Making friends with the media in the lead up to Mad March

Over the last month and a bit I have been assisting with publicity and media relations activities for Adelaide Theatre Company ‘EARLY WORX in theatre and art’.

The Early Worx Company will be presenting three shows for this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival, and my main job has been to assist in gaining as much publicity for these three shows as possible in the lead up to the official start of the festival.

I was eager to involve myself in this project as I knew it would mean that I would gain experience communicating directly with members of the media.

But, at the time I’d put my hand up to volunteer my assistance, my god I had very little idea of the challenges that would lie ahead of me…

Ordinarily, I think Adelaide has a bit of a reputation for being a quiet and relaxing city – that is of course until March madness comes rolling into town.

This year, there will be a whopping 923 shows or events being showcased as a part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival – the largest arts festival in the southern hemisphere, and the second largest Fringe Festival in the world.

I have been looking after only three of these many shows and events that have and will all be competing for similar publicity and media coverage as I have been with Early Worx.

Not to mention, that Adelaide’s festival season consists of a variety of festivals & events on top of the Fringe, including WOMADelaide, the Adelaide Festival of Arts, and then there is also the popular Adelaide Clipsal 500 event at the beginning of the month.

With so much going on, I found out very quickly that it would be a struggle to even get a hold of the journalist or editor I was after, let alone convince them to write a story that was newsworthy enough for their audiences.

After sending out individually crafted emails along with the Early Worx media release to a whole myriad of journalists, magazine editors, and bloggers (that was the easy part), I then started to make my follow up calls.

At the end of my first day of follow up calls, I felt like a bit of a failure… I’d kept getting put through to people’s voicemail, and for some publications I couldn’t even get past speaking to their receptionist – they just kept telling me that the people I was after were in meetings or just too busy.

But, I persevered. On my next attempt I spoke to quite a friendly magazine editor who was also very honest with me as he explained that with 923 shows in the Fringe my chances of getting an Early Worx article published was slim. Even though my chances weren’t great he said that he would take the time to look over the media release again and try his best. Along with his friendliness and honestly, ‘his best’ was just what I needed and my chat with him gave me a new found confidence that I was able to use in my future approaches.

From then on, I was able to help organise for three of EARLY WORX’s artists (one from each show) to be interviewed for the LinkAdelaide blogging site, this resulted in  podcasts of these interviews being audible online.

Click here for interview podcast #1, here for interview podcast #2, and here for podcast #3.

Another one of the performers was interviewed by the Hills & Valley Messenger, resulting in an article being published in the Hills & Valley Messenger Newspaper as well as on the publication’s online site.

Charles Sanders, the EARLY WORX Artistic Director and creator of the company was also interviewed by online news organisation ‘Our World Today’ after I had been in contact with them, resulting in another news article appearing online.

In addition to these interviews and articles being achieved prior to the Fringe starting, I have also assisted in confirming reviewers from magazines to come in and share their thoughts of the shows with their audiences. The first review has already come through with a 5 star rating and is now available on the ‘Adelaide Theatre Guide’ website.

This whole experience has been a big learning experience for me. I may have not achieved a huge amount of publicity, but I am still proud of my efforts and confident that the coverage I did achieve will help the Early Worx ticket sales in some way.

I have done similar media relations activities and work experience in the past, but those experiences have not occurred at a time when so many other competitors were around, nor did they require as much work and perseverance as this experience has.

So what lessons have I learnt?

Firstly: perseverance is important.

And secondly: be confident when communicating with the media – as a wise person once told me ‘they are just people too’.

P&O Cruises – using the power (& the people) of social media to work for them

Cruising is a totally new thing for me, and so, after booking my first ever cruise holiday with P&O just a few weeks ago I naturally had a lot of questions. What I was surprised about however, was just how quickly a lot of my questions have been answered through social media platforms – the major platform being Facebook.

P&O have event pages set up on Facebook especially for each cruise tour, and after booking, passengers are encouraged to join their ‘cruise roll call’ by joining the event specifically for their cruise holiday along with their fellow future cruising passengers.

Since joining my cruise roll call, I have posted up a couple of questions and both of which have been answered almost immediately by other more experienced cruising passengers. The answers I was given were so detailed and so helpful, I couldn’t help but think that there must be someone in this event group that works for P&O providing all this lovely positive information. I soon found out that, no, these helpful people are not working for P&O, they are simply just veteran P&O cruising passengers that are purely happy to share their knowledge, experiences, and  cruising tips.

Looking at the P&O official Facebook page, there are even more helpful people posting up information and answering other newbie cruising passengers’ questions. Interestingly again, I found little evidence of P&O actually getting into any of the discussions being made.

Looking at this from a PR perspective, I remember learning that if companies are going to use social media, then they should be making the effort to really engage with their customers or any other public that might have an interaction with them on that social media platform. But in this case, I think that because P&O have so many fans that have experienced holidays with them in the past and that are also happy and excited to share their information, then perhaps P&O don’t really need to engage so much with their newer customers, because their older customers are doing most of that hard work for them. I mean, with just the couple of questions that I posted up; I received helpful comments back by a number of people in just the first 5 minutes or so of posting. These other helpful passengers are so quick, P&O hardly have a chance to get in and give a good response before another passenger has done it for them.

What I was also amazed by, was the amount of positive things people had to say about their cruising experiences with P&O. After spending some time scrolling through all the posts on the official P&O page, I did eventually find one or two posts from passengers making negative complaining comments. But these had very little impact on me in comparison to the many positive experiences, tips and knowledge that was being shared. Sometimes I think that no matter what type of business you are in, you will always come across a small group of people who will simply always be complainers. I guess it’s the way a business deals with those annoying complainers which make all the difference when it comes to protecting reputation and image. Interestingly, I’ve found no evidence of P&O dealing with their very few Facebook complainers through the social media platform. But, like I said before, these people have had very little impact on the way I portray P&O cruises, as the vast majority of positive content swamps over the negative.

I wonder, what does everyone else think? Should P&O be engaging more in the discussions being made on their Facebook page, even though their many fans are already portraying a very positive image for them? Do you think their customers care if they are not engaging directly with them, as long as they getting the answers and the feel for the experience that they are after?

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Let me introduce myself

Hi everyone,

My name is Amy and I am a final year student of Public Relations at the University of South Australia. Starting the final year of my PR degree I thought it was about time I created a blog for myself. I have had a bit of experience blogging before; my first blogging experience was at the beginning of my degree with one of my introductory PR courses, and then last year, I also was able to try out my blogging skills for a short time while on a volunteering trip in Vietnam.

This time however, I wanted to create a blog where I can write about a variety of my personal interests. In my future posts I’ll try to look at the variety of topics I’m interested in from a PR point of view, reflecting where I can on what I have learnt throughout my degree. I’m hoping with this blog, I will also be able to maintain and continue it well into the future as my interests, my life, and my future career in PR evolve.

So what sort of personal interests of mine can you expect to see in this blog? Well, there are a lot of things that interest me…

I have a bit of a background working in fashion. I am a part-time sales consultant at a high-end fashion department store, and I have also worked as a model and as a backstage assistant at a number of Adelaide fashion events. From this I have developed a pretty keen interest in the fashion industry, however being a student it can unfortunately be a little bit difficult to always afford all the fashionable items I desire. On the plus side however, I do enjoy an online bargain whenever and wherever I can find it, and I have also been known to come across some great fashionable finds at a number of op-shops across Adelaide. I’d love to one day get an opportunity to experience working in a fashion PR environment. I’ve been told & I understand that it’s not all glitz and glamour as some people might think, but as I mentioned, I do already have some understanding about how the fashion industry operates, & I am always ready to tackle any new challenges that may come my way.

I also have a great interest in travelling, but again, on a student’s budget, unfortunately I cannot always afford to go everywhere I’d like. But I guess that doesn’t mean I can’t plan and dream about my travels for the future, right? So far, I have been lucky enough to travel to Japan on a student exchange scholarship at the age of 15. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam last year where I volunteered teaching English at orphanages in Ho Chi Minh City. And, in a couple of months time I will again be lucky enough to travel out of Australia, this time on a cruise with my partner to the beautiful islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I have had the chance to study some tourism courses throughout my degree, and I’ve also found that the Travel and Tourism industry is interesting to look at when it comes to PR. I mean, just look at the PR troubles that have occurred with Qantas and Tiger Airways last year. I’m sure I will be able to blog about some interesting travel PR topics in the future.

This is me with one of the kids I taught English to in Vietnam in 2011

A more recently formed interest of mine is living a healthy lifestyle with exercise and healthy eating. A few months ago with the help of a friend I started a new exercise and eating program, and I was so surprised at how much more alive, happier, energised, and stress free I felt from doing it. Now, living a healthy, active lifestyle with frequent exercise & healthy eating has really started to become a part of my everyday life. It’s important to me not only because it makes you feel & look good on the outside, but most importantly it is great for a healthy mind & wellbeing as well. In March this year, I will be doing some media relations work experience at the Australian Swimming Championships, and I may get the chance to meet some famous Australian swimming greats. PR in the fitness and sporting industry is another area I’d like to blog about, and I’ll let you all know how my work experience goes.

My sub-major within my PR degree is Tourism & Event Management, and so, events in particular are another interest of mine. I know that with PR events can sometimes serve as an important tool to get your company’s messages out there, and I find those links between PR and event management very interesting. I also remember learning earlier on in my degree that event management and event planning is all about creating experiences, and I think I like that creativity about it. I also like the idea that in my future career I could create experiences that are highly memorable and talked about by large numbers of people.

I probably have quite a few more interests that may pop up in future blogs, but the above are most likely the major ones. I don’t want to bore you all either, so I think perhaps it’s time to finish this post off. I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and please everyone feel free to make any comments as I am always interested to see other people’s thoughts and will welcome comments of all sorts, positive, negative, any questions, so please go ahead.

Until next time,

~ Amy