Monday, February 27, 2006

Blogging as a Public Relations Tool

Millions of people are posting their thoughts, ideas, dreams, gossip, advertisements, and complaints on the web through personal weblogs. It seems that blogs are taking over. Well they’re not… yet.

Weblogs (blogs) are also changing the face of online business. Consumers now have the power to influence a much larger circle of peers. Many businesses now face the problem of negative press floating around inside search engine results – a trail complaints and accusations left by disgruntled bloggers. Such negative online publicity can be very damaging and its up to the entrepreneur or bearer of the company message to take note. Negative publicity affects them so much because they follow the top search results for every query.

Think you don't need to worry about blogging? Think again!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Evaluating your PR efforts

Often trumped up as an obvious point, surprisingly little attention is given to the importance of developing tools to track the effectiveness of your communications. One common sentiment is that "it's too expensive". Another viewpoint expressed is "well, can't you just get down to communicating my message?" Afterall, it seems simple. The more media hits you get, obviously your PR efforts are working.

The trouble with this thinking is that it assumes your targeted public has seen the published material and has acted as a result of what they saw. That can sometimes be quite a stretch.

Bottom line: investing in some form of evaluation diametrics makes sense! One source I've found interesting at a reasonable price is Survey Monkey.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Update from Corridors, the Public Afairs e-newsletter

Since my last newsletter, Corridors, on Public Affairs there's been an organizational change in the upper echelons of government. With changes having recently occured with a Tory government, I've been informed of a new structure at the PMO. The benefits of inside knowledge are evident! :)

Check out this link:


Let me know if this was of help. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why the Usual PR Doesn't Cut It

Here's an interesting article I found. I hope you enjoy:

Why the Usual PR Doesn't Cut It
by Robert Kelly

How could it when so many business, non-profit, government agency and association managers apparently believe public relations is all about creating some publicity by moving a message from one point to another using tactics like broadcast plugs, press releases and brochures?

When you think about it, that belief doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when the managers who hold that view have such an obvious need for public relations that leads directly to achieving their managerial objectives.

I’m talking about public relations that really does something meaningful about the behaviors of those manager’s important outside audiences that MOST affect the departmental, divisional or subsidiary unit they manage.

Perhaps most important, I refer to public relations that persuades those key outside folks to the managers’ way of thinking by helping move audience members to take actions that help each manager’s unit succeed.

With that kind of promise, how COULD the usual kind of tactical PR cut it?

Especially when PR’s underlying premise further sweetens the promise: people act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors affect the organization the most, the public relations mission is usually accomplished.

What they soon come to realize is that the right public relations planning really CAN alter individual perception and actually lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.

Should you count yourself among such managers, please remember that your PR effort must demand more than special events, news releases and talk show tactics if you are to receive the quality public relations results you believe you deserve.

And what a variety of results should come your way: politicians and legislators begin looking at you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures start showing up; welcome bounces in show room visits occur; capital givers or specifying sources begin to look your way; customers commence making repeat purchases; membership applications start to rise; prospects actually start to do business with you; and community leaders begin to seek you out.

Since they are already in the perception and behavior business, the PR pros on your staff can be of real use for your new opinion monitoring project. But be certain they really accept why it’s SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. In the final analysis, be sure they believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

During your planning sessions with the PR staff, cover your plans for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Ask questions like these: how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the exchange? Are you familiar with our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Should someone suggest using a professional survey firm to do the opinion gathering work, be aware that it could cost considerably more than using those PR folks of yours in that monitoring capacity. So, whether it’s your people or a survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

Now you must call for action on the most serious problem areas you uncovered during your key audience perception monitoring. And that means setting a public relations goal. Will it be to straighten out that dangerous misconception? Correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentially painful rumor dead in its tracks?

It is obvious that setting your PR goal means you must set an equally specific strategy that tells you how to get there. Only three strategic options are available to you when it comes to doing something about perception and opinion. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick will taste like sorghum syrup on your anchovies. So be sure your new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You certainly don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What will a new Conservative government mean?

The political machinery is in overdrive as a new federal cabinet and opposition stakeholders are being queued up. All this is not lost on an uncertain public-service bureaucracy, working aggressively on transition documents and readying themselves for what lies ahead.
This is a good time to dust-off the ol’ address book, and rekindle relationships with tenured senior and mid-level bureaucrats who, in these times when the leadership learning curve is at its ebb, wield more power and influence than they ordinarily would.
Uncertainty is no doubt abound with the controversy surrounding the new transfuge, David Emmerson. Will he be able to stay or be forced to go? Time will only tell!
With the Conservatives seemingly one-minded in "reforming" the way Ottawa is lobbied, the next few months, until Parliament is convened on April 3, 2006 will be very interesting. I expect that the craft of lobbying (and I believe it is an honourable trade) will be under increased scrutiny.
Those interested in selling to government or representing a point of view in defence of an organization will have to be ever vigilent in the transparency of their representations.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Marketing is not a short term fix

I took part in a very interesting panel discussion yesterday. Present, were represeptatives from High Road Communications and Algonquin College's Public Relations department.

At the heart of the discussion was really that entrepreneurs cannot look at their marketing efforts as a one off. PR needs to be in the mix if leads are to be brought forward. Too often, entrepreneurs, especially small business owners, look for the quick fix towards sales. If you are to succeed, you need to be in it for the long haul.

Check it out this Wednesday @ 18h00:


Thursday, February 02, 2006

A New Government Brings Opportunity & Reason for Prudent Strategy

Here's an advance copy of an article I've submitted for the Ottawa Business Journal. I hope you enjoy :)

A New Government Brings Opportunity & Reason for Prudent Strategy
Make sure your business navigates for profit

By Mark Buzan

Whether you are marketing to government or seeking to put your issues on the radar of policy makers, the installation of a new government brings its share of challenges and opportunities.

Many pundits will have their own interpretation and concerns of what this will mean for Canadian business. However, it’s not hard to see that the initial period of a Conservative transition to power presents a unique opportunity for any savvy entrepreneur.

Depending on which economist has the ear of a given journalist, the word is that the effect of a Tory cut in the GST alone will have impacts on consumer sales in the years to come. Most believe the impact will be positive. On the other hand, the coming emphasis on accountability could likely leave an undertone of caution amongst government purchasers. To be successful in this environment, entrepreneurs would be wise to approach their government clients and prospects with a degree of understanding and patience. While keen on your offering, the unwritten rule will be caution and every effort made possible to show transparency. In other words, you will need to be in this process for the long haul.

Now is the time to dust off your rolodex and reconnect with your contacts in the civil service. Until a cabinet is put in place and its ministers and staff are comfortable in their new roles, the civil service is likely to have a slightly greater influence for some time to come.

This underscores an important point when considering your approach before government. Contrary to popular belief, political connections in Ottawa are not the be all and end all of success. While good contacts can be helpful, they will never trump or replace the value of a good idea, product, or service. If political connections alone were enough, half the lobby firms in town would be out of business as many of their lead consultants have their government experience dating back from previous eras. The lesson here is that your approach should always be based on the merits of what you are presenting and from the angle of what is the most topical on the government’s agenda.

Patience is a virtue. When dealing with government, it’s a necessity. In the private sector, marketing campaigns are about repositioning your brand in the minds of consumers so that when they are ready to buy, your firm is first in mind. With government, so too does your vision need to be long term. Influencing and selling to government can not be viewed as an activity onto its own. The paths in decision making are complex and multi-faceted. To account for bumps in the road, prepare a long term strategy. One of the best components of such a strategy is a public relations campaign both to government and also any groups holding influence on the matter. What is the public appetite for what you are proposing? If your product, service, or idea fits into a generally recognized concern, positioning your idea from that perspective will push you further towards realizing the objective. Rework your marketing materials to the same effect and you may be pleasantly surprised.

This becomes all the more relevant with new purchasing rules on the horizon. Shortly before the election, Liberal Minister for Public Works, Scott Brison announced the government’s intention to move towards common purchasing tools and harmonized rules on standing offers. It is unlikely the Tories will move away from this policy. In concrete terms, entrepreneurs should expect a more consistent and fairer process. It also means a more competitive regime.

In this environment, there are a few simple considerations in the development of your strategy for selling to government.

First, make a conscious decision as to whether your service requires a grander scale of awareness amongst government policy and decision makers. In some instances, targeted advertising may even fit the bill. The Hill Times, the leading journal for policy makers, lobbyists, and government types has been known on occasion to accept advertising from companies looking to sell directly to government.

Second, when it comes to influencing policy, familiarizing yourself with the number of associations representing your industry is a wise move. One of the best ways of influencing the bureaucracy on a wider scale is through associations. Get involved. There is strength in numbers.

Finally, involve your Member of Parliament in any concerns you may have in the process. If you own a small business, you will find that many will be sympathetic to concerns expressed.


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs consultancy. He is also a PR consultant with Thornley Fallis Communications. You can subscribe now to his monthly lobbying tips newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the “newsletter” menu.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In case you're interested, here's my photo.
Mark Buzan Posted by Picasa

Welcome to my blog!

This is a first attempt for me at a new technology. I'll endeavour my best to provide some of my thoughts & insights into best practices in lobbying and public relations. Your comments will of course be welcome.

In fact, I sincerely hope this will be an opportunity for for two way interaction.