35 episodes

Smoke Signal is Australia's first podcast dedicated to sharing news and views from Australia’s public relations and communication sector. Each episode features a conversation with industry professionals, educators and influencers on the themes, trends and issues shaping Australia's PR landscape. Smoke Signal is hosted by Paul Cheal - an experienced financial and corporate communications leader with over 20 years’ experience working with Australian and global brands to build and protect their reputation.

Smoke Signal, A Public Relations Podcast Paul Cheal

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Smoke Signal is Australia's first podcast dedicated to sharing news and views from Australia’s public relations and communication sector. Each episode features a conversation with industry professionals, educators and influencers on the themes, trends and issues shaping Australia's PR landscape. Smoke Signal is hosted by Paul Cheal - an experienced financial and corporate communications leader with over 20 years’ experience working with Australian and global brands to build and protect their reputation.

    Smoke Signal Episode 35: PR, CommTech and the future of the PRIA

    Smoke Signal Episode 35: PR, CommTech and the future of the PRIA

    Shane Allison and I always enjoy a robust discussion and in this episode we dive into two areas that we are both passionate about – the role of professional industry associations and the uptake of CommTech across the PR sector.

    It is just over 100 days since Shane took on the role of President of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and he has certainly hit the ground running: rolling out a 2022 Member Program; unveiling a number of working groups to address key issues impacting the industry right now - such as the skills shortage and diversity and inclusion; and advocating for a name change to better reflect the changing nature of the profession.

    While we disagree on the need for such a change, Shane is committed to setting solid foundations, ensuring members get tangible value from the PRIA, and driving long term growth.

    “I am a huge believer in the role of the PRIA to champion for our industry, to support our profession and to recognise the great work we do.” - Shane Allison.
     
    Equally passionate about CommTech, Shane this week will present at Mumbrella CommsCon in a session titled:  Challenges, Pitfalls and Opportunities of Building your CommTech Stack.

    In this discussion, Shane gives us an insight into some of those challenges and opportunities; calling out the industry for being “scared” of automation when in fact we should be embracing it as a way to both help us achieve better outcomes and freeing up valuable time and resources.

    While you are here, take a read of the Commtech User Guide that Shane developed to help PR professionals on their CommTech journey.

    • 36 min
    Smoke Signal Episode 34: In search of the world's best corporate reputation

    Smoke Signal Episode 34: In search of the world's best corporate reputation

    At its core public relations is reputation management. Building, protecting and repairing brand reputations is what we do. Research shows that organisations with better reputations outperform their peers, better attract and retain talent, inspire deeper loyalty and develop louder advocates. A brand’s reputation is built by both what it does and what is says – making communication a fundamental building block of reputation

    It is in that context that I picked up with interest the 2022 Global RepTrak 100  which ranks the corporate reputation of the world’s leading companies. 

    In this episode I am joined by Oliver Freedman who heads up RepTrak in Australia and APAC to discuss all things reputation. In this report, which RepTrak describes as the definitive ranking and analysis of corporate reputation, the reputation research firm searches the globe for the world's best corporate reputation.

    At its core a good reputation is an emotional attachment that individuals have towards a company – the level of trust, admiration, respect and good feeling. Oliver talks through the seven drivers of reputation - products and services; innovation; financial performance; employee wellbeing; its citizenship in the community; corporate conduct and governance; and leadership - as well as some emerging themes from across the globe:
    ESG is only increasing in importance… the public is only becoming more disappointed. There is a desire – and a sense of expectation - from the community for companies to put the community in front of profits and drive real change…. But while there are a lot of commitments there remains growing disappointment that real change is not happening quicker.  Media and reputation are symbiotic. How news outlets discuss organisations impacts reputation, how corporate reputation is perceived impacts how news outlets discuss those organizations, and so on.You’re not competing against your competitors for attention, you’re competing with everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Gone are the days you compare performance against just your competitors; you’re not just competing with other companies, you are competing with politics, you are competing with COVID. It is about being smarter, using the right channels to reach the right audiences with the right content. So which brand has the best reputation in the world? 
    Surprisingly it is not the new and cool tech companies that may come first to mind. Rather the list features companies that have been around for many decades, but despite the world changing dramatically, have stayed true to who they. Many are also luxury brands - Rolex, Mercedes, Ferrari, Harley-Davidson – they are classic, but the innovate and they are aspirational.

    Take a listen to hear the who else makes the list and why.

    • 35 min
    Smoke Signal Episode 33 - Communicating the COVID-19 vax rollout: one year on

    Smoke Signal Episode 33 - Communicating the COVID-19 vax rollout: one year on

    It has been the communication story that has dominated the past 12 months – getting Australians vaccinated.

    Last month, we marked one year since the COVID-19 vaccination roll out started in Australia. While our vaccination rates are now among the highest in the world, a successful roll out was not always so certain.

    One person who has been deeply engaged with this communication challenge is Darren Behar who is Managing Partner at one of Australia’s largest independent consultancies – SenateSHJ.

    In this episode of Smoke Signal, Darren takes us back to that time 12 months ago when we’d emerged from the depths of 2020 hoping that 2021 was going to be the year we returned to normalcy. It didn’t pan out that way. Mixed messaging from Federal and State Government, competing narratives, and a rise in misinformation and disinformation saw the push to vaccinate start out, for lack of better words, in chaos.

    Darren explains that in the early days there was no playbook for facing such a big challenge. It was being made up on the run – and that was a challenge for everyone, not just communicators.

    While there was much confusion and complexity, it is at such a time that you need to go back to first principles: what is going to motivate individuals and communities and drive action?

    “Peers, friends, family and trusted organisations in our lives are more likely to motivate us to change our behaviour,” Darren says. “Grassroots communication was key to help those at the front line communicate with their communities and stakeholders directly.”

    While much of the attention was on the Government communication – no one will quickly forget the daily press briefings to announce case numbers – this was becoming increasingly challenging. Senate SHJ research found trust in Government deteriorated rapidly during the pandemic. While almost 60% said Government was effective at keeping them informed in 2020, 12 months later, just a third said Federal Government communication was influential in their behaviour – this at a time when they were trying to maintain COVID-safe behaviour and also get people vaccinated.

    This made creating a social movement at the grassroots vital in overcoming this distrust and the increasing amounts of misinformation. Darren explains this was achieved by bringing together five elements: Common Cause; Catalyst; Connection, Coordination and Conversation.

    There was also a need for more than one story and Darren sees three narratives that came together to help drive up vaccination rates:
    Duty: as a citizen this is the right thing to do for all Australians.Consequences: help open our borders quicker so we can travel and see family and friends; help open up the economy and get back to your local coffee shop.Responsibility: keep your family and community safe.
    In terms of the lessons to add to the playbook for the future. Darren has three for leaders (Government and business):
    We need to be transparent and a more authentic in our communication: do what we say we are going to do.We have to be prepared to acknowledge faults: fess up when you mess up. It is ok to be vulnerable.Stories and narratives matter: It took a while to get them right but when it worked it drove tangible change.

    • 26 min
    A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 32 - Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022

    A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 32 - Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022

    PR and journalism have a long and deep symbiotic relationship. So in this first episode of Smoke Signal for 2022 I thought it timely to take a deep dive into the current state of journalism and predictions on how the media industry will continue to evolve in the year ahead. 
    The past two years has seen news media rise in importance and relevance as audiences turn to trusted sources for health and economic information. As we look forward to 2022 the question becomes what’s next?
    Senior Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Nic Newman has studied trends in media and journalism for over a decade. He has just released his latest research paper, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022 which looks at the state of the profession and the key challenges, and opportunities, for the year ahead. 
    The research encompassed 246 senior editors and publishing leaders from over 52 countries, including a number of senior leaders in Australia. Here’s a few highlights from the report that we discussed in this podcast.
    Revenue models continue to evolve
    In recent years revenue models have substantially changed. Where it used to be advertiser-focused it has shifted to be much more reader-lead in the form of subscriptions, memberships, donations and events. 
    The wider adoption of subscription formats for music (i.e. Spotify) and entertainment (i.e. Netflix) has paved the way for news media to more actively adopt this model. However, there is a limit to  the  number of subscriptions people are willing to pay for, and Nic believes we are getting towards that limit. 
    Generational divide
    A real challenge for publishers is being able to engage audiences of all ages. 95% of all digital news subscriptions are paid by those over 30 years old.
    Younger audiences consume news in very different ways. For example, those under 25 are unlikely to have brand loyalty; are more likely to be spending their time on social platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram etc; and they want convenience.
    The role of journalist becomes ever more challenging
    There’s a lot of noise on the media industry being in crisis, but in fact 60% of media leaders in the survey said revenues had increased over the past year. Only 8 per cent said revenue had fallen. That reflects the rise in subscriptions revenue and the bounce back of digital advertising as advertisers look to back trusted media brands.
    Journalists on the front line are facing burnout - the relentless 24/7 news cycle; needing to work across ever more formats and outlets; and then on top of that the global pandemic and associated stress – addressing this is high on the media leader’s agenda for 2022.

    Big tech and media
    You can’t talk media without talking big tech. While there has been much made of the recent revenue sharing agreements that Google and Facebook have made with publishers around the world over the past year, the trouble with these according to Nic is that there is not much transparency around the deals and it was mostly the big media companies getting the lions share of the money. 
    This is not necessarily good for audiences; not good for innovation; not good for local news; and not good for competition. You also want to ensure media companies aren’t overly dependent on income from platforms as they need to be independent enough to robustly report on these same platforms.
    The take-out for comms professionals
    Smart brevity. In this world where there are so many different choices and people are short of time, how can you get your point across quickly, effectively. Using the right format at the right time. 

    • 33 min
    A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 31 - A window of opportunity: The future of corporate communications with Geren Raywood

    A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 31 - A window of opportunity: The future of corporate communications with Geren Raywood

    The global pandemic has fundamentally reshaped the communication profession, with communications becoming more materially important to the C-suite than ever before. So, as we look ahead to 2022, what does this mean for the role of corporate communicators?
    Research from Edelman in the US looks at exactly this question. The report – The Future of Corporate Communications   – was based on a survey of over 200 Chief Communication Officers across the US. In this episode, I am joined by co-author Geren Raywood, who gives us her take on some of the key opportunities, and challenges, facing communication professionals in the year ahead.
    On the role of Comms today: The strategic positioning of corporate communications within the organisation has fundamentally changed. The pandemic pushed the discipline forward in the way that any good crisis does - communicators had to be in the room to be able to help the c-suite to help maintain stakeholder engagement and brand reputation through the global pandemic. It provided a lot of opportunities to elevate the role of communications.
    On employee engagement: Employee communication has moved way up the agenda and this is not just a passing fad. The underlying issue is the social contract between employer and employee is changing... the fundamental expectation that employees have for the work experience, how an organisation treats them and how an organisation engages with the outside world is changing and the power dynamic is shifting. 
    On organisations taking a view on societal issues: It is here to stay. 73% of CCOs say societal issues have changed their communication agenda in the past 12 months. That is huge.
    On measurement: There is increasing expectation from the business to prove results. Communicators are moving from counting the volume of communication or basic channel performance to measuring the impact of communication on behaviour. Are they moving audiences – whether external or internal – to do a certain action?
    On the role of the communicator: There’s been an expansion from just media relations or internal comms skills to teams needing to have advanced digital, advanced multimedia, brand PR, and increasingly today, data and analytics skills – the demand for communication has never been stronger.
    On CommsTech: The first challenge of CommsTech is defining CommsTech - The tools, tech and data that allow communicators to precisely target, measure and shape perceptions and behaviour at the individual level… Using AI, analytics and Natural Language Processing to mine insights and then apply those insights into communication strategy to reach an audience where they are.
    On the opportunity in 2022: The pandemic, for all its hardship and tragedy, has created this moment for communication to take centre stage in the organisation and claim its position as fundamental to business performance and business success. The number one item on the agenda in the coming year is not to lose that momentum – how do you institutionalise those changes made during the pandemic.   

    • 44 min
    A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 30 - Measurement Month: A golden age for PR M&E with Professor Tom Watson

    A Public Relations Podcast: Smoke Signal Episode 30 - Measurement Month: A golden age for PR M&E with Professor Tom Watson

    In this episode I speak with Tom Watson who is both an academic, currently emeritus professor in the Faculty of Media & Communication at Bournemouth University in England, and an esteemed author, writing about measurement and evaluation of communications for the past 30 years, including being co-author of three editions of the seminal textbook Evaluating Public Relations.
    Tom takes us back to the origins of PR measurement and evaluation; way back in fact to the first President of the United States, George Washington, who wanted to know what people thought of him – not too different to the goal of every politician today.
    Tom describes the global pandemic as the biggest ever communication measurement and evaluation scenario ever –the greatest data collection on behaviour change and attitudes we have ever seen. In many ways a golden age for communication measurement and evaluation because the outcome of communication has become so vitally important.
    Communication professionals are very good at words, narrative, creation of stories but in Tom’s words, we have to grow up and become adept handlers of data how to gather it, how to process it, and how to express it.
    “Gather the data anyway you can because any data is better than guesswork.”
    Tom points practitioners in the direction of a German Model called Communication Controlling which has at its core a goal to show the business value of communications – what was the impact on the strategic and financial targets of the organisation. To this end, Tom warns practitioners off using the term ROI, referring his research with Ansgar Zerfass -when management talk about ROI they are talking about return on employed capital, when communications talk about ROI we are talking to intangibles that can’t be added to the balance sheet. Even if we have one number – an AVE, for example, (which Tom describes as being a classic example of the statement of easy, simple and wrong) – it isn’t an amount that actually exists.
    Tom puts it simply - the idea of one metric is not reality. We have to have a portfolio of measurements – being both tangible and tangibles.
    This is the latest in a series of podcasts released during Measurement Month. Catch the other podcasts on this blog, on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.

    • 28 min

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