Category Archives: PR

It’s time to re-think your approach to Social.

I spent a day with some of the brightest young minds in advertising last week.

The similarities

All were fabulous, capable, intelligent, hard-working ‘go-getters’. All were running some of the better social media campaigns in Australia.

Some were from boutique agencies doing really cool stuff, others had evolved to freelancers, some were in-house marketers, while others were clinging lovingly to the structural ropes at some of Australia’s biggest agencies.

All were social coordinators, social leaders, the agencies’ ‘social experts’.

Yet, throughout the course of the day, I felt myself go through all the stages of grief.

I took the next day off to get my head back into production mode and (as luck would have it) I was surrounded by social marketing and social media practitioners who also shattered my new media soul into a thousand pieces when they started telling me How2 Social through buzz phrases, which included (but painfully was not limited to) ‘personal brand’ in the same breath as ‘authenticity’ and ‘social measurement’ as Facebook metrics.

Over two separate days in two completely different environments, my grief was confounded.


In the short space of two days, it became abundantly clear that current practice is merely a hybrid of the platform ‘certified’ sales pitches. A regurgitation and adaption of the papers we were writing and the presentations we were giving back in 2012…


(and yes, I know I’m screaming, but seriously…?!)

Discussions around social media have traditionally been driven by the available technology, or social community management issues that have arisen through the event of participation.

Traditionally, advertising and media agencies have worked behind a thin veil of creative agency presenting ‘the solution’ as the requisite bridge between product/ sterile company and desired consumer.

Sadly however, a large percentage of Advertising, PR, Communications and Media Agencies are entrenched in outdated business practice when it comes to production for and distribution on social.

If these company representatives are anything to go by, even the agencies who have re-badged their Art Director to Creative Lead are missing the point somewhat entirely!

This only compounds my grief as Australian agencies should be leading the global creative charge in this space (and no don’t point me to the self-congratulatory industry statues corporations spend millions to win each year).

Creatives have the opportunity to lead, rather than dwell.

Directors have the opportunity to integrate and showcase, rather than merely direct traffic.

Oh.. and to the Preditors (the hybrid being that is both producer and editor) let’s make a concerted effort to lose the jargon.

It’s not about what you call yourself, it’s what you say and do that drives impact.

Air New Zealand Marketing = One of the Best

Air NZ are fabulous at integrated marketing communications.

The Bear Grylls safety brief is the latest example of how a company makes old information we’ve all heard a million times, fun, relevant and engaging.

What is Media?

A commonly posed question, worthy of a universal and definitive answer.
However, media is not always comprehensively or easily defined.

Research would suggest that the context of definition, significantly impacts how the term media is defined. For instance, a public relations practitioner will group various mass and niche communications technologies and businesses into ‘target media channels’. Whereas an advertiser and media planner will define ‘media types or categories’, such as print, broadcast, outdoor, online, with a view to creating target channels for campaigns.

But how can you define a term by using a term?

I guess it comes down to whether it is a noun or an adjective.

These are just some of the definitions proposed for media. Which one do you think is best?

These aren’t academic explanations, obviously, but they are invaluable for students new to the study of media.
Because a quick google/ online search enables students to ask the most basic of questions and potentially find an answer that enables them to access the concept and look for further content.
I encourage all of my students to start at the very beginning. Break down the keywords in any question or assigned task and ‘enter’ the project as comfortably as they can.
Task for this week:
What is the difference between traditional, new and online media?

PR & Web 2.0

Running through the electronic archive of my public corporate life at various stages it’s easy to overlook the successes and key lessons learnt.

I recently found this while googling and giggled out loud. Yes, I google’d myself and no it’s not narcissistic (maybe a little), but it’s also Step #1 in proactive reputation management.  

Not surprisingly, I recommend it to everyone who is working, posting, socialising, engaging or remotely interested in finding out what’s out there on the world wide web.

As it stands, a snapshot or digital newspaper archive like the NZ hearld article that you can show-off to those around you, is frankly, irrelevant beyond providing a good giggle and a Delorian-style cruise back to the future.

Why is this?

Someone recently tried to tell me there’s no such thing as a bad experience, only a learning opportunity… I told said person I thought this was an interesting perspective and looked forward to reviewing the discussion after they’d started their internship – their first ever job.

Now the blank, incredulous stare was a given, as was the accompanying, ‘If I don’t like it, I’ll just leave. It’ll be their loss’…

And I daresay, it would have been too… the loss of time wasted navigating the HR necessities of dealing with the uninitiated, highly competent and astute ‘trophy generation’ egos hovering on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Don’t get me wrong, I love generation next. I think they are fabulous assets to a crazed world of societal plaster-cast mouldings of the various castes of prior generations. And they are real contributors to business, if you’re open-minded enough to listen and learn.

After all, mentoring works best both ways #FoodForThought

Social Media: Hype or Communications Revolution?

No matter who I am speaking with, everyone wants to know about social media and how to best use it for their business.

The most frightening thing for me is the inflexibility from business owners and senior management teams. Used to throwing money at marketing and sales activities, this group of learned corporates expect this new media channel to fit within the existing consumer consumption paradigm. But it doesn’t.

Now, I could lie to any corporate waving a cheque in my direction and tell them that social media is where they need to be and that I can brand them up to Koo-ee… if I was that way inclined, but I’m not.

Quite possibly to my fiscal detriment I tell them THEY need to shift current practices, THEY need to engage personally, because social media is tactile and it’s about THEM. And in doing so, they need to be ready for anything. But very few are ready to hear the truth of best practice in social media.

The most common reaction I get is the age-old blank, silent ‘you have no idea what you’re talking about, I can’t possibly do that’ look of horror. They’re the ones you can’t help – yet. But rest assured, they’ll come knocking in about 6 – 12 months (maybe less) wanting to take the plunge and for you to hold their hand. That’s a good thing, they’ve had the critical shift in mindset: from observation to a considered willingness moving towards participation.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that nearly half of the Australian population do not know life without a mobile telephone…so for them, social media is about as strenuous a jump now, as what Atari to VCR was in the 80’s.

Mobile telephony and consumer communications are ubiquitous. What was once achieved with a full-page ad in the sunday papers, now needs to be re-purposed for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry just to ensure the target consumers have the chance (not guaranteed distribution) of engaging with your diligently crafted creative. Then in order to get positive Word Of Mouth (which SM does not guarantee), you need to Tweet, facebook, myspace, blog, retweet and Digg, in the interests of starting (or hopefully continuing) the desired brand and business conversation.

Marketing and Communications practices need to change in order to maximise the potential of new media technologies. It’s a bit like driving a car with stability control switched off because you already know how to drive; or outsourcing your call centre without conducting product training or considering systems management processes. It just kind of exists without adding tangible and measurable value intrinsically to your brand and your business.

Ceding control is confronting. It’s against every marketing and sales principle worth engaging. That was of course, until the arrival of social media capability.

Knowing if, when and how to cede control is the key to getting cut through within the savvy new media consumer sphere.

So is Social Media hype or part of a Communications Revolution? Neither, merely part of the evolution of 21st century communications.

A quick video to explain…

Social Media from Phil Guest on Vimeo.

Faggot Tweet: Sponsors Speak

Since removing her swimming cap to reveal a ‘marketable face’ and winning three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Stephanie Rice has been the golden girl of Australian swimming.

Her success in the pool launching her (willingly or not) into the stratosphere of the modern Australian sporting icon.

A proven performer, Rice has a legion of fans globally.
So not surprisingly, opportunistic sponsors came calling and a young lady used to going without (let’s be honest, the revenues of the pool are miniscule for most) no doubt thought all her Christmas’ had come at once in the form of car-maker Jaguar and intimates apparel retailer Davenport.
Forgetting for a moment, that swimming as a profession does not a Jaguar driver make, let’s turn our attention to the now infamous @ItsStephRice Tweet following the Wallabies’ historic win over the South African Springbok’s last weekend. Now known as another turning point in her career.
What was actually said on the tweet can not be comprehensively confirmed because Rice’s @ItsStephRice original post has been deleted from the Twittersphere. (Bad decision #2)
But, I do have it on good authority that the Tweet opened with: ‘SUCK ON THAT FAGGOTS’.
Hmm…rest for a moment on that one, because I think it’s fair to say that for Rice the world class Australian super star swimmer that was Bad Decision #1. Why?
It was aggressive, rude, and inappropriate.
Read on a little further and enter the ever-important, but at times elusive context:
And it is clearly the tweet of an Australian rugby fan twittering her thoughts after enjoying the tightly contested historical test match that went down to the wire.

So was it as bad as they say? No, of course not.
So that being the case, why was the 22 year old athlete forced to apologise to a ravenous swarm of corporate media at an antiquated press conference (Bad decision #3) in Sydney in tears? Because of what her Tweet inferred? Or because the first openly gay rugby league footballer, Ian Roberts, came out uttering offence calling for her to be accountable for her insults? Ian, you should know better!
Let’s leave aside the fact that Rice tweets regularly with Australian Wallabies Giteau, Beale and Co…(don’t look so surprised they have a lot in common: diet, travel, sleep, training, diet, sleep, training, sleep, weights, gym, run, sponsor lunch, speaking appearance, photo-shoot, interview, weights, gym, swim, run, sleep…) As well as the fact that it was the first time the Wallabies had beaten the Springboks in Bloemfontein since 1933 (and South Africa since 1992 although the ARU has it as 1963 on their official releases) and what have you got? Confirmation that Stephanie Rice, when not being a world class athlete herself, is an engaged (and even by rugby standards a learned) rugby union fan. That’s right, she jumps the fence and becomes a fan: although the rules of the elite professional (according to the corporate media) still apply to her.
Rice’s ‘shout out’ to her ‘Tweeps’, according to the moral crusaders in the media and business worlds is cause enough for vilifying her as a South African hating homophobe.
But is it Rice that said that, or is it our interpretation of Rice’s vernacular that produces the prejudice?
Personally, I didn’t know what faggot meant.
The old PR Manager in me thought it could be a furry maggot and if you’ve ever witnessed a Springbok eye-gouging or rucking then it’s a valid slur usually directed at the instigator by the recipients mother. But even I couldn’t overlook the inference of the well-known 90’s homophobic vernacular.
But because I wasn’t sure, if that meaning still applied in 2010, I referred to the Australian publishing bible the Macquarie Dictionary and discovered that Rice’s tweet doesn’t make sense – literally.
// (say ‘faguht)
noun 1.a bundle of sticks, twigs, or small branches, etc., bound together, used for fuel, as a fascine for revetment, etc.
2. a bundle of pieces of iron or steel to be welded.
3. a bundle or bunch of anything.
4. a ball of chopped meat, especially pork offal, mixed with herbs, bread, or oats, etc., and eaten fried, or baked.
5. bouquet garni.
6.  Colloquial (derogatory) a male homosexual.
verb (t) 7. to bind or make into a faggot.
8. to ornament with faggoting. Also, US, fagot. [Middle English, from Old French; origin uncertain; 6. [originally US slang, from British slang, prostitute, slattern]
Bibliography: The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd.
So what was Rice saying?

1. Suck on that Bundle of sticks, twigs, used for fuel (I get it, de Villiers the Boks’ coach seems to snap like a twig whenever someone says something he doesn’t want to hear)

2. Suck on that Bundle of pieces of iron/ steel to be welded (okay, the Bok’s are reknowned hard men of the pitch so this still works. If anything, some may say it’s a little too nice for a good Wallabies fan sledge!)

3. Suck on that bundle or bunch of anything (Pretty weak, yet again)

4. Suck on that Ball of Chopped meat (I like this one! This one works best)

5. Suck on that bouquet garni (I have NO idea what this one means! Bueller?)

6. Suck on that Male homosexual (Irrelevant – who cares who anyone sleeps with- politically incorrect and highly controversial and therefore considered most plausible by both the 90’s vernacular and those in search of a story.)

7. Suck on that to bind into a fagot (The use of old English does sound a little bit pompous from someone who swims back and forth ‘Dory-style’ for a living, but hey! If the shoe fits…)

8. Suck on that prostitute (Taken out of context I guess this one could be even more controversial but unless the Bok’s are engaging in extra-curricular activities, this one’s probably most like #6).

But seriously, why skip to number six and prejudice the bundle of twigs, pieces of steel, or any bundle for that matter, including: chopped meat, the bouquet garni(!!!) and bless them, the always vilified prostitutes! I tell you why, it’ll sell more newspapers, generate more talkback and just as brilliantly, it will start a conversation about the roles and responsibilities of professional athletes at a time when the sports news isn’t exactly flowing and the advertising revenues are stagnating.
The problem here is predominately two-fold: Stephenie Rice the athlete acted like a typical rugby fan and the mass media of broadcast (which car sponsors still spend LOTS of advertising dollars with) know how to rally business community sentiment in their favour. 
It’s CONTEXT that is the real problem here. A rugby fan’s highly competitive comment, made to friends, exists within which ever context the reader decides to place it.
And given additional oxygen by former Australian rugby league star Ian Roberts who had to defend his sexuality through the prejudiced ignorance of the 90’s in which the term faggot was only meant as a degrading hit on his homosexuality.
Now… I’m not sure about you, but I’d put money on it, that Rice’s Tweet was meant to be derogatory towards South Africans (what Aussie or Kiwi Rugby – and even recently South African – rugby fan doesn’t seize the opportunity to take a verbal stab during the Tri-Nations?).
Did she intend to vilify homosexuals at the same time? I highly doubt it.
So why is this such a disaster? Because Rice is a public person, even when she’s not working and because by playing by the old media rules, Rice keeps feeding the media new angles for the story.
The mass corporate media does not differentiate between private and public sports personas outside of a pub, cafe or sponsor function. Why? Because for the most part, they are still trying to work out the best way to operate within the new media channels of social networking media sites like, and
So when is the athlete just a normal person? Or is normal an illusion and that person is forever held to a higher moral standard than all other members of society and in Rice’s case, most university students her own age!
Why is it that just because she is brilliant at sport and has been tagged with the celebrity label, the antiquated ‘role model’ tag anchors her as a socio-cultural moral compass? I’m guessing it’s because as a result of her athletic achievements she has an earning capacity most of the population can only dream of.
The saddest part of all of this is how the case highlights the futility of sports sponsorship. Jaguar have revealed their corporate fangs in true anti-democratic old-school butt-covering 90’s PR fashion, while Davenport have not only revealed themselves as a sponsor in partnership with the person as well as the athlete, but have showcased a mature and foresighted understanding of both the dialogic (two way) conversation of micro-blogging social networking sites like Twitter (people are going to say and do dumb things!) as well as, the realisation that a corporation no longer CONTROLS a brand, let alone the key messaging of it’s sponsored entities.

So budding sports superstars BEWARE when next out sponsor hunting and remember, as Andrew Keen says in The Cult of the Amateur, ‘the internet is but a mirror of ourselves!’ …and @ItsStephRice good on you for not being afraid to stumble again in the social, global, ubiquitous and very public media channel that is the Twitterverse, time will pay testament to the fact, that you are actually leading by example.


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