The tightening New Zealand economy means that these are uncertain times for all types of business. The ‘R’ word is a regular feature in the media and cash flow worries are keeping Kiwi business owners awake at night. Many of them are reacting by putting a big thick red line through their public relations, marketing and advertising budgets.

However, cutting back on marketing spend during periods of economic hardship is a mistake.

Rather than slim-lining communications efforts, now is the time to start beefing them up. Business owners should be concentrating on maintaining the trust of their investors and customers by regularly touching base with them and letting them know how the company is dealing with the situation.

Many companies have fallen over during past recessions as a result of shying away from marketing and, consequently, dropping off the radar of the media, their shareholders, their customers and their potential customers.

At the other end of the scale, a number of clever businesses that have invested heavily in marketing during poorer economic circumstances have come out stronger than ever and way ahead of their rivals. For example, during the recession of 1990-1992, Procter & Gamble was the only marketer among the five biggest U.S. companies to increase spending in 1991. P&G managed to increase sales and earnings during this period (the late 1980s to early 1990s) and company sales surpassed the $30 billion mark in 1993.

Many business owners aren’t aware that PR is one of the most cost-efficient tools available, which can be a blessing when finances are tight. This value for money contrasts sharply with advertising which can become incredibly expensive, very quickly.

Online public relations is a particularly effective way of squeezing the maximum value out of your PR dollar and is something that business owners can do a lot of themselves. Writing a company blog, participating in business forums and sending out a regular e-newsletter are all simple but effective ways of reminding relevant parties that you are still alive and kicking.

Recessions are a natural part of the economic cycle. The markets, the consumers and the products will still be around once the economy has corrected itself. Business owners should try not to react by cutting out the very tools that could keep their heads above water. If companies are astute and pay attention to how they are communicating, at a time when their competitors are slashing their marketing budgets, they may even come out of the difficult economic period with an even larger portion of the market than when the recession began.


Female rights in the workplace have been a bone of contention for decades. Battles over pay, maternity leave and the infamous 'glass ceiling' have been raging for generations. In some professions and companies, they still are.

I am all for equal rights. I do not think that men should be paid more than a woman who has the same amount of experience. I loved reading Katharine Graham's authobiography and I feel extremely proud when I think of the advances that women have made over the years.

However, I have to say that this post, which argues that female PR practitioners are not taken seriously, grated on my nerves ever so slightly.

The author of the post, Nicola Miller, infers that films such as 'Sex and the City' and 'Bridget Jones', do not acurately reflect the reality of the public relations industry and that they have a negative impact on how female consultants are perceived.

I completely disagree with this view. I do not think that people look at a show like 'Ab Fab' and presume that the PR profession is exactly like it is on the show. I think that we need to give people a little more credit than that. I certainly never watch an over-the-top crime related TV series such as 'CSI' and think that it is an accurate depiction of the average day in a crime scene investigator's life. I don't tune into a show like 'Shortland Street' and think that hospital nurses are exposed to serial killers, adultery and kidnappings on a daily basis. The majority of people are intelligent enough to see programs like this for what they are: fun sources of escapism that are gloriously unrealistic, daft and indulgent!

Many people have a skewed understanding of public relations. However, I would argue that the actions of individuals such as Alistair Campbell have had more of an impact on this than a few silly references in 'Absolutely Fabulous.'

I believe that it is the duty of PR practitioners, both male and female, to educate clients and prospective clients on what public relations is and what it can do for their businesses. This can only be done by proving that PR delivers a tangible return on investment.

Now, let us take a final look at how female PR practitioners are faring. According to the most recent PRiNZ salary survey, women are dominating the PR industry with 73% of current practitioners being female. This trend is only set to increase; a mere 13.5% of respondents under 30 years of age were male. Only in the 50 plus age category are males and females equally represented.

In my opinion, despite the obvious attempt by SATC to muddy our professional reputation (sarcasm intended), things are not looking too bad for us girls. What do you think?


If you were relaxing on Sunday evening in front of the television, you might have been sitting down to watch Prime’s new show, ‘Mad Men’, which is all about the 1960s advertising industry.

In the UK, men’s style bible Arena Magazine covered the launch of the program with an article on advertising – talking to the relevant movers and shakers in the UK’s ad industry.

Unsurprisingly, there was no interview with a high-flyer at Saatchi, no appraisal of TVCs; in fact there wasn’t a dickey bird on traditional methods or agencies. Why is this is not a surprise? Because they were talking to the men who had been creating effective marketing campaigns, promotions that had been noticed for all the right reasons, and almost all of it was online and involved direct marketing.

As the economic downturn puts pressure on company budgets and managers become more keen to know whether they are receiving a decent return on their marketing investment, it is imperative that advertising agencies are able to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

With greater ad avoidance there it is ever more important that companies send out relevant information to their consumers. Putting out a TVC has its advantages, but there are a hell of a lot of negative aspects as well – is it reaching the right people? Is it effective? How many people skipped past it or didn’t watch it at all? The simple answer is that you can’t be sure for definite because it can’t be measured. This could equate to an awful lot of dollars slipping down the drain.
And herein lays the problem with most traditional methods. It’s not that they can’t be good, but in the current climate, companies need to get the most from their marketing investment. They need effective, measured and accountable communications with their consumers.

PR and direct marketing (and when I say direct marketing I don’t mean mail drops and leaflets in your post box) can cover off these issues. It all begins with knowing your customers and how they’re likely to react. Good DM agencies will have analysts who measure all the data that they can get from client databases to allow them to start tracking trends and developing a thorough understanding of consumer behaviour. This understanding can then be turned into a strategy that will cut through to provide the most effective method of talking to key markets. The end result is that only the most relevant audiences are sent a piece of communication. From this you’ll know, for instance, how many people have received your piece of communication and how many people responded through the necessary channels. In fact, you’ll know exactly who responded and therefore gain even more valuable data to further inform your marketing decisions.

DM opens up a whole new world of communications, with the ability to do personalized pieces and trigger based programmes (so that people receive information at the most convenient time to them). Companies can also interact live with the brand or measure how long someone spent on a website and at which point they clicked off.

While technology opens up plenty of opportunity for ad avoidance it also opens up a greater opportunity for greater communications that will be relevant to that person and therefore more effective. The way society communicates is changing and so the way companies advertise will have to as well. The Mad Men of the 60’s don’t stand a chance.

If you would like to know more about direct marketing, you can contact Nick Bell, new Account Manager at leading Auckland-based DM agency, Twenty, at

I am very aware of the fact that, as PR people, it is vital that we understand and keep track of what is going on in the rest of the communications industry (mainstream advertising, direct marketing, journalism etc). After all, we often have to work alongside people from these other professions, to achieve what a client is after. For this reason, I would be more than happy to post any information or advice that people in these areas feel may be useful to us public relations consultants. Just drop me a line at if you would like to share something with us. Hopefuly this will lead to our individual professions understanding each other a little better, resulting in much better outcomes for our clients.


These are tough times for all types of business, excluding the receivers....Those in retail are struggling to move enough stock and the word 'finance company' is becoming an increasingly dirty word. Getting positive public relations for businesses is tricky as audiences are low on trust and the media are baying for blood, seemingly only interested in stories about soaring petrol prices and failing enterprises.

This is why I am so impressed with Kiwibank's ability to rise above the bad luck stories and to maintain their positive reputation.

The guys at Kiwibank obviously have a very good grasp of online communications. The 'Join the Movement' campaign has really got people talking and there are now a multitude of blogs and forums discussing the ins and outs of Kiwibank: what the positives and negatives are, what new products have been released, what Kiwibank has planned for the future etc.

Kiwibank is also not afraid of standing up and tackling industry issues, which gives the impression that they actually care about their shareholders and where the industry is heading.

The PR campaign ties in well with a series of unique and attention-grabbing TV advertisements. The ads are so popular that as soon as a new one has been released, it is added to Youtube by its fans just a few moments later.

Although they appear to have a great public relations strategy and a clever and creative approach to their advertisements, there is another reason that Kiwibank is so popular. They have identified their USP, their point of differentiation and they are working it. On top of this, they know what their customers want. While all the other banks are increasing their mortgage rates, without any clear rationale, Kiwibank is cutting theirs. While New Zealanders are bemoaning the number of companies going offshore, Kiwibank is publicising the fact that they are 100% New Zealand owned and based.

There is only one aspect of Kiwibank that does not work in its favour- the location of its branches. Having to queue up in a post office is just not as convenient as popping into your local bank. If they managed to streamline this aspect of their business, then Kiwibank would truly have it made.

If anyone else has an example of a company which is running an excellent public relations campaign, feel free to email the details to me at and I will include them in the 'New Zealand PR Hall of Fame'.


Just a few bits of information for anybody reading 'Musings from an Intermediary...'

If you have a blog that you would like to see listed on the blogroll, please send the link to and I will post it. The same goes for websites.

Also, if you have any public relations news or views that you would like everybody to hear about, send me the info and I will add it to the blog, under your name.

I am open to any ideas for improving the blog so feel free to send me those too!

Enjoy your Fridays everybody!


In these times of economic uncertainty, more and more business owners are, understandably, keen to see proof of whether they are getting a return on their investment into marketing, advertising and public relations. If businesses do not see a clear ROI, then it is quite likely that they will slash their budgets and reserve their cash for tactics that they can see working.

Some direct marketing agencies, such as the Auckland-based Twenty Limited, analyse results and report back to the client as a matter of course. The advertising industry has also long recognised the importance of evaluating return on investment.

However, more often than not, public relations consultancies do not push for evaluation of results, particulary in New Zealand. It is something that is talked about a lot at PRiNZ events but not something that many individuals appear to be acting upon. Maybe this is because PR professionals see themselves more as 'creative brains' than people occupied with statistics and numbers...? Maybe PR consultants are still caught up in that outdated assumption that media coverage proves that public relations is working.

Obviously, PR consultants do need to be able to show how much media exposure was achieved during a campaign. However, they also need to demonstrate the degree to which this exposure influenced perceptions and attitudes and what action, if any, the target audience took.

It is also vital that clients are educated on what results to expect from public relations. PR consultants need to ensure that their clients understand that the success of a PR campaign is not always directly linked to how many column inches they achieve. Of course, if consultants can convince their clients of the benefits of linking PR objectives to business objectives, then companies will also see results that go far beyond the odd article in newspapers and magazines.

At the recent PRiNZ conference, most members sitting on the Young Practitioners Panel were of the opinion that the future of PR lies in technology. I do not disagree with this. However, I also think that, as the months go by, especially if the current economic downturn stays with us for longer than expected, PR consultants will have to be more accountable and will have to present real, tangible results that prove that PR is succeeding at the job that it set out to do.

If PR consultants want a seat at the executive table, the first step is to start talking in a language that CEOs understand. Ultimately, this means providing data and information that shows that PR is impacting a company's bottom line.

Have a read of this blog named 'Proving the Value of Public Relations' and written by Don Bartholomew, senior vice president at MWW Group, in the United States, if you want to learn more about where the PR industry is heading, in terms of accountability and demonstrating ROI.


This Mac ad was brought to my attention at the recent PRiNZ event. I just had to share it with you as it cracks me up everytime I watch it!