Andrew Melville, a highly experienced PR consultant from Spoke Ltd, began his PRiNZ presentation on the issue of sustainability by treating us to a few notes on his traditional Maori flute. The beautiful sound of the putorino, the tones of which sound similar to that of a native bird, permeated the hushed private event room at Glengarry and served as a reminder of the things that we would miss if global warming ever took a serious turn for the worst.

Andrew went on to describe how, despite the potentially devastating consequences of abusing our delicate environment, many companies put sustainability into the ‘too hard basket’. Other corporations attempt to convince their audiences, through marketing, that they are environmentally friendly when they are not actually doing very much to make a difference. This is often labelled ‘greenwashing’ and is done purely to expand markets and to sell more products. More information on ‘greenwashing’ in New Zealand can be found here.

Andrew complained that there is too much media ping-pong, regarding environmental issues, between journalists and officials. Because of this, increasing numbers of frustrated consumers are heading to online sites such as Facebook and Bebo to get the information that they need.

There are no clear messages and not enough companies leading the way forward, especially within New Zealand which is estimated to be about five years behind the rest of the world when it comes to dealing with these, and other, issues. One way of getting the ‘green’ message across is to make it fun and interesting. Andrew recommended viewing a selection of ‘green’ sites to get an idea of how this can be done:

Andrew also pointed out a few global companies that are courageously leading the way forward when it comes to tackling green issues:

The presentations from both Andrew and Tim were extremely thought-provoking and certainly stimulated a lot of debate amongst attending PRiNZ members! However, I am still unsure as to how much of an impact sustainability has on consumers. After all, whatever businesses say and do, they are all interested in the bottom line and who can blame them? Their very existence depends on a continual stream of revenue. I just wonder what kind of gap exists between the number of consumers who think favourably of green initiatives and eco-friendly corporations and the number of those that actually act on these views and will pick up and purchase the environmentally friendly, locally sourced packet of tomatoes even if they are more expensive than the shiny red tomatoes exported from overseas.....? It is an interesting question and not one that has a simple, easy answer.


Last night, I attended an Auckland based PRiNZ event called ‘Communicating Sustainability: Green is the New Black’ which examined whether the words ‘business and sustainable can ever live happily together in the same sentence’ and what PR’s role should be in helping clients and customers get to grips with ‘green’ issues. Tim Rainger from Creo Sustain and Andrew Melville, Director of Communications and PR at consultancy, Spoke Ltd, were our presenters for the evening. However, in order to keep my posts to a reasonable length, this entry will focus purely on what Tim had to say.

Tim, who has been involved in a number of environmental groups such as ‘Surfers against Sewage’ in the United Kingdom, ‘Patagonia’ in the USA and KASM (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining), here in New Zealand, certainly provided us with some food for thought.

One of the things that he warned against was sending out mixed messages to audiences.
Tim cited the now infamous Noel Leeming advertising campaign, featuring Erin Brokivich, as an example of a company sending out confusing messages and the extreme negative backlash that can occur because of this. Ironically, if Noel Leeming had told the story of what the corporation itself was doing to help climate change, the response from the public would have been a million times more positive. The expensive TV ad only invited cynicism (especially since the woman featured in the advert had claimed, on numerous occasions, that she detested large businesses...)
At the other end of the scale is the New Zealand company, Grove Mill Wine. Rather than investing in a glossy, over the top advertising campaign, Grove Mill are living what they preach. They are part of the carboNZero programme and are members of the Sustainable Winegrowing NZ. They also have put some great systems and innovations in place to reduce their impact on the environment, including: an energy efficient waste heat system, a commitment to recycling, use of organic fertiliser, insulated warehousing and the use of eco-friendly packaging. There is no consumer cynicism here- it is clear that they are doing what they do because they are interested in preserving the environment and producing good quality wine. As a nice side effect, their sales are booming.

I think that the overall message from Tim was that if you want sustainability to work as a part of your business, you cannot treat it as a bolt on attribute. Transparency, honesty and effort go a long way. As Tim said, ‘It has to be lived, not just paid lip service to’.


I thought that this article, which showed up on the Scoop website recently, presented quite an astute, thought provoking and humerous look at the current communications efforts of Senator Obama.

Freelance writer and public relations consultant, Sherwood Ross, believes that, rather than attacking Hillary Clinton, Obama's campaign would benefit much from him turning his attentions to the man currently in charge, George Bush. As Ross declares:

'How much better off Obama would be to turn the media spotlight on a detested president! He's got a fantastic educational opportunity if he exploits it. For example, he might issue a new white paper on Bush wrongdoing each day for the rest of the campaign.'

Ross suggests a few press conference ideas such as 'presenting a detailed white paper about the scores of horrific violations of the U.S. Constitution of which Bush is guilty' and 'exposing the illegalities of extraordinary rendition, the dragnet arrests across the Middle East, and how thousands are being held without due process.'

So, what would you suggest if you were Obama's public relations advisor? Would you have your sights set on Clinton or Bush? Or would you take an entirely different approach? I would love to hear your thoughts!


The competition for public relations positions, both in-house and in consultancies, is becoming ever fiercer. More and more young people are enrolling on public relations and communications courses, no doubt attracted by the prospect of what they think will be an exciting and high profile career. What's more, as increasing numbers of our Baby Boomers retire over the next decade, PR youngsters may find themselves shooting up the career ladder much faster than they expected!

I think that as more Boomers leave the industry and more of young people step in to fill their shoes we will see a wonderful shake-up in the PR sphere. I am by no means disregarding the immense amount of knowledge that somebody with 25+ years of experience will have built up. Senior level PRs have a depth of knowledge that will take those of us still in our 20s many many years to achieve. However, I think that the next batch of PR consultants will bring some exciting, fresh ideas and new perspectives to the table. There will also be much more emphasis on social media and online communications, driven by practitioners that grew up with social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter.

The number of public relations blogs written by young PR professionals and students is a good indication of the passion that many members of this group have for the industry. It also demostrates the superior understanding of and respect that they have for online communications.

Here are some top blogs, written by our future PR leaders:

The PR and Comms Network blog, written by two young PR professionals, Alex Pearmain and Alain Desmier, is probably my favourite PR blog at the moment- I read every single post! Being an expat from the UK, I read it to keep up-to-date with the young PR 'scene' back in the homeland. It is entertaining, informative and very well written.

Young PR, written by Paul Young, a Senior Account Executive at Converseon.

Chris Clarke's Student PR blog

PR Student, written by Leeds University student, Chloe Chaplin.

There is also a great blog post here, written by David Meerman Scott, author of the WebInkNow blog, which talks about the 'new PR generation'.

So, how do you think the departure of the Baby Boomers and the increasing presence of the younger generation will affect the PR industry? This is something that really interests me (being a PR consultant in my mid-20s) so let me know what you think!


There is something about the now familiar Telecom ads, featuring those small, fluffy and totally technology obsessed toys that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. The sight of that white bunny furiously texting away until her paws set on fire is a sharp reminder that we live in a world where people don't talk to each other face to face anymore.

Across New Zealand and the rest of the world, people are texting more than they are talking. Office workers would rather send an email than get up and walk to somebody else's desk. I have even heard tales of Account Managers emailing a simple request to the Account Executive sitting right next to them! Many of us are even loathe to pick up the phone to contact the person that we need to speak to (although, even when we do, we are usually met with an answerphone message). Then, after work is over, we chat with our friends using online networks such as Facebook and by texting.

Even though these new technological developments bring a huge amount of convenience to our time poor lives, I think that it is important that we remember the value of the human touch.

Despite the fact that long, lazy lunches are now out of the question for most people, there are still a number of things you can do to keep that personal connection with your client or customer alive. For example, pick up the phone and call your client or your customer now and again, rather than sending an email. You don't have to be on the phone for hours, just long enough to help nuture the relationship and to let the recipient know that you care enough to give them a ring.

Have meetings in-person as often as possible. This is another great opportunity to develop interpersonal relations. People also work better when they are face to face as it is easier to gauge reactions and feelings.

Also, never underestimate the power of the letter. If you need to say thank you to a client or a customer then send them a letter instead of an email. A letter is much more personal and warmer than its electronic cousin and will, once again, help you to build better relationships with the people that you work with.

There is no denying that new technology has brought a whole host of opportunities and benefits. The Internet means that we have access to a much larger and more accessible pool of information and blogs, forums and applications such as Facebook and Bebo enable us to interact with and get our message out to a much larger audience- even if we aren't meeting them face to face...

Just don't rely on electronic tools entirely. Make sure that you don't lose the human touch and your clients, your customers and your business will all thank you for it.


I heard a small business owner utter these words the other day: 'We are meeting our targets with advertising so we don't need public relations'.

It got me thinking...can advertising and public relations work independently of each other and be successful or should every marketing plan incorporate a combination of both?

Many business owners seem to think that advertising can do all the hard work that is needed to build up the credibility and awareness of a brand. Maybe this is because advertising is so visual and obvious- we see it around us all day, everyday. Public relations is much more subtle and maybe these business owners think that subtle = ineffective.

There is no denying that advertising can do amazing things for a brand. For example, Absolut Vodka has run a highly successful print advertising campaign for the past twenty years and they are now one of the most profitable vodka producers in the world. However, Absolut also has PR that gets the brand noticed. An example is the much talked about 5 meter high ice sculpture of the Absolut Vodka bottle that is a feature piece in a well known ice hotel in Sweden.

In 2003, AT&T, a leading research company in the United States, looked into how advertising and public relations work together. The results showed that not only do advertising and public relations each contribute separate benefits, the two disciplines can be even more effective if managed together.

The results showed that:

'In periods of lighter advertising, public relations activity can compensate by supporting brand loyalty. In periods of heavy positive news coverage, less advertising may be needed.

Advertising and public relations activity each has its own impact on consumers, and these impacts interact to influence perceptions, attitudes and behaviour. More than anything else, an organisation’s news environment determines the impact of its advertising.'

Here are some other interesting blogs on the subject:

Advertising vs. PR- Elif's World

PR Squared

PR vs. Advertising- And the Winner is?

So what do you think? Can advertising work independently of public relations, and vice versa? If the answer is no, how do we convince those in charge of marketing budgets that these two tools work better together?


Rebranding has become something of a global trend in recent years. Everybody has been jumping on to the bandwagon. In New Zealand, Carpet Court has just announced that it will be rebranding under the name 'The Floor Store', Multiplex is changing it's name to 'Brookfield Multiplex Ltd.' and Tower Insurance is also looking to update it's image. I have even seen articles on how to develop your own personal brand.

However, although people seem to get very excited about a change of name or a flash new logo, it has to be remembered that rebranding is about much more than simply changing the logo or altering the company website. As Dave Allen, CEO of global brand agency Enterprise IG says, 'It's the behaviours of your company and its people that form your reputation, and your reputation is your brand.'

When rebranding, business owners should take a long, hard and very honest look at their company and its position in the marketplace. You need to assess what your audiences think of your current brand, where your company stands in relation to other players in the marketplace and how you can position your brand to get where you want to go. It is also important that internal communications are up to scratch so that employees and stakeholders will buy into and understand the new brand.

This is where a good public relations company can prove invaluable. A skilled public relations consultant can help you get to grips with all of these points as well as making sure that your business strategy is well understood when rebranding becomes public. Having a PR company on board also means that all communications with your individual audiences will be as consistent and effective as possible.


This weekend I finally watched Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'. I had been putting it off for a while as I knew that Al would make me feel all kinds of guilt, fear and trepidation. However, seeing as the weather this weekend was dismal and I had become a soccer widow for the day, I decided to dig the DVD out from the back of the cupboard and face my fears.

My fears were confirmed. 'An Inconvenient Truth' left me feeling somewhat anxious and spurred me to race around the entire house frantically switching off lights.

It did have one other effect. It got me thinking about what we should be doing to help solve the ever-escalating global warming problem and what PR's role should be.

In my opinion, there are a number of things that public relations companies can do. Firstly, do not take on a client if you do not agree with how they run their company. If you disagree with their practices and think that they are unethical do not work with them. This is easier said than done if you are a mere account executive but is definitely a stand that owners/directors of PR companies should be taking.

Secondly, encourage your existing clients to take some steps towards becoming more environmentally friendly. Some things that businesses can do include using local products and services, recycling and becoming CarbonNeutral. Increasing numbers of people are deciding whether or not they use a company based on how eco-friendly they are so convince your clients to make environmentalism a part of their brands.

A number of 'green' PR companies, including Green Planet PR in the United Kingdom, have sprung up in recent years. These consultancies only take on green businesses as clients and focus primarily on making people aware of environmental issues. Other agencies, such as Intermediary Communications in New Zealand and MWW Group in the United States, make a special effort to incorporate green PR and corporate social responsibility services into all of their strategies.

I think more businesses should be following this lead. After all, without this planet there would be no business. There would be no public relations consultancies. All of those things that we take for granted would be gone.