Excellence deserves reward – but prepare well

Last month I worked with Sarah Hall (@hallmeister) on the initial round of judging for a category in the CIPR’s Excellence Awards.  As ever, the standard of entry was pretty high across the board.

Sarah and I both considered all 20 or so online entries and marked them independently against the category criteria using the scale the CIPR provided.  Although our marks differed slightly, we were able to reach a consensus quite quickly.  Despite the closeness of the scoring, we were agreed on six outstanding entries to shortlist.

Next up, later this month, are the face to face panel sessions which form a crucial part of the judging process.  Whenever I have been a judge in the Excellence Awards, this part of the process has always thrown up surprises.

Sometimes, beautifully crafted online entries, the leading scorers from the written stage, have simply not shone so brightly in the panel – and it is often hard to know why.  Maybe the enthusiasts who worked on the entry were not the team meeting the panel; maybe the team was distracted by a big new business pitch and didn’t put the preparation into the panel session it deserved.  Maybe the panel’s questions drew out some weaknesses in the strategy or measurement.

Whatever the reason, I can’t emphasise this point enough.  If you are shortlisted for an Excellence Award then congratulations – you have overcome a significant and challenging hurdle and managed to stand out in a crowded field of strong entries; but your work is only half completed.  If you want to win, then polish up the presentation, rehearse your answers to the likely questions, and practice, practice, practice.

Excellence deserves reward, but it takes effort as well.



I understand CIPR’s NLA move but we do also need to fight.

When I was President of the CIPR, I was approached by the online monitoring service Meltwater and met with them with a view to joining their, about to begin, fight against NLA charges.  I was interested in the battle, and keen for the CIPR to be involved.

Business commitments abroad meant I could not attend what was effectively a later council of war with all the interested parties, a meeting which led directly to legal battles led in the UK by the PRCA.  However, one outcome of that meeting was a quite reasonable requirement for those fighting that legal battle to be prepared to share the costs.

There was, therefore, still a chance for the CIPR to get involved after the meeting.  Unfortunately, that period coincided with a major financial crisis as the Institute looked to recover and rebuild in the face of a substantial budget deficit.  Regretfully, I had to agree with the Board and Management view that the CIPR could not commit the table stakes at the time but would simply have to support from the sidelines.

From that moment on, the PRCA has been able to not only lead the PR industry fight against what are widely viewed as unjust charges, but also to make a bit of PR capital for themselves out of the position.

From my side, and on behalf of the CIPR, I then elected to follow Winston Churchill’s advice.  I went for “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”; especially as I couldn’t afford to join the fight.

I met with the NLA – who at the time were looking to introduce new online charges, closing a loophole in their fee structure.  Just like the CIPR now, we worked to get those fees reduced and simplified.  I was clear in all the meetings that I had a fundamental disagreement on the principal, but in advance of the Meltwater/PRCA action, it appeared then (and now) that their position was supported by law so I felt my role was to do the best deal possible for CIPR members.

At the same time, I also wrote to David Lammy MP who was then the Government minister responsible for Copyright Law and managed to secure a meeting.  In that meeting, the CIPR argued that copyright could not be infringed if all that was being supplied was a link to the original content.  Also, by sending more viewers to the content, we were arguably increasing page impressions favourably for the content owners.

The return argument we eventually received back was that if agencies, in particular, charged clients for these links of coverage alerts, then they were making profit from the content and it seemed reasonable that should pay a fee to the originators.  Of course this ignores the many organisations being charged NLA fees who do not make a profit, but nevertheless, at that time there was no Government appetite to review copyright law.  I don’t see any evidence to suggest that position has changed.

Time moves on and in truth, I have not followed the current situation that closely.  However, as it often does, it would seem that history is repeating itself with the PRCA still at war and the CIPR still in talks.  The point is though, both approaches are valid, and in strategic terms it also makes sense for the two bodies to divide the roles.  Furthermore, and in complete fairness, the PRCA represents the interests of many of the UK’s largest agencies, and is probably better placed to lead the fight side of the debate.  They are certainly fighting a good fight.

What would be even better though, is for the two organisations to agree that the dual pronged approach is best.  The strategy that happened by accident is actually quite a good one.

So please, stop arguing and point-scoring in public, and instead work together and find a way to support each other’s approaches.  That would properly serve the interests of both sets of members.

Content is King again – the PESO model

When the Internet, and in particular the mobile Internet, was in its infancy, companies were still trying to figure out how to attract people to their sites or to use their mobile services.  Back then, the phrase “Content is King” became as commonplace as references to “Big Data” are today.

But although you don’t hear the phrase as often these days – in many ways, it is more appropriate now than ever before.

Companies of all sizes now appreciate the need to tell their stories – to use all the many digital and physical vehicles at their disposal to spread the word about their successes, their new services, and the challenges and developments in the marketplace.

And in fact, today, a content “model” has emerged which has earned the acronym PESO – which stands for Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned.

Paid Content used to just be advertising or advertorials.  Today there are many other variations of the Paid Content model – a piece of independent editorial in a newspaper or magazine might have been sponsored by a clothing company because all the models are wearing their clothes, for example.  With sponsored content and contra-deals, there is no doubt this content is paid-for – but it is not always obvious to the reader.

Earned content is what used to simply be called editorial coverage.  It is content that has earned a place in a newspaper, magazine, or website through the strength of its news, business or consumer interest.  It is traditionally the hardest content to achieve, but was usually seen as having the greatest value, but that is not always the case these days.

Shared content is the term given to the material that gets promoted and re-promoted on Social Media.  A story on an obscure news site that attracts the eye of, and is shared by, someone with a high profile on Twitter can quite easily get its biggest readership through sharing rather than its original publication.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms are prime Sharing sites that often deliver the biggest audience and the stronger chance of engagement.

And finally Owned content.  This represents an organization’s own output on its website, its customer newsletters, direct mail, and its blogs and opinion vehicles.  This is an area where companies really need to invest.  After all, if you are not telling your story consistently and frequently, how can you expect others to pick it up?  It also creates great fuel for all the other content channels.

By creating good content on a regular basis you give yourself the opportunity to put that to work.  You can publish it on your website; use it to generate social sharing; promote it through paid opportunities on targeted sites or – if it truly has hard news strength and an interesting angle – you can use it to generate earned editorial coverage.

So think about the three pillars of REACH, ENGAGE, CONVERT and where your organization is when it comes to shaping up and delivering a sound Content Delivery Plan as part of your overall REACH.

You have a story to tell, one you need to keep fresh and consistently re-tell.

If you don’t then who will?

REACH: ENGAGE: CONVERT – Sales and marketing working together!

At Standing Tall, working with our partners and friends at Marketing Hybrid, we are developing a new, joined up approach, to sales and marketing  based on a three pillar strategic framework; REACH, ENGAGE and CONVERT.

REACH hinges around your Content Delivery Plan and how you get your message out there and in turn get your brand ‘found’ principally online. You have a story to tell and if you don’t tell it – and keep on telling it – then who will? It’s about finding the hooks that will drive traffic to the properties you own, where there is an opportunity to ENGAGE with your audience.

ENGAGE in turn is about your organisations ability to ensure your prospects and audience interact with you. Engagement is key, whether that’s getting visitors to your website, LinkedIn company page or social media footprint, or just making sure your content is found by the search engine robots so that you can start generating leads, sales, downloads or whatever your call-to-action or goals are.

CONVERT is the final pillar that is the true measure of success and an organisations ability to convert leads in to clients (B2B) or leads in to customers (B2C) be that more users, more sales or more traffic.

These pillars are not independent of each other and are interlinked with one feeding the other either in terms of a ‘customer journey’, ‘sales funnel’ or ‘feedback loop’ for continual improvement and optimization. All of course underpinned by analytics, measurability and KPIs.

Our REACH:ENGAGE:CONVERT process can help make your online presence a profitable sales channel – turn your digital footprint into sales footfall.  Want to know more? Drop a line to my colleague Bede Feltham (bede@marketinghybrid.com) and tell him Kevin sent you!