printing of colour editions of News Limited papers which was rolled out progressively across the country. More significantly than having colour pages, this shift brought about the Digital Age for newspapers in Australia. In order to publish the news, pages needed to be created electronically and sent, via FTP over the Internet, to the printing presses.

In the early 1990’s, the introduction of the World Wide Web opened the door a little wider for the media to access information across the globe more efficiently. By the mid 90’s a raft of search engines emerge that makes fact-checking as simple as point and click but these early forms of web searching were often inaccurate and slow. In 1998 Google launched and soon became recognised as a fast and reliable method for researching stories.

During this period the combination of staffing cutbacks and limited training saw the media’s reliance on PR as both the instigator and provider of news increase, despite the protestations of the industry to the contrary. In 2001 PR and media expert Jim Macnamara released a research report titled “The Impact of PR on the Media” which examined the relationship between the media and PR.

In this document Macnamara notes that most journalists’ and editors’ believe they are uninfluenced by any forces or motives other than dedication to truth and justice. He quotes the editor of InformationWeek, Richard Wood who wrote in a scathing editorial piece on the PR industry “IT journalists … resent the constant nagging of PR people who, quite simply, get in the way”. Wood followed this up with “… the idea that journalists would call a PR person for stories is simply weird” and “… strong stories virtually never come from PR people.”

At the time (and still today), journalists complained that the press releases they received were ill-conceived with little or no news value; poorly written and often addressed to the wrong person. Most journalists thought that very little of what appeared in the newspapers came from public relations sources.

Despite this a 1992 study of 150 news releases from 27 different companies and organisations were obtained and content analysis was undertaken of the media response. Articles were identified using a national press clipping service which provided 2,500 articles on the topics of the news releases from the selected media.

The study found that 768 stories (31%) were wholly or partly based on the news releases (including exact extracts or facts and figures without alternative attribution). While 360 (47%) of these were published in trade or specialist media, 245 stories (32%) of PR based stories were published in national, State or capital city media and that up to 70% of the content of some small trade, specialist and suburban media was PR-sourced.

In 2001, Clara Zawawi as part of a PhD thesis, conducted an analysis of 1,163 articles published by three leading metropolitan newspapers, The Courier-Mail, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to identify the origin of media stories. Her research was able to confirm that 47% of articles in these three major metropolitan media were the result of PR activity.

As more fuel, Macnamara highlights that prior to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, an analysis by CARMA International of media coverage of Olympics sponsors compared with non-sponsors conducting active PR campaigns found several non-sponsors gained equal or more media coverage in relation to Olympics sponsorship than official sponsors. In 56 major Australian media articles in a three months period, the highest number of mentions of Olympics sponsorship was gained by a non-sponsor.

Macnamara points out what is not reported in any of these studies is the degree of ‘agenda-setting’ or ‘agenda-priming’ provided by PR through briefings to journalists, tip-offs, arranging trips (eg. overseas visits or tours), providing products for evaluation, or organising interviews with sources.

Despite media protestations that PR does not influence them, the converse is shown in numerous research studies – both academic and commercial media analysis.

So by 2001 the fact that journalists were using the web as a source of information and that they were relying heavily on PRs to provide content was well established. What was less clear was the preferred methods of facilitating the needs of the media.

Continued in Part 2…

Warren’s Speech at PR Directions 2011

October 25, 2011

G’day everyone. I’ll only be speaking for a few minutes but in that time, I hope to give you information that benefits your communications initiatives now and into the future. Before I get into it, please allow me to share this short video with you as an introduction to my talk.

The media landscape is changing at a phenomenal rate. Not that long ago “the media” meant newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Now, almost on a weekly basis, we’re told of traditional media institutions like New Zealand Press Association are closing the doors while new media ventures like Twitter are making billions. The conflicting reports from around the world about the true state of the media are confusing to say the least.

As recently as 10 years ago you could penetrate every major news organisation in Australia by inviting only a handful of journalists to a launch. Today, at least in the Western world, traditional sources of news have seen a dramatic fall in their power and influence. They are no longer the sole voice of the people.

I use the examples of New Zealand Press Association and Twitter because of their similarities as well as differences. NZPA was 131 years old when it shut the doors on August 31 this year. At its peak, it had 74 subscribing newspapers. It was where the media got the news.

Twitter is only 5 years old and this year cracked 200 million users creating 200 million tweets per day.

That’s roughly equivalent to over 8000 copies of War and Peace every single day. It can easily be argued that Twitter is now where the media gets the news.

Despite the seismic shift we are experiencing, newspapers in Australia are still king. 57% of Australians say that newspapers shape the issues of the day. 7 out of the top 10 news websites in Australia are owned by traditional newspaper publishers.

It’s not that traditional media is dead; rather that new media has been born. The overall number of media outlets has grown dramatically.

It’s pretty much impossible to paint an accurate picture of the number of outlets that can now be legitimately termed as “media” however here is an interesting little statistic to put it into perspective.

Back in 1981, 550 journalists and broadcasters were accredited by the palace and descended on London to cover the royal nuptials of Charles and Diana.

30 years later for Will and Kate’s wedding, the palace officially accredited 6,500 and there were an estimated 8,500 in attendance.

The days of getting good results from servicing only a handful of journalists are gone.

It’s not only the number of outlets that is changing; the requirements of media have also been blurred.

Radio and television stations now require text and images for their websites. Newspapers and magazines need video clips for theirs. And they are all working with less staff to do it.

Here at PR Directions 2011 you’ll hear from speakers that are experts in their field. You’ll hear about how to deal with social media, crisis communications, strategic communications, branding, rebranding, reputation management, internal comms, external comms. You might even hear a little about media relations.

With such a variety of topics on offer it’s fair to say that not all of the advice will be relevant to you: except for this – the only weapon in your arsenal that can be the keystone of your entire communications initiatives is an online newsroom.

10 years ago an online newsroom was purely a resource for the media. Now a good online newsroom is designed to communicate with all stakeholders, whether they are staff, the general public or the media. It should be the resource for everyone who is looking for the most up-to-date information, access to your social media channels or video and images that are broadcast quality and downloadable.

It’s where you can point the world in a crisis to ensure delivery of a considered, unified message worldwide instantaneously.

An online newsroom should be the first place the media, your staff and your consumers go for news about your brand.

This newsroom, built by Wieck for Baylor, was recently awarded Best Newsroom by PR News in the 2011 Digital PR Awards; beating multinationals Intel and Cisco. It’s a great example of what an online newsroom should be.

A well-built online newsroom handles multimedia, making all of your press releases, images and video easily accessible and downloadable.

It has a search function. It allows media to opt in for email notifications.

It has social media integration. And it provides you with detailed statistics.

Done correctly, it is the most effective way to have your information available 24/7.

It will handle those time consuming day-to-day requests. It’ll handle crisis communications and ensure you deliver uniform messages.

An online newsroom should be your keystone because no other communications tool offers a way to bridge the gap between the requirements of traditional media and new media, allowing you to concentrate on the big picture.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you would like to talk about online newsrooms in more detail, come over to our booth. And have a great conference.

The Truth According to Drug Company Clinical Trials

October 18, 2011

Ever wondered why PR machines have a reputation for distorting the facts?

Here’s a fascinating video by Epidemiologist Ben Goldacre. He talks about how the results of drug trials get manipulated by the pharmaceutical companies and are then reported in the media.

It’s a really interesting insight as to why one day something causes cancer and the next day it cures it.

Wieck Built Online Newsroom Proves to be World-Beater

October 13, 2011

DALLAS, Texas – Two Baylor Health Care System sites built and managed by Wieck Media are winners in the 2011 Digital PR Awards presented by PR News. The wins came in the Online Newsroom category and the best organizational Blog.

The Online Newsroom bested other finalists that included Cisco Systems Inc., and Intel & Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. They, along with Fahlgren Mortine with Crown Equipment, received honorable mentions.

Read more…

Hey News Media – Is Pre-Reporting Really Such a Good Idea?

October 12, 2011

News of the loss of Steve Jobs spread throughout the world like an avalanche. Ironically many people received the news on products Jobs created. Twitter in particular went into a frenzy with many media outlets reporting that an astonishing 10,000 tweets per second were circulating the world about his death.

The only problem is that this figure is completely false.

The rumour seems to have begun with The Sydney Morning Herald technology editor Asher Moses, who tweeted around 12pm on Thursday: “Sources telling me that passing of Steve Jobs will set a new Twitter and Facebook record.”

From there it built speed and rumour became fact and this fact remained unchecked.

Twitter later confirmed the actual figure was 6049 tweets a second – still an amazing number but far short of 10,000.

According to Andrew Reid, managing director of social media monitoring service Vizense, “To reach more than 10,000 tweets per second, per hour, would require more than 70 per cent of the entire active user base tweeting about the death of Steve Jobs at the same time. That’s highly unlikely.”

The old adage of “never let the facts get in the way of a good story” seems to be getting taken on a whole new level with the emergence of the latest trend in news: pre-reporting.

The desire to be ‘first with the news’ is reaching ludicrous proportions. In days of yore it went something like this; something happened, someone (usually the media) decided on it’s news value and reported on it, then disseminated the information. The speed at which this happens has shortened as technology has gotten better.

Now, however, traditional media outlets are trying to beat social media to the punch by reporting on news before it’s even happened. More and more stories are appearing, particularly on television and radio news, prefaced with ‘Person A is expected to… today’.

This trend is causing facts to be distorted (at best) and an increasing number of instances of the media creating the news, rather than reporting on it. The inherent danger is that even if the pre-reporting proves to be false, it’s rarely revisited and corrected because the news is busy pre-reporting something else.

PR professionals need to be particularly sensitive to this. Situations can be well managed, or spiral out of control rapidly, by being proactive in their communication with the media. If the news media wants to report on things before they happen, communicators need to ensure they at least have some verified facts to start with or else rumour will quickly become fact and precious few of the real facts are ever clarified.