If you picked up a copy of the Australian Financial Review last Thursday, you have a pretty good sense of just how busy Keep Left’s powerhouse property team has been.
Our passionate PR property experts perfectly pitched to secure a winning trifecta of coverage in Thursday’s property pages, which kept AFR readers hooked page after page.
Frasers Property Industrial’s financial half year results were delivered on a platter to reporter Michael Bleby, with CEO Reini Otter discussing the sectoral tailwinds fueling the company’s success across Australia and Europe.
The stellar piece was joined by another on ME Bank’s Quarterly Property Sentiment Report – which now proudly makes headlines every time it is unveiled.
And finally, one of Keep Left’s newest clients, flexible workspace provider Hub Australia, delivered an exclusive after announcing an innovative new pilot partnership with industry player WOTSO.
Group Account Director of Keep Left’s property team, Jess Middleton-Clark, said the hat trick was a sign that our Lefties were becoming increasingly addicted to the industry.
“Property is a not-so-secret passion for many of us at Keep Left – there could never be enough sod turning events or industry reports,” she said.
“But our hard work at number-crunching, carving out compelling stories and relationship-building with some of Australia’s top property journalists truly shone through when you picked up a copy of last Thursday’s AFR.”
Securing a triple threat of coverage just two days after the Federal Budget makes the triumph even more impressive, she added.
But the team won’t stop there – we’re already working on how we can next hijack the endless property news cycle, eyeing off opportunities in Victoria’s upcoming state budget and Sydney’s unbelievable house price hike.
So, we just thought we’d take a minute of your time to share the strong foundations of our PR property team, on which we will just keep building (pun very much intended).
We’re proud to represent some of Australia’s top property groups and banks, from Charter Hall to Architectus and the Sentinel Real Estate, and will always set our sights sky high when it comes to their coverage.
Video marketing is no new phenomenon. We’re so deep into video’s golden age that it’s going platinum — each year platforms evolve, proliferate, and adoption increases. But this isn’t about the TikTok and Instagram Reels opportunities you’re missing, this is about an old classic you may have overlooked.
The video news release (VNR) has been around for years, in fact it’s been the framework for every evening news promo for generations. That’s not to say that it’s played out, quite the opposite: it’s evergreen.
GreenCollar, Australia’s leading environment markets company, were launching the first-ever Reef Credits (think carbon credits but for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). They secured their first major customer, the financial titan that is HSBC, and needed to get the word out.
VNR was the only tool for the job. Why? It’s about controlling the narrative. Our story involved multiple stakeholders, each with their own part to play in the announcement, and the VNR allowed us to capture each voice in one succinct package, telling it the way we wanted it to be told. It also means that we were able to disseminate the message to the Queenslanders it was directed at — rather than hosting a media call in one location we were able to compile interviews and footage relevant to the area. We also sliced the footage into a series of talking heads for owned and paid media — add to this that a VNR navigates long commutes and COVID restrictions and it was a no brainer.
The result? The story featured in all major commercial stations across regional Queensland, but the flexibility of the format meant that our b-roll was picked up by ABC at a national level, and BBC World News took it global.
Those tossing up using the VNR for their own PR should consider some of the following benefits.
VNR’s allow you to better control the message. You have editing control over who you include in the spokesperson mix, and the specific grabs and b-roll that news desks have access to; you don’t have to rely on external crews to get it right.
They make it easier on TV crews, too. Whether constraints are coming from shrinking newsrooms, remote locations, or even just busy news days, VNRs give TV crews everything they need to show the story with a bow on top.
You own the assets. If you’re getting someone else to shoot for you, getting a hold of the perfect cuts to suit your owned, earned, or paid media opps can be a nightmare. With a VNR, you always have the goods.
Naturally, there are counterpoints to weigh up — the big one being cost. Effective planning is the salve here, as building the VNR into the campaign from the get-go will manage expectations. But VNR costs aren’t as hefty as most video production because they’re all about mastering the basics.
A good VNR is a no-frills, honest depiction of the story. It’s tempting to impart emotion onto content, but a good videographer knows the news is unbiased and they’ll present the story as impartially as possible. You can have an interviewer and videographer shoot in the morning, get selects to the comms team in the afternoon, and have the final VNR with internal notes done by the end of the next day.
The art here is navigating the thin margin of error. Turning around footage fast means nailing the b-roll by knowing which shots of the interview subject will naturally interpolate with the audio and being able to work in any situation. Is the location a factory floor? There’s every chance you’re going to shoot some tight shots and do the interview in the car.
A VNR isn’t always relegated to client work, either. In fact, as our senior account executive Jacob Schnackenberg recently figured out, they’re not always done just for clients.
As part of a grand scheme to propose to the missus, he had planned a trip to Tacoma to re-enact Heath Ledger’s performance of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes off of You’ in 10 Things I Hate About You, marching band and all. But, because of COVID, he had to get creative. He recreated the scene on home turf down in Phillip Island, and put together a VNR not only to give them something to remember, but also to shout his love from the rooftops.
And it worked. 9News picked up the story and we were all able to revel in his proposal on the tele.
What are the key learnings from a VNR proposal? Jacob says mastering editing time and knowing the location is crucial. He was capturing footage on a location that had to be chopped together and uploaded from a remote area with poor internet, all done that day before 3pm. Preparedness is essential.
When I started my first week of real-life ‘adult’ work, if someone told me that the biggest challenge would be enjoying not the company I work for, but my own personal company, I would have laughed them off.
I was lucky enough to know most of my colleagues by name on my first day. Completing an internship with Keep Left in the last year of uni meant my nerves were (slightly) tempered walking into the office. I remember reassuring smiles making me feel at ease but looking back I didn’t know what I was in for.
The fast-paced nature of communications was a tough adjustment — there’s something to be said for the increased levels of mental and emotional fitness required to enter the professional workforce. Transitioning from part-time university student/part-time hospitality worker to full-time account coordinator was quite a shock to the system.
As a new recruit you don’t just want to perform, you want to excel. It didn’t help that my personal expectations were sky high. I struggle with the thought of letting people down and place great pressure on myself to deliver. Something that helped me adapt — and I would recommend others do in their first year — is to celebrate the small wins. Marking off mini achievements on the account co-ordinator road and setting attainable personal goals, no matter how small, motivated me to keep striving forward.
No piece of positive client feedback is too minor to bask in. It’s a tough year, and a self-pat on the back can play a big role in creating a positive mindset. That approach was a game changer for normal work life, but I’ve found it just as helpful during the new normal too.
As office staff adjusted to remote working conditions, I was still in the process of adjusting to my ‘new normal’ of full-time work and professionalism. The shift back home has allowed for many small comforts, with loungewear becoming appropriate work attire and the delivery of afternoon snacks from Mum replaced a mid-morning coffee walk. Heading back to the office, whenever that may be, will be a whole new adjustment period. The prospect of popping on some actual pants is… quite terrifying.
As a proud extravert, I thrive off the energy levels of those around me. Water-cooler banter, running commentary on why ‘Sandstorm’ should be blacklisted from the office playlist, grins in the kitchen over a cuppa, a shared Friday afternoon vino; the inconsequential moments one takes for granted are what I’ve truly missed.
November marked eight months of remote working for Keep Left, far surpassing my time spent in the office. Throughout both starkly different experiences, I’ve come to the realisation that the girls on The Bachelor Australia are onto something: I’m on a journey. My professional development is a long road and I’ve only just hit the first kilometre flag of the ultra-marathon ahead.
Knowing that my colleagues are right by my virtual side on that journey, saving me from myself through Slack banter, Zoom chat windows, or GIF exchanges has been a constant source of reassurance — just like the smiles on day dot.
You can keep up with Courtney’s Keep Left career on her LinkedIn.
To paraphrase Mark Twain: Reports of the media release’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, owned media (like email marketing, branded websites and social) and internal channels (like intranets) are becoming more important as traditional media shrinks. And yes, this trend has been accelerated by COVID-19. But there is still a place for the humble media release. (Note we say ‘media release’ not ‘press release’ – the printing press is definitely headed for the junk heap.)
Cision PR Newswire, a New York company, sent over 100,000 media releases between June 2019 and June 2020 (with 48 per cent of all releases distributed by between March and May 2020 mentioning COVID-19).
Both of us continue to use media releases in our day jobs — one of us as CEO of a PR agency, and the other as a PR manager and former journalist used to wading through hundreds of crappy releases every day.
We both agree the release remains relevant because the media still matters. Journalists still rely heavily on email, and the media release fits this channel perfectly. Every story or campaign needs its ‘single source of truth’ — an approved document to refer back to that defines and ranks in order of importance a campaign’s key messages. A well-crafted media release can also easily be repurposed across multiple channels. For example, it can be quickly and cost-effectively turned into an intranet article for staff.
But a word of caution: boring, sloppy or outdated media releases ARE wasted effort. Those may as well be dead, buried and cremated because no journalist is going to find them useful.
So to help you, we’ve drawn on our collective experience in PR and journalism to give you ways to upgrade yours today.
1. Talk like a human being.
Boring, wooden quotes are everything wrong with traditional media releases. Inject some colour. If you’re writing the release and quoting someone else, interview them and try to match how they actually speak. And yes, we know you have to quote your CEO or Executive but try quoting someone else for a change as well — a customer, a junior employee, a partner organisation. Be creative in who you quote, and with the words you put in their mouth.
2. Don’t live in your own head.
It’s tempting to simply start writing and go where the page takes you. Resist this. You’ll get a much better end result through discipline and structure. A simple way to do this is to brainstorm all your possible key messages, then cull the ones that don’t work. Next, consult with key stakeholders around your organisation. Get them to help you rank which ones are most persuasive. Now you’ve got a key message framework. The number one most persuasive key message becomes your headline and lead paragraph. That’s one way to add rigour to the drafting process.
3. Add engagement objects.
Always include a multimedia asset wherever you can: a photo, video footage, an infographic, or even just a hyperlink. When was the last time you saw a journalism article that didn’t have one of these? Digital elements are a must if you want to get noticed.
4. Always consider the news cycle context.
This is how journalists analyse a story, and you should too. For example, what was your last big scandal? Has anyone scooped your story? How will the timing of your announcement be perceived? What are your competitors doing? If you’re announcing data, have you considered seasonal factors such as Christmas spending? Context matters.
5. SMS is the perfect follow up.
Yes, the age-old wisdom that you should always follow up a media release remains true. Your media release may not have been ignored, but buried under an avalanche of emails. And with journalists now more time poor than ever, you might want to go easy on the pestering phone calls. We’re both big fans of the text message. It gets your message across without taking up too much of the journalist’s time, and they can respond at their leisure.
A little about us: Caroline Catterall is CEO and Founder of Keep Left, a marketing communications agency based in Melbourne. Jackson Stiles is Public Relations Manager at ME Bank, a client of Keep Left. He is a former journalist, editor and consultant.
Melbourne, Australia, October 7, 2020: Openpay (ASX:OPY), the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ provider with longer and more flexible payment terms, has appointed Keep Left as its PR agency of record and creative partner in Australia, following an extensive pitch process.
Keep Left will work hand in glove with Openpay’s in-house team to build brand awareness among consumers and merchants, educate consumers on how Openpay provides a smarter alternative to traditional forms of credit, and, importantly, differentiate Openpay in the BNPL space.
Openpay is unique in that it operates as a smart budgeting tool to help consumers manage their cashflow and finance their needs and their wants. The service offers consumers access to merchants not only in retail but also dental, veterinary, automotive, home & garden, sport memberships, and education as well as consumer fashion and lifestyle — with over 2000 merchant partnerships in place and growing.
Openpay CMO, Georgina Whalley, said, “We were looking for an agency partner with a difference. One that not only had specialised knowledge and networks in the areas we operate but was able to cover a broad range of requirements, to act as an extension of our marketing team.
“Keep Left delivered on all fronts. While the brief started with PR, Keep Left’s creative was so strong and on-brand for Openpay that the remit quickly evolved, and we couldn’t be happier.”
The always-on PR program includes the full gamut of press office services including proactive news announcements, thought-leadership, profiling and reactive issues hijacking.
Keep Left have also hit the ground running with the development of a brand campaign being led by the agency’s creative director, Blair Kimber. The brand campaign will be delivered across earned, owned and paid channels by Keep Left in conjunction with Openpay’s digital agency, Atomic 212.
Commenting on the appointment, Keep Left CEO, Caroline Catterall, said, “The team really connected with Openpay’s confident and witty brand personality and their mission to change the way people pay, for the better.
“Openpay brings to the table a number of key points of difference in the BNPL space, namely their longer and more flexible payment terms that give people a smarter way to manage their cashflow. It’s a business we’re very excited about, and know we’re going to have a lot of fun with.”
Openpay recently reported record results for FY20 with plans to continue to its rapid growth and scale in Australia, the UK and new markets this financial year.
The appointment adds to Keep Left’s growing portfolio of financial services and fintech clients including ME Bank, Experian, Saxo Markets and CUA.
Why the focus on volume KPIs hurts the PR profession, encourages transactional media relationships and undermines marketers’ abilities to measure true impact.
2020 has been one of the busiest news periods on record. From bushfires to COVID, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the kind of slow news day where PR fluff passes editorial scrutiny. The bar has been raised and only the most timely, relevant and engaging stories hit the press.
While readership and audiences are up, it hasn’t been easy to navigate for many PR professionals whose success is measured by volume. But like many industries, it’s also a crisis we shouldn’t waste in resetting the goalposts.
Why the Numbers Don’t Stack up
The focus on developing data-led strategies, optimising campaigns and reporting with hard metrics means many marketers are plugging numbers into spreadsheets, and compiling platform analytics like a data scientist.
Yet, for too long, media relations programs have sat as a separate, touchy feely and intangible part of the marketing mix, unmeasurable by anything but vanity metrics like clip count, circulation or advertising equivalents.
It’s worth pausing for a second and reflecting on how archaic a metric like clip count really is. Measuring the number of media stories a brand is mentioned in is inherently simplistic and provides no insight into quality, value or impact.
When I worked as an issues and crisis management specialist a decade ago, the thought of measuring achievements by clip count would have been laughable. In fact, seeing no story at all was often a win.
With continued contraction at major mastheads, I believe it’s now more important than ever to be promoting quality journalism and meaningful relationships with media. Rather than an approach to PR focussed on hitting a volume KPI, we need to be pursuing respectful media relationships built on value for audiences.
Why Is PR Measurement Stuck in the Dark ages?
If I tapped one of my marketing colleagues on the shoulder and asked about the great work they’d been up to lately, they’d talk about the impact of their work. The moonlighting mathematician would cite the results of campaigns driving engagement, traffic, or generating conversions.
Why? Because marketers are looking for performance data. They’re analysing what works and what doesn’t and optimising campaigns to reduce wasted resources along the way.
So why is this not the philosophy when it comes to earned media? Why can’t we reframe our picture of success from the pure existence of a story to it being the right story, reaching the right audience at the right time, connected to real business objectives?
Striving for Quality over Quantity
Fed up with fluff, we’ve taken a big step away from measuring coverage by high-fives and pats on the back.
Over the last five years, Keep Left has developed a more qualitative approach to assessing and reporting on the impact of media coverage. It involves having clarity on a single set of metrics that paint a picture of the ideal piece of coverage for each individual client and campaign.
We’ve called it the Impact Score, and, essentially, it allows us to empirically prove what constitutes a ‘home run’ for each campaign. It factors in more than 50 metrics — things like length or page placement, social media engagement, brand and spokesperson prominence, message penetration, sentiment, imagery or inclusion of case studies. It can also include unique elements for each client; for some that’s having the brand in the headline, for others a backlink to their website.
It holds us accountable with a hard score out of 100, keeps us laser focussed on the right activity and allows us to re-align our approach mid-campaign to maximise results. But most of all it elevates the strategic dialogue we have with clients.
For example, we noticed initial coverage generated lower than anticipated scores for a financial services client at the start of a recent campaign we launched. On closer inspection through the impact score we noticed only one of the key messages was getting through. So we were able to re-brief our spokesperson to hone in on the other messaging and share them with a bit more colour — the resulting pieces scoring much higher.
So What Does Success Look Like?
This nationally syndicated 7News piece announcing Kathmandu’s Uber deliveries last month was almost two minutes long and packed full of key messages, product visuals and brand mentions. Its Impact Score was a tidy 95 out of 100, length and social media shares stopping us from cracking the ton.
On the B2B side, this national Newscorp piece, secured at the start of August for COVID venue contact tracing solution GuestCheck, was the exact story we aimed to achieve to influence government and business decision makers. It scored 93 on the Impact Score. The only thing holding it back from perfection? Spokesperson prominence.
This qualitative and customised approach to measurement has enabled our clients to think beyond mere volume to a value-driven mindset that aligns with their business strategy.
Ultimately, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So, let’s start thinking about earned media reporting in a more sophisticated way. Want to find out more about the Impact Score? Join our Head of Communications, Tim Lele on Thursday, October 8, at 2:00pm as he discusses why 2020 is the year to ditch the clip count and more with the Public Relations Institute of Australia.
We’ll skip the niceties — this quarter has been rough. The pandemic that shall not be named has knocked us all for six, but there’s something to be said about adversity and what it breeds.
This shift in paradigms made us produce innovative campaigns on timelines we didn’t think were possible, tallying reach numbers and Impact Scores as unprecedented as the climate.
All our successes over the past few months come from working with people we’re proud to plop our name beside — internally and externally — on stories we enjoy. And we think some of the fun and Aussie larrikin spirit shines through in the ideas we and our clients brought to life.
For a taste of what we mean, let’s start with the puppies…
Guide Dogs Australia
PR / Digital Marketing / Virtual Event Management
Being forced to pivot doesn’t mean you’re forced to compromise. Our celebration of International Guide Dog Day (IGDD) with Guide Dogs Australia is testament to that.
The event is our opportunity to celebrate Guide Dogs and raise awareness for the important work they do. This year we planned for a grand event — but not a pandemic. We had to shelve our first idea and think fast.
Enter: Zoom. Both the conference call platform helping many of us through COVID-19, but also a newborn puppy. When Zoom the Labrador puppy was born, we saw it as the perfect idea to introduce the world to him, and his profession, virtually.
We brought IGDD to an international audience via an online puppy party. People logged on for a midday hit of cuteness and in the process learned the event’s importance from our panellists.
Media outlets loved the idea and coverage was extensive. Morning news, evening news, print — you name it. Along with the 2000 live viewers, nearly 400 publishers and channels covered the story giving us a cumulative reach of 90 million people.
Lateral thinking made this one of our most successful IGDDs yet, raising much needed awareness for the crucial work they do – and brightening the public’s day while doing so.
Social Media / Content Production
Half-baked ideas aren’t our strong suit. But ideas that involve delicious treats baked using some of the finest German engineering — piece of cake. This year we indulged ourselves with our most successful NEFF Best Bake Competition yet.
With everyone already honing their baking skills with iso sourdoughs, a climate for a great bake has never been better.
And with over $25,000 in prizes, including a luxury Blue Mountain escape, NEFF appliances, and baking packs from Le Creuset and Gewurzhaus, it was the perfect culinary storm.
The results? Almost 1000 people entered by uploading a picture and recipe for their best bake, with 465 entries coming as a direct result of our Facebook ads. They say the proof is in the pudding, well with 20,275 people visiting the competition landing page, 2,289 completed video views and a total reach of 245,184 people, the numbers are just as sweet.
Public Relations / Content Production
HERE Technologies are a ‘behind-the-scenes’ company. It’s unlikely that you’ll have their maps in your phone, but they power around 70 per cent of embedded navigation in Australian cars, including Audis, Mercedes Benzes and BMWs.
This quarter, we helped HERE launch two important, timely projects.
HERE WeGo provided vital help to small business owners, enabling them to run their own delivery software without cumbersome build costs. In fact, because of COVID and sweeping customer demand, HERE WeGo was made free for a limited time.
Customers were able to adapt business plans without footing a commission bill from delivery partners and stay functioning during a time they otherwise may not have.
Sydney cafe owner Robert Reid told Dynamic Business of the doors Here WeGo opened for them: For six years we were all about coffee, homemade bakes and brunches… never did we think we would be an online grocery business! But it’s been a great way to continue supporting our local suppliers and keep our cafe afloat.”
The other project was Where to From HERE, a report that mapped New Zealand traffic attitudes and gave insight into how the pandemic was affecting commutes.
We scored an exclusive feature in the NZ Herald, the country’s largest paper, featuring interactive maps demonstrating HERE’s findings, and secured comment with HERE Aus/NZ director, Daniel Antonello. The glowing article helped Kiwis understand commuting during COVID, and presented HERE’s unique capabilities to a huge audience; print reach was a tidy 477,000 and online reach was a staggering 7,910,000
Public Relations / Virtual Events / Video
If you ever wanted an example of why great ideas spread quickly, it’s Riverina Fresh. Their company values came to the forefront during COVID-19 when they highlighted the importance of supporting local business.
Our integrated PR digital campaign championed cafe owners innovating during COVID. Working with Riverina, we conducted interviews with baristas and cafe owners to hear about how the community had supported them in lockdown. Aussie ingenuity was at the forefront, and owners had great praise for Riverina’s role in helping them pivot to grocery sales and in turn keep the doors open.
This is footage from our ‘Home Ground’ industry round table which streamed on Facebook.
The good ideas didn’t stop there. Our partnership with Riverina also saw a creative UGC campaign come to life in the #HomeBaristaChallenge. Those perfecting their homemade brew during iso sent in imaginative videos to compete for a beautiful La Marzocco. We met young baristas, we met slick baristas, we… well, we’ll just show you:
The results? A combined audience reach of nearly 15 million and an Impact Score of 84.5… now those are results we could shout until the cows come home.
Saxo Markets is a trading company that brings multi-market access to users of all sizes. They’re new to Australia, but in the short time they’ve graced our shores we’ve done big things.
So far we’ve averaged more than one key piece of coverage per week, with some highlights being the Saxo Rewards loyalty program featured in Financial Standard, Saxo’s impressive Q3 outlook covered by Sky Business Weekend and Money News, and Australian Fintech outlining Saxo’s Exchange Traded Options.
We also helped showcase Saxo’s international experience thought leadership, with Saxo’s CEO, Adam Smith, telling Investor Daily how open banking may shape the future of investment.
With all this done in such a short (and not to mention testing) time, we’re excited to continue amplifying Saxo’s message to a local market.
We’re immensely proud of Charter Hall’s communications this quarter. And with an average impact score of 78, and audience reach of 8.55 million, you can’t blame us.
A winning comms strategy has shone light on Charter Hall’s stellar performance. Their achievements in the 2020 NABERS Sustainable Portfolios Index were recognised by The Fifth Estate, and the development approval of its visionary Westmead Innovation Quarter precinct was shared by The Daily Telegraph.
We’ve worked with Charter Hall to position their spokespeople as leaders in the Australian commercial property sector, and their professional insights were particularly helpful during COVID-19. Head of office development, Andrew Borger, contributed to The Urban Developer’s Workplace in Focus webinar, and head of operations, Lorraine Lee, shared her insights with Facility Management Magazine on the importance of data-driven building management.
With Q2’s projects signed, sealed, and delivered, we’re looking forward to tackling the next half of 2020 with just as much gusto — and with restrictions ramping up in Victoria, we’ll need it.
We’ve got some big announcements coming up, including a programme launch with environmental services company GreenCollar, a virtual event for PAWGUST, and exciting developments on our Impact Score… stay tuned.
Right now, if Australian retailers aren’t peddling 2-ply toiletries (or anything else deemed ‘essential’) then you can bet they’re in crisis mode.
Business strategies that have perhaps enjoyed a period of stasis are being stress-tested to incorporate foreign facets like ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’, and bricks and mortar stores unschooled in reaping traffic of the URL variety are struggling without its IRL equivalent.
And while retailers’ B2C divisions are being whittled into skeleton crews and closures, B2B stakeholders are watching very closely to see how they’re responding. Is it with silence a la Corona brewers, or solidarity like Guinness brewers? And more to the point, does it even matter?
DISCOURSE BY DATA
According to the numbers: yes — at least if you’re selling to tomorrow’s customers.
The Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2019, which recorded views of some 13,000 millennials and 3000 Gen Zs over 42 countries and territories, found that consumer sentiment towards business is increasingly negative. Only 55 per cent thought that business had a positive effect on society, which is a steep decline from the 61 per cent recorded in 2018.
Pertinent to a COVID-19 world, 32 per cent of millennials thought that businesses should try to improve society, and 37% said they would ‘stop/lessen’ their relationships with businesses because of ethical behaviour. As Deloitte put it, this is because millennials think businesses “focus solely on their own agendas rather than considering the consequences for society.” Not to be left out, a significant number of Gen Zs were also found to put their money where their values are by patronising brands that mirror their progressive ideals.
ACE Metrix, an advertising analytics company, add context to this in terms of brand responses to coronavirus. They report that 42 percent of consumers surveyed are in favour of brands addressing the pandemic, while 44 per cent added the caveat that it depended on the brand and message. “Actual action, not just words” was the key take-away, as 75 per cent placed the onus on brands to help out during the pandemic.
In light of Victoria’s stage one shutdown, the importance of brand communications has heightened. Search interest for ‘coronavirus retail’ saw vertiginous, yet volatile, spikes after Sunday’s announcement. ‘What retail stores are closing in Australia’ was a breakout term, meaning the query increased 5000 per cent over the previous period.
WHAT’S A BRAND TO DO
So, the demand for intel is there. Now what?
Retail consultant and 12HIGH founder Nathan Bush recently advised that “now is not the time for elaborate promotions or whimsical story telling.” In other words: keep it simple, stupid. Some brands are already getting called out for ‘panic marketing’ (founded or not), and Buzzsumo’s data shows that coronavirus headlines from Australian domain designators have clocked over 33 million engagements in 2020. Over 27 million of them will come from March alone, meaning any virtue signalling disguised as brand altruism will raise more eyebrows than a sneeze on the train.
Giving back is obviously the knee-jerk reaction. But while big-box retailers like Woolworths can afford charitable responses like their dedicated shopping hour, others may benefit from straight-forward transparency.
One standard approach across the board is to take to socials and speak directly to your community. Yeti’s Instagram post is a model response, incorporating brand ideals (the great outdoors) into a message informing their customers of closure dates and what it means for their staff. And their community liked it; looking at Yeti’s last nine image posts, they liked it approximately 155 per cent more.
Even those enjoying the contemporary gold rush that is the toiletry business are responding in kind. Who Gives a Crap notified their customers of reduced stock, assuaged those with subscriptions, and tied in brand messaging by urging charitable giving through a #plyitforward campaign.
Ancillary to social posts, brands like Arc’Teryx have addressed COVID-19 through creative content. Their ‘Together for What’s to Come’ article gave an uplifting message of unity in uncertain times, before outlining how the virus would affect their people, operations, and community.
Kate Morris, founder of Adore Beauty, is exemplary of how you can take charge with thought leadership. She set up a ‘war room’ community on Slack strictly for owners of e-commerce stores. Over 130 people joined to trade in knowledge and support.
I’ve set up a war room for ecommerce leaders on Slack for COVID-19 planning, let me know if you need an invite.
Providing a sense of stability, keeping positive, and communicating is important, but as business leadership author George Bradt wrote in Forbes, it’s important to manage your brand through the crises. And that means being realistic about the immediate future.
Finance reporters have been cataloguing the permanent closures of either stores or whole brands like Collette by Colette Hayman, Ishka, and EB Games across Australia. This week, jewellery juggernaut Michael Hill closed 300 stores ‘indefinitely’ and Aus swimwear brand Tigerlily went into voluntary administration. Both citing coronavirus as the main reason.
ING Group are reporting that COVID-19 closures of Chinese factories will reverberate up the supply chain. Apart from Australia’s standard dependance on Chinese trade, IBIS World highlight Australian retail sectors most likely to take a knock from Chinese imports include electronics and footwear. Beyond that, OEC data on Australia’s 2017 Chinese imports indicates which other wares coronavirus could spell trouble for.
Of course, there are areas of opportunity for growth — even if you’re not selling 2-ply toiletries. Live video, virtual services, and e-commerce are but a few poised to benefit, and the cyclical nature of economics stipulates that a bust is followed by a boom. While you hunker down for the uptick, take note from others in the space. Take stock, avoid empty rhetoric, and be transparent with your customers. If there’s any luck, doing your bit to ‘flatten the curve’ might even salve flattening sales.
Volume KPIs are detrimental to the PR profession, encourage transactional media relationships and undermine a marketers’ ability to measure their true impact.
These days, marketers need to add ‘mathematician’ to their job description. The focus on developing data-led strategies, optimising campaigns and reporting back on business impact with hard metrics mean marketers are plugging numbers into spreadsheets, calculating percentages and compiling platform analytics like a data scientist.
Yet, for too long, public relations, or more specifically media relations programs, have sat as a separate, touchy feely, enigmatic and intangible part of the marketing mix. Unmeasurable by anything but the most basic of metrics – clip count and circulation.
It’s worth pausing for a second and reflecting on how archaic a metric clip count really is: the count of how many media stories a brand is mentioned in, initiated or influenced by a PR team.
When I started my career as an issues and crisis management specialist over a decade ago, the thought of measuring our achievements by clip count would have been laughable. In fact, no story at all was often a win.
When I moved into a more traditional PR agency role at Keep Left, the majority of our campaigns were focussed on achieving as many pieces of coverage for our clients’ stories. Our approach is much more nuanced these days – more on that later – but the reliance on clip count as the most important and widely understood metric persists across many of our clients and the broader industry today.
With the terrible news of AAP’s closure, I believe it’s now more important than ever to be promoting quality journalism and meaningful relationships with media. Rather than an approach to PR focussed on hitting a volume KPI, we need to be pursuing respectful media relationships built on value for audiences and the objectives of our clients.
Why is PR measurement stuck in the dark ages?
If I tapped one of my digital marketing colleagues on the shoulder and asked about the great work they’d been up to lately, they wouldn’t say, ‘I ran three link ads on Facebook, a sponsored story on Instagram and 30 display ads”. They’d talk about the impact of their work. The results of their campaigns driving engagement, traffic, or generating conversions that aligns with business objectives.
Why? Because marketers are looking for efficiencies. Analysing what works and what doesn’t and optimising campaigns to minimise wasted resources and dollars along the way.
So why is this not the philosophy when it comes to earned media? Why can’t we reframe our picture of success from the pure existence of a story – to it being the right story, reaching the right audience at the right time and driving real business objectives?
Striving for quality over quantity
I’ve seen first-hand the impact that just one high-quality piece of coverage can achieve for a client. And how ineffective one hundred pieces of tier two coverage can be.
We recently secured a profile piece for one of our start-up clients in a tier one airline magazine which resulted in more investor engagement and support for the business than the 15 other pieces combined. Because it was a high-quality engaging story that included all our key messages, stood out on the page and most importantly targeted the right ‘captive’ audience.
For the last 5 years at Keep Left we’ve been evolving a more qualitative approach to assessing and reporting on the impact of media coverage. It involves having clarity on a single set of metrics that paint a picture of the ideal piece of coverage for each individual client and campaign.
Essentially it asks us to think about what a ‘home run’ looks like for your business and makes that the benchmark. The type of coverage which generates a round of high-fives. The perfect score out of 100. We call it the Impact Score.
While it’s still a simple, one number metric, it packs some punch.
The Impact Score factors in elements like publication tier, length, sentiment, key messages penetration, social media shares, brand mentions and dozens of other factors. And because it’s 2020, we’ve proudly evolved it into a cloud-based digital platform accessible anywhere to our clients, on any device, at any time.
This more qualitative and customised approach to measurement has enabled our clients to think beyond just volume, to a more value-driven mindset, that’s aligned to their business strategy.
Being a live digital platform, we don’t have to wait until the end of a quarter or end of a campaign to know if we’re hitting the mark. We can learn, adjust and optimise as we go. Again, you wouldn’t let a Facebook campaign run for three months without checking its performance.
Ultimately, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So, let’s start thinking about earned media reporting in a more sophisticated way – and weening ourselves off the belief that more equals better.
How to effectively measure and communicate the value of earned media, is a question that’s plagued the PR industry for years.
Marketing communications agency Keep Left has taken a step forward in solving this with a major update of its proprietary earned media evaluation and reporting tool, the Impact Score.
Available from February 2020, the all-new Impact Score will allow clients to better understand the quality and impact of their earned media coverage through live reporting and in the context of their specific business or communications objectives.
The Impact Score’s algorithm grades each piece of media coverage out of a possible score of 100, based on how well it performs against a broad set of success metrics, as well a specific metrics relevant to that client. The higher the score, the greater the impact.
The Impact Score is now a cloud-based, digital dashboard that can provide live reporting, supporting a more data-driven approach to public relations, with greater accountability.
Keep Left CEO, Caroline Catterall, said: “The Impact Score ensures our team really has their finger on the pulse in terms of campaign performance, and can share live updates with clients.
“This means we don’t have to wait until the end of quarter or end of campaign to know if we’ve generated the results our clients care about, and that truly add value for their business.”
Catterall added this major update to the Impact Score had been born out of half a decade of learning and fine-tuning. “We first launched the Impact Score in 2014 and over the last five years have refined the evaluation methodology to factor in shifts in media landscape. The new algorithm applies all these learnings.”
Charlie Spendlove, Head of Marketing & Communications at Guide Dogs Victoria and NSW/ACT said: “Guide Dogs have worked with Keep Left for the past seven years. We introduced the Impact Score as part of our earned media analysis when it launched in 2014. It ensures activity is always results-driven and based on Guide Dogs’ overarching communications objectives.”
Other updates to the Impact Score include customer KPI tracking against a project’s scope of work, the ability to measure syndicated coverage, coverage log generation, and the inclusion of podcasts as a measurement option alongside TV, radio, online and print.
The Impact Score is available free of charge to Keep Left’s clients. From mid-2020, multinational clients will have the option to licence the platform to their international agency partners so that all markets can report on their impact, using the same methodology and platform.