Whenever I’m invited by a business to advise them on their public relations and marketing communications strategy, the first thing I point out is that PR, like charity, begins at home.
The most important and influential members of any businesses’ PR team are the people already working there, you and the staff who work with you. That’s whom your customer encounters, that’s whom they have a relationship with and that’s who represents your brand emotionally. It is that emotional interaction with your brand that the customer takes away and that experience that they tell their friends and associates about. That essential experience, word of mouth, translated as testimonial is the most powerful and yet the most dangerous PR and marketing tool in your brand arsenal. At the end of the day people repeat purchase emotional experiences not logical, reasoned outcomes.
As PR and marketing advisers we work on two levels. We craft the most compelling messages to tell your story to your prospective and existing customers so that they think about your service, then feel something positive about your service enough to desire it and do something about it. So externally we want them to know about it with enhanced awareness, but then have an emotional response and ultimately be motivated to purchase repeatedly.
That’s all well and good. The right combination of marketing tools (some advertising, PR and a smattering of social media) should deliver some new customers to your door. It’s what happens when they get there that is most important. If it is a positive, warm experience and your reception area is attractive, your receptionist efficiently friendly and you have a nice `bedside manner’ they may, if you are lucky tell three of their friends about it afterwards.
If your reception area, your receptionist or you are less than welcoming, irascible, inefficient or downright rude, they won’t be coming back in a hurry. Not only that, they’ll leave your office and in all likelihood tell ten or so of their friends and acquaintances just what they think of you.
Do the maths. The smaller the community you are working in, the quicker you run out of customers.
From time to time step outside your role as a manager and approach your business as a prospective customer. What does your business really look like online to a stranger? If I walk up to your premises for the first time what does it look like? Familiarity dulls our sense of detail so give yourself a mental shake and look at the signage, the paintwork, the pot plants, the branding and the conveniences. You might have got used to your front line staff but have a look at them from a detached perspective. How do they answer the phone? How do they welcome customers? It sounds basic but it is fundamental. I’ve telephoned some of your offices. I’ve been to some of your stores. I’ve mystery shopped you and your competitors. To be honest there are some businesses out there I wouldn’t be too sure about encountering again in a hurry because whoever it is that’s answering your phone could really do with a refresher with Miss Manners.
It may seem unfair but all the good experiences, years of them in some cases, can be wiped out by one bad encounter.
For about a year I took to buying my organic coffee beans from Nosh, a high-end food retailer in Auckland. One batch was very over roasted and destroyed the taste and aroma I had come to cherish. I mentioned this in passing to the assistant the next time I went to stock up. She told me in no uncertain terms that it was impossible for the flavour to vary and I obviously didn’t know what I was talking about. Not only did I not buy any more coffee from that outlet, I told anyone who would listen, and I’m now telling you, about my brand experience.
The key when things go awry is being seen to try to put them right quickly. The second level PR and marketing advisers work on is listening and providing counsel. All good PR is a good conversation and as your mother should have told you, a good conversation is two thirds listening to one third responding.
It’s our job to hear and understand what your prospective and existing customers are saying about you. The good things we turn into testimonials and help spread the news to attract more customers. The bad things we bring to your attention and suggest we figure out a remedy together to cut that damaging story off at the pass.
On the other hand, the rest of the team can’t do their PR job properly if you don’t tell them what’s going on. A good business is no place for secrets. If one of the partners is leaving, if you’re expanding by buying another outlet, if you’re changing your website or advertising or have an article appearing in the media – the time to tell your team is before anyone else outside the business gets to know. It’s the unnegotiable part of the unwritten contract between all parties.
I spent six months last year inside Fonterra, New Zealand’s biggest company, having a look at their marketing communications. While I was there they had a changeover of CEO. The business had a no social media policy so when the corporate communications people released the name of the new CEO to the press, the rest of New Zealand knew for two hours before anyone inside Fonterra. It’s hard to pull your staff back from that acute sense of alienation. Months of decent HR practice can be wiped out in moments.
But then, they go home and they tell all their family, friends and neighbours, who are, remember, your existing or prospective customers.
There’s one other area I want you to consider and that’s the reputation of your industry. Everything you do from your day to day interactions with clients, the claims you make on your website, the discounts, offers, incentives, promotions, advertising, blogs or pronouncements on the future of your business sector over one too many glass at that Christmas barbecue, will reflect on the industry as a whole. Its reputation of chiropractic in New Zealand, which all your colleagues and competitors are all doing so much to enhance, can be scuppered by one rogue element.
So please do remember, PR, like charity, should begin at home.
The mental health of New Zealanders is being compromised by a lack of exercise and poor lifestyle choices warns the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association following reports from the USA that mental health clinicians are considering exercise not just in therapy but as therapy.
Dr Hayden Thomas, chiropractor and spokesperson for the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association explains: ‘Not only is our physical health being eroded but our mental well being is also being compromised by poor lifestyle choices, stress, tension, and reduced spinal function. It is becoming a phenomenon across New Zealand. In my own practice, I am increasingly seeing depression arising from a lack of movement from sedentary lifestyles and a lack of proper nutrition.
`To function properly, the brain requires key nutrients from our food to build nerve cells, form connections, and replenish chemicals that help signal between cells. Joint movement is also a key element required to fire input into the brain and keep it functioning. Essentially movement can be considered a nutrient for the brain. If we don’t get enough overall, or areas of our spine in particular are not moving properly due to injury or sedentary lifestyle, then there is reduced input to the brain and a decline in higher neurological processing.’
This month delegates attending Psych Congress 2012: US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in San Diego, California, were told that evidence in recent years suggests a unique effect by exercise on some psychiatric disorders, prompting mental health clinicians to rethink treatment strategies and to consider the possibility of exercise not just in therapy but as therapy.
Some of the strongest evidence is seen in depression, where psychiatric benefits from exercise have been shown in some cases to match those achieved with pharmacologic interventions and to persist to prevent reoccurrence in the long term.
Other studies have shown equally impressive results in exercise for a variety of populations, including pregnant women with depression, who have a high interest in avoiding medications, people with HIV, and even patients with heart failure, who showed not only a significant reduction in depression related to exercise but also reduced mortality.
Dr Thomas points out that: `People may not realise that chiropractic is a key wellness and prevention service. Chiropractors don’t just wait for people to break down but are primarily interested in preventing and correcting the underlying factors which cause ill health. A chiropractor will be able to check that all your spinal joints are moving properly to provide enough input to the brain and also look at other physical, emotional, nutritional and biochemical stressors that may be impacting on your body’s ability to self regulate and heal. Then working in conjunction with other members of the healthcare team your chiropractor will devise a programme that will help to address each of the factors.
For further information on the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association visit www.chiropractic.org.nz.
Dr Hayden Thomas, Chiropractor 027 299 9939
Telarc, the country's leading ISO Standards certifying body has become a Partner Patron sponsor of Business Mentors New Zealand (BMNZ), the not for profit organisation which provides a national business mentoring service to support the development and growth of New Zealand’s small to medium sized enterprises.
‘We are looking forward to becoming involved with Business Mentors New Zealand,’ says Telarc CEO, Peter Rose. ‘We believe that the success of New Zealand’s SME sector and therefore the economy as a whole depends on our ability to improve standards. We annually assess the management systems of over 2,000 organisations across both public and private sectors. As a Crown Entity Subsidiary, our aim is to help companies become compliant, thus ensuring higher growth rates for sales, employment, payroll, and average annual earnings. We also assist in reducing running costs and reduce overall risk, while ensuring the efficient use of resources, promoting stakeholder reassurance and industry compliance.’
Ray Schofield, CEO of Business Mentors New Zealand welcomes Telarc’s decision to support the SME sector through the volunteer mentoring programme.
He says: ‘Business Mentors New Zealand is a non-profit organisation, which is largely funded by patrons from the private sector. Without the support of our sponsors, such as Telarc, we would not be able to keep providing our free mentoring service to companies across New Zealand.’
Telarc works with a range of standards and accreditations, including the globally recognised Quality Management System ISO 9001, Environmental ISO 14001, PEFC, FSC, Health and Safety ASNZS 4801 and Public Safety 7901.
Business Mentors provides access to 1,900 volunteer mentors (who provide their experience, skill and knowledge free of charge), and the focus is on developing capability, profitability, and employment generation. Since the organisation was established in 1991, Business Mentors has assisted over 60,000 small to medium businesses. It is funded largely by patrons from the private sector, with additional support from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
For more information on Business Mentors New Zealand, visit www.businessmentors.org.nz
For more information on Telarc visit www.telarc.co.nz